Knives

posted Jan 9, 2010, 6:48 AM by Paul Wagner   [ updated Jul 23, 2010, 9:46 AM ]
I don't get the fascination with big knives for backpacking.  For more than twenty years all I have carried is a little 3-inch Buck knife that has two blades.  One is pointy and sharp, and does a good job cleaning fish.  That's the only time it is ever used.  The other blade is more rounded on the tip, and it gets used for everything else, which is usually limited to slicing salami and cheese, and occasionally cutting a piece of line for the tent.
 
So what's the deal with the JIm Bowie 11-inch machete blade?  Or the USMC special Ops drop forged all black bayonet?  I really do wonder what people use these knives to do.  They certainly aren't backpacking where we go.  Track down and hunt a mule deer?  Create a bivouac out of a cedar tree?  Those things would be illegal in a National Park--and unnecessary just about anywhere else.
 
Or are these knives for self-defense?  Are they expecting to meet rebellious native peoples?  Defend themselves from fellow campers?  Give you a chance in an encounter with a furious bear?  Good luck with that one.  The bear will outweigh you by 200 pounds, have nine more knives (claws) than you do, and can rip open the door of a Ford 150 pickup.  You take that knife...and run like hell when you see a bear.
 
Splitting wood?  We make small fires from time to time...but I learned a long time ago (back when the only cooking we did was on an open fire) that smaller wood burns better, hotter, and more controllably, than big logs.  And there is always more smaller wood on the ground than large logs that need splitting.  I mean really--if you need a knife to split your firewood, maybe you are making the wrong kind of fire.  Or camping in a group with twenty people, in which case your ex-wife's new boyfriend should carry the ax. 
 
I suspect that these deadly looking blades appeal to the survivalist dreamer...the one who watches Man Vs. Wild and believes those idiotic capers are necessary.  He'll spend two days trying to catch 200 calories worth of food.  And he'll use his knife to cut up the vegetation to make a rope from lianas.  It will take him most of the day.  He wouldn't need the damn rope if he just hiked down the other side of the hill. Which would take about 45 minutes.
 
But then he couldn't justify that really cool looking black steel knife that he has carried for seven years, and never used except to spread peanut butter.
 
It's all just a bit too "Tom Sawyer" for me--I don't need to pretend there are pirates in the forest to have a good time.  Some people do.
 
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