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Josh Wayner

A Gentleman’s Game: 4 Classy Folding Hunting Knives

While Not As Plentiful As They Once Were, Quality Folding Hunters Can Still Be Had. These 4 Knives Meld The Robustness Of A Hunter With The Ease Of An EDC.

Folding knives have been used for hunting and skinning since they were first made. Today, the American knife industry has moved quite far in the direction of fixed blades for use in the field.

However, folding knives are seen in the pocket of just about every self-respecting individual these days and are still the top choice for daily use. Time and fashion being what they are, many pocket folders have become somewhat fragile and unsuitable for anything other than opening mail or packages. In short, they have lost their value as serious tools that can be used in the field as well as daily life. Nonetheless, luckily there are a number of very suitable hunting knives that fold and ride in the pocket.

The largest downside to folding hunters is they can be very difficult to clean and have the propensity to break under hard use. Folding knives promoted for hunting are, at least to me, a bit of an exaggeration in that they function but are much harder to get along with on big game. As a result, I try to limit my folders to small game where the weight of the animal has little bearing on blade stress.

Cleaning and maintaining a folding knife exposed to blood and other fluids is a challenge. The mechanical function of such knives can in many cases be impeded with fat, and likewise made dangerous if, for instance, a linerlock gets clogged up. 

Washing a folding hunter is easy in some respects, but the best method remains soaking it in hot water with dish soap to dissolve fats and blood. Rust and corrosion can easily occur internally, so you’ll need to oil the knife after soaking it to prevent corrosion.

Lastly, ergonomics and blade length create the most limits for the big game hunter. Because most folders are designed to lay flat against the body in the pocket, they tend to be thin in profile, which can fatigue the hand if you have a great deal of work to do. 

Since the blade fits in the handle, you’ll never really get as long a blade as you need for animals like deer without getting a handle that is proportionately as long. This makes for a degree of awkwardness in that you can only get more blade if you get more handle, and at that point a fixed blade is better.

Emerson Knives Market Skinner

Emerson Market Skinner

I have developed a great fondness for Emerson knives. In fact, as much as I love carrying fixed-blade Winklers, I have ended up going about much of my daily life with an Emerson in my pocket. Much of the utility for me comes down to how well it fits my hand. The Market Skinner is a well-balanced and very functional cutting/slashing knife that has a mixture of hunting and tactical features. 

The grip has a fine yet aggressive texture, and is easy to hold onto even when working with fatty meat. The blade has Emerson’s Wave Feature, thus allowing for instant opening coming out of the pocket.

I got to work in the kitchen on some small game and meat. The Market Skinner is designed to emulate the type of blade profiles used in old-world butcher shops to break down large cuts. Having spent the better part of my college years working for a high-end butcher shop, I had a good feel for what this type of knife could do.

For general use, the Emerson, above the others here, was probably the most functional for light-to-medium use. It was also by far the easiest to clean internally. Its open-handle design allows you to wash it easily. 

The added upward curve at the Wave on the spine allowed me to put a great amount of pressure on the blade to cut deeply. When covered in fat it was functional. However, the very fine handle material was hard to clean and pulled fiber from my rags. Not a huge deal, just something to be aware of.

While it is profiled as a hunting blade, the tactical features are there and the knife is easy to use thanks to how quick it opens. The clip is righthanded and very stiff. If you intend to carry it lefthanded, Emerson offers a service to drill and tap the other side for you.

MSRP: $267.95

Boker Hunter’s Knife Duo

Boker Knife Duo

Styled in the manner most favored by German and European sportsmen, the Boker Hunter’s Knife Duo is not just a functional piece of art but also a very rugged tool. It is so nice looking that you’ll want to make sure to keep it that way—meaning don’t toss it in your gear drawer after a hunt. 

Unlike the other test models, the Boker features two edged tools—one, a knife blade, the other a saw. In testing on a lamb rack, the saw performed extremely well and allowed me to make nice, even chops. The teeth are exceptionally aggressive, which is a positive for cutting bone, but they clog easily with fat and sinew.

The Hunter’s Knife Duo is made in Germany and the quality of each part is amazing. A notable feature is the real stag grip panels, a rarity on many production knives today. Care must be taken to not introduce this natural material to stress or harsh cleaning chemicals. Soap and water for cleanup is best, followed by a light coat of oil. In terms of mechanical function, this is a classic gentleman’s knife, slow to deploy and not designed with a day’s labor in mind. 

Equal parts showpiece and tool, the Boker is best on small-to-medium game. Since it has no pocket clip, it will likely ride in a belt pouch or simply in a pocket.

The only real problem is the shape and contour of the handle. If your hands have blood or fat on them, the grip tends to be slippery. This is a very slick knife and every metal part is as smooth as glass. Under such conditions sawing also can be slightly hazardous, as can cutting should your hands slip up onto the blade. That being said since a true gentleman is never in a hurry, the Boker is the perfect find for rabbits, pheasant, and turkey, preferably with a fine double gun in hand.

