I've got the advice to take a pocket knife with me for 2 weeks of wild camping / hiking in Scotland (West Highland Way). However, I don't understand when I would need it.

I will take the following with me:

  • a knife, fork and spoon for eating
  • tweezers
  • tiny can opener
  • bottle opener

Is there any other tool / reason for which I would need a pocket knife? Do people recommend it, because you can combine all / some of those tools in one compact tool?

  • What are you planning to eat, and how are you going to transport/cook it?
    – user3245
    Aug 1, 2015 at 19:22
  • 2
    Aron Ralston recommends a sharp knife. Aug 4, 2015 at 14:30
  • 2
    Just get yourself a swiss army knife. Tweezers, a can opener, and a bottle opener are included by default in most versions.
    – fgysin
    Aug 11, 2015 at 8:20

5 Answers 5


A multi-tool or a knife?

A multi-tool can be a very appropriate tool for backpacking. It combines the function of many of the tools you mentioned. You may carry the tools you mention above, though. (Note: I've NEVER needed a bottle opener...)

If you mean a knife, read on...

I do a lot of backpacking in the Eastern US, so I am going to assume that this is the equivalent of "wild camping" in Scotland. In fact, I've just returned from a five day trip to the Cohutta Mountains during which my knife was used for:

  • preparing food (peeling fruit) and other general cooking tasks (opening packages). Yes, I keep my knife clean and usually boil it in my sterilizing/wash water daily.
  • preparing fires. Where I camp, it is typically quite damp much of the year, so we make feather sticks or other tinder (by shaving wood) when necessary. My go-to fire starter is a ferrocium rod, and I use my knife as a striker.
  • working with cord. I carry several types of cord (paracord, jute) for general camp tasks, including bear bagging, rigging a tarp, and clothes lines. Occasionally, a line or knot will become stuck or jammed and must be cut. Just two nights ago, my bear bag line became trapped in the tree and had to be cut. Not having a knife, I would have had to leave 50 feet behind, but instead I lost only about 8 feet. Lengths of cord are often cut when shorter lengths are needed (this is where I use jute). There are MANY uses for cord in the back country, and is one of my essential items on any trip.
  • First aid, such as cutting moleskin or gauze pads to fit a wound.

I will agree that there is not much need for a large fixed blade knife during backpacking activities. However, I just completed an advanced bushcraft course two weeks ago and we used large knives (4 to 5 inch blades) extensively. Simply put, bushcraft is the art of creating what you need from what you have in the backcountry. If used correctly, these knives can be used for serious woodworking (shelter, furniture, etc) or firecraft (crating a bow drill, splitting wood) projects.

Even when I have my large fixed blade knife, I tend to carry my small folding knife to handle the fine/delicate tasks that a large knife cannot do easily (or safely).

On a typical backpacking (or wild camping) trip, I would consider a medium sized (2.5 to 3.5 inch) locking blade knife an indispensable item. In fact, a knife is listed as one of the "10 essential items" on both the classic and contemporary lists (see http://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/ten-essentials.html) for any backcountry trip.


I bring a very small pocket knife with me when I'm backpacking (or whatever they call the activity in Europe...?) As you say, it's convenient because it combines several tools in one. You don't really need three big, heavy pieces of silverware. What works for me is a spoon as my main thing to cook and eat with, plus the pocket knife for tasks like cutting slices of cheese. You don't need a fork.

Do you really need a can opener and bottle opener on this type of trip? Cans and bottles would be heavy to carry.

My pocket knife has a pair of scissors on it, which can be used for tasks like cutting nails, opening packaging, and cutting moleskin. A knife and scissors are also helpful for certain first-aid operations, such as cutting strips from a shirt to make bandages.

Some people in some situations carry a big, huge knife. I suspect that this is often out of insecurity about their manhood, or because they're imagining some reality-TV fantasy where they tie it to a stick to make a spear for killing lions and tigers.

If you have to fly to get where you're going, don't forget to put the pocket knife in your checked luggage, or you'll have it taken away from you at the security checkpoint. Small pocket knives are also easy to lose while hiking, so I tie a piece of string to mine and girth-hitch it to my belt loop when I have the knife out of my ditty bag.

  • 1
    A very large knife is useful in areas where a machete is almost, but not quite necessary, or if you're planning a long trip with extensive fabrication of your own shelters and collection of your own food. For a day trip it's not worth the weight unless there are dangerous animals about and you're not allowed a gun for some reason.
    – Perkins
    May 5, 2016 at 0:07

I carry a Victorinox knife. On my last few trips I've used the various tools on it to pry shellfish off rocks, slice cheese and salami, prepare vegetables, cut sticking plaster, cut duct tape for gear repair, cut cloth to make a dressing, open packets of dehydrated food neatly.

I have, in the past, used the wood saw on it to clear windfall. It did the job but a folding saw would have been much better.

Of all the non-knife tools, the scissors get the most use.

As far as other gear, I also carry a KFS set (a knife because the pocket knife is useless at spreading marmite and jam).

I go out with people who carry no knives at all. I wonder what they would do if they had to cut clothes to make bandages or slings? To make an emergency shelter?

  • 1
    To spread jam, why not just use a spoon?
    – user2169
    Jul 26, 2015 at 21:10
  • 1
    For jam, just use your finger. It is easily cleaned.
    – ab2
    Jul 28, 2015 at 18:36
  • who says a pocket knife is useless for spreading jam? I do it all the time. Aug 12, 2015 at 17:51

I used to carry a multi-bladed knife when doing very long hikes. I eventually put it in my car where I found many uses for it like cutting off tags on newly purchased clothes. I think I own the knife because I think it is cool to own. : )

The only useful tool on a folding knife might be the small blade that allows you to make holes in things. I think it is called an awl. It works better than a large flat blade.

The folding knife I own has a bottle opener, a can opener and tweezers. So, you would just carry one item instead of three. (Victorinox Camper)

I also own a Leatherman. It is the basic model. It also has a bottle opener and a can opener. But, no tweezers. Maybe the pliers would be useful for pulling things that you cannot grip with your fingers.


I carry a smaller pocketknife for cutting cord, doing some whittling when I am shaping wood, tent stakes for instance. I carry a big 8 incher for use as a machete, for splitting small logs, for general protection, for cutting meat, cleaning fish, shaving bark for fuel. We also carry some throwing knives, although I am pretty accurate with all my knives I generally use them to pass the time with practice. Some people have told me that the only tool they really need is a sharp knife,,,

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