If you were to line up our tested knives, the Opinel No. 8 would immediately stand out visually. The simple, light-colored wood handle is clearly something different. Look closer, and you see even more differences. First, the price belies the overall utility and construction quality. Next, the design optimizes camp kitchen and household use, while the modern trend in pocket knives is to lean towards more robust "tactical" style uses. Most of us who carry a pocket knife use it far more frequently to cut an apple than we do to slice our way out of a cargo net booby trap. For "normal" use, the Opinel hits the sweet spot. For everyday carry and as part of your backpacking or picnic kit, the Opinel is perfect. It is affordable enough to have a few in different places.
Opinel No. 8 Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Lightweight, simple
Cons: Two-handed operation, thin blade is flexible.
Compare to Similar Products
Our Analysis and Test Results
Our overall scoring matrix rewards the all-purpose product. With a long, well-reputed history and decades of subtle refinements, the Opinel knife design brings a very high overall performance, given its low price.
Blade and Edge Integrity
On some level, you get what you pay for with blades. However, in an economy of scale and with careful materials selection and design, a great blade can be made for a low price. Opinel has refined the blade of their knives for over 100 years. With patience and an eye to value and all-around function, the result is a thin, convex-ground, clip point blade shape. The stainless steel, straight edge blade we tested (they also sell serrated and carbon steel designs) holds an edge but responds well to attentive resharpening.
The overall blade grind is so narrow that the final edge bevel is virtually indistinguishable. Again, the most salient characteristic of this blade, especially as compared to the more "contemporary" designs we test, is its narrow profile. For cutting food and other softer items, this is a dream. The blade virtually cuts under its own low weight. For more robust tasks, like rope and webbing, the narrowness of the blade, the friction-hinge, and the natural give in a wooden handle feel a little flexible. It does the job, but it sometimes feels as if you are pushing harder than the knife is designed for.
Open and in use, the Opinel No 8 is similar in dimensions to a small steak knife. (Opinel makes this same general design in a whole range of sizes. You can get an Opinel blade from 3.5 cm to 22 cm. The "No 8" we tested is the most popular size and has an 8.5 cm blade). The blade opens with a traditional fingernail slot and locks with a proprietary "Virobloc" safety ring. The Virobloc is essentially a rotating steel collar with a slot in it for the blade.
With the collar slot lined up with the blade, you can open and close the blade. With the collar slot turned aside, the blade cannot be opened or closed. This is elegant in its simplicity. The disadvantage of the opening method and locking collar is that all operations essentially require two hands.
Most knives with a more "modern" design can be opened and locked with one hand. Assisted opening springs in our favorite knives make deployment easier. The top scoring knives in our review have assisted opening function and one-handed thumb stud blade deployment. Comparing to the other inexpensive knives reviewed, the Opinel doesn't stand out quite as much.
With the wide range of sizes available, you should be able to fit an Opinel knife into any part of your life. As the "standard" size, the No. 8 is fairly "average" regarding portability. At 1.5 ounces, the weight will be barely noticeable. The round profile handle takes up more pocket space than a flatter-handled style. The main disadvantage of the Opinel is that it has no pocket clip nor lanyard hole. The only viable way to carry it is loose in your pocket. Thankfully, the low weight and smooth wooden external profile make this a reasonable proposition.
Among the knives with blades this long, the Opinel is super lightweight. Most models with such a long blade weigh twice as much as this knife. The only knives coming close in weight have much shorter blades. We do wish that the Opinel had a pocket clip, though that would interfere with the classic, simple design appeal.
In a field dominated by sturdy, stiff "tactical" tools, the lightweight and wooden construction of the Opinel feels a little underwhelming. When pressed to cut rope or in whittling, the flex inherent in the wooden handle, friction-fit hinge, and narrow blade profile is noticeable. That said, our long-term testing and the thousands of Opinel knives still in use after decades and decades proves that the simple design, though lightweight, holds up to heavy use.
Something is appealing about wood and steel construction. We can easily tell that the Opinel is just five pieces; blade, handle, hinge pin, and the two metal collars that serve as the "Viroblok" locking mechanism. This simplicity is lightweight and proven to be reliable.
There are no other features on the Opinel No. 8. Opinel makes versions that include bit drivers or a corkscrew. However, the simplicity of the version reviewed here is its primary appeal.
Somehow Opinel is selling this well-made, functional, and stylish piece of equipment for about what you'd expect to pay for a mass-produced, low quality "gas station counter" pocket knife. It has its limitations, but the overall value to performance scoring is very much worthy of your consideration.
It took us a few years to get an Opinel included in our review, and we ask forgiveness for that oversight. For many OGL readers, the Opinel No. 8 will be an excellent value and all you need for camping and household use.
— Jediah Porter