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Do You Need Scissors for Backpacking?

Do You Need Scissors for Backpacking?

One of the most useful items I carry on backpacking trips is a small pair of scissors. They’re great for trimming leukotape if I feel a blister coming on or for shaping a piece of tenacious tape if I rip a hole in a piece of gear. I also occasionally use them to open a bag of freeze-dried food that resists my entry.

While you can carry separate medical shears, my preference is to carry a lightweight multi-tool that has a pair of scissors and other essentials like a bottle opener and a nail file. In winter, having a small set of pliers or a screwdriver can also be handy for adjusting or repairing snowshoes and crampons. But I really can’t remember the last time I needed a knife!

Here are a few of my favorite multi-tools with scissors:

1. Leatherman Micra Multi-Tool

Leatherman Micra
The Leatherman Micra has a  knife, tweezers, file, spring-action scissors, screwdrivers, a bottle opener, and even a ruler packed into a 1.8 oz multi-tool.  It is small enough to clip to your key chain for everyday use and has a great toolset great for hiking, fishing, or even tailgating. The Micra is available in multiple colors making it easier to find if you accidentally drop it in the dirt at camp. It also makes a great gift for family members, any time of the year.

Available from:
Leatherman | Amazon

2. Swiss Army Classic

Swiss-Army-Classic-Knife
The Swiss Army Classic multi-tool is a longtime hiker favorite because it’s super lightweight but packs many of the tools that hikers need on a daily basis, ranging from a small pair of sharp scissors and a knife to a nail file, toothpick, and tweezers. Weighing just 0.7 ounces, it’s easy to clip to the outside of your backpack with a mini-biner for easy access. Replacement toothpicks and tweezers are also available since they’re usually the first thing you lose.

Available from:
REI | Amazon

3. Leatherman Squirt PS4

Leatherman Squirt PS4
While the Leatherman Squirt PS4 is a fully-featured multi-tool, it folds down keychain small. This 2 oz wonder includes regular and needle-nose pliers, a pair of scissors, knife blade, file, flat and Phillips head screwdrivers, and a bottle opener. Made with stainless steel and anodized aluminum, you’ll wonder how you ever managed without it.

Available from:
Leatherman | Amazon

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About the author

Philip Werner has hiked and backpacked over 10,000 miles in the United States and the UK and written over 3000 articles as the founder of SectionHiker.com, noted for its backpacking gear reviews and hiking FAQs. A devotee of New Hampshire and Maine hiking and backpacking, Philip has hiked all 650+ trails in the White Mountains twice and has completed 12 rounds of the 48 peaks on the White Mountains 4000 footer list with over 576 summits in all four seasons. He is also the author of Backpacking the White Mountain 4000 Footers, a free online guidebook of the best backpacking trips in the White Mountains in New Hampshire and Maine. He lives in New Hampshire. Click here to subscribe to the SectionHiker newsletter.

16 comments

  1. If you need them, you can buy replacement tweezers, toothpicks, and springs for the scissors. I’ve found the tweezers useful. I have a Huntsman which is heavier, but has a bottle opener, corkscrew, which is essential for travelling through Europe!, and I’ve used the ‘wood saw’ far more often than the blade for tasks like sawing through baguette style bread. Of course, the scissors have had the most use. Due to UK knife laws, I no longer carry it every day, but it’s over 20 years old, and it replaced a knock-off that lasted only 1 year.

  2. Love my tiny multi-tool scissors when I’m out on the trail. Used it exponentially more than the blade. I like the Leatherman Style CS. Has similar tools less the toothpick but adds a carabiner/bottle opener to the top. Feels great in the hand when the scissors are out. So convenient to just have it attached to my backpack strap and be able to unclip it while on the move if I needed it.

    • The style cs is no joke as am ultimate ul trail tool. I miss the toothpick on the sak classic, but I got no issue using a twig.

  3. I’m sure that skipping the bread has everything to do with efficiency and saving ounces, and nothing to do with eating Nutella by the spoonful.

    Seriously, though, this blog is teaching me unexpected things about efficiency and saving ounces. For example, my everyday pocketknife is not necessarily the best choice to take on the trail.

  4. You can buy these by the lot on ebay from TSA confiscations. We forgot they were on key chains and lost two on one trip, but after returning home found a lot of 12 on ebay for $20.

