I don’t know why I haven’t reviewed the Hobo Tool yet. I carry the damn thing in my backpack, and actually use it to eat at work all of the time. I’ve been carrying and using it for years. It’s an extremely useful little device.
Every Respiratory department is different, and yet they are all the same. Doing as much agency work as I have, you visit a lot of different departments in a lot of different places. They all have some sort of kitchen related sundries, but you can never count on them having everything. If they have plastic forks, then you won’t find any knives or spoons, and vice versa. If they have paper plates they won’t have paper towels or napkins, and so on. The only solid rule that can be applied to all of them is that something will be there, but the particular utensil you need will not. And on night shift you bring your own food. Cafeterias are long sinced closed before night shift even rousts themselves from bed and begins crawling toward work. So if you don’t bring your own utensils you will probably not have the utensils you need. Some people bring their own plastic ware. I bring a Hobo Tool.
The Hobo Tool originated in the late 19th or early 20th centuries. It evolved from the folding slip joint pocket knives that became popular as the wearing of fixed blade knives declined. Hobo Tools are a branch of the same evolutionary limb that became the Swiss Army Knife, and Multi tool. Much like Chimps, and Apes are another branch on our evolutionary limb. The Hobo Tool gained it’s fame and got it’s name in the 1920′s and 1930′s. Guess who it was popular with? Yep, Hobos. Those train hopping foot loose and fancy free men we would refer to as homeless today. But there was a bit of adventure and romance and sophistication to the classic Hobo that is generally missing from similar types today. Or maybe the media and movies just romanticized them to us. Either way they gave us the tool, and gave the tool it’s name.
There have been many different brands and many different styles of Hobo Tool made over the last century, but the one I have carried for at least 6 or 7 years is an Ozark Trail. Thats Wal Mart’s outdoor brand. It costs less than $4 and can be found in Wal Mart’s camping/outdoor section. It has all of my favorite Hobo Tool features. Most of the other brands and styles are missing one or more of the features that, to me anyway, really make a Hobo Tool.
Almost every Hobo Tool has a knife blade, and a fork. If you don’t have a knife and fork I don’t think it qualifies as a Hobo Tool. Most also have a spoon. The Ozark Trail Hobo Tool has all 3 of those, plus a corkscrew, a can opener, a bottle opener, and a straight punch whose purpose has eluded me. And unlike a lot of the other more expensive Hobo Tools, the Ozark Trail has them are on seperate halves. Unlike the straight “jack knife” type tools, The Ozark Trail is composed of two halves which lock together when closed, but seperate when openned. The shaft of the fork and spoon catch on the studs when closed and lock the halves together securely.
The knife and spoon are on one side, and the fork is on the other. This simple and seemingly unimportant bit of common sense is what enables you to use the for and knif at the same time. With the “jack knife” varieties the knife, fork, and spoon (if present) are all mounted in one handle, and you can only use one at a time. So how do you hold things when cutting them with the knife? Or how do you cut things while holding them with the fork? With the Ozark Trail style tool you have a seperate knife and fork.
The tool is stainless steel, and so far it really has proved to be stainless. The knife is sharp. Not sharp enough to shave, but more than sharp enough to cut meat and slice fruits or vegetables. The fork is about the size of a standard dinner fork. Some of the other brands have a miniature fork. The only caveat with the Ozark Trail fork is that if you apply too much presure while using it, it may start to fold closed. This can be easily avoided by either being careful not to apply too much presure, or simply turning it around so the force exerted is in the opening direction. The spoon is a real teaspoon, again not the miniature versions seen in other brands.
The bottle openner and corkscrew work well, but the can openner leaves something to be desired. It is a standard manual beak type can openner. I have openned probably a dozen cans with it over the years, and it is one of the main reasons I advocate putting a regular good quality kitchen can openner in your emergency bag. It is very difficult to use, taking a lot of effort to penetrate a can. Then it takes an equal effort for each stroke as your going around the can. By the time you open a can your hand will be sore, and tired. I think this is because of thickness, and that there is not much of a point and very little edge behind the point. The can openner is noticeably thicker than those found on Swiss Army Knives and multi tools, or the old army can openners.
Cleanup is easy. Dish soap and water, hand soap and water, run it through a dishwasher, or my personal favorite; alcohol prep pads. After years of use, abuse and service I cannot find any signs of rust or discoloration.
I should add that I’m very particular about using it only for food. I don’t use the Hobo Tool to open boxes, or do general cutting tasks. I have other knives for those purposes. The Hobo Tool is only for food. This avoids messing it up, and also avoids potential contamination. In a real emergency I could break that rule, but I haven’t yet had one that would require me to.
I highly recommend getting a Hobo Tool either for daily use or for your emergency bag. In addition to the one in my backpack there is one in each of our emergency bags, and one in the car with the emergency gear. Hey, you can’t be a Hobo without one.