Tag Archives: Gear

Accessorize Your Adventures: Patches (Part 1)

Accessories. Definitely unnecessary to a safe and wholesome adventure, but sometimes a little something extra is worth bringing along to share your pride, have some fun, or both!

Patches are one of those accessories that even ultra-light hikers can get behind to lighten up the atmosphere even if the 1 ounce (28 gram) piece of flair doesn’t lighten the load. Here is our first batch of overviews for Velcro/hook-and-loop patches that highlight some ways to stand out.

Camelbak hydration system with G&C American flag.

Above: Camelbak Thermobak (or click here for referral link to support us) hydration system which features a durable 500D nylon construction, 3 liter (100 ounce) capacity, and thermal material to keep your water at or below ambient temperature. Also check out the latest Thermobak Omega with new-generation camouflage (or click here to support us). I added on a green/forest green  American flag patch from Gadsden and Culpepper to add some flair. G&C-made or sourced patches are the best quality I’ve come across, so don’t be fooled by cheaper imitations!

Tactical Tailor Fight Light Operator Removable pack with 5.11 Eagle patch.
5.11 Eagle patch on a Tactical Tailor Fight Light Operator Removable pack .

Above: Tactical Tailor proudly designs and manufactures their equipment, like this Fight Light Operator Removable Pack (or click here to support us), in the USA. Although a little smaller than a typical backpack, this durable and functional is equipped with a quick-attachment system to add this pack to a larger piece of kit, such as a MALICE pack or traditional backpacking pack. With a 3×5-inch (7.6×12.7 cm) patch panel a variety of patches can be added including name, rank, blood type, or morale patches like the 5.11 Eagle patch.

Condor MA54 T&T pouch with ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ Awesome Mix Vol. 1 cassette patch.
‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ Awesome Mix Vol. 1 cassette patch on a Condor T&T pouch.

Above: The Condor MA54 T&T Pouch (or click here to support us) is a 10×7.5×1.5-inch (25.4×19.0x3.8 cm) pouch with MOLLE attachments and MOLLE straps to attach or be attached to other gear. It works reasonably well as a writing surface when attached to a chest rig, but can also act as a catch-all utility bag due to its internal pockets.

The Awesome Mix Vol. 1 patch (or support us here) is made by Titan One and is based on the prop from the comic book super-hero movie adaptation ‘Guardians of the Galaxy.’ A fun 2.0×3.5-inch (5.0×8.9 cm) patch for large patch panels! Also sold as an iron-on!

Shown below is also a 5.11 patch depicting 5-ace-ace (5-1-1), the company’s own name, on the T&T Pouch. There’s plenty of space for multiple morale patches or to stick on other gear with a hook-and-loop/Velcro attachment.

Condor T&T pouch with 5.11 cards patch.

Above: One of the smallest pieces of gear to hold odds and ends, this Condor Pocket Pouch (or support us here) is a handy zippered, fold-out pouch with a standard-size 2.0×3.5-inch (5.0×8.9 cm) patch panel. Shown beside the Condor MA54 T&T Pouch for scale, it stores all the smalls you need to carry with you. Pens, a small notepad, identification, a small multitool, and anything else that is worth keeping within hand’s reach will fit into this 6.75×4.75-inch (17.1×12.0 cm) pouch. MOLLE strips will attach this to any appropriate tactical gear or carry it separately as a discreet, pocket-sized EDC bag.

Whether or not a pouch this size is useful will vary by individual and their existing gear, however some of the Condor Pocket Pouches are even sold as a set with a Condor American flag patch (standard size), which makes this an especially good deal for those that want it.


Stay tuned for more accessories, including a credit card-sized multitool, self-defense gear, and more morale-boosting gear.


As always I have used embedded links to the products which I’m reviewing. As I’m not sponsored by any organizations or companies it’s important to me that I provide “safe” and direct, referral-free links to the items I use, review, and may ultimately donate to conservationists and anti-poaching rangers in the field. However I’ve also included, in parenthesis, links to the same products while using a referral code. Following these links and placing an anonymous purchase through Amazon supports my adventures and future gear purchases and means I don’t have to rely on advertisements. All support is greatly appreciated.

Equipment & Gear: KA-BAR’s Short Fighting Knife

KA-BAR (usually pronounced kay-bar) has a long history of use in the United States and became famous for being a dependable and choice pick for American soldiers during the Second World War. The brand name Ka-Bar also has an interesting origin and the fighting knives carrying this branding are known for being manufactured by Union Cutlery Co. in Olean, New York, USA.

Short Black Ka-Bar Knife model being reviewed:

Part Number Ka-Bar 4-1259CP-2
Blade Color Black
Product Dimensions 9.25 x 1.8 x 1.0 inches (5.25″ blade; 0.165″ thickness)
Item Weight 181 grams (6.0 ounces)
Metal Type 1095 Cro-Van (USA manufacture)
Knife Origin Blade and grip made in USA.
Warranty Description Limited warranty of the life of the original purchaser.

