The Three-word Review: What a tool!
The Full Deal:
Pushing the “BUY” button for this purchase was difficult for me. Because I am trying to reduce the footprint of my camping experience, both in how I touch the wilderness and what I carry out into it, I’ve been searching for that “perfect solution” for something to use chopping up sticks for my smallwood stoves. While the entire point of these small units is to be able to find fuel in the debris of the woods, “good”, dry, hardwood is difficult to break up using just your hands even if it’s deadfall. I have a couple of nice, fixed blade belt knives that I can use to whittle up tinder and kindling, but you can’t really chop with them and I wanted something much lighter in weight than a hatchet, an axe, or a machete. I have also desperately been trying to keep my project down to a minimal cost. I had been almost seriously considering buying a cheapo $12 “Bowie knife” down at the army surplus store… something I wouldn’t care about, and that could get banged up as much as needed without worrying about the cost. Something that I could just whang on the back of the blade with a rock to split up larger pieces of wood. However, I hate cheap tools. Also, I knew I would never feel like I had actually gotten my moneys worth. 90% of the value for 50% of the cost… remember?
A couple of months ago, I posted a photo of an old, old BOLO machete that I bought 50 years ago when I was a Boy Scout. I think it cost me $5… at the army-navy store… that was about five weeks of my allowance. And this was back when an army navy store actually had decent, actual war surplus items, and halfway quality merchandise. The Bolo has a carbon steel, full tang, build, But it had hollow, plastic handles that cracked the first weekend I used it. That was its first introduction to duct tape. Over the years, it has been used, left to rust, been restored, and left to rust again, rehandled several times… and it still one of the greatest tools I’ve ever owned. I put the scales in the photo above on it back in the 90s. They are made out of South American Ipae from a shipping pallet. Right now it’s been fully cleaned up, re-edged, and resharpened, but I’m still trying to find a source for some brass rivets to replace the scales… That’s why the handles are just wrapped in cotton twine and duct tape. This is not a lasting solution. And as much as I love the old BOLO, it is just too long, and too heavy for my current needs. I’ll get it finished up, but it’s not likely to make the loadout for backpacking I anymore.
Anyway when I found the Kershaw 10 Camp Knife, and read a bunch of reviews, I was sorely tempted to go ahead and pay full freight. I knew the 14 inch and 18 inch versions were much bigger than I needed, but it certainly looked like the 10 inch version would satisfy my Goldilocks needs. There was also a certain amount of “zombie killer” POS/BS/mojo that automatically attaches itself to any knife this large that was a bit of a turnoff to me. Why not just go out and get a radioactive green faux katana and a set of num-chuks? …Still, it looked like it could be the solution… but would the actual product hold up to the hopes and expectations or would I cringe in embarrassment in the way that only a Zombie Apocalypse/TEOTWAWKI nay-sayer can when he finds he’s just bought an Armageddon vanquisher?
Yes. It holds up very well… and it would probably cut the crap out of a zombie, too.
Kershaw makes three versions of their “Camp Knives” in different lengths… 10″, 14″ and 18″, that being the length of the blade itself not including the handle. While Kershaw chooses to refer to these as knives, I certainly consider them far more out into the realm of tool. A knife is just not meant to be this big. Each has a slightly different shape, with the 18 incher being the most machete-like. The 10″, with it’s recurved blade, is most similar to a Gurkha Kukri, or Malaysian parang, but with a smoother curve. As you can see in the photo, it has a saber-grind with the spine being thickest, and then just over half the blade width tapering to the final cutting-edge grind. That secondary bevel seems to keep the tool from sticking and grabbing far better than the fully flat blade of the machete which always seems to want to wedge. The Camp 10’s weight seems to be almost perfectly balanced at the center of length, the steel is actually thicker than my old bolo machete, it arrived just shy of shaving-sharp, and it comes with a nice ABS, molded case has a detachable belt loop and two 8″ Velcro molle straps. The case also features a total of six holes for paracord tie-downs if you would rather not use the belt loop and straps. With the four slots for the Velcro, that gives you a total of 10 points that you can use for lashing it to whatever you want to lash it to. Additionally, there is a snap strap to go around the tangs of the handle and restrain it from slipping out of the scabbard.
The handle, with its rubberized surface over hard ABS plastic, provides a very secure grip. Some reviewers noted that it might eventually be tough on your hands with extended use due to the nubbled surface. My hands are not overly work hardened, and I did not notice any chaffing after a few days use. Some reviewers also criticized the case for having some rattle. Mine did indeed have this problem. My solution was to pour a little boiling water inside the case [which has a drain hole at the end], and after that I clamped the upper section between two large, flat twigs with a set of vise grips. 10 minutes later the ABS had reformed to fit very snugly on the blade. Even held upside down and shaken, there was no loosening.
The first thing I did was take it out along the stone wall and hacked down and de-limbed a few two and 3 inch diameter “volunteers” that have grown up over the last few years. Worked a charm. Clean cutting without much effort, no sign of any wear or dulling, and cleanup was wiping some sap off on the damp grass. Then I tried it out on some fully dried, hardwood stove lengths. It’s definitely no axe. However, as long as you’re willing to re-drop a log length with the knife wedged in it several times, and there are no big knots, in works well enough. Where it showed it’s true calling is in chopping up smallwood and splitting 1″ to 2″ limb pieces. Those it went through like butter. I think that it will be my “perfect solution” for the little camping woodstoves. One of the things that I like the most about the recurve in the blade is that it allows you to place the forward, rounded portion firmly against a stump and “rock” downward with the rear portion to create shavings and peels. You will not be whittling out spoons with this, but it is going to make hurrying up some kindling a piece of cake.
At $40-$45 is not exactly cheap. At just under 8 ounces it’s not all that lightweight. However, at that price point you are not going to get a custom- made knife of any size, certainly not something that falls into the full tool category, and even at a half a pound the utility when you get upcountry is going to be worth it.
I’m really happy that I pulled the trigger, or pushed the button. Once it had shipped, it arrived the next day. With just a few days short use, it certainly seems to be what I had hoped and wished for. I’ll plan on taking it along when we go whitewater rafting in two weeks. Even in a campground, I’ll be able to give it a good workout over several nights and see if I have any real criticisms. Right now I don’t see anything that would make me regret my decision. Money well spent.
Onward through the fog…