| Women Outside, Fall 1998|
Ah, the Bronze Age, when mankind reveled in the wheel and finally ended its quest for decent cutlery. Though the basic look of the metal blade hasn't changed much over the centuries, its uses continue to multiply in ways both revolutionary and unnerving. Be it a 13-piece multitool with wrench and saw or a featherweight titanium bowie, today's knives show just how far we've come since the cudgel.
Case Slimline Trapper
Reminiscent of your very first pocketknife, the Slimline Trapper has two 3.5-inch steel blades that disappear into a sleek bone handle. You probably won't use it for much more than streamside whittling sessions, but your inner Huck Finn will be gratified. $58. 800-523-6350.
Case Slab Side Hunter
With a "special blood groove" on its 3.5-inch fixed steel blade, this bone-handle knife smacks of Roosevelt-era class. Though designed primarily for end-of-the-hunt carving, its unyielding strength is also handy for cutting rope, fabric, and the essential trailside prosciutto. $76. 800-523-6350.
Sog Auto Clip
It looks bad to the bone, and the serrated 3.6-inch folding stainless steel blade is sharp enough to cut you in just that manner. The bonus is an adjustable belt clip (hence the name) that holds the knife tight during even the most strenuous hiking and climbing. $48. 425-771-6230.
The best thing about the Wave is its 2.75-inch locking implements — two blades, a file, and a saw — which you can open when the tool itself is closed. At last, no more splaying the entire unit in the manner of a butterfly knife to cut a measly slice of cheese. Like all Leatherman products, the Wave has the usual host of handy tools — pliers, screwdrivers, scissors — to see you through most wilderness fix-it projects. $98. 800-847-8665.
Wenger Snowboarder Swiss Army Knife
Evidence that Swiss Army knives aren't just about corkscrews and nail files. Snowboarders can make liftline board and binding adjustments with the knife's combination screwdriver/ Allen wrench implement, and there's a lace-tightening hook for no-gloves-required cinching. The Snowboarder still has old-fashioned conveniences — two kinds of blades, a can opener, etc. — to suit downhillers and other traditionalists. $95. 800-447-7422.
Gerber Back Paxe
If you've got room in your pack to carry an extra 17.5 ounces, consider adding this. It's the lightest, most compact ax around, thanks to a virtually weightless synthetic handle, yet its solid steel head delivers a Bunyonesque thwack. $50. 503-639-6161.
Photograph by Gary Hush