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The Phrike from Spartan Blades

By Nicholas Seliga

IMG_0515Phrike is known in Greek mythology as the goddess of fear and horror. The outcast, the odd one, the unconventional. And the minds behind the operation and designing scheme at Spartan blades have aptly applied this archaic name to one of their creations. At this point I choose to “spoil” the ending for my reader. This is a fantastic knife. While I have done extensive first-hand review of this knife, my opinion hasn’t changed from the moment I laid eyes on it. From the design characteristics to functional dynamics it offers features that make it extremely useful, comfortable, and practical. Now, for those who would appreciate more detail on the subject of this awesome blade, read on.

I refuse to subjugate my reader to the mundane and somewhat drawn-out details of my interest and career in the knife industry, instead I will simply summarize my experiences by saying that since my parents gave me my first knife when I was five years old – a Swiss army knife – I have been a knife freak, a true believer in the religion of blades, I love knives, from making them to using them and everything in-between. I am by no means an expert; however, it always brings me joy to have the right tool for the right job. In our everyday activities we see that there are multiple chores that require a knife and having a good one can make all the difference in the world.

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Generally, there seems to be three major schools of thought in the knife community. Those who believe that one knife should be able to accomplish every task the user wants to apply itIMG_0521 to, those who own a particular, dedicated knife for each individual job, and finally, those who don’t fit neatly into either of the other categories. Personally, I fall somewhere in the last class. For certain jobs it’s great to have the perfect knife: a thin, flexible razor for cleaning fish, a great santoko for kitchen prep, and a spear-point scandi for bushcrafting. That being said, sometimes you can only have one knife and it had better be good at doing a wide variety jobs. Circumstances that arise during travel or emergency situations mean that what you have is what you get and in a scenario like that I would want a Phrike with me.

Spartan Blades has created one of the very best all-purpose every-day-carry fixed blade knives I’ve ever had the pleasure to carry and use. Here’s the cold numbers: 4.25 inch blade, 8.50 inches overall, 3/16 inch thickness, S35VN stainless steel, textured G10 inset handle, 59-60 HRC, and the proprietary Spartan Blade coating. Together with these excellent features, the Phrike has a saber grind that makes easy work of most cutting tasks. Also, because of the swedged drop point blade shape, the Phrike has a strong and versatile tip. The handle is one of my absolute favorite features. The inset G10 looks incredibly thin and in fact the overall thickness of the handle is only about 5/16 inch thick. Despite this, the user is able to have great control while gorilla gripping or doing more fine cutting. Also, this makes the knife very wearable whether using the nylon MOLLE sheath or an in-the-waist-band kydex.

IMG_0570When I first received this knife for review I put it through some usual trials. I started by doing some feather sticks and some fire prep work. Right out of the box I was able to get some very nice results doing shavings and feather sticks with minimal effort. After doing a bunch of these I paper tested the edge and was happy to see that it was still in good shape. Next, I did some batoning through a stack of wrist thick branches which the knife made short work of. Again, I paper checked the edge and again, no problems. After this I decided to push the edge a little so I processed a pile of cardboard boxes. After reducing these – approximately fifteen large boxes – into one foot squares I thought I’d definitely see at least a dull spot somewhere on the knife. But, while it may not have gone through the paper with the same absolute smoothness it still went through easily and without any tearing.IMG_0530

Since then, I’ve been able to carry this knife on a daily basis and put it through many more chores including: cutting webbing and rope, opening boxes, and most other everyday tasks over a three year period. And to this day I’m still happy to put this knife on.

I should mention a word or two about sharpening. Because of the nature of S35VN steel and because of the hardness this knife is heat treated to, it takes a little while to get used to sharpening it. This doesn’t mean that any special technique or equipment is required, just that a few more repetitions are necessary. Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I have talked with and read what some other uses have had to say about sharpening this knife. Some have told me that they think that it takes too much work to get a serviceable edge on this knife but I have not had this experience. In the time I’ve owned it I’ve sharpened my Phrike a few times. Mostly, I’ve used a simple strop to polish the edge, and once I used a felt wheel on a buffer. Bottom line, this steel is hard, durable, and tough. It takes a wicked edge and holds it well. And the best advice I can offer is, like with any knife, keep it sharp instead of letting it get completely dull.IMG_0495

So, there’s my story, the Phrike offers a whole lot of knife in a minimalist package. I’ve carried mine across the country and through all kinds of situations and it has never let me down. As a backup, self-defense, bushcrafting knife, it shines and I never hesitate to recommend it to my fellow lovers of knives.

