From the humble penknife of our youth, knives have evolved into multi-purpose tools. Every outdoorsman has one or two or three. I won’t even begin to count my collection!
The multiple functions of these tools and knives make them especially useful around the campsite as they can open, cut and fix things. A great deal of thought goes into the design and functionality. By way of an example, the Victorinox Super Tool has an add-on corkscrew. It even has a mini screwdriver suitable for repairing spectacles. How often on a trip does a tiny hinge screw need tightening, without a suitable screwdriver in sight?
Be careful in choosing one, though. Some of the tools and knives come with too many gadgets, which make them bulky and difficult to handle. Evaluate your potential purchase.
A sharp blade is a must. Small scissors are useful and so are a corkscrew and a can opener – things that are often overlooked when you pack.
Multi tools seem to be replacing the multi-purpose knives in the off-road fraternity. They have the same functionality, along with a pliers/side cutter function as well as a variety of other uses. Some even come with small socket sets for emergency jobs.
The beauty of these tools is that they are generally sold with a pouch or holster that allows you to wear them on your belt. This makes them more accessible and less prone to being lost.
There are some cheaper “imitations” on the market that should be avoided. The reputable brands are more expensive but come with a factory warranty and parts back up.
Clean your multi tool regularly, especially if you have used the knife to cut foodstuff. “Stainless steel” does not mean the tool will not tarnish and become pitted if it is left dirty.
Have the blade professionally sharpened occasionally, and oil the tool lightly with a suitable lubricant, wiping off excess oil.
When using a multi tool, ensure that you are familiar with the opening, closing and locking functions. I have seen numerous injuries to hands of individuals who tried to fold a particular tool back into the handle while another sharp tool was still out.
A multi tool is an investment. Some cost way in excess of R2500 and occasional servicing may be necessary. This can be done via a dealer or agent, but in most cases amounts to checking the operation of the mechanism and periodic tightening of retention screws and nuts.
The last type of tool I would like to mention is the so-called “card-tool”. These are not really suitable for serious work but are intended for emergency jobs. They offer a variety of small tools such as knives, pens, scissors, tweezers and a mini screwdriver. One can even get a version suitable for a bush bar. It comes with a knife, corkscrew, bottle opener and cocktail fork.
The beauty of these tools is that they are small and compact, and easily fit into a pocket or the pouch on a camera bag.
Another point: if you lend your multi tool, make sure you get it back right away. People have a way of forgetting to return things, especially if they are of good quality!