The Kephart design blade is a proven performer. This latest Kephart from Bark River may prove to be the best version yet.
Question from Reader: “You’ve written abut the best survival knife, the best EDC knife, the best hunting knife, fillet, pocket knife, etc., etc. Skip the options, the analysis and potential survival scenarios and answer this: What is the knife you have on you right now?”
Every survival/preparedness-type has opinions about the best survival/hunting/bushcraft/etc knife. But what about the knife you carry every day and use for everything?
by Leon Pantenburg
I belong to the “big knife, small knife” school of thought when it comes to packing cutlery. I want a four-to-six inch blade for a hunting knife, a seven-to-nine inch filleting knife for fish and a 12-to-18-inch machete or parang for chopping. (Actually, a better chopping tool is a hatchet or small axe!)
But I also take along a smaller, handier knife to do a lot of everyday tasks. This small knife will be carried most often and subsequently, get more use. So it needs to be chosen with care.
Don’t underestimate the smaller knives.
Last month, I was driving home from a Boy Scout campout, when a car ahead of me hit a deer. After checking on the occupants of the car (they were shaken, but unhurt) the driver and I followed the injured buck.
It had two broken legs, internal injuries and was in agonizing pain. We dialed 911, and found the state police would be at least half an hour getting there. So we put the deer down with the only tool available – my Kellem Hawk. The three-inch blade worked quickly and efficiently to end the animal’s suffering.
In another instance, I volunteered to help cook at the Azure Standard company picnic. We found there were 120 pounds of chicken quarters to be cut up. I had the only practical knife available, my L.T. Wright Next Gen.
The Next Gen opened up a pallet of boxes, and when the blade was cleaned, cut up 80 pounds of chicken. (We grilled 40 pounds of quarters for the big eaters.) Everyone who used the Next Gen loved it. The blade was still sharp at the end of all that work.
Here’s my preferencs in an EDC knife: I have certain standards. The blade should be between one to three inches long, with a user point. My (glove-size) large hands require a minimum four-inch handle and I prefer a bulky diameter. The material should be safe to use, even when wet. And durable.
For users, I prefer micarta because it seems to get tackier and “grippier” when wet. But I have a real weakness for beautiful wood, and own and use many knives with curly maple and desert ironwood handles.
We further break down the category into folder and rigid blade. (Check out my prejudices.)
Here are some of my current favorite rigid EDCs:
Old Hickory three-inch paring knife: My sister, Karla Pantenburg Moore, is a one of the most knowledgeable homesteader-types I know. Her go-to knife for many homestead tasks is a three-inch Ontario Old Hickory paring knife. The knives are cheap, reliable and do the job.
L.T. Wright Patriot: This is a great choice for people with small-to-medium hands. I don’t like a three-finger grip on a user knife, and that was the best I could do with the Patriot. But the cute little knife can be a real workhorse in the right hands, and any L.T. Wright knife is bulletproof. (Check out these video reviews)
L.T. Wright Next Gen: This is one of my favorite small knives. It has a three-inch blade, and a 4-1/2 inch handle. For me, it is just about perfect.
Fallkniven WM1: Fallkniven has a sterling reputation for quality cutlery, and the WM1 Sporting Knife upholds that tradition. A smallish fixed-blade knife, the WM1 is compact enough to take everywhere, but large enough handle many big knife tasks.
I carved a spoon with the WM-1 and found it to be a very good carver with its 2.75-inch, convex grind. It would also work for a neck knife.
Kellam Hawk: The Hawk™ features a beautiful dyed curly birch handle with a 3″ razor-sharp carbon steel blade. This knife has a full-tang construction with a brass bolster. These knives are hand made in Finland. The knife comes with a swinger-style dark brown leather sheath. As mentioned, this knife can handle just about anything.
Great Eastern Slipjoint: I got this because I love classic, traditionally designed cutlery. The knife is big enough, with its four-inch handle, and 3-1/8-inch blades to be used comfortably for a lot of tasks. If need be, it could do a fine job of field dressing and skinning a deer.
Swiss Army Classic: My overall, most-carried knife ever is the tiny Classic. It rides on my keychain, and is used multiple times every day for everything imaginable.
I met a through hiker on the Pacific Crest Trail in Oregon a few years back, and a Classic was her choice for a backpacking knife. It was the only knife she had carried since leaving the Mexican border several months earlier.
Swiss Army Tinker: I carry a Tinker on my belt everyday, even when I’m at work at my college office. The Tinker goes for under $20, and has just about everything I need in a pocket knife. Frequently, you can find a combo deal on Amazon.com pairing the Classic and the Tinker.
