I've always liked Swiss Army Knives (S.A.K.'s) since my older brother was an Eagle Scout when we lived in Colorado. I was lucky enough to be gifted with a black S.A.K. Work Champ by my girlfriend a number of years ago and it's gone on ever trip to the woods with me since I got it. At the time, it was the only S.A.K. I could find with the combination of tools I wanted, in the length I wanted. Looks like they have a few more options these days. I just wanted one with the wood/bone saw in the longest length blade available. I've tried using shorter saw blades and find them more difficult to work with.
Before that I used a Gerber 600-series Multi=Plier in combination with my ATAX Surtival Tool (another of Ron Hood's inventions). I grew to like the pliers themselves, and I liked being able to interchange the saw blades, but the main knife blade was always inadequate for doing fine cutting and carving work. That is where the Work Champ outshines the Gerber, though the Work Champ's pliers are good for small delicate work, they tend to fail at loosening larger nuts and bolts.http://www.gerbergear.com/product.php?model=7563
Hood's Woods ATAX, made by TOPS Knives
And many, many years ago (when I was 18, I'll bee 34 next month), my favored camping blade was an Ontario Knive Co. Mil-Spec series "Marine SP-1", which I was very fond of until it was stolen about 6 years ago. It cost me maybe $25 at the time I got it from Sportsman's Guide. I've since replaced it with an equally cheap Cold Steel Bushman ( http://www.ltspecpro.com/
), that ran me about $27 (including Shipping) from Chrystopher Nyerges's "School of Self-Reliance" (He's in Pasadena, I'm in Riverside. I like to buy local when I can get what I need).
Maybe it's just that I've gotten use to the traditional design of a fixed-blade knife, but I find for some tasks I prefer the Bushman over my ATAX just for ease of handling. Don't get me wrong, my ATAX is one hell of a tool and far out performs the lowly Bushman overall. There's just some things I'm more comfortable doing with the Bushman.
To round out my kit of cutting tools, I have 2 tomahawks. A Cold Steel Trail Hawk and Rifleman's Hawk. The Trail Hawk looks to be based on a Cherokee design. It's small and light weight, I find it's good for throwing at targets among other things. For heavier jobs, such as removing tree limbs and splitting kindling, I use the Rifleman's Hawk. It weight more, as so adds more force to each blow, whether it's driving in tent stakes or chopping wood. Cold Steel has recently made a hammer-poll hatchet they call the Trail Boss that looks like it might strike a good balance between the two hawks I carry now. I usually only carry the Rifleman on my frame pack for long hikes. The Trail Hawk slips in my equipment belt that holds my Gerber, S.A.K., ATAX, and Bushman, along with a canteen and small Butt Pack that clips to the rear of the web belt and contains my basic wilderness kit. Consequently, I also have a Cold Steel Boar Spear and one of their Willow Leaf Sabers (which they don't seem to be offering anymore). Not that I take the Boar Spear hiking, mind you. I have a red oak Bo Staff that I do take hiking with me however. I've tapered one end down to accept the socketed handle of my Bushman for use as a spear should the need arise.
Eventually, I'll be putting together a more primitive kit modeled after that of the colonial trappers, hunters and rifleman of the 1750's. 1 knife, 1 'hawk, flint and steel kit (which I have already), tin boiler and small folding iron skillet for my mess kit, wooden canteen of some type (I have my eye on an oak "Rumlet", but it's to expensive right now), Wool Blanket and oil cloth bedroll for cold months (go without most of the year in California), and of course every woodsman's pride and joy, a .50 caliber or better flintlock rifle (barrel length of 42 inches or longer) that I've been eyeing for months now over on [url]http:/www.trackofthewolf.com[/url] I got my tinder box from Track last year. It's a derpcounterfeits of a Hudson's Bays Tobacco Box, brass with a convex lenx set in the lid used to focus sunlight for lightly a fire (or a pipe). It was part of a kit they offered with a fire steel, flint, and Tinder Tube for about $33. I also picked up a few things from http://www.jas-townsend.com/
, they carry the tin boiler and folding skillet I'm looking to get among other bits of primitive camp gear. And for my blanket, when I save up enough money, I'm going to Wilde Weavery ( http://www.wildeweavery.com/home.htm
), which come recommended from Mark Baker, who writes the Pilgram's Jounry column for Muzzleloader Magazine.
In the end, I guess it's not so much the tools a woodsman carries, as it is the skill of the woodsman him/herself that matters. We all settle into our own ways of relating to the land, using what it offers us or insulating ourselves from it. Sometimes it's by choice, carrying a certain tool makes camp life easier. Sometimes it's not our choice, as when we have to carry propane stoves and lanterns and fuel cylinders because ground fires are prohibited where we are. Still, I always relish the chance to cook over a campfire rather than be forced to use a propane stove whenever I have the change.
"Sometimes, the way you THINK it is, isn't the way it really is at all." --St. Orin--
"Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter." --Yoda--
"If the world is to be saved, it will not be saved by old minds with new programs. If the world is to be saved, it will be saved by new minds and no programs at all." "No paradigm is ever able to imagine the next one. "--Daniel Quinn, The Story of B--