Bloggification

Blog of photographer Brett Colvin.

Edges Part IV - White River Knife & Tool GTI

Whenever a series is named using Roman numerals, I always ask myself whether it will have the staying power to push forward into the uncomfortable area of 3+ installments. It is at this stage where the simple notion of using hash marks (I, II, III) for numbering takes a nasty turn and seldom-used letters such as V and X haphazardly appear and demand to be either added to or subtracted from regardless of the fact they are LETTERS, not numbers. It's disconcerting, and reminds me of my own damaging introduction to algebra where letters egregiously overstep their bounds and begin inserting themselves into mathematical equations as "variables." 

Challenges notwithstanding, there is no way to have only 3 knives. There are times when you want a design that makes few compromises when it comes to strength, but also doesn't have the mass and physical dimensions of a full-size Bowie or combat knife.

In this big-but-not-too-big space, the White River Knife & Tool GTI 4.5 stands out. The blade length, as the name suggests, is 4.5" and putting a tape along the entire knife shows 9.75". Using a heavy choil and index finger carve-out in the sculpted micarta handle, you get a non-slip grip on the GTI regardless of conditions.

The GTI's handle is a thing of beauty. G10 is also offered but there is not a handle on any knife that I like more than White River's micarta.

Among the first things you notice about the GTI 4.5 is the thickness of the blade, which is a full 3/16" along it's entire length. Steel is S35VN stainless (59 HRC), which is cryogenically tempered for increased durability. I don't know of a thicker S35VN blade on the market. This is a Justin Gingrich design (former U.S. Army Ranger with a decade of active duty military service) and the intent was to create an ideal tactical knife for patrolling, demolitions, and close quarters combat. It's full-size utility in a medium-size form factor. 

Included is a leather sheath that simple and effective, being easily worn on a belt or strap as well as being MALICE clip compatible. The sheath does not achieve the greatness of the Winkler Belt Knife's, and I think White River could do a little better in the leatherwork department - but it's functional. Ultimately the bulk of the purchase price clearly goes toward the knife's materials and workmanship.

White River Knife & Tool is a company to watch. I really like their little Scout, which was intended to be a caping knife but has been getting a lot of press as an all-around camp blade that is scalpel-sharp. They've become hard to find after winning some recent awards and getting featured by Field & Stream.

The GTI 4.5 is another excellent option for those who want a tough working knife but also appreciate quality craftsmanship.

Edges Part I - Southern Grind Rat

Like most sportsmen, I have a few knives. By "a few" I mean that slight shifts in the bottom layers of my collection often cause tremors which are mistaken for seismic activity at our local university's geology department.

The issue is that, much like with fly rods or shotguns, there happens to be an ideal tool for certain types of jobs. In turn, this necessitates the ownership of a specific product to best meet the demands of the task at hand. Mathematicians have worked out the exact number of cutting implements required by the modern sportsman, and represent that figure as follows: 

This is often mispronounced by those in close association with an outdoorsman as "a bazillion," as in "I don't see why you need a bazillion knives." It's OK to gently correct the speaker in these cases and let them know that while "a bazillion" does tend to represent a large, exaggerated number, in this case the proper term is "infinity."

In the coming days I'm going to share some of my favorite fixed blades that I've been able to use over the past year.

First up is the Southern Grind Rat. At only 4.9 inches in overall length and 1.5 ounces in weight, the Rat is incredibly useful for stowing unobtrusively in packs or pockets. It comes with a great little Kydex sheath that can be attached wherever you see fit or worn around the neck. While small, this knife is actually very capable and can be pressed into service for most cutting tasks. You won't be using it for chopping kindling or anything heavy duty, but it's got a really nice flat grind and the 8670M high carbon steel takes an edge well. The finish is Cerakote and holds up nicely under use.

Where I use The Rat most often is as a backup that occupies virtually no space and stays in my day pack all the time. It also works perfectly for when you are traveling light and want a just-in-case knife that won't interfere with anything else you're bringing along.

Southern Grind fixed blades are not mass produced, so availability can be limited but at the time of this writing they are in stock both in tanto and drop point configurations.

First Aid in the Field

A few years ago, in what amounts to a freak accident, a highly experienced outdoorsman I am acquainted with found himself in a remote area with a hunting broadhead stuck clean through his upper arm. The situation quickly became life-threatening as he was alone and had minimal first-aid equipment. After a harrowing experience everything turned out okay, but the scenario caused me to reflect on the supplies I carry into the backcountry.

While what happened above took place due to unlikely and unforeseeable circumstances, potentially serious wounds and injuries are not uncommon in the field.

Over time I have put together a fairly compact and easily portable first-aid solution that has worked well for me off the beaten path and I thought some readers might be interested in an overview.

ITS Tactical Trauma Kit & Pouch Fully Loaded (FatBoy Configuration)

ITS Tactical Trauma Kit & Pouch Fully Loaded (FatBoy Configuration)

I started with an ETA kit designed by Imminent Threat Solutions to treat the 3 leading causes of preventable death due to injury: Extremity hemorrhage (E), tension pneumothorax (T), and airway obstruction (A). Of these, extremity hemorrhage is the most common during recreational activities. This is essentially a "blowout kit" designed for combat, but it contains solid fundamentals. It also comes in a well-designed pouch complete with PALS webbing such that it can be easily attached to just about anything using the supplied MALICE clips. Inside the standard kit you will find:

  • QuikClot Combat Gauze LE (1)
  • HALO Chest Seal (2)
  • MojoDart Decompression Needle (1)
  • Nasopharyngeal Airway (NPA) Adj. 28fr (1)
  • Pressure Dressing (1 — 4″)
  • Elastic Bandage (1 — 2″)
  • Z-Fold Dressing (1)
  • Combat Casualty Card (1)
  • Nitrile Gloves (1 Pair)
  • Pencil (1)

Even if you don't feel comfortable using the NPA or MojoDart, these items take up very little space and could potentially be used by a first responder if needed. The ETA can be ordered in a vacuum-sealed, waterproof package separately from the trauma kit pouch, making for a nice addition to whatever pack you already carry.

