by Brian Griffin July 03, 2019
Yes, there are many differences between the concrete jungles and the woodland forests, but there are also some similarities. Both have their own unique attributes that draw us to them, and both can have their negatives that repel us. Many of us are drawn to the practice of bushcraft and enjoy the study of primitive living. Some of us find the the primal nature of it compelling and therapeutic, while for others it is a form of escapism used as a mechanism for coping with the over-stimulation of city life. None the less, the reality is that more of us live in cities and towns than in the woods these days, and there are a lot of good skills to know in urbancraft as well. We just have to bear in mind that the chaotic and synthetic nature of many of the available resources in a city call for a different type of tooling than those in a forest. Case in point, unless you're in need of being rescued at the time, a smart phone will likely be much more handy for you in an urbanized environment than a forest. That is unless you're like me, want to document your whole life, and have a tendency to take pictures no matter where you go.
Everyone who knows me, and I imagine a lot of the people who follow my writing, knows that I try to always be prepared for contingencies when I leave home. After so many years spent traveling to parts unknown it is has simply become a habit for me. Most of them also know that when it comes to single-bladed knives, I have preference for fixed-blades over their folding counterparts. As a general rule I carry carry a team of tools in the city in much the same way George Washington Sears, Nessmuk, always carried his trio of tools in the woods, and for much the same reasons even if for different applications. It consists of, among other things, a small fixed-blade knife for common knife chores and a multi-tool for more complex tasks. In the city the multi-tool gets used the most doing all sorts of chores. Everything from extricating new hardware from clam-shell packages with the aggressive serrated blade, to using the needle nose pliers and screwdrivers to repair improperly assembled furniture in Air B&Bs so I don't mistakenly get charged for damages I'm not responsible for.
My reasons for preferring fixed blades over a folders are quite simple. If all other elements of the design are equal, then the knife with no moving parts should be significantly more durable than the folder, and it is almost certain to be more hygienic. So there is a reasonable expectation that the fixed-blade will remain functional longer versus tasks like the lateral stresses applied when opening defective cans or opening English Walnuts, and should be much easier to clean up after any food prep or consumption.
However, even with my preference for having at least one fixed-blade on me, and as often as I advocate for them, sometimes it's simply better to adjust our approach to go with the flow rather than wasting time struggling against it. There are times when I think about where we're headed and who we may encounter, then take a multi-tool and a nice people-friendly folder for that day's adventures. Even if it's only for the sake of making life more fun and less stressful for those with me, and leave fighting the good fight for another day.
On the days we go exploring in town, my daughter prefers to leave her fixed-blade behind and just take her Swiza Swiss Army Knife. The Swiza weighs less and will perform more functions. It also has a locking main blade, which makes me feel better about her using it. As she likes to remind me, the less we carry the lighter more nimble and more mobile we are, and the longer till we get tired of wandering. So her team of tools just consists of her SAK and a flashlight.
Cities are very complex and multi-faceted environments. Here very little is organic, much is synthetic, and more things will need turning or tightening than whittling on. In a city we're almost always better served by tools that are just as complex and multi-faceted, than by any single-bladed knife. Take water for instance. We humans are roughly 65% water, and it is literally quite necessary to our survival, but in a city at night it isn't always easy to come by. Few if any stores are open late at night in an inner city, and most outside spigots on buildings have no handle in order to prevent unauthorized use abuse or vandalism. Special tools can be purchased for this type of spigot, but they are be a bit heavy to carry as an edc in my opinion and they're specialized in purpose. A good quality multi-tool will usually work for turning the water on and back off again, and is much more versatile.
I suppose, all things considered, just carrying a multi-tool as a stand-alone shows a kindred spirit to Mr. Sears' way of thinking. Because every multi-tool made is in fact precisely a team of complementary tools combined into one complex and very useful tool. So far my favorite is the Leatherman Wave shown in this article. That is because it combines the tools I use most in a simple all stainless steel construction that is very functional, and is still pretty easy to sanitize if it has to be used for food prep or food consumption. However given my choice, I still prefer to pair it with a fixed blade for reasons already stated.
We don't have to head for the hills or parts unknown in order to go exploring or have adventures. There are often new places to explore right inside the ever-changing cities we live and work in, and sometimes we simply stumble into adventures we weren't even looking for to start with. Some of them are good ones, and some not so good. I hope this article can provide a little food for thought, and maybe offer some insight. Hopefully it can help you plan your next urban adventure, or perhaps at least help you cope with it.
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