E-05-KABAR_Short_Fighting_Knife_secure-2

Overview: The Short Ka-Bar Fighting Knife is, as its name implies, the smaller version of the tried and true Ka-Bar Fighting Knife that was popularized by the United States Marine Corps. Although the Short Fighting Knife’s dimensions are noticeably smaller, and weighs in at less than half a pound, it is made of the same 1095 Cro-Van steel that gives its larger sibling its durability. It is also tempered to the same hardness, rated at 56-58, and offers effectively the same utility.

The all-purpose Short Fighting Knife boasts no special features other than an optional serrated edge. It has no hook for skinning or slicing and does not even have a hole for a lanyard. It’s not that kind of knife.However KA-BAR does have a broad selection of knives to choose from, with several specialized for game.

The single-edged blade is 5.25 inches (13.3 cm) in length, 2.75 inches shorter than the full-size Fighting Knife’s 8-inch blade (20.3 cm). 5.25 inches is plenty of blade for most applications and makes the shorter knife as a whole a much more practical size for everyday activities and hobbies. The handle is also smaller and sized for the average user’s palm, whereas the Fighting Knife’s handle is comparatively over-sized. I find that the Short Fighting Knife has much better versatility when holstered at the hip, leg, or when the knife is in the hand.

A-00-KABARs_with_sheaths
Top: Short KA-BAR with sheath; Bottom: Full-size KA-BAR Fighting Knife with glass-filled nylon sheath.

Sheath & Portability: Both knives featured in the photo above came with a hard sheath made from sturdy, glass-filled nylon. This sheath is light-weight and rigid, making it the ideal way to transport the knife and keep it on your belt or in your bug-out-bag. A nylon belt runs vertically to allow the sheath to be attached to a belt or to be looped to another piece of nylon or MOLLE attachment system. The body of the sheath also has a number of slits and reinforced holes to tie the sheath down in an ad-hoc fashion or for securing on the leg.

The underside of the sheath is flat, except for where it comes up to protect the hand guard. This backing also serves as a clip that secures the knife’s guard in place and thus keeps the knife locked tightly in the sheath. To pull the knife out of the sheath one only needs to use a thumb to push on the sheath’s backing and then slip out the knife.

Side-view of the Short Fighting Knife secured in its sheath.
Side-view of the Short Fighting Knife secured in its sheath.
E-09-KABAR_Short_Fighting_Knife_clip
Close-up of the Short Fighting Knife sheathed and secured via the clip above the guard.

The sheath is a great design that doesn’t require any additional locks or points of failure that might break in the field. However the sheath does come equipped with two nylon belts that each have buttons that will further secure the knife in its sheath. This keeps the knife hilt and handle from flexing away from the backing of the sheath, and might help in rare situations where the guard could accidentally be pushed from the sheath’s clip.

The sheath’s underside is otherwise smooth for easy storing and to reduce the likelihood of getting it caught on apparel with pockets. The sheath even has a small opening to allow water to drip out while reducing the likelihood of dirt and debris getting in while the sheath is strapped to your side or attached to a MOLLE-compatible holder.

Top: Short Ka-Bar with hard sheath; Bottom: Ka-Bar Mule Field Folder Knife
Top: Short Ka-Bar with hard sheath; Bottom: Ka-Bar Mule Field Folder Knife

Still, the portability of a sheathed fixed-blade knife compares poorly to a folding blade. Ka-Bar’s Mule Field Folder, reviewed here, provides a much more compact tool without compromising on heft or ergonomics. While the Mule Field Folder weighs in at 7.3 ounces (207 grams) the Short Fighting Knife isn’t far behind at an even 6 ounces (170 grams), not including the hard sheath. For portability the folding knife is definitely worth considering.

E-01-KABAR_Fighting_vs_KABAR_Combat-sm
Top: Full-size fighting knife for scale at 12.8 inches long. Bottom: Short fighting knife.

Features & Versatility: The knife is full-tang, meaning that it is made from a single piece of 1095 Cro-Van steel which runs through the length of the handle for maximum strength and durability. The handle ends in a flat butt-cap which doubles as a hammer when the knife handle is held in a closed fist. This is great for beating tent stakes into the ground or for straightening a bent nail. The rubber grip runs the entire 3.75 inch distance between the guard and the butt-cap and feels secure in sweaty, dirty, or cold hands.

Serrated edge of a brand new Short Fighting Knife (editor's personal knife was recently replaced).
Serrated edge of a brand new Short Fighting Knife (editor’s personal knife was recently replaced).

The optional serrated edge runs 30 millimeters, or just over 1 inch. It’s a reasonable length for an all-purpose knife, but is only two-thirds the length of the Mule Field Folder’s serrated edge. Overall the serration is perfect for quickly and decisively cutting through paracord, a small branch, or cloth.

Top: Ka-Bar Full-size Fighting knife with 20-degree "Tanto" style blade shape. Second from top: Ka-Bar Small Fighting Knife with 20-degree "Clip" style blade. Second from bottom: Ka-Bar Mule Folder with 15-degree "Clip" style blade. Bottom: SOG Trident with a "Tanto" blade.
Top: Ka-Bar Full-size Fighting knife with 20-degree “Tanto” style blade shape. Second from top: Ka-Bar Small Fighting Knife with 20-degree “Clip” style blade. Second from bottom: Ka-Bar Mule Folder with 15-degree “Clip” style blade. Bottom: SOG Trident with a “Tanto” blade.