MSRP: $409

Case Kickstart Mid-Folding Hunter

The smallest of the test knives, the Case Kickstart Mid-Folding Hunter performed very well considering its size and blade length. This is in no way a knife you would want to have if you were trying to take down a deer; however, for small game, medium cuts like lamb or chicken, or out harvesting spices in the garden, the Case is perfectly capable. 

Like the Boker, it is a very, very slick knife—both visually and in terms of the limited amount of texture it has on the blade and grip. While it can be easy to work with, the knife is prone to slip or rotate in the hand.

In terms of cutting ability, it did just fine. The downward-swept blade lends itself to fine cuts, but very little else. The knife can be used and held like a pen. A full grip of the handle isn’t very safe. 

The lock mechanism is easy to use—a bit too easy. The blade can be unlocked and closed with almost no effort, which can present a dangerous situation if you aren’t careful. Of note is that the blade is assisted, and it opens incredibly fast. It also has a pocket clip for easy carry.

MSRP: $127.99

A.G. Russell Folding Gent’s Hunter II

A.G. Russell Folding Gent's Hunter II

In the vein of classic sport folders from the 1960s and ’70s, the A.G. Russell Folding Gent’s Hunter II is designed along clean lines and minimalist features. It came out of the box with a very sharp edge and a functional, ergonomic grip. Despite being a full-size knife, it is the lightest of the review folders, lighter even than the smaller Case.

Using and cleaning the A.G. Russell was about the same as the others. However, the wood panels required a coat of oil after I used soap on them to remove fat. The blade sliced meat very easily, and it was also rigid enough to approach some larger projects and game. While I’d probably take the Market Skinner if I knew I was working on an adult deer, the A.G. Russell would come in a close second, its only downside being that it got slippery when wet.

This knife is right on the money for a walking hunter going after rabbit or fowl. It’s very light and sharp and still maintains classic lines. Because it is so light, it seems to disappear in the pocket and, if carried daily, won’t draw any unwanted attention. It has “classy” written all over it.

MSRP: $85

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Six Fixed Blades Ready To Go To Work

A Good Work Knife Is Worth Its Weight In Gold. These Half-Dozen Blades All Excel At Something Outdoors From Gardening To Felling Trees.

Serious work knives are going to be fixed blades. Strength is something that can’t be sacrificed, and while many folders are incredibly rigid, they have mechanisms and moving parts that can and do become worn or damaged with hard use.

Modern folders are great knives. However, once mud, grit, sand, and the unexpected rock an inch underground comes into play, they tend to fail. Few folders are strong enough long-term for use as a trowel—fewer still can be safely batonned through wood. On the merit of ergonomics alone, the folder is usually slab-sided in profile and isn’t comfortable to hold for long periods, nor does it allow for easy cleaning. As such, the fixed blade is superior when the woodchips or dirt need to fly.

Defining work knives is merited by the individual task at hand. Some of the knives featured herein are not suitable to assume the role of another. Specialization is the name of the game and the knife you need for splitting wood is far different than one for working the ground. The main characteristic, across the board, is that these knives simply must hold up for their intended role and be at least serviceable in others should the need arise.

The test knives were all put to heavy use during an exterior cleanup, pulling up rotten posts, planting vegetables and bulbs, cutting down saplings and small trees, starting fires, making kindling, opening fertilizer and feed bags, and all sorts of things you would use a knife for in routine outdoor chores. They were exposed to rain, soil and, on occasion, cleaning supplies. I evaluated the edges and finishes for how well they cut and the handles for how well they felt in the hand after extended use.

Case Winkler Recurve Utility No. 6

The Case No. 6 was perfect for slicing straps on hay bales, removing small limbs and cutting various hoses and line.

A collaboration between Case and Winkler Knives, the Case Winkler Recurve Utility No. 6 is large, beefy, well-made, and very, very sharp. It arrived with a much finer edge than most Winkler designs, which made it all the more interesting when compared to the other Winkler knife in this article. 

One of this issue’s cover knives, the No. 6 is not machete size but is big and heavily built. The deep belly and recurve result in a wide, rounded curve up to the tip, with about an inch-and-a-half of front-facing edge to the point. It is excellent at digging but not great at penetrating materials.

Where the knife really excels is in deep, long cuts. The recurve shape and handle angle make it want to sink right in. It can be batonned through wood around 2.5 inches in diameter with ease, can make tinder and is great at striking. The knife comes with a leather sheath that includes a polymer clip for a Zippo mini lighter. This is probably the only downside to this overall fantastic knife—the polymer clip isn’t strong enough to keep the lighter firmly in place and it can and does fall out.

