Think bushcraft and you often think primitive, or at least traditional, when it comes to techniques, tools and gear. While the “traditional” bushcraft knife generally does seem to be a carbon steel knife with a wood handle, that isn’t always the case. Look at the basic Sandvik steel, plastic handled Moras that abound in bushcraft schools. While there’s nothing wrong with the humble Mora a lot of folks prefer a more substantial, full tang knife for the bush. If you’re looking for something along the lines of a Scandi made from modern, weather resistant materials you need look no further than the Entrek USA Forester.
Ray Ennis at Entrek USA has been in the knife business for over 30 years as a custom maker and he knows his business. While Ray could work with any number of materials he focuses he focuses all of his attention on 440C stainless steel and Micarta as his main production materials. Ray’s 440C is heat treated and subzero quenched to a 57-58RC by Blanchard Metals Processing in Salt Lake City, Utah and they use only black canvas Micarta from the same supplier on all of their knives. By always using these standard materials he’s ensured that he knows the insides and outs of them and works them to their peaks of performance. 440C may not be one of the current in vogue salon steels but it’s been a solid performer for years and Ray’s in house heat treat gets the best performance possible out of it.
If you take a look at Entrek’s website you’ll see any number of knives suitable for hard outdoor use. For bushcraft though the one that jumps out at you is the Forester model. Astute bushcrafter’s may see a resemblance between the Forester and the Bushcraft Northwest BCNW-O1 knife and that’s no coincidence since the first BCNW knife blanks were made by Ray at Entrek. Ray continues to make his version, the Forester, with permission of Bushcraft Northwest. As stated, Entrek uses 440C and black Micarta for all of their knives. In the case of the Forester we see a 1/8 inch thick blade that’s 3 5/8 inches long mated to a sturdy full tang handle for an overall length of 7 7/8 inches. Weight on my scale is 5.7 ounces with another 1.1 ounces added for the Kydex sheath. The handles carry a fat barrel shape to them and are quite hand filling. They’re a little flatter than the BCNW version but are still very comfortable. The blade shape is very reminiscent of a Mora and uses a traditional Scandi ground edge. The Forester comes with a well-executed Kydex sheath with a thin belt loop secured by one rivet, which allows it to swivel on the belt.
Anyone who knows me knows that Scandi knives are my first love for outdoors knives. I have no idea how many I actually have but a Scandi knife in the 3 to 5 inch blade range is my idea of outdoor perfection. So, it’s with a lot of stick time and a lot of expectations that I went into this review. To really give a good assessment of the Forester I used it for almost 10 months, taking it with me on every one of my outdoors trips and using it around the house during that time. That’s a pretty extensive field test and ne which gave me a chance to really try out the knife under a variety of circumstances and weather conditions. It got used at the height of summer, through the pleasant fall weather (my favorite time of year) and through our wet and rather nasty winter. We didn’t get much snow but we had a lot of rain and damp, cold conditions. And that’s the kind of weather where the Forester thrives.
For Bushcraft use the Forester is excellent. It’s a proven design that works well in the hand and is particularly well suited to carving and crafting chores. Tent stakes, fire boards and spindles, and trap components are all east chores with the Forester. Heavier work such as batoning was also not a problem and the squared off spine of the blade worked extremely well with ferro rods of various composition used during the testing. There’s just enough belly that the Forester should work well for game processing as well and with its stainless and Micarta construction it cleans up easily from blood or other food contamination.
For a field knife, the Forester carries very easily. Its flat profile and light weight make it practically disappear on the belt. It’s very easy to forget that you’re carrying the knife and I found it a great choice for hiking and backpacking. Sturdy and reliable, but unnoticed until you need it. The Kydex sheath is perfectly formed on the Forester, which isn’t a surprise coming from Entrek. It holds the knife securely, even when I hold the knife upside down and give it a shake, but actually releases with just a light tug when you need it. The only issue I ran into during my 10 months of testing was with the belt loop itself. The loop is much thinner that what you typically see with Kydex loops and was secured by a single rivet allowing the loop to rotate, emulating a traditional leather dangler style Scandi sheath. Well, a couple months into my testing I was walking around my campsite and I saw a sheathed knife lying on the ground. Lo and behold, it was my Forester! The sheath must have gotten caught on something and popped the loop and rivet off of the sheath. The knife is so light that I didn’t even notice it was missing until I stumbled across it. Had that happened on the trail while hiking I’d have probably never have seen the knife again. Annoying during a casual outing, but potentially life threatening on a trip where weather conditions turn sour and you need to make fire or shelter, or if you stumble off the path and become lost and really need your knife. I spent the rest of my testing carrying the sheathed knife in my pocket, or pack because of this. I’d really like to see a sturdier belt loop secured by a couple of rivets, or the hole pattern set up to take a Tek-Lok or similar belt attachment device. UPDATE 05/22/12: I always like seeing great customer service and Entrek was right on top of this issue. Upon seeing the feedback in this review Ray immediately took a look at the issue and is now doing an updated version of the loop using a larger .25 inch rivet and using two of them instead of one. He turned around my test knife extremely quickly too and I can definitely say that this new set up appears to be extremely strong.
Particularly with Entrek’s speedy attention to the one issue I did have with the belt loop, I can wholeheartedly recommend the Entrek Forester for folks looking for a modern, weather resistant bushcraft knife. It’s an extremely practical and user friendly design and Ray Ennis puts a lot of pride into his American made products and cares about how they perform for the end user. The Forester offers good quality materials, excellent execution and build, and extreme function for what I consider a very reasonable $150. That includes free shipping in the USA too. Check out some of Ray’s other offerings like the Badger and Destroyer for other hard use outdoors blades too!
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