Gear Review: Helle Eggen Outdoor Knife…

I consider myself a knife guy.  Not like the guys that have an obsession with collecting every knife out there, but in that I always have one with me and I really appreciate a quality knife.  Over the years I’ve moved from fixed-blade knives to folders and back to fixed-blades.  In the backcountry I definitely appreciate the reliability and sturdiness of a good fixed blade knife.  Others have reviewed knives from Helle and they usually get pretty positive reviews, so in my search for a great outdoor knife for backcountry use I really wanted to get my hands on one to see what the hype was about.  I wasn’t disappointed.

I met with the guys from Sport Hansa at the OR Winter Market in Salt Lake City last January, they are the distributor for Helle Knives in the US.  I talked to them in length about the knives and what makes them special.  I followed up after the show and asked if they’d be willing to send one out for review and they graciously sent me the Helle Eggen…one of Helle’s most popular all around outdoor knives.

Helle Eggen Outdoor Knife - Sport Hansa

First Impressions

Out of the box this is a gorgeous piece of hardware.  The Curly Birch handle is very attractive and fits nicely in the hand in any position.  The blade is a beautifully executed, polished steel and is easily the sharpest knife I’ve ever had without taking it to a stone myself.  At about 4oz it’s a light knife but doesn’t feel flimsy or weak like a lot of lighter knives.  The leather sheath is a really nice addition as well.  It’s well made with some simple yet attractive tooling on it.

I’m no major collector but I’ve had (have) probably 40+ knives in my time and this blew away a lot of the competition straight out of the box.

Specifications:

  • Blade Material: Triple Laminated Stainless Steel
  • Handle Material: Curly Birch
  • Blade Length: 3.9 in
  • Overall Length: 8.3 in
  • Weight: 4.2 oz
  • Knife Style: Fixed Blade
  • Blade Style: Drop Point

 

Field Use

Helle Eggen Outdoor Knife - Sport Hansa

Over time you get used to handling knives.  I admit I underestimated the blade on this knife and cut myself the first time I took into the field.  It was barely a nick, but that blade is so damn sharp it didn’t matter.  I learned to be more aware when handling the Eggen.

I look for a couple distinct things in an outdoor knife.  First, how does the knife handle?  Knives are multipurpose tools and they are never held or used in a single specific way.  It has to be comfortable in many positions, cutting from different angles, in varied conditions.  The Eggen performs well all around.  The handle is shaped well for any grip position and the Curly Birch performs dry or wet.  The blade is the perfect length and wide enough to give you leverage without being so wide as to compromise precision.  I like the drop point blade design and the slight overall curve of the knife.

I also look for durability.  I’ve only had the knife for about six months and had it in the field with me on a little over a dozen trips.  I’ve used it to cut rope, leather, rubber, plastic, wood and food (I’ve even used it to shave).  The edge has held up amazingly well and the handle and blade look brand new.  It will take a lot more time to really judge durability but I’ve had much more expensive knives that have shown wear and tear earlier and faster than the Eggen.

Conclusion

If you’re looking for a nice fixed blade outdoor knife you can’t go wrong with the Helle Eggen.  If all Helle Knives are produced as well as this one then I see a few more of these in my future.  I have been extremely happy with the performance and handling of this knife and it’s a beautiful piece of equipment.  All Helle Knives are made in Norway with the same attention to detail and quality they’ve maintained since the Helle brothers started production on their farm 1932.

Bottom line…I would trust my life with it.

Gear Review: GearPods Backcountry Kit…

GearPods Backcountry Kit...

If you haven’t heard of GearPods, you’re not alone.  They’re a relative newcomer to the outdoor/survival gear markets.  The company was established in 2008 in Polson, Montana and launched it’s Adventure Series Kits and Connect System in late 2009.  For those of you not familiar with the product, the GearPods Connect System is a semi-lightweight, modular gear storage system comprised of different sized, durable plastic tubes than can be connected in a chain (or used separate) to organize your gear.

James Davies, GearPods CEO, describes the product here:

“GearPods provides the best of both worlds – highly compact yet capable adventure gear but without the weight and bulk downsides you’d associate with traditional backcountry gear.”

With 4 different tube lengths and 7 different colored lids, it is a very versatile and easy to organize storage system.

