REVIEW – Southern Grind BAD MONKEY Folding Modified Tanto Serrated-Cerakote Knife

We love sharp things here at PREP and any outdoorsman worth his salt will appreciate a good blade. So when we get a chance to play with something new it’s like Christmas. The opinion jury is always out on knives and their use in daily operations and it’s even more divided out in the woods. We found something new and decided to put it through some paces here in the deeper South.

BAD MONKEY Folding Modified Tanto Serrated-Cerakote in Armor Black

BAD MONKEY Folding Modified Tanto Serrated-Cerakote in Armor Black

As with many things, there will be those of you that are steadfast in your beliefs and expectations of certain products but let’s keep an open mind. Folding knives. There are as many designs as there are hands to hold them it seems. We have our preferences here at the school but are always eager to try new ideas for in and out of the wood line. Allow me to state that folders are great tools but will not replace a quality full tang bushcraft knife when your life is on the line in the bush. If you are planning to snuggle up with Mother Nature for the night be sure to put all of your gear to the test before you go. She has a nasty habit of turning her back on you real quick.

We grabbed this new blade from Zac Brown’s Southern Grind after we saw it at the 2013 Living Ready/Blade Show in Atlanta. This is the BAD MONKEY Folding Modified Tanto Serrated-Cerakote in Armor Black.

The knife features:

  • Carbon fiber handle, twill weave, textured with a matte finish

  • 3 screw pocket clip

  • Titanium lock and liner

  • 14C-28N Steel blade with a conventional V-grind and half serrated edge

  • Tanto design with a hardness of RC 59-61

  • Blade is finished with Cerakote in armor black

  • Overall length is 9.125”

  • Blade length is 3.875”

  • Weighs in at 4.97 oz.

The knife also sports the Emerson Wave feature, which allows it to open as it is drawn for smooth and quick deployment when desired.  The knife also shipped with a nice insulated leather can koozie, leather key ring and black paracord bracelet.

We have processes here at the school to test certain equipment and the Bad Monkey had to run the bases to be qualified for duty.

 So what was tested?

  • Design, grip, blade security, locking mechanism:
    • Fits a big hand well, is on the larger size but thin enough to wear comfortably
    • Textured carbon fiber scales grip the hands in wet conditions well
    • Ambidextrous thumb studs are nicely placed and shouldn’t wear through pants pocket
    • Gorilla gripping the handle doesn’t dislodge the liner lock accidentally like some liner lock knives
    • Blade is solidly in place, no play whatsoever
    • Locking mechanism is firm and tapered for extended life
    • Pocket clip is shorter than usual but works well while allowing Wave feature to work unencumbered
    • Blade floats comfortably in liner with no chafing on finish
    • Smooth, almost imperceptible opening of blade
    • Unlocks and folds with ease
    • We abused it with a Spine Hammer test repeatedly, the blade and lock stood firm.

(All sequence photos were taken with a burst mode camera demonstrating live action)

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  • The Wave feature and ease of opening:
    • Very smooth opening by thumb stud
    • Lightning fast wrist snap opening capability (see our VIDEO0002)
    • Blade locks open firm and with confidence
    • Wave feature takes some getting used to because knife just wants to deploy for action every time you take it out of the pocket.

 

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  • Testing the edge:
    • We whittled some hardwood into several fire feathers then went to the 1800# tensile strength mule tape. Both serrated and non-serrated edges performed factory fresh and fast on the very fibrous webbing after grinding through the hard dry wood.
    • The blade still cuts tomatoes like a ninja
    • The Tanto version we have also has another edge of about .25” in length on the spine at the tip, which has almost another tip ground in and it is like a scalpel.

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  • Finally we tested the blade for quickness of use under a test called draw, deploy, use and return.
    • This test was done in a utility mode and a defensive mode.
    • The Bad Monkey deployed like lightning in a good grip position, performed its task and pocketed easily.

We found that this blade demands serious respect. When I say it’s sharp I mean really sharp. It only takes a light brush on the blade to donate some blood.

