Friday, July 27, 2012

Wilderness First Aid: Lightning Safety/First Aid in the Backcountry

A thunderstorm approaching my camp. This storm ended up producing large cloud-to-ground strikes in the area.

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Summertime in the high country brings extremely dangerous electrical storms, so it's best to be prepared if you get caught out in one. Below is an excellent lightning safety\first aid guide by the National Outdoors Leadership Council (NOLS) that should be read and memorized in case you are caught in a storm. Lightning kills more people in an average year than all other natural disasters, so never, and I mean NEVER, underestimate the ability of lightning to strike you while you're out bushcrafting in the backcountry.

Once you've read the NOLS safety guide, check out the Discovery Channel video below to see in slow motion, how a stepped leader forms and strikes an object. The part of the video which shows the slow-motion stepped-leader starts at 2:37.

Here's an incredible live video showing a cloud to ground strike, and why it's important to stay out of open fields during a storm!

If you're out bushcrafting and are able to get to your car safely when a storm is approaching, do it! Vehicles provide the safest shelter that might be available in the backcountry. This video shows a mini-van being struck by lightning on a highway, but the occupants walked away unscathed due to it grounding out the lightning.

About the author
Jason Schwartz is the founder and senior editor of Rocky Mountain Bushcraft. He is a former Red Cross certified Wilderness & Remote First Aid Instructor, and has taught bushcraft and wilderness survival techniques to the Boy Scouts of America, interned with the US Forest Service, and studied wilderness survival, forestry and wildland firefighting at Colorado Mountain College in Leadville, Colorado. Jason has also written for magazines such as The New Pioneer and Backpacker, including writing the "Tinder Finder" portion of Backpacker's "Complete Guide to Fire," which won a 2015 National Magazine Award (NMA). Email him at rockymountainbushcraft @ (without spaces)

Dave Canterbury leaves Dual Survival, replacement announced- UPDATED!

Dave Canterbury announced last month that he's leaving Dual Survival in order to focus on other commitments. Cody Lundin will remain with the series but Canterbury's replacement has not yet been announced.

A rumor originating from the Discovery Channel is that Canterbury will be replaced by someone with a Special Forces background. I'm wondering if it's going to be Mykel Hawke from the now defunct series Man, Woman Wild? It'll be interesting to find out. We wish Dave Canterbury the best and hope he finds happiness in his new endeavors.

July 12th, 2015 UPDATE- Dual Survival canceled by Discovery Channel

April 23rd, 2014 UPDATE- Rocky Mountain Bushcraft Exclusive: Discovery Channel responds to Cody Lundin being fired from Dual Survival

June 3rd, 2013 UPDATE!- Has "resume embellishment" returned to Dual Survival? Bloggers claim Joe Teti is not a combat veteran

January 3rd, 2013 UPDATE!- VIDEO: Dave Canterbury admits to accusations, apologizes

January 2nd, 2013 UPDATE- How did Joe Teti do in his first Dual Survival show?

December 31th, 2012 UPDATE- VIDEO: Cody Lundin talks about new Dual Survival partner Joe Teti (also gives additional insight into why Dave might have been fired)

November 30th, 2012 UPDATE-  Dual Survival announces replacement for Dave Canterbury

July 25th, 2012 UPDATE- Cody Lundin has released an official response to Dave Canterbury's departure:

Prescott, June 13, 2012 - As has already been publicly confirmed, Dave Canterbury is no longer a part of Dual Survival. This fact has been true since September of 2011.

I have faced many questions regarding this change and much has been said on the Internet as well. Any inquiries regarding this matter should be directed to Discovery Channel. However, since I have no doubt that the questions will continue, and I have an ethical and professional responsibility to do so, I am making the following statement.

The goal of the survival instructor is to keep people alive. To accomplish this goal, honesty, integrity, trust and competence must come first. These core values cannot be compromised or people’s lives are needlessly put at risk. In a profession where human lives are at stake, dishonesty about ones background and experience is an inexcusable breach of trust.