Using the modular Connect System, the GearPods Individual Kits are pre-loaded with the kind of emergency and survival gear that these containers are suited for.  Individual kits include the Stove system, Shelter, Health and others.  GearPods goes one step further and offers Multi-Kit Systems combining essential Individual Kits into “integrated Adventure Systems” like the Backcountry Kit in this review.

Their Multi-Kit Systems range from $75 to $250 and offer everything from basic emergency shelter to full-scale rescue and survival systems.

GearPods was gracious enough to send me one of their Backcountry Kits to try out in addition to the kit they donated for this week’s giveaway.  I took the  kit with me on an overnight trip out to Lake Pleasant and tested out the stove system.  But first, let’s take a look at what’s included:

The GearPods Backcountry kit:

Size:

  • Weight: 1.25 lbs (20 oz)
  • Dimensions: 3.2″ diameter, 9.25″ length

Features:

  • GearPods Health: Compact but comprehensive first aid kit for treating minor wounds and injuries.
  • GearPods Survival Pro: Range of survival tools for starting a fire, navigating, signaling, purifying water, fishing, and repairing clothes or gear. Includes the GearPods Stove, GearPods CookMug (with snap-in lid), GearPods Windshield and solid fuel tablets for boiling water and cooking.

GearPods Health:

The Health Pod is a basic emergency first-aid kit including all the necessary items to treat most common injuries or ailments on or off the trail.  I was pretty impressed with how complete the first-aid kit is with one-time-use packages of everything from sun screen to sting-relief to burn ointment and a huge variety of bandages.  This kit alone is a very useful and essential part any emergency kit.

GearPods Survival Pro:

The GearPods Survival pro is a combination survival kit and cooking system (mainly for boiling water).  The kit includes an incredible assortment of survival gear including an ultra-light blade and saw, emergency fishing kit, multiple firestarters and tender, a tiny LED flashlight, signal mirror and weather-proof writing pad (see pics below).  With the addition of the small, lightweight, ingenious little stove and cook-pot I couldn’t think of a single thing lacking from this survival kit.

Impressions:

Unpacking the kits for the photos above I was immediately impressed with how much gear is actually crammed in to these Pods.  In fact, there seems to be room for a few more items if you have some specific personal item that you’d want to add (or beef up the medical kit with extra bandages).  My initial thought was, “I want one of these things everywhere!  I’d keep one in the house, one in the truck and have one handy for backpacking trips (at least the medical kit)”.  The size is perfect for stashing just about anywhere and the fact that everything is stored in these durable, water-proof tubes makes them perfect for a variety of different conditions.  I do believe that they are a little bulky for backpacking, especially if you travel light.  But they do pack easily if you don’t mind the weight.  When I took mine out on the trail I initially stuffed it into one of the side pockets of my pack, and on the return I rolled it up with my sleeping pad and strapped it to the bottom of my pack.

In the Field:

I brought the Backcountry Kit with me to camp overnight at Lake Pleasant.  I had a couple of goals in mind.  One, I wanted to test the cooking system and see how easy it is to set up and take down as well as test how effective it is at boiling water.  Second, I wanted to test the firestarters.  To me, those are the most important aspects to a survival kit (fire and water).

This is my field test of the cooking system-

The fuel tabs worked well once I got them lit (it was suggested that breaking apart the fuel tab would make lighting them easier). It took nearly a full single fuel tab to heat 9-11oz to boiling.  The cup is still very hot to the touch even with the fabric strip around the top.  The snap on lid worked well and would make for a nice drinking cup if you wanted to make tea, coffee or broth directly in the cup itself.  The  cooking system was very easy to set up and take down and was very lightweight.  As an emergency stove or backup, it’s perfect.  I would even consider it as my primary stove on short trips.

Getting fire started was a snap, the Tender-Quick lit without issue and allowed me to get my fire bundle going easily.

I will admit, in putting the kit back together in the tubes, I did have some trouble getting everything to fit just right.  I had to unpack and repack it several times to get the Pod lids to screw back on properly.  This, more than likely, is entirely a user generated problem.  It clearly fit just fine when I got it.  There is little room for error in the Survival Pro kit though, so pay attention when unpacking it so you can insure that it gets repacked properly.  If the fit is off or you can’t get the lids screwed on right, the Pods are no longer going to keep out water.

