I’m a great believer in travelling with a knife and I have two.
Opinel are a French manufacturer of relatively cheap but really good knives. Traditionally they have simple beech wood handles and they come in about a dozen styles. Most of them look pretty similar on the website so I assume the difference is that each is slightly bigger than the last. They have folding blades and a locking ring to hold the blade in place, both open and closed.
That makes it a lock knife and that means it’s illegal to carry in the UK without good reason. Mine spend most of their time at home but they come out when I go to camp, when I’m in Iceland or occasionally if I’m out walking for the day. Obviously, they can’t be carried in hand luggage so whether I can take it when I’m travelling depends on whether I’ve got hold luggage. But enough about the technicalities.
I have two Opinel knives. They’re both No.7s, with a blade 3 inches long and they’re from the Pop Colour range, which means they’re not plain brown.
My first one, in Apple Green, has a Yatagan shaped sharp point, a shape apparently inspired by traditional Turkish sabres. It’s very sharp. It’s the sort of sharp where you don’t even feel it if you cut yourself while peeling an apple with it. It’s brilliant for cutting and opening and all those sort of things.
My second one, in Blue, is a My First Opinel (“perfectly safe for your children” – but you know, use your own judgement on that). My First Opinel means it’s got a rounded end. The blade itself is no less sharp but the rounded end means it’s good for spreading butter and things like that.
Between them, I can make a good lunch at the side of a road in the middle of nowhere. The blades are best cleaned by a good wipe rather than immersion in warm soapy water, which isn’t particularly good for the handle, so I can get them clean enough to put away by just wiping them off on a plain bit of bread. In fact, it’s a very good thing I planned to write this blog because I used the green one on camp two weeks ago and when I opened it to take photos of it, I discovered I never cleaned it after using it to cut cheese.
Downsides of these little knives – sometimes the wood swells and you can’t, for love or money, get the blade to unfold and that’s incredibly frustrating. But that tends to be something the knife grows out of over time. My green one hardly ever does it anymore and my blue one does it less often these days.
After the No.7 comes the No.8 which is fractionally bigger. It comes with a simple wooden handle, or a coloured one (although on this bigger knife, this is Origins Colours, “intense and masculine colours” rather than Pop Colour like the smaller one). But it also comes in an outdoor variety which means an easy-grip plastic handle with a whistle built into it and a dramatically different blade, larger and broader and with a cut-out for reducing weight by all of about half a gram, with a serrated section. It’s good-looking and it’s what I went out to buy the day I accidentally bought my green knife.
(If you read reviews of these lovely little knives, you’ll hear stories of how good they are for hunting and gutting deer and things like that. I’m not technically a vegetarian but neither am I a meat-eater so I know nothing about handling meat but I can’t imagine hunting anything bigger than a rabbit armed with a knife this small.)