Petzl Spatha Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Serrated blade portion, carabiner carry option, lightweight, good blade steel
Cons: Rudimentary construction, primitive lockback
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|$160.00 at Amazon||Check Price at REI|
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|Pros||Serrated blade portion, carabiner carry option, lightweight, good blade steel||Incredible blade quality, assisted open, perfect combination of compactness/functionality||Great blade, classy wooden handle||Top-of-the-line materials, tight construction, great blade||Light, simple, well-made, full size blade, full-function|
|Cons||Rudimentary construction, primitive lockback||Pricey, blade lock mechanism not intuitive||Expensive, no assisted opening function||Super expensive, small handle profile||Expensive, low profile handle, flexy plastic construction|
|Bottom Line||The best knife we have tested for rock, ice, and alpine climbing||Immaculately constructed knife in a form-factor that is easy to carry and large enough for virtually every task||This is one of the best knives we have ever tested with a wooden handle||A high-end pocket knife that is readily available at proven retailers; we only wish the handle were a little bulkier for heavy usage||For a full-function, full-size pocket knife, this is as light as it gets, and is the premier option for all sorts of human-powered adventures|
|Rating Categories||Petzl Spatha||Benchmade Mini-Barrage 585||Benchmade 15031-2 North Fork||0450 Sinkevich Carbon Fiber||Benchmade 535 Bugout|
|Blade And Edge Integrity (30%)|
|Construction Quality (20%)|
|Other Features (10%)|
|Specs||Petzl Spatha||Benchmade...||Benchmade 15031-2...||0450 Sinkevich...||Benchmade 535 Bugout|
|Weight (ounces)||1.5 oz||3.4 oz||3.2 oz||2.4 oz||1.9 oz|
|Blade Style||Drop Point, hybrid straight/serrated||Drop point, straight||Drop point, straight||Drop point, straight||Drop point, straight|
|Blade locks closed?||No||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|Opening Style||Ambidextrous thumb hole, ridged traction ring||Assisted, ambidextrous thumb stud||Ambidextrous thumb-stud||Back of knife finger tab||Ambidextrous thumb stud|
|Lock Mechanism||Lock back||Proprietary (Axis)||Proprietary (Axis)||Frame lock||Proprietary (Axis)|
|Carry Style, in addition to loose in pocket||Carabiner hole||Pocket Clip and lanyard hole||Pocket Clip||Pocket clip and lanyard hole||Pocket clip and lanyard hole|
|Blade Material||Sandvik 12C27 stainless steel||154CM stainless steel||S30V stainless steel||S35vn stainless steel||S30V stainless steel|
|Handle Material||Nylon||Plastic||Stabilized wood||Carbon fiber||Grivory|
|Blade Length (inches)||2.7 in||2.8 in||2.9 in||3.2 in||3.0 in|
|Closed Length (inches)||4.2 in||4.0 in||3.9 in||4.1 in||4.2 in|
|Overall Length||7.0 in||6.9 in||6.9 in||7.4 in||7.4 in|
|Thickness (w/o pocket clip) (inches)||.5 in||.6 in||.5 in||.4 in||.4 in|
|Other Features or Functions||None||None||None||None||None|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Spatha is a knife designed specifically for climbing. This means that it is built to be carried on a carabiner, is relatively lightweight, and includes a serrated section of the blade for cutting rope and webbing. The fact is that, even if you carry it only while climbing, you will likely use it for non-climbing specific purposes most of the time. The members of our testing team that climb a lot can assert that cutting rope and webbing is actually a very rare part of most climbers' days. Worry not, as the Spatha is also a serviceable "regular" pocket knife.
Blade and Edge Integrity
Petzl easily could have "phoned it in" on the blade and edge of the Spatha. A specialized, seldom-used tool like this doesn't actually have to have a great blade. Thankfully, they put a great blade in it. The Scandinavian 12C27 steel (stamped right on the blade, alongside the qualifier "inox." "Inox" is the French abbreviation for "stainless" steel. Short for "inoxydable" or "not oxidizable," it means that it's resistant to rusting. Petzl's European loyalties are clear: Scandinavian steel and French abbreviations) is well-regarded. It is nothing flashy but has been shaped into great blades for decades all through Europe.