I have dedicated my life to this profession. It is my passion and livelihood and I have spent the past 23 years developing expertise in it. I hold the responsibility of being a survival skills instructor as sacred. It is incumbent upon all of us in this field to insist that the highest standards of honesty, integrity and honor are maintained at all times.

For all of the aforementioned reasons, I am proud to work with my new Dual Survival partner as we take the show to even greater levels. This is my final statement on the matter at this time. To my fans and to those who have offered support during this very challenging time, I offer my greatest gratitude and thanks. 

Cody Lundin

ALSO- Wikipedia, under the "Cast Changes" entry for Dual Survival, paints a less flattering picture, saying:

"In April 2012, Canterbury falsely announced that he would no longer be part of the series due to family and business reasons. In truth, in September of 2011, Canterbury was fired by Discovery for misrepresenting his military and civilian background and experience. 

Canterbury's false military claims can be seen on the website under their "phonies" section, letter "C". Canterbury also falsely claimed to have 20 years of survival skills experience which was proven untrue by the surfacing of Canterbury's own 2008 bio in which he was a factory worker at an auto plant in Ohio the year before he signed to be on Dual Survival. This bio can be viewed on BushcraftUSA."

This is a statement Dave made publicly a few years ago on his Bushcraft USA bio profile, but then took it down once he was confronted with evidence that contradicted his claims:

"I was in the US Army from 1981-1988, and during this time I served in Central America, Grenada, Korea and the US, much of the time as an instructor for both US Troops and some allied forces in several specialty areas. I graduated from Airborne, Air Assault, Ranger, and Sniper Counter Sniper Schools while serving my country."

I went to and viewed Dave's military service records. From what I can tell, he was an MP in the Army for 6 years who was trained as a military police sniper and an SRT member, which is like an Army version of SWAT. There is no mention of Ranger, Survival, Scout, or Airborne Training. There is also no mention of service in Grenada or Central America, only in Korea, where his title was "ID Badge Clerk."

Obviously, the Discovery Channel and Cody figured this out last year and had to make a hard decision, or else risk losing the integrity of the show. This is really sad to hear. Dave did serve his country, but decided to embellish things which got him into trouble.

The moral of the story is, make sure to update your Bushcraft USA bio before becoming a famous TV survival show star!

Just kidding......It's always best to stay honest and keep it real.



About the author
Jason Schwartz is the founder and senior editor of Rocky Mountain Bushcraft. He is a former Red Cross certified Wilderness & Remote First Aid Instructor, and has taught bushcraft and wilderness survival techniques to the Boy Scouts of America, interned with the US Forest Service, and studied wilderness survival, forestry and wildland firefighting at Colorado Mountain College in Leadville, Colorado. Jason has also written for magazines such as The New Pioneer and Backpacker, including writing the "Tinder Finder" portion of Backpacker's "Complete Guide to Fire," which won a 2015 National Magazine Award (NMA). Email him at rockymountainbushcraft @ (without spaces)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Les Stroud partners with Wetterlings to produce the new "Bushman Axe"

Former "Survivorman" star Les Stroud has partnered with Swedish axe-maker Wetterlings to produce a new axe called the "Bushman Axe".

According to Stroud, “The legendary reputation of Swedish axes has never been lost on me. I have used them through all of my adventures and travels in the wilderness. So when I was asked to design a beautiful, hand made wooden axe with Wetterlings, I jumped at the chance. It’s an opportunity to create my own legacy by joining an already existing great legacy. Wetterlings has made it easy to design an axe that reflects my ideals of craftsmanship, aesthetics and functionality.”

Description of the axe from Les Stroud's site:

"The Bushman by Survivorman Les Stroud is unique as it is both an axe and a hammer. The wedge shaped head ensures extreme splitting power. The long, broad blade is good for felling or carving. The neck is a distinct hammer and good for driving pegs. A notch for your fingers makes it easy to be very detailed and get nice cuts when doing precision work. The handle is long enough to be a two-hand axe for wood splitting and felling."

