LEATHERMAN CS KNIFE
BY ROBB PRATT
April 08, 2018
unicornv007 AT yahoo.com
Canton, Michigan, USA
5' 10" (1.80 m)
165 lb (74.80 kg)
I backpacked sporadically growing up and rediscovered it back in 2011. Since then, I've taken several weekend long trips a year. I also "car" camp with my family roughly a dozen nights a year where we use tents unless I can convince them I might snore and it would be better for all for me to use my hammock rig. I prefer a light pack (weight without food or water under 20 pounds / 9 kg). My backpacking stomping ground is northern Michigan that has small hills and I typically camp late spring, summer and early fall months.
|Knife with Stuff for Comparison|
Manufacturer: Leatherman Tool Group Inc.
Year of Purchase: 2015
Manufacturer's Website: https://www.leatherman.com/
Listed Weight: 1.4 oz (40 g)
Measured Weight: 1.5 oz (43 g)
* Closed Length 2.9 inches (7.5 cm)
* Blade Length 1.6 inches (4.1 cm)
Product Description: This is one of the smallest knives I have been able to find that comes with several different tools on it that I wanted specifically for backpacking. It has a knife (420HC), spring-action scissors, flat and Phillip screwdrivers, tweezers, nail file, bottle opener and a carabineer. It also has a small hole that can be used to attach a keychain ring. It currently can be purchased in one of five different colors. I purchased the red one to stand out in case I dropped it on the ground. Leatherman makes several other knives with different or more features. I chose this one as it was the lightest weight and had the two main tools I wanted in a backpacking knife - scissors and a blade.
Anyway, after receiving this knife as a Christmas gift from my kids, it's gone on all of my backpacking trips as the only knife/multi-tool in my kit, replacing my old bulky knife that had all the other nearly useless tools that I never used (two different blades, two saws, leather piercing tool, corkscrew, etc). I have used it down in temperatures near freezing as well as what I consider quite warm (85F / 29C). While it has never specifically been used in the rain, I have hand washed it both before and after working with food.
The backpacking trips that I have used this knife extensively on were:
1. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore - July 2015 (4 nights, 35 miles (56 km) with temperatures ranging between 60F to 85F (16C to 29C)
2. Isle Royale National Park - July 2017 (4 nights, 35 miles (56 km) with temperatures ranging between 40F to 80F (4C to 27C)
3. Jordan River Pathway (Antrim County, Michigan) - August 2017 (1 night, 18 miles (29 km) with temperatures between 60F to 80F (16C to 27C)
It has also been on all of my other camping trips, but regulated to my personal first aid kit. When on non-backpacking trips, we have full-sized knives, scissors and other tools packed into our camp kitchen that get more use simply because they are there.
After receiving this in my Christmas stocking, the first thing I did was weigh it. Well, actually the first thing was to tear open the package to get to the knife. Tough packaging. If only I had a way or perhaps a tool to cut it open more easily. The weight was a little over what the manufacture reported but only a couple of grams - I believe this is either a measurement error on my scale or rounding differences.
I was amazed at the size of this knife. Very small. Very light weight. For its size, it still had a solid, quality feel to it. The next thing was to pull out all the tools and experiment with them. They all were very easy to open and close. This is important to note because of some of the other knives I've had have actually broken my fingernails when I pulled the tools out. The main part of the Leatherman knife also acted as the handle, no matter which tool I was using. It had a comfortable, natural-feeling in my hand.
Granted, I'm writing this a few years later, but I remember how well the scissors cut paper and how easy they were to work. The spring load on them made it very reactive to cutting. Even now, after extensive use, they still are very effective. The knife was also very sharp. The blade is pretty small though. Julius Caesar would have had nothing to fear. It is too small to effectively slice a big beefsteak tomato (for example) but it is just fine for slicing a loaf of salami or a brick of cheese. While it sounds like I'm dismissing the size of the blade, this is exactly what I wanted for backpacking. I don't need some huge machete to go with a hockey mask and horror music in the background while I tromp around the back country. I would probably fumble something like that and lop off a few toes (most likely mine).
|Nail file, Knife and Tweezers|
The nail file is one of those standard ones that come on most multi-tool knives, but it is effective and has a rough surface to sand off the jagged edges of a finger or toe nail. The tweezers are small. I have my doubts that they will be as effective as a full sized set of tweezers to remove a splinter or a tick but as I didn't have any on hand, it was hard to tell. It's not like I keep a jar of ticks in the house or am willing to jam my hand into a box of wood shavings. It does have a nice slanted edge though and was effective enough that it could pinch skin. So while I have my doubts, I believe it would ultimately be effective at that task.
|Tweezers in Hand|
As for the screwdrivers, they worked well opening up all the battery boxes on random kid toys that the little ones were opening up on Christmas. Other than that, I doubt I will have much use for this feature in the woods. If I do, something is horribly wrong or I'm very, very lost. On the other hand, the bottle opener works well, but I'm looking at this tool for backpacking and only a madman would bring glass bottles into the woods if for no other reason than the added weight.