Ka-Bar’s Tanto vs. Clip Blade Styles: The shape of a knife’s blade will indicate the purpose it is best suited for. The tanto-style blade is designed for thrusting while the clip-style blade is best-suited for cutting, but can also perform thrusts. The clip-style blade in my opinion is a much more universally practical style and makes using the knife more ergonomically friendly. Ultimately every knife should be easy to use and not cause undue fatigue or stress on the arm or wrist, so I prefer the clip-style.

SOG Trident Tanto TF-6 with stainless steel finish and a US quarter and UK pound for scale.
SOG Trident Tanto TF-6 with stainless steel finish and a US quarter and UK pound for scale.

The clip-point blade from Ka-Bar is a little different from the one that you’ll find on SOG’s knives (see above) that feature a tanto blade. Although they are fundamentally designed for the same purpose the SOG Trident line of knives with a tanto blade comes to a much more dramatic point with the spine sloping down several degrees. This creates a much more aggressive look and may prove more practical for making incisions or other applications, but make it less practical in others. The Ka-Bar knives either have a straight spine that leads directly to the tip of the blade or a slight clip-point as shown below.E-08-KABAR_Short_Fighting_Knife_blade

Closing Thoughts: Ka-Bar is a tried and true brand with a history of reliability and consistent manufacturing quality. The Short Fighting Knife is my personal favorite fixed-blade knife because it is a good size and has a great balance in the hand. It offers all-purpose utility at a reasonable price (MSRP is $88, but can be had for $50). Although the steel is not as fancy as what is found in $200 knives, the 1095 steel is well-suited for field use and sharpens easily. In the 4-8 inch blade market I can think of no more reliably performing knife for its price.

Equipment & Gear: Ka-Bar Mule Folder Knife (2-3051-6)

KA-BAR (usually pronounced kay-bar) has a long history of use in the United States and became famous for being a dependable and choice pick for American soldiers during the Second World War. The brand name Ka-Bar also has an interesting origin and the fighting knives carrying this branding are known for being manufactured by Union Cutlery Co. in Olean, New York, USA.

Ka-Bar Mule Field Folder Knife model being reviewed:

Part Number Ka-Bar 2-3051-6
Blade Color Black
Product Dimensions 9.125 x 1.625 x 0.75 inches (0.125″ thick blade)
Item Weight 208 grams (7.3 ounces)
Metal Type AUS-8A Stainless Steel (Taiwanese manufacture)
Knife Origin Blade made in Taiwan.
Warranty Description Limited warranty of the life of the original purchaser.
Ka-Bar MULE Folder knife, made in Taiwan/China.
Ka-Bar MULE Folder knife, made in Taiwan/China.

Preface: The Mule Field Folder is not a folding version of Ka-Bar’s world-renowned Combat Knife. It differs from its larger counterparts in a variety of areas including where the blade is manufactured and the type of steel used in its construction. Yet it still carries the full backing and quality of Ka-Bar knives.

I bought this knife with intention of finding a pocket knife that had the same versatility and same utility as the  SOG Trident Tanto Assisted Folding Knife which I use frequently and have a review of here. Based purely on the specifications of the knife blade, as well as the price, I assumed that these two knives, while obviously  different, would provide a good apples-to-apples comparison of the two company’s efforts at fulfilling the market’s need for a good, long-lasting folding knife that didn’t break the bank. And at around $40-60 either of these knives promise to be inexpensive enough that losing them would not weigh heavily on one’s conscience, while also being the sort of durable tool that could be passed down to another family member.

KABAR Mule (top) and SOG Trident TF-7 (bottom).
KABAR Mule (top) and SOG Trident TF-7 (bottom).

However I didn’t take into account the differing ideologies that shaped these knives and ultimately the intended uses that these two knives were designed for. Just picking them up it becomes apparent that two very different sets of ideas went into making these knives, despite that they can be used for identical purposes.

Size & Blade Length: The Ka-Bar Mule Folder is a true pocket knife in the sense that it has a 3.875-inch long blade that fits in your pocket. The knife’s 208 gram (7.3 ounces) weight will not ever go forgotten in your pocket or on your belt. And being just more than twice the weight of the SOG Trident TF-7 gives a much more commending presence in the hand. Dispensing with weight restrictions this pocket knife incorporates a hefty Zytel handle with rubber grips that, while made of a similar material as the SOG, is thicker and ergonomically shaped to fit in the user’s closed hand.

Top: Ka-Bar Full-size Fighting knife with 20-degree "Tanto" style blade shape. Second from top: Ka-Bar Small Fighting Knife with 20-degree "Clip" style blade. Second from bottom: Ka-Bar Mule Folder with 15-degree "Clip" style blade. Bottom: SOG Trident with a "Tanto" blade.
Top: Ka-Bar Full-size Fighting knife with 20-degree “Tanto” style blade shape. Second from top: Ka-Bar Small Fighting Knife with 20-degree “Clip” style blade. Second from bottom: Ka-Bar Mule Folder with 15-degree “Clip” style blade. Bottom: SOG Trident with a “Tanto” blade.