Most Swiss Army knives have toothpicks and tweezers in the handle, and these are some of the most useful tools imaginable.
Puma Stockman Birdhunter: This three-bladed knife is one of the best small game knives ever. The different styles of blades are ideal for gutting and skinning upland game or birds, and the handle is comfortable for wood carving.
Opinel: This French import is inexpensive and has a unique, revolving ring for securely locking the blade in place. Opinels come in all sizes. The smallest Opinel, No. 2, has a 3.5-cm blade and the largest knife, No. 12, a 12-cm blade.
I find the carbon steel blades hold an edge very well, and if the blade it wiped off after use there shouldn’t be any problems with rust.
These knives are in their own categories, and bear mention because this is my website and I like them.
Bark River Gunny: The 3-3/4-inch blade disqualifies this knife from consideration, but the Gunny remains one of my most-used knives.
Mora 840 Companion: The blade is just under four inches, so that puts it in the mid-size group. But the cost and quality make it a knife that everyone can afford to use.
Leatherman WAVE: This multi-tool has all sorts of really cool gadgets, including a quality blade. The blade is about three inches long, and it can serve as a small game knife.
I’ve heard of people field dressing deer with the WAVE, but that is nothing I intend to try. The collection of tools make this one of the handiest EDCs available.
So that’s my EDC knife list as of right now. My choices are probably different from yours, and my list tends to change and evolve as I check out new products.
Probably the only thing to remember about any EDC knife is that it’s useless if it is left at home, or in the vehicle at the trailhead. The only valuable EDC/survival/bushcraft/etc knife is the one you have with you!
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Sometimes, a couple small tweaks can change something from almost perfect to WOW!
by Leon Pantenburg
Knives Ship Free is a Survivalcommonsense.com sponsor. I didn’t get free knives, and don’t get a special deal on any company’s products.
My favorite everyday carry knife kinda depends on what I’m doing and where I’m going. My L.T. Wright Genesis gets worked hard when I’m doing bushcraft stuff. The Ambush Tundra is my favorite hunting knife. But for day-in, day-out EDC carry, I tend to reach for my Bark River Gunny. It just works well.
I don’t get a special deal on any company’s knives, and I won’t use a knife that can’t be depended on. And I have a lot of really good, high-quality knives from different manufacturers. All of them get regular use.
But those of us who wear size large gloves and bigger can’t use just any knife. Many otherwise excellent knives just don’t work because the handle ends up being too short.
That was the case for my favorite curly maple handled Gunny. It is a great knife for me most of the year. But when it gets cold, and I have to wear gloves while using it, the handle proves to be just a tinge on the small size.
Naturally, that lead to another quest for cutlery perfection.
When I’m testing a knife, and something isn’t just right, I’ll sometimes loan it out to an experienced outdoorsperson and get their feedback. Frequently, what works for me, doesn’t work for others. (For example, the BR Trakker handle just wasn’t comfortable, so I sent it out for a second opinion.)
I got a Bravo LT about three years ago, used it, and loaned it to my brother Mike, with no other instructions than “Use it and tell me what you think of it.” (Mike has been my hunting partner for some 38 years. He got a Lon Humphrey Sterling for his 50th birthday.)
Mike gutted and skinned a buck with the Bravo, and was very complimentary about the edge-holding ability and overall design. But he mentioned that the tip needed to be thinner to skin around the front shoulders and head of a deer.
And both of us prefer a clip point with a swedge for a gutting knife.
Based on Mike’s feedback, and my own use of the Gunny and the Bravo, I decided I needed a Gunny with a Bravo handle.
Well, that isn’t a factory option, but BR has a satisfaction guarantee that is next to none. I contacted the company and asked how much it would cost to have my Bravo re-ground to resemble a Gunny Hunter.
That’s part of the satisfaction guaranteed warranty, I was told, so give a detailed description of what you want done, and send it in. Total cost = $15.
So my instructions were explicit. Don’t touch the handle. Shape it like Gunny Hunter: Swedge, clip point and full height convex grind.
The end result is just a bigger Gunny, with a large enough handle for people with “ham hocks” hands.
To say I like is a tremendous understatement!
Most people won’t understand the difference between the Gunny/Bravo and the Gunny or the Bravo. They might wonder why I’d bother with a re-grind when both knives are stellar performers.
