Whether you hike with a simple folding Byrd knife or pack a Swiss army knife or multi-tool, proper care of the blade and tools on the trail is a must if you want to ensure it keeps working well. The following care tips will make it easy to keep your knife in good condition.
Tip #1: Keep the gunk out
Your knife is bound to collect lint and other debris both from everyday use and from being carried around in your pocket. The simplest way to get the dirt out is to use a toothpick to scrape it out. Keep a couple of picks in your first-aid or cooking kit just for this purpose. Don't use any stick off the ground, though. These can easily break apart and become stuck in your knife.
Tip #2: Dry it often
A wet knife can attract more dirt, which then dries and hardens, than a dry knife can. A wet knife is also more likely to rust. Always take a moment to dry your knife completely after every use. The outside as well as the blade should be dried.
Tip #3: Practice trail cleaning
While deep cleaning can usually wait until you get home, you will occasionally need to do more than simply wiping the blade on your pants to get it clean. In most cases you can simply use your dish towel or moisten something from your pack to wipe your knife clean. If you have something sticky on your blade, such as sap or duct-tape residue, then wipe the blade clean with an alcohol pad from your first-aid kit.
Tip #4: Deep clean at home
The best tool for cleaning a knife thoroughly is an old toothbrush. Simply scrub the blade and handle clean with warm soapy water and the brush. Once done, rinse the knife with clear water and dry it off. Leave the knife open until it dries completely on the inside. Once the knife is dry, place a small drop of lubricant on each pivot point so the knife continues to fold easily.
Tip #5: Sharpen properly
For standard sharpening, you need a whetstone and mineral oil. Put a couple of drops of mineral oil on the whetstone and rub it around. Next, place the blade against the course grit side of the stone at a small angle and push the knife across the stone so it is sharpened from blade to tip. Do this for each side a few times and then flip the stone over and repeat the process on the fine grit side of the stone. You can find small whetstones to keep in your pack for trail-side sharpening, or you can even use a fingernail file to sharpen the knife in a pinch.
Contact a knife dealer for more advice on your trail knife.