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Condor 14" and 18" El Salvador Machete in Carbon Steel

Condor Knife and Tool is Imacasa’s premium line that is made for the US market. Most machetes come with no sheath, a rough handle that requires some fitting, and an unsharpened edge. Condor machetes come with a leather sheath or have one available for purchase, fitted handles, and an amazing polished convex edge. They are the Cadillac of machetes.

My favorite machete in the Condor line is the El Salvador. It is a great all around machete largely due to its shape and thickness. It has a nearly straight spine with a slight upsweep, plenty of belly on the cutting edge, a great handle, and it is thick enough to the harder woods that are found in the northern USA while still remaining somewhat light and flexible. This is an exceedingly tough machete. Last year, Condor introduced the El Salvador machete in carbon steel, which made a tough machete even tougher (previously it was available in their excellent 420HC steel, which is the perfect stainless steel for a machete). I purchased a carbon steel version immediately and have loved it ever since.

This year they introduced a 14″ version which I love even more. For most of what I do when I am hiking or camping, I do not need the 18″ version. A shorter, handier machete packs lighter and is more than sufficient for fire prep, shelter building, and other tasks. The 14″ version has a bit more upsweep at the spine which gives it a very “weight forward” feel in the hand. This also really helps its chopping performance. However, the extra upsweep does preclude the use of the excellent plastic GI sheaths that I prefer. I may ground just a little of the point off the machete off so that it will work with my sheaths.

MacheteSpecialists.com is my preferred machete source and they are the only source of the 14″ version. You may also want to watch for an upcoming version of the El Salvador machete with a carbon steel blade and a micarta handle. If you are looking for a machete that is versatile, reasonably priced, and ready to use right out of the box, then check out the Condor El Salvador Machete.

Buyer Beware: Fake C.A.T. Tourniquets

87GN over at Vuurwapen Blog posted recently about the fake CAT Tourniquets that are finding their way to the market. These are very convincing fakes of a very popular tourniquet. If you have purchased a CAT tourniquet recently, I suggest that you check it against the PDF that is linked at Vuurwapen Blog.

It is vitally important that you avoid these knock offs at all costs (and all knock off products for that matter). It is not simply a matter of saving a few bucks. These literally do not work. The windlass is too flexible and will not provide sufficient leverage to tighten the tourniquet. They can not be used to stop extremity hemorrhaging. These have the potential to get someone killed.

Check your CAT tourniquets and tell your friends to check theirs.

ESEE (RAT Cutlery) Sheaths are Tops

People often ask me for recommendations on which knife to buy. Unless they have some really specific needs, I almost always say get something from ESEE (formerly RAT Cutlery). Why pick ESEE over any of the other great manufacturers that are out there? The answer is simple… it’s the sheaths!

There is no shortage of makers out there that are turning out great knives. ESEE doesn’t really do anything unique with their knives. The knives are just simple, honest designs, made from good materials, with a great warranty, and made by good people. It is their sheaths that give them a leg up. While most makers offer barely functional (and, in many cases, poorly made) sheaths that seem like an afterthought. ESEE knives come standard with sheaths that are versatile, well made, and extremely functional.

Take for instance the ESEE-4 (formerly the RC-4). It comes with a fold over style kydex sheath. That in and of itself isn’t very original. However, the sheath is configured to take a myriad of extra accessories that quickly, easily, and inexpensively add tons of functionality.

RC-4 attached to an Eagle Molle Shroud via Molle-Loks

You can use paracord to create belt loops to carry the knife vertically or horizontally on your belt. Blade-Tec Molle-Loks (included on some models) can be used to carry the knife on your belt or attached to any surface with PALs webbing (backpack, battle belt, vest, etc). ESEE also makes a backer (included on some models) that allows the knife to be carried in situations where it must be “jump safe”. This backer also lets the knife be attached to a belt so that the knife hangs below the belt line which many people find more comfortable. The backer also allows the knife to be attached to any surface with PALs webbing. The sheath can even be connected directly to the shroud on the venerable and prolific Safariland 6004 drop leg holsters or you can use a Blade-Tec Tek-Lok as a versatile mounting option. The number of mounting/carry options will boggle your mind.

The ESEE MOLLE backer can be used as a belt hanger on regular and MOLLE belts.

Choosing a carry/mounting option is as simple as matching the best option with your method of carry. I use the backer for MOLLE battle belt carry. This allows the knife to hang comfortably and securely below the belt line. I also use the backer to attach the sheath to a normal belt when hiking. I use the Molle-Loks to attach the knives to other PALs webbing covered surfaces like my Eagle Industries Molle Drop Leg Panel for Safariland holsters.

A simple piece of inner tube can help lock the sheath in place on your belt when using paracord as a belt loop.

