Gerber Legendary Blades has a long history of providing knives and tools to outdoorsman, and in recent years many of those designs have come from the fertile mind of Senior Design Engineer Jeff Freeman. Regular readers of our site might remember last year’s review of the Gerber Metolius folder, which was another Freeman design. This time around we’re taking a look at a new fixed blade design called the Epic.
According to the folks at Gerber the Epic was designed as a general utility piece for folks who are into family or group camping, and are more likely to be staying at a KOA rather than on the slopes of Kilimanjaro. The Epic will cut open packages, cut rope and cord, whittle a marshmallow stick and crack a beer for a quiet night around the campfire. Don’t let its humble role as a car camper’s companion fool you though, the Epic is also a sturdy, handy knife that’d make a great travel companion or backpacker’s pal too.
The Gerber Epic is a fairly compact knife featuring thoroughly modern lines. With a 3.4 inch blade and an overall length of just 7.3 inches the Epic is compact enough to stuff in your pocket or slip into your pack. Weight is just 3.8 ounces for the knife alone and 5.1 ounces in the sheath as measured on my postal scale. The Epic is a full tang design built around a 1/8 thick slab of 7Cr17MoV steel with a Titanium Nitride coating for corrosion resistance and easy clean up. The blade features a blunt, modified sheepsfoot design with just a bit of belly and a high, hollow grind. The edge nearest the ricasso has a 1 inch section of serrations for use on rope and other tough materials. There is a large finger choil present on the Epic, which ensures that the knife stays firmly in your hand. On the spine above the choil is a series of three deep thumb serrations. Despite their size, the serrations are well rounded and comfortable during use. The handle scales are of textured glass filled nylon and are held on by two hollow rivets.
A nice, large bottle opener finishes off the butt end of the knife. I have to admit that the bottle opener was one thing that caught my eye right away with the Epic. I’ve been known to toss back a few cold ones when car camping, and I generally prefer my beer in bottles to cans, so a bottle opener is a tool that will see a lot of use for me. A nice touch with the opener is the small engraving of a bottle at the base of the opener, just in case you had any doubts as to what it was for. If you’re not a beer drinker, the large opening of the opener gives you plenty of space to attach a lanyard, or even to snap on a carabiner, to keep your Epic from getting lost or for attaching it to other gear.
The Epic comes with a sheath that appears to be made of the same textured glass filled nylon as the handle scales. The knife locks into place and can be carried inverted if that suits your needs. One of the most interesting things about the sheath is its reversible pocket clip. Rather than a traditional belt loop, or even and old style boot clip, the Epic’s sheath is outfitted with what looks like an economy size pocket clip of the type you’d normally see on a folding knife. This allows you to just slip the Epic into a front or back pocket when it isn’t in use, or to tuck it behind your belt. I’m actually a huge fan of this method of carry for use around the house or around the campsite. I find it to be a very convenient way to carry a fixed blade. It’s comfortable and keeps the knife close at hand and you don’t have to take off your belt when you want to put on or take off your knife. I’ve actually had a number of custom JRE leather sheaths done with clips like this for some of my small fixed blades so I was very pleased to see the Epic come with this style clip. If you’re taking the Epic on a backpacking or canoe trip, you might do well to slip it inside your pack while you’re traveling. Once you make camp though, simply clip it onto your pocket and you’re good to go.
I used the Epic over a period of a couple months on various chores around the house and in the field. I like the blunt, modified sheepsfoot blade for utility work. There’s enough point there to start cuts on most things but it makes for a very sturdy tip that can stand up to all sorts of poking, and even a little prying. If you break the point off of an Epic, you must have really been doing something outlandish. The 3.4 inch blade is just right for the bulk of camp chores you’re likely to encounter. It’s small enough that you have a lot of control over the knife, but it never left me feeling like I needed more blade for a task. Admittedly, I wasn’t trying to build a shelter, or chop down any trees, but then, most folks don’t tend to do that on car camping or backpacking trips either. The Epic isn’t a “be all, do all” survival knife, but it does work well most jobs from impromptu camp cooking to casual whittling.
The size, ease of carry, and sturdy blade make the Epic a natural for the toolbox, or tool belt as well. It’d be a good work knife that I wouldn’t be afraid to strip wire with, open up bags of concrete, or clean off the underside of the lawn mower deck. It’s worth noting that the serrations on my sample knife are a bit different than what will be on the production versions. Gerber refers to the type on the sample knife as chisel serrations and the ones commonly found on their production knives as scalloped serrations. They said that while they find the chisel serrations to work well, they tend to dull faster than the scalloped serrations and are harder to resharpen. I personally liked the less pronounced chisel serrations, but I can understand why they’d put the scalloped version on a knife intended for mass-market appeal for end users who may not be knife nuts and who don’t want to deal with a complicated sharpening regime.
The final tool on the Epic, the bottle opener, worked superbly. The big open loop style opener was much easier to use than the compact style found on many folding knives, and required less dexterity as well, something that was greatly appreciated the longer you used the opener during a recreational session involving adult libations. Bottles were decapitated quickly and easily and the Epic got very positive comments for its ingenuity from folks who had a chance to use it.
If you’re looking for a sturdy, compact knife at a very reasonable price point then you’d do well to give the Gerber Epic a hard look. With a suggested retail price of $55, and street prices looking like they’ll be about $20 less than that, this is a knife that you can afford both for yourself and as a gift for your car camping pals and family members. The Epic combines a sleek modern design with some practical features and design touches to create a knife that works just as well around the house and worksite as it does the campsite.