In terms of general utility, I used the No. 6 hard and heavily for just about every task I could think of in the yard/garden. It chops well for a standard-sized knife and takes down medium branches as well as a small saw. It wants to work and, due to its shape, is simply useful and never got into a place where it was too much or too little. Overall, it is a fantastic work knife that should last you a lifetime.

MSRP: $430.99

Winkler Knives Drop Point Crusher

As a medium chore cutter, the Winkler Drop Point Crusher was great and easy to carry. The glass breaker/striker pommel is wickedly effective.

A classically styled working knife, the Winkler Knives Drop Point Crusher is a rugged gentleman’s knife with an appearance that doesn’t immediately give away its abilities. It was the only test knife with a wood grip but this never became an issue despite it being the most organic in composition. It was, like the others, exposed to rain, sap, dirt and dried wood. In addition, and thanks to the glass breaker/striker pommel, it was also used to bust down rotten posts and break glass out of a damaged windowpane.

It is a lightweight knife and easy to carry all day long. While Winkler makes knives for some of the most tactical dudes in the world, this one doesn’t draw that sort of attention in the slightest. It looks old, like something your granddad may have carried while hunting, and most people just look past it. 

As an heirloom-quality knife it is hard to want to use it, but like all the Winkler blades I have looked at over the years, it wears nicely and simply gains character. For basic work the knife is great at everything but is just a bit thin for heavy batonning, though it can be used to split smaller pieces. 

As a work tool, it is firmly in the everyday use category but like the Earth Skills knife is best set aside for heavy work. This is the knife I ended up wearing the most and using for the greatest number of tasks as it was so effortless to carry.

MSRP: $375

Condor Tool & Knife Woodbuster

The Woodbuster split firewood easily.

The Condor Tool & Knife Woodbuster is the biggest knife I’ve tested for BLADE®. Because of the knife’s name, I decided it best to use it on as much wood as possible, from taking down branches to dropping small trees. Designed by Joe Flowers, it sailed through things like they were hardly there. It approaches machete size, though it is heavy and the energy you need to get it moving is wasted on small brush.

I chopped firewood and reduced sections of trunk 12 inches wide into firewood with the Woodbuster. It can be batonned with surety and is great in that it has no real tip, so you don’t risk catching your hand or fingers if the blade sticks in the wood. It chops as well or better than a camp axe and with less physical effort in preparing firewood. 

In taking down trees care is needed, but it is as good as an axe on anything under a foot across, which isn’t small by any stretch. The Woodbuster is 100 percent a working knife and is easy to become proficient with.

The only downside is the grip, which is rather round in profile. Smaller hands may have a hard time with it. The grip is also a bit smooth, though not all that noticeable if you wear work gloves. It becomes a bit hard to hold when wet and can roll in the hand after repeated strikes. This isn’t a serious problem, just something to be aware of.

MSRP: $171.58

KA-BAR Jarosz Camp Turok

The Camp Turok is a large knife that can handle branches, cutting chores, and light chopping.

The KA-BAR Jarosz Camp Turok is large but not as beefy as the Woodbuster, and much lighter. With the exception of heavy wood cutting and batonning, it performs most outdoor tasks. The blade is thick but draws to a relatively fine point.

Designed by Jesse Jarosz, the Turok is a great general-purpose outdoor tool in that it’s easily maintained and stays sharp when handling chores. It’s a bit too large for EDC and is, like the Woodbuster, something you will want to carry until you don’t; it’s an overt item. 

It is, however, the test tool that has the most utility for the price and the broadest range of uses. The only thing I don’t like is the grip—too smooth for my taste and slippery when wet. However, the scales are removable, making the knife easy to clean and maintain.

MSRP: $129.69

Benchmade 162 Bushcrafter

The handy Benchmade 162 Bushcrafter is eminently useful for most outdoor work, and easy to carry and maintain. Designed by Shane Sibert, it arrived with a very sharp edge, though more notable was the grip profile. It’s a relatively small knife and the handle is unusually shaped, almost like a dog bone in geometry, and is very easy to get a firm, solid grip on. It can’t really be used for chopping large materials but is exceptional for fine work. It’s great at making fire and excellent in the garden and for pruning.

While billed as a bushcraft blade, it’s really a fine everyday knife and graciously civilian in appearance. It doesn’t look tactical at all and won’t draw attention anywhere from the farmer’s market to the barnyard. It held up exceptionally well and maintained a sharp edge in use. 

It was used like the others to open feed and fertilizer bags and to cut cord and roots. The only downside is the sheath. While aesthetically pleasing, it has a suede feel and once wet tends to stay wet for a long time.

MSRP: $260

TOPS Knives Earth Skills Knife

The Earth Skills knife was at home in the garden and far more effective than a trowel at getting though tough roots.

