KNIVESTHE OF INSTRUCTORS
DID YOU EVER WONDER WHAT THE PROS CARRY? HERE’S A LOOK.
“SPEND ENOUGH TIME IN ANY CAREER AND YOU’LL BEGIN TO TWEAK AND ADJUST YOUR TOOLS TO SUIT YOUR UNIQUE NEEDS. SURVIVAL AND BUSHCRAFT ARE NO DIFFERENT. ”
Like many KI readers, every time I see a social media post from one of my favorite survival or outdoors instructors, I’m checking to see what gear they have with them. I love to see their pocket dumps and pack unloads. Of course, the sharps always get close attention. What blades are they using? Deciding finally to just go directly to the sources, I consulted five survival teachers to see what they carry most often when they head into the field. While some of them routinely evaluate knives for manufacturers and such, I wanted to know what they relied on when they could just grab what they wanted from their collections. As their responses began filtering in, I wasn’t surprised to learn that more than one carried a knife they’d designed themselves. Spend enough time in any career and you’ll begin to tweak and adjust your tools to suit your unique needs. Survival and bushcraft are no different. Even the full customs, though, bore some commonalities with regard to size and blade shape. Let’s take a closer look at the knives instructors choose when they hit the trail.
“My choice of blades to carry is two-fold. I carry a custom Headstrong by Filo Bladeworks for my EDC. This blade is primarily a self-defense tool and is carried from that perspective, although it is used to do minimal day-today tasks at home and in the field. The handle materials and styling were put together to make it easy to deploy from the front pocket and use under stress but to also carry easily without being uncomfortable.
“My woods-carry blade is the Shemanese designed by me and built by LT Wright Handcrafted Knives. I designed it to be used by a proper woodsman (read: used, not abused) to handle wood and game, including the ability to filet fish and process game from field to fork. It is inspired by the carry blades of the frontiersmen.
“As such it can be used as a fighter, wood processor (including as a draw knife), and handle all the general woodcraft tasks one would expect in mixed hardwoods forests similar to those found in the Appalachia Mountain chain. Shemanese is a Shawnee word meaning ‘long knife,’ as many of those men’s blades were adapted from broken swords and kept long for their use.”
Instructor Bio: Craig Caudill is the owner/director of Nature Reliance School in Central Kentucky. He is a professional backcountry skills instructor and a certified master naturalist. You can find out more about his survival, tracking and navigation classes, podcast, and books at Naturereliance.org.
“I’ve used some variation of the venerated Mora blades since 1990 and they have held up well during extended survival courses for camp chores as well as fielddressing game, carving deadfalls, bows, spoons, and other items. Until recently, I was spending around 180+ days in the backcountry and the Mora Bushcraft blade or the Mora 840 Clipper was all I used. The Moras can take a beating and hold an edge like few other blades and have become trusted companions on the trail.
“For day-to-day use back home or in the city, I rely on my EDC Spyderco Tenacious folder to which I’ve added some skateboard tape to provide easier deployment from the pants pocket. Spydercos have a great ergonomic design and a folding mechanism that has never let me down despite continual abuse.”
Instructor Bio: Tony Nester is the author of the “Knife-only Survival Book.” For the past 28 years, he has been teaching survival courses in the desert and mountain regions of Arizona and Colorado. He worked as a consultant for the film “Into the Wild” and regularly conducts training for the military special operations community. For further information, visit Apathways.com.
“MY WOODS-CARRY BLADE IS THE SHEMANESE… DESIGNED…TO HANDLE WOOD AND GAME… IT IS INSPIRED BY THE CARRY BLADES OF THE FRONTIERSMEN.”—CRAIG Caudill “SPYDERCOS HAVE A GREAT ERGONOMIC DESIGN AND A FOLDING MECHANISM THAT HAS NEVER LET ME DOWN DESPITE CONTINUAL ABUSE.”—TONY Nester
“The Polaris is ‘my knife.’ That is, it’s my ideal and my design. Back in 2009, I asked Scott Gossman to make me a knife based on the average specs of the knives I’d used for the previous 10 years. I sketched it out on paper, then on cardboard, and sent it to him. He made me one and I used it while operating as lead instructor for the Wilderness Learning Center.
“Over a decade later, I still use the knife on courses and trips all over, but Scott sent me one with upgraded 4V steel to use instead. Scott reports that design is one of his most popular and when he posts one for sale online, it sells out in minutes.
“As for the Victorinox Ranger, I carry that daily. It is paired with an Exotac firerod, and when I throw it in my pocket, I know it can and will handle whatever I need it to on a daily basis in all settings. It blends in, it has the same rough handle size as my Polaris for carving, and it reminds me of my childhood watching Macgyver. I’ve carried a Swiss Army Knife in my pocket for well over two decades religiously.
“With these two knives, I’ve built countless fires, cleaned animals from the woods and water, cut plenty of cordage, and lots more.”
Instructor Bio: Kevin Estela is the Director of Training for Fieldcraft Survival in Heber City, Utah, and has been teaching bushcraft and survival skills professionally since 2007. He is the author of “101 Skills You Need to Survive in the Woods,” numerous magazine articles and online blogs, and he is featured on multiple podcasts across the web. He is a lifelong outdoorsman, traveler, and martial-arts enthusiast.
