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GROUND RULES by cli f f jacobson Camp With an Edge Choose a good knife with these tips from an experienced hand.


WHAT’S THE MOST IMPORTANT tool to take on a camping trip? If you said a good, sharp knife, you agree with the experts. But few of today’s knives are good for camping. The bestsellers have thick blades


that work better for cutting through car doors than slicing salami and pine. A camp knife should be thin-bladed, lightweight, and compact. Edge reten- tion is a factor only if you seldom sharpen your knife. Folding knives and sheath knives each have advantages. Here’s how they compare:


Folders First For best all-around use, I prefer a folding knife. Its fully protected blade


stays harmless till opened, while the hinge pivot, the weakest part of the knife gets the most wear. Keep the hinge clean and oiled. Use


edible vegetable oil, not toxic machine oil on knives used to cut food. Be aware that if you put too much side pressure on the blade or pound the spine to split wood, the blade will loosen. Choose a model with a locking blade if you plan to use your knife in this manner. Otherwise, a standard pressure-spring folder is fine. Never put pressure on the back


of a folding blade that lacks a lock mechanism—the knife could sud- denly close on your hand. Extra tool blades are handy, but


the more there are, the heavier and bulkier the knife, and, generally, the higher the price. Don’t think that a low-cost knife with a lot of tools is a bargain—invariably, the blade or tools are junk. Expect to lose any folding knife that doesn’t have a lanyard ring or a secure belt holster.


Fixed-Blade Knives First, forget the myth that fixed-blade, or sheath, knives are forbidden in the BSA. That’s simply not true. The Guide to Safe Scouting states that “large sheath knives” should be avoided because they are “unneces- sary for most camp chores except for cleaning fish.” But that doesn’t mean that you can’t use a sheath knife for specific purposes during your Scouting outings. Fixed-blade knives work well in


more rugged situations than folding knives. You can flex the blade or hammer it with a wooden mallet to split kindling, and you won’t damage a thing. And there’s no folding mechanism that can be gummed up by jam or peanut butter. Sheath knives can be dangerous,


though, not because their blades don’t close, but because the sheaths that manufacturers include with most models are too thin and flimsy. If you insist on a fixed-blade knife, make your own heavy-duty riveted sheath (my book, Camping’s Top Secrets, shows how). Better yet, carry a folder in your


WEIGH IN: Does your unit have its own knife policy? Share your thoughts at scoutingmagazine. org/knives.


42 SCOUTING ¿  


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