My father and I are going on a backpacking trip for about a week in a couple of weeks. This is his first backpacking trip in many moons, so he does not have piles of gear threatening to overtake his house like I do. He was in town last weekend, so I picked through his stuff to see what I could give him and what he would need to buy. One thing he was lacking was a good fixed blade. We plan on doing a lot of bumming around in the woods, so a reliable fixed blade is a nice thing to have.

I had him try the 15 or so knives I have amassed over the past couple of months. I am very picky about any tool I use, be it a knife or a power drill, so I keep on buying new ones and then selling the ones I don’t like or want. I only own a couple of fixed blades that I actually use.

The knives ran the gamut from cheap but quality productions to very expensive customs. He tried Bark Rivers, Ontarios, Benchmades, customs, Beckers, CRKTs, and a few others. Several of the handles have relatively squared off edges that dug into his palm when tightly gripped. Some had poorly placed finger notches. A few had annoying thumb ramps. A couple were just complete failures in knife design.

So, what was the one he decided to take? The cheapest production knife in the pile, an Ontario Spec Plus SP2. It has a full tang, 1095 steel, a passable sheath, and Ontario is known for quality work on the cheap. None of these reasons were why he chose this knife though. Most of the other knives had the same qualities, some even better in those areas. He picked it because the handle DIDN’T FEEL LIKE CRAP. He can grip it as tightly as needed and it feels just fine. The rubber guard on the top of the knife is kind of in the way and will probably be cut off, but other than that, the handle feels pretty nice in his hands.

Hopefully knife makers and manufacturers will someday realize how important handle comfort is. You can use the best steel in the world, with an incredible grind and impeccable craftsmanship, but if your knife feels like crap in its owner’s hand, that knife will sit in a drawer or safe somewhere, never to be used. A knife is a tool (to me, at least), and an unused tool is just a waste of steel.