BLOG: My Swiss Army Knife

Posted In: Blog, Essays, Overseas Travel, RV Products

Someone recently posed the question: “What’s your favorite RV camping travel gadget?”

Considering all of the items we lug around with us when Airstream camping, I had to ponder it a moment. We’ve got hundreds of gadgets big and small. (The Airstream is a pretty big gadget, if you count it as such.)

But my all-time favorite is not necessarily the most important, or the most elaborate, or the most expensive. The term “favorite” implies some sort of sentimental attachment. If we go by the dictionary definition, we’re talking about a gadget that’s “specially loved or trusted.”

From this standpoint, there’s one gadget that’s been with me for more than 20 years. In fact, I owned it long before we ever went RV camping. It has proven its worth more times than I can remember. It’s a product that really everyone should own: a Swiss Army Knife.

I bought my first Swiss Army Knife in 1992. I was preparing to tackle my first trip to Europe, as a volunteer teaching English in Czechoslovakia. At the time of my departure, the Berlin Wall had fallen, but the Czech and Slovak Republics were still united. This was before the Internet, and I was preparing for many unknowns.


The author’s Swiss Army knife, purchased in 1992.

I originally bought the knife just thinking it might come in handy in Czechoslovakia. Did it ever! Upon arrival overseas, I quickly began using the gadget on a daily basis, for everything from opening packages, to slicing bread and cheese, to (my favorite application) popping the top off large bottles of flavorful Slovak beer. It was the ultimate traveler’s tool.

Somehow my knife survived the trip abroad and returned with me to America. I still use the same knife today. It has acquired a nice patina with age.

My Swiss Army knife is not the largest they make, nor the smallest. It fits in a pocket, though it might be better suited for a backpack or in the glovebox of your truck. It has a couple of blades (long and short), a bottle opener, and a can opener. It also has a couple of screwdrivers and removable tweezers and a toothpick. Sadly, the original toothpick for my knife is currently MIA – but replacement toothpicks are available. One can also replace the tweezers if necessary. These knives have a lifetime warranty against defects in materials and workmanship. Of course, since they are built like little tanks, warranty claims must be exceedingly rare.

If I was buying a Swiss Army Knife today, I’d probably opt for one with a corkscrew and scissors. But I’d want the most modest size and weight possible with those features. The Climber II model would suit me nicely.

These days, you can get Swiss Army Knives with all sorts of features like LED lighting and USB storage. But the best selling is still the Classic model, which is the smallest. Although it lacks a bottle opener, it does have scissors.

At the considerable risk of jinxing myself, I’m surprised that I haven’t lost my original Swiss Army Knife. It’s kind of crazy that I still own the same knife I purchased decades ago. It’s been taken so many places, tossed into so many backpacks, and used so often – it should have disappeared a long time ago. But somehow I still have it, and we still use it every time we go Airstream camping.

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