Well, it probably wouldn’t matter. But there are some things I don’t compromise on, and at the top of the list is outdoor equipment I depend on. When a knife of piece of outdoor gear is just right, it makes the intended task easier and safer.
I’ll let you know. But right now, it feels like the Gunny/Bravo is going to be “just right.”
Check out our other survival knife reviews.
I didn’t need another Bark River Gunny. But I couldn’t pass up this latest addition to the Gunny line.
by Leon Pantenburg
KnivesShipFree is a SurvivalCommonSense.com sponsor, but the company did not supply a free knife and I was not paid to do this review.
I remember hearing something to the effect of “If you really like a piece of equipment, buy two. The company will surely quit making it.”
Well, I just got my third Gunny, the Gunny Vortex, and so far it’s looking really good.
- Overall Length: 9.5 Inches
- Blade Length: 4.7 Inches
- Blade Height: .90 Inch
- Blade Thickness: .156 Inch
- Blade Steel: A-2 tool Steel @ 58-60RC
- Weight: 6 Ounces
- Made in USA
High-quality leather sheath included.
My introduction to the Gunny came when I ran into a Texas big game guide. We talked knives and guns, and he recommended a Bark River Rampless Gunny for a deer hunting knife.
Years later, I got my first Gunny. After using it for awhile, I sent it back to the factory to get a full height convex grind, and clip point with swedge. That knife was later given to my sister, Karla Pantenburg Moore, one of the most savvy homesteader types I know.
My second Gunny is my most-carried EDC knife. (A very, very close second is my L.T. Wright Next Gen.) Most recently, it was used for opening boxes at the Mother Earth News Preparedness Expo in Albany, Oregon.
I was helping out at the Azure Standard booth, and we went through several dozen boxes of samples, catalogues and products. Dr. Bones and Nurse Amy had no knives, since they had to go through TSA at the airport, so I opened a box for them. (Check out the interview we did.)
Unboxing the Vortex showed the quality I expect from Bark River. The knife was hair-popping sharp, and finish was impeccable. It will be used later today to trim some elk meat, and if I get to go fishing this weekend, the Vortex will go along.
Here’s the good stuff:
Handle: I wear size large gloves, and any handle less than four inches long won’t work for me. The Gunny handle fits me really well. I’ve used Gunnys for virtually every out door task and never had a problem hanging onto the knife. This includes cleaning fish, where the handle got bloody and slimy.
Micarta is my first choice for a user knife, but I have a weakness for curly maple handles. They match the stock on my flintlock rifle, and the wood makes a durable, longlasting handle. Also, maple won’t break the bank. Strange as it may seem, the stabilized wood does not get slippery when wet with blood or fish slime.
Steel: The Vortex comes in A2. I’ve used A2 and CPM 3V extensively, and I can’t say that I can tell much difference. After the Mother Earth expo, I cleaned the tape residue off my Gunny’s CPM 3V blade and the knife was still really sharp. A few passes on the plain leather strop restored the edge to scary, wicked sharp.
But I’ve also used A2 a lot in my BR Sahara. Two years ago, I field dressed, skinned and quartered a whitetail buck without needing to sharpen the blade. Then I carved the Thanksgiving turkey. I finally stropped the blade because of this obsessive/compulsive thing I have about really, really sharp knives.
Grind: The Vortex comes with a full convex grind. That’s my first choice in most of my user knives. I’ve sent knives back to the factory to have them reground to full convex. For everything from field dressing elk to cleaning panfish, convex works best for me.
But, a better choice for a dedicated bushcraft knife might be the scandi grind. In my experience, the scandi is a really good selection for a knife that will be used mostly for wood working, tinder processing and splitting firewood. It’s also easier for the beginner or newcomer to sharpen.
Point: The Vortex has a slight drop point, which is a good choice for an overall knife. My favorite remains a clip point with a swedge, and there is always the potential of my Vortex getting sent back to the factory for a re-grind. (Bark River will modify knife grinds and point for the cost of shipping and handling – $15.)
Blade length: The 4.7-inch blade is a good choice for a hunting/survival knife. My personal favorite blade length is about four to four-and-one-half inches long.
Blade thickness: The Vortex is .156 inches thick, which is a good choice for an all around knife. I personally prefer thinner blades for what I will use a knife for outdoors.
Sheath: The Vortex comes with a sturdy leather sheath that protects the edge and the carrier from each other. I modify virtually every sheath I get. I wet form the leather, to make it fit the knife better, and then add a D ring to the belt loop. These modifications are simple to do, and can add greatly to comfortable carry.
