Submitted for consideration by fellow members, is my review of the Wenger Patagonia Ranger 179 Swiss Army Knife.
Overview: This is a large and impressive knife. It's sturdy and well made, and is a complete handful when in use. Without a doubt, it compares favorably to any other multiblade camping knife/tool I've had experience with.
This is a BIG knife.
Yeah, everyone says that, and I was prepared for it when I ordered it, but still... you don't really get a sense for the actual bulk and size of the knife until you've actually got it in your hand. I have fairly large hands for someone my size (I wear an XL in just about every pair of gloves of any type I've ever tried on), and the knife completely fills my hand.
The scales are not uniform in size the way they are with a Victorinox SAK; they are narrower on the belly side of the knife, and thicker on the spine/backside. The evo-grip contouring might be part of this, but I don't see that they still couldn't have been made flat, so I'm assuming it's an intentional part of the design of the evo-grip. The rubber insets on the scales are nice; they give a nice feel and definitely increase the security of your grip. The scales are also slightly flared at the ends as well, creating a shallow divot or recess that your fingers naturally settle into when you hold the tool.
The knife has two main implements, a combo-edge blade with about two-thirds of the cutting edge serrated and the forward third of the blade plain-edge.
An interesting thing about the blade is that the portion below the serrations isn't sharpened. This wasn't apparent to me before I bought the knife, and I couldn't find anything in the few other reviews of it that I saw that mentioned it.
So while the overall length of the blade is longer than the blade on a 111 mm SAK, the cutting edge is nearly identical. Following are two comparison pics of the Ranger's blade with the blade of my Work Champ. In the first I've lined up the end/top of the scales to compare overall blade length. In the second I've lined up the bottom of the cutting edge of each blade for comparison. In the second pic, you'll see what I mean about the similarity of length of the cutting edge, despite the differences in blade size.
While the blade has the loop for OHO, I found it difficult to easily open one handed. I can do it, but not smoothly. It's no Spyder-hole... It may be deliberately designed that way, I'm not sure. Regardless, for me at least, this is not a knife blade that you can "flick". Similarly, one-handed closing is also tricky. Again, I can do it, but not smoothly. Perhaps I'll get better at it over time, but I can't say. I'm tempted to think not, because I do have fairly large hands for someone my height, and even with my relatively big hands, the knife blade is difficult to one-hand.
The saw blade is, in a word, impressive. Particularly for a handheld knife of this size. I've read that it's actually larger than the saw blade on a Surge, but I don't own a Surge, so I can't say for sure. Regardless, it's both longer and wider than the saw blade on my Work Champ, and the teeth are larger / coarser as well.
The awl on the spine of the knife is just that, an awl. It does not have a sharpened edge to use as a reamer, like is the case on the awl tool on the Victorinox SAK's. It's about the same size, with a slightly different shape. Like the Vic awls, it has a nail-nick for opening, and a hole for stitching.
My first test of the blades was for the saw. I found a few small sticks that I'm assuming are hardwood as I found them at the base of an oak tree on campus just outside of the building where my office is. About an inch in diameter, the saw had no trouble going right through them, in about a dozen push and pull strokes of the blade.
I also tried a little bit of whittling with the knife blade, but because of the combo edge, it didn't work too well. The serrated edge just doesn't work that well for such a task, even on very dry hardwood like these sticks. The plain edge portion of the blade did much better at it, but it's awkward to try and use just the end of the blade to whittle with, making control of the knife difficult at best. I did a little bit of whittling with both portions of the blade at the same place on a stick; here's what the cuts look like.
The can opener is also impressive in that immediately upon opening it, I got the impression it would work well as a scraper and/or gouge as well. So I took another small piece of wood laying near the tree I was at and tested the can opener out for carving a groove into the wood. It worked quite well. The only caveat is that because of the steep angle of the edge, you have to hold the tool at a greater angle to make a straight cut than you would think. With a few strokes of practice though, it's easy to find the right angle and make fairly straight cuts in the work.
Since I've already done a bit of comparison with my Work Champ, let me follow up more with that now.
Overall, the Ranger is definitely larger; longer but slimmer, it's still an overall larger tool, and despite the fact it has many fewer implements, it's similar in weight to the Work Champ.
In comparison to the Ranger, the Work Champ feels more refined and precise. Not that the Ranger isn't a well made tool, it is; the fit and finish are on a par with that of the Work Champ or any other Vic SAK I have. It's just that the Work Champ is more intricate in its design, for lack of a better word.
It's clear to me that they are very different beasts, despite the similarity of their implements and their size. The Work Champ is much more of a multitool than is the Ranger. To my mind it's more of a true multipurpose tool that you can use for a wide variety of small jobs. I am particularly fond of the Work Champ's file / metal-saw as it is very aggressive and could easily be used to sharpen something like an axe or hatchet. The saw blade of the Work Champ is finer toothed and smaller, and narrower in profile as well. It would work well for smaller and more intricate cutting tasks, and should make a cleaner cut because of the smaller teeth it has.
The Ranger is much more of a knife with a saw blade and some extra tools added on than it is a multipurpose tool. I would easily choose the Ranger over the Work Champ for any heavier cutting task, for either blade or saw. Because of it's combo edge, it won't do well for finer or more intricate cutting tasks as the Work Champ would. The Ranger's can opener also make a very good scraper/gouge and I'd think in an outdoors scenario, you'd be more likely to use it for something like that than actually opening a can of food. If you wanted to do the classic carving your initials in a heart along with those of your sweetie on the side of a tree, the Ranger's can opener would be a perfect tool for such vandalism.
Since I got my Work Champ, it's home has been in my dedicated hiking pack. My wife and I do a lot of hiking on the trails in the open space areas where we live, and I keep that pack stocked and ready to go for a hike so all I have to do is grab a few extra things, throw them in, and I'm good to go. Since I got the Work Champ, it's lived in my hiking pack and has been my dedicated hiking/camping tool. So, will I replace it with the Ranger? Simply put; no.
While the Ranger is a great knife, it won't do for me what the Work Champ will; the Work Champ is simply a more versatile tool. At the same time, for what the Ranger does, it will does very well, and better than the Work Champ. I don't feel that either could fully take the place of the other in my pack, so I will be carrying both now. However, I was also carrying my Byrd Wings in my hiking pack, which I am now going to repurpose to the glove box of my wife's van, and the Ranger will take its place.
Overall, the Patagonia Ranger 179 is an excellent outdoorsman's knife. It is a rugged knife with an impressive and highly effective saw blade. The combo edge knife blade should work well for a variety of heavy cutting tasks. Keep in mind, the Ranger is a knife
... it is not a multitool
, like the Work Champ is. But as a knife, it will/should make an excellent camping, hiking, climbing, etc. general outdoorsman's knife. I can see keeping it with me and finding it useful while camping, backpacking, hiking, fishing, hunting, etc. for many years to come.