The Earth Skills Knife from TOPS Knives is large and has a very atypical profile. Matt Graham designed it as a type of survival knife, though not necessarily a heavy-duty one. It is quite thin and has a generous Scandi grind, making it absolutely wonderful for working the earth, cutting through rooted soil to plant new bulbs or vegetables, and light work like cutting branches and digging up old wire netting. It’s great as a close work tool and for preparing food but has little value for hard-use tasks.

The edge geometry and thin spine are not suitable for batonning, though the blade is great scraping tinder and striking on a rod. Because of these special features, the knife is at home in the garden or camp in that it likely won’t be used for initial setup, but rather for cutting food, root vegetables, harvesting forage and as a light machete. The grip is very comfortable but quite large. The blade stayed very sharp through testing and accomplished tasks easily with minimal wear.

MSRP: $260

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Sharp In Reverse: 5 Reverse Tanto Blades Worth Your Time

The Reverse Tanto Is One Of The Most Interesting Blade Designs. By Putting A Spin On A Classic Pattern, The Reverse Tanto Stands Out From The Pack.

In general terms, a knife profile isn’t something that seems like it should be reversed. The American tanto blade pattern, commonly seen on modern tactical and combat knives, is a modified version of the somewhat longer and more flowing traditional Japanese tanto. While there are variations, the American tanto blade features a hard angle in the belly curve up to the shallow, chisel-ground tip.

A reverse tanto profile keeps the hard angle of the tanto profile but moves it to the spine, thus “reversing” the conventional tanto style. This edge profile doesn’t usually have as harsh of an angle on the spine; on a tanto the tip usually curves up, akin to the larger katana profile. By flipping the edge over, the tip is brought into a straighter line with the hand and offers a good deal more stabbing ability.

An interesting point is that, at least in my direct experience, the reverse tanto is much better at cutting and stabbing tasks than the tanto. Profile matters a great deal in this case. The reverse tanto can be thought of as a very muted bowie in that it has a narrow tip and smooth edge, yet a good height to the spine; the tip can get into a medium easily and the rest follows with minimal effort. 

An American tanto profile’s chisel-type tip has a more severe geometry that doesn’t easily lend itself to going through materials or fine cutting work. The area on an American tanto that usually takes the most damage is the tip angle itself. Not only that but, thanks to the severe angles, it is difficult to keep sharp.

The reverse tanto offers an easily maintainable edge and fine tip while having the strength of a larger blade. This allows the profile to be ground quite thin and remain very strong. The reverse tanto folders in this article are some of the lightest I’ve ever tested, and they cut far above their weight class.

Leatherman Skeletool KBX

Leatherman Skeletool KBX

The Leatherman Skeletool KBX is the smallest knife in the test—so small it could probably ride on a key ring. It is the only serrated knife of the test bunch. Despite being so small, the KBX offers a wide degree of general utility. It is not a heavy cutter like a few in this review. It is neither comfortable enough nor large enough to commit to hard use. It is instead something of a mini multi-tool suitable for the most basic use. It has an integrated bottle opener, which is a very nice touch—and it works!

The size of the piece is the best part and also the worst. As an EDC knife, it is somewhat small. However, for the right person wanting a low-profile knife, this one fits the bill. For basic work like opening boxes, cutting string, or just popping open a cold one, it’s great.

MSRP: $39.95

Benchmade Mini Osborne

Benchmade Mini Osborne

The Benchmade Mini Osborne is a perfect EDC folder. Not only is it extremely lightweight, it’s comfortable in the hand for medium tasks. The AXIS® lock is easy to operate. Closing the knife is not a challenge, though it is something of a two-hand operation in that you must pull back on the lock and then fold the blade down. Locked open it is very strong and has no flex or movement when working.

The Benchmade is probably the best balance of weight to cutting ability in the review. Consequently, it is also relatively costly. Benchmade has an understandable reputation as a top brand and this little folder demonstrates that a knife can be light, comfortable, and very sharp. It is great for domestic and simple chores and can be used to make kindling and spark. Like the Skeletool, it is really too small to be anything other than a light-duty blade.

MSRP: $210

Krudo Vice BA

Krudo Vice BA

The Vice BA (Bad Attitude) folder from Krudo is the largest knife in the test and the heaviest. There is a substantial difference between it and the other test models in terms of cutting ability and the size of materials it can digest. The Krudo has a large disc/thumb rest atop the spine, not only for ease of opening but also as a place to apply downward pressure for cutting. This alone puts the knife in a different category altogether in that it can break down medium sticks, and can even be used to hack off medium limbs. It excels at making tinder and has a thick blade and strong lock mechanism. It is easy to strike with as well.

The knife’s size is both a benefit and a downfall. It’s the toughest in the test but also meaty enough that you are aware of it in your pocket most of the time. If you’re in the woods or on the job site, the Vice BA would be a welcome friend and easy to use constantly.

