Just about everyone who ventures into the outdoors carries some kind of cutting tool, or several…or at least in my opinion, they should. Everyone is different, their activity, needs, size, strength, limit to how much they can carry (a backpacker justifies every ounce whilst a hunter hitting a 10-day Moose camp won’t care). There are also VERY strong opinions on what is right and what is wrong and as long as I have known about them and used them, internet forums are alive with “discussions” about this, sometimes getting pretty unpleasant and sometimes these “users” have probably done little more than watched Ray Mears shows to formulate their opinions! I digress……
So, the following is all about what I like to use and why, based on my personal reflection and practical application in my outdoors life in the UK and now in B.C. Canada…doing the things I like to do! I have others, many others, but these ones do the work!
I will start with the big boy, to my mind the best “big” heavy duty “Survival” knife or at least close to it.
The Fallkniven A1
“Model A1 is a semi-large all-purpose knife for heavy duty use. The powerful blade is made of extremely hard yet tough laminated VG10 steel and will withstand the stress of hard use. The knife is superb to chop with, but also works very well with daily tasks, thanks to the ergonomic grip. The full tang goes entirely through the handle, so you can strike the end of it without breaking the grip. The sturdy black zytel sheath allows you to fasten the knife on your belt or your pack – even upside down. Model A1 is a water repelling concept which works just as well in extreme cold as in stifling heat”.
A well-sewn leather sheath is included as standard.
Total length: 280 mm (11″)
Blade length: 160 mm (6.3″)
Blade thickness: 6 mm (0.24″)
Tang: Almost full tang, tang visible at handle end
Weight (knife): 305 g (12 oz)
Steel: Lam. VG10
Blade hardness: 59 HRC
I bought this knife because, simply put, I wanted a bigger knife. My reasons were that, with an impending move to Canada, a knife with the extra heft would be useful, not just for the fighting off of Bears, Sasquatch and the like because of course this how we have to live out here……But mainly that I would have a knife capable of processing firewood and chopping on day trips fishing, hunting, hiking, Bushcrafting or whatever. Owning other “Falkies” including a custom F1 and a U2 and having been a fan for a long time, it was an easy decision to take a punt on this when it came up for sale on a Forum.
It is a fantastic & practical user, well designed and thought out; that for a knife in this class is hard to fault. Great steel, takes a tremendous edge and keeps it. It is heavy – but that’s what I wanted – and it punches about its weight and length when it comes to chopping. Due to the 6mm spine, it is also a very capable splitter. It can be a little numb for finer work so it would be hard to say the it’s a “one for all tasks” if such a thing exists, but I have sneaky little trick here which I will come back to! But it’s a good cutter, makes nice feathersticks and overall, it is very controllable.
I did not think much of the sheath it came with but it is very practical. This one came with a DC4 sharpening stone attached and its a righty. I am lefty. Sheaths and the replacement of, become a recurring theme you will find! So I dropped a line to Martinsheaths of Denmark and got him to make one like the one he made for my F1 a couple of years previously, he is just awesome with Kydex and the result is the one pictured above complete with firesteel loop. It takes a Maxpedition Molle case which keeps my U2 and another DC4, so as a modular unit it does kinda do it all! The U2 picks up all the slack when it comes to the finer work…..my sneaky trick!
Briefly, The U2 is a superb little locking folder with the same steel as above. Not quite big enough for a full hand grip, but when its piggy-backed onto the A1, it does no hard graft! It does not bother me, but I could see the only real gripe with folks regarding this knife is its lack of one handed opening hole/stud. However, it is a classy little performer. It was kindly given to me as a gift, by my good friend Ken Ashcroft.
Rob Evans Bushtool & Neck knife
My only customs on this list is made by Rob Evans of Wales. Rob is a very well thought of knife maker on the UK scene. He is an obvious user of knives which is reflected in how he executes his builds. I have seen some knives which are things of beauty, they would be a shame to get dirty! But overall, his blades seem to be made for work.
The Bushtool was made to his design and take on the original Skookum. I asked him to keep the handle chunky for my large hands. I wanted secure scales which would not move like wood or bone/horn in extremes of wet/dry & hot/cold – an out-and-out user, is what I was after. So we opted for natural Tufnol, no liners or fancy bits (although I kinda wish I had gone for Black Micarta with white liners now since I saw a later model!) Made from 01 tool steel, 4″ blade with a nice, if a little steep, grind designed for strength, with an overall length of 8.5″. Rob made the sheath (lefty) and I made the firesteel in matching Tufnol. Full tang and a flat, welded pommel at the base of the handle and two hollow pins (supposedly for using as a spear…I think!)
