Building a Spare Kit / Old or extra gear put to good use

Its always a good idea to know what you have, and if you have extra gear lying around, why not put it to good use.

Mora Companion and Companion HD Review

The Mora Companion is the middle of the road blade in the mora clipper line.  There is the clipper, which is the lightest duty blade, the companion pictured below and the Companion HD which has a slightly thicker and more robust blade.

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I do not own the clipper but have had the companion now for about 5 years.  It was my first dedicated bushcraft blade and it has been a trooper all along.  It has treated me well allowed me to learn skills and was very forgiving as a beginning blade.  It also did not break the bank as I paid 13 dollars for it on amazon.  The blade is carbon steel and has a rounded spine which is not very good at striking sparks from a ferro rod.  This can be easily fixed with a file which can be used to flatten and sharpen the spine.  Over the years this blade has made feather sticks, carved notches and processed several deer.  I have to call this bushcraft blade out here, the small thin blade is excellent as a skinner, in fact this is my preferred skinning knife and has replaced several high dollar knives for my father and myself.  Its not quite as good as having a zipper on the hide of a deer to take it off but its very close.

After a weekend of bush crafting and skinning 3 deer the blade needed two or three passes on a butcher steel and it was razor sharp again, I know because it would shave the hair off of my arm.

The small and comfortable handle does not slip even when wet or bloody and the understated finger guard protects your hand from slipping up onto the blade.

I have turned the small blade into a kit, there is a sail needle taped onto the back of the sheath and a piece of bike inner tube holds a magnesium bar onto the front of the sheath. One problem with this knife is the small clip on the sheath for attaching to a belt.  On a small belt it works fine but I use a USGI web belt and it tends to fall off.  So i attached a paracord loop to the sheath and this transforms it into a dangler which allows you to move around with out the sheath sticking you in the side or leg.  For a beginner blade or backup blade or just a fun knife to use I highly recommend the companion in its HD form or standard form to anyone who is bush crafting or camping, or just needs a good utility knife.  All the comments apply to the HD blade as well and while the blade on the HD is thicker it skins just as well.  The only place the standard companion out performed the HD is in filleting fish and the difference there is marginal.  I am including a photo below of the HD Knife, but honestly unless you pick them up and look at them side by side its almost impossible to tell the difference.

Mora Companion HD

Camillus Knife: Les Stroud Desert Survival Knife

I have been carrying the mountain survival knife as a daily pocket knife on and off now for about two years.  I purchased this knife originally from walmart around Christmas time as part of a package deal and it came with a generic 3 day survival kit.  At the time you could buy the kit solo or as a package and it was the same cost so I effectively got the knife for free.  It generally can be found for around 15 dollars online.  It comes with a ferro rod stored in the back of the handle and has a thumb assist so it can be opened one handed. There is a belt clip on the knife that is very sturdy and holds the knife securely in place.  It came with a sharp edge and has held up well over time with little honing needed to stay razor sharp.  It has a liner lock that holds the blade securely in place.

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The knife is marketed as a survival knife and while the knife performs very well overall I would not place it into the survival category just because it comes with a ferro rod.  First off this is a folding blade knife so there are several hard use survival tasks that it would not hold up well with such as batoning wood.   As a back up blade or a daily carry knife this knife works very well.  It also performs very well on many general camp tasks, it can make feather sticks, carve a bow drill set, make notches, it is wonderful for food prep as well so it would work well as part of a camping kit but it is definitely not a one tool option.  It pairs very well with the larger fixed blade Mountain Survival Knife as a set.  The larger knife has serrations over the last inch of the blade so there are some tasks that are harder to do with it such as making feather sticks, that is where this little knife shines as the companion to the larger general duty knife.

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As an every day cary option I really enjoy this blade, it lets you do anything and everything a pocket knife would be used for and carries a ferro rod which is not obvious and adds no extra weight to the blade which lets you be a little more prepared for emergencies by having a fire starter with you at all times.

The handle is very ergonomic and it has a non slip finish which works very well for general use.  As an inexpensive pocket knife I would highly recommend this tool for every day carry or as a car knife or just something to throw in your kit to provide a spare blade and small ferro rod.