From end to end the Mule (see above; second from bottom) is a whopping 9.125 inches long when opened. Closed it’s a more modest 5.25 inches. This is a very respectable size and as the blade is just shy of 4 inches it’s legal to carry in many states and provinces (but always check before purchasing a knife!). For comparison Ka-Bar’s Short Fixed-blade Fighting Knife is 9.375 inches and the larger Full-size Fixed-blade Fighting Knife is 11.75 inches.

At the thickest point Ka-Bar claims the Mule’s blade is 1/8th of an inch thick, a bit less than the thicknesses of the Small and Full-size Fighting Knives (0.125 inches compared to 0.165″).

About half of the blade’s edge is serrated with deep teeth perfect for cutting through nearly anything. The serrations are more pronounced than I’ve seen on other knives in this category and work extremely well on the basic things that I have intentionally and unintentionally cut with it: paracord, double-walled corrugated cardboard, and my thumb.

Ka-Bar Mule Field Folder

Versions & Modifications: The Mule comes in serrated- and non-serrated edge versions and some versions offer a polished steel blade finish or a black blade. A variety of handle colors are also available, including a neon green zombie edition.

The belt clip is designed to be taken on and off as needed can can be reversed for left- or right-side use. In my opinion the belt clip is also not comfortable when the knife is in-hand, so I removed it out of personal preference. Buying a polyester, Leatherman-style holder is more practical for carrying the knife on a belt anyway.

Side note: In order to take off the belt clip a Security Torx driver will be required with sizes T5/T6/T8 used on the various screws. As most people don’t have such small sized specialty drivers some of the screws will seem impossible to remove. A very small Allen wrench may also get some of the screws out, but this is not recommended and may damage the screw heads.

Blade and Edge: The AUS-8A blade is designed with the same ultimate utilitarianism as the handle: it’s thick and has the largest serrations on the blade that I’ve come across short of a saw. It’s the sort of knife that has no problem dealing with the abuse that comes from real, rugged work on a daily basis. And the Mule’s blade is thick enough that if it got run over by a truck I’d be more worried about the safety of the truck than the blade.

Top: Ka-Bar Full-size FightiKa-Bar Small Fighting Knife with 20-degree "Clip" style blade. Middle: Ka-Bar Mule Folder with 15-degree "Clip" style blade. Bottom: SOG Trident with a "Tanto" blade.
Top: Ka-Bar Full-size FightiKa-Bar Small Fighting Knife with 20-degree “Clip” style blade. Middle: Ka-Bar Mule Folder with 15-degree “Clip” style blade. Bottom: SOG Trident with a “Tanto” blade.

The AUS-8A steel chosen by Ka-Bar for the Mule Folder has a Hardness rating of 57-59, not significantly different from the 56-58 rating found in many of SOG’s folding knives at similar price points. These numbers are comparable to the 56-58 rating for the basic Ka-Bar fighting knives, however they use 1095 Cro-Van steel to achieve different sharpening qualities.

Shape & Cutting Ability: The 15-degree edge angle helps the Mule to cut like a dream. It’s a universally practical design that doesn’t deviate too much from the 20-degree edge angle of its fixed-blade cousins. Overall I don’t think that the Mule suffers in any respect compared to the other Ka-Bar knives I have reviewed (or will review soon) and does a better job than the SOG Trident TF-7. I do find the Trident easier to access when in a pocket or holster, but unholstering speed should not impact cutting ability for anyone except for vegetable-dicing quick-draw artists.

The factory edge is excellent and the slight unevenness to the grind suggests that the blade was manually sharpened in Taiwan where the blade was made.

Ka-Bar MULE Folder knife, made in Taiwan/China.
Ka-Bar MULE Folder knife, made in Taiwan/China.

Features: The locking mechanism of the Mule’s blade feels tight and secure and rather than a thumb-release lock there is a depressed button on the palm-side of the handle. The Mule Folder is not a switchblade and does not have assisted-opening technology which does make it less convenient than their competitor’s “SOG Assisted Technology.” The Mule’s blade can’t accidentally be closed, but the location of the lock also means that it can’t be closed with one hand as with other kinds of blade-locking mechanisms. Still, the durability and sheer ruggedness of the knife will appeal to the kinds of people who don’t need to be able to fold open and closed the blade with just one hand.

Overall Impression: I rate this knife very highly. It’s a fantastic tool with all the right features that would make it an obvious choice to be packed into a bag for an adventure. But this wouldn’t be the first knife I consider for an “every day carry.” It’s weight would throw off a lot of people, especially hikers that pack by the ounce, and the serrated edge isn’t necessary for my every day usage scenario. I commend Ka-Bar for bringing a great knife at a great price, but it’s disappointing that this wasn’t manufactured in America.

