A few weeks ago, I did a blog article on my top pick for a folding style pocket knife…based on the criteria of functional design, high-quality materials, and price. This time I’d like to offer my thoughts on what I personally believe to be truly the best fixed blade knives in the world…based on the same criteria. Fixed blade knives sometimes fall under the category of “survival knives, tactical knives, hunting knives or camping knives,” but essentially, a fixed blade knife is any knife that is made from one, single piece of steel and remains in a fixed position, that is, it does not fold or have any moving parts in the design. Before I get into reviewing the actual knives here though, let me offer a few, more detailed thoughts, on important knife characteristics.
What Makes a Great Knife
I don’t mess around with, or even consider field testing, reviewing, and using a knife unless it meets some vitally important, essential criteria. The knives that I use and promote are ones that are extremely rugged, reliable, and meant for punishing, heavy-duty use. They must be made from materials that can take a severe beating and continue to function perfectly. They are knives that your life can depend on…literally! Ever seen the movie 127 Hours? If Aron Ralston would have had a better knife he probably would have gotten out of his horrifying predicament much sooner! Here is what I look for in a knife of impeccable quality and uncompromising dependability…
● Blade: High carbon steel or superior stainless-steel alloys. Blade material must be suitably hard, easy to sharpen, and possess long-term edge retention.
● Handle Material: Non-slip synthetic materials such as micarta and zytel. While wood and bone are great for around-town knives, they can swell, deteriorate and crack in harsh environments over time…much like the wooden stock on a hunting rifle.
● Edge Profile: I prefer classic designs such as the drop point, clip point, spear point, and tanto. I do not like crazy looking, gimmicky blades with serrated edges. A straight edged blade is easier to control, slices much smoother (when properly sharpened) and can quickly and easily be re-sharpened in the field with minimal tools or fuss.
● Design: On fixed blade knives, I look primarily for full tang construction. For folding/pocket knives, I like models with fast, one-handed opening and closing mechanisms, as well as a trustworthy locking feature.
● Feel: Naturally, a superior knife must be well balanced, and of reasonable weight. For fixed blades, I also look for a well-crafted sheath, and for folders, either a knife that is of comfortable pocket-carry weight, or includes a belt clip or belt looped case.
ESSE Knives – My Top Pick for Fixed Blade Knives
There are hundreds upon hundreds of fixed blade knives out there. However, few manufactures produce blades that continually rise to the elite top of the list. The knives from ESSE that I have tested and consistently use have absolutely blown my mind! They are my number one pick and most recommended knife. I have used ESSE knives for everything from chopping down small trees, hacking through the impenetrable alder brush of the Alaskan wilderness for miles, splitting firewood, field dressing, quartering, and butchering big game (such as elk and moose), and even doing fancy whittling work and eating dinner! The classic drop point, full tang construction, high carbon steel, epoxy coated blades that ESSE incorporates in their fixed blade knives are a winning combination for a truly no-nonsense piece of equipment. Not to mention, they are affordable. You get what you pay for when it comes to quality steel, and ESSE produces a blade that I feel is one of the best on the planet, and one that also won’t break the bank.
Beginning in 1997, Jeff Randall and Mike Perrin started Randall’s Adventure & Training to bring realistic tools and knowledge to the consumer. Working under contract with the Peruvian Air Force’s “Escuela De Supervivencia En La Selva” (School of Jungle Survival), also known by the acronym ESSEL, they introduced many clients to the art of jungle survival in the vast Peruvian Amazon jungle.
After several years of operating in South America, they brought their training stateside and added a sister company that produces high-quality field grade knives and gear. After many years of designing knives for other companies, they eventually formed their own knife company named RAT Cutlery with Rowen Manufacturing in Idaho Falls producing their line. The name was later changed to ESEE Knives to avoid confusion with the Ontario produced RAT line of knives.
If you are looking for an unbelievable workhorse of a knife that will not let you down…ever…then do yourself a favor and purchase an ESSE knife for yourself or as a gift for your outdoor enthusiast friends and family. By the way, all ESSE knives are made in the USA.
Below are my favorite ESSE models…which are essentially the same design in a variety of sizes. Click on the knife images below to find out more or to place an order.