Whether you're using it to push in a Schrader valve while deflating your tires or slicing a steak cooked over an open fire, a folder knife is a versatile tool to have when you're four-wheeling, camping, or hunting.
Therefore, we're bringing some knives to a gunfight - or a product shootout, to be more specific. We're pitting four top-quality folder knives against each other to see which performs best for the mud-bogging, rock-hounding outdoor adventurer.
Making The Cut
Stranded on the trail with a burst heater-core hose? Forgot a filet knife while angling on the river? These folders will do the job. But which knife is a cut above the rest (pun intended)?
To find out, we put them to the test: Each folder was used to sever an 1/8-inch-thick heater-core hose (an inch in diameter) then used to cut into 1/2-inch-thick tree branches.
The heater hose didn't last long. We gripped it in a U shape and sliced it at the curve. Although each knife took only two passes to slice the hard rubber hose in half, there were some surprises. Despite its ordinary look, the Buck Lumina's 420HC stainless steel blade nearly split the hose with one pull, leaving the rubber to hold together by a thread. Meanwhile, the Benchmade Nitrous Blitz's D2 tool-steel blade required more force to cut the hose in two swipes as compared to the others.
Next, we attacked the tree branches - and left them in slivers. All four folders easily peeled the bark. Whether it was whittling a twig into a marshmallow skewer or hacking small branches for firewood, all four knives performed brilliantly without a hint of dulling.
The Folding Factor
Having a folder knife that doesn't fold efficiently is like a having a winch that only spools out. Therefore, we thoroughly tested each knife's folding mechanism.
With spring-assisted openers, the Crawford Triumph from Columbia River Knife & Tool (CRKT) and the Nitrous Blitz from Benchmade scored top marks for the fastest draw. Nudging the ambidextrous thumb studs activates the coiled springs, propelling the blades out in a split second and making the knives highly convenient and, quite simply, cool. Following closely was the Spyderco Endura Four Wave. This folder has the pioneering Wave, a hook on the top of the blade that catches one's pocket, pulling open the knife as you draw.
However, retracting the four knives was another matter. In fact, the score sheet got flipped.
The Lumina was actually the easiest to close because it doesn't have any sophisticated bells and whistles. And because of CRKT's Autolawks system (which turns the folder into a virtual fixed blade when the knife is locked open), the Crawford Triumph must be closed with two hands - one hand to hold down the extra locking lever while pushing over the standard liner lock and the other hand to fold down the blade. On-the-go four-wheelers might perceive this added safety feature as inconvenient.
Get A Grip
A knife could have the world's sharpest blade, but it's useless - and potentially dangerous - if its handle doesn't match its quality. But no worries with these four folders.
Though a bit bulky to wear while driving, the Crawford Triumph's handle is the best of the bunch. The double finger-molded grip comes with thumb-friction grooves and G10 scales to prevent slippage and is so tough it would probably survive being run over by your 4x4. Stainless steel liners and a removable Teflon-plated stainless pocket clip ensure the Crawford Triumph's handle is top-quality. Also featuring a textured G10 handle, the Nitrous Blitz is lightweight yet durable. With double titanium liners and a removable clip, this black handle felt as though it would be comfortable for a variety of activities, be them trail-riding and camping or hunting and fishing.
Although the Endura Four Wave's handle might not be as armored as the first two folders, it's still fully functional. The ergonomic handle is made of fiberglass-reinforced nylon and its removable clip can be positioned tip up or tip down and for left- or right-handers.
At first glance, the Lumina's clipless handle seemed outclassed by the other folders. Its simple stainless steel frame is covered with blue translucent nylon sides that look more novelty than operational. But looks was trumped by innovation: an LED light is embedded in the handle. Powered by two 3-volt batteries, the light has four functions: high beam, medium beam, low beam, and flash. The light makes the Lumina ideal for any outdoor enthusiast.
The Final Cut
With these four knives, there are no losers: It's just a matter of matching your function with the right folder.
Benchmade's Nitrous Blitz is perfect for four-wheelers wanting a lightweight folder with a quick draw. Buck's Lumina is ideal for campers and backpackers, while hardcore rockcrawlers or mountain climbers would be pleased to pack CRKT's Crawford Triumph. And Spyderco's Endura Four Wave is a versatile blade for assorted environments.