Opinel knives are a staple in the hiking and outdoor community. For their wickedly sharp edge and a lot more. But how to choose between the two steel types?
That is what we are going to exploring in this article, for reference points I have my Opinel number 9 in carbon and the Opinel number 8 in Inox steel. Both I have used and had great experiences with. However, there are a few key advantages and disadvantages to either.
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If you want to know more about the Opinel blade shape and history I would suggest looking up my earlier review of the Opinel number 9 Carbon for that. In this article, I mainly want to focus on the differences between the two steel types.
Main differences between the two steel types in Opinel
The main differences between the two steel types are perhaps obvious, however lets put them underneath each other for better comparison.
|Will rust||Rust proof|
|Easier to sharpen||Harder to sharpen|
|Loses edge quicker||Keeps sharp for longer|
|Can take a beating||More brittle|
|Edge will roll||Edge will chip easier|
|XC90 steel||12c27 Sandvik steel|
|Get it on Amazon||Get it on Amazon|
|Shop on GoingGear||Shop on GoingGear|
Now what do I mean by these statements?
Carbon steel and rustproof steel each have different properties. The above table is the general consensus on Carbon and Inox steel. The same properties I have found true for the Opinel knives.
There are however higher-end steel types on more expensive knives that handle this a bit differently. Since Opinel knives are generally more affordable they are in the lower spectrum of steel types.
The different versions of Opinel knives really bite into the material that you are cutting, thanks to its blade shape and grind they are able to make very deep cuts into the wood. That is why they are a favorite too for woodcarvers.
So what are some of the use cases for one steel over the other when it comes to picking out a hiking knife?
The case for Opinel Carbon knives
Opinel Carbon knives are the original knives made popular by French farmers and people that had jobs where a knife was required. This has since evolved into collectors and artists, hikers and outdoor enthousiast or anybody that has to open a box or cut a string in day to day life.
Carbon steel has the great property of being very resistant to abuse and wear and tear and providing a wicked sharp edge with minimal sharpening. The major downside for many people is that they rust and develop a Patina. read more about it in the link. For other people this is not such a problem as they apply a bit of oil now and again to combat that fact.
I have had the most experience with Opinel knives in carbon and I am a big fan of them for many reasons. Partly that they are great affordable knives with a heritage and pedigree and come in a variety of different sizes for every user.
So if you are looking for a first knife for hiking, do not live in a wet and humid climate. And are looking for a great lightweight beater knife. An Opinel in carbon is the knife for you.
The case for Opinel Inox knives
Opinel Inox or stainless steel knives are great for hikers that are planning to walk in humid or wet conditions. Stainless steel knives require less maintenance and care than Carbon versions. So if you want to have a great knife for little investment an Opinel Inox knife is a great choice.
Stainless steel knives are however more brittle than carbon steel knives. Because the steel is harder and therefore more prone to chipping. So if you would strike a nail for example you get a chip in your edge instead of a roll in the steel.
The sharpening of stainless steel knives can be a little bit more difficult than carbon steel for the same reason. Because the steel is harder sharpening takes a little bit longer than carbon steel. It does come with the great advantage of being more rust proof.
Which steel is better for hiking?
There is really no better steel between these two knives. there are simply better choices for different environments. If you’re going to be backpacking in wetter climates stainless steel knife is a solid option. And if you’re looking for a knife that can handle nearly everything a carbon steel knife is a good option.
My personal preference are the carbon steel opinel knives for their better sharpening and the ability to handle a lot of abuse. You can’t go wrong with either one of them though. For the price they are unbeatable.
What models does Opinel have in their knife lineup?
Opinel features an extensive lineup of knives and has one for every hand size. Their knives are numbered according to their length. So that you can scale them up for bigger jobs and scale them down for more compactness. Their locking system is very strong and reliable.
And most of all very simple. I would recommend the Opinel number 8 in either Carbon or Inox for your everyday hiking needs. You can go larger or smaller depending on your hand size.
They also offer a more slender version of their blade shape that is more focused on other tasks.