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. Scissors are 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, but I can’t remember the last time I needed a knife.

My scissors are one of the tools in the Swiss Army Classic Knife I keep clipped to the outside of my backpack. It has five tools in it, a knife blade, a pair of scissors, a nail file, metal tweezers, and a plastic toothpick. I lost the tweezers and the toothpick long ago, but the scissors and nail file both get a decent amount of use.


While I never use the knife blade, I carry that Swiss Army Knife because weighs less than an ounce (0.7 oz to be exact) and the knife body protects the tools inside. I clip it to the outside of my pack with a mini-biner, so I always know where it is.

But when I’m backpacking I never use a knife. I don’t use one to cut up my food, because I’d have to keep it clean. I just bite off chunks of cheese or sausage from a bigger piece. I also don’t need a knife to spread peanut butter or Nutella on bread because I only carry a spoon. Sometimes I skip the bread, though.

I have carried knives for batoning wood when we know we’re going to want a fire or for cleaning fish when we go fly fishing and we want to cook up some trout. Mainly Mora’s inexpensive but high-quality knives, like The Garberg or The Companion.

But for plain old hiking and backpacking, I never use a knife.

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About the author

Philip Werner has hiked and backpacked over 7500 miles in the United States and the UK and written over 2500 articles as the founder of, noted for its detailed gear reviews and educational content. A devotee of New Hampshire and Maine hiking and backpacking, Philip is the 36th person to hike all 650 of the hiking trails in the White Mountain Guide. 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. In addition, Philip volunteers as a 4 season backpacking leader for the Appalachian Mountain Club, a Long Trail Mentor for Vermont's Green Mountain Club, and a Leave No Trace Master Educator. He lives in New Hampshire.


  1. Yes I have the mint bell version of this. The tip of the nail file can be used as a flat blades screw driver as well.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. I have a small Gerber multi tool which has scissors and all the usual – love it!

  5. 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.

  6. Funny that, no knife.. I have a Swedish one Ken Ward sold at Backpackman in about 1974…short blade clasp that can spread as well as cut ..and has the secondary or other use: it allows you to pinch into a airtight can. Put a point on a stick to use as a tent peg, whittling is a backwoods trimester made easier with a knife.. What is there ot to like about a knife ….many more uses than a pair of scissors…even for some personal needs With backpacking nearly every item must do several jobs And YES scissors of the Swiss Army Knife are great…but so are the blades.

  7. 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.

  8. Just realised you may not recognise the name Ken Ward – he defined Footpath Touring UK style and aired the idea in USA print and broadcast media He was Leader of the Lord Winston Walking Tours which visited .marvellous places in Britain, the trekkers were mainly from America or other overseas places. Ken was a great companion on backpacking trips and takes several places in the pages of my “Burnham Boy” book from Also with him there is John Hillaby and hmhe was the first president of Backpackers Club, which I co-founded in 1972 with Mike Marriott The Club began from the pages of Practical Camper magazine in the UK where I was eight years the editor before working at KSA to engage hike and bike This style of tourism is what comes with backpacking and bikepacking, from writers such as the likes of Chris Townsend and “walk in the woods” Bill Bryon and others who inspire the outdoors beingThere lifestyle Books always have a place in the rucksack whe you are carrying a tent. Long, long may be that the pleasure

  9. I’ve got the Shenandoah National Park commemorative edition of the same tiny Swiss Army knife you carry. The scissors are adequate for trimming toenails and all kinds of small chores. The tweezers don’t grip well enough, however, to remove very small ticks, so I carry small but strong first-aid tweezers.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. I carry the same knife as talked about here and use the scissors to cut rolled gauze. Slips and scrapes are one of my most frequent backcountry injuries and a roll of lightweight gauze is one item I always have. Need scissors to properly cut it though. (Once crosswise for the proper length and once lengthwise for a few inches to get two strands you then wrap around your limb to secure)

    Also I fish so scissors are used to cut the tag end of knots and the sharp little knife blade helps gut the trout. (nail clippers are standard for fishing line cuts and quicker to use but you can’t cut gauze)

  13. Wholly agree this is the best possible tool. Not just for the scissors and tweezers but for the nail file. I have weak nails which are ravaged when in the wild. Jagged nails catch on nylon clothing and these are brilliant for smoothing jaggies down.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. Try these

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

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