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This is not your ordinary review, it is a MEGA Review! I recently had the opportunity to test out not one, but three, survival knives from DPx Gear and use them in a real-world scenario. The three knives I’m going to discuss in this mega-review are as follows:
Left to right: HEST Original, HEFT Assault 4, and HEST II Woodsman
I’m familiar with the DPx line of knives from reputation, as this company is known for its focus on hard-use knives designed by experienced, military personnel and adventurers, however, this was the first time I had the opportunity to try them out under real survival situations.
According to their website, DPx knives are tested and used in locations including Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, and Burma. From the get-go, I was excited to see if these knives could perform up to expectations.
DPX Knife Review First Impressions
From first glance, I knew these were superior quality knives. Simply by looking, I could tell there was serious craftsmanship that went into their assembly; these were not some cheap trinkets that would fall apart after a year of use.
Left to Right: Leather sheath, HEST II Woodsman knife, HEFT 4 Assault knife, Nylon sheath with Kydex insert, HEST Original knife, Kydex sheath.
Picking them up, each felt solid in my hands and had a full tang. Examining the blades, they were very sharp out of the box and much thicker than other knives of this size, indicating superior quality and an ability to handle abuse.
Additional details setting these knives apart from less expensive alternatives included well thought-out jimping, storage space in the handle, a hex driver, a wire breaker, and a bottle opener – for a little reward after a hard day’s work!
Cracking one open with the HEST Original. Cheers!
I was really excited to check out the HEST II Woodsman and the HEFT 4 Assault as both are made from Niolox steel (the HEST Original is made from 1095 high carbon steel, but more on that later), a relatively new blade material that I had never had the chance to use before.
Testing out the 1095 high carbon steel blade of the HEST Original while preparing to build a fire.
Originally developed for the food processing industry (think large scale, factory-based food processing), Niolox came about as processors were looking for something that would deliver superior edge retention, resist corrosion, and last for thousands of cuts and slices before needing replacement. Using this material to fabricate knives is a no-brainer, what I was truly curious about is how this new material would fare against the old, reliable 1095.
DPx Knife Review: Testing Process
I decided the best way to test these knives out was to take them into the elements and see how they stacked up against real-world tasks. Myself and two other experienced outdoorsmen went on a weekend camping trip (this is where we went if you are even in Australia), each one taking one of the knives.
All three blades sank into a large cuttlefish bone we found on the beach.
We didn’t have a set plan of exactly what skills we would test the knives with, but decided that we would simply keep the knives on us and use them as the need arose. Over the course of the weekend, the knives were tested out on the following tasks:
- Cutting rope
- Batoning branches
- Shaving wood to start fire
- Gathering mollusks to practice scavenging skills
- Pounding tent stakes
- Preparing food
- Cutting open boxes and packages
- Light digging
- Sheaths tested for usability, ease of deployment, and comfort
Best Use: This knife is ideal for bugging-out or bushcraft. It was by far the largest, heaviest, and most heavy duty of the knives. A real ‘workhorse,’ this knife is good for medium to heavy duty tasks around camp.
Click the graphic to view the DPx HEFT 4 Assault on Amazon.
What I Liked:
First off, I like that this knife is made of Niolox steel and it provides good form and balance (balance is right where your index finger sits, which results in excellent control). Another perk is that the jimping is also wire stripper and makes for an excellent grip. The G-10 scales are removable, so there’s space to wrap paracord around your knife or store items inside. There’s also a bottle opener that works competently (more on that below).
As for the blade, it was very thick which made for great batoning and prying. I was really impressed when by accident, I jammed the knife into a rock and the tip did not snap, due mainly to the thickness of the blade, strength of the Niolox steel, and probably a bit of pure luck!
Harvesting limpets with the HEFT 4 Assault.
Limpets are related to clams and are a great source of protein!
The blade also proved to be quite resistant to corrosion as it was exposed to seawater and then sheathed for 48 hours, with no visible rust. The Niolox passed this corrosion resistance test with flying colors. Additionally, the nylon sheath is nice and streamlined with a pocket that can hold a sharpening stone, fire starter, compass, or anything other small tool, and it also has a molded kydex insert.
Note the thickness of the spine, which provides a solid striking surface for batoning.
Cosmetically, there were no nicks in the edge after an entire weekend of use but there were some scratches on the blade coating. This is not something that particularly bothers me, my gear is meant to be USED so if it’s not a little scratched, it’s not useful. However, if you’re a collector or enjoy displaying your knives, this may not be the one for you.
Last but not least, the craftsmanship is top-notch. This knife is made for DPx in Italy by master bladesmiths at LionSteel.
As I mentioned before, the bottle opener worked but could be better. It was not as useful as a ‘church key’-type opener, which admittedly would be impractical on a knife, but it’s nice to have in a pinch. Another issue (that applies only to lefties), is that the kydex molding of the sheath makes this a right-hand draw knife. If you were truly motivated, you could pull out the molded liner, but it’s pretty snug.
Final Thoughts on the HEFT 4 Assault:
I absolutely loved this knife. It’s the perfect size for all but the most heavy-duty of tasks. You are not going to want to use it to take down a tree, but for the other 95% of the functions you’ll need for bushcraft, survival and camp, this knife is up to the task. If you like the idea of this knife but want it larger, you’re in luck – it has a big brother, the HEFT 6.