Battle Horse Knives: Trap Line Companion

I am a huge fan of Battle Horse Knives I think they make great products and love the Bush Baby knife that we have reviewed at this site.  I would describe the Trap Line Companion as a small utility/skinner blade.  When I carry this knife it functions much as my mora does but it is much heavier built.  It came very sharp and with a little work it took a shaving edge.

 

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The overall length of the knife is 9 inches and the cutting edge on the blade is 3.5 inches.  It is 3/16 of an inch thick and full tang with micarta handles.  There are two brass pins that hold the scales on and a brass tube that acts as a lanyard hole near the butt of the knife.  The handle is comfortable in the hand and very slip resistant when wet or bloody.  The shape of the blade protects the front finger and acts as a small finger guard.  The sharp edge ends about 1/4 of an inch from the back of the blade steel.

 

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I have worn and used this knife for about two years now on and off while camping and for general camp chores and it has been used as a skinning blade for deer.  I have also used it extensively in the kitchen as a food prep knife.  It holds a razor edge and is a scandi grind.  It has a drop point blade which is good for a multitude of tasks.  The knife performs well making feather sticks, carving notches and light battening of wood.  The short blade makes it less useful as a splitting tools and its light weight makes in a poor chopper.  However the blade was never designed with these two tasks in mind.  I would not recommend this as a one tool option but as a small belt knife it is wonderful and like all Battle Horse Knives it is an heirloom quality blade that could be passed down from generation to generation.  I often pair this with a large chopper or small axe or hatchet and a saw, usually my bacho or even a larger belt knife when I am out and about.  When working on the ranch, hunting or even working around the yard it is a great carry knife because of its small size and it gives you a great cutting tool for any general task you might find yourself needing to do.

If you are looking for a good secondary blade this will certainly fit the bill, but as a custom knife it is expensive and while it is much more robust than any Mora I have yet owned the Mora’s will perform many of the same functions, but won’t be as pretty doing so.

Self Reliance Outfitters 5 C’s Haversack Kit initial review

For the last  year or so we have been quiet at the blog, both Daniel and I have had a lot going on at work and I  have the new baby at home who is 13 Months old now and a wonderful bundle of joy.  But this year my oldest son Rick will be transitioning over from Cub to Boy Scouts and as the baby is becoming less needy and easier for one parent to handle it is time for me to start looking once again into the wilderness and outdoors.  One thing the year has done for me is let me look at what I own and how I want to move forward with my gear and load outs for hikes and camping trips.  One of the major things I wanted to do is slim down what I carry and what I keep around in case of emergency.  Like many of us I have a tendency to fill any bag I get with as much as possible.  That being said I started looking at smaller bags.  I recently got a Maxpedition Jumbo versa pack.  I will do a review on this later but it has become my everyday carry bag because it doubles as a utility bag and a small diaper bag.

With this new philosophy of carrying less but being able to do more I started looking for a more traditional bag/kit to have for day hikes, as a hunting bag, or just to keep under the seat of my truck to have in case of emergency.  I finally settled on the Pathfinder Oilskin Haversack from http://www.selfrelianceoutfitters.com.  I also wanted to have a spare set of equipment to go with the kit, and while I could have canalized other gear and or kits I did not want to do this as I will be helping to outfit my older son with some of my spare gear for BoyScouts.

Priced currently at 99.00 dollars the kit seemed to be a good overall value.  I have been eyeing many of the items that come with the kit for some time now, specifically the water bottle and nesting cup.  I have the PF Stainless Steel Canteen and cook set and love it but  wanted something a little less military looking and something bigger as far as a nesting cup goes for cooking in the field.  So those two big items along with the other perishable items in the kit, like the bank line, fire starters and fire steel the price was just too good to pass up.

I received the kit in yesterday and have been very happy with the quality of the gear and kit so far and wanted to give you my initial opinion on the items.  So lets look at each piece of kit and go over it one by one.