Made in USA: Every Bark River knife is made in Escanoba, Michigan, by American craftsmen. These folks, and the company, pay taxes and contribute to their community. Quality control and customer support has proven to be outstanding. Support American small business!
The jury is still out:
Both the Bravo Vortex and the Gunny Vortex come with “the handle slabs with a unique thumb index detent for use holding the knife in side grip and for indexing in the hand without having to look at the knife,” according to the BR website.
I haven’t had occasion to use these, and have not felt the need for such a modification. So, I will use this option whenever possible and let you know how it works out.
Do you need a Gunny Vortex?
It all boils down to is what you’re looking for in an overall, every day carry knife. I love my Gunny, and the Vortex will have to provide serious additional benefits before it replaces my standard Gunny.
Basically, the Vortex is a Gunny with a longer blade, with a detent in the handle. It’s the knife for you if a longer blade is preferred. And I can see where that longer blade could be handy, especially with a knife that may end up cleaning fish.
Price difference between the two is a wash – in A2, both knives start out at about $190.00.
If you’ve narrowed down your knife investment choices to either the Gunny Hunter or Vortex – congratulations! You will love either model, and may ending up getting one of each. That’s not a bad thing.
Really, what do you need in an everyday carry knife?
by Leon Pantenburg
I was not paid to do this review. KnivesShipFree.com is a SurvivalCommonSense sponsor, but did not supply the WM1 used in this post.
Fallkniven has a sterling reputation for quality cutlery, and the WM1 Sporting Knife upholds that tradition. A smallish fixed blade knife, the WM1 is compact enough to take everywhere, but large enough handle many big knife tasks.
And while we can debate all day about specialty knives, such as what makes the best survival, filleting, hunting, fishing, folder etc., the every day carry knife is harder to define.
My EDC varies with my mood, what I feel like taking along, and what I anticipate doing that day. But generally, it must function in two very different worlds.
In my day job at a local community college, the EDC must cut the bands on bundles of newspapers, open mail, slice bagels, spread cream cheese and other tasks us cubicle-bound office workers may have.
My other world is the outdoors, with frequent forays into nearby wilderness areas. In the woods, an EDC may be required to do everything from whittling to cleaning a fish or field dressing a deer.
The WM1 fits well in either environment.
Here are the specs:
Overall length: 6.9 inches
Blade length: 2.75 inches
Blade thickness: .14 inches
Weight: 2.5 ounces
Sheath: injection molded zytel.
The WM1 went to work immediately in the kitchen, and it worked fine. The blade is too short to make a good slicer, but the .14-inch thickness meant it could cut vegetables and dice onions fairly well.
But around a campfire, the WM1 proved to be really useful. I used it to carve my first wooden spoon, and the ergonomic handle was very comfortable in my hand. The handle also worked well for people with smaller hands.
The convex-ground blade provides a really strong blade profile, while giving a sharp edge. Convex is my favorite type of grind anyway, and this was another plus for the knife.
Blade length: At 2.75 inches, some people might think this blade is a trifle small. But I marked the small blade on my Swiss Army Knife Tinker and over a weeklong period, and recorded where I used it the most. The 1-1/2-inch blade handled everything very well.
And check out prehistoric stone knives in museums – the mammoth hunters skinned many of those beasts with blades under two inches long. Best overall hunting knife choice, IMO, is four inches. But I prefer a four-to-five inch blade in an overall bushcraft knife. For EDC, the WM1’s blade is entirely adequate.
The comfortable handle gives a good secure grip even in wet or cold hands and enables full control of the edge positioning. The knife is also hygienic, as it is easy to clean.
Full length tang: The powerful blade runs through the handle at full width. That makes for a really, really tough knife. I’m betting this knife is practically indestructible.
The rust-resistant VG10 steel is put through an extensive and very advanced tempering process, partly to achieve high strength, partly for added edge retention, according to the Fallkniven website, qualities that make our knives much sought-after.
Point: There are few point configurations that are more useful than a drop point like the WM1 has. A drop point has my vote in the do-it-all competition.
Spine: The edge opposite sharpened edge is often ignored or forgotten. The WM1 spine is ground at a 90-degree angle, like and ice skate. This means it can be used to scrape a ferro rod, or process tinder for firemaking.
Zytel sheath: The injection molded zytel sheath offers a neat safe and strong combination of qualities which should be very attractive to any user. You can hang it around your neck or add it to your belt. The locking mechanism in the sheath will safely store the knife till you need it, then it is easy to use one-handed.