This is the nearest I have now to the “classic” full tang bushcraft knife, in which I would include the woodlore and its thousands of clones. A really capable knife which can even be worked for prolonged periods. A damn fine all-rounder. It could be batoned (I very rarely do this), it carves, skins and does pretty much anything you ask of it. Because of the fairly steep grind, some food prep is not ideal such as carrot slices ricocheting through the woods, but again for what its meant for, it’s very hard to criticise…….after all, I did have it made for ME!
The “Necker” I had made on the strength of the Bushtool, but I wanted it to look pretty with nice curly Birch (my favourite tree) scales. This did not work out too well and the scales moved so it went back to Rob and we replaced them with natural Micarta on black liners and used the opportunity to chunky it up a bit. What it lacks in prettiness of its first incarnation, she makes up for in performance, again even for prolonged use which I have found rare in a “3 finger” knife but this is good for it. Just like its big brother, 01 steel & with just under 3″ of blade & approx 6″ overall. Sadly does not get much outside time these days which I should rectify, but the next sharp and shiney on the list just ticks a few more boxes……..
The Kellam Wolverine
Official blurb from their website;
“A knife that embodies the spirit of the wolverine, well respected for its cunning and ferocious hunting abilities.”
“The sharpest factory edge you’ll find unless you work for Schick or Gillette” – Field & Stream Oct 2003
Wolverine™ – KPW4 – The Wolverine™ premiers our revolutionary new SPT™ blade. The Wolverine™ features a beautiful dyed curly birch handle with a 3.7″ razor-sharp SPT™ carbon steel progressiontempered© blade. These Puukkos are hand made in Finland. The knife comes with a handsome dark brown leather sheath which is embossed with the Wolverine™ and the Kellam Knives logo. This is the second knife to be released from our new WildFinn™ Line.
- Blade: 3.7″ SPT™ Carbon Steel
- Handle: Stained Curly Birch
- Total Length: 8.25″
- Item ID: KPW4″
This is a hard knife to leave at home these days, I don’t think I can say it any better! As big as my bushtool yet lighter than the necker, it is a stick tang. I do not really ever baton my knives and generally care for them, so the tang is not an issue. The blade is awesome, a superb performer and it just cuts like you wouldn’t believe, even through hard wood……… really impressive.
A wee strop on my return home is all I have needed to maintain it.
Overall, it’s the best-looking knife I own too! Comes with a lovely sheath as standard, but its a righty, so again, off to a leatherworker to get me another. Oh the extra cost!!
Bark River Mini Canadian.
This knife is still in production and available in literally hundreds of handle options. The official spec is as follows;
- Overall Length: 6 in
- Blade Length: 2.2 in
- Blade Steel: A-2
- Steel Thickness: .150 in
- Weight: 2.875 oz
- Hardness: 58RC
The Mini-Canadian was the First Knife we designed of the Entire Canadian Series. It is Compact and one of the most user Friendly knives in our Line. It is Practical and easy to carry.
The Mini-Canadian is Small but very Hand Filling. It is capable of much more work than one would expect of a knife of this size. The Mini-Canadian will lock itself into your hand so you can use it in confidence no matter how you hold it. It is comfortable in hands from child size to full grown adults. This is one of the most practical knives in our line.
It has been in continuing Production since 2002.
This is another knife I just love to use, so much bigger than its tiny size would have you believe! I have polished the edge and it just eats through wood when carving/whittling with such efficiency. This is a fine advert for the convex grind and argument for their exponents. Initially, it looks like it may not be good in the hand, but that couldn’t be further from the truth….it makes for an awesome skinner with scalpel like control. Highly recommended!
EDC’s (Every Day Carry) and Multitools
Coming from the UK and wishing to comply with the knife laws, I have always carried a “UK legal” i.e. non locking EDC, which have been in the past, my Spydie UKPK and the Boker XS, among other. The one knife which I rarely leave home without, is my Victorinox Alox Farmer
Small, discrete, tough, inoffensive looking, good steel which takes – and keeps – a razors edge and there is nothing on this knife that I do not use at home, work or play, through 4 seasons, town or country! An absolute little gem and one I could not do without.
