Outdoor camping knives come with a multitude of features and gadgets. Ideally, your knife should be light enough so that you actually carry it, and equipped to take on the tasks you commonly perform such as tightening ski bindings, or slicing tomatoes. At the very least you should be familiar with its features and operation.
Most blades are made of stainless steel, an alloy that contains chromium to make it corrosion-resistant. Chromium is softer than steel, so stainless blades offer a compromise between rust resistance, edge retention, and ease of sharpening.
- Numbers marked on the blade (usually a 400 number) indicate the type of alloy used. For example, a marine knife that will be exposed to salt-air and spray is usually made of rust-resistant, high-chromium steel such as 420. A blade intended for frequent cutting or food preparation will be harder steel such as 440.
- Letters A, B, and C indicate progressively higher levels of carbon and thus harder steel. (AUS-6 is a Japanese steel roughly equivalent to 440A.) A harder blade will hold a sharp edge longer, but will be more difficult to sharpen.
- Titanium blades are lighter than steel, but generally can't be hardened to the same degree.
- Serrated or half-serrated blades take longer to sharpen, but are good for catching and cutting smooth surfaces such as rope or ripe tomatoes.
Knives used for emergency situations, including mountain or whitewater rescue, often have a catch that opens easily with one hand. These usually have a wide lanyard or loop so they can be clipped to a PFD, backpack, or harness for quick access.
Some of the more exotic tools found on pocket knives:
- Parcel hook: can be looped under the string on a parcel, or the handles of plastic shopping bags, letting you use the knife as a comfortable carrying handle. Also useful for tightening your bootlaces.
- Awl: handy for drilling additional holes in your belt as you become sleeker over the course of a long trip. The sewing eye also lets you stitch heavy materials such as webbing, canvas, or leather.
- Mini-screwdriver: threads cunningly onto the corkscrew for carrying. Perfect for tightening screws on eyeglasses. As it is sold separately, you can replace a lost mini-screwdriver, or augment a knife that never carried one.
To preserve the life of your knife, use the appropriate tools for a job. Try not to use knife blades to pry things open, or screwdrivers to punch holes.
- To clean a folding knife, open the blades and tools and rinse it with warm water. It may be helpful to scrub it with an old toothbrush. Just be careful when handling the knife while the blades are open.
- When the knife is completely dry, lightly oil it with sewing machine oil, or use cooking oil if you cut food with your knife. Wipe off any excess oil and close the blades.