MSRP: $244

Kershaw Lithium

Kershaw Lithium
Kershaw Lithium

The Kershaw Lithium is the only assisted opener in the bunch. It has a large amount of utility for the moderate cost and is a great EDC knife that offers a keen, clean edge and a very sharp point. The knife is heavy in the blade and comfortable in the grip. 

It cuts quite well and can be worked with for extended periods of time comfortably, unlike the two smaller test knives. It has a matte finish, isn’t flashy, and offers nothing to immediately catch the prying eye of a passerby.

The tip can punch through most common materials and there’s enough mass to the blade that it can slash as well. As far as general utility, it can spark and is useful for making kindling and dealing with minor twigs and branches. It lacks true chopping power but like the others will work given the necessity.

MSRP: $51.99

Artisan Cygnus ATZ

Artisan Cygnus ATZ
Artisan Cygnus ATZ

The Artisan Cygnus ATZ arrived very, very sharp and with a most aggressive tip design. The blade is slender and light and lacks forward mass. As a result, it lends itself well for use in a stabbing motion, easily penetrating many materials. However, the grip is geometric and somewhat angular, thus making repeated stabs somewhat uncomfortable. It is a thin blade and shouldn’t be used to pry (a use most knives shouldn’t be put to in the first place).

While quite visually appealing, the ATZ takes up more space than all but the Krudo. The Artisan offers the best cutting ability of the bunch in general slicing. In the course of testing it maintained an edge very easily and the tip proved strong despite being thin. 

While not designed as an outdoor knife or for preparing kindling, it sparks nicely. If you spend most of your time in town, this one is a bit flashier than the rest but still isn’t outside the realm of daily use, and likely won’t draw much attention from snooping eyes.

MSRP: $85.99

The reverse tanto excels at domestic cutting tasks. All the test folders would make fine EDCs, my preference being the Benchmade in terms of weight to size. You really can’t go wrong with any of the review knives as long as you keep the end use to a realistic setting. Don’t try to make any of these knives your primary outdoor tool. There are better knife styles for such use, though the reverse tanto works if it’s all you have.

Editor’s note: Bob Lum is credited by many with designing the original custom American tanto, while Cold Steel popularized the blade pattern in the factory knife industry.

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Last-Ditch Survival Kits

Nothing Is More Terrifying Than Being Caught In The Woods Without The Tools Needed To Get Through The Night. At Least One Of These Tool Arrays Should Meet Your Short-Term Survival Needs.

Prepping and survival equipment came to the forefront of public attention about 15 years ago with the expansion of the popular zombie film and TV genre. In fact, it got to the point where there was at least a two-year industry-wide emphasis on zombie merchandise, guns, ammo, and equipment. 

While that remains a fond memory for many, what it really served to do was appeal to the broader masses, and many people began thinking about just what they would do in a real, non-zombie emergency.

Since then, the world has experienced no shortage of natural disasters, from massive wildfires to coastal tsunamis, floods, volcanic eruptions, and more. The world is no safer a place now than it was before. However, in lieu of zombies and green goo, the public has taken a keen interest in survival and its tactics. 

Shows like Alone, Survivorman, Life Below Zero, and others captured the interest of many, and bushcrafting, foraging and fieldcraft exploded in popularity. Suffice to say, there is no shortage of specialized equipment to better your odds in a bad place.

What Is A Survival Kit?

I break down survival items and kits into four categories: full kit, partial kit, last-ditch and, knife-only. I would classify our trio of review kits as last-ditch in that they contain a variety of small items not meant for extended use but rather as a single-day advantage. The items can save your life in a pinch but by nature of size and weight will likely not last in a long-term survival situation.

Examining the survival kit theory requires considering the context of just what a survival kit is. The category I identify as a full kit is exactly as it sounds: likely a backpack setup with excellent weight distribution. This includes weapons and ammunition, ideally a rifle or shotgun, or a modern bow. Like it or not, survival in a bad situation increases dramatically with the presence of a firearm. 

When I go into the woods, I have a rifle and a handgun at minimum with 100 rounds for each, usually in magazines. For the non-American readers out there this amounts to around five boxes of rifle ammo and two of most handgun loads. Hunting use is the primary idea but signaling and self-defense from large predators are also valid uses. If you have the ability to own a gun, you absolutely should, even if that gun is an antique design or black powder cartridge.

A partial kit is what you need for a minor excursion, the type of kit you may put in your vehicle if you are far from home but not too far from civilization or a gas station. In the kit I would prioritize a single firearm, typically a pistol of .22 caliber up to .357 Magnum (99 percent of all game can be taken with these rounds), medical supplies, and equipment to take down saplings or branches, such as a folding saw or hatchet. Unlike a full kit, this is to get you through an area as opposed to intentionally staying in one. Clothing appropriate to the short-term environment would ideally already be on your person.

