My recent gift/purchase of a Les Stroud SK Mountain, Ultimate Survival Knife by Camillus, gave me an opportunity to do a review on a product that at first glance seems rather contrived and panders to the “Survival/Prepper community” by its very design and nature. These types of fluff/specialty items usually leave me feeling exploited and preyed upon by the “Sax Fifth Ave” types who come up with various marketing tools to separate us from our hard-earned money through slick marketing and gimmickry that seldom leaves us feeling good about a potential purchase.
Since I had been given a gift coupon to a big box hardware store during the recent Christmas Holiday I was feeling rather adventurous and wanted to see what was available in their knife selection. I was somewhat in need as a few years back my favorite survival knife and I had said “good-bye” as someone was in need of the knife a whole lot more than me, but I digress.
Can you really have too many good knives? After all, they are always “loaded”, and fit nicely in the palm of your hand.
I had intended to go with a Gerber, Buck, or other easily recognized quality American made knife or hatchet but was compelled to see what was available in the “survival expert Arena” (Bear Gilas, Less Stroud, Dual Survival, Cody Lundeen, etc.).
Since I am a strong advocate of “two is one and one is None” when it comes to bugout or survival gear, I knew I needed a back-up to my 8-inch “Dive knife” perched atop my BOB in the storage area of our home. I was not certain what I was searching for but had not bought a good mid length, fixed blade knife in a long time and was certainly in the market for a backup, survival tools, and am always searching out other items to augment my outdoor gear when shopping in outdoor or sporting goods section at any retail market.
While browsing in the knife section I was first attracted to Gerber and Bear Grylls knives as well as Buck and Camillus. As I was looking at the fixed blade knives, I noticed there was a survival knife in my price range ($40-$60.00) with a large plastic sheath and tons of advertising that Camillus put on their packaging of this Les Stroud SK style knife. I was kind of mildly impressed by its versatility and the sheath’s “survival tool” integration, as well as the bladed weapon, they offered in this obviously contrived yet cleverly engineered product.
At first glance it is quite obvious that the knife is effective in design although not as robust as many Hunting/bush-craft or other survival knives I have looked at (blade is too thin on the front inch of the shank and needs additional spline reinforcing as well as spin thickness, in this area, as Buck and other premium Knife builders use)”. This cutting tool would certainly offer many utilitarian as well as self- defense options for the end user.
The cutting edge of the knife itself includes a rather wide 1.5 inch by 5 inch blade with a Titanium coating that is proprietary to Camillus but has a similar coated appearance to the black (anodized) coatings put on the Buck, first generation, Knight hawk 6.5” black, anodized stainless steel blade, tactical knife I owned and carried for years. In addition, the sheath-knife has as its core, a super sharp, black tungsten treated, stainless steel blade, a with a 1-inch serration for cutting bone or wire, and an integrated striking notch for starting fires using the flint, cut into the knife spine/back.
I knew in my heart that it would be very hard to replace the Buck, Night Hawk tactical knife I carried for years that I generously gave away as a token of appreciation. The Buck and is now residing in the hands of an amazing man of God in the Himalayan Mountains of NE India, but that is another story, (I sort of still miss that knife but I know it was the right thing to do in giving it away).
In addition to this rather utilitarian, SK knife, I really was drawn to the innovation/redundancy that was offered in the sheath of this “survival” tool. The assortment of survival trinkets incorporated in the sheath, include: integrated signal whistle, LED flashlight, signal mirror, blade sharpener, flint striker and para-cord, like, cordage found on the knife’s sheath. This combination of survival gear fit nicely into my duplication principle mentioned earlier (two is one…).
I currently and have for the last 3 years, incorporated all of the sheath mounted items (signal mirror, whistle, fire steel, flashlight, and para-cord) in my BOB but was intrigued by the fact that I was able to double dip on my preps in one single purchase, of a knife I would be carrying anyway.
One minor detail about the use of materials on the handle and the sheath that could be a potential drawback is the plastic construction of the sheath housing and accessories, as they are made of plastic and should not be kept too close to a campfire or heat source of any kind for fear of a melting event, but if you have most any modern knife or sheath with plastic components, being left too close to a fire there would probably result in adverse consequences.
As an additional plus for those living in a nanny state like I do anything over 6 inches in a fixed blade and 3.5 inches in a folding knife is illegal. The blade of this SN knife is about five inches long and is therefore legal to carry openly.
In a grid down situation, to me, this would not be an issue (WROL SITUATION) but if I am pulled over tomorrow and the knife is laying on the seat beside me I would not be face scrutiny or worse for carrying a “scary” if not illegal, weapon.
While I have not had time to fields test every aspect of the props integrated into the knife sheath, I can tell you the whistle works with some practice and would be better that yelling for help for an extended period of time (intended purpose of any whistle),
The mirror is tiny; about 1.25 x 2.25 inches with a burnished rather than truly reflective surface like a mirror, but it might work in a pinch to check on a facial wound or to shave by. It would certainly be able to reflect light to signal an aerial spotter and there is an incidental hole at the blade sharpening port found below the mirror that would allow a person to align the mirror with the sun in order to achieve the correct angles for optimal, signaling using the sun reflection.
