“BOB” is an acronym usually reserved for “Bug Out Bag.” This is a pre-packed bag holding the gear and supplies you may need should you be forced to evacuate your home in times of emergency. Many believe this to be a prudent ideal. However, even in areas hit year after year by hurricanes, wildfires and floods, most people have the habit of saying, “It won’t happen to me.” There is no valid excuse to put off preparing for what may come. Magazines, books, and even the Internet will teach you which gear and supplies you need for those unpleasant times. Even the Federal and local governments have set up websites and put out written materials on the subject. But for readers of Tactical Knives, we have a problem. Very little has been written on what knives would be appropriate for these situations. To make matters worse, all of the materials approved by the government totally ignore the subject of knives. That’s right, your tax dollars have paid for these materials, yet they chose to omit the subject of knives and firearms as to remain politically correct. Being “PC” has never been high on my list of things to do. So if the government won’t help you, help yourself.
Picking The Knife
Uncle Sam won’t tell you to have a knife. This article won’t tell you which one you need to buy. I will tell you what I have discovered while preparing my own bug out bag. First, the “Nessmuk Trilogy” has never done a thing for me, but the concept of having more than one cutting tool does make good sense. Like most of you, there is always a decent folder in my pocket. For men, the choice of which folder to carry is about as personal as choosing between boxers or briefs, and jumping into that subject only opens a massive can of worms. The folder you choose should be able to handle most small jobs, but it is always nice to have a backup. It is even better if your backup is capable of handling even larger chores. Moving up from a good folder, you come to the medium-sized utility knives. This fixed bladed knife can be the hardest selection for you to make and is the one I’ve tried to narrow down with my recent preparations.
Just gathering gear and supplies isn’t enough to assure your safety. Once you assemble everything, test out each and every item. That was my aim this past weekend and in my kit were two new fixed-blade knives. One was the new CSK II Combat Survival Knife by Benchmade and the other was the Gerber Steadfast F/E. Both of these knives have 6-inch blades of clip-point design. The Benchmade CSK II has a full tang with molded handle, incorporating a single lower guard. The steel is the time-tested 1095 Carbon Steel. The Gerber also uses a traditional steel, 440A stainless, on the Steadfast F/E and a molded handle between a stainless guard and butt cap.
The best way to evaluate your gear is to put it to use. It all looks good sitting gathered together in a spare bedroom, but that is no way to build up your faith in its usefulness. I was fortunate enough not to have any disasters in my home area of North Carolina this past weekend, but thousands of Americans were being evacuated due to wild fires and floods across the nation. As my wife chuckled in our air-conditioned home, I held my own mock evacuation and headed to the hills. Two other “victims” escaped at the same time from different areas and our plan was to meet in the foothills of North Carolina. The concept was a 72-hour trial relying solely on the gear in our bug out bags. In case you are wondering, the 72 hours is based on the estimated time needed for assistance to arrive from responders outside of the disaster area.
Relating the entire episode could turn into another complete article, but I do want to pass on the information concerning the fixed-blade knives during my “ordeal.”
Putting It All To Use
As in any outdoor adventure, shelter is a primary concern. I was prepared with an 8×10-foot sheet of 4-mil plastic, but relied on natural materials to build a framework for a lean-to shelter. The 2- to 3-inch saplings could have been cut with my folder, but the job was much easier with the two 6-inch knives. Saving energy is a wise move during any disaster since you never know the next problem you may face. Along with shelter you also have the concern of water. Three days without water and you will be in your own little disaster. In some disasters there may be very little water available and in others, such as floods, there may be too much water. Either way, any natural water you use needs to be purified. My kit contains a Steripen purifier, but I also wanted to try out the tried and true method of boiling. For that you need a fire. I used the Benchmade CSK II to shave kindling from dead branches and the Gerber to split larger branches. The factory edges on both knives didn’t even hesitate on these cutting tasks. Both knives have nice flat spines, allowing you to baton the knives without damage. I’ll also add that the synthetic materials used on the handles held up very well to my occasional miss with the baton. They also supply a good firm grip when wet or when your hands are sweating.
North Carolina is currently in the middle of a major drought. The larger stream on the property still had plenty of water, but another smaller stream was nothing more than damp soil. You can dig with a knife or you can cut a stout stick and use it as a makeshift shovel. By cutting my digging stick, I was able to clear a small hole and allow what water was left in the streambed to gather for collecting. While discussing water, there is also another use for a large knife. It was 90-plus degrees this past weekend and playing in the larger mountain stream was a relief. Take a few steps and you will learn that smooth wet stones can be slippery. Try crossing any flooded area and you will find a similar situation. The ability to cut a good walking stick cannot be understated. Falls can be dangerous and I had no desire to have to be evacuated from my own mock evacuation.
The CSK II came with a leather sheath, while the Steadfast is supplied with a ballistic nylon sheath with a protective insert. Both are MOLLE compatible and can be worn at various heights on your belt. I alternated using both during my testing and found them comfortable. My only complaint would be the cross-retaining strap used by both companies. They sit just above the knife guards and care must be taken not to cut them while returning the knife to the sheath. The choice between leather or nylon is another one of those decisions based on personal choice. My main concern is that the sheath holds the knife where I want it and it does a good job of protecting the knife and the user. Both of these sheaths did a good job in that aspect.
The two knives also proved useful in tearing apart rotten logs when looking for grubs to use as fish bait. No, I didn’t have to resort to eating bugs to survive. My kit contains enough food for 3 days, as should yours.
Any disaster can be deemed unpleasant. The foul weather aside, you may also be faced with unfriendly situations brought about by some less prepared than yourself. Both of these knives are of the size and strength needed to provide you some form of personal protection.
Easy to Resharpen
My disaster ended in time for me to get a good hot shower before bed on Sunday evening. After all of their use over the weekend, both knives still had very usable edges. I was actually a bit disappointed. One advantage to 1095 and 440 is the ability to maintain a good edge but also be easier than some steels to re-sharpen. Both came home dirty, but not as dirty as me or my dog. You could use a smaller knife and it could get the job done, but there are times when a larger knife is just easier to use and, remember, we are complementing the smaller folder that you carry every day.
Momma never said I was the smartest, yet she didn’t raise a fool. If there’s a dark cloud overhead, I know enough to pull out an umbrella. All you have to do is watch the newscast showing thousands of Americans having to evacuate the floods and fires of 2008, and you will understand the need to prepare. A main part of your preparations should be making sure you have the right knife for the job. The “do everything” knife has not been designed, but the two I tested are about as close as they come. Now is the time to try out various knives for your needs and build up your confidence before the day comes that your life depends on it.