Over the past 2 years, I have really started putting more thought into my Everyday Carry kit. In particular, what knife or knives to carry whenever legally possible.
My basic everyday folder is a Spyderco Native, but there are times at home where I don’t want my 2 year old to grab it from my pocket and play with it. When I am guiding in the backcountry of the Smokies, my quick-dry shorts don’t provide sufficient friction to feel confident the clip will hold fast. So the folder frequently gets relegated to the dresser at home or a pocket in my pack when afield.
However, I like to have a knife of last resort that is is physically on my person as much as possible if my pack or even shirt are lost (a fall in swift water or a bear attack make this a real-world possibility). With just a small knife and the 8′ of paracord from a bracelet, one has the means to provide shelter, fire, and perhaps even food with enough training.
Additionally, while Tennessee prohibits carrying a knife for the “purpose of going armed”, I never know when I might find myself needing to cut open a rogue cardboard box. So this should be something to think about as well.
My first neck knife was a CRKT Krein Designs Dogfish and was a bit of an impulse purchase, made without prior research. I had been toying with the idea of getting a neck knife – it was a nice looking knife with a Kydex sheath, a paracord lanyard, and most importantly – the back of the handle was a bottle opener.
I carried this knife for the better part of last year. It functioned well in the field and with various household tasks. Most importantly, it taught me what I would be looking for in my next one when I found it.
I eventually found my next neck knife, and it is still the one I carry today.
The first thing you notice when you grasp the Combat Ready Knives L-1 is how good it feels in the hand. In fact, it feels so good that I have put throwing punches at a block of ballistics gel while gripping the L-1 somewhere on my life’s bucket list. It is almost like a pistol grip on a small wheel-gun.
In a previous iteration of my life, I worked as a receiving clerk in the back of an outdoor outfitter. I would have loved having this knife readily available back then. I would have preferred this to the box-cutter I was using to open and break down cardboard.
There is a generous hole for your index finger (or pinkie with a reverse grip), which provides a rock solid grasp of the knife. If you chose to leave the 24″ or so of paracord wrapping on the grip, it is downright comfortable to hold (remove for a flatter, more discrete look under a thin shirt). You also might consider discarding the stock bead-chain lanyard, in favor of one of paracord. The former feels chincy and tends to scratch the back of my neck while the latter is enough paracord for a fire-bow. Obvious choice.
The “must-have” feature (somewhat obvious) for a neck knife is that it stays put while dangling inverted. A major downside of the CRKT design is it relies purely on friction to hold it in the sheath. Over the course of hard use, the two sides became loose, and the knife would drop free without warning. I solved this problem with a judicious application of electrical tape around the exterior and on the inside surface of the sheath.
The L-1 addresses this issue by molding inward the lower edge of the Kydex. This allows the knife to snap in place through the index hole. I have never had an issue with it coming loose, though there is the occasional noticeable rattle when I jog.
Function Test Comparison:
To come up with some sort of objective analysis of the two blades, I performed the following tests using my Spiderco Native as a control (common, average sized blade, locking folder). Because these are my personal knives, I sharpened the CRKT with a Spiderco Sharpmaker for the serrated portion of the blade, and the straight portion on the Tormek. The L-1 was sharpened on the Sharpmaker due to its slight concave shape.
Culinary Test: I prepare lunch with my clients in the backcountry. It is a requirement that my knives be able to preform basic tasks such as slicing an apple or carrot sticks.
Results: the thick, stubby, concave blade on the L-1 made a lousy condiment spreader and was not ideal for peeling an apple, but cut slices adequately. The CRKTs more traditional shape was quite functional in all tasks.
Whittling: Since one of the tasks I anticipate doing with a neck knife in an emergency is tinder/kindling preparation, I used both blades to fabricate a fire-drill kit and tinder.
The CRKT performed adequately, though somewhat awkwardly due to grip difficulties, and did produce finer shavings than the Tactical. However, the L-1’s ergonomic grip and hooked “beak” allowed to to be used not only for shaving tinder and shaping the drill, but it did an excellent job of gouging out the platform and hand-block socket. The grip provided enough leverage to even split pencil-thin kindling strips off of a dry piece of pine.
Edge: L-1 by a landslide
Cutting: The minimum acceptable standard for my neck knife in the backcountry is to cut paracord with ease. I also tested all 3 blades on 1/2″ polyethylene “lemon line”.
Spyderco: Paracord – sliced it like a scalpel. No surprise. Poly: No problem. One medium strength swipe.
CRKT: Paracord – 1 swipe, minimal effort. Poly: 3 solid swipes – the partially serrated edge gave it an advantage with such a short blade. Plus the traditional shape allowed me to put a slightly better edge on it than the SMKW.
L-1: Paracord – like buttah. Poly: 4 swipes, tough, but acceptable.
Ratings (out of five stars)
CRKT **** : Its “Dogfish” theme was a design choice from the start. It isn’t my thing, but is nice. The bottle opener mouth is a nice touch.
L-1 : **** : This thing looks mean. It is like having a claw to slice and rip. But it isn’t gimmicky.
CRKT: *** 3Cr13 Stainless. Seemed soft. Easy to sharpen due to the flat shape of fore-blade. I was able to get it razor-sharp on the Tormek.
L-1: **** AUS 8 steel. A difficult knife to sharpen both because of its concave shape and the hardness of the steel. I am sharpening it with a Spyderco Sharpmaker, and can’t get it quite where I want it. If I could put the edge on it I would like = 5 stars)
CRKT: ** : It is difficult to grasp effectively. There are a few finger gripping striations in the top of the blade, but they are of marginal use. Using the bottle opener is awkward at best. At worst, an inebriated individual is likely to need stitches before the party is over.
L-1: ***** One of the most comfortable grips I have ever had on a knife. It is like having your own bear-claw extension to your hand.
CRKT: ** You will lose your grip and drop it before breaking this knife. The Kydex sheath loosens with use. Unacceptable.
L-1: ***** This thing is stout. You might be able to snap the very tip if you tried, but most will remain. You can gouge, split, and shave wood with this knife.
Overall Rating :
CRKT: *** In a sense, this knife did a better job at “knifey” things. It whittled better, sliced food better, and was easy to sharpen. It is just too small and awkward to be a very good knife, at least with its current ergonomics.
L-1: **** : While it doesn’t exactly excel at doing “knifey” things, it does a functional job, and it is a better all around tool when it comes to survival tasks (you could unwrap the paracord and use the back of the grip as an excellent flint-striker). The way this knife grips in my hand leads me to believe it would be an excellent tool to have in a defensive situation as well.
I confidently carry this knife in virtually all legal situations, discretely tucked beneath my shirt. Now if it only had a bottle opener…