TOPS Brings Out New Bowie for Backpackers

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Lightweight backpackers are getting a TOPS model of their own with the new Backpacker’s Bowie. TOPS implemented weight-saving features to trim excess ounces while still offering up a tough, reliable tool.

TOPS’ name doesn’t come up often in the conversation on lightweight knives. But for the Backpaper’s Bowie they consciously aimed to thin up the knife as much as possible. “We decided to use 5/32-inch stock on this blade,” TOPS’ Craig Powell explains. “Most of our knives in this size are 3/16” and some are even 1/4″.” The 7.2 oz. Backpacker Bowie’s blade length comes in at 4.5 inches, with a handle that is devoid of any excess material while still long enough to accommodate a full four-finger grip. Despite these changes, many familiar TOPS elements remain: 1095 steel, Micarta handle scales, and full tang construction.

Bowies are often large, with makers routinely pushing out blade lengths between 6 and 12 inches long. TOPS’ own Prather Bowie has an edge length over 7 inches. For the Backpacker Bowie, TOPS translated the Bowie blade shape’s positive qualities into a much smaller size class. “The clip point and curved belly end up being a little ‘squished’ from a lot of the more ‘traditional’ Bowie designs, but we feel good about how it ended up,” Powell says. The company also added extra functionality with a notch on the blade spine, which can strip wire or lift a hot pot from over a campfire. “The top edge on that clip point is also something that can be sharpened upon request,” Powell adds.

In a world where designers are constantly pushing for lower and lower weights, the Backpacker Bowie, at 7.2 oz., may not seem earth shattering. But Powell tells us TOPS strove to balance reasonable weight savings with ultimate strength. They avoided making any meaningful compromises in that regard. “We didn’t want to go too thin because some people might take this as their only blade, and we want it to hold up if it was the only cutting tool they had,” he explains. “So in essence it’s lightweight for TOPS, which may not be lightweight for some other makers out there.”

TOPS has become increasingly experimental in their knife design, pushing their catalog in new directions. With a flipper knife, a puukko, EDC fixed blades, and now a backpacker-centric tool, TOPS has grown beyond its original hardcore image (while still maintaining it). “We have surely broken out of our original niche in terms of the designs we make, but not so much in the philosophy behind what we do,” Powell tells us. TOPS always keeps in mind their original customers – military and law enforcement personnel – in terms of their approach, while still opening the door to more customers than ever. “I think more and more, we do have something for everyone.”


Knife featured in image: TOPS Backpacker’s Bowie

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