The L.T. Wright Rogue River might be what you’re looking for in an all-around fixed blade knife.
by Leon Pantenburg
I was not paid to do this review and L.T. Wright supplied the knife used for testing. (See editor’s note below.) Knivesshipfree.com is a distributer of L.T. Wright knives, and a SurvivalCommonSense.com sponsor.
New in 2015 was the Rogue River, a model that immediately caught my eye. Oregon’s Rogue River is not that far from where I live, and the whitewater and steelhead fishing of that beautiful area deserve commemoration somehow. And while some of my most-used knives have African names, I like the American connection!
Also, the Rogue River’s design is attractive, and it looked to be a good user.
Here are the specs:
- Total Length: 8 2/3″ (220mm)
- Blade Length: 4″ (104mm)
- Blade Thickness: 1/8″ (3.07mm)
- Blade-Steel: A-2 Steel
- Other Features: Ground Spine, Lanyard Hole, High-Quality Leather Sheath
What I like about the Rogue River:
Blade length: If I had to pick the perfect, all-around useful blade length, I’d go with four inches. I’ve used a four-inch blade on everything from whittling wiener sticks to field dressing big game. I’d prefer a two-to-three-inch blade for small game and wood carving, and a five-to-six-inch blade for buschcrafting and wilderness survival use. But a four-inch blade is the all-around champ.
Handle: At 4-2/3 inches this handle fits my hand really well. A perpetual problem for those of us who wear size large gloves is finding a handle that’s long enough to use for extended wear.
I prefer micarta when ordering a knife for testing. The material is probably bulletproof, and holds up really, really well to hard use and abuse. Also, the material gets tacky when wet, so that nice, smooth handle never gets too slippery when field dressing big game or cleaning fish. Because of my Irish heritage, I generally get green.
But I also have a weakness for curly maple and desert ironwood, and the Rogue River is available with wood handle options.
Blade thickness: This is another topic for debate. Check out daggers, swords and knives in museums. Most of them (with the exception of some broadswords) tend to be thin. I like a thin blade. I think they slice and skin better, and are overall, more useful.
And with today’s super steels, there is little danger of breaking a blade unless it is deliberately abused. The 1/8-inch thickness of the Rogue River is about right. It should be sturdy enough to disjoint big game animals with no danger of blade damage.
A-2 steel: I love A-2, and it is a tossup between it and CPM 3V, as to which I have the most knives in. A-2 holds an edge like crazy. I completely gutted, skinned, dis-jointed and quartered a whitetail buck one November with my Sahara in A-2 and it was still shaving sharp at the end of the job. Without any touch-up, the Sahara did a fine job of carving the Thanksgiving turkey the next day. The desert ironwood handle looked classy, along with the family china and formal dining room.
In my experience, A-2 has tremendous edge-holding ability, and is easy to keep sharp. You can’t go wrong with A-2.
Saber grind: Knife grind is another personal preference, and I have examples of virtually everything. My favorite is convex. Scandi is excellent for bushcraft, and is a good grind for teaching people how to sharpen.
I like the flat, saber grind, because it makes a really good slicer and whittler. The Rogue River’s blade grind ends with a micro bevel, which comes razor sharp. With use and stropping, the saber will eventually evolve into a convex grind.
Sheath: The Rogue River comes with a sturdy leather sheath, equipped with a belt loop that makes it a dangler. This is my favorite design of sheath. A dangler sheath allows the knife to freely move on your belt, while still safely securing the blade.
Drop point: While my favorite point is still a clip, the drop point is a really good choice for a do-it-all knife. The point works well for hunting and field dressing big game. It also works well for drilling holes in wood.
Here’s the bottom line: If you’re looking for a durable, well-designed user, that can handle most camping, hiking and outdoor tasks, take a hard look at the Rogue River. You can’t go wrong with this knife.
Editor’s note: All I ever promise on any knife review is a fair shake. If a knife is a piece of junk, I’ll report that.
I contacted L.T. Wright last November, asking what they would charge to re-grind my GNS from a scandi to flat grind. I have beaten the crap out of the GNS, testing and using it, and didn’t ask for or expect any warranty work. And I am very, very satisfied with the knife.
Re-grinding would be difficult, L.T. explained. Apparently, since I wasn’t absolutely, positively, completely satisfied with the GNS, L.T. asked if I would accept a Rogue River (with a flat grind) instead. That’s the kind of customer service you can expect from L.T. Wright Handcrafted Knives. Buy American.