Who says you can’t get a second chance at things? Today, we’re getting ours by having a chance to review the new Doug Ritter Orange RSK MK1 folding knife. Woods Monkey started almost a year ago, but by that time, the RSK series of knives had already been well established in the market place. As much as I liked my own RSK MK1 folder, it didn’t really seem newsworthy or timely to do a review on it after it had already been on the market for so long. Well, something new has cropped up with the folder line, and it gives us another shot to jump in and give our opinion on Doug’s execution of a hard-use folder intended for outdoors work and emergency situations. What’s the big change? Well, the RSK MK1 is now available in a high visibility orange color. At first blush, it doesn’t seem like a very significant change, but it does actually make a big difference for outdoors enthusiasts and recreationalists in several different ways. Before we get into the new version, it won’t hurt to give a little background first. Too often we forget that while some things are old news to us, there might be folks reading articles that are new to the field and have little experience with or knowlege about different tools available on the market.
For those that aren’t aware, Doug Ritter is the owner of Equipped To Survive. ETS is one of the longest running and most informative sites on the web dealing with disaster preparedness, especially where it concerns commercial aspects such as the maritime and aerospace sectors. Doug serves as a consultant for companies that are developing or acquiring survival equipment for boats and planes. He works with the guidelines he’s presented by the companies to provide what he believes are their best options for that type of equipment or kits. Parallel to that career, Doug has spent the last decade or so reviewing safety and survival equipment and posting his observations on Equipped To Survive. Additional information can be found in Doug’s Bio over at his own web site.
Doug has translated his experiences in the commercial industry into topics that are relevant to individuals as well. Digging through his site, you’ll find an extensive amount of information about the construction of various types of kits, gear reviews, and insights about safety/survival products that are on the market. He is a no-holds-barred kind of guy and has no qualms about giving frank, but constructive criticism on survival equipment that’s offered to the public or to commercial endeavors. He believes in helping to raise the bar when it comes to the quality of equipment that people bet their lives on when they leave the safety of their homes. In fact, Doug currently serves on the committee that sets the standards and specifications for the realtively new market of personal locator beacons.
Doug always did a great job reviewing other people’s products, and also putting together survival/emergency kits or packs from what he considered to be the best gear on the market. But, it wasn’t until the past few years that Doug actually got into the business of designing his own particular brand of emergency gear. To say the least, it’s been quite a success! Doug was the designer of the Pocket Survival Pak distributed by Adventure Medical Kits. The PSP is a very portable pouch of items that contains basic survival equipment that anyone can use if they find themselves in a survival situation in the outdoors. The advantages of the kit is the quality of the gear, the packaging and portability, and the cost savings from purchasing the kit as a whole as opposed to buying the items separately. The little kit gained popularity quite quickly, and AMK has since produced several similar such kits. But, it was when Doug came out with his line of knives that a lot of folks got their heads turned.
Doug decided that he wanted to develop a high quality folding knife that would be durable enough for hard use in an emergency situation, but would still be within reach of the average consumer. Working together with Mel Pardu and Les de Asis of Benchmade Knives, Doug was finally able to bring his knife concept to fruition using the Benchmade Griptilian series as the foundation. He christened the folder as the RSK (Ritter Survival Knife) MK 1. The original knife sported the top quality aspects of the original Griptilian, such as the ambidextrous Axis-Lock system, glass filled Black Noryx GTX handles, and stainless inset liners. The handles themselves have a textured relief to make them non-slip, and over the years, they have proven their durability out in the field.
With that strong foundation already in place, Doug wanted to add his own refinements that he thought would make an excellent survival folder. At the top of his list was S30V blade steel. As many are aware, S30V is one of the top grade steels available in the knife market today, but it’s usually reserved to high end and custom knives. Because of its higher cost and performance characteristics, it hadn’t really found a place in mainstream knives that were in a price bracket affordable by most folks–especially those that aren’t necessarily knife collectors or afficionados. Doug wanted to overcome that issue. His intent was to provide the best blade steel available at an affordable price point so the average consumer could have the best quality equipment available if needed. He was able to accomplish this objective, and even did it while having a wide-chord blade which requires more steel than one with a narrow profile.
The blade has a high flat grind which makes the RSK Mk1 a very efficient and effective knife for slicing materials. As mentioned, his first blade was plain with a “stone-washed” look to it. Since the original, they have come out with a model that also has a black coating on the blade. While that looks a bit more tactical and helps to prevent high carbon knives from rusting, I tend to find blade coatings add a little drag to slicing chores. Also, when you’ve got S30V as your blade material, corrosion isn’t nearly as large a concern as with high carbon steels. That’s why I was glad to see that the new Orange RSK Mk1 did not have the black coating. The new Orange model’s handles are constructed of the same glass-filled Noryx GTX slabs. The color is slightly subdued in comparison to common high-visibility orange items you’ll see in the outdoors, because the formulation of the handle material will only accept certain colors/dyes and still maintain the same strength and integrity that’s required of the knives. Even so, the Orange RSK MK1 stands out very well in common outdoor environments.
