There are many things we now take for granted in the developed world.. Heat, clean water, shelter, food. If most of us had any of those removed and were forced to fend for ourselves without shops we would probably struggle.
In essence the art of bushcraft is a skill set that enables a person to overcome such problems using only what nature provides – and a trusty knife!
Bushcraft groups and classes are springing up all over the UK. Learning how to make fire, find food, access water, build shelter are all key elements. Some people only dabble and take a course in making a spoon or basket. Others take the ethos on wholeheartedly and spend days living the bushcraft lifestyle.
Bushcraft was once an essential part of the lives of every human being on the planet. We know that the use of tools enabled our ancestors to adapt, survive and evolve. The knife is one of, if not the most important handtool in mankinds history. The origins of the knife can be traced back 2.6 million years. Stone tools with sharp edges made for cutting are believed to be the precursor to our modern knives (Oldowan tools from the Paleolithic period). The knife remains important to us even now, especially so in relation to bushcraft.. Often it is the only modern tool a bushcrafter will carry..
Bushcraft knives tend to be fixed blades in the 3″-5″ range. It is vital that the knife is durable, especially the blade which gets a lot of use. The blade should also be relatively easy to sharpen (a bushcraft skill in itself). One of the most popular knives for Bushcraft is the Morakniv companion. We have reviewed it previously (link at the bottom of page). The companion is tremendously well priced and offers all the basic features you need. However some people may decide to “upgrade” or just be a little different. Both of the knives I recommend here cover those bases and stay within a sensible price range.. Always an important factor..
Maserin 986 Hunter.
I am starting to gain a lot of respect for the Italian knife manufacturers. Each one I have used has been well constructed, capable and “molto Bella”! The Maserin family have been making knives since 1960 and continue to turn out innovative designs.
Although described as a “hunter” I feel the 986 makes a fantastic bushcraft knife. The 986 is a fixed blade with full tang.
The first thing I noticed when I saw this knife was the striking orange G10 handle. The colour may not fit your normal tactical type choice but think about it. When are you likely to need a bright handle? When you lose your knife. If your making some kindling at dusk and you place your knife down for a second you will be so glad it is bright orange and not FDE.. The 986 is a very useable size, only 8.5″ overall – easily stowed in a backpack pouch. It won’t weigh you down either at only 5.8oz – lighter than many EDC orientated folders.
The knife looks gorgeous, the overall fit and finish are pretty much perfect and the design is functional and cosmetically appealing. The curves cut into the tang and handles are very well thought out. The G10 handles themselves are not heavily patterned, the secure grip comes from the geometary of those curves which fit the hand extremely well. The front finger can rest safely behind the guard or in the curve/choil up closer to the blade for precision jobs. A long line of jimping gives the thumb traction above and is very comfortable to use.
One feature I found very innovative were the screws used to hold the handles in place. They have a strange looking fitting which at first made me think they would need some sort of special bit to remove. It turns out you can use a coin! And why would you want to remove the scales? Well it would be beneficial if you needed to lash the knife to a stick for fishing or hunting but Maserin have been clever here as well. The G10 scales are actually hollow! You could fit a small ammount of survival gear in them (fishing line and hooks, wire ect). I thought that was an awesome little additional feature!
The sheath for the Maserin is made of a heavy duty webbing type material. It has been stiffened within by inserts which also protect the material from the wickedly sharp blade. The knife locks in solidly via a pop stud loop over the handle. I can unpop and get this knife to my hand with good speed which makes a change from some of the carry systems I have used in the past. The belt loop is strong and wide enough for most belts. On the front of the sheath are two molle loops, another nice touch from Maserin. The bottom has a hole which could be used for paracord or an elastic loop for securing to a pack or yourself
The blade material is N690 steel. N690 compares to 440c stainless as is said to have better edge retention and sharpness due to the cobalt content. What I can say for sure is that this is one of the sharpest blades out of the box I have ever used.
It is very deceptive because the spine and blade are thick in context of the 3.75″ length. Its short thick look might fool you into running your thumb over the edge expecting it to be a liitle dull.. Dont, you will cut your thumb. I should mention that is a truly daft way to test sharpness. Running your flesh across a blade as a test! If it passes you cut yourself!? I only mention that because most people who ask to look at a knife seem to do that straight away. Test it with a sheet of paper. A good blade will slice the paper in a scalpel like manner – no ripping. Imperfections to the edge will catch the paper and tear it as will a dull blade.
The blade has a false top edge which improves penetration (needed when prepping game for example) and gives a nice look. The false edge curves up and then swifly down providing a short thumb ramp which feels very natural and comfortable. The N690 has been polished to a brilliant finish and really pops. Do note that being stainless it wont work with a firesteel.
I actually use the 986 regularly for food prep and short bushcrafting trips. In the UK a small non tactical type knife is the preference for bushcrafting due to legality. You must also consider the publics perception of what you are doing. A pretty looking orange handled knife looks a lot less sinister than most other knives and as such is less likely to cause problems if ramblers stumble across you..
The Maserin 986 is a hugely capable little tool. It is sturdy enough to be hit across the spine with a branch for chopping. It is small and sharp enough to do really fine work with such as carving. Feather sticks are an absolute cinch and the long jimping and thumb ramp really do give great control and feel.
Although I no longer hunt I did used to and I know this blade would be ideal for butchery of both big and small animals. You can comfortably hold it tip up or tip down which is sometimes necessary when cutting through tough parts of a carcass.