The final item was the carabineer. It has a nice size to it and snaps quite easily into the belt loop of my pants, but I'm not sure I'd ever put my faith 100 percent in a carabineer and dangle one of the 10 essential items for hours on end while backpacking but it's still an option. I had plans on keeping it in my first aid kit or perhaps in a belt pouch and trusting the carabineer only when not moving around too much, such as in camp.
|Knife in First Aid Kit|
On all three of the backpacking trips noted above, the Leatherman CS Knife was used as the only cutting tool for myself and the entire family. As I take a stab at making this interesting (pun intended), I realize this isn't exactly a cutting science. (Shucks. I'm doing it again). Somedays, I feel that I'm just not the sharpest knife in the drawer. Anyway, on all of the trips, it saw the same basic usages noted above in which it performed well. Some of the tools, however, have not been used on a backpacking trip and I cannot comment on their effectiveness - other than to say they still function today. As I suspected, there just aren't many Philips screws loose in the wild that need tightening. And I have yet to run across madmen with bottles that need the caps pried off. I might not mind if they had free beer, but still, I haven't found them yet. I was, however, able to use a few of the other items .
|Isle Royale Trip - Knife Circled in Purple|
* Nail File - saw usage at least once that I remember. Most notable was to sand off the edges of a broken fingernail while on Isle Royale National Park. It did a good job taking off the edge and preventing it from splitting down the side. I really must stop biting my fingernails; it's a terrible habit.
* Scissors - used almost every day, mostly to cut the edges off Ziploc bags after making pudding desserts or mixing up pancake batter. The scissors were sharp and did a very good job of lopping off the corner of the bag which then could be used like a pastry chef bag to squeeze out a healthy amount of pudding into a bowl or pancake batter into a small frypan. We also used it extensively on the Pictured Rocks trip where my wife came down with some nasty blisters. No, I didn't cut her toes off but she wanted me to from the sound of it. The scissors were used to cut moleskin and duct tape pieces. They did an exceptional job on the moleskin but only an adequate job on the duct tape. Then again, I don't know any tools that really cut duct tape that well. Back at home, I tried it on medical tape and that worked just fine. My first aid kit has been upgraded to add medical tape but we haven't had a repeat of blisters.
* Knife - not used as much as the scissors, but still used very often. We found the blade was ideal for our lunches on every one of our trips. It made quick work of slicing salami as well as cutting the cheese (ahem, no jokes here). I've also used the knife to slice through various pieces of cordage. I haven't tried using it for whittling as I'm not much good at that, but am also a bit nervous that there's no lock on the blade.
* Carabineer - while I have read some earlier reports hinting the carabineer is weak, I have not experienced this problem. Then again, I only store the knife in one of three locations. When hiking, it is either in my first aid kit or clipped into the loop of my belt pouch (but still tucked into the pouch). When in camp, I clip it onto my pants belt loop for easy access. So, it gets some work in camp, but not a daily grind of hours of hanging around. For me, it's a matter of trust. If I'm in camp and it were to fail, I could likely find the knife on the ground. If I'm off hiking and suddenly it's gone, then I'm out my main tool.
* Tweezers - thankfully, I have not had to use these in the backcountry. While ticks are abundant in some of the areas, I always chemically pre-treat my clothes which limits the exposure to the nasty little buggers. Luckily, I also haven't had any splinters. Strangely enough though, I did use these at home a few days ago when my son complained about hair stuck in his RC car from running it around on the carpet. He wanted some tweezers to pull it out. I hunted down the knife, pulled out the tweezers and went yanking away at the hair. It did a decent job and had a lot of grip.
Overall, I like this little knife quite a bit. It's small and lightweight - it's very easy to carry and while it has a few additional tools that are nice to have, it has the two main features I want for backpacking: a good quality knife and a sharp set of scissors. Both got a lot of use on my trips and worked great. Basically, any way I slice it, it's a good tool (okay, this last pun I couldn't resist). It would take a significant change in design to get me to cut and run to a different knife (Uh, sorry, I did it again).
1. Good Quality Scissors
2. Solid Knife Blade that has Remained Sharp
3. Light Weight and Small Package Size
4. No Signs of Rust or Wear After Several Years
5. Color Options
1. No Lock on Blade to Prevent Accidental Closure
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
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2. Color Only on One Side of Knife
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