The Metolius River on the Eastern side of the Oregon Cascades is the kind of area that outdoorsmen dream of. It’s an area that accommodates outdoorsmen throughout all four seasons. Hunting, hiking, rafting, horse and bike riding, fishing, skiing and snowboarding only touch the surface of the activities that you can do there. It’s an area that inspires the spirit of the outdoorsman and inspired Gerber Legendary Blades Senior Design Engineer Jeff Freeman to come up with a line of knives under the Metolius name for the hunter, camper and fisherman who enjoys such areas. The Metolius line consists of a stout fixed blade hunter available with or without guthook, a folder that follows the same lines, and again is available with or without guthook, a small fixed blade caping knife, and a model called the E-Z Open designed for gutting and cleaning game. I had the opportunity to test a standard model Metolius folder recently and give it a workout to see if it’s up to handling the type of wilderness area that its name comes from.
The Metolius Folder shares much with its fixed blade counterpart. In fact, when it’s opened, and laid side by side with a fixed blade model, it’s hard to tell them apart at a glance. This really reinforces how sturdy the folder is as it handles much like a fixed blade and inspires confidence during use. The Metolius folder tested features a 3.75 inch drop point blade with a distinctive hump to it, along the forward portion of the blade. The blade itself is made from 154CM 9Cr18MoV (updated info) steel and features a plain, non-serrated edge. Dual thumb studs make the Metolius easy to open with either hand, and the traditional lock back design ensures that the blade stays open while in use. The handle has what Gerber refers to as a SoftGrip over mold, and features deep finger grooves to provide a positive grip under adverse conditions. Overall length is 4.75 inches closed and 8.5 inches opened. The weight comes in at a healthy 7.7 ounces. The butt of the Metolius features a lanyard hole that allows you to keep your knife securely attached to you, or your gear, while traversing various terrain or while on or near the water. Since the Metolius is a rather large folder, it lacks the nearly ubiquitous pocket clip found on smaller one-hand openers, and instead is provided with a sturdy black nylon belt sheath. One of the more appealing, and surprising, features of the Metolius folder is its price tag. The suggested retail price is only $50.00, which I thought was excellent for a large, well made, 154CM 9Cr18MoV folder. When you consider that you can find them on the internet for under $30.00, that becomes rather amazing. I’m not sure if you can find another knife of these materials in that price range.
Okay, that gives you the factory numbers, but I’ll give you some subjective impressions of the Metolius as well. First off, I find it to be an attractive design. It has a unique blade shape and the two-tone gray and black rubber coated grip stands out from other designs. In the hand, the Metolius has a solid, comfortable feel. I know not everyone likes finger grooves, as they feel that grooves can limit the ways in which you can grip and use a knife, but the Metolius’s are comfortable and, as I later found out in the field, work well. They provide a positive grip, but really don’t seem to be a hindrance to me even in a variety of grips. The large thumb studs are rounded enough to be comfortable but provide a positive feel when rolling open the Metolius’s wide, stout blade. The action had a slightly gritty feel to it initially but this rapidly went away with some Ballistol lube and some use. Lockup is very solid with no evidence of blade play. There’s a lot to like in the styling and feel of the Metolius, and that carries over to the fixed blade version as well. While I didn’t have one for testing, I got to examine both at the 2009 SHOT show and they handle very similarly.
I used the Metolius for a bit over a month for this review, both in and around the house, and on an overnight camping trip to the Michaux State Forest in Pennsylvania. While I typically prefer a fixed blade knife when I hit the woods, I took the Metolius as my primary blade on this trip. If you’re only going to carry a folder, a stout one like the Metolius is the way to go. The Metolius carried well in its provided sheath and actually was less obtrusive on the belt than a fixed blade would have been. It was still be easy to access when needed, though, and quick to deploy with the large thumb studs. Over the course of the trip I used the big folder for a myriad of tasks. I cut stakes, made fuzz sticks, prepped kindling for the fire and yes, even batoned with it a bit. While I wouldn’t put a baton to a folder for anything serious, I’ve found no problems tapping the blade of a good folder like the Metolius through small diameter branches to make starter materials for a fire. I used the broad tip of the blade to dig out dry punk wood from a dead tree near the fire pit, and the big Gerber had no problems with the stabbing, and twisting motions needed for that. I also did an awful lot of whittling with the Metolius and it was while doing this that I really grew to appreciate Jeff Freeman’s handle design. Any qualms I might have had about the finger grooves where rapidly proven unfounded as I worked with the knife. Even in a variety of grips, and with extended use, I found the handle to be comfortable. I wouldn’t say that it is a dedicated woodworking blade, but it was certainly good enough for anything I was doing that weekend, or would be likely to do on most camping trips.
The 154CM 9Cr18MoV blade held up very well through the camping trip and EDC testing I did. Edge retention was excellent and damp weather and wet conditions by the creek didn’t seem to phase it at all. I also didn’t find any problems using it as an impromptu camp kitchen knife on bread, cheese, and meat. It cleaned up easily and didn’t take any staining from these items. I didn’t have an opportunity to use it on any game, but from its blade shape and general handling characteristics I suspect that it will work quite well in that role as well.
The Metolius folder is an impressive knife. It’s a big, solid blade that’s comfortable in the hand and suitable for a variety of woods chores from hunting to camp tasks. It’s made from quality materials, particularly the 154CM 9Cr18MoV blade, which you generally only see in knives two to three times it’s price. Out of all the cutlery I had a chance to see at the 2009 SHOT Show, the Metolius made my short list of knives that I definitely wanted to take a closer look at, and was of the style that I would personally pick for an outdoors blade. After my time testing the Metolius Folder, that impression has only been reinforced. It’s a great working blade in general, and when you factor in Gerber’s extremely modest asking price, that makes it a best buy in outdoors blades.