There was nothing within reason this little fixed blade couldn’t cope with other than heavy chopping which is exactly why it is in the bushcraft category. If you are after a big heavy chopping blade check out our “wilderness fixed blade” article.
The Maserin 986 is available for around £80 (UK) or $95 (USA) at the time of writing. For a knife of this quality, with these materials and features that is amazing value. There are many knives that cost much more which lack the finish of the 986.
I would absolutely recommend the Maserin 986 to any bushcrafters and hunters out there. Equally I can see it being useful to those who require a fixed blade knife for their job. It looks and feels to be twice the cost it actually is and performance is outstanding. Grab yourself a serious bargain before Maserin come to their senses and double the asking price.
Morakniv Bushcraft Survival.
I only got my hands on this relatively new knife from Mora about a month ago. Morakniv have rightfully earned their place as one of the biggest names in the bushcraft world. I doubt I could find you a bushcrafter in Europe who hasn’t either got one, had one or used one. I have used the companion model for years. The Bushcraft Survival Black edition takes some of the companions great concepts and adds to them.
Well first lets mention some of the similarities to other Moras. The metal is high carbon swedish steel with a tail type tang.
The Mora tangs catch a bit of heat for not being “full” as I mentioned in the companion review. Until people actually start snapping them during normal use then for me it is wasted time talking about them. The tangs are fully encased and epoxied into a very sturdy polymer handle. This thing is seriously tough. I think I could hit that handle 100 times with a sledgehammer and it would still be attached and functional.
I am glad to say Mora also stayed with the polymer sheath which I love. The sheath floats, is uber durable and easy to clip onto belt or molle loops. All the bits I love about the Mora are retained in the design of the Bushcraft Survival.
The first differences you notice are additions to the polymer sheath. A ferro rod (firesteel) is retained at the front of the sheath. At the side Mora have included a sharpening block. Both very useful additions if you want to minimise kit. Firesteels are sometimes shunned by hardcore bushcrafters. Wait until they stuggle to get fire by friction in wet conditions and offer them a hot cup of tea from your pot, see if they shun that.. The added features make the sheath look pretty epic and for once the Mora scores in the desirable looks category! The sheath comes with two belt clips which give you all the carry oltions you could need.
The blade is a similar profile to its predecessors however it has two big differences. The blade is 1.2mm thicker than that of the Companion knife. The companion blade is 2.0mm thick and has a spring to it. The Bushcraft Survival feels much more robust (3.2mm) and adds a little useful weight for tough tasks.
The common complaint with the standard Mora blades is that the spines lacked sharp enough angles to spark a ferro rod. Mora sorted that on the Bushcraft Survival, the angles are sharp and definitely provoke a veritable firework display when scraped down the rod.
The metal has been given a dark coating which is said to prevent rust. I always advocate treating all blades with care and oil whether coated or not. It is nice to know that you have a second line of rust defence though. Being all black the knife and sheath both look very cool but you may not say that if you place them down somewhere. Mora thought about that as well and offer the same knife in an orange handle and partially orange sheath. You definitely will not lose that one…
The blade has the excellent scandi grind which is hugely popular with bushcrafters. The scandi grind is popular because it is so easy to maintain. There is no magic to sharpening it as there is one bevel and you can “feel” the correct angle easily.
The blade length is a little longer than the Companion at 109mm (vs 104mm).
I have performed all the standard bushcrafting type stuff with the Mora. Just like the companion it is highly capable with light work such as producing tinder or carving notches. It was the tougher work which really highlighted the stronger, heavier blades strengths. I was confident batoning much larger pieces of wood. The thicker spine allows you to give it a good beating with a stick and send it through some solid limbs.
I built a one stick fire with the Bushcraft Survival and this felt like the knife was really at home. Trim away the bark and start carving long curly tinder material from the stick. Then it was a case of batoning the stick into smaller sections and finally splitting them down the middle several times until they were pleasingly slim. Out came the firesteel and within 30 seconds I had a small fire going. If I were roughing it for a few days then having the firekit in one package like this seems like a good idea. Seperate kit always has a chance of getting mislaid where as your knife should be on your belt along with its handly ferro rod.
I love Morakniv in general that is no secret. If I had to choose one of their knives for bushcrafting jaunts it would be this one. Their pathfinder knife is also superb but maybe less suitable for fine work due to its increased size and weight.
Mora have established themselves as one of the most aggressively priced brands in the knife industry. Many of their knives set the bar for great value. The Bushcraft Survival is around £60 or $70. While that is considerably more than the Companion I think it should still be considered great value when compared to rivals. Most of the bushcraft knives I see advertised are in the £100+ price range. If you are a company who thinks your Bushcraft blade can beat Mora’s for value then drop us an email!
Two great knives but which would I choose if I had to pick just 1? Personally I take the Maserin because I like it for being a little different from the crowd and the fit and finish/cosmetics are A++. The Mora comes second in the beauty contest as usual but it really impresses in terms of function. If I were building a lot of fires then I think the Mora would have the edge due to convenience of the ferro rod and its sharp spine.. Both knives feel pretty indestructable and as stated earlier they both recieve our recommendation. As usual it boils down to end user preference and the tasks at hand..
Maserin 986 – http://www.maserin.com/en/product/88/986_986.html
Morakniv Bushcraft Survival – http://www.moraofsweden.se/adventure/bushcraft-survival-black
Our Morakniv Companion Review – http://www.gunsandzen.com/reviews/morakniv-companion-best-value-bushcrafting-blade-ever/