Thursday, May 21, 2015

Edges Part V - SOG Super Bowie

Reader Question: "Will there be a part 5 to the Edges saga?"

FlytoWater Answer: "No, we are using Roman numerals in this highly technical situation and therefore there will be no part 5. There will, however, be a part vee."

Let's face it, there are times when you need a BAK, or big-ass knife. Since about 1830, people with this type of need have, as often as not, reached for some iteration of the Bowie.

It's an effective formula. Get a big blade, give it a clip point and swedge for ease of puncturing, include a robust handle and guard so you can bring a lot of force to bear, and top things off with a long, sharp edge.

The downside of all this tends to be a large, heavy implement that you always know is there regardless of how you choose to carry it. Still, when only a Bowie will do I like the SOG Super Bowie for it's modern take on a classic design. It's a wicked 7.5" blade cloaked in durable, black TiNi coating with a large, weighty hilt and traditional stacked leather handle.

SOG Super Bowie - Blog Size

Upon picking up the Super Bowie, you immediately notice that it's heavy yet well-balanced. The leather handle gives you a machete-like grip and coupled with the heft it's obvious that the SOG is up for whatever serious business you have in mind. One of the things I like about leather as a material choice is that it has a certain shock absorbing quality that makes a task like chopping significantly more pleasant than most alternatives.

This knife's point is scary sharp and so is the blade. AUS-8 steel, which SOG uses extensively, has a reputation for taking an edge extremely well. It's not the best steel for holding an edge long-term, but for a work knife that's typical. You'll use it for tough jobs and sharpen it regularly. In fact, the sheath for the Super Bowie even includes a sharpening stone - a nice touch.

Click HERE for a large photo of the knife and sheath.

SOG's Super Bowie has some obvious similarities with the KA-BAR Marine Core Fighting Knife, which has always been a strong value proposition for around $50. Comparatively, the SOG feels superior in every way and exudes a semi-custom level of craftsmanship that draws attention. If you want something to chuck in your toolbox or the bed of your pickup, the KA-BAR has always been a good kick-around option that you wouldn't mind using as a tent stake in a pinch. The Super Bowie makes my list of favorites because it's really what the KA-BAR wants to be when it grows up - still tremendously capable but a lot more refined.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Edges Part IV - White River Knife & Tool GTI 4.5

Whenever a series is named using Roman numerals, I always ask myself whether it will have the staying power to push forward into the uncomfortable area of 3+ installments. It is at this stage where the simple notion of using hash marks (I, II, III) for numbering takes a nasty turn and seldom-used letters such as V and X haphazardly appear and demand to be either added to or subtracted from regardless of the fact they are LETTERS, not numbers. It's disconcerting, and reminds me of my own damaging introduction to algebra where letters egregiously overstep their bounds and begin inserting themselves into mathematical equations as "variables."

Challenges notwithstanding, there is no way to have only 3 knives. There are times when you want a design that makes few compromises when it comes to strength, but also doesn't have the mass and physical dimensions of a full-size Bowie or combat knife.

In this big-but-not-too-big space, the White River Knife and Tool GTI 4.5 stands out. The blade length, as the name suggests, is 4.5" and putting a tape along the entire knife shows 9.75". Using a heavy choil and index finger carve-out in the sculpted micarta handle, you get a non-slip grip on the GTI regardless of conditions.

Blog Size White River GTI Vertical

The GTI's handle is a thing of beauty. G10 is also offered but there is not a handle on any knife that I like more than White River's micarta.

Among the first things you notice about the GTI 4.5 is the thickness of the blade, which is a full 3/16" along its entire length. Steel is S35VN stainless (59 HRC), which is cryogenically tempered for increased durability. I don't know of a thicker S35VN blade on the market. This is a Justin Gingrich design (former U.S. Army Ranger with a decade of active duty military service) and the intent was to create an ideal tactical knife for patrolling, demolitions, and close quarters combat. It's full-size utility in a medium-size form factor.

Included is a leather sheath that simple and effective, being easily worn on a belt or strap as well as being MALICE clip compatible. The sheath does not achieve the greatness of the Winkler Belt Knife's, and I think White River could do a little better in the leatherwork department - but it's functional. Ultimately the bulk of the purchase price clearly goes toward the knife's materials and workmanship.

See the sheath and knife HERE.

White River Knife and Tool is a company to watch. I really like their little Scout, which was intended to be a caping knife but has been getting a lot of press as an all-around camp blade that is scalpel-sharp. They've become hard to find after winning some recent awards and getting featured by Field and Stream.

The GTI 4.5 is another excellent option for those who want a tough working knife but also appreciate quality craftsmanship.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Edges Part III - Winkler Belt Knife

It's time now for the much anticipated third installment of Edges, a series which seems to be escalating and becoming progressively more serious as the Roman numeral numbering scheme approaches the point where a "V" is thrown confusingly into the fray.

