The Swiss Army Knife (SAK). We're all familiar with it. Whether it's from time in the Boy/Girl Scouts, hours on the trail, or years of binging Nutnfancy videos (me), you probably know the SAK. For many people, the SAK may seem like a novelty tool, but I think it is much more than that. Can I persuade you into carrying one? Well, let's find out!
What is the Swiss Army Knife?
This might seem like an unnecessary section, but hear my out here. You'd be surprised by the number of rocks I've found, and the people hiding under them. When I refer to a "Swiss Army Knife", I am referring to a specific brand, Victorinox. These guys invented the SAK back in the 19th Century, and have been making them ever since. There are a lot of cheap knockoffs out there, but the legit SAKs are much higher quality than the chintzy stuff you'll find at gas stations and on Wish.com.
The idea for the SAK is simple; Take a knife, and add other useful tools to it. Screwdrivers, scissors, awls, files, saws, and more! While not meant to be a combative tool for stabbing or slashing people, the SAK was meant to condense a toolkit down to a compact package. While the individual tools on a SAK aren't as potent as a standalone one, they work great for a lot of tasks, and are much easier to carry.
The great thing about the SAK is that they come in all different sizes, materials and tool configurations. You can get one that would rival Batman's utility belt, or one that has 3 tools in it. I can't think of many other multitool or knife companies that offer this level of configuration.
Speaking of materials, the Victorinox SAKs come in a proprietary blend of steel. I've found it to be good for rust/corrosion resistance, and decent for edge retention. Sharpening my SAK blades has always been a simple process, as the steel is on the softer end of the scale. Handle material is also highly customizable, but I'm a sucker for the classic maroon red plastic of the SAK.
Benefits of Integrating the Swiss Army Knife Into Your EDC
Being able to add a small multipurpose tool into your EDC system can be a major boon, but only if you utilize those tools. Thankfully, with the number of versions of SAK's on the market, finding one to suit your needs well isn't that hard. Open a lot of boxes or mail? Nearly all come with a small knife or two for cutting through tape and paper. Always finding your glasses or workspace needing a screw tightened? Most SAKs have at least a flathead bit driver, with some having Phillips too.
The SAK is really, really easy to integrate into your EDC system. Most weigh nearly nothing, and only take up a few inches in a pocket. I EDC one that has a knife, nail file, bottle opener/flathead screw driver, can opener/small flathead, corkscrew, awl, and the obligatory tweezers and tooth pick. It gets to roll around in my pants pockets or fanny pack, and basically takes up no space. Have small pockets? Get a small SAK. Bigger britches? Maybe go for a larger one!
One of the nicest things about the SAK is how socially acceptable they are. My day job is in an office setting, and whipping out my big Spyderco or Microtech might catch some ire when doing utility tasks. However, an SAK is possibly the most non-threatening knife someone can produce for doing utility work. On top of having a low-profile knife, all of the other tools have come in handy, and pulling out that SAK to use the bit driver, or nail file is discrete.
It boils down to: "What are my needs, and would a SAK suit them better or more conveniently than something else?". Well, what SAK would suit your needs?
What Swiss Army Knife Should You Buy?
Options are great. As the saying goes, there are many ways to skin a cat. Here, the cat is "our needs", and the skinning tool is our SAK. The right SAK for me may not be the right one for you, and that's alright.
The SAK I have carried the most is the Sportsman, pictured above. It's feature set is great for me, and the SAK is very lightweight. I've carried it for about a decade, and use it almost daily. It cracks open packages, gets used to unscrew optic battery caps, zeroes optics, cleans my nails, and opens the occasional bottle of red wine. The tool that I use the least is the leather awl punch, but I still use it once in a blue moon. It also has some sentimental value, as this SAK was given to my father as a wedding gift back when my parents got married. This SAK has been going strong for over 30 years of use.
Maybe your needs align with mine, and the Sportsman would be best. Maybe you need more or less capabilities, or have certain size restraints to worry about. Any way, there's a SAK to suit your needs. I tend to prefer the ones with less features, as the core ones are what you use the most. Rather than to invest in one of the larger, feature laden SAKs, I'd recommend moving up to a larger multitool like a Leatherman. The average SAK suits an excellent role of "not too big, but still plenty capable". In addition, most of the small/medium sized SAKs are very affordable, running between $20 to $50 on average. I'm not someone who loses tools often, but losing a SAK isn't gonna break the bank.
The Swiss Army Knife is one of those EDC items that I've always got on me. The utility that they provide makes doing my tasks easier, while still being convenient to cram in a pocket. I don't know you, but I'm sure that a SAK would be a positive addition to your EDC.
For other EDC recommendations, check out Dan's article from 2020.