Thinking about…the keen edge: knife choices for the Appalachian Trail


No. 10 Opinel knife with carbon steel blade, V...

It would be pointless to try and review the stunning array of knife choices you face when selecting a blade for your backpacking trek on the Appalachian Trail.  Rather than wade these waters, I will share my own experience and choices.  I hope they usefully inform your own.

Photograph of a closed Number 8 Opinel

Photograph of a closed Number 8 Opinel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Like some backpackers, I probably own too many knives.  Fixed-blade, folding, small blade, blades as part of a multi-tool.  They’re good choices and I might use a different one for each trip, depending on circumstances and needs I foresee.

Let’s use the “If you were stranded on an island, and had to choose…” question.

Opinel (oh-peen-el) makes a wonderfully light, study folding knife that holds its edge a long time and has most often been in my pack.

  • It’s easy to sharpen and keeps that edge for the duration of my trip.
  • It is light.
  • I prefer the comfort of a wooden handle.
  • The blade locks easily with a “ring” device.
  • Useful for delicate cutting, such as mincing onions and garlic.
  • Reliable for tougher work, cutting cordage and wood.

Also, I include a small Swiss Army Knife, which has a small blade, a nail file, a scissor (really handy!), toothpick, tweezer.  This fits in my first-aid kit and makes an excellent backup blade.

Think “light” when choosing your knife.  Forget commando knives, Bowie knives, machetes (yes, I have seen them on the Appalachian Trail!)  Make your choice based on practicality and not for fear of wildlife or unstable persons you might meet.

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