The Emerson Wave feature was new to us and as such the little scalpel tooth on the Tanto version has to date bit me 5 times upon deployment. I don’t feel this would be a problem on the other Southern Grind blade styles, it’s only because the Tanto has the spine grind that when deployed will nick any fingers in line with the unfolding blade.  This happens so fast you don’t even realize it happened until you are leaking which is a testament to the effectiveness of the grind on this bad boy.

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In our defensive deployment test we found that the spine grind made penetration of our test dummy all that much quicker than other blades as it cuts in reverse and is easy on the wrist upon skin entry. The Wave does act differently between loose tactical pants and tighter jeans pockets so some care is to be used when taking it out of your pocket if you don’t want to open the knife.

In summary we love the knife. It is sleek and serious.  A well done! goes out to Southern Grind for creating a precision folder that is also made in America. We look forward to more from them soon.  Until then, we’ll use the Bad Monkey for all kinds of testing, like fresh rum drinks. Hey it’s for survival!

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Check out the rest of the knives available at www.southerngrind.com

 

REVIEW – Exotac nanoSTRIKER XL

In our pursuit of fire we have found plenty of quality options but here is an interesting stand out. The Exotac nanoSTRIKER combines high quality engineering and compact size to make a ferrocerrium rod that’s almost too easy to carry and just as easy to use. We took the Nano Striker XL for a test drive out in the back 40 to see if it had what it takes to ignite some debris in a 95% humidity environment.

So what is the Nano Striker?

It’s an extremely compact ferrocerrium rod that stores within itself. When closed it measures in at a short 3.5” in length and about .38” diameter. When opened, it’s just a hair over 4”. The rod is thicker in diameter than most fire steels and is advertised to handle more than 3000 strikes at 5500°. The rod is removable for replacement, which is nice because I don’t see the body ever wearing out. The scraper is usually the weak point in fire starters but this one is a small piece of tungsten carbide embedded in the lanyard attachment and it’s very sharp. Too often you’ll get a hacksaw blade on a string and they always break. The small scraper has an unusual feel when you are used to something bigger like a survival knife against a fire rod. The size may take some getting used to, but once you master the proper angle of attack I think you’ll come to enjoy the compact design.

Look what showed up!

Look what showed up!

 

Fresh out of the package.

Fresh out of the package.

A noticeable difference were the sparks this thing gives off as compared to the average fire steel. When striking, you’ll see a dense shower of molten globules rain down on the tinder. I think the smaller scraper helps to focus the sparks but that’s just an observation. Another feature I kind of like is that the rod stores easily in a waterproof chamber that is sealed by O-rings. The reason for this is probably corrosion prevention. Have you ever taken your fire steel out and seen it covered in white rust? That’s because it got wet or damp from humidity and put away unprotected. You don’t see that when they are new because all rods come with a protective coating from the factory that you must scrape off before the first use. Ours came in black but I strongly recommend a brighter color like orange so you can un-lose it easier. Save the black and Camo colors for the big stuff, survival gear should be brightly colored so you can see it laying on the ground or hanging on a tree. Not everything needs to be tactical especially this small stuff, it won’t do you any good when you can’t find it on the ground, or in the dark.

What did we use for tinder?

As a base tinder we pulled some mesh fiber from a cabbage palm tree and mixed in some palmetto frond bits, damp leaves and a little amber pine straw for good measure. Most areas in the U.S. this summer are experiencing drought and extreme heat conditions. Here in South Florida we are semi-tropical and always damp this time of year, which makes fire starting a challenge. This summer we have experienced an unusual rain pattern that has kept us with choking humidity and soggy conditions for several months and rain almost every day at odd times.

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How do you use the Nano Striker?


