Five Days in the Gila with the Kommer Free Range Hunter Knife and ParaSaw
The folks at Columbia River Knife and Tool sent us their ParaSaw bracelet and Russ Kommer Free Range Hunterknife for review. What better way to test both products than to send them into the Gila Wilderness of New Mexico? So, our daughter and her husband set out for five days of camping in the Gila. The good news is that despite cold weather, rain and wind the kids made it out in one piece with no mishaps. Did they find uses for the Kommer and ParaSaw? Absolutely!
Prior to their trip, Mary took the ParaSaw bracelet apart to inspect the stainless steel wire tungsten carbide coated wire saw. We just had to see for ourselves how this survival tool was put together. The bracelet was easily taken apart after cutting the burned seal at the base of the buckle. Bit by bit, as Mary unbraided the cord, the saw was exposed, neatly sealed in a waterproof plastic casing. The tungsten saw is basically a "zip saw", with finger holes at each end. It is approximately 18 1/2" long. The finger hold handles are made by looping the saw at each end and covering the loops with a tough flexible plastic to protect your fingers. Very cool looking, but how will it work?
Illustration courtesy of Columbia River Knife & Tool Inc.
To say that this saw works is an understatement. When they returned, the kids coudn't stop talking about how fantastic the saw worked. They even timed it when cutting through tree limbs: 2-1/2 minutes to cut through a 3" limb; like slicing through soft bread. Smaller branches for kindling, no sense in timing it went so fast. They came to a large deadfall in the trail going in and decided to move it off the path. It was much too heavy, so they used the parasaw to cut half way through, jumped on the section they had just cut, breaking the limb in half and dragged the two pieces off the trail.
They took turns using the saw in the evenings to gather wood for their fire, as it was quick and even fun. They did have one suggestion for future users. The finger handles are not ideal for all hands, but if you put a stick through each handle, it works perfectly. It gives you more leverage with no pressure on the fingers.
Mary and I are keeping the sample from CRKT. After the kids returned, I neatly folded the saw into its original shape and inserted it into a plastic straw and sealed both ends. Mary then rebraided the bracelet. We do not recommend this as a way of getting around buying a new ParaSaw, because if the saw is not sealed properly and gets wet, it can rust and become useless. We will keep this Parasaw bracelet in our camping trailer as a backup to our regular gear. We recommend that if you are going camping into rough country or even on a day trip hike into the mountains, take a new ParaSaw and wear it. With an MSRP of $24.99 it is cheap insurance. Better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it!
As for the nine foot nylon cord, they found a variety of uses around their camp. The most important of which was to anchor their tent in the wind and hang their backpacks off the ground. On coming out, they came upon an old cow skull. Being kids, they had to have some fun, so they used the cord to tie the skull to the grill of their GMC and drove home.
Then we asked them about Russ Kommer's knife. For readers who may not be familiar with Russ Kommer, he was an Alaskan hunting and fishing guide for years and is now a well known custom knife maker from North Dakota. He has probably seen and used more knives over the years than most of us do in a lifetime. He designed the Free Range Hunter Drop Point to be the ultimate folding hunting/camp knife.
The handle is ergonomically designed to fit both large and small hands, which is no small feat. The handle material is a combination of soft and hard polymers put together with an injection molding process. The result is an all-weather surface that provides a solid grip. The hollow ground steel blade is made from 8Cr13MoV steel, which translates to a combination of chromium, molybdenum and vanadium. I do not understand the specifics or details of the steel in the Komer knife, but whatever it is, it is great! The Rockwell hardness is 58-59, ideal for holding an edge, yet easy enough to sharpen when needed. As a side note of importance, the blade on this knife is still hollow ground by hand; no mass production machine here. As such, each Free Range is unique, a quality that is lost on most knives today, even the high priced ones.
Illustration courtesy of Columbia River Knife & Tool Inc.
If the ParaSaw was a homerun for CRKT, the Kommer Free Range Hunter Clip Point knife was a bases loaded home run. We couldn't get the kids to stop talking about the Free Range knife. That is really saying a lot, because, prior to this trip, Carl always carried his Kershaw.
They used the Kommer for cutting wood shavings for the fire every night, cutting their vegetables for the pot and then cutting the steaks that they took along for the trip. The only problem was sharing. Susannah complained that everytime she needed the knife, Carl was using it. After five days of really heavy use, the knife still looks as good as when we took it out of the box. However, more importantly, it was still sharp. If it had been hunting season, Susannah was confident that they could dress out and skin a deer with the Kommer and still use it around camp.
There was one problem: They won't give it back to us! However, we will get some satisfaction from watching the kids as they argue over who gets to keep it.
One of the other chaps that ventured into the Gila with the kids was from the UK. His hobby is wood carving. Each night, after dinner, he would find a suitable piece of wood and carve spoons and knives. He was so impressed with this knife that he informed us that he plans to order one, not for hunting, but for general use around his home in England and, of course, wood carving.
Given the MSRP of only $49.99, this knife is a real bargain. Actually, it would still be a bargain at twice the price.
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