The flashlight would work for up-close, detail work or reading a map in a low/no light situation, but would not offer a lot of illumination or security if you would need lighting for walking a trail on a cloudy night since it is a single LED bulb.
The flint/striker is only about 1.5 inches long but once the black paint/coating is scraped off, will create ample spark to ignite dry tinder or a prepared “fire wick” of some kind.
The integrated edge/blade sharpener is underpowered at best but in a wooded setting with no other stones to use as a blade, sharpener, it is good to know you have it available as a failsafe.
The so-called “Paracord” is about ½ the diameter of normal para cord but looks to be of similar construction to the real thing. This 10 ft. cord would be a good place to start if all you had was shoelaces and not much more for cordage but would not be enough to hang a large shelter, tarp from.
There is also a small flip-up compartment housed in the sheath under the mirror that could store a small fishing line or some strike anywhere or waterproof matches but it is not truly water prof so additional packaging with a baggie/plastic wrap would be in order if used for a match safe.
The sheath has a good retention system for the knife, using a plastic clip that engages the knife at the hilt (there is a corresponding indention on the handle where the latch engages) and a Velcro strap is integrated in the top of the sheath to secure the upper portion of the handle when sheathed. In addition to the black rubber grip materials on the knifes handle there is a knuckle contour for the index finger (this increases purchase and control when the blade is forced away from the user in skinning or whittling of shavings or tinder making).
This black rubber overlay embedded in the handle may not bear up to excessive use or abuse but should hold up for light to medium abuse as a back-up “zombie poker”. The head of the handle of this sheath knife contains an anvil/metal cap that would lend itself to cracking hard nut shells, tapping small tent stakes into the ground or in a pinch could be used as a club to fight off the occasional squirrel if the need should arise.
On the back of the plastic sheath, a portion of nylon webbing covers the case and extends along the length of the entire blade for a length of around 10 inches. At the back of the nylon webbing is 3-inch webbing, belt loop about ¾ inch wide so a person can run a belt through the sheath and carry the knife on the waistband or their pants.
The relatively thin spine of the knife would probably hold up to moderate use such as splitting pine or less dense wood, if using a mallet or baton to help drive the blade, and is certainly sharp enough to skin small or even large game if need be, and to filet a fish.
In the configuration of the blade, this knife would certainly act as a deterrent to a marauder or two, but, is at best a compromise or backup Bush-craft tool when stack against a Bouie knife machete, or hatchet. But then again most medium sheath knives would have the same or similar drawbacks for heavy outdoor use.
The Camillus (Les Stroud) SK knife would meet most camp outing needs, most of the time and has a lot going for it with the added trinkets found on the sheath. While a compass is very sensitive to metallic objects in close proximity, an integrated compass might have been a welcome addition to the arsenal already included in the sheath.
The small net pouch on the back of the sheath is more of a gimmick and is rather smallish for a topo map (advertised use) but could carry a book of matches or handkerchief or ½ bandana section in a pinch, in order to retain usefulness.
One additional option that has been included on the sheath that might prove useful is the two eyelets/grommets, one at each corner of the flared top, nylon portion of the knife sheath. These could be used to secure a thigh lanyard for extra securing or even be used as a neck lanyard to carry this tool over the shoulder or at the chest should one feel so inclined.
The Les Strand SK knife can be purchased separately with only a nylon sheath, from Camillus for around $50.00, but for the additional $10.00 or so for the survival equipped sheath (whistle, flashlight, cordage, mirror etc.) makes an affordable American knife an even greater barging, as a companion tool for those who are venturing out in the wilds for recreation or possible survival.
Would I recommend this purchase to a friend? Yes if they were going to use it as an addition to a fully equipped (Bug out bag) BOB, since I believe the sheath, integrated items are not robust enough for a total long-term, grid down, situation I would recommend this as a standalone tool.
For the money, I believe anyone purchasing this item, as intended, for bugging out bag, would be well served in a short-term survival situation. Would I rely on the small integral tools in the sheath for my sole preps in a long-term, Grid down, Mad Max situation? Probably not but would this knife and sheath come in handy in an emergent, evacuation, “you bet” and for the Money (around $60.00) one would have to look long and hard to come up with a better compromise package that meets most of the basic requirements of a BOB, survival knife than this product.
Pound for Pound strapped to your waist or fastened to your BOB I do believe this tool would be worth its weight in usefulness. I do not regret the initial purchase of this tool and feel confident that even with the contrived design and miniaturized versions incorporated in the sheath, this tool would make life more bearable in a “Lost and Alone In the woods situation” that hikers, outdoorsmen and weekend survivors might find themselves in during a recreational outing or heaven forbid a SHTF event.