Unscrew and reattach the rod to the base, unscrew the scraper, I recommend that you put several of your fingers through the scraper lanyard for additional stability. Hold the scraper at 45 degrees to the rod and scrape as if you are trying to skin the rod. After a few strokes you’ll see the proper angle for the best sparks. It took us some trial and error to get the angle right with such a small scraper. There is a sweet spot angle on all fire rods. For an extra boost in tough conditions, slowly scrape some of the rod onto the tinder to receive the sparks if needed. Scrape with a purpose and you’ll notice the molten globs will continue to burn for a moment, which is different than some of the lesser quality fire starters. This will give hard to light tinder a little help.

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One thing we always find in our fire starting classes is that many people don’t understand how to get the sparks on the tinder. It may seem simple in conversation but it’s a little harder in practice.

Here are some tips to conquer fire in the great outdoors with your Exotac nanoSTRIKER:
1. Select the driest tinder possible
2. Tinder should be very small, think hairy toothpicks. It should crackle or snap when you break it.
3. Gather increasing sizes of wood and have plenty of wood ready to go so you aren’t scrambling at the last minute. When looking for firewood, think the following sizes, tooth pick, pencil, finger, arm, leg then torso. Store your woodpile so it doesn’t get rained on.
4. Form a teepee with your smaller sticks and leave an opening to slide your lit tinder bundle in.
5. Using the striker, scrape (don’t strike) some sparks into the bundle. Attempt to aim the shower of sparks into the bundle. If you find you are all over the place or bumping the bundle, try to firmly pull the rod back from the striker while holding the striker in place. This may improve your aim.
6. Once you have a smoldering ember, gently breath some air into the ember while folding the bundle around the ember. In a few moments you should have a flame. If you’ve seen too many survival shows, you’ll probably hear the dramatic crescendo of music as the flame leaps to life in your hands.
7. Place the bundle under the teepee so the flames hit the sticks and tend to it until you have success.
8. Sit by fire and stare longingly at flames for hours.

What did we think?

In closing, we really like the nanoSTRIKER. This is one of those tools that you can easily carry around your neck in case your pack gets eaten by bears or lost in the crash. This is also a great EDC kit option and a thoughtful gift for the survivalist who appreciates quality gear. Another important plus for us here at the school is that EXOTAC products are made in America. We are beginning to see this more often from the quality equipment companies and that is a great thing. After this, we are looking forward to dragging some of their other products out to the swamp.

Check out the rest of the Exotac line of products here: www.exotac.com

Convenience and Simplicity – Pt 2: How to Make a Better Bug Out Bag

Last week, we posted about some of the common problems with pre-made emergency kits.  This week is part 2, how to make a BETTER kit.

Also, now that we’ve exposed the possible deficiencies with pre-made kits, what about the user? We know that just buying stuff doesn’t help much if you don’t know what you have or how to use it. Let’s talk about suitable options to make a better kit and the recommended skills to have at a minimum.

