I like most things multi-toolish, and there are a few things that I have a soft spot for. One of those are Hobo knives. My very first knife was a Hobo knife that my father bought me when we went camping to Eliot Lake back in 1980. I was 6 years old at the time, and my father thought it would be a good idea to get me used to knives. I remember the speech of proper knife use and safety, and I do recall being rather proud of it. In fact, it was one of my prized possessions for a few years, then like most things, was quickly forgotten. I had kept it however due to sentimental value, even though the knife was of no value. Eventually I re-found it in a storage box of all places. Now it sits in my collection.
That first knife was marvelous to a 6 year old as it was a Hobo Knife. Hobo knives come into their own when it is time to eat. They usually contain a knife, a fork, and a spoon. Those are its core functions. Quite often, other features creep in...the biggest one is the capability of separating your utensils. Not all Hobo knives allow you this very convenient feature. My first knife did not do that, but it still didn't stop me from using it almost exclusively to eat all my meals that summer at the camp ground.
Before we look a the main focus of this review, that of the various folding type Hobo knives that I have currently, I would like to take a close look at the precursor...the standard 3 piece camping cutler set.Coghlans 3 Piece Camping Cutlery set
Having misplaced my original Hobo knife which is listed bellow, I was forced to buy this 3 piece cutlery set as I needed something right quick for a University course. Consequently, I bought two of these sets in 1995. I think of these as the precursor to the more modern and easier to carry folding Hobo knife, and this is why I am including this here.
Each set comes in a clear vinyl pouch with a plastic snap fastener. Each full size utensil nestles on two pins found on the spoon. Stacked onto each other, the whole assembly still occupies a lot less space than full sized cutler not designed for backpacking. The Fork fits into the spoon, and the knife is the last to go on top. A bottle opener is included with the knife.
- Full sized utensils.
- Strong and won't fold on you during use.
- Feels like using regular (if flatter and thereby less comfortable) table ware. More ergonomic than most folders.
- All stainless design is easier to clean.
- Less to go wrong.
- Occupy more space than a folder.
- Had to include a can opener as one was not included.
Now onto the folding Hobo Knives of my collection.STAG Ireland Hobo Knife
This is my first knife. Surprisingly enough, the cheap plastic scales still survived relatively unscathed. They do creek a bit more than I recall, but at the time this was my first and only knife, this thing was a Cadillac to me. Today, i look at it with more experienced eyes and can tell you this is a cheap knife. Despite all of that, it saw much use and some abuse as evinced by the use marks on the knife blade. As mentioned above in my intro, this Hobo knife does not feature separate utensils, which means it is a bit of a pain to use the knife and fork. These days, having the utensils separate is a must have feature. To a 6 year old, it was never a consideration or need.
The knife features a 3 prong fork, a spoon, and a knife blade that served equally well in cutting food and buttering bread. Also was a can opener that worked somewhat ok...but not as good as some of the more modern designs out there.
I made sure to never put tools away dirty, being a tad fastidious in cleaning it. Despite that, with age, the knife blade steel has darkened a little. This knife also feature a beautiful and very handy bail...something that seems to have disappeared from many pocket knives these days. Of interest, even though this knife dates to 1980, you can still find this design alive and well as the Coghlan's Camper Knife.
- Cheap and cheerful. Perfect knife for a first timer off to camp for the summer.
- Bail made it easy to carry.
- Cheap and cheerful. The handles that mimic jigged bone, are only of cheap plastic. The knife creaked when new. Age hasn't been kind in this regard. Coleman Hobo Knife
Now here is a very feature rich Hobo knife. I found this at a Walmart in their camping section. The package stated Coleman, but it isn't written on the knife itself which is a bit surprising as Coleman tends to brand all their goods on the product. Either way, this knife features a vary functional pair of scissors along with an awl, a corkscrew, and a fish scaler and hook remover. It also features the usual fork, spoon, can/bottle opener, and knife. The best thing about this knife is that it splits into two as seen in the first photo shown for this knife. A well designed Hobo that splits will always have the blade and fork on separate halves.
A neat feature of this knife. there are two pins that hold the knife together. Usually these pins move into a tapered channel. To unlock the halves, you have to open the fish scaler and gently slide both halves in opposite directions. Likewise, the halves will not combine unless you open that fish scaler...thus the scaler performs double duty as the locking mechanism.
- Lots of extra added features. Perfect for those who like to eat fish with some wine.
- Knife physically comes apart into two pieces, allowing you to use both the knife and fork at the same time.
- Scissors are not bad for what they are.
- Use of brass pins.
- Tricky locking mechanism to figure out for first time users.
- Cheap plastic scales that are only glued on. I had to re-glue one as it popped off with use. Easy fix, but not quality reassuring.
- Some of the tools have a rough feeling pivot action.
