One of the items considered essential on any camping gear list is a knife. For practical purposes, it should be made of quality steel and able to hold a sharp edge. My pocket knife of preference is a Schrade Uncle Henry LB3. This knife has a single lockback blade and is 3" long when closed. I also bring along two Swiss Army knives. I keep a small one in the first-aid kit and a medium one with the kitchen supplies. The most useful gadget I've found on the Swiss Army knives is the little tweezers that slide into the end. I can't tell you how many times I've used these to remove splinters and thorns. Of course, the can and bottle openers come in quite handy too.
Whatever kind of pocket knife you carry, you need to do two things: always keep it clean and sharp, and always handle it safely. A dull knife is a dangerous instrument; it will slide when you want it to cut, and then it will cut when it stops sliding, which is usually somewhere that you didn't want it to cut, like your hand. To avoid such mishaps, it's a good idea to learn to properly sharpen and hone your knife. You'll need a fine grit stone and a small bottle of honing oil or just use water. Place a few drops of oil or water on your stone and then draw your knife gently across the surface at about a 20º angle. Repeat this slicing motion for both sides, being sure to draw the entire length of the blade across the stone. Reduce the pressure slightly with each stroke until you have returned a sharp edge to your knife. A well cared for knife will not require many strokes to get a sharp edge. Now that you have a sharp knife you need to be even more careful when handling it.
Here are some tips on knife handling safety:
- a pocket knife is a tool and not a toy
- keep your knife clean and sharp
- hold the knife firmly by the handle
- never press on the blade when cutting
- never use a knife to pry or as a screwdriver
- always cut away from your body
- close your knife before passing it to others
- if you can't close it, lay it down to be picked up
- when you're done using it, close it and put it away
- instruct your children in proper knife handling
A knife can be an invaluable tool for camping. Find one that suits your needs and one that feels comfortable in your grip. It need not be expensive, but it should be quality. Keep it clean and sharp and it will give you a lifetime of service.