Ever since I was a kid and primarily concerned with using knives to whittle pointed sticks, I've appreciated how different blade designs influence performance. Tradeoffs are always present as properties such as alloy, shape, grind, and thickness are altered.

The Winkler Knives II Belt Knife is proportionally similar to the Nimravus in the previous post with a 4.75-inch blade, overall length of 9 inches and 6.7-ounce weight, yet it behaves quite differently. Where the Benchmade's thin edge and long taper make for a very good slicer, the Winkler leans more into utility knife territory. The blade is thick and wedge-like, creating strength for chopping, prying, batoning, and penetrating heavy materials. Meanwhile the belly is curved, allowing for a longer cutting surface which is a trait common to skinning knives - this makes it perfect for hard, slashing strokes such as cutting a drift boat anchor rope in an emergency.

What results is a compact, versatile tool that stands up to heavy use. The Belt Knife is durable and the blade carries thickness all the way to the tip where many are fragile. If you were cutting vegetables, a Nimravus would slice more effortlessly but the Winkler gets the job done while being capable of the serious prying/chopping that causes thin designs to fail.

Winkler Knives Belt Knife - Blog Size

A flat grind is used providing ease of sharpening and the 80CRV2 carbon steel takes and retains a nice edge. The Belt Knife is easy to use and easy to maintain. Winkler offers a number of different handle options for this product including wood, rubber, micarta, and sculpted micarta (shown here). Personally I love sculpted micarta handles; they are my favorite above all others not only due to the excellent grip they provide both wet and dry, but because they tend to be individually crafted and therefore unique.

This make/model gained a great deal of notoriety when it was revealed that Matt Bissonnette (a U.S. Navy S.E.A.L. operator assigned to Team Six) carried the Winkler Belt Knife as part of his combat load out, and had one with him on the Bin Laden raid.

Part of what makes this blade such a solid choice as a tactical or utility tool is the outstanding sheath. Winkler uses a leather/kydex sandwich to produce a simple and highly functional solution. The knife is held in place firmly without the need for a retention strap, making it immediately accessible. A lanyard can be used at the point, and the belt attachment is adjustable via spacers to get the perfect horizontal or vertical mount on any belt, strap, or MALICE clip.

This is one of my all-time favorite knives because it's an ideal size for easy carry, tremendously accessible owing to the brilliant sheath, and is such a solid blend of blade strength, cutting ability, and ease of sharpening. It's on the expensive side, but Winklers just plain last and work hard. It may have come across that I am partial to this sheath, and I will mention that many knives costing upwards of $250 either come with a cheap sheath or none at all. Quite a few consumers end up with an aftermarket or custom accessory, and here you get one that really stands apart in my opinion.

To wrap up, Winkler also offers some similar knives with slightly different blade designs that have many of the same properties. If you are intrigued by the Belt Knife, you may want to check out the Utility Knife,Spike, and Hunting Knife also.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Edges Part II - Benchmade Nimravus

Next up on my list of current favorites is the BenchmadeNimravus 140BK, which is a mid-sized knife that comes with a versatile nylon sheath. I really like the blade design as an all-around camp knife, because it's thin and very light with a drop point that makes it excellent for slicing and puncturing.

When you pick up the Nimravus, it's much lighter than you would expect for its size. The blade length is 4.5" and overall the knife is 9.45" long, yet it only weighs about 6 oz. The unique aluminum handle scales contribute to this effect, and I like the handle although it can tend to feel cold during frigid temperatures with bare hands. There is a heavy choil and handle carve-out for the index finger along with very aggressive jimping along the back of the blade which combine to provide a lot of control.

As a slicing design the blade makes short work of food preparation, cord/rope cutting, creating wood shavings for kindling, fish cleaning, and so forth. The blade is thin enough that it works for filleting and it's also a great steak knife. It's not a heavy-duty chopper so you won't want to take it out and use it to baton or hack off tree limbs. Those types of tasks clearly necessitate ANOTHER KNIFE OR KNIVES which we will get to in subsequent posts.

Benchmade Nimravus Blog Size

When I want a jack-of-all-trades camp knife that can easily be attached to a belt or pack without adding noticeable weight, the Nimravus is my go-to.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Edges Part I - Southern Grind Rat

Like most sportsmen, I have a few knives. By "a few" I mean that slight shifts in the bottom layers of my collection often cause tremors which are mistaken for seismic activity at our local university's geology department.

The issue is that, much like with fly rods or shotguns, there happens to be an ideal tool for certain types of jobs. In turn, this necessitates the ownership of a specific product to best meet the demands of the task at hand. Mathematicians have worked out the exact number of cutting implements required by the modern sportsman, and represent that figure as follows:

This is often mispronounced by those in close association with an outdoorsman as "a bazillion," as in "I don't see why you need a bazillion knives." It's OK to gently correct the speaker in these cases and let them know that while "a bazillion" does tend to represent a large, exaggerated number, in this case the proper term is "infinity."