Having the materials to quickly build a fire is a must for any survival kit.

The last-ditch kits reviewed here are for if you have already screwed up, failed to bring a suitable weapon, or are fully out of ammunition or supplies. Baseline, when you break open one of these kits, you are already on your last legs as far as survival goes. The kits in this article are short-term, almost single-use in nature. All three come with materials enough to work on small pieces of wood and at least signal or start a fire.

Lastly, if you have a single knife good enough to spark with and know how to use it, I’d say that you stand a pretty good chance of survival. I say this because, unlike a last-ditch kit, a good, heavy-bladed knife can be used to move a surprising amount of material, often quite quickly. 

A thick blade can easily take down small trees with minimal exertion, baton firewood, make kindling, spark, and be lashed to a shaft to use as a spear. In a pinch, you can use a knife to make a bow, though that takes skill and time. For fishing, it can make spears and clean your catch.

Picking The Right Survival Kit For You

Understanding the theory of use behind these levels of preparedness, as well as their limits, is crucial to making it through a situation into which you may or may not have intentionally entered. In looking at the review kits I am assuming that we have run out of all other equipment, say a kayak tipping over in the river after hitting an underwater tree on a hunting trip. You, being a forward thinker, slipped one of these kits into the dry bag you stowed in your kayak before you fell in. 

You’re wet, you’ve lost your gun, and you don’t have the rest of your gear. You’re in normal temperate conditions, but nightfall will be cold. To make matters worse, your kayak has cracked and has taken on water.

Colonial Pocket Size Survival Kit

The Colonial Pocket Size Survival Kit is the only one of the test entries that is waterproofed, and the baggy can be used to keep tinder dry. Country of origin: USA. MSRP: $130.
The Colonial Pocket Size Survival Kit is the only one of the test entries that is waterproofed, and the baggy can be used to keep tinder dry. Country of origin: USA. MSRP: $130.

At first glance, the Colonial Pocket Size Survival Kit looks like a Boy Scout put it together in his dad’s garage. The items are simply tossed into a thick baggy and are mostly off-the-shelf. The kit, however, is extremely well thought out and is almost entirely usable. It is the only one of the test entries that is waterproofed, and the baggy can be used to keep your tinder dry. 

It consists of a signaling whistle; compass; waterproof matches; a military general-purpose pocketknife (containing a blade, can opener, screwdriver and pick); a survival blanket; aluminum foil; small candles; firestarter brick; fishing tackle; floss; adhesive bandages; gauze; and alcohol swabs.

Of note is that this kit did not come with a striker rod or visual signaling device. While not a disadvantage, the kit relies on matches as a source of fire making. I typically will always have matches on me if outdoors, but I try to use them as a last resort. In the present scenario, you would immediately begin gathering branches and medium kindling like grass or leaves, knowing you have dry matches and can immediately get warm and dry.

Building a shelter with this kit isn’t really going to happen, but at least you can build a fire fast and try to catch fish in the river. You get your fire going, get your socks and boots drying, and you luckily caught a fish with your tackle. 

Using a flat river rock and aluminum foil, you wrap it up and fry your catch. You survive the night warm and dry and set out back to the guide camp the following morning, stopping to fish by hand as you go, expecting to cook your catch in the early evening. You must be mindful of your health and dehydration on the walk because you have no ability to make water safe to drink, though, knowing you’re close, you figure you’ll just take some medicinal drugs when you get home.

Fox Knives BlackFox Survival Kit

 All packed in a sealed metal can, the Fox Knives BlackFox Survival Kit contains a fire starter and striker, compass, whistle, a wire saw, razor blade, bandages, and so much more. Country of origin: Italy. MSRP: Approximately $55.
 All packed in a sealed metal can, the Fox Knives BlackFox Survival Kit contains a fire starter and striker, compass, whistle, a wire saw, razor blade, bandages, and so much more. Country of origin: Italy. MSRP: Approximately $55.

Start over at the point of your crash, this time with the Fox Knives BlackFox Survival Kit. It contains a fire starter and striker, candle, compass, whistle, tackle, a tiny Swiss Army-style knife; safety pins, a wire saw, razor blade, sewing kit, wire, match carrier (but no matches, none came with the kit), bandages, repair tape, cotton balls, and a notepad and pencil. It is all packed in a sealed metal can.

You take a different approach to your night in the woods. You know you must get dry first, and this kit has a rod and striker. You set about gathering kindling and starting a decent fire to get warm and dry. You set about fishing as well and make a good catch. You have to cook it on a stick over the fire but had no issue gutting it with the razor blade. You use your wire saw to cut saplings to make a shelter. You end the night warm and dry in your shelter, and with a full belly.