I don't have any specs yet, but my guess is that the Bushman Axe is a modified Wetterlings Large Hunting Axe. I'm trying to get an advanced sample to review before it's official release in November 2012, so I'll keep everyone posted.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

REVIEW: The Puma Bowie Knife- For The Jeremiah Johnson In All Of Us......

"Jeremiah Johnson made his way into the mountains
Bettin' on forgettin' all the troubles that he knew
The trail was wide and narrow
The eagle or the sparrow
Showed the path he was to follow as it flew.
A mountain man's a lonely man
And he leaves a life behind
It ought to have been different, but you often times will find
That the story doesn't always go the way you had in mind.
Jeremiah's story was that kind. . .
Jeremiah's story was that kind...."
(Written by Tim McIntire)

The Puma Bowie....... somehow, I feel like a real mountain man when I carry this knife, like I just stepped back into the 1840s. I have owned several production bowies, but none of them gave me this inspired feeling. Why is it that the Puma makes me feel this way, while the others fall flat?

I think part of the reason has to do with the fact that Puma is one of the oldest knife companies in the world, founded all the way back in 1769. It might also be the genuine stag handles that adorn a solid billet of forged steel, entirely hand-crafted by German knifesmiths. Or, maybe it's the beautiful, yet highly functional, hand-made leather sheath that encases the classic Bowie blade shape.

According to Puma, some of their blades were carried by immigrants across the Atlantic to America during the time when much of the west was wild and untamed. Could it be that some of these immigrants took their Pumas to the Rocky Mountains to become mountain men, using them to skin elk, fight off Indians, or cut up meat for the dinner table? It's certainly possible.

The Knife

The Puma Bowie was originally introduced in 1958, and up until the early 1980s, was constructed of high carbon steel. After the early 80s, Puma began producing the Bowie in 440C Stainless. At one point, they also sold the Bowie in more 'manly' 8" and 10" blade sizes. I'm told that these are now rare collector's pieces which command quite a premium on the used knife market.

According to Puma, it takes 25 different hand production steps to complete a finished Bowie. To give you an idea of what they mean by "hand production," check out this video of workers in Puma's Solingen, Germany plant, crafting their famed White Hunter knife from start to finish:


  • Handmade by skilled craftsmen
  • Hollowground Bowie-style blade
  • Custom proofed Rockwell Hardness
  • Leather sheath
  • Lifetime limited warranty
  • Country of Origin: Solingen, Germany
  • Blade Length in / mm: 6.1/155
  • Blade Thickness in / mm: 0.16/4
  • Total Length- 11.4"/280mm
  • Weight 7 ounces (without sheath) /200 grams
  • Scales: Naturally dropped stag
  • Blade Steel: Hot Drop-Forged 440C Stainless
  • Rockwell Hardness: 57-60

The Bowie is constructed out of drop-forged 440C Stainless Steel. It features full tang construction, along with naturally-dropped stag handle scales that are hand-riveted into place. The handle itself has a lanyard hole drilled through it, which is reinforced with a brass liner.

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The hand guard is crafted from polished aluminum. The blade is marked "HANDMADE" and features Puma's trademark Rockwell testing mark on the side of the blade.

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440C is not the first steel you would think would be used in a classic mountain man knife. Mountain men would have used hand forged carbon steel blades back in the day. I would argue, however, that if they had the choice, they would have carried and used high-carbon stainless blades in a heartbeat. Modern high-carbon stainless steels like 440C, 154CM and Sandvik 12C27 possess most of the qualities and advantages of high-carbon steels, yet are much easier to maintain in the field.

The 440C used in the Bowie, which they refer to as "Puma Steel," is actually hot drop-forged, which really puts it in a different class than most knives.