The Spatha has a half straight, half-serrated blade. Generally, for day-to-day pocket knives, we like fully straight-blades. A straight edge is way easier to maintain and more versatile than a serrated one. A straight edge does everything a serrated edge does, but the opposite is not true. A serrated edge is marginally better at cutting cordage than a straight edge, especially with equal (especially, equally poor) edge maintenance. A dulled serrated edge will hack through rope and webbing better than a dulled straight edge. Because it is optimized for rope-intensive settings, we like the serrated section of the Spatha blade. This is officially the only application where we recommend a serrated section. For any other purposes, choose a straight blade and keep it sharp.
If anything, own more than one knife. Own this one for climbing only and own another, with a fully straight blade, for day-to-day and non-climbing adventures. We feel that strongly about serrated sections in your blade edge; avoid them except for rope-intensive applications.
The Spatha blade is full-sized, the handle is relatively thin and low profile, the blade can be opened with one hand (with either thumb, in the blade's cutout) or with the ribbed hinge ring, and the blade locks open with a traditional "lockback" bar. None of these ergonomic matters are on the leading edge, but they all do the job and make sense in this application. Perhaps the most interesting thing about the knife, ergonomically, is the large ribbed ring that can be used to open the Spatha. This is readily manipulated with gloves on. No other knife we've used is as easy to open with gloves on. We like this, even for purposes not climbing related.
The traditional lockback mechanism isn't very sophisticated and it is prone to developing more play than other modern solutions. However, with the huge hinge, carabiner hole, and opening "traction ring", the lockback configuration makes sense and is likely the only real feasible solution. In all but the most extensive, robust use the lockback will do just fine. Like the opening ring, the lockback can be manipulated with gloves on better than other options.
The Petzl Spatha weighs 1.5 oz and, when closed, measures 4.2 x 0.5 inches. The dimensions are pretty typical for a full-function pocket knife, but that weight is remarkably low. Of the knives we tested, all those that are close in weight are much, much smaller. The weight savings comes with Petzl's choice of an almost all plastic handle and a relatively thin blade.
You can carry the Spatha loose in a pocket or bag, like any pocket knife. Further, the hinge/opening ring has a huge hole in the middle of it for clipping to a carabiner. So clipped it hangs with gravity (plus the friction in the hinge) keeping the blade closed and dangles minimally low on your harness. This is great. A knife handy on your harness is a good thing in some climbing settings. Note that all that keeps the knife closed is friction in the hinge. Given that at least some of the hinge surface is plastic-on-metal, you might anticipate this hinge friction to degrade. Our team has carried versions of the Spatha for years with no important loss of friction. However, this long-term test finding has had limited actual use of the knife. It is conceivable that a Spatha, if deployed extensively and regularly, could develop play and lose friction considerably more than a typical pocket knife. We will keep testing and keep reporting.
The first impressions of our testers with the Spatha, accustomed to sturdy, everyday pocket knives, was relatively unremarkable. The all-plastic handle, somewhat rough hinge friction, primitive lockback design, and low weight combine to leave our test team somewhat underwhelmed, at first glance.
Long-term use, though, indicates that the Petzl Spatha will hold up just fine. As noted above, there is good reason to believe that the hinge may lose friction and risk the blade opening inadvertently. We have not found that to be the case but will continue investigating.
There are no other features on the Petzl Spatha.
While there are no additional tools or functions on the Spatha, this is a good time to comment on the versatility of this knife. You will likely choose a climbing knife primarily for cutting cord and webbing. The fact is, though, that cutting rope and webbing while climbing is quite rare. There are precious few instances in routine climbing that you need a knife to cut rope or webbing. If that is all you used a knife for, the blade could be tiny and entirely serrated. Such products exist. That being said, if you are going to carry a knife while climbing, you will almost certainly find many other uses for it. If you are using it for anything other than cutting rope and webbing, you will be glad for the versatility of the full-size Spatha blade.
For the function and versatility, the Spatha is relatively inexpensive. For day-to-day carry, you can spend this amount and get better materials, construction, and ergonomics. But for climbing purposes, plus more mundane applications, you can't do better at any price.
The Petzl Spatha is the knife we currently recommend for climbers. Its full-size stature is handy for many tasks beyond cutting rope and webbing. Its construction, materials, and portability are carefully balanced for optimum application in steep terrain. Our test team has used other knives while climbing, but we haven't yet formally tested any of the other major climbing-specific options. We know enough to know that the Spatha is great, but we also know enough to know that we can continue to look at other options. Stay tuned for possible direct comparisons of other climbing-specific knives.
— Jediah Porter