Victorinox Huntsman Serves As Best Backpacking Tool

My mother gave me my first Swiss Army Knife (nervously, I’m sure) when I was very young, being around 7 or 8 years old.

It wasn’t the classic, red-handled model that carried the company to its worldwide renown, but a wonderful gift nonetheless to a little boy who dreamed of great adventures. It had a steel handle, with many tools, including a screwdriver, knife and saw.

I’ve always been something of a busy-body, taking off on little backyard-and-down-the-street adventures — sometimes unexpectedly — and this little knife made for a great companion.

Unfortunately, I think it got lost when we moved to Wisconsin.

I went without another Swiss Army Knife until this Christmas when I unwrapped a gift that seemed heavy for its size when giving it that pre-unwrapping evaluation. I was pleasantly surprised to see what seemed like an old friend.

Unveiling the Swiss Army Knife didn’t take long, and immediately, I noticed its distinguished build with a stark contrast between bright stainless steel and a dark red and brown wood handle.

It was a different model than my childhood companion, but by no means lesser. My girlfriend, Ashley, gifted me a Victorinox Huntsman. (Thank you, again.)

In short, it’s a good lookin’ tool, and I think one could make many projects a lot easier for folks. Here’s why:

As much as I enjoy camping and backpacking, I’m not always able to run off on those adventures near and far. That means that my 60-liter Osprey and all the gadgets inside often sit dormant until I can let them breathe the fresh backwoods air again.

Not the Huntsman.

This tool rests in my pocket daily, helping me with any number of tasks — also saving me trips to the junk drawer to fish out a screwdriver.

Swiss Army Knives are meant to be highly versatile tools, acting as a catch-all to daily household fixes, quick camping tasks, and so much more. It’s not a daunting hunting knife, nor is it just a set of pliers. These tools can fit whatever role when the time calls for it.

For campers, climbers, backpackers, speed-walkers, gardeners, readers, and everybody else in between who takes on small projects here and there, and spends a good deal of time inside or out, a Swiss Army Knife will likely help you in a pinch.

The Huntsman Specs

The Victorinox Huntsman is less than 4 inches long closed, and it’s about an inch in depth, making it just noticeable when padding down your pockets (assuring yourself you haven’t forgotten it).

Key Features:

  • Large blade
  • Small blade
  • Corkscrew
  • Bottle opener with screwdriver tip and wire stripper
  • Can opener with screwdriver tip
  • Scissors
  • Reamer with sewing eye
  • Wood saw
  • Hook
  • Tweezers
  • Toothpick
  • Lanyard ring

(REI does a great job at giving a quick overview of the Huntsman’s features in this video.)

What People Are Saying About It

Customers on Victorinox, REI and L.L.Bean gave this versatile pocket knife a near 5-star rating, with folks swearing by its durability, long-lasting relevance, and its natural ability to conform to any situation, both in the city and out in the woods.

Here’s what one reviewer, who goes by Foxraven, said about the Huntsman on REI’s website:

huntsman-reviewer

Only two in 30 years, huh? That’s impressive in itself, but what’s also important to highlight from this review is the pocket knife’s practicality for “the city, suburbs or wilderness!”

Having one tool that fits each of these environments saves backpackers precious time and space, allowing them to make quick fixes on the trail, while not compromising room in their packs.

While reading reviews for this pocket knife, some reviewers gave it a less-than-perfect score for one reason or another. For example, some said the hook was hard to open, while others didn’t quite see the corkscrew being as important.

One reviewer shared their disappointment on L.L.Bean’s website:

llbean-reviewer

I must say, being able to personalize it would give it that bit extra. But, even if, this knife still sees 5-star ratings time and time again, striking up raving reviews because of its functionality at home and at camp.

victorinox-reviewer

I see the Huntsman being especially helpful while backpacking, because of its compact design and versatility, which benefits many types of backpackers, including ultra-light hikers who constantly evaluate their pack’s weight.