For more gear reviews please check the RHA Blog’s Gear page or visit the main website’s master list of equipment reviews. If you’re interested in purchasing knives & utilities or other items for your adventure you can buy direct from Amazon.com through RHA’s Back Country Gear storefront which features products shipped and sold by Amazon.com and its merchants. We will receive a small portion of the sale’s proceeds.

Holiday 2014 Roundup: Sales on Outdoor Gear, Apparel, Knives and Equipment (Amazon, Evo, REI)

For residents of the U.S. and Canada I’ve collected a few sale links from around the web highlighting camping equipment and gear sales that might be of interest for hikers, campers, and backpackers.

Outdoor Gear, Electronics, & Tools

From November 1 -December 22, 2014 get 15% off select SOG knives and tools when shipped and sold by Amazon.com.

Save 10% on select Anker products, including portable Li-Po batteries, USB car chargers, and solar panels shipped through Amazon.com. (code: J4DNCPXG)

Save 25% on the Garmin eTrex 20 Worldwide Handheld GPS Navigator with color display and 20+ hour battery life. Amazon.com. ($149.99) Click here for all of Amazon’s navigation deals.

Save 40% (Friday only) on the Garmin eTrex 30 Worldwide Handheld GPS Navigator with color display, altimeter, compass, and 20+ hour battery life from REI.com. ($159.99+tax)

Get great deals on cameras, camcorders, and action cams from Sony, Garmin, and GoPro, with additional deals during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, on Amazon.com.

Save up to 70% on SanDisk memory cards, USB flash drives, and SSDs. Solid-state storage is the perfect way to keep your photos and video of your adventure from being ruined by an accidental drop and some products can even protect against water damage.

Outdoor/Winter Apparel

Get started on REI’s Black Friday sale for great prices on gear, GPS, backpacks, and apparel.

Shop Evo.com’s Black Friday Outlet sale with deals as much as 60% off on skiing gear, boarding, and winter apparel.

Get up to 20% off select Burton outerwear, backpacks, and accessories from Evo.com.

Up to 30% off select Patagonia outerwear, backpacks, and accessories from Evo.com.

Deals on car racks from top manufacturers at Evo.com.

Ride safe with up to 20% off select SEENA products, including helmets and communication devices, from Amazon.com (through December 31).

Equipment & Gear: SOG Trident Tanto Assisted Folding Knives (TF-7 & TF-6)

The SOG Trident series of folding, assisted open knives is my favorite knife and among my favorite tools for outdoor use. They come in a range of blade lengths with straight edge or serrated blades, different blade finishes, and handle styles. The Trident line of knives have very good balance, solid durability, and have comfortable handles; they also all feature the patented SOG technologies which make these knives great, long-lasting tools.

SOG Trident Tanto folding-knife models being reviewed:

Part Number TF7-CP
Blade Color Black (TiNi Coating)
Product Dimensions 8.5 x 2 x 0.2 inches
Item Weight 103 grams/3.6 ounces (4.8 in packaging)
Metal Type AUS-8 (Japanese manufacture)
Knife Origin USA
Warranty Description Lifetime of the original purchaser.

 

Part Number TF6-CP
Blade Color Stainless Steel (Polished)
Product Dimensions 8.5 x 2 x 0.2 inches
Item Weight 3.6 ounces (4.8 in packaging)
Metal Type AUS-8 (Japanese manufacture)
Knife Origin USA
Warranty Description Lifetime of the original purchaser.
TF-7 (top) and TF-6 (bottom) with a US quarter and UK pound for scale.
TF-7 (top) and TF-6 (bottom) with a US quarter and UK pound for scale.
Description & Overview

Size & Blade Length: The SOG TF-6 and TF-7 folding knives are a good, average-sized knife, with a lot of versatility. I find them much more portable and pocket-friendly than fixed blades or long slim-jim style knives. The handle is large enough to feel comfortable in large and small hands and the blade is substantial enough to be useful without infringing on the utility of a good boot knife. The total cutting length of the blade, from base straight to point (not perimeter of blade) is 87mm (3.42 inches). In the “tanto” style shown above the longest length of a cutting edge is 63mm (2.48 inches) while the point’s cutting edge is 27mm (1.06 inches).

The TF-7 and TF-6 models specifically being reviews are considered to have 3.75 inch blades and therefore is legal to own and carry as a pocket knife in many states (4 inches is a typical threshold). I’m not sure why the actual blade length is stated as 3.75 inches when the most relevant length is the cutting edge, which by my measurement is about 87mm, just under 3.5 inches. A difference of a quarter of an inch is significant enough to notice.

Folded, the TF7 is 127mm (5 inches) in length including the built-in, removable belt clip. For comparison, this is almost exactly the same length as a 500 mL (12 oz) can. With the blade extended and locked in position the total length of the knife is 220mm (8.66 inches).

TF-6 (3.75" model) showing overall unofficial measurements taken by RHA.
TF-6 (3.75″ model) showing overall unofficial measurements taken by RHA.

