A leather sheath that can be fastened upside down? I imagined in my head a bloody foot and an empty leather sheath. To pull this off, the knife must be secure, and that takes some good engineering. Ingenious designs take a special breed of people to make them work. Anyone can take a new idea, tweak it a little bit, and market the modified product to the public to make a quick buck. When something is truly new, that is when I get excited. Take for instance, the new Chameleon sheath system that JRE Industries and Blind Horse Knives have made. JRE Industries has been tweaking the sheath design with Blind Horse Knives for a few months. The concept came about due to BHK’s need, and want, to offer the customer every option possible. With JRE making most of their sheaths, the discussions began on how BHK could offer a sheath that could be ambidextrous. From these talks the sheath morphed from ambidextrous to multi-dexterous. Being able to have one sheath to fit the Large Work Horse and Bushcrafter with multiple carry options would greatly streamline things for both BHK and their customers.
Now, the informed consumer can choose a basic Chameleon sheath at a low price, and get the different accessories that they would desire to make it a truly multi purpose setup. The Tracker school guys may want behind-the-back sheath options; the Bark River following may want the Baldric rig; the MOLLE monkeys just wanted to make sure that their blade would not fall out of the sheath. Who better than JRE to fix all of these crazy problems, with leather and one sheath design! The classy leather sheath coupled with the quality feel and soundlessness makes it irresistible to fellow Woodsmonkeys world round.
This different idea is nothing surprising coming from JRE Industries. I’ve come to know Spen and Dan from JRE, and L.T. and Dan from Blind Horse, through many knife related rendezvous and blade events. I’ve enjoyed spending time with them, and have come to appreciate JRE’s unique approach to sheath making. With that distinct uniqueness comes a strong desire to make new things that the avid bush wanderer can utilize. I swear these guys can do anything with leather! Out at Chestnut Mountain Proving Grounds one comfortable evening under the lantern light, Spen and Jimmi (a recent addition to JRE) showed me the Chameleon sheath system. I looked at the Chameleon system and said that if someone isn’t happy with that design, they should not be carrying a knife. The whole idea behind the sheath is about how many ways one can go about carrying their blade holder. With the new Chameleon setup, the answer is countless. As per usual for JRE Industries, the quality leather sheath is stitched with Heavy Duty Thread, and well cut spacers and exhibits the proven quality that I haven’t seen in some of these more rushed sheaths on the market.
Kydex Tensioner System
OK, OK, Kydex and leather mixed? I know, the first thing that comes to mind is that it’s usually either/or when it comes to Kydex and leather, not both in the same sheath. Most arguments against a leather sheath come from someone who has a lost a knife from a worn out sheath. Shoddy craftsmanship, abuse of the leather, or just storing a knife in the scabbard over time can also attribute to a lost knife. JRE has found a solution to the countless centuries of knife loss phenomenon with an innovative use of Kydex. They use a 1-inch band that goes around the sheath and the handle of the knife. The pre-formed thermoplastic wonder strip is then tensioned down with a Chicago Screw. The sheath was tested by placing an Enzo knife in the leather pants, and swinging the sheath like you would a fishing pole. Normally, with any leather sheath, and most Kydex sheaths, the exercise would yield a flying piece of steel, however, despite numerous tries; I could not get the knife to let go! Let me be the first to say that this JRE tensioner holds better than most pure Kydex sheaths out on the market. Upside-down, behind the back, or even with a dangler with a heavy fixed blade, the sheath proved that the days of losing a fixed blade knife are gone. The other important aspect is that one can put a similar sized knife with a completely different handle inside the sheath, and still get the tension that is needed to hold the tool in the compartment. WOW! I easily went from a BHK Large Workhorse, Enzo, to Fallkniven, to Mora, to a Skookum all while having glorious tension on the knife. I was still easily able to remove the knives from the sheath as well. Try that with any Kydex rig you may have.
Normal Carry and Dangler
So, some of the more normal woodsmen are befuddled by the baldric rig, drowsy with the drop leg sheath, and want to just try the normal set up. Utilizing a flat head screwdriver, the accessories can be removed from the sheath, including the tensioner. The tensioner is not needed in the normal basic configuration. There is a normal belt loop that can be affixed to the sheath in such a way that it will hold like a standard JRE sheath. One has to finagle the smooth rivet acceptor into the bottom and top hole of the sheath body, and though it looked daunting, it only took me a minute to affix the belt loop all together. The Chameleon also comes with the ability to be made into a dangler with the attached D-rings. These D-rings also help with the Baldric Rig.
If the system didn’t already have enough things to talk about, they enlisted the help of Scott, from Scott’s Knots, to weave the Baldric rig. The Baldric rig consists of 550 cord with a professionally woven attachment point with a firesteel inside. It can be tightened and adjusted with the aid of a Prusick knot, and features a break away feature and a small carabineer to attach to the D-ring on the bottom. Scott is one of those interesting people, much like Spen, turning out some innovate craftsmanship except Scott is working in cordage and knots, rather than leather. This won’t be the last we see of him with JRE and Blind Horse.
MOLLE and the JRE Sheath: “The security of Kydex, with the comfort of leather”
The Blind Horse guys and JRE wanted to build a sheath that was capable of being affixed upside down, and made of leather. Many Kydex sheaths rattle and create a racket. Hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts choose leather so game isn’t alerted by every step. But what about those who use MOLLE gear, the most likely spot for a sheath to be affixed upside-down? JRE’s new sheath is also MOLLE compatible. With the same loop that was used for the “behind-the-back” belt loop, the user can affix it to a MOLLE pack using the supplied hardware without the D-rings. Many experienced outdoors enthusiasts favor the ability to strap items on the outside of a MOLLE pack such as the Camelbak packs and other similar designs. With smaller pouches and items outside, your pack isn’t as jumbled. Keep in mind that JRE is a custom outfitter, and can probably do this on a larger knife that you would not keep on your side normally.
Behind The Back
While some behind the back sheaths can be cumbersome to use, I didn’t find that to be the case with the Chameleon. You can actually put it on without having to take your belt off, using the One-Way Snaps provided. The same sheath can be used for a vertical carry on the front of the belt, if that is your fancy, and can be attached in both directions with the blade facing up, or facing down. This is where the Kydex tensioner system really shines. Those who use the behind the back set up are usually bouncy fellows, and may lose a knife quickly. However, the Kydex will ensure that the knife is the least of the backwoods bounder’s worries.
The knife can also be affixed to any sized webbing, pack strap, or safety belt an outdoorsman would have on them. Some of the larger Arc’teryx or Camelbak straps can be rather bulky and unless the sheath is made for a pack strap, most people normally improvise their own set-up which half way works and can result in a lost piece of cutlery. The new JRE Chameleon works in more ways than one for a strap, with a option for using one belt strap, the two other horizontal pieces, all three, or strapped onto the d-rings if one needs them.
The Chameleon from JRE Industries and Blind Horse Knives is a welcome addition to their lines that I’m pretty excited about. Even without all the cool new features, that tensioner system that they have is something that needs to be talked about. With something this original and unique stemming from the JRE Industries, Blind Horse Knives, and Scott’s Knots powerhouse, the future is bright for knife (and I pray, machete) users!