Review: Spyderco’s Para Military 2 knife might just be the perfect backpacking blade
This large, lightweight folding knife cuts through B.S. and won’t weigh you down.
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I became aware of Spyderco and their amazing range of knives when I first started rock climbing in college. My mentors were old-school traditional climbers who eschewed bolted routes, spandex, and skinny-ass gym rats in favor of climbing the ‘right’ way — by placing and removing all of your own protection and following the ethos of ‘the leader must never fall.’ (For the unacquainted, trad climbers are the Dwarves of the climbing world: hard-headed, tradition-bound, and brave.) We learned about placing protection, or ‘pro’, safely, rigging anchors, belaying, and, most importantly, rescuing other climbers, and my mentor recommended always having a good, sharp knife on hand to cut away stuck climbing ropes and old webbing at rappel stations, to section cord for slinging chocks, or slicing up lunch while hanging out on a ledge.
My first Spyderco purchase was a first-generation Endura folding lockback knife with a flat sabre-ground VG-10 stainless steel and a black Zytel (DuPont-made plastic) handle and molded clip. The clerk I bought it from said the fully serrated blade was designed for firefighters to cut through seatbelts and the circular cutout in the top of the blade allowed the user to open it with one hand. I figured that was a good feature for climbing, so I bought it. I loved that knife and carried it every day. Of course, after several years, I lost it. Bought another one. Lost that one. Found both. Gave one away to a friend. Lost the other again, and replaced it with the Endura 4 Stainless. I liked the design, but didn’t like the weight — fully two ounces heavier than the Endura — and the handle was smooth and slippery.
My wife and I are section-hiking the Appalachian Trail. Twenty years in the Marines taught me to loathe a heavy pack, and I wanted a knife that was big enough to be useful in the field but light enough to comport with my carry-as-little-weight-as possible ethos. (Yes, I’m the guy who will cut off the handle of my toothbrush to save a few ounces. It all adds up.) And this desire for utility and a lightweight knife led me to the Spyderco Para Military 2 G-10 Dark Blue CPM S110V.
I’ve owned this knife for 18 months, carried it almost every day, and used it while backpacking, climbing, and kayaking. For my needs and uses, it approaches perfection. If you are looking for a near optimum balance of weight and ruggedness, it won’t let you down.
I first encountered the Spyderco Para Military 2 in the wilds of historic downtown Frederick, Maryland. My wife and I met her dad and his wife for brunch one spring morning and, after a lovely plate of eggs Benedict, I stopped by the local cutlery Edgeworks to check out their selection. There was no unboxing, per se: I merely asked the sales clerk across the glass display case counter to show me a few lightweight knives with three to four-inch blades, and he pulled out a few.
The blue handle of the Spyderco caught my eye against the other black-handled knives from other manufacturers and I picked it up. In hand, I was surprised by the knife’s lightness and appreciated the cross-hatched textured grip. I flicked out the blade and noticed the profile was different from my beloved Endura, but I dug it. Broad, full-flat-ground, with a pleasing geometry, it glimmered under the store lights. I also dug that, like the Endura, the knife had an oversized round hole to enable one-handed opening even while wearing gloves, which is clutch in cold weather.
The clerk told me the CPM stood for Crucible Particle Metallurgy(R) that jams a bunch of vanadium, niobium, and chromium alloys into the steel to provide improved wear and corrosion resistance. I told him that would pair nicely with my adamantium bones. Being a nerd like me, he got the Wolverine reference and we kinda bonded for a moment over that.
How we tested the Spyderco Para Military 2
The first thing I did when I picked up the knife was to put my right thumb in the oversized hole in the blade and flick it open. It was effortless and locked with a satisfying click. I’m a big dude, about six foot three and two hundred and thirteen pounds. I tell you this not to impress you, but to convey that I have big hands, and the four-and-a-half inch handle felt great in my right meathook.
Once open, I thumbed the blade perpendicularly and could tell it had a damn fine edge on it. I tried to shave a few hairs off of my left forearm with it. The sales clerk didn’t think that was such a hot idea; he didn’t say anything, but I caught the gist of it from his disapproving look. I also remarked that the blade had some cool texturing where the tip of the thumb and index finger meet the steel. The clerk said this and the flared finger choil behind the Trademark Round Hole™ was to keep one’s hand from slipping forward along the blade when sawing or making cuts. Bottom line: the knife passed my ergonomics test.
As I was handling the blade, the clerk told me that he heard Spyderco’s owner had the knife designed after he was asked what kind he would send along with his son if he joined the military. I kept my veteran affiliation on the DL for this conversation; instead, I told him I kinda understood the military thing from my high school marching band days and that I once took an Endura to band camp and stabbed a tuba player in the ass with it. The clerk’s facial expressions indicated he didn’t know if I was serious or not, and neither do you, dear reader. I then decided to purchase the knife and started carrying it every day from that day forward. I keep it tip down in my right pocket for immediate access attached by the hourglass clip, always on the lookout for unsuspecting tuba players.
