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  • Steve Mazzucchi

That Little Hole in Your Swiss Army Knife Could Be Essential in Survival Situations

No outdoors product sticks around for more than a century without being pretty darn useful. And the Victorinox Swiss Army Knife is about as utilitarian as it gets. Hell, my dad once used the tiny saw blade to cut down a Christmas tree during a family holiday gathering in New Mexico’s Sierra Blanca mountain range.

More than 130 years after Karl Elsener started crafting pocket knives, Victorinox produces nearly a hundred varieties of the original “Soldier Knife.” Like that first one did, a great number of them include an awl — a tool that could save your life in a survival situation.

What is an awl?

Awls are ubiquitous. They even appeared on tools that predate the Victorinox’s famous red one. In chapter 107 of 1851’s Moby Dick, author Herman Melville references “Sheffield contrivances, assuming the exterior — though a little swelled — of a common pocket knife; but containing, not only blades of various sizes, but also screw-drivers, cork-screws, tweezers, awls … ”

With the right technique, you can use your Swiss Army Knife to mend torn gear in the backcountry.

An awl takes up very little space, and it’s indispensable for puncturing everything from cloth and leather to aluminum and wood. And yet, have you ever stopped to think what purpose that little hole in the middle of it serves? It turns out that particular aspect makes it not only an awl, but also a sewing needle.

It doesn’t work quite like a traditional one, of course, because there’s no way to push your entire knife through a piece of material. However, with the right technique, you can use your Swiss Army Knife to mend torn gear in the backcountry or even fix a broken belt to keep your pants up.

How do you use an awl?

Essentially what you do is thread the awl and puncture the two pieces of material you wish to sew together. Then you begin creating loops on the backside of the material that you can place the lead end of the thread through in order to stitch.


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