Leatherman Knives

Okay, I admit it. I'm a bit of a gear nut. However, survival is a pretty basic art and usually requires only a few simple tools. Still, a hunter can always find a way to make something faster, lighter, easier -- or all of the above. And I love doing that.

A multi-function tool is an asset to any survival kit, but gimmicky "do-it-all" products can sometimes fall short on performance. Not this one. The Leatherman Tool Group has created the k503x, a solid folding knife with a few additions that any bowhunter will appreciate.

First, the blade (available with either a smooth edge or a 50/50 serrated edge) is substantial. It made short work of my last elk. The locking blade can be opened with one hand, and the knife has a pocket clip. I found both of those features handy while field-dressing that elk.

Second, a folding ratchet drive uses two-sided bits that can give you a full tool kit in a very compact package. The bits come in numerous sizes and configurations, most notably a hex-head set that works great for bow-tuning issues in the field. The knife handle holds two double-sided bits for a lightweight, portable package.

Third, a well-engineered carabiner allows you to attach the knife in convenient spots (like the gear loft in a tent) and doubles as a bottle opener. Finally, a quality sheath has a well-designed pocket for storing extra ratchet bits. The k503x has a beefy grip that fits comfortably in the hand. The e306x model, a compact clone of the k503x, is great for smaller hands and for inclusion in a lightweight survival kit. Prices range from $86 to $88 for models described. Many other variations are available (1-800-847-8665, www.leatherman.com).

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