The vast majority of production knives are milled or stamped from a single piece of rolled plate steel, popularly known as "bar stock removal". By drop-forging the billets used in the Bowie (and White Hunter model), Puma makes these knives inherently tougher than knives using bar stock removal. Despite persistent rumors on internet forums about forged steel no longer being superior to modern stamped or milled knife billets, this is simply not true.

According to Wikipedia, "Forging can produce a piece that is stronger than an equivalent cast or machined part. As the metal is shaped during the forging process, its internal grain deforms to follow the general shape of the part. As a result, the grain is continuous throughout the part, giving rise to a piece with improved strength characteristics."

There's a good reason why even cheap hardware store axes are still drop-forged, because it makes them stronger and more resistant to breaking, chipping and deformation.

The Sheath
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The Bowie comes with a beautiful hand-made chocolate-brown leather sheath that is both stitched and riveted together. It has a lanyard cord at the bottom of the sheath to secure it to your leg, as well as cord at the top of the belt loop that can be threaded through the lanyard hole in the knife for extra retention. The knife is held in place with a single leather retention strap with a heavy metal snap.

I’ve always felt that Puma made some of the most beautiful and functional production knife sheaths. The Bowie sheath really is a work of art, and the quality is outstanding. The retention strap snaps into place with a commanding “click!”, and the sheath is made of thick leather which is heavily reinforced at all the stress points.

The knife fits well inside the sheath, and Puma’s extra cord at the top of the belt loop is a great trick for adding more blade retention.


Though built primarily for hunting, the Puma Bowie is perfectly capable of performing the role of a survival or bushcraft knife. No, it won't out-carve a Mora, but it can still make feather sticks, baton wood, strike a firesteel, or carve wood for traps/tent stakes with relative ease.

Making Feathersticks

What good is a mountain man knife if it can't carve out a few feathersticks to start a campfire? Though the Bowie's shallow V-grind doesn't carve as well as a good Scandi-grind knife, it still did a good job creating feathersticks during our tests.
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Carving a Tent Stake

Tent stake carved from a dead Aspen branch

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Batoning Wood 

The Bowie's 4mm wide/6.1" long blade proved to be excellent for batoning wood. No edge rolling or chipping occurred during these tests.

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Limbing a tree for shelter insulation/bedding

To test the Bowie's ability to limb a small tree for shelter/bedding material, I procurred a small Douglas Fir Christmas tree that was being thrown out. 

The forward weight of the Bowie's blade was a great asset when limbing the tree. It chopped through most of the branches with only 1-2 swings, as shown in the photos below.
Me starting off:

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Dave finishing:

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Slicing up a turkey

Since the Bowie is primarily a hunting knife, we decided to try it out on a fresh Christmas turkey to see how it would perform. As expected, the Bowie, was an excellent meat carver.

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Tip Strength Test

To test the strength of the Bowie's tip, I jammed it into a dead Ponderosa Pine log and twisted it around multiple times. As I would expect from a good drop-forged knife, the tip remained perfectly intact.

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Striking a Firesteel

When I received the Bowie, I was rather surprised to find that the back of the blade was fairly sharp, so I suspected it might be good for striking a firesteel. The first time I struck a Light My Fire Army-model Firesteel (graciously provided to us by Industrial Revolution), I was pretty blown away -- it created a massive shower of sparks, as shown in the second photo below:

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The initial result was impressive, but looks can be deceiving, so I decided to see if I could light some Ponderosa Pitchwood shavings with it. 

Scraping the pitchwood to make a pile of shavings:
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Striking the firesteel:

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Success! It only took a couple of strikes to ignite the pitchwood. Surprisingly, this performance rivals the performance of the Light My Fire FireKnife we reviewed a few months ago.

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Though not a classic bushcraft design, the Bowie certainly proved itself when performing bushcraft tasks such as batoning, striking a firesteel, or making feathersticks. No, you can't strike it on a piece of flint to spark a fire (due to its stainless construction), but that's a minor tradeoff for having greatly increased rust resistance.  