In the coming days I'm going to share some of my favorite fixed blades that I've been able to use over the past year.

First up is the Southern Grind Rat. At only 4.9 inches in overall length and 1.5 ounces in weight, the Rat is incredibly useful for stowing unobtrusively in packs or pockets. It comes with a great little Kydex sheath that can be attached wherever you see fit or be worn around the neck. While small, this knife is actually very capable and can be pressed into service for most cutting tasks. You won't be using it for chopping kindling or anything heavy duty, but it's got a really nice flat grind and the 8670M high carbon steel takes an edge well. The finish is Cerakote and holds up nicely under use.

Southern Grind Rat - Blog Size

Where I use The Rat most often is as a backup that occupies virtually no space and stays in my day pack all the time. It also works perfectly for when you are traveling light and want a just-in-case knife that won't interfere with anything else you're bringing along.

Southern Grind fixed blades are not mass produced, so availability can be limited but at the time of this writing they are in stock both in tanto and drop point configurations.

Monday, September 29, 2014

First Aid in the Field

A few years ago, in what amounts to a freak accident, a highly experienced outdoorsman I am acquainted with found himself in a remote area with a hunting broadhead stuck clean through his upper arm. The situation quickly became life-threatening as he was alone and had minimal first-aid equipment. After a harrowing experience everything turned out okay, but the scenario caused me to reflect on the supplies I carry into the backcountry.

While what happened above took place due to unlikely and unforeseeable circumstances, potentially serious wounds and injuries are not uncommon in the field.

Over time I have put together a fairly compact and easily portable first-aid solution that has worked well for me off the beaten path and I thought some readers might be interested in an overview.

Imminent Threat Solutions ETA Trauma Kit

I started with an ETA kit designed by Imminent Threat Solutions to treat the 3 leading causes of preventable death due to injury: Extremity hemorrhage (E), tension pneumothorax (T), and airway obstruction (A). Of these, extremity hemorrhage is the most common during recreational activities. This is essentially a "blowout kit" designed for combat, but it contains solid fundamentals. It also comes in a well-designed pouch complete with PALS webbing such that it can be easily attached to just about anything using the supplied MALICE clips. Inside the standard kit you will find:

  • QuikClot Combat Gauze LE (1)
  • HALO Chest Seal (2)
  • MojoDart Decompression Needle (1)
  • Nasopharyngeal Airway (NPA) Adj. 28fr (1)
  • Pressure Dressing (1 — 4″)
  • Elastic Bandage (1 — 2″)
  • Z-Fold Dressing (1)
  • Combat Casualty Card (1)
  • Nitrile Gloves (1 Pair)
  • Pencil (1)

Even if you don't feel comfortable using the NPA or MojoDart, these items take up very little space and could potentially be used by a first responder if needed. The ETA can be ordered in a vacuum-sealed, waterproof package separately from the trauma kit pouch, making for a nice addition to whatever pack you already carry.

I like the webbed pouches because my daypack (Kifaru Scout) is already equipped with PALS, and I can attach the trauma kit anywhere I like. There are a variety of fishing, field, and photography packs designed with PALS/MOLLE that make this a versatile solution. As one example, the Smithfly 1x Pouch happens to fit the vacuum-packed fatboy trauma kit perfectly as well.

While this is a good start, there are a few additional components I like to have with me. First is a SOF Tactical Tourniquet which can be deployed very quickly, used with one hand, and also doubles as a pressure dressing.

Second: An EMT Toolkit consisting of bandage scissors, forceps, hemostat, and pen light. Amazon offers a nice setup complete with all of the above in a compact holster for $17. You get a big pair of quality 5.5" shears with this package, but as they are a little bulky I use those in the larger first-aid pack kept in my vehicle. The included penlight works although it's too cheaply made to be reliable (as you would expect for this price, as a quality aluminum penlight costs around $20 by itself). I replace the light with a Pelican 1910 that runs on a single AAA battery.

Compact EMT Toolkit

All of what I have listed fits inside the ITS Trauma Kit Pouch except the tourniquet, which I affix using a ITS EDC Slimline Pouch.  The entire kit is compact and can easily be attached to or tucked inside your favorite pack or boat bag. If you aren't already in the habit of including first-aid basics in your off-grid essentials, please give it some serious thought. Thanks for reading and have a safe and successful Fall season.

Imminent Threat Solutions EDC Slimline Pouch

Monday, September 8, 2014

Reach for the Sky

This is a young deer but obviously there are some genetics at work as his headgear is violating significant vertical airspace. I'd love to be able to see this buck in 2 more years.

Mule Deer Buck