The first advantage of the orange color is that it’s easier to spot than the black handle when laid down somewhere while doing some work or if lost on the trail and you have to backtrack to locate it. The second advantage is a bit more subtle, but certainly noteworthy considering our current social mores. Knives aren’t nearly as universal as they once used to be with the common person, especially knives that are intended for regular carry outside of the home. For whatever reason, the general population at large has associated the color black with “ominous” or “evildoers” when it comes to knives and guns today. Sadly, a lot of products in the industry sell more just because they are black and look “cool” or more “tactical”.
However, when you or the average person thinks about the color orange, safety comes to mind, right? Hunters wear orange so they can be spotted easily. Traffic signs and cones are orange for easier visibility and safety for drivers and road workers. Even smoke canisters and flares come in the color orange as does other safety equipment in marine and wilderness environments. So, when the common person sees a hiker, a boater, a river guide, or a camper with an orange folding knife, I have to think that the psychology of the color orange lends itself to being more readily accepted by the general population. I may be wrong on this point, but I don’t think that I am. The disadvantage is that if you’re at work in your casual or business attire and you’ve got the Orange RSK 1 clipped to your pocket, it’s going to stand out there as well. In that circumstance, it might not be as well received, and the black handle would probably be less noticeable. In essence, this is a knife intended for the outdoors whether it’s for carry or for building your own emergency kit.
What I really like about the look and feel of the RSK Mk1 is its ergonomics. It handles very well and feels like a natural extension of the hand. It’s large enough to manipulate easily, but the composite handles with the nested steel liners help in keeping the weight down for every day carry. The grip slabs fill the palm very nicely and the ridged thumb ramp on the spine helps to secure an even better purchase on the blade for the more rigorous tasks. One nice extra bonus is the upgraded pocket clip that’s installed. This is the first RSK model that wears a parkerized pocket clip (which is reversible for lefties) instead of a painted one. One of the few complaints that have been discussed in the past about some Benchmade folders has been the chipping of paint on the pocket clip. The parkerized version stands up much better and wear more smoothly and evenly than the earlier versions. While this isn’t a feature that adds to real strength or durability overall, it’s an aesthetic upgrade that helps retain the appeal of the knife. In fact, I have an original Black RSK Mk1, and I wish it had the parkerized clip, myself.
So, how does the new orange version of Doug’s folder perform? Well, it performs just like the black version. I don’t mean to be glib about this observation but the outdoors network is replete with positive comments and observations about the quality and great performance characteristics of this knife. As typical with all Benchmade knives, it comes from the factory with a great edge to begin with, and Doug’s specification for a wider blade with a high grind makes it a very nice slicing blade for camp or cooking chores. The drop point profile is very functional for carving things like divots for a firebow, and it helps maintain the strength and integrity of the end of the blade.
I do like the fact that there are no serrations on the model I am evaluating because that allows the user to get up close to the grip area for other carving or whittling tasks such as making notches for traps or fashioning other items from woods. The high flat grind on the .115 inch thick blade makes the Mk1 a very versatile tool, allowing for work on a wide variety of outdoors media. It can be used for carving, skinning, and food preparation. There’s not a lot that this handy knife won’t do within the realm of practicality.
The one master stroke of genius in this design is the incorporation of the S30V steel blade into a package that’s very affordable. That one aspect throws it right into the mainstream where people who aren’t necessarily knife lovers can still get a high performance product to use while they go about their real passions and pursuits. However, that may be the one thing that could also be a negative for an inexperienced person or the person that doesn’t drool over or dream about knives. S30V steel is very strong and holds a sharp edge for quite a while. But, once it’s been used enough and that keen edge is gone, that same steel is going to be tougher to sharpen than a lot of other steels. So, I would recommend to anyone that picks up one of these folders to also get a quality sharpener so you can ensure that you get years of service out of this terrific model.
When I got my original black RSK MK 1 a couple years ago, I enjoyed using it and wearing it around for a while. But, I got into a zone one night and started putting together a bit larger survival kit with a waterproof Otter Box for the enclosure, and I decided to put the RSK MK1 in that kit. That’s what it was designed and intended for when Doug had it on the drawing board–to serve as a great survival folder in an emergency situation. So, while I had a great, waterproof survival kit good for boating and other adventures, I’ve been without the MK1 as my EDC knife for about a year now. So, it was a real pleasure to get this orange model in and start wearing it around again the last few weeks while I used it and tested it out. It reminded me of how much I liked my original model and why I chose the first one to depend on in my larger survival kit.
At around $118.00, the RSK MK1 (orange or black) is one of the best values on the market today when it comes to a robust folder that will perform well, stand up to heavy use, and get the job done when it counts the most. When you consider the time and effort that Doug Ritter has spent for the past decade or more reviewing gear, fighting the battle for consumers, and staking his reputation on each observation and critique he has made, you know that same thoughfulness, deliberation, and integrity can be found in his line of knives. To top it off, the RSK Mk1 is made in the U.S.A., so it is possible to make quality products at competitive prices here. Combine the elements of Benchmade’s Griptilian foundation, S30V blade steel, Doug Ritter’s exacting specifications, and a retail price under $120.00, and what do you get? A fantastic knife brimming with value that will have you shaking your head and wishing you had gotten long before now.
The RSK line of folders are available exclusively at Aeromedix and a portion of the proceeds from each knife go to support the Equipped To Survive Foundation.
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