I like the webbed pouches because my daypack (Kifaru Scout) is already equipped with PALS, and I can attach the trauma kit anywhere I like. There are a variety of fishing, field, and photography packs designed with PALS/MOLLE that make this a versatile solution. As one example, the Smithfly 1x Pouch happens to fit the vacuum-packed fatboy trauma kit perfectly as well.

While this is a good start, there are a few additional components I like to have with me. First is a SOF Tactical Tourniquet which can be deployed very quickly, used with one hand, and also doubles as a pressure dressing.

Second: An EMT Toolkit consisting of bandage scissors, forceps, hemostat, and pen light. Amazon offers a nice setup complete with all of the above in a compact holster for $17. You get a big pair of quality 5.5" shears with this package, but as they are a little bulky I use those in the larger first-aid pack kept in my vehicle. The included penlight works although it's too cheaply made to be reliable (as you would expect for this price, as a quality aluminum penlight costs around $20 by itself). I replace the light with a Pelican 1910 that runs on a single AAA battery.

EMT Toolkit: Bandage Scissors, Forceps, Hemostat, and Pelican 1910 w/ Holster for All Items

EMT Toolkit: Bandage Scissors, Forceps, Hemostat, and Pelican 1910 w/ Holster for All Items

All of what I have listed fits inside the ITS Trauma Kit Pouch except the tourniquet, which I affix using a ITS EDC Slimline Pouch.  The entire kit is compact and can easily be attached to or tucked inside your favorite pack or boat bag. If you aren't already in the habit of including first-aid basics in your off-grid essentials, please give it some serious thought. Thanks for reading and have a safe and successful Fall season.

ITS Tactical EDC Slimline Pouch with SOF Tactical Tourniquet Inside (SOFTT-W)

ITS Tactical EDC Slimline Pouch with SOF Tactical Tourniquet Inside (SOFTT-W)

Vortex Optics Razor HD Binoculars

It's often correctly said that buying expensive optics is the cheapest way to go. The reason, of course, is that entry-level merchandise will produce a noticeably inferior image and potentially severe cases of ODD (Optics Deficit Disorder) . Symptoms of ODD often include doubt, self-loathing, buyer's remorse, and could even progress to the borrowing of a friend's equipment. If you use optics frequently for any pursuit, ODD can be avoided with the purchase of a high quality product (money spent on entry-level glass will turn out to be more regrettable than a case of the crusted, Norwegian scabies).

The question, such as it were, always seems to lie in that "how good is good enough" area. Ultimately, I've never heard anyone say, "Man, I really overspent on these binoculars and wish I had decided to cheap out." Now, I have heard similar assertions emanating from the spouses of optics owners. Normally these comments take on a harsh, grating tone that brings to mind a lack of overall credibility. Since such remarks are never in the first-person (i.e. "The spotting scope John bought last month nearly caused us to default on our mortgage!") they must be considered hearsay and disqualified as serious opinions.

It's a given that brands like Swarovski, Leica, and Zeiss produce World-class products for which they exact premium prices roughly equivalent to the cost of raising a child to the age of eighteen. Sportsmen refer to this sum as "well worth it" while their spousal units may employ the term "asinine" (see "well worth it").

I don't know about everyone else, but I've always tried to find a sweet spot in terms of value. As with everything, you have the law of diminishing returns in the world of optics. If I can find a product that delivers extremely high quality without an exorbitant price, it will grab my attention.

Enter Vortex Optics. Around the beginning of 2014 I acquired a pair of Razor HD 10x42 binoculars and was quite frankly astonished at the image quality they produced. I was familiar with Vortex in the rifle scope arena, but for some reason had not been paying close attention to their spotting scope and binocular offerings. As I used the Razors more and more, my feeling was they were either on par with the Big 3 or ceded precious little under the conditions I typically glass.

Vortex Optics Razor HD 10x42

Vortex Optics Razor HD 10x42

Now, these are not inexpensive optics with a current street price of $1,199 until you consider the competition:

  • Swarovski EL 10x42: $2,319
  • Swarovski SLC HD 10x42: $1,619
  • Leica Ultravid 10x42: $2,299
  • Zeiss Victory 10x42: $2,299

I've been using the Razors all Spring and Summer, and have been comparing them most commonly with the Zeiss Victory 10x42. It's difficult to tell if one pair is markedly better than the other. The Vortex binos offer a rubber-armored magnesium chassis, argon purged tubes, extra-low dispersion HD lens elements, O-ring seals, hydrophobic coatings to repel moisture, and an unconditional lifetime warranty. In other words, all the features of optics costing $1,000+ more. I've also appreciated the eye cup mechanism with locking diopter adjustment.

The Razor HDs are simply a top shelf offering where every feature feels solid and professional grade. The focus adjustment moves smoothly with great precision, the hinge feels strong and sure, and the image is crisp with outstanding color fidelity.

If you're in the market for an 8x42 or 10x42 binocular, you owe it to yourself to check out the Vortex Razor HD.

Vortex Optics Razor HD 10x42

Vortex Optics Razor HD 10x42