Where I'm located, it rains almost every day during the summer. This makes it a constant battle to keep rust off of my carbon-steel axes after spending time in the field. I consider it an asset to have a knife that doesn't require this same level of maintenance.

Aside from the Bowie's versatility and tough, drop-forged construction, one of its greatest assets is its mystique. Where else can you buy a production knife that has the heritage of Puma, coupled with its classic styling, along with a build process that makes it darn near indestructible? 

The only negative, and a slight one, is the larger guard, which is meant to protect the hands when skinning big game. Most bushcraft knives have minimal guards, so the feel of the Bowie will be slightly different until you get used to it. On the plus side, it helps to lock the knife securely in your hand. 

So if you're headed for the mountains and need a knife that can handle both hunting and bushcraft, yet is tough as your axe, check out Puma's Bowie knife. Jeremiah Johnson approved!

For more info, please visit

A NOTE ABOUT THIS REVIEW: Writing this review was very special for me. You see, my dad, who died rather young, was a big fan of Puma knives, and if he were alive today, he'd be very excited that I was reviewing a Puma knife. My dad also turned me on to Jeremiah Johnson and the outdoors in general, so I'd like to dedicate this review to his memory (check out the Bio section for a photo of us together). I'd also like to thank Puma Knives USA for sending out the Bowie knife used in this review. It was a real honor.

This one's for you Dad.......

About the author
Jason Schwartz is the founder and senior editor of Rocky Mountain Bushcraft. He is a former Red Cross certified Wilderness & Remote First Aid Instructor, and has taught bushcraft and wilderness survival techniques to the Boy Scouts of America, interned with the US Forest Service, and studied wilderness survival, forestry and wildland firefighting at Colorado Mountain College in Leadville, Colorado. Jason has also written for magazines such as The New Pioneer and Backpacker, including writing the "Tinder Finder" portion of Backpacker's "Complete Guide to Fire," which won a 2015 National Magazine Award (NMA). Email him at rockymountainbushcraft @ (without spaces)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Long day of testing hatchets at base camp

Making feathersticks at base camp for my upcoming Gransfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet and Helko Camp Hatchet reviews. 48 straight days living in the wilderness!

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Sunday, July 15, 2012

REVIEW: The Gerber Bear Grylls Ultimate Survival Knife (Fine Edge)

Colonel Trautman: "It's over Johnny, it's over!"

John Rambo: "Nothing is over, nothing!"

Ever since Sylvester Stallone ran across the big screen in the 1982 thriller "First Blood," terrorizing a whole herd of town cops and national guard troops with his custom 9" bladed do-it-all survival knife, things just haven't been the same. Knife companies at the time flooded the market with cheap Rambo knife knock-offs, leading many to believe that this was the type of knife that experts used in the bush. Flea markets today are still filled with all the leftover hollow handled Rambo replicas that were once so popular. 

While it looked good in the movie, in practice, a 9" blade with a hollow handle just doesn't work as well in the field. Hollow handles are inherently weaker than full tang knives, and 9" blades, though having the advantage in chopping and batoning, are rather impractical when using a knife for more important and mundane tasks like wood carving, trap-making, skinning, etc. 

Almost all of the world's wilderness survival experts recommend fixed blades of between 4" and 6", and it's not by accident. Blades in this size range are both big enough and small enough to handle most bushcraft\survival tasks with aplomb. Where the original Rambo knife got it all wrong, the new Gerber Bear Grylls Ultimate Surival Knife finally gets it right.

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The Knife

The Ultimate Knife was originally conceived back in December 2010 as a collaboration between "Man vs Wild" star Bear Grylls and famed Portland, Oregon knifemaker Gerber Gear. According to Gerber, Grylls worked with their Research and Development Team for months prior to the knife's launch. His philosophy was to take all the best features of survival knives he'd used and combine them into one. 