A big plus for this knife is the jimping. It really bit into my thumb and gave me serious confidence that my grip would not slip. Also, the Niolox steel more than lived up to expectations and truly impressed me. The edge held its sharpness after a long weekend of use, the steel did not corrode despite being submerged in seawater and wet beach sand, and the tip did not break after an accidental plunge into a rock (oops!).
Well-designed jimping provides a more controlled grip.
If you’re looking for a quality knife and have the budget for it, or want to upgrade your existing knife, this is a good choice. If for some reason you try it out and it doesn’t meet your expectations, I would still recommend purchasing a knife made from Niolox steel.
Best Use: This is a great choice for backpackers or people who want to carry as little weight as possible. It’s fully functional for light to medium tasks around camp and would suit someone looking for a high functioning knife at a reasonable price without sacrificing on quality or someone who wants a quality knife but isn’t prepared to splurge on Niolox steel.
Click the graphic to view the DPx HEST Original on Amazon.
What I Liked:
Of the three knives, this was by far the lightest and the micarta handle provided the best grip. It was very sharp out of the box and the 1095 carbon steel is easy to sharpen and holds a razor’s edge; it’s also less expensive than many other types of steel. The flat pommel made it great for striking and pounding while the partial serration was good for cutting rope and prepping food.
The knife has a slim profile, even with the sheath, and the kydex sheath came with multiple carry options, including paracord and belt clip, and can be carried either vertically or horizontally. It’s made in the USA, can be carried on the right or left side, and in a pinch, the pry bar would work well to break glass.
The versatile kydex sheath can be secured horizontally (shown) or vertically.
While the 1095 steel is light and inexpensive, it is not as corrosive resistant as other steels and had to be washed after exposure to seawater (I learned this from past experiences with this material rusting). It’s also worth noting that the blade is powder coated to help protect everything but the edges of the blade from corrosion.
The partial serration on the HEST Original blade was useful, especially for cutting open fruit and preparing foods.
Final Thoughts on the HEST Original:
This is a very good, basic knife with a well thought-out, quality sheath. I enjoyed the flexibility provided by the partial serration and the micarta handle provides a solid grip even in wet conditions. There’s good balance in your hand – this knife feels good to hold. It’s a great option for someone looking for a quality, entry-level knife that will last for years to come.
Best Use: A good knife for light to medium tasks around camp. It looks good enough to give as a gift, such as to groomsmen or on special occasions.
Click the graphic to view the DPx HEST II Woodsman on Amazon.
What I Liked:
Aesthetically, this was by far the best looking knife of the three with a really nice leather sheath that looks good and feels nice. It’s also made from Niolox, which is a fantastic steel as mentioned in the HEFT 4 Assault section above.
The size and shape of the blade make it a well-balanced knife and it’s the perfect size for use around camp or all-day carry without it being noticeable. For the size of this knife, it has a very thick blade at .19”. For comparison, the popular ESSE 3, has a blade thickness of .125”. The flat pommel made it easy to pound tent stakes into rocky ground. And as a knife that is made in Italy by master bladesmiths, the craftsmanship is top tier.
The flat pommel allows for pounding tasks, like driving tent stakes into the ground.
Due to its sheath design (vertical mounting, right side draw), this knife can only be carried one way – this is by no means a deal-breaker, but if you intend to hang it off the molle points on your pack or vest, you will need another sheath.
The vertical leather sheath is high quality, though it does not accommodate left-handed access.
Also, the fact that it is right-hand carry only is a negative for lefties. Lastly, the wood handle provided good grip retention (and looks awesome) but is not as “grippy” as micarta or G10.
Final Thoughts on the HEST II Woodsman:
This is a really nice looking blade that I would be happy to give (or receive!) as a gift. As with the HEFT 4 Assault, the Niolox steel exceeded my expectations. For a multipurpose knife, the HEST II Woodsman has great balance and blade shape. As compared to the other two knives in this review, the HEST II Woodsman is a good compromise on size and cost.
Note the integrated hex wrench and wire strippers on the HEST II Woodsman.
DPx Knife Review: Conclusion
All three of the knives reviewed – the HEFT 4 Assault, HEST Original, and HEST II Woodsman – are all really good knives and it’s obvious that there was substantial attention to detail given to their designs. All were clearly made with the intention to be used, hence the focus on design as well as testing. Each was well-made and included clever add-ons such as bottle openers, pry bars, and hex wrenches. Any one of these knives will serve its owner well for a very long time.
For an experienced outdoorsman, these are easy to recommend, and are differentiated enough that each appeals to its own target users. DPx offers variations on all three of these models, so if you’re looking for a particular blade shape, finish, or handle combination to suit a particular need, you’re sure to find it.
If you do select one of these knives, I do recommend choosing one with a Niolox steel blade, if at all possible. Niolox steel had a good edge, great corrosion resistance, and exceeded my expectations in testing.
Do you have any questions about the features or performance of these DPx knives? Are you interested in seeing more MEGA reviews like this one? Let us know in the Comments section below, thanks!
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