Some of the larger models like the ESEE-5 and ESEE-6 have accessory pouches that can be easily attached to the front of the sheaths. These pouches can used to carry small items like sharpeners, multi-tools, and small survival kits. Have an option to attach or remove these pouches is quite unique and useful.

I do not know of any other manufacturer that offers a sheath system that even begins to approach the versatility of the ESEE sheaths. So next time you are considering purchasing a knife, make sure you weigh your sheath options. If the knife you are considering doesn’t have a sheath that fits your needs completely (and chances are good that it won’t), take a look at the ESEE line of knives and tools. Don’t settle for a lousy sheath!

More info on ESEE Sheaths and carry/attachment methods can be found HERE. You can also view this 2 part PDF document for sheath info: Part 1 and Part 2. (These PDFs and the following picture are property of ESEE)

Click to Enlarge.

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Bargain – Outdoor Products 3-Pack Ultimate Dry Sack

I have been using these Outdoor Products dry sacks for about a year now. They have been on several multi-night and day hikes and they have never let me down.

I was pretty skeptical of them at first due to their low cost, so I tested them before I trusted them to keep my stuff dry. I stuffed the bags full of t-shirts and let them sit under running water. The contents remained dry. Then I actually submerged the bags for 2 minutes and the contents still remained dry except for some very small areas where water came in at the closure. I was thoroughly impressed. For use inside of a backpack in the rain and even in quick accidental dunks, these are completely sufficient.

These have turned out to be an excellent way to keep gear dry and keep it organized. The bags are made of light weight rip stop nylon. They are light enough to use as organizers even when you don’t expect rain. The seams are fully taped and the closures do a good job of keeping water out if you follow the directions.

I used to just use a trash bag to keep my things dry in the rain but these smaller bags offer more organization potential. They will only set you back $10 for the 3 pack at Wal-Mart. For the price, you can’t beat them.

ESEE Junglas Laserna Pack

Jeff and Mike at ESEE showed the prototype for a new pack several months ago on their forum. I was impressed then and I am even more impressed now that it is on the market and the details are out. The pack has some serious organization potential, comes in all the right colors, and has a waistbelt that actually looks useful (rare in smaller packs).

The Junglas Laserna Pack can be purchased directly from ESEE. You can also read more about the pack and the Junglas for which the pack is named at the link.

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Ray Laconico Now Making Locking Folders

Ray Laconico has been making some of the hardest working fixed blade knives around for years. He has also dabbled in slip joint folding knives. Recently, as he stated in his interview here on Jerking the Trigger, he has been concentrating on locking folders.

This is great news for those who love the performance and character of carbon steel and like locking folders because Ray has been making liner locks with O1 tool steel blades. Carbon steel locking folders are all but non-existent on today’s knife market so Ray is really filling a niche.

If you are interested in owning one of Ray’s knives you can contact him through BladeForums.

MacheteSpecialists.com Review

Machetes just might be the perfect survival knife. They are inexpensive yet exceedingly tough. They can be used for everything from clearing a trail, to fire starting, to game cleaning, to shelter construction. You simply can not beat the utility of a good machete. Once you are used to using a machete in the woods, it will be hard to carry anything else (especially an expensive “survival” knife).

Until recently, finding a good machete in the USA could be a bit of a challenge. Many of the best brands and designs were available only in South America where the machete is a far more pervasive tool. There was a serious void in the US market for brands like Imacasa and Tramontina.

The good folks at Machete Specialists have filled that void! Now you can purchase some amazing machetes from all over the world. They offer a 30 Day Guarantee and even have videos on proper machete use that were made by machete designer and knife writer Joe Flowers. Machete Specialists are THE definitive source for machetes on the web.

Review: Leupold Yosemite 6×30 Binoculars

The word is out on the Leupold Yosemite binoculars (bins). If you read any forum dedicated to optics you will find people praising these bins for their brightness, clarity, and ergonomics. Their performance is unmatched by bins costing two to three times as much money. So how good can a pair of $80 bins be? In this post, we will take a look at what makes the Leupold Yosemite 6×30 binoculars special and we will learn a little about binoculars along the way.

Porro Prisms

The Yosemites use porro prisms instead of roof prisms. Porro prism bins will generally cost less than roof prism bins. They will also generally outperform low priced roof prism bins. The old rule used to be that you would have to spend three to four times as much on roof prism bins to get equal performance to a good set of porro prism bins. That rule is not quite as true today thanks to the proliferation of quality, low cost imported glass, but it is still true that inexpensive porro prism bins will outperform similarly priced roof prism bins. If you are on a budget, porro prisms will yield the best bang for your buck. Porro prisms will generally offer wide field of view, great depth of field, and a more three dimensional looking image than typical roof prisms.