Shape & Cutting Ability: The Trident series comes in a range of blade shapes, from the standard knife blade design to the Japanese “tanto” style made famous by the samurai of the Kamakura period and re-popularized during the Showa period prior to the Second World War. The blade shape has become popular in the United States for military and self-defense uses due to the superior cutting ability when the knife is thrust. The shape of the end of the blade also creates some differences in the way it slices compared to a knife with a traditional western blade.

Overall the hardness and sharpness of the blade is excellent, but the shape of the blade’s point does bear consideration for all-purpose use. Because of the angle involved there are a number of applications where slicing is performed slightly differently than with a knife with a traditional western style blade. Cutting thin objects, or cutting precisely, with the very point of the blade is still the same experience, but the style of the handle will affect the angle of the wrist during the slicing motion. Cutting with the point is mandatory in most situations and because of the pressure and weight exerted in this motion makes it less “surgically precise” than other blade types, in my experience. Cutting through objects with the point is the same experience as a traditional blade, however the straight edge at the end of the blade may improve the straightness of the cut. For general thrusting and slashing motions the tanto design is without parallel.

SOG Trident Tanto TF-6 shown with 550-pound strength paracord
SOG Trident Tanto TF-6 shown with 550-pound strength paracord

The factory edge on the blade is usable, but a good sharpening wouldn’t hurt. This is especially important for people that want to cut string or twine using the blade groove. While the groove built into the handle is a great idea, in function it falls short because the blade does not sit deep enough in the handle to effectively cut. Anything of a similar diameter to traditional 550-pound paracord will be too thick to cut, greatly reducing the practicality of the groove feature. In future versions SOG needs to address this problem with the Tanto style blades and the other blades in the Trident line if applicable.

Weight and Durability: The TF-7 weighs roughly 100 grams (3.6 ounces) with the blade comprising slightly more than half that heft, giving it a good balance in the hand. The handle is made of abrasion- and impact-resistant glass-reinforced Zytel (a fiber-glass nylon composite) patented by DuPont and frequently used in the construction of firearms. This composite material is virtually indestructible and in the construction of the TF-7 two solid pieces are fitted and screwed together to create the handle of the knife. The blade folds part-way between these two pieces that make up the handle and feels very secure in its place whether the blade is locked or not. More than 50% of the blade is concealed when folded.

The AUS-8 (8A) stainless steel, roughly equivalent to 440B steel, is among the strongest steels used in knife crafting and is produced by Aichi Steel Corporation in Japan. SOG claims to have chosen this steel for its durability and resilience in holding its sharpness. And the process that is used in creating the blade for SOG sounds as high-tech and strong as one would expect from a serious knife. While the carbon content is similar to 440B steel, AUS-8 has vanadium added which is said to improve the toughness and wear resistance while simultaneously making the metal easier to sharpen.

The tanto style blades crafted by SOG and its competitors are not made from forged steel pain-painstakingly crafted by a process of hammering and folding until the blade is stronger at an atomic level than the original steel (however SOG does sell a knife with a Damascus steel blade made with 15 layers of nickel and steel). Instead of that very labor-intensive process SOG knives go through a more modern process. SOG’s patented cryogenic heat treatment process takes 48 hours to complete: The metal in annealed in a process which heats the metal to a critical temperature and then  cools to below -185 degrees Celsius (-300 degrees Fahrenheit) and slowly warmed, allowing for the molecular structure of the steel to become more dense and even stronger.

For SOG knives that have black, Titanium Nitride-treated blades there is an additional process which applies the coating to ensure additional hardness, scratch-resistance, and durability. The black TiNi treatment also adds the tactical element to the knife, reducing the reflectivity of the metal it covers, improving the stealth aspects of the knife.

TF-7 (top) and TF-6 (bottom) with a US quarter and UK pound for scale.
TF-7 (top) and TF-6 (bottom) with a US quarter and UK pound for scale.
Features and Considerations

Knife Features: The primary feature of SOG knives is their patented “SOG Assisted Technology” (SAT) which allows the blade to easily flick out and lock into position with only one hand. Similarly, the blade can safely and securely be unlocked, folded down, and then locked securely so that the blade can’t accidentally be unfolded.

The knife is not a switchblade and therefore is legal to own and carry in most states (however you should always consult your region’s laws before buying a knife). With SAT it’s also more reliable and safer to use, even with one hand, than unreliable, traditional spring-powered switchblades.

One thing they did very right in the design of the knife was creating a handle that is not only comfortable to hold, but is comfortable regardless of which hand is holding the knife. The belt clip is removable and reversible to suit left- or right-handed people, however some people have found that it can be loose after reattaching. In such a situation the most important thing would be to screw in the bolts little by little, then once they’re all secured tighten them and make sure the fit is secure.