Being a Gerber fan, he had tried many of their knives during his show, including the Gerber Prodigy. It was the Prodigy that Grylls liked most, so it was this model that the Ultimate Knife ended up being patterned after. The first Ultimate Knives were all serrated-edge versions, owing to Grylls' fondness for them on his survival blades. Due to strong public demand, however, Gerber decided to release a fine edge version for 2012. It is this new fine edge version that we will be testing for this review.


As mentioned, large survival knives like the Rambo knife tend to be unwieldy when performing finer tasks like trap-making, skinning, and wood carving. The Ultimate Knife, on the other hand, has a blade just under 5", coming in at 4.8" long. It also features full tang construction and a drop point blade design. This makes it a good general-purpose survival/bushcraft blade that can handle a wide range of wilderness survival tasks.

Technical Specs
  • Overall length: 10.0"
  • Blade Length: 4.8"
  • Weight: (with sheath): 14.7oz.
  • Weight (no sheath): 11.2oz.
  • Steel- Chinese 7Cr17Mov Stainless Steel
  • Width- 4mm
  • Country of Origin- Made in China
  • Knife Features:
    • Fine Edge High Drop Point Blade
    • Ergonomic Textured Rubber Grip - Maximizes comfort and reduces slippage
    • Stainless Steel Pommel - At base of handle for hammering
    • Emergency Whistle - Integrated into lanyard cord
  • Sheath Features:
    • Fire Starter - Ferrocerium rod locks into sheath, striker notch incorporated into back of knife blade
    • Nylon Sheath - Lightweight, military-grade, mildew resistant
    • Land to air rescue instructions
    • Diamond Sharpener - Integrated into sheath for on-the-go sharpening
    • Priorities of Survival - Pocket guide contains Bear’s survival essentials 
Knife Features

The knife comes with some interesting and handy features. A small whistle is attached to the handle via a small lanyard, and though it's anemic by most survival whistle standards, it sure beats screaming for 24 hours straight! 

The handle also has a stainless steel hammer pommel built into it, good for hammering tent stakes, nails, etc. Early Ultimate Knives had an issue with their pommels breaking, but Gerber has addressed and fixed this issue. 

The handle itself is coated in a non-slip rubber material. I found the handle and the balance of the knife to be very comfortable overall. I understand that Gerber and Bear Grylls wanted to ensure brand identity with this knife, but I would have liked the "BG" on the handle to be a bit more understated.

The back of the blade has a ground-down area for striking the firesteel. I found that it's also great for scraping tinder like fatwood or magnesium as well. The steel that Gerber uses is 7Cr17Mov Stainless Steel, which is essentially a Chinese version of American 440A Stainless Steel.

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In addition to the lanyard hole at the back of the handle, the Ultimate Knife also has two lashing holes in the handle guard. This can come in handy for turning the knife into a machete or a spear by lashing it to a branch

Sheath/Pocket Guide 
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The sheath is made from military-grade cordura nylon and high impact plastic. The knife is held in place with an integrated plastic snap that locks onto the hand guard when the knife is inserted, similar to Cold Steel's Secure-Ex sheaths, and also a cordura strap at the top of the handle that's secured with velcro. During all the testing we’ve done over the last few months, blade retention was excellent, and I really like the way the knife stays securely in place while also being easy to pull in and out of the sheath. 

The extra goodies that are integrated into the sheath are actually quite clever. A scout-sized firesteel snaps securely into a slot built into the front, and a diamond sharpening stone is hidden inside and exposed by undoing a velcro strap on the back of the sheath and unfolding it. The Ultimate Knife also comes with a "Priorities of Survival" Pocket Guide, which contains handy survival tips. 