When everything is put together properly and the lids are screwed on tight, the Pods feel indestructible.  I felt comfortable tossing the Pod around camp, leaving it out overnight, tripping over it and kicking it out of the way without ever worrying about the contents.  I submerged it at one point in the lake without leaks and had to force it below water verifying that it would float if dropped out of a boat.  This made me think it might be useful to store electronics on boating trips.  The Pods are big enough inside to store a cell phone (even my massive HTC Thunderbolt 4G WITH a case on it fit inside the tube), batteries, cables, etc.

In the morning I played around with making a make-shift fishing pole. Using the line, hooks and sinkers provided in the kit along with a float I found on the beach, I tried my hand at fishing.  The system worked, even if I wasn’t able to land any fish.

All in all, I was very impressed with the Backcountry Kit.  It has nearly everything you would need for most any survival situation or backcountry emergency.  I would put serious thought in to adding the Shelter Kit to make this a perfect, all-around survival system (the GearPods Wilderness Kit includes the shelter kit).  If you spend much time on back roads, or live in areas where the weather can turn bad and  leave you stranded I would definitely get one of these for your vehicle.  They would also make an indispensably addition to your camping, boating or off-roading gear.  Or use the Pods to make your own kit, keeping everything safe, dry and organized!  I am considering getting a Pod to make in to a small tackle-box for creek trips.

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As mentioned above, the Backcountry Kit was provided to me from GearPods at no cost in order for me to review the product.  My opinions are my own and are in no way influenced by the company providing the gear.  I have tested the gear under my own standards and offered my free and unbiased opinion based on my own personal experience.

 

Gear Review: AMK SOL Escape Bivvy…

I’m hosting my first Guest Post Gear Review!  This review was sent in from Tim B. of the Outdoor Adventure Team.  Tim and his friends explored the Ozette Triangle on the Olympic Coast in the Pacific Northwest, US.  I’d like to thank Paul and Tim of The Outdoor Adventure Team for letting me host this review of Adventure Medical Kit’s SOL (Survive Outdoors Longer) Escape Bivvy.  The Escape Bivvy was donated for review by AMK.  Click here to read more from The Outdoor Adventure Blog.

GUEST REVIEW: AMK SOL Escape Bivvy…

This past weekend a group of buddies and I went on a 9.4 mile overnight backpacking trip to the Ozette Triangle on the Pacific Northwest Olympic Coast. Early Spring is a beautiful time of year to explore the trails that are packed with hikers only a few short months later. When embarking on such adventures it is prudent to carefully asses one’s gear in order to avoid being too cold. Being freezing cold while out on an adventure can not only make one grumpy, but one could get frostbite or hypothermia and ultimately lose an appendage or two. It ain’t pretty. I’ve been that grumpy guy, and no one wanted to hang out with me, and certainly no one wanted to spoon me to keep me warm.  But, not this time. This time I packed the SOL Escape Bivvy.

The SOL Escape Bivvy is a light and compact sleeping bag-like sack, weighing 8.5 oz and measuring 36″ by 84″ rolled out flat.  The proprietary fabric is designed to release moisture created by your body, while external moisture from the elements remains on the outside. The inner lining is created from a reflective type material which helps to retain body heat.  Waterproof seams plus a drawstring hood closure and side zip mean you can seal out the elements entirely or use the bivvy like a traditional sleeping bag. In a survival situation the high-visibility orange exterior makes it easy for rescuers to spot you even in areas with high tree cover.

AMK SOL Escape Bivvy bagBeing an early Spring backpacking trip, I was concerned at first that I would become too cold at night. I’m a Texan boy, who grew up with the belief that 50F was freezing temperatures. While I have toughened up in my last 7 years in the Pacific Northwest, I still usually get cold at night while camping. I have found that I need to wear multiple warm layers in order to achieve any sort of comfort level for sleeping. Because the SOL Escape Bivvy doesn’t take up nearly any room in my pack I still packed my usual brigade of warm clothing just in case I needed them. I doubted something with material that thin could keep me warm at night.