In the morning, you use the repair tape on your kayak and harvest sap from the trees you took down to smear it on the outside of the craft for waterproofing. You paddle back to your basecamp and then return to the spot with your friends to retrieve your gear from the river. Because you knew you could paddle back, you didn’t risk drinking river water, so your hunt continues.

Lansky P.R.E.P Kit

 The Lansky P.R.E.P. (Preparedness, Resource, Equipment Pack) Kit stores a survival blanket, multi-tool, flashlight, fire striker, and LifeStraw water filter among many other tools in a compact black nylon bag. Countries of origin: USA and “various others.” MSRP: $129.99.
 The Lansky P.R.E.P. (Preparedness, Resource, Equipment Pack) Kit stores a survival blanket, multi-tool, flashlight, fire striker, and LifeStraw water filter among many other tools in a compact black nylon bag. Countries of origin: USA and “various others.” MSRP: $129.99.

In this scenario, you have the Lansky P.R.E.P. (Preparedness, Resource, Equipment Pack) Kit and its survival blanket, first-aid kit, tackle, a small multi-tool, flashlight, paracord bracelet, survival guide, fire striker with compass, collapsible water bottle, LifeStraw water filter, Lansky UTR7 Responder knife, and Blademedic sharpener. All are packed in a black nylon bag.

Upon dragging your kayak back to land, you need to make a fire. Your kit is waterlogged but the items inside are not damaged. You need to gather wood and kindling, and it takes some effort, but you get a fire going using the bracelet to start the initial burn. 

Once warming up, you catch some fish and gut them with the knife. You build a rudimentary shelter using the knife to cut down small branches, and rest until morning. You’re hydrated thanks to the LifeStraw and thus won’t need to see a doctor when you get home.

However, you failed to check in with your friends, so they come looking for you in this scenario. You hear distant noises and get out your flashlight and signal them. Your friends arrive after dark and take you back to camp. They brought a retrieval magnet and you get your rifle and equipment back that night. You clean the firearm and test it in the morning, ready to resume your hunt.

Tempering Your Expectations

None of the review kits are going to assuredly get you out of trouble. They can, however, offer you a stay on the inevitable and get you to a point where you can signal for help or make it to a safe location. Survival isn’t a guarantee and the scenario changes dramatically if you were injured in the accident. These kits can be the difference between life and death, make no mistake about that. Having one on hand is cheap insurance if things take a turn for the worse.

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Smokin’ Cutters

Cigar Cutters Come In Three Distinct Styles. Picking The Best One For You Is A Matter Of Personal Taste.

Few gentlemen’s pastimes are as nuanced as the art of smoking a cigar. The choice of stogie, cutter and method of carry are, for better or worse, an indicator of just how serious an aficionado the person in question is. The little things can say a lot about the owners, and a lack of appropriate accoutrements is all some need to pass judgment on a peer.

I sat down with Alex Gregorian of Georgetown Tobacco & Pipe in Washington, D.C. He was kind enough to provide me with some choice cigars from the shop to use in this review. Gregorian first took up stogies as a hobby a decade ago and has since proceeded to transform his avocation into a job that benefits from his peerless expertise. 

Georgetown Tobacco & Pipe has catered to many in government and a slew of celebrities, including actors Pierce Brosnan and Arnold Schwarzenegger, among others. Being in the nation’s seat of government affords Gregorian the opportunity to rub shoulders with an incredible clientele of cigar smokers, and I take his word as fact when it comes to picking out the right tools for enjoying a proper smoke.

“The first thing you’re looking for is something that will last longer than five cigars. The quality of the blade, like any cutting edge, is important,” he notes. “The cap, the portion where it is folded over on the end, is the most delicate part of a cigar. If you cut too far down the cap you risk losing smoke quality, and the cigar itself may become unwrapped. You want the cut to be small, just a nip off the end. No cigar should be completely flat or square on both ends. You’re not looking to make a cylinder; the cap end should have a taper to the mouth.”

While Gregorian’s store may or may not stock the three test pieces, the general basis for cutters falls into three main styles: scissor, guillotine and knife. One of each category is demonstrated here and I will later give my thoughts on their use and features.

Picking The Right Cigar Cutter

 Each cutter is paired here with the cigar it cut. Note that the 208 (middle), a friction folder, caused some crushing. The author stated it is difficult to maintain a good cutting angle with consistent pressure when cutting a cigar with a friction folder.

“The scissor-style cutter is effective,” Alex opines. “It is basically a double guillotine and is much easier to make a flat, clean cut with. The scissor cutter is better in that it is far less likely to cause crushing or pulling apart of the tobacco at the cap. A single-blade cutter can get dull faster and can very much damage the cigar; two cutting surfaces will stay sharper longer and give a better cut.”