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Budget Overland Kitchen

By Mike Henninger

Ever since I can remember, I have been fascinated with vehicle dependent expeditions, or overlanding.  I have wanted to take a vehicle and modify it in such a way that it would support me for an extended period of time.  As I have gotten deeper into the overlanding scene and done more research, I have concluded that a well built overlanding setup can be transferable to a number of vehicles without changing its basic setup.  That being said, I would like to show you how I went about setting up a budget friendly overland kitchen.  The goals were simple and straightforward.  It had to work in both vehicles I owned (05 Land Rover LR3, 76 Land Rover Series III 109) and with traveling for work (11 Ford E350) and it had to work with 4 people.

I have been using a bunch of MSR products from my camping days and knew that the car camping scene had a bunch of stuff to offer.  I also knew that I wanted something close to what I see in the overlanding magazines and forums but not being Scrooge McDuck, I would have to scale back of the grandeur of my plans.   

I decided to start with what I consider to be the key of any kitchen, the stove.  I knew I wanted a two burner propane model. I researched a number of choices and chose the Primus Profile Dual ($139).  It is a compact base camp style stove with a single burner and a grill top.  I like the two different burners and the grill top side will work well for cast iron.  The other feature of this type of stove is that they can run on compact propane bottles and with a bulk cylinder adaptor it can also run full size propane bottles.

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Now was the tricky part, to make the stove work with a number different vehicles. I needed a free standing base kitchen that could be used independently of the vehicle.  I chose the camp kitchen from REI for a few reasons.  First and most important, it fit the Primus stove exactly.  Second, was the minimal setup and modularity of it. Finally, the middle shelf had enough room to hold 2 water jugs.  Having the water available in the kitchen is essential for the comfort of a large group.

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Now I can hear you saying both of those items are over $100. There is nothing budget about that!  True, but those are the only expensive items (over $100) that I did buy.  Furthermore, you don’t want to skimp on these two items as they are the foundation of everything else that we discuss.

Water storage and transport comes from a Canadian company that you may be familiar with.  They have been making water totes for as long as I can remember.  Reliance Products has more offerings than you can possibly use but I opted for a jug that would handle a ton of abuse and stored plenty of water. The Jumbo-tainer ($19.95) is not their heaviest duty container but the two extra gallons make a big difference.  Just be sure to keep an extra cap on hand as mine tend to crack.  Three of the jumbo-tainers would provide 21 gallons of water, which would last 5 days for 4 adults. And as I mentioned before, two fit nicely on the shelf of the camp kitchen and add some stability to it with the additional weight.

Moving on to food prep, we have the area of the toughest decisions and where you can really start to customize your setup to meet your needs.  My choices are based around the camping that I end up doing, which can be go and stay in one place for several days or going to a new place every night.  There does not tend to be much in the middle right now.  The cooking and food prep needs to be scalable and packed together as much as possible.  Only having to unpack one tote makes a lunch stop quick and easy.

The tote I chose will surprise some people but once you see it in action you will understand why.  It is the Wolf Pack from Front Runner Outfitters ($39.99).  This is a storage box that is stackable so you can add boxes as your kit grows.  They work inside or on top of your rig and the lid is removable allowing total access to the contents.  A nice added benefit is that the Primus stove nests nicely on the lid of the box, good for storage or a quick meal stop.  I also added the soft bag on the inside of the tote to cushion the cast iron and add a second level for the griddle. 

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Inside the tote you will find a cast iron skillet (12 inches), my repurposed MSR pots, a GSI Infinity Tableset, GSI Crossover kitchen set, water filter, food prep knife, and a cast iron griddle.  Everything tucks neatly in the Wolf Pack and I have just enough room to add a few extras depending on the trip.  For example, a small tarp to stand on since it was going to be rainy on my last trip.

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Next time I will be going into more detail as I test this setup out and make improvements to it.  I will also try to cover each section in a little more detail.  Stay tuned as you watch my Overland kitchen grow into something I can really use.

Links for Products mentioned:

http://primuscamping.com/collections/basecamp/products/profile-dual

http://www.mrheater.com/sporting/bulk-cylinder-adapter.html

http://www.rei.com/product/848478/rei-camp-kitchen

https://www.relianceproducts.com/products/hydration/11.html

http://www.frontrunneroutfitters.com/storage-systems/boxes-bags/front-runner-wolf-pack.html#.VOC9pJyCOK0

http://www.gsioutdoors.com/infinity-4-person-compact-tableset-multicolor.html