I decided to test out the SOL Escape Bivvy in my usual backpacking setting inside my tent. I wore only one thermal underwear layer, socks, and a beanie and decided if I was cold I could add another layer, and then another if it became necessary. I slid The North Face Cat’s Meow sleeping bag into the SOL Escape Bivvy and slithered inside, zipping up my sleeping bag and the SOL Escape Bivvy once I was all snuggled inside. While the length was great for fitting my 6’5” body, it was a little awkward zipping up as the SOL Escape Bivvy zipper is on my right, while my sleeping bag zipper is on my left. I did not draw the SOL Escape Bivvy pull cord to tighten the hood around my head, as it was too frustrating to manage from inside my sleeping bag. As I lay there I could immediately notice a significant decrease of wind chill that was prevalent in the tent from the large gusts of wind blowing in from the ocean. I then quickly fell asleep.AMK SOL Escape bivvy bag...

I woke up the next morning, having slept well all night warm and cozy in my sleeping bag and the SOL Escape Bivvy. I was then surprised to find out that the others in my group had not slept well at all. My tent buddy is a natural warm sleeper; in fact, there was one trip where he was sleeping on top of his sleeping bag in his boxers, while I shivered and shook in my sleeping bag with every layer of clothing imaginable. There were others with the exact same sleeping bag as me, who also felt a certain chill throughout the night.

I had no condensation build up inside the SOL Escape Bivvy, and there were visible beads of moisture on the external layer from the condensation build up inside the tent. I could see this proving to be a beneficial outer layer for those with down sleeping bags for this reason, especially here in the Pacific Northwest. Instead of packing a silk or fleece liner or excessive layers of clothing, packing the SOL Escape Bivvy would also be a wise multi-use alternative for retaining heat. It is certainly less bulky than my usual brigade of extra items.

When it came time to pack up, I was able to quickly fold and roll up the SOL Escape Bivvy from a standing position and easily slid it back into the little sack. When I came home, I hung it up to dry and found it to be ready to pack away in less than half an hour while my tent and other waterproof items were still drying an hour later.

AMK SOL Escape bivvy bag...The SOL Escape Bivvy is designed as an essential piece of equipment in your survival pack, and I definitely can see where it would prove great benefit in an outdoor survival situation. The Outdoor Adventure team member, Paul Osborn, will be putting the SOL Escape Bivvy to the test in a similar scenario in a few months, and I certainly look forward to hearing his review.

Have you used the SOL Escape Bivvy before? We are interested to hear your experience with the SOL Escape Bivvy, and maybe you have a few tips for Paul before he heads out on his survival trip with this piece of gear. We look forward to hearing from you so please comment, tweet, and share on Facebook!

Spring in to Adventure: SURVIVAL Week…

**SURVIVAL Week winners have been posted**

The Spring in to Adventure Giveaway is still going!  This week is SURVIVAL Week and we have included a whole pile of stuff to keep you save and alive in the outdoors.  Adventure Medical Kits is setting you up with one of their Medical Kits, a Survival Kit and an Emergency Bivy!  Beyond Coastal is supplying another one of their awesome Travel Kits so you can survive the brutal sun. Alpine Aire has a pile of backpacking meals.  And if the threat goes beyond that we’ve got a Gerber “Bear Grills” Survival Parang!  If you can’t survive in the wild with this stuff, maybe you should just stay home!

Spring in to Adventure Giveaway Logo - Cold Week

As you know, for the last couple months Wilderness Dave along with: My Life OutdoorsThe Outdoor AdventureA Little CampyHiking the Trail and Trail Sherpa have been working together with a whole bunch of popular outdoor companies to bring you guys more than a month of giveaways.

This week is SURVIVAL Week and two lucky People will proudly walk away with some seriously EPIC Outdoor gear.  Just ask our two lucky winners last week, they’ll tell ya!  So get your entries in early!  Just like last week we are offering you tons of ways to earn extra entries and if you entered last week you know how easy it is!

As a reminder, here’s what’s up for grabs:

Grand Prize:

Adventure Medical Kit Ultralight Watertight 0.7 oz Med Kit
Adventure Medical Kit Origin Survival Kit
Adventure Medical Kit Escape Bivy
Gerber BG Survival Parang
Beyond Coastal Travel Kit
Buff USA Merino Wool Buff
Innate Storage Sack

Second Place Prize:

Survival Strap

[Read more...]