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The back of the sheath also has an illustration guide for commonly used emergency signals:

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The sheath just clears my overnight pack's waist strap:

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Comparison Shots

Comparison of the Ultimate Knife to an Ontario SK-5 Blackbird Wilderness Survival Knife:
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Comparison to the Mora Bushcraft Force (middle) and the Light My Fire/Mora Swedish FireKnife (bottom):


Gerber sent us the Ultimate knife to test back in February, so we've had lots of time to put it through its paces. We've used it for food prep, making feather sticks, splitting wood, batoning off branches to make primitive bow saws, and even opening cans of vegetables with it for the camp pot. 

One of my concerns with the knife was the thickness. At 4mm thick, I was rather dubious about it's ability to be a good wood carver, since my main carry knives are usually thinner Swedish Moras, which are some of the finest wood carvers out there. 

In a survival situation, you're going to be making lots of feather sticks for fire making, especially if you're in a wet climate, so your knife needs to be adept at this task. Much to my surprise, the Ultimate knife turned out to be excellent at carving and feather-stick making, as as evidenced by the photo below. Gerber and Bear Grylls did an excellent job with the edge profile, so it makes performing these tasks easy and controllable.

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Though I consider axes and hatchets as the proper tools for splitting wood, I also think that anything labeled as a "survival knife" should be able to handle batoning wood if necessary in an emergency situation. Batoning might be needed, if you need to make a fire but it's been raining or snowing and all the available firewood is wet. By splitting apart logs or dead branches, it allows you to get to the dry inner wood to make a fire. 

For the test, I sawed a dry Ponderosa Pine log with my Bahco Laplander folding saw.

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Success! The 4mm wide blade made batoning easy.


As mentioned in the features section, the knife has two holes in the guard for lashing it to a branch to make a spear or machete. For the test, I decided to make a machete, because from a bushcraft perspective, a machete is more useful than a spear. Not only is a machete good for clearing a path through dense underbrush, it's also superior for limbing pine boughs off of branches for making shelters or bedding.

To make the machete, I found a dead branch lying on the ground and used the Ultimate knife to chop it to a suitable length (shown in the photos below).

Finding a suitable branch:

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Cutting up and shaping the handle:

Final fitting of the handle:

I used a section of 550 Paracord to lash the knife to the branch. For test purposes, I decided to wrap the paracord through only the two holes in the guard and skipped using the lanyard hole. I figured that if this configuration held up during my limbing test, then using the lanyard hole would add even more strength, if necessary.
The finished machete:

Size comparison with a 12" Cold Steel Barong Machete (bottom) and a 13" Cold Steel Kukri Machete (middle):

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The improvised machete fit into the sheath well enough that it kept the edge of the blade safe while transporting it. But it wouldn't go in deep enough to lock in place so care must be taken if you carry it this way.

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Limbing pine boughs with the machete

To test the machete, I used it to limb some pine boughs off of a recently blown down Douglas Fir tree. Though not shown in the photo, the machete was used to limb a substantial part of this tree to see how the lashing would hold up. It performed surprisingly well. The lashing held secure, and I could remove pine boughs much more efficiently than if I had just used the knife.

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This same arrangement could be used with an extra long handle to cut fruit from high branches on a tree. 

Tip Strength Test

To test the strength of the Ultimate knife's tip, I jammed it into a wet log and twisted it around several times. Wet wood is especially brutal because it resists tearing more than dry wood. No chipping, rolling or deformation of the tip occurred.

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 Opening up a can with the knife

Another thing a good survival knife should be able to handle is opening a can. This a distinct possibility in a survival situation, so it's nice to have a knife that can perform this task without getting damaged. In this case, I opened a can of mixed vegetables with the Ultimate knife. Just a light tap on the pommel was all that was needed for the tip to penetrate the can and open it.

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Carving a tent stake and hammering it into the ground with the pommel

To test the strength of the hammer pommel and to further test the knife's carving abilities, I carved a tent stake out of a piece of wild Rocky Mountain Maple and then hammered it into the very rocky ground near my base camp. I had to beat this tent stake hard, and the hammer pommel didn't flinch.