The biggest drawback of porro prism bins is that they are typically larger because of how they are constructed. Roof prism bins can have straight barrels which means they can be more compact. Porro prism bins have two 90 degree turns incorporated into the construction. This makes the barrels larger. Even with these larger barrels, the Yosemites are still quite compact at only 4.6 inches long and 6.3 inches wide.

Exit Pupil

The Yosemite is also offered with 8x magnification and the same 30mm objectives. These are also quite clear but will be dimmer than the 6x model. This is due to exit pupil. Exit pupil is basically the virtual aperture that is created by your bins. Only light that passes through this aperture can be transmitted to the eye. The human eye is dilated to about 4mm in bright light and opens to 5-9mm in low light situations. The larger the exit pupil of your bins, the more capable they will be in low light. If the exit pupil is too small, the bins will appear dim because they are not transmitting all the light that your eyes can receive.

Exit pupil is calculated by dividing the objective size by the magnification. In this case, 30mm divided by 6 magnification, equals an exit pupil of 5mm. Using the same formula on the 8×30 model we get an exit pupil of 3.75mm. So, as the magnification increases, the objective size must also increase in order to provide the same amount of light. As objective size increases, so does the size of the binocular. The 5mm exit pupil of the 6×30 Yosemite bins mean that they will provide enough light to work very well at dusk and dawn while still being compact.

Magnification

Some of you may be thinking that 6x magnification is not enough. However, most binocular users are surprised to find that they can actually see more detail with lower power bins! Bins with higher magnification not only magnify the object you are viewing, but also the shakiness of your hold. Sometimes you can even see your heart beat. Most users would get more out of their bins if they stuck with 6-8x magnification.

Other Features and Specs

  • Rubber Armor for toughness and improved grip
  • Available in black, tan, and camo colors
  • Center focus wheel
  • Right eye diopter
  • Waterproof/dust proof
  • Comes with lens covers, soft case, and neck strap
  • Leupold Lifetime Warranty
  • Eye relief: 20mm
  • Field of view: 420 feet at 1000 yards
  • Weight: 17 ounces

So What?

Everything above may not mean much to you so I will break it down. These bins are light weight and compact. They carry very light and don’t take up much space in a pack. I have found them to be very durable and very easy to use. The focus wheel is stiff enough without being too stiff and the diopter stays set. The eye cups work well and seem well made. These are constructed very well, but the real story here is the optics.

If your only experience with bins are cheap compact models from the grocery store, these will blow you away. They are extremely sharp and bright. They offer excellent low light performance. The colors are bright and true to life. The optics are just excellent. To put it in perspective, they are slightly brighter, clearer, and sharper than my $250 8×42 Nikon Monarch bins. I can actually see more detail with the 6x Yosemites in some scenarios than I can with the 8x Monarchs. That is impressive for a $80 pair of bins.

ESEE Knives Micarta Izula Scales

Here is the Izula with a simple cord wrap. Click to Englarge.

The ESEE Knives (formerly RAT Cutlery) Izula is already one of the finest small production fixed blades on the market. It is compact, yet usable, light weight, brute strong, and comes with one of the most versatile sheath systems you will ever find. How do you improve on something that is already so great?

Here is the Izula with the new bolt on Micarta scales. Click to Enlarge.

ESEE has released bolt on Micarta scales for the Izula. These scales offer a huge upgrade in grip on this pint size blade. With the scales in place the thickness of the Izula’s grip is quadrupled which makes the knife much easier to hold! The canvas Micarta also has a texture that further enhances grip. The scales are also designed to maintain the usefulness of the unique loop at the end of the Izula’s handle. This loop can be used for a number of things, including clipping the Izula to a backpack strap.

The kit comes with the screws and scales needed to install the scales on your Izula. It couldn’t be easier to install them. Simply snap the two scales in place and then affix both screws. I used blue Loc-tite on the screws to make sure that the screws wouldn’t loosen with use.

These are in stock now at many ESEE dealers.

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ESEE Light Machete – The Cadillac of Machetes

Machetes may be the most versatile tool that anyone could carry into the woods. A good machete is part field knife, part hatchet, part draw knife, part wood splitter, and all utility. Most machetes come without an edge, without a sheath, and with a handle that needs a lot of work before it can be used comfortably. The ESEE Knives (formerly RAT Cutlery) Light Machete comes ready to work with a polished convex edge, a nylon sheath, and an ergonomic micarta handle.

These are the result of a collaboration between 3 companies. ESEE Knives designed it, Imacasa/Condor manufactures the blade, and Rowen fits the handle. Condor is Imacasa’s premium machete line. They make phenomenal machetes for the US market. Rowen is the manufacturer for all of the other great ESEE Knives cutlery products.

If you are looking for a truly premium machete, check out the ESEE Lite Machete and all the other great ESEE Knives at the ESEE Knives website.

The Lite Machete is in stock at Knives Ship Free.

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