Over the next 18 months, I packed the knife along on multiple trips to the Appalachian Trail. It’s been with me through Maryland, the entire state of Pennsyltucky, and most of Virginia. When I saw something that needed cutting, I whipped out my trusty knife and cut it. Hammock rigging? Cut it. Prepackaged dehydrated aluminum meal bags? Opened it. Flappy dead skin around 5-day-old heel blisters? Surgically removed it. Big unidentified animal crashing through the woods at night? Brandished it. The knife met all of my expectations in the field as it provided me a sense of utility, security, and extra safety margin.
There’s also the matter of reslinging hexentrics as a test of sharpness. Because I started climbing in the early 1990s, my pro is old and I needed to resling my set of Black Diamond Hexentrics. I decided to replace it with a 5mm BlueWater Titan Dyneema cord, which is a bit of a pain to cut cleanly. Dyneema is an ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene that is 15 times stronger than steel. It’s tough stuff. I put some tape around the cord and steadily sawed away with the knife, and it cut cleanly. A few double fisherman’s knots later and the job was done.
What we like about the Spyderco Para Military 2
Is it possible to have a bromance with a knife? I’m not sure, but I really dig this one.
It’s clear Spyderco paid special attention to ergonomics. The gently curved 3.42-inch handle fits large hands like mine perfectly, and the choil behind the thumb hole makes me brave enough to attempt carving pumpkins with it (despite a long, bloody incident from when I was 10).
One of the first things I noticed about the knife was that it is remarkably lightweight for its. It weighs in at 108g (3.8 oz) which is around 64 percent of the weight of the fully stainless steel Endura I replaced. There are lighter knives out there, but for the size, this is pretty damn good.
The knife is also wicked sharp out of the box, and it’s easy to sharpen at home — and way easier than sharpening serrated blades of the Endura. I’m glad I made the switch. Over the past 18 months, I’ve taken the knife out in some really crummy weather and it got repeatedly soaked and it’s still rust-free.
It’s also easy to maintain. The knife has an open-back design which makes it super easy to clean and ensures you won’t have a bunch of gunk in the interior of the handle that could corrode your blade. I’ve never oiled the knife and it still operates smoothly. The hourglass pocket clip has enough spring tension to keep it securely attached to my pocket where I carry it right-side tip-down. The handle has pre-drilled holes on the opposing end to reconfigure the clip for lefties.
FInally, the dark blue handle color and brilliant stainless steel blade gives off good hippie vibes. Frankly, I especially liked that the designers didn’t make this version look tactical. I’m in the 1st CivDiv after all, not MARSOC.
What we don’t like about the Spyderco Para Military 2
I thought long and hard about this one. No man-made object is perfect, including me, so here’s what gives me pause. While I didn’t pay the MSRP price of $280 for the Para Military 2, at north of $200 it was at the higher-end of knives I’ve purchased (I paid $224 for it before taxes.) I’m pretty frugal and always on the lookout for less expensive and equally-capable options, but I also balance this with my philosophy that life is short and I’m worth it. My grandma did teach me to buy the best you can reasonably afford. While I am happy with the purchase, I did think about it for a bit and recall feeling like I was buying an expensive knife.
Beyond that, I also think that while the textured handle scales are grippy — more so than the smooth stainless steel Endura I replaced — the handle could be made a bit grippier with more pronounced grooves. I’d give the handle a 7 of 10 for grippiness.
If you’re looking for a reliable, solidly-crafted knife for climbing and long-distance backpacking, the Spyderco Para Military 2 is a buy in my book. I’ve owned Spyderco knives for the past 31 years and they’ve never let me down. I couldn’t be more pleased with this one.
FAQs about the Spyderco Para Military 2
More questions? Here’s Task & Purpose’s additional brief.
Q. How much does the Spyderco Para Military 2 really cost?
A. Whatever you do, don’t pay the MSRP of $280 for the Para Military 2. I just did a quick internet search for the model and found several options under $200. I paid $224 before tax for it at Edgeworks in Frederick, Maryland, and recommend them. It’s good karma to support independent small businesses. Tell them Joe sent ya.
Q. What are the blade and handle made of?
A. The blade is CPM S110V steel and the handle is plastic with full nestled steel liners. The blade is substantial – about ⅛ inches thick at the choil and the steel liners ensure there’s no flex in the handle when the blade is extended.
Q. How easy is the blade to maintain?
A: It’s super easy to clean. One of the things I love about the Para Military 2 over the Endura is that it has an open-back design and you can clean the entire inside of the handle with a Q-tip. I’ve used mild dish soap, water, and a toothbrush to get dirt out of the textured grip and will give the pivot point a drop or two of machine oil eventually.
Q. Did you really stab a tuba player at band camp?
A. Would you rather hear a funny story that’s not true, or a true story that’s not funny?
Got questions? Comment below & talk with T&P’s editors
Joe Plenzler is a Marine Corps veteran who served from 1995 to 2015. He is a backcountry expert, long-distance backpacker, rock climber, kayaker, cyclist, wannabe mountaineer, and the world’s OK-est guitar player. He supports his outdoor addiction by working as a human communication consultant, teaching at the College of Southern Maryland, and helping start-up companies with their public relations and marketing efforts.