Robert Pelton Young (above), adventurer, filmmaker and author of Licensed To Kill*, The World’s Most Dangerous Places, and Come Back Alive, has spent a good bit of his life in places most people would not visit with a free, round-trip, first-class ticket and an 82nd Airborne Division fire team as bodyguards. War zones, low-intensity conflict areas, failed states, third world dictatorships, pestilent swamps, parched deserts and places where guys with AKs and bad attitudes hang out are home to RYP, as he prefers to be addressed. His first knife design, the HEST—Hostile Environment Survival Tool—reflects that experience, as do his later models, all now offered through DPx Gear.
His entry into knife design was sparked by talks with Jeff Randall of ESEE Knives—then known as R.A.T. Cutlery—when both were in Peru, where RYP was doing a story on drug labs and Jeff was running one of his survival courses. The original HEST grew from those conversations and was initially manufactured by R.A.T. (page 74, October 2009 BLADE®).
RYP has expanded his product range and manufacturing base. Ontario Knife Co. manufactures the original HEST, made to the same specs. Lion Steel of Maniago, Italy, makes another version, the HEST II, using Uddeholm Sleipner tool steel. Lion also manufactures the HEST/F, a folder with a D2 tool steel blade designed for the same hostile environments, and two models of the HEFT—Hostile Environment Field Tool—one with a 4-inch blade, the other 6 inches, both of Uddeholm Sleipner. All versions of the HEST and HEFT have a storage compartment under the scales.
My cohort and I used the original HEST extensively over a period of a year in the California Sierras and the Mojave Desert. It also was one of the few knives I brought with me during my six months of travel in various countries around the Mediterranean. At 7 5/8 inches overall and with a 3 1/8-inch blade of 3/16-inch 1095 carbon steel in a Rockwell hardness of 56-57 HRC, the HEST and its Kydex® sheath are small enough to disappear in a pocket, tuck inside a belt, or carry as a neck knife. It is an excellent example of what I call a “traveler’s knife”—a fixed blade small enough to have with you at all times, sturdy enough to pry open a locked door, rip through a stone wall, serve as an arresting device, and with the ability to take and hold a hair-popping edge.
We did all those things with the HEST and used it for everyday tasks: opening boxes, whittling fire boards and preparing food, including slicing potatoes, ribs, steaks and ripe tomatoes, the latter which requires a very sharp edge to avoid squishing them. If a knife is not useful on a daily basis, sooner or later it will be left behind. The HEST is effective as a daily tool and serves as a reliable emergency implement.
It sports a wire breaker, a tiny pry bar at the butt and a bottle opener. Where he travels, RYP said good beer has caps requiring a lifter, whereas bad beer has screw tops. However, I had reservations about the bottle-opening notch and was concerned it weakened the blade. In actual practice the blade did flex at that juncture with the weight of a 200-pound person hanging from it, but it did not break and sprang back to true when the pressure was released.
At first I thought the pry bar would poke and catch on clothing, but after a while I forgot it was there until it was needed. We used it to grind away mortar between stone blocks and to scrape out the mortar around a steel door set into concrete before ripping the door from the wall. I carry a fire starter and paper money rolled tightly in the hollow space under the green canvas Micarta® handle slabs. The HEST balances well, feels good in the hand, is small, sharp, tough, and, at 4.9 ounces, performs above its weight class.
The HEFT 6 (pictured at top splitting wood) has a 5.75 inch blade of Uddeholm Sleipner, is 10.4 inches overall and weighs 10.2 ounces. It has a combination striker and pry bar at the butt. We gave the knife a heavy month-long workout during which we used it to split a stack of 2x4s, chop through a stand of saplings, cut sheet metal, and pry open a locked steel gate. After that, and with only a quick edge touch up, I loaned it to a professional butcher, Shawn Carlson. Shawn used it for a week, during which he broke down a beef carcass, dressed out a couple dozen slabs of ribs, a stack of pork roasts, bacon and assorted other meat products. He also sliced up 20 rib slabs and split 15 chickens.
“This is a well-designed knife with a comfortable handle,” he assessed. “It’s easy to work with and doesn’t fatigue your hand during a full day’s work. Unlike some sharpened pry bars, this knife has a fine point that allowed me to easily get into muscle and separate it from connective tissue. I didn’t need to touch it to a sharpening steel even after chopping through joints and cartilage.”—by James Morgan Ayres
*Editor’s note: Licensed To Kill is an insightful and entertaining look into the lives of military contractors, especially during the height of the Iraq War. It may not change your opinion of such contractors but it definitely will enlighten you as to what it was/is like to be one.
attn: Robert Young Pelton
Dept. BL7, 2321 Kettner Blvd.
San Diego, CA 92101
Specialties: Utility fixed blades and folders
Blade Materials: Uddeholm Sleipner and D2 tool steels, German Lohmann Niolox 1.4153.03 stainless steel, and 1095 carbon steel
Blade Finishes: Black texture powder coat, milspec black, stonewashed, and black satin TiCN PVD
Handle Materials: Green canvas Micarta®, olive drab G10/titanium, black G10 and Brazilian Santos wood
Geared Up: Features on some models include a wire breaker, a tiny pry bar at the butt, glass breaker and a bottle opener; all versions of the HEST and HEFT have a storage compartment under the scales
DPx FYI: Specific models are designed by Robert Young Pelton and/or Pelton in conjunction with Tom Novak and Tommaso Rumici, and made by Ontario Knife Co. and Lion Steel
Sheaths: Leather and DeSantis Kydex® models
MSRP Range: $123.75 to $275
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