One of the most important aspects of a piece of cycle touring gear is that it have multiple uses. The more uses something has, the more valuable and cherished it becomes to the cycle tourist.
A good example of this concept is a folding bicycle tool. I use a multi-tool manufactured by SKS of Germany, called the “Toolbox Travel” pictured here:
This neat device features many different tools packed into one smartly engineered little package. However, the only thing that most cycling multi-tools lack (including this one) is a knife. And one thing that most folding pocket knives lack is a serrated blade. At home we rely on a large serrated bread knife for slicing bread since all of the bread we buy is unsliced. The question came up, then, of what to do on the road when we encounter (as we look forward to) unsliced bread?
Some Camp Knife Options
True to form, I spent some time googling “camp knives”. I quickly ruled out a folding bread knife marketed by the folks at Lamson-Sharp. While the vast majority of their knives and kitchen tools are made in Massachusetts, this one happens to be made in China.
Moving along, I eventually came across the French-made Opinel knives. These simple yet very smart knives feature a folding blade that locks in the open and closed position (except for the smallest versions) thanks to a basic rotating locking collar, the innovative design of which goes way back. I liked the wooden handle and appreciated the various lengths that Opinel offers (Size 1 way up to a monstrous Size 12!) but was surprised to find that not one featured a serrated blade (don’t mistake the crosscut saw blade they offer for a serrated blade)!
We recently put this curiosity to one of the employees at the Outdoor Gear Exchange. His reply? “Since the French just tear their bread, why would they want or need a knife to slice it?” So true. However, since we love nothing more than a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on sliced bread we were faced with a dilemma. What to do?
André Verdier “Robinson” Cote-a-Cote
Happily, a little more searching turned up another French-made folding knife manufactured by the esteemed André Verdier knife company. The “Robinson Cote-a-Cote” camping knife (as well as the materially similar “Splash Cote-a-Cote” marine version) offered everything we were looking for including double folding & locking blades (one blade is serrated!) and a composite handle. A complaint of the Opinel knives, especially when used in the field, is that the wooden handle swells when exposed to moisture, thus making it sometimes difficult to open and close the blade. The synthetic handle utilized by the “Cote-a-Cote” solves this problem. Plus, the dual use serrated blade (the squared-off tip doubles as a bladed screwdriver) and the regular blade give the user the best of both worlds, serrated or not-serrated.
When it came time to actually buy one these knives, however, I was faced with the unfortunate fact that they are no longer available in North America. Never one to be outdone, however, I kept searching and taking advantage of ‘google translate’ until I finally found three French companies and one in Spain who had stock available. My first three requests were met with outrageous and unyielding shipping charges (US$40 for two knives weighing in at ~150grams!). Not quite discouraged, I made one last attempt and struck gold. The fine folks at the French company www.cadoland.com agreed to take two knives down to the post office and ship them using the cheapest/slowest option (equivalent to ~ US$13 for shipping). I happily sent along my paypal payment and less than a week later my package arrived!
As you can see, I opted for two knives (‘his and her’); one in black in one in yellow. Each should prove indispensable. In the end, we are very excited to have found exactly what we were looking for and look forward to putting these knives to the test in our camp kitchen. Merci beaucoup!
[Note – This knife was apparently designed to be co-branded because I came across several examples where the “Splash” tag (the name given to the marine version) was replaced with a tag advertising a separate venture, like a submarine museum (“Sous-marin Espadon“) and the (apparently) entire French Riviera (“Cote d’Azur“)].