SOG Trident Tanto TF-6 with blade folded closed. Lock engaged.
SOG Trident Tanto TF-6 with blade folded closed. Lock engaged.
SOG Trident Tanto TF-6 with blade folded, unlocked (red is showing on the lock)
SOG Trident Tanto TF-6 with blade folded, unlocked (red is showing on the lock)

Seen above are two photos of the TF-6 with the blade closed and locked and the lower photo depicts the blade closed and unlocked. The red on the lock shows that the knife is ready to be opened, however in my experience it’s difficult to see unless there is a lot of light getting into that small space. But after getting used to using the knife for over a year it’s easy to distinguish by feel whether the blade is locked or not. Unfortunately the lock does collect a lot of dirt and pocket lint, but isn’t hard to clean with some water/alcohol.

Are blade coatings worth it? The average stainless steel knife blade is very visible and is among the most overt tools at one’s disposal. However having a black Titanium Nitride coating does have benefits as stated in the Weight and Durability section above. The scratch- and dirt-resistance is a key feature for anyone that regularly uses their knife in the field, but the benefits also include additional strength and durability for the lifetime of the knife, which makes it practical in many life-saving situations.

Additionally, the polished finish of the stainless steel blade is easy to get dirty and while reasonably easy to clean, will not necessarily be something that one can wipe on their pants and be done with. On the TF-6 dirt and adhesive is still visible on the blade after being wiped and rinsed off (as one would do the field). A bit of soap and warm water will easily take care of most filth you’ll find on your blade, but not everyone carries that into the field.

Since SOG offers a variety of knives with and without the TiNi coating people can make their own decision about which blade suits their needs. There are also other varieties of blade lengths and alloy types to choose from, depending on your price range and needs of durability. Overall I’m very pleased with the quality of the knife and its components and its compact nature.

For more gear reviews please check the RHA Blog’s Gear page or visit the main website’s master list of equipment reviews. If you’re interested in purchasing knives & utilities or other items for your adventure you can buy direct from Amazon.com through RHA’s Back Country Gear storefront which features products shipped and sold by Amazon.com and its merchants. We will receive a small portion of the sale’s proceeds.

Roundup: Sales on Outdoor Gear, Apparel, Watches, Knives and Equipment (Amazon, Evo, REI, USPatriotTactical)

I’ve collected a few sale links from around the web highlighting camping equipment and gear sales that might be of interest for hikers, cyclists, campers, and backpackers.

Outdoor Gear & Tools:

Amazon.com’s sales on outdoor equipment continue with 20% off Thule roof racks and carriers; 50% off Sierra packs and luggage; and save $20 on a $100+ purchase of select Coleman Camping gear.

Get the tools you need with an extra 15% discount on SOG knives, multitools, and other equipment. Additionally, you can 50% off Energizer Lighting and at least 15% off Surefire ear protection and flashlights.

Outdoor/Summer Apparel

Amazon.com: Save up to 60% on select men’s hiking and trail shoes and boots from brands such as Merrell, KEEN, Timberland, and Salomon. Also check out sales on Men’s, Women’s, and Kid’s Watches for deals on sport and hiking accessories from brands like Citizen and Casio.

Take advantage of USPatiotTactical.com’s 50% off Closeouts sale and worldwide shipping for steep discounts on gear and apparel from Under Armour, Franklin, Oakley, Nike, Belleville boots, Danner, Converse, Condor, and many more!

Evo.com (US, CA, worldwide) has a Spring Into Summer sale on men’s and women’s outdoor clothing, accessories, and gear. Use the promo code SUNLIGHT or HEATWAVE to get 20% off select items. Check out their outlet store for even larger discounts.

Also be sure to take advantage of Outlet Deals at REI.com which feature at least 50% off hiking gear, bags, and packs; cycling gear; fitness gear and apparel; as well as clothing and accessories for men, women, boys, and girls. Become an REI member and get 10% back each year.

Equipment & Gear: Belleville’s Waterproof Combat Boot (615)

This review is part of the three-way boot comparison between Belleville’s 615 Waterproof Combat boot, 633 “Sabre” Hot-Weather Hybrid Assault boot, and TR336 CT “Guardian” Desert Lightweight Composite Toe boot.

TR336_B615_B633_combined-cropped-small-2
Left: 615 in Sage Green; Middle: 336 CT in Tan; Right: 633 in Sage Green

My Rating of Belleville Waterproof Combat 615

Comfort:          8/10
Durability:       9/10
Performance:      10/10
Price:            9/10
Overall Quality:  9/10
Overall Rating:   9/10
Weight (pair):    1.446 kilograms (3 lbs, 3 oz.)
Notes: MIL-Spec, made in USA, Berry-Amendment compliant, Waterproof, Gore-Tex, Hot-Weather.

Waterproof Combat Boot 615 (Sage Green)

B615-01-front_laced

The model 615 Waterproof Combat Boot is Belleville’s wild-card boot and will take almost anything you throw at them. It’s fully waterproof design and use of moisture-wicking materials makes it suitable for warm and cool climates alike and can easily accommodate thick cushioned or insulated socks to make hiking in freezing temperatures comfortable. It’s durable construction makes it a good choice for hikers of any skill level and although it’s not explicitly US military uniform-approved, would be suitable for long patrolling operations that require enduring, waterproof footwear. The 615 is also Berry Amendment compliant and is proudly made in the U.S.A.

