Why a Pocket Knife Is the Best Knife for a Picnic


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School’s out, and summer is at full tilt, which means it’s prime picnic season. While I’m confident you’ll have your drinks chilled and your snacks packed as you head out to the beach, park, or campsite, I wonder if you’ll remember to bring a picnic’s most important tool: the humble pocket knife. 

I planned a picnic over in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park a few weeks ago and took it upon myself to bring snacks, cheeses, fruit, and my French butter contraband from a vacation the week before. I also brought my pocket knife, and it’s a good thing I did: Some friends stopped by the blanket with a fresh, unsliced loaf of homemade bread; a cake was also involved. My knife was the hot tool for the entire four-hour affair. Slice some cheese, slice some bread, then slice the cake. Give it a quick wipe with a napkin and it’s ready to slather salty, cultured butter onto the bread. Had someone brought a melon, we could have hacked it apart too. But what if I had forgotten the knife? I shudder at the thought.

You might already be doing the right thing by bringing a knife on vacation, and a picnic isn’t that different. Maybe you’re not headed to the Florida Keys, but you’re relaxing, and eating somewhere without access to your kitchen. The last thing you want is to be by the lake, an hour’s drive from civilization, with a brick of cheese and two summer melons and no means of cutting into them. But a small, single bladed folding pocket knife tucked into your picnic basket is all you need to avoid this sad circumstance.

Here’s some features of a good picnic knife to look out for.

Why to pack a pocket knife instead of a kitchen knife

I suggest using a pocket knife, rather than a full-on kitchen knife, because they’re light, designed to pack away into a small space, and versatile. Using an eight-inch santoku on a picnic blanket is just cumbersome, and, as it’s designed to be used with a cutting board, potentially not as safe to use.

What to look for in a picnic pocket knife

Not too big and not too small. A good picnic pocket knife has (roughly) a three-inch blade. The long-ish) blade (for a pocket knife) is helpful here because some picnic foods can be thick. Most items, like blocks of butter, wedges of cheese, loaves of bread, and even baby watermelons are reasonable undertakings for that length of blade, but even a Dirty Dancing-sized watermelon can be taken care of with a pocket knife of this size. (Though it will need to be creatively sliced.)

Reliable quality. Look for a blade that is made of good quality steel—for longevity—and I tend to lean toward forged metal instead of stamped, for strength. There are some strong blades made of stamped metal but they may need to be sharpened more frequently

Secure blade lock. Pocket knives secure into the handle, which obviously makes them portable and safe for pockets. Turns out this is great for a picnic blanket too. When the knife seems to be out of use for a moment, wipe off the blade and tuck it back into the handle. It’s worth noting that you should also opt for a model that can lock when it’s in the open position. Then you can leverage the blade when you’re cutting through tough things without it moving on you.

My personal picnic pocket knife pick

Personally, I use a Carved pocket knife with a titanium handle and a Damascus steel blade (as a bonus, it’s also a handsome piece of work). If you hate beautiful things and you prefer something more plain, the Smith’s 3-inch blade might work for you.

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