- Lack of a bail, but does have a ring.Stainless Steel No Name Hobo Knife
Here is another two piece Hobo knife that features no manufacturer, and was bought cheap at a local store. The nice thing about this one, it is easier to clean as it is all stainless steel...oh and a lot of brass where it counts. Unlike the red Hobo knife previously mentioned, this one appears to be of higher quality. I say appear simply because this knife feels better in the hand as it doesn't have plastic scales.
This Hobo knife also doesn't feature as many functions, lacking the fish scaler and scissors of the previous model. However, for what it is, it does the job rather nicely. I can't stress how nice it is for a knife of this type to be easy to clean, and this cheap and cheerful Hobo does just that with aplomb.
- Stainless steel construction means it is easier to clean.
- Lots of brass where it counts.
- pivot action on this knife is silky smooth for all implements.
- Comes apart into two pieces.
- No locking mechanism. I have had this tool come apart on its own while pocket carry.
- Lack of a bail. It does have a ring however.Linder Picnic Knife
Now is my top quality Hobo knife. The Linder Picnic knife is special not only because of the overall fit and finish, but also because it comes apart into 3 pieces. Because of its design, it also features the least functions, but it makes up for that in convenience. The Linder Picnic also comes in a sheath that is fairly well made, much like the rest of this knife.
Featuring a bottle opener fork combo, a knife, and a spoon, the Linder Picnic is a great companion for those who want to have every utensil available and ready for use in a convenient small package. The knife is the middle layer, and as seen in the above photos, the brass pins on both the fork and spoon mate into neat looking channels that won't come apart without some minor effort. No worries of this knife coming apart in a pocket. Definitely non in a sheath. The knife blade also has the distinction of being a lock back design. I can easily recommend the Linder Picnic for those looking for an excellent Hobo Knife that is a grade above the cheap masses.
- Comes apart into 3 pieces.
- Locking blade.
- Good overall quality
- Sheath included
- Unique locking mechanism that gives enough resistance to prevent unintended falling apart.
- No ring or bail for alternative carry.Ozark Trail Hobo Knife
Much like the design of the above stainless steel no name Hobo knife, this Ozark Train Hobo comes in stainless, and thus should be easy to clean . However, unlike the previous Hobo knife, this one does not feature brass pins for high wear areas. Likewise, the previous tool didn't have a locking mechanism. This one however does, and it is a fairly annoying one at that. The pins as seen in the above photos, is rather large and long. The fork and spoon are used to lock each pin respectively. To separate this knife, you have to open both the fork and spoon. To lock it back together, you have to open each together, push each together, and close each utensil. There is no large hole with a tapered groove. No need to slide apart each half. This one is simple hole that the fin fits into, and the utensils mentioned above, when close, mate with the over-sized long pins to lock the whole knife together. Therefore, even though this knife looks very much like the above stainless steel Hobo knife, the locking mechanism is completely different.
- Stainless construction should equate to easier cleaning.
- Halves just pull apart. No need to slide each together, making this part a no brainer.
- 4 prong fork.
- Larger utensils always nice.
- Fiddly locking mechanism. Having to open two utensils each time you want to separate and reunite the tool is a bit of a pain.
- Nail nick on blade is in a bad spot that gives you no leverage when opening it. Nail breaker here.
- Where is the brass in high worn areas?The Black Series Hobo Knife by Shift3
Now here is something a bit different. It does feature plastic on the handles, which I am not a big fan of for these type of knives. However, the ergonomics on this are very good. Not only is it textured plastic, but it is sculpted to fit my big hands very nicely. This is one very comfortable Hobo knife design.
This model only features a knife, a spoon, a fork, and a bottle opener. If you want wine with that, you are out of luck. The star of this Hobo knife is the knife blade. The shape of it makes it a real joy to use in cutting steak. It also helps that it came factory sharp out of the package.
The locking mechanism on this model is the fork. To unlock the halves, you have to open the fork. Reverse that to lock the halves together. A much better locking mechanism than the above Hobo Knife. You must still put the pins into the grove and slide the halves together in opposite directions.
- Knife blade is a keeper.
- bottle opener is a tank because it is built into the handle.
- 4 prong fork better than a 3 prong.
- Very ergonomic.
- Larger utensils always nice.
- Plastic scales never as nice as metal, and more difficult to clean.
- Not as many other features compared to most other models.
- Use of fork as a locking mechanism is tricky for first time users.Conclusion
This concludes my mini reviews of the Hobo knives that I have in my collection. I think you will find that these type of multi-tools are very handy for those who require to eat on the go, be it at a camping site, or anywhere. Their compact form and functionality makes them invaluable tools for the traveler or backyard camper.
Of all the knives reviewed here, my favorite is the Linder Picnic knife. Higher quality than the others, and the added bonus of each utensil being used separately makes this the clear winner of the lot. Baring that, I would look for a design that is easy to clean. Lets face it, a Hobo knife is something you will want to keep clean after each use...and a design that makes it easier to clean is a winner in my books for this type of multi-tool.