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To test the firesteel that comes with the knife, I scraped some Ponderosa Pine fatwood into a small pile and then ignited it as shown in the photo sequences below. The knife and firesteel worked as advertised. I've also used the Ultimate knife to light my MSR canister fuel stove, and to ignite some dry grass tinder for a campfire back in late winter. Please note that all fire testing on this knife was done in late winter and early spring before the Colorado fire ban was implemented. 

Scraping fatwood into ignitable tinder flakes with the notch on the back of the knife:

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Striking the firesteel into the tinder pile. I managed to get these photos right at dusk to really show the bright shower of sparks emanating from the firesteel.

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Diamond Sharpener and thoughts on the Ultimate's 7Cr17Mov Stainless Steel

The diamond sharpener that's included with the sheath works as intended and gives the knife a sharp edge. Keeping your edged tool sharp in the field is important and actually reduces the potential of injury, because as the old saying goes, "a dull blade is more dangerous than a sharp one." When I was a kid, most serious outdoor blades came with sharpening stones on the sheath, and I've never understood why this went by the wayside. Kudos to Bear Grylls for bringing back this trend with the Ultimate knife. 

Regarding the Chinese 7Cr17Mo Stainless used on this knife, it's roughly the equivalent to American 440A. This means that it's highly corrosion resistant but soft as knife steels go, so you will be using the diamond sharpener more often than you would with popular knife steels like 1095, 154CM, Sandvik, 440C, etc. 

On the plus side, this softer steel is less likely to break or chip (though it could make the edge more prone to rolling under stress). Another plus is that it is more rust resistant because of the high chromium content. If you want to carry the Ultimate knife while boating or if you live in wet or humid regions of the country, this is an obvious advantage. 

I would rather see Gerber use a stainless like Sandvik 12C27 on this knife. 12C27 is a Swedish Stainless Steel that's tough, yet easy to sharpen.  It takes a very fine edge, and holds it well. The average person probably wouldn't notice that much of difference, but I thought I would point this out.


Admittedly, I started off this review with a rather negative bias towards the Ultimate Knife. I thought it might be just another gimmicky, over-hyped survival knife, much in the way the original Rambo replica knives were. I was pleasantly surprised to find that my initial impression was wrong. This knife actually does work well in the field.

Yes, I find that the logo is a bit overdone, the whistle is rather anemic and the steel is soft, but even with these issues, I would still recommend it to a novice, or even to a more experienced person, as something to throw in their pack "just in case." In my opinion, the overall combination of features and performance definitely makes up for the deficiencies and make the Ultimate knife worthy as a serious survival tool. 

I would love to see Gerber release a more understated version as an option for the more serious wilderness trekkers out there. Preferably one with better steel (like Sandvick 12C27 or 154CM), and made in the USA like the Prodigy. Even if it were a little more expensive, I’d buy one if it was available.

Probably the greatest thing the Bear Grylls Ultimate Knife offers is a sense of adventure. Even if you spend most of your week inside an office cubicle, when the weekend comes, you can strap on your Bear Grylls knife, take off for a hike, and live out your own "Man vs Wild" fantasy for a day.

UPDATE: Make sure to check out our full reviews of the new Ultimate Pro Knife and Bear Grylls Survival Hatchet!

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About the author
Jason Schwartz is the founder and senior editor of Rocky Mountain Bushcraft. He is a former Red Cross certified Wilderness & Remote First Aid Instructor, and has taught bushcraft and wilderness survival techniques to the Boy Scouts of America, interned with the US Forest Service, and studied wilderness survival, forestry and wildland firefighting at Colorado Mountain College in Leadville, Colorado. Jason has also written for magazines such as The New Pioneer and Backpacker, including writing the "Tinder Finder" portion of Backpacker's "Complete Guide to Fire," which won a 2015 National Magazine Award (NMA). Email him at rockymountainbushcraft @ (without spaces)