By Spencer Durrant | TMTB Managing Editor
April 5, 2018
Every angler needs a good pocket knife.
If you lose your nippers – which happens far to often for me to justify spending more than $5 on a pair – a pocket knife is a great backup. If you’re like me, though, you end up losing pocket knives as often as nippers!
Which makes the need for an affordable, but durable, pocket knife readily apparent. I’ve had my share of expensive knives, and they were great tools until I lost them. I hunt quite a bit, in addition to all of my fishing, and it feels like I’m buying new knives every year.
Enter Opinel. They’re based in France, making phenomenal products at a price point that doesn’t make your wallet cringe when you realize you lost another pocket knife.
The folks at Opinel were kind enough to send along a few knives for review, and I’ve used them daily for the better part of two months. I have my favorite models, but there’s a consistent quality to every Opinel product that makes it easy for me to recommend them to other anglers.
The first thing I noticed about an Opinel was how light it felt for a pocket knife. The handle grabbed my attention in particular. Woodworking is a hobby of mine, but I couldn’t tell you what wood Opinel used. In my defense, though, I’ve never once worked with beech.
Most of their handles are beech, which is great because it’s so light. Half the time, I’d have the No. 7 in my pocket and forget it was there.
For a pocket knife at this price point, I had some reservations about the blade quality. I’ve made a few knives in the past year (thanks to the TV show “Forged in Fire” I know how my own knife-building setup in my garage…) with 1075 high-carbon steel, and an old leaf spring.
The stainless steel blades on these Opinel knives are outstanding, especially for how cheap they are. Opinel sent me a No. 7, two No. 8s, a No. 10f, and an Eff. 15, and the blade quality was consistent across all five knives.
Two of those knives — the No. 7 and a No. 8 — came with carbon steel blades. From a knife building perspective, I prefer the carbon blades for their durability.
Virobloc Safety Ring
The biggest difference between an Opinel pocket knife and something at a similar price point is the blade locking mechanism. At first, I wasn’t sold on the sliding ring that supposedly kept the blade from gouging my finger.
After more than a month of use, though? I haven’t had a problem. In fact, I think I prefer a sliding ring to the liner lock or lockback safeties popular in most American knives.
The Opinel blades were really impressive. As with most factory knives, though, they either came not sharp enough, or quickly lot their edge.
Then I had to remember I was holding a $15 knife that’d likely field-dress an elk more effectively than some of my $50+ knives. A quick run on the whetstone gave me the edges I wanted, and so far the knives have all held it.
Inconsistent Safety Rings
This is a tiny issue, but worth noting. The Virobloc Safety Rings seem to vary in how flush they fit against the top of the knife handle. Some are almost too tight, while others are a bit loose. I don’t know if it has something to do with the specific models or not, but you’ll want to check that before buying one for yourself.
Like I said earlier, every angler needs a good pocket knife. Those of us who still eat trout — I’m proudly one of those anglers — like a dependable knife for gutting or filleting fish around a campfire. It’s also nice to have a backup to your nippers in the event that you lose them, or need to cut fly line, bushes, tree branches . . . I think you get the picture.
An Opinel pocket knife is a solid choice at a price point that won’t hurt your heart if you lose it. I don’t know how they’d hold up to field-dressing big game, but I’d be willing to carry one along on this year’s elk and deer hunts.
You can pick up an Opinel knife here.
Spencer Durrant is a fly fishing writer, outdoors columnist, and novelist from Utah. He’s the Managing Editor of The Modern Trout Bum, and CEO/Owner of Cutthroat Creative Media. Find him on Twitter/Instagram, @Spencer_Durrant.