How to Bushcraft with a Swiss Army Knife
While we tend to focus more on fixed-blade knives, the humble folder has fulfilled cutting duties on many a backwoods jaunt. Of the millions of the folding-knives ever made, the Swiss Army knife is arguably one of the most recognizable. The scales are usually red and bear some sort of cross emblem, and sandwiched between them; you'll find a multitude of combinations of tools. While other makers have produced knives that fall into the Swiss Army Knife category over the decades, the majority have been made by Victorinox and Wenger. Once competing companies, in 2005, Victorinox bought Wenger.
While there are numerous models to choose from, one of the most popular Swiss Army Knives, or SAKs for short, amongst the bushcraft crowd is the Alox Farmer. Alox denotes the aluminum scales, and the Farmer model includes five tools that are handy day to day, no matter if you find yourself in the woods or around town.
While these small folders are plenty capable, they can't stand up to the abuse that a quality fixed blade can take. However, with a bit of skill and some creative thinking, you can use the included tools to accomplish a wide variety of bushcraft-related tasks.
For starters, a saw is a very handy tool to have, and if you aren't carrying a full-sized model, the saw on a SAK is a great alternative. As opposed to many small saws, the teeth on the Victorinox are slightly wider than the spine. This gives excellent cutting performance for its size.
For example, you can't baton or split wood with a SAK, but you can make some wedges and a baton to hit them with. You can also saw two lines on opposite sides of a branch halfway through its circumference and then use leverage to split the branch.
Of course, it's hard to bring up bushcraft without talking fire starting, and the Victorinox Farmer also shines here. You easily scrape a ferro rod with the back of the saw blade or with the awl.
Speaking of the awl, the awl that is included on the Alox style Swiss Army Knives is arguably one of the best awls included on a folding knife. The edge and design allow the user to easily poke and bore holes in leather, wood, or other relatively malleable materials.
Some SAKs include an awl that is hinged at a 90-degree angle to the handle, but we've found these inferior to those that open on the same plane as the blade, saw, and other tools.
Of course, we have to bring up the other tools often found on a SAK. While not 100% wilderness oriented, the bottle opener and can opener that pull double duty as screwdrivers are infinitely useful. Can you open a can without a can opener? Sure. Is it quick or efficient? Not necessarily. Plus, our knife sheathes and other equipment sometimes need a screw tightened while we're in the backwoods. Why not carry a tool that's capable of taking care of that issue while also being a timeless and handy piece of backcountry equipment?