For many, this tool might just be your lifelong camping companion, while others will simply enjoy its convenience and durability.

I’ve had this tool nearby since unwrapping its Christmas-tree outer layer, and it’s come in handy on numerous occasions, without being burdensome to maneuver its many features.

Overall, the Huntsman ranks at about a 4.8 on average among these websites. As for me, I’d bump it up and give it a solid five stars — even without the ability to personalize it.

Finding the Right Pack for You and Your Trips

I sold my first backpack to a friend for $50 dollars. It was a High Sierra Sentinel 65.

Admittedly, it was a bit hard to let go. But, it was time.

The pack served me well. It was a good size for shorter trips, fairly durable and comfortable. It was reasonably priced too, especially for a college freshman.

The pack did have its faults, though, at least for me. It was too bulky, but all in all, it was a great starter pack.

Knowing what I know now, I’m going for something with a simpler design (fewer straps), but it still has to be durable.

Now that I’m in the market for a new pack, I’ve been doing my research. When I went exploring for a pack the last time, I didn’t spend as much time reviewing all of my options.

Here’s what I recommend and look out for when buying a new pack. 

Using Your Pack

I used my pack the most for shorter trips, lasting just under a week. I also like to pack fairly light, so I would often end up with extra space in my pack. I’m not sure what it is, but I felt that space had to be filled instead of conserved.

So, I would fill it — sometimes. But, even if I wouldn’t, it’s still additional space that I wasn’t using.

This is where I start when buying a pack. How am I going to use it? It seems almost too obvious, but I think it’s all too easy to get carried away with the bells and whistles.

The pack should fit you and your trips.

The pack’s capacity is one of the biggest factors I take into consideration when buying a pack. I chose a 65 liter because I thought it would be the best route. And, to a certain point, I think I guessed right.

This size is good for three- to five-day trips to the backcountry, depending on how you pack. It held up well when I went to Voyageurs.

But, my packing habits tell me I could go down to a 50-liter pack. I tend to pack light, but I would also like to take longer trips in the future.

How to choose the right backpack

If you’re taking trips stretching one to four days long, I recommend choosing a pack between 35 and 50 liters. If you’re taking the bare bones, go for the lower end of the spectrum, and vice versa.

Now, if you’re after the extended stays, being more than a week, I wouldn’t go smaller than a 60-liter pack. If you’re headed out there – and I mean out there – you should consider going up to about 80 liters.

Keep in mind too that some packs have small, medium and large variations. The pack I bought didn’t have the variations, as many don’t.

“Correctly sizing a pack is vitally important to your comfort and the pack’s function,” wrote McKenzie Long and Ian Nicholson from Outdoor Gearlab. “If is is too large or too small, weight will not be evenly distributed and will put pressure on different parts of your body, making hiking and moving difficult and painful.”

To help fit the pack to your body more precisely, measure from the back of your neck to the base of your hips. That measurement tells you what size pack you’ll likely need.

“When selecting a size from a typical scale of small, medium, or large it is your torso length, not your height, that puts you in the correct range,” the article said.

Basically, you should pursue a pack after measuring your torso. Some packs have features, like adjustable straps, that help further tailor the pack to your height and build.

Hoist It Up, Get Moving

After you’ve decided on the size, put the pack on. Some outfitters let you test the pack out. If possible, load it up.

It’s one thing to put the pack on when there’s nothing but air holding it down. It’s another when you’re yanking up a 50-pound pack with straps flapping in the wind.

After you’ve packed the bag, fit it to yourself:

  • The weight should rest on your hips, not your shoulders.
  • The pack shouldn’t tug your shoulders back, either.
  • Adjust the hip belt and load-lifters to a comfortable point.

Unlike your school bag, the weight should not drag your shoulders down. Carrying the weight is left to your hips. So, make a mental note to really look at the hip belts when choosing your pack.