  •  Pick up a quality water filter that has specs showing it can filter the most common biologicals if not better. I recommend Berkey bottles for their convenience and durability. Learn some basic water purification skills and how to select the best water in your area. Add some water purification tablets or Tincture of Iodine 2% for extra protection.
  • Pick up a quality survival blanket in a larger size, and add some Gorilla duct tape to seal yourself in. Better yet, grab a SOL Emergency Bivvy. Learn about heat and cold injuries and how to prevent them. (For a 2 person bivvy, check this out: SOL emergency Bivvy – 2 person)
  • A 55-gallon heavy-duty trash bag has a hundred uses including rain poncho and takes up no room when rolled up. Take 2 of them with you. Learn some ways to use the bag resourcefully.
  • Making fire is a very important skill to know. There is no need to default to rubbing sticks together if you take a fire source with you. A quality disposable lighter with some duct tape and jute twine will serve dozens of purposes. You can also add some tinder (duct tape is also a good tinder) and add a ferrocerrium rod as a back up. Learn how to make a fire teepee from debris.
  • Food rations are as simple as adding some sports bars but you can also purchase the better quality survival bars such a SOS or Mainstay. If you want a longer-term kit, add some pre-made cable snares or a slingshot. Learn about wild edibles to take advantage of your surroundings.
  • Add a good quality whistle such as JetScream or at least a good referee whistle. Learn some basic self-rescue and signal techniques for air and ground rescue observation. If you go on a hike or trip, you should have told someone where you were going and when to expect you to return.
  • Add a couple of good quality N95 masks in a Ziploc bag to your kit. These are helpful in many environments. Learn basic flu prevention methods and how germs are transmitted. If in an urban area, become familiar with regular wind patterns in case smoke or building collapse dusts becomes a concern. Add a heavy quality cotton bandanna to wet into a simple smoke mask. Swim goggles can help see in contaminated air. Know your evacuation routes for everywhere you go, inside and outside.
  • Add a few pair of Nitrile medical gloves in a plastic bag and rotate them at least every year. A decent set of work gloves will protect your medical gloves when handling debris such as in a car accident or urban disaster. Learn about blood-borne pathogens and take a CERT  (Community Emergency Response Team) class. The classes are free and you will receive free gear and meet others interested in preparedness. Look here for a class
  • Add some custom first aid supplies based on your abilities and likely situation. Learn some basic first aid and CPR.
  • Add a good quality flashlight preferably a bright LED headlamp and extra batteries for hands free operation. It is a good idea to add several Cyalume Brand green and yellow 12-hour chemical light sticks. These are military grade and cost about $1 each. Take care not to bend them in your bag until you need them. These will be effective for the full 12 hours unlike the cheap version form overseas.
  • Place all your gear in a decent quality backpack that is durable but not necessarily to expensive or too tactical looking. You don’t want someone trying to take it from you.  Use a bag large enough to add some personal items but not so big you can’t easily carry it for long distances. If it has a padded waist belt, that’s even better.

 

This is not the end of the discussion and you must personalize the bag for your skill level and particular situation. As we always say in our Bug-Out Bag classes, never listen to anyone who gives you a generic shopping list. If they do, I guarantee they don’t know what they are talking about.

In closing I want to add a couple of the many possible additions to your kit to make it yours.

Some additions to consider:

  • Seasonal clothing you can walk long distances in
  • Outdoor boots or walking shoes
  • Hiking socks
  • First-Aid references
  • Health information
  • Important documents
  • ID to prove where you live
  • Special meds
  • Tissues
  • Ear plugs
  • Map
  • Commo plan/phone numbers
  • Self defense item
  • Steel water bottle and cup
  • Quality knife
  • Cordage, 550 or bank line. At least 50 feet
  • Gorilla Brand duct tape
  • Waterproof bag

 In closing, this is a very large subject broken down to demonstrate the benefits of building your own kits and learning some basic skills. This article is in no way meant to be all-inclusive. It is too easy to grab something off of a shelf and feel safe but it is another thing entirely to actually be ready for life’s emergencies. Take a little time to do it right. It doesn’t have to be expensive but these are things you are effectively betting your safety on, and possibly the safety of your loved ones. They deserve a well though out plan and quality equipment.

What would you add to the list that can be carried to improve your general survival?

Feel free to list skills or gear.

Convenience and Simplicity Over True Preparedness – Pt. 1

There is a trend in the Prepperverse of taking the easy way out. Everywhere we turn there is another snake oil answer to our survival problems.

Case in point, pre-made bugout bags. From $36 and up you can toss one of these in your cart and you are ready for that systemic collapse we’ve been worried about. Thank goodness there was a company that solved that problem, now we can get the t-shirt and get on with our lives.

Not so fast, if only it was this easy. Anyone who jumps in bed with a wholesaler from China and thinks they are doing you a great service may be actually doing you a disservice.  It turns out there is a catch when it comes to any piece of equipment, you need to try it out at the very least and preferably be proficient with said equipment before your safety depends on it. Since your gear can’t speak, you’ll need to play with it to become familiar with its operation, quirks, dependability and safety. These kits usually claim to have survival supplies including but not limited to:

  • Water packets or filter
  • Survival blanket
  • Rain poncho
  • A way to make fire
  • Some type of food ration
  • A signal device
  • Dust mask
  • Vinyl gloves
  • First-Aid kit
  • Light source of some kind
  • A handy backpack or fanny bag

So what could possibly go wrong?