This is not to say that single-edge cutters are of no use, rather they require a steady hand and deliberate pressure on the cut. In my limited experience, at least compared to Gregorian, I have used single-bladed cutters and have generally failed to find one that works well enough to keep it in my rotation when I socialize in the few places that still allow smoking in my area.

“Things to watch out on single-bladed cutters are the angle of the cut and the edge type,” Alex advises. “Many cheap cutters end up just ripping or pushing the cap off, and this is no good for a nice smoke. You really want a good, thin, razor-sharp blade that goes through quickly and cleanly; you don’t want loose tobacco coming out in your mouth when you smoke.”

In closing with Gregorian, I wanted to see what a seasoned tobacco man smoked. Since you’re reading BLADE® I assume you’re cultured and have fine taste, and this advice will no doubt encourage you to pick up some cigars that befit those qualities.

“I recommend Davidoff for cigars. They are the top quality cigar made today. [Davidoff officials] are extremely selective on the tobacco they use, and each cigar is a work of art. It shows on each one you take out of the box,” Alex says. “The standard Davidoff runs about $25—not bad for a great smoke. Padron [cigars are] another I highly recommend. They are made with Nicaraguan tobacco.”

Fox Cutlery’s Acid-Etched Figaro Cigar Cutter

Fox Cutlery’s Acid-Etched Figaro Cigar Cutter

The lightest and most compact piece tested was Fox Cutlery’s Acid-Etched Figaro Cigar Cutter. It is an incredibly stylish and minimalist scissor-style tool, so light that you can easily forget it is in your jacket. It is also the lightest on the wallet of the three test models, though it cuts far above its price point and delivers great results. As a dedicated cigar cutter, it has no additional function.

What I really like about the Figaro is that it doesn’t try to be anything other than great at its job. It has no bells or whistles and slices nice and clean. It also offers a very precise slice as the cutter itself is so thin, there is no guessing where both blades are indexed. The larger test cutters are thick like a pocketknife and it is easy to overestimate angle, or how far the cap has been inserted through them when cutting.

MSRP: $75

TOPS Knives 208 Clipper Cigar Cutter

TOPS Knives 208 Clipper Cigar Cutter

While the 208 Clipper Cigar Cutter from TOPS Knives is advertised as a cigar cutter, I suspect this has more to do with skirting knife rules than it does its true role as an EDC multitool. While the 208 certainly can cut cigars, it does not do it as well as the other two test models. However, the other two cutters cannot be used for self-defense in non-permissive areas like the 208 can, either.

The TOPS entry has the most features of the group, but this comes at the cost of weight and safety. It is a friction folder and, unless carried in a sheath, is somewhat prone to unintentional opening.

The 208 is highly functional and also features a bottle opener on the tang. As a general utility tool that pops bottle tops, clips cigars, slices a seat belt and impresses your buddies, it’s great. As a dedicated cigar cutter it is somewhat wanting. The blade grind is very steep and thick, almost chisel-like in profile. This causes tobacco to tear as you cut with it, though for some, having the extra features and ability to use the 208 as a knife supersedes a rough stogie slice.

MSRP: $230

Benchmade 1500 Cigar Cutter

Benchmade 1500 Cigar Cutter

The Benchmade 1500 Cigar Cutter is a luxury item. It has no ability to function as a knife, but, unlike the Fox Figaro, easily can be mistaken for one—even up close. It features Benchmade’s AXIS lock system, a handy feature that is sure to draw interest.

As a dedicated cutter it functions extremely well. It is easily the sharpest of the review group and effortlessly passes through cigar caps. I experienced no tears or bad cuts, though it was very easy to sever the cap too far up if I didn’t take my time.

There is no doubt the 1500 is a very high-quality tool; for many it could be considered a status symbol. It is marginally more expensive than the TOPS 208, though it has none of the tactical vibe. Benchmade collectors I know drooled over it, so I figure the 1500 is something that at least stokes envy among the initiated.

Beyond the coolness factor, the Benchmade is truly a dedicated cigar tool, and its uses are limited to that arena. You would need to decide if so high end a cutter is worth it considering that a world-class tool like the Figaro can be had for a fraction of the cost and weight, and offer basically equal performance. If you enjoy several cigars a day or week, I can see how you would like the luxury of the 1500.

MSRP: $250

Gent’s Prerogative

The style and features of a man’s personal effects often tell you a great deal about what he prioritizes. Purely for cost and effectiveness, the Fox Figaro is hard to beat. I value this because I’m an amateur tobacco enthusiast. I’m not aiming to impress with my tools; rather, I just want to have something light and easy to keep on hand for that rare evening out with friends around the campfire.

Editor’s note: Don’t smoke tobacco—it can cause cancer. Secondary tobacco smoke also can cause cancer, so if you must partake, do so in a way that best protects the health of those in your immediate area.

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