Even though I don’t like very many straps, they come in handy at times. Load-lifter straps help make bearing the weight a little easier by condensing the pack and bringing your gear together.

All the Bells and Whistles

If you’re just starting out, it might be easier just to ignore the bells and whistles. But, if you spend a lot of time on the trail, keep an eye on the specs. Some packs have many organizational pockets. Features like these can make a difference in terms of versatility.

For hikers who are trying to save their backs, the construction is going to be important, like the material, airflow, and suspension.

Then, you can get into things like straps for camp pads, trekking poles or an ice axe. Or, maybe you’re looking for a built-in rain cover, additional compartments, and similar features. You can get more and more in-depth with features.

Some of the best advice I can give is to spend a good amount of time looking at a variety of packs, from a variety of companies.

At the end of the day, though, it’s based on what’s best for you and your trip.

 

Additional resources:

Finding Time to Go Climb

Out of the many things on my SCSU to-do list, I finally made my way down to the Climbing Wall in Halenbeck.

Lately, and even though it’s still relatively early into spring semester, I’ve felt the pressure of school coming down and wanted to take the edge off by doing something I enjoy, especially before midterms.

And with this weekend off, and the wall open during the afternoon, I couldn’t find a better way to spend the nice February afternoon in St. Cloud. Not to mention I’ve been telling myself that I’d get on the wall since the first time I walked through Halenbeck during my tour.

I’m not by any means an avid climber or an expert—being that the last time I went climbing was three years ago at Devil’s Lake State Park in Baraboo, Wisc.—but I’ve always had a good time doing so.

And so, on Saturday, when I was really feeling the weight of classes, work and all else, I called up a few buddies and off we went.

They had already been on the wall and kept telling me over and over again, along with nearly everybody else that I’ve talked to about it, to get down there.

It’s hard to make time to do fun things when you’re a student, working crazy hours and up all night writing or reading for classes, but if there’s anything that I really want to express is that whether you go climbing in Halenbeck or swimming or whatever, it is so important to make time to do the things that keep you sane during school; especially during midterms and finals.

And so, making our way into Halenbeck, and through the maze-like building, we finally came up to the wall.

Standing tall, spotted with different colored hand holds, with ropes running parallel to the wall, I stopped and just had to admire the fact that there’s a rock climbing wall on campus.

Then, after signing in and figuring out the harness, we waited patiently for our turn to get on the wall.

The wall saw a bit of traffic on Saturday too. Jumping around on the padding laid before climbing routes and anxiously waiting to go was a 4-year-old that, once secured, didn’t hesitate to make his way up the wall.

To say the least, I was seriously impressed that not only was a 4-year-old climbing to the very top of the route, but how well the wall catered to climbers.

Even though there are sections of the wall that can be a bit unforgiving to the newcomers like myself, there are also routes for beginners that can help build confidence for next time.

Plus, the folks from Outdoor Endeavors that were keeping the 4-year-old, and the many others that day, on the wall were helpful with giving tips and advice on how to approach certain routes.

For example, keeping closer to the wall may help take the strain off of the muscles in your arm a bit, and if you’re like me trying the overhang, it’s crucial to use your legs as much as possible, because if you don’t, it’s likely you’ll run out of steam before the top.

I learned that the hard way, but nonetheless, I felt better that I dedicated the afternoon to something enjoyable and new, rather than, and I know this sounds a bit off, homework and the myriad of pages that need reading.

I feel a bit more levelheaded about going into the week now. It was a nice change of pace, and helped to just mix things up a bit.

I’m hoping to make it a weekly deal to get down there, but there’s many things to do in Halenbeck, and all around campus for that matter, that I still haven’t tried out. And now that I’m able to see the finish line of my college career, I feel like the hourglass is running out and I want to make sure I leave here with a degree, along with experiences and memories that are positive, other than just remembering the all-nighters and endless cups of coffee that fueled them.

 

This article originally appeared in the University Chronicle on February 9, 2015