  1. The water packets are a good option as long as they are Coast Guard Certified for survival kits in extreme climate conditions (your vehicle trunk) The juice box type have tendency to leak, grow interior mold and are bulky.
  2. The water filters usually included can be of questionable specification and quality. We find that they may not filter some common contaminants and often break after or during the first use. A filter is only as good as the way you use it. Does it come with safe use instructions? Do you know anything about water purification?
  3. The survival blanket must be used as a cocoon to work properly. Tossing it over your shoulders as a cloak will do nothing for you. Is it big enough to cover you completely? Can you seal it shut without the material tearing? Most cheap blankets tear very easily. Have you tried to use one in advance? A note on this, don’t expect to be able to re-pack the blanket back in its compact form. Buy a spare and use it to practice, they cost about a dollar for the type used in most kits.
  4. The rain poncho is usually the .50-cent version from a dollar store. It has its survival uses but don’t count on it being very durable.
  5. The usual included fire starter is a package of waterproof matches. We did a review on the UCO brand of matches and found that there is nothing waterproof about them. They might work if they became slightly damp but don’t count on them if they are exposed to water for more than a few seconds.
  6. The food rations that are usually included vary by brand but are usually some sort of ration cookie or bar. Some brands are ok but do your research on the nutrition they contain. Remember that if you need to eat these bars, you will probably be in a tough spot and calories count. Make sure they offer some nutrients and are not too much protein. In a scenario where you are stranded, water may be scarce and protein depletes your body stores. Some brands indicate they do not promote thirst for this reason. Don’t forget to look for the Coast Guard Certification as with the water packets. A good goal would be a 3-day supply of rations and at the very least, 1200 calories per day for a total of 3600 calories. Remember, you may be walking a long way and you’ll need energy.
  7. The signal device will usually be a whistle or a mirror. We’ve tested different whistles in the wilderness and some just don’t work well enough to hear for any distance. Make sure you try it out with a friend from a good distance before you need it to signal for real help. Signal mirrors are very effective… If someone is looking for you. Otherwise they are usually ignored as an accidental reflection of some sort. What would you do if you saw a glint of light in the distance?
  8. Your kit may come with a “respirator”. This means dust mask. These are not protective from aerosols or any kind of chemical. They will not be effective against smoke either. At best they may help with dust from a building collapse. They are marginally effective with airborne pathogens.
  9. Vinyl gloves. A good idea but keep in mind why you would need them. Will these knock off gloves protect you from blood borne pathogens? Will they deteriorate in the kit and tear when you use them?
  10. The first-aid kit is usually a few cheap Band-Aids and some sporin cream. These kits are severely lacking for much more than a paper cut.
  11. The light source. This is usually a chemical light or flashlight. Chem lights are great as long as you have a quality brand that will be bright and last for the full 12 hours claimed on the label. The Chinese versions will do neither. We’ve all purchased a bargain flashlight at some point so I don’t need to reveal why that’s a bad idea. If the kit offers a wind-up light try it out to make sure it works and the handle doesn’t break off when you crank it.
  12. The handy backpack they offer is usually of a quality on par with your child’s first kindergarten bag. Remember you will definitely need to add some personal items and possibly wear the bag for many miles. If you have ever worn a backpack that chafed your skin and possibly tore at an inconvenient time you already know how bad that can be. If you have never walked with your bug-out bag, you absolutely must take it for a walk of at least several miles if not more. It takes that long to truly reveal all the discomforts and defects you may have to contend with.

So, before you run out to Costco or that new fancy online store, take a good hard look at the products they are offering and whether they truly suit your needs and will take you OUT of harm’s way, instead of putting you right INTO it.

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