We recommend that smart BWCA campers usually carry the following four items for safety and practicality: a whistle, fire starter, compass and a knife.
Today, we are going to focus on knives. On a wilderness canoe trip, carrying a knife is a smart idea. There are many types and styles to choose from – folding blades, fixed blades, multi-tools (i.e. Leatherman or Swiss Army). I don’t think there is a consensus on what type, or style, to carry in the BWCA or Quetico. Pick the one that suits you best. However, it is important to choose a practical knife, and to keep it clean and sharp.
Choose a Practical Knife
When choosing your knife, make sure that it will be easy to carry, both in and out of the canoe. Also, make sure it can be accessible – in your pocket, or in a sheath on your belt. Some of the typical things knives are used for on a wilderness paddling trip are:
• Cutting rope
• Opening packages
• Slicing cheese, pepperoni and other foods
• Spreading peanut butter and other foods
• Carving tent stakes, spoons, etc (because you forgot them)
• Making fuzz sticks for fire starting
• Gear repair
• Sitting by the lake, carving a stick just for fun
If your knife does not have a scissors built in to it, make sure you put scissors in your first aid kit. Also, you might want to carry a separate filet knife if you plan on catching and eating fish.
Keep Your Knife Clean
As shown above, your knife will likely be called into action for many things, including cooking. It is important to keep your knife clean, particularly for cooking purposes. Give it a good cleansing once a day, and make sure it dries thoroughly before putting it away.
Sharpen Your Knife for Safety and Effectiveness
Dull knives are much more dangerous than sharp knives. A dull knife is much harder to control than a sharp one, and may slip instead of cut. In addition, you are more likely to use more pressure with a dull knife, which can result in serious wounds if the blade slips. If you are going to carry a knife in the wilderness, make sure it is sharp before you leave on your trip.
Sharpening is pretty simple, but you will need a sharpening stone and a lubricant. Here are some good basic instructions on how to keep a sharp blade from wikiHow.
And, if you really want to do it right, use a strop to finish the job. Hatch Magazine has a great article on using strops here.
Finally, you might also bring a small pocket sharpener with you into the wilderness to keep that sharp edge throughout the trip.
Just remember practical, clean and sharp when it comes to knives in the wilderness.
Paddle On. Be Free.