  5. I agree with needing scissors, but I’ve never been a fan of multitools I’ve always looked at them as they say, “Jack of all trades, master of none”. For the little extra weight, I’d rather go with my 4″ Rapala scissors, a pair of nail clippers w/file, a good pair of first-aid tweezers, and a lite weight knife with a 4″ locking, serrated blade. Also, if I lose one tool, I don’t lose everything.

    • That’s why I carry my SAK Classic in my pocket. (Toothpick & scissors most often used.). I also carry a Leatherman Micra in my emergency baggie. Never lost my SAK Classic. So the Micra sits forlorn in its emergency baggie …

  6. For a long time I have carried a Leatheman micra which weighs 1.7oz. It has a good selection of tools that cover a range of small jobs. I recall having used the “Philips” screwdriver to adjust trekking poles, the nail file and cleaner, the tweezers (which are sharper and more substantial and the swiss army ones) and the scissors of course. I have probably used most of the other tools on occasion.
    Some people like the 2.5″ Westcott Sewing Titanium Bonded Fine Cut Scissors (0.32oz?) for cutting tape, fabric, child proof packages and general running around with. For a knife the Victorinox “little vicky” 3.25 serrated pairing knife with cover (0.83oz) is good for cutting salami and bread and cordage which scissors can struggle on. You can get straight edged version which probably would be better for whittling kindling shreddies and for general entertainment but it doesn’t come with the cover so you have to buy both and switch them if you want that…annoying. Victorinox kitchen knives are very good value. The handle are a bit utilitarian but the steel is good and holds an edge.

  7. I sometimes use the blade on my little knife to cut a piece of cheese for lunch. Its more dignified that way than biting off a chunk. Bu yeah , don’t see the need for a big knife. I occasionally watch Bushcrafters on YouTube. Its fun to see how the LMT (Leave Maximum Trace) folks roll. Those guys carry big knives on their belt and typically have an ax and fold-up saw, cast iron frying pan, and a lantern in their massive packs. They also use a fire steel to start every fire. Maybe someday I’ll be confronted by an angry bear and I’ll reach for my knife with the 2-inch blade and wish I had one of those Bowie knives, but until then I’ll enjoy a lighter pack.

  8. That’s funny-I use the same exact Swiss Army knife I’ve had for probably 25 yrs; I’m only missing the toothpick. Have tried a few larger varieties (like the letterman, gerber, juice etc) and just plain old scissors themselves, but find the Swiss knife suits my needs for the reasons you list. Granted I’m an east coast and AT hiker, suspect I’d change that set up if we’re asked to go off the grid.

  9. Try these

    https://www.rei.com/product/802327/leatherman-style-cs-multi-tool

    I carry this hiking and everyday – the lightest and most useful tool I have

  10. This article reminds me of the idiosyncrasies of backpackers.
    I used to carry small, collapsable scissors in my first aid kit but seldom used them so I no longer carry scissors

    On the other hand I’ve carried a small pocket knife all my life and now a small GERBER lock blade for backpacking. I put a cord of braided, reflective tent guy line cord on it so it does not easily get lost. And I do use it frequently.

  11. I fly to go places
    So sadly no knife
    I carry a small pair of manicure scissors, they weigh nothing and do fine

    • On a recent trip in which I didn’t check luggage, I acquired a small cheap knife at a big box retailer and used it on the trail. It wasn’t financially painful to dispose of it later.

  12. It makes sense to not put all your eggs in one basket. I just have a Leatherman squirt and it’s the only tool I have on trail, and keep it in my pocket (always the same “go to” place, so I always know where it should be) and try to always be mindful of it’s location when out using it. Actually I use the scissors most despite the fact the Leatherman squirt scissor’s spring keeps breaking (a real annoyance) and use the knife mainly for cutting cheese, or the silver tape wrapped on my poles (mainly for blisters, as I find I like it better than leuko tape ).

    • I think I disposed of that cheap knife in your kitchen drawer.

      I do have a Leatherman Squirt PS4, which seems ideal for trail use. I use the pliers more than anything. I emailed Leatherman and told them if they put a tweezer and a ‘biner on the Squirt, they’ll have the best ever backpacking multitool.

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