As convenient and light as freeze-dried backpacking food is, I truly love proper cooking with camp kitchen tools out in the woods, and I’m willing to put up with the extra weight. I sometimes see fellow hikers shoot me looks of bemused disbelief on group trips when we get to wherever we’re going and I start pulling olive oil, spices, veggie meat substitutes, onions, and potatoes from my pack.
Schlepping extra food weight means I pay close attention to cutting the pounds from my pack anywhere else I can, and I look for gear and camp kitchen tools that combine lightness with utility. So, for just ten bucks, I’d argue it’s hard to go wrong with the MSR Alpine Kitchen Knife.
Why other camp knives don’t work
Like most little boys who like all things outdoors, my fascination and lust for pocket knives started well before my parents thought I was actually old and responsible enough to own one. Over the years, I’ve had dozens. As a Boy Scout, I loved old fashioned sheath knives with their beautiful stacked leather handles and I still have a couple today. I also own more hardy and minimalist survival knives along with smaller folding pocket knives. All of them have their uses, but I’ve found as camp kitchen tools for food prep, they’re generally crap and potentially dangerous. Why? They’re heavy and are often either too short or too thick.
Let me explain. One of my favorite backpacking breakfasts is fried potatoes and veggie sausages cooked in olive oil on my MSR Windburner Stove system. While heavy, potatoes are hardy enough to cram down in a backpack and travel well. Among my camp kitchen tools, I have a lightweight plastic cutting board to slice them up. However, if you use a thick-bladed outdoor survival knife, slicing potatoes is challenging. Getting the slices even is hard and they want to roll around while you push down with the sharp, but thick, blade and you run the risk of chopping a finger or bits dropping off the edge of your board and into the dirt below. Pocket knives often have thinner blades that slice better, but they’re not long enough to cut through thick potatoes and onions.
The MSR Alpine Kitchen Knife reigns supreme among camp kitchen tools
The MSR Alpine Kitchen Knife solves all of the problems listed above. It’s 440-series stainless steel blade is 4.5 inches long and very thin. It slices through tough vegetables like carrots easily and doesn’t encourage them to roll around. The steel is hardened, so it holds its edge even after much use.
At just 1.7 ounces and an overall length of 9 inches, the MSR Alpine Kitchen Knife is also incredibly light and I suspect if you buy one, you’ll look thoughtfully at your other knives and ponder if you should bother to bring them on packing trips anymore.
The basic plastic handle is comfortable and utilitarian. Unlike high-end camp knives, no special care is needed. What I really like is the Santoku-styled blade shape and included lightweight plastic sheath. With no point, the knife not going to accidentally slice into your sleeping back or tent when you start cramming things down in your pack.
To be clear, the MSR Alpine Kitchen Knife is not going to replace hardier outdoor blades for around the campsite chores like whittling or striking steel. The blade is too thin and would probably break under significant side-to-side stress. However, among camp kitchen tools, it’s a personal favorite, and definitely light enough that I don’t mind carrying it in addition to another knife for other tasks.
If you enjoy cooking outdoors and find yourself doing food prep by a campfire as much as I do, then I think you’ll find $10 for the MSR Alpine Kitchen Knife an excellent value for money.