“I’VE CARRIED A SWISS ARMY KNIFE IN MY POCKET FOR WELL OVER TWO DECADES RELIGIOUSLY.”—KEVIN Estela
“The two knives I carry into the woods are the Colonel and the Raider. The Colonel is the first knife I ever designed and was based upon a frontier era kitchen knife supposedly in the Daniel Boone family. I sized the blade to my hand, and it served me for several years as my one-tooloption survival knife.
“The wide blade nests in my palm perfectly for shaving and carving chores, and the length leaves plenty of meat at the end for when I choose to baton through a 4-inch cedar pole in the rain to make a fire. Its name comes from the fact that I, like Daniel Boone, am a Kentucky Colonel, so it seemed a proper name for my first survival knife.
“I have always made it regular practice to carry a smaller carving knife or multipurpose backup blade. The last few years I’ve found that I stick to fixed blades and the Raider has been my preferred model to carry for the past year. It is a knife designed by Dan Ferguson and myself.
“Our objective was an Appalachian Puukko. The blade is as long as my palm is wide and has a swell in the handle, so it locks into your grip. The blade belly permits smooth carving and skinning. Both of these blades are easy to hone in the field due to the 1095 steel. The beautiful textures present in the stabilized oak handles add warmth and character to each knife.
“I like these knives because they’re suitable for the majority of my outdoor tasks. I’ve built primitive shelters, carved notches and cups, and used them to skin game of all sizes found throughout the Eastern Woodlands. These blades are also a bit lighter than similar-sized blades due to the wood handles, making them an excellent choice for my woodland needs.”
Instructor Bio: Jason Hunt is the owner of Campcraft Outdoors, an outdoor school, and outdoor gear manufacturer based in Kentucky. Jason primarily leads classes throughout the Eastern Woodlands. You can learn more by visiting Campcraftoutdoors.com.
“I HAVE ALWAYS MADE IT REGULAR PRACTICE TO CARRY A SMALLER ... MULTIPURPOSE BACKUP BLADE. THE LAST FEW YEARS ... THE RAIDER HAS BEEN MY PREFERRED MODEL TO CARRY. IT IS A KNIFE DESIGNED BY DAN FERGUSON AND MYSELF.”—JASON Hunt
“Though I have many sheath knives that nearly always go into my pack, most often I use a knife that was sent to me by a reader of one of my articles named Elijah. It was only the second knife he’d ever made. I thought he’d made it from a recycled leaf spring from a car, so I called it Elijah’s Leaf Spring. I found out later that it was from a recycled sawmill blade, but the name still stuck.
“It fits my hand well, and because it’s carbon steel, it holds an edge very well. I use this knife for cutting plants, preparing meals, batoning wood, and many other tasks. It always performs well. Plus, because this is not an expensive and ‘slick’ knife, I never hesitate to reach for it, not worrying whether I might damage its cosmetics. This knife has never failed me. Elijah has since gone on to further pursue knifemaking, though for now the one I carry is a full custom one-off.
“I always carry a Swiss Army Knife in my pocket, and I prefer the Officer (Officier Suisse) model. It has two blades, a saw which I use a lot, and scissors. Those are the main tools I use on this knife, as well as occasionally the awl. I sometimes use the tweezers, too. I can’t speak highly enough about a little tool which I hardly notice is in my pocket and which can do so much. I use it at least once every day.”
Instructor Bio: Christopher Nyerges has been teaching ethno-botany and general survival skills in the field and in the classroom since 1974 through the School of Self-reliance that he cofounded. He lives in Southern California and the majority of his classes occur there. He has authored nearly two dozen books including “How to Survival Anywhere” and “Guide to Making Fire Without Matches.” More information can be found at Schoolofself-reliance.com.
Yes, that’s me. The Dan Tope Covert Field Scalpel is a nearly perfect pocket carry knife. It is a fixed blade, so there’s no worry about problems opening or closing, even under pressure. There are also no concerns with fouling the mechanism with whatever it is you’re doing with the knife, such as food prep.
The blade is short enough that it won’t raise eyebrows anywhere you go, but there’s plenty of steel to get the job done. I have gorilla mitts for hands, so most smaller knives result in a three-finger grip, which I don’t like. Here, there’s enough real estate to get a full hand on, for both comfort and safety. It is not sold with a sheath, so I contacted Delta Sheath in Michigan to get that squared away.
For a belt knife, I’ve tried dozens and dozens of them over the years, but I keep returning to the Fox River EXT-1 from Bark River Knives. The original Fox River model has been one of the company’s most popular knives, along with the Gunny. Jason Thoune at DLT Trading had the idea of combining the two, using the blade profile of the Fox River and the Gunny handle. The result is a knife that just simply works. No bells, no whistles, nothing fancy at all. With a 4-inch blade, it is perfectly suited for just about any routine task and the ergonomics are phenomenal. While it is available in a range of handle materials, I went with basic black canvas Micarta.
Instructor Bio: Jim Cobb is a recognized authority on disaster preparedness. He is a frequent contributor to many publications, including Knives Illustrated and American Outdoor Guide. Jim has also authored several books about prepping and has traveled the country teaching classes at various expos. KI
“ELIJAH’S LEAF SPRING ... FITS MY HAND ... AND HOLDS AN EDGE VERY WELL. I USE THIS KNIFE FOR CUTTING PLANTS, PREPARING MEALS, BATONING WOOD, AND MANY OTHER Tasks.”—christopher Nyerges