Knife, Saw, bottle & can openers, awl & plus a couple of flat drivers and unbelievably cheap!
I could wax lyrical all day about this, recounting stories of how much sh*t these have got me out of (I have two) but for my lifestyle, this is the ultimate multitool, without equal!
I got my first as a 30th birthday present ( a number of years ago) from a group of good friends, a TTi model which is still working hard. I am considering sending it back to Leatherman for a little TLC in actual fact. However, a few years later there was a deal at Costco for the Alu version which I snapped up so I could stop using number 1 at work (I am a carpenter). I have had one of these on my belt every day for almost 8 years, used and sometimes, shamefully abused and still going strong! Sharpened hundreds of pencils, pulled hundreds of staples, cut and opened countless things, cut dinner, cleaned fish & small game…….. I doubt I could even remember half the tasks it has completed!
I think I could stick my neck out and say it is these knives, particularly the TTi, that would be the last to go. Simply the best.
I was introduced to Spydies by my good friend Ken Ashcroft who knows his knives and knows his Spydies probably better than anyone. His favourite is the Native and mine too now! In fact, the first ones in our family came by way of wedding presents (mine black and herself’s in pink). Great little knives, designed for use. This is another smallish knife that punches well above its weight in use. Typical Spyderco ergonomics and typically, I feel that you love or hate Spydercos – I love them! I have two, one as standard which I think is a Native III and yet another one gifted by the ever generous Ken which is rather special with Carbon Fibre scales, VG10 steel on a full sabre grind…….very nice!
Usually I carry the “Bushcraft” Standard Bahco Laplander, pretty much for any activity from fishing to hiking especially in the winter months when a fire could be needed to get some feeling back into the digits! Here in Canada, when a lot of the driving is on dirt or “Forest Service Roads”, it is useful and recently was used to clear a small tree that had blocked our way to the lake.
When camping or out in the truck, I often have a bow-saw or “bushman” too. I would like a folding buck saw but really, as it is now it would not get the use to justify the cost.
Axes / Chopping Tools
I have until recently had only light and pretty specific use for axes. But owned only 3. So there are many people out there better than I, to discuss axecraft. My most used, which was an ideal partner to the Kelly Kettle was the Gransfors Bruks Mini Hatchet which, has now been commandeered by my lovely wife. This is a great little tool with so much control for a chopper, small light and tactile therefore will find its way along with you most easily……..or your wife!
I use a Wetterlings Small Forest Axe now, being a little bigger, heftier and therefore heavier. Pretty hard to fault, Wetterlings are slightly cheaper than GB’s but still really good quality, holds an edge, takes the hits and good in the hand.
Cold Steel Trail Hawk
I admit I jumped on the trail hawk Bandwagon after acquiring one of these (thanks, Ken!) I did all the mods – stripped the paint, adjusted the profile, put a full convex grind on it, forced a patina with vinegar and oiled the shaft then I got a nice leather mask made for it. The result is probably my favourite chopper/all round woods tool. Ridiculously cheap too!
This video sums up why this is a very cool tool to carry!
I have – at least for now – a favourite combination when I am outdoors in BC, which is the same combination that I used in the UK while fishing, hiking, hunting or camping. It’s probably this way for a reason!
- Wilderness Puuko
- Mini hatchet
- Alox S.A.K
- Spyderco Delica
I would just add, that when it comes to maintaining my sharps, I usually only strop these days with a wooden backed leather strop plied with Autosol polishing paste everytime I come home. I carry a Fallkniven DC4 of preferably a DMT diamond file in fine/extra fine. Any serious maintaining I do at home. Trying to fix a busted edge/chips, I do with a Spyderco Sharpmaker.
Please, accept these are just my findings, thoughts and ramblings. It works for me and I am happy with my choices! I have a couple of sharps on my wishlist which I hope to report back on soon which I kind of think will be some of the blades I am looking for. Particularly a large folder that look perfect for woodland tasks, a straight up fishing knife/filletting knife and what looks like as near to me as the best all round outdoors knife in production right now…….. hopefully!
**Update, Christmas 2012**
We are now proud to be an Official Helle knife Dealer and the following are now favourite additions to the collection – for Marc, the Les Stroud’s signature knife, the Helle Temagami and for Katie, the Helle Fossekallen. See our Helle article, coming shortly……..