Note that while these boots are not marketed as “hot weather” boots, they lack any sort of cold weather insulation. Normally waterproof boots are quite warm due to the materials used to keep water out, however boots such as the 615 with Gore-Tex fabric uppers do wick moisture, and therefore I would personally qualify these boots as being “hot weather-compatible” but not suited for extreme desert temps.

Weight with insoles (pair): 1.446 kilograms (3 lbs, 3 oz.)

Variants: There are no direct variations of the 615 available at this time. There aren’t even any color variations. However Belleville does have a broad selection of waterproof boots, including winter boots with varying weights of cold-weather insulation in addition to their waterproof exterior construction. The current model with these features are 650, 695/795 (light insulation), and the 675/675 ST and the 775/775 ST (heavy insulation).

Price: The 615 is currently being sold at discount rates on Belleville’s website to get rid of inventory of this older model, so it can be picked up for $100. Not a bad deal for a boot manufactured in the USA. However it may not adhere to the requirements of any military branch’s dress codes.

B615-02-side

Fit & Comfort: For bare-bones waterproof boots these are remarkably comfortable with the included insole. The MeraMax polyurethane midsole and outsole are fairly stiff, with a good amount of protection between your foot and hard terrain, which makes it a good hiking boot but inferior when it comes to running. Note that it has no drainage vents for water because it is a boot designed to be fully waterproof, and thus is not ventilated as well as true hot weather boots. This will keep the temperature inside the boot higher, but the Gore-Tex fabric does a reasonable job of wicking moisture and keeping the feet from remaining too sweaty.

The laces are made of a waterproof, plasticized fabric, which should be double-knotted to keep them from slipping, but will be easy to lace or unlace in any weather conditions. The only disappointment here is that the laces are fairly long, but as shown in the photo above are short enough that they must be fully unlaced from the top-most D-rings in order to remove the boot from the foot. The boots have to be partially re-laced each time they’re put on. This makes the boot less than ideal for those in a hurry to get prepped.

The lacing structure of this boot comes down to the middle of the arch of the foot. I found that this is enough for these boots because they can be laced tightly and still remain comfortable. Since the laces do not come down to the toes it provides more room in the tip of the boot, which makes it more comfortable and slightly wider, even in a regular (D) width.

B615-03-top_toe

Durability: The toe design is uninspired, but has good hydrodynamics for moving in the water. It will also be less likely to catch on debris when walking due to the relatively smooth, sueded leather. The MeraMax outsole is of a solid construction and wraps around the bottom 1-1.5 inches seamlessly.

B615-05-inside

Above is a view inside the upper which is covered in nylon with a Gore-Tex core, a water-proof fabric that will also wicking moisture from inside the boot. On the exterior of the upper, but not on the tongue of the boot, is the same cowhide leather for durability seen elsewhere. The tongue has no padding at all from what appear to be full layers of green nylon with the Gore-Tex blend underneath. I liked the padding in the TR336, however its understandable that a boot like the 615 lacks padding that would only absorb water. See the graphic below for how Gore-Tex works.

Gore-Tex schematic (by Wart "Solipsist" Dark)
Gore-Tex schematic (by Wart “Solipsist” Dark)

There are several fabrics and synthetic blends that aid in wicking moisture and in some cases keeping water from coming in. A couple of these are proprietary solutions, including SympaTex, which will raise the price of a boot compared to an off-brand or knock-off solution. However Gore-Tex and SympaTex both have proven track records and have earned their reputations, so I’ll skip reiterating a review of the Gore-Tex when other sources provide better insight into the way the proprietary materials work.

B615-06-tread

The outsole is not made of Vibram as reviewed in Belleville’s 633 boot, but rather the more common MeraMax; however the outsole is still effective in hard-packed snow, mud, and water. Additionally the style of tread avoids accumulating dirt and mud between the teeth, which is useful for maintaining low-impact prints in the field as well as not tracking dirt into one’s living quarters.

The hard MeraMax outsole has thus far been very resilient and doesn’t look like it has worn at all. Unlike assault-style boots, the outsole of the 615 is designed for durability in wet conditions and is a very inflexible material. It is decent enough to run in, but I would not choose these boots for Physical Training, with or without the provided insoles. Vibram outsoles provide a much more flexible fit while still remaining waterproof and even the no-name outsoles and tread style on the TR336 CT give more flexibility for running.

Would I recommend Belleville’s 615 waterproof boots? Yes. Despite being an older model, these boots are still rock solid and ready for any warm and wet conditions you’ll throw at them. They come equipped with decent water-resistant insoles so they’re ready to go out of the box. If you are in the US you can check Belleville’s website for special offers which, at the time of this writing, include the 615 and 650 model waterproof boots.

My Rating of Belleville Waterproof Combat 615

Comfort:          8/10
Durability:       9/10
Performance:      10/10
Price:            9/10
Overall Quality:  9/10
Overall Rating:   9/10
Weight (pair):    1.446 kilograms (3 lbs, 3 oz.)
Notes: MIL-Spec, made in USA, Berry-Amendment compliant, Waterproof, Gore-Tex, Hot-Weather.