First is the Oil Skin haversack.  This bag is very solidly built and the stitching is very strong.  It has two pockets, one large main pocket where you store the bulk of your gear and one small pocket in the flap that flips over to close the haversack.  The main pocket is 12in x 14in and is large enough to hold all the items that come with the kit with some room to spare.  The small pocket is 12 in x 3.5 in and hold small items like a compass or ferro rod easily. I am looking forward to using the bag and it rides easily on your hip and the strap feels comfortable so far.  The one thing I would change is the strap, I would like to see it clipped on or made wider to reduce stress on your shoulder or to make it easier to add a shoulder pad, but if you don’t over weigh the kit it works.IMG_5868

The next item is the Mora Companion HD knife.  This knife has been reviewed my many people on the web and I will not go into too much detail about it.  I will say having owned many mora knives I have yet to find one that has failed me and all have been easy to use, sharp out of the box and have held up well for everything from light battening of wood to field dressing a deer, to making a PB&J sandwich at camp.  All in all a good starter knife or exceptional back up blade.IMG_5869

The next item is two part, the ferro rod and Mini Inferno fire starter.  I have used the ferro rods from the PF store for a while and they throw good sparks, are fairly thick and have held up well.  The Mini Inferno has worked wonderfully for me as well, I usually get between 10-15 minutes of flame from one and they have worked in damp conditions to start fires for  me with no problems.  The set I got also came in a small metal tin which will turn into a char cloth tin once I have used up all the fire starter. I am confidant that anyone with a fairly new to beginner level of skill with some small practice will be able to use these items to get a flame going.IMG_5874

The next item is a reusable all weather survival blanket in an orange color.  I have used the survival blanket in the past, and have loved working with them and using them as my tarp or ground cloth. This one is new and will remain in the packaging until I need to replace my existing one.  I did not need this item but I know eventually my old one will wear out and or rip and need to be replaced so I saw this as an investment in a future piece of gear.  These space blanket/tarps are a staple item in the survival/bushcraft community for a reason.  They are light weight but significantly more durable than the cheap mylar space blankets, they hold up well and have grommets in them which allow you to use it as a small tarp in many different shelter configurations.IMG_5870

The next item is the Pathfinder Gen 3 32 oz Stainless Steel bottle and 27 oz Stainless Steel nesting cup.  In the past I have used the Guyot Designs Backpacker SS bottle or the straight walled version.  I really enjoy this older bottle but, it has become hard to find in recent years.  Also the backpacker is somewhat top heavy and has a small base so it is prone to tip over.  The strait walled option was an oddball 38 oz and did not work well with some of the water purification options as they are almost all pre measured for a 32 oz container.  The pathfinder bottle is a very worthy successor to the Guyot bottles.  It keeps the large open mouth and does not have the top heavy issue of the backpacker as it is a uniform size all the way down while keeping the 32 oz size for chemical water purification options.  The nesting cup is wonderful and is large enough to make it relatively easy to cook in for one person which is a huge advantage to the other nesting cups I have owned which were just a little too small to cook in.IMG_5871

Finally this brings me to the last item the humble cordage.  The tarred and braided bank line is wonderful.  It is easy to use it for almost all the tasks you would use paracord with in a smaller package.  Living in Texas I also use it quite a bit for trot lines, jug lines or throw lines for catfish in the lakes and rivers here in central Texas.  This lets you carry just a few hooks and allows you to set up a passive fishing system.  I have used bank line for years as my primary cordage while out bushcrafting or camping but have trouble finding the braided kind for sale in my area.  While I could write for hours about cordage I think you get the idea that it is useful and in a small package.IMG_5873

All in all this is a great small kit that will live under the seat of my truck as emergency gear and will be my primary day hike kit for this spring and summer.  I will give you a more in depth review at around 3 months and 6 months in and let you know how the gear holds up.  Priced in at 99 dollars this is a savings of about 27 bucks if you were to buy all the items individually on the PF store.  You might be able to get all the items cheaper by buying from multiple sources on the web but you would probably not save much after each individual shipping charge.  For the convenance of having all the items sent to you and packed and ready to go in the haversack I think this is a good value for the money.  The items came packed in the haversack when I unboxed it, so you could order it and take it and put in in your car/trunk/or truck and have a ready made kit to go.