There are a lot of options to choose from when looking for a Hiking knife. You can go lightweight and modern like the Kershaw or Spyderco knives. Or you can go the heavy way and pick up a big and tactical knife for hiking. But at the end of the day pretty on long distance hiking it comes down to weight and how wel it cuts your food like cheese and sausages. And of course the occasional string or packet.
How long have I owned Opinel knives?
When I was 6 I got my first pocket knives from my parents. This was a crappy Chinese made knife that was kind of like a my first explorer kit. Which happened to have a knife on it. Ever since then I have been obsessed and gotten more expensive and better knives. I worked at a popular outdoor store in the Netherlands and spent quite a bit of money on getting new knives. I blame the employee discount.
Opinel knives and people
What I always keep in mind with choosing a knife for a hike is how much it weighs and how threatening it can come across. With a couple of hikes like the Santiago de Compostella and smaller hikes like the PieterPad in the Netherlands you do not want to bring a big and scary looking knife. It is just not necessary.
You are surrounded by a bunch of people all the time and having a big and tactical knife might not be the conversation starter you want. In many places you can get away legally with a bigger knife and be perfectly fine in the legal way. But do you want to have to defend your knife choice to the Spanish police while not speaking Spanish? I don’t.
Whenever I pulled out my Opinel number 9 on the Camino to Santiago or even in the Netherlands I never got funny looks. Always make sure you can legally bring the knife with you beforehand.
My knife of choice is therefore the Opinel No 9 in the Carbon version. Lets dive in to the reasons why I like this knife so much and some of the history of this knife.
Features of the Opinel No 9 carbon knife
The Opinel knives are very popular in many countries. If you ask a random person to think up an image in there head for a pocket knife then they will most likely think about 2 knives. The red swiss army knife by Victorinox or the knives by Opinel. The classic beech wood handle of the Opinel knives make it stand out in the pocket knives of today.
Mods I made to my Opinel No 9 carbon version
As you can see I modded mine a bit by burning and made 3 different mods to it. The first one is a cut out at the start of the handle, a cut out on the base and a hole in the end for a lanyard loop. The two cut outs in the handle make it very easy to open up with one hand. And the lanyard hole speaks for itself. Opening a knife with one hand is so much more useful then dropping everything and opening it with two hands. This comes in handy more times then you can count.
How did I make the mods to the beech wood handle?
The mods that I made are very easy to do with a rasp file and some sandpaper. You finish the sanded bits off with a bit of oil and your good to go again. The lanyard hole is easy to do with an awl and the sandpaper again. I used one that was on my Victorinox spartan knife. The beech wood that’s on the Opinel knife does not splinter easily so its very easy to work with.
Burning the knife handle I did more for show than any other reason, I could have done a better job on it. But I like it this way. And the end of the day its your knife.
Steel choice for your Opinel knife, or knives
I own both the carbon steel versions and the Stainless steel versions. My personal preference goes to the Carbon steel versions. These are super easy to sharpen and hold a decent edge. Once sharpened you hone these knives on a leather strap.
Constant sharpening will drastically shorten the live span of these knives. Partly because they are so thin. The carbon versions do rust away in salty environments and water, so when you are in an area that has that you can opt for the inox version. Which is a Sandvik steel 12C27. If you want to read my full comparison you can so here:
Preventing rust on Opinel knives
Carbon steel rusts and the carbon steel used op Opinel knives is no different. As you can see on my Opinel No 9 I have quite the Patina on mine. Patina is something that is hard to avoid on a carbon steel knife, what you can avoid is harmful rust.
After every use wipe the blade down with a cloth to clean off the work of the day. Cutting hazel or birch and even opening a mustard package can leave tannin’s on the blade which will start forming rust spots.
Next comes a little bit of oil at the end of the day or cutting up a nice and fatty fuet sausage. This prevents the rust from building up and feeds the carbon steel in a way to protect it. You can use any food safe oil that is standing in your kitchen cupboard. For example Sunflower oil, Vegetable oil or Olive oil.
If you do have rust spots on your Opinel knife than you can clean it back up with a steel pot scrubber or a very fine grind sandpaper and some water. Be sure to clean it off afterwards and oil it again.
Blade Profile of the Opinel knives
The blade profile of the Opinel knives is a full convex grind, when you first get your knife I suggest getting a green branch and just testing the bite of the knife. You will be surprised how well it will bite in to the wood. That is why it is so popular in the farming community in France and with woodcarvers.
Price of the Opinel knives
The price of the Opinel knives are ridiculous in a good way. Especially the Carbon steel versions are $20,- dollars or less. Its crazy to think that you can get an iconic knife with such a rich history for only 10 to 20 bucks. And if you take care of it with a bit of oil and a proper sharpening strop you can hand it over to the grand kids. For the actual price you can stop by amazon or your favorite outdoor or knife store.
You can get more expensive versions of a Opinel knife, these are fitted with different kinds of handles. From ox horn to nice olive wood. For a beater knife I would suggest just getting the beech wood handle and carbon steel version.
Opinel A design icon
With its Yatagan blade shape and beech wood handle the design is very much ingrained wat people think of when thinking of a pocket knife. Its been recognized alongside the Porsche 911 by the Albert and Victoria museum in the top 100 designs of 1985. Owning a Opinel knife is much cheaper than a Porsche. And maybe even more functional.