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)

image005 image004image007

  • 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.


  • image009 image011 image013 image015 image016 image018
  • 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.

image021 image023 image025 image019

  • 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.

image027 image029

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!


Check out the rest of the knives available at



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.

Nano 03Nano 04

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.

Nano 05

Nano 06

Nano 07Nano 08Nano 09

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:

EcoZoom Versa – Review by PREP

The folks at EcoZoom asked us if we were interested in trying out their Versa stove and writing an unflinching review of our findings. That takes nerve and you better be ready to take a punch if your product is lacking in any way. Of course we said yes, always happy to discover a worthy survival solution or to thin the herd of junk products where needed.

We first saw their stoves at a survival expo out in Colorado a couple years ago and were intrigued. Rocket stoves come in various designs and many people have tried to create their own version. Some even make them from debris lying around. There are usually a couple of problems with rocket stoves, namely, they are either made in pieces from debris and not easy to transport, or they are made of some kind of structural steel/concrete and could double as a ship anchor. Some designs are even dangerously hot to the exterior touch due to lack of insulation, which is a fire hazard in itself. One thing is for sure though; they work great if you can get your muddy hands on a good one.

We found that there actually is a solid solution to this problem. In the Versa model we found that EcoZoom has created a good combination of strength, weight, portability and safety. Here’s what we found as we put the stove through some paces.

Initial Impression:

  • Very sturdy construction
  • Nice finish coating on the metal surfaces
  • Packaging is solid
  • Looked and felt durable like a real piece of equipment
  • Not too big, not too small for simple cooking
  • Would store easily in tight spaces along with other gear
  • Weighs in at about 22 pounds
  • No sharp edges, good workmanship

First test: Finding firewood and lighting

One of the challenges here in Southern Florida is that we don’t have much in the way of hardwood trees. Our swampy conditions and sandy soils offer more soft and sappy wood. We located some Brazilian pepper, slash pine and cabbage palm frond for our cooking effort. The learning curve was not very steep. I found that the easiest way to start the fire was to take a handful of good tinder and one ½” x 6” stick and place it down the center of the chimney and light it from the bottom. Once the tinder flames began, the larger sticks were able to ignite easily.

Very quickly you will find the flames roaring to life. Before you place the food or cooking pot on the surface you may want to feed the sticks in or out to adjust the heat level required, it takes about a meal to get comfortable with it. Before your first sticks die down you’ll want to start the next batch of sticks one at a time to maintain your cooking temps.

A sampling of the wood that we used: Brazilian pepper, slash pine and cabbage palm

A sampling of the wood that we used: Brazilian pepper, slash pine and cabbage palm

The flame was howling in moments

The flame was howling in moments

Notice the strong drafting as air is drawn into the firebox. Hence the name "Rocket stove".

Notice the strong drafting as air is drawn into the firebox. Hence the name “Rocket stove”.

We found that the fire burned so fast that he small twigs were gone quickly.

We found that the fire burned so fast that he small twigs were gone quickly.

The stick rest is a nice tough.

The stick rest is a nice touch.

We decided to try some larger diameter sticks, and the flames flew.

We decided to try some larger diameter sticks, and the flames flew.

Second test: Dutch oven lid-only cooking

We had an old Dutch oven laying around that needed to be re-seasoned and it’s always time for bacon, so we used this as our learning experience. Adjusting the flame didn’t take too much getting used to. We easily cooked and learned how to use the stove simultaneously. We used the cast iron lid as a skillet and cooked some bacon. We chose cast iron, thinking that it would be more difficult to keep heated due to its thickness. This was no problem for the EcoZoom Versa. In just a few moments we were thawing frozen bacon and in about five minutes we were done cooking. (Insert bacon smell here)


Third Test: Use of the wind skirt

The wind skirt made cooking even faster.

The wind skirt made cooking even faster.

The Versa comes with a nice addition, a wind skirt. The claims are that it increases the heating efficiency and focuses more heat to the cooking vessel. We found that this was true, it seemed to increase temperature quickly and our bacon sizzled even faster. We had a very breezy day and we didn’t lose any heat while using the skirt. A nice addition to an outdoor stove that many companies don’t seem to understand.




Fourth Test: Dutch oven 10-inch pot

Tongs made cooking easier, including moving embers as needed.

Tongs made cooking easier, including moving embers as needed.

The Wind Skirt fit nicely around the cast iron oven pot and was easily adjusted. One of the concerns we had originally revolved around center of gravity on an unstable surface. We tested the stove on our old SHTF

wagon, and even moved the wagon up and down a slope with the Dutch oven on the stove, and experienced no balance issues. We feel this is important when you have children around who may dangerously bump into a hot pot of boiling water or the last of your emergency foodstuffs. The whole setup was very stable.


Fifth Test: Foil Packet Meal

A popular camp dinner, we put together a large 2-person foil packet meal containing a mahi filet, green beans, onions and potatoes. We were able to gently place the packet right on top of the stove, and maintain an even flame. While you may be able to use only a couple of sticks to start a fire, you’ll definitely need a small pile in order to get through an entire meal. This was no problem as we have twigs laying everywhere. I am confident that unless we are lost at sea with our EcoZoom we will find something to burn.


We were cooking almost too fast.

Pass the Cajun seasoning! This large packet meal normally takes 30 minutes, we did it in 25 and it was delicious.

Rufus the Ready Dog knows what’s cookin’

When you’re done cooking there is no big fire to extinguish

When you’re done cooking there is no big fire to extinguish

Easy instructions on the box

Just close the doors and you’re done (Watch for any hot embers that may have fallen out).

Just close the doors and you’re done
(Watch for any hot embers that may have fallen out).


So what did we discover while testing the EcoZoom Versa stove?


  • Much easier than making a full campfire
  • Much easier to contain/extinguish than a campfire
  • Can be moved while hot, unlike a typical fire
  • Has convenient handles for transport
  • Stable footprint, just find and clear a small level spot anywhere
  • Works well in windy conditions
  • Potentially works well in rainy conditions due to the fire being shielded
  • Multi-fuel (biomass, charcoal or anything that burns)
  • As opposed to a typical charcoal fire, you can adjust the temperature and not have to carry charcoal with you unless you want to. The stove does come standard with a nice heavy-duty cast iron charcoal grate that allows you to get every last bit of heat from briquettes before they fall through to the lower ash chamber.
  • Great instructions using pictures that are easy to understand
  • Their charity program will send a stove to a needful family for every unit they sell through their Z+ Program


  • The well insulated structure and refractory brick makes it a heavy piece of equipment, so it’s not a convenient trail stove. This stout little rocket is best suited as an off-grid cooking option in case of disaster, or a base camp stove, but you won’t be throwing this in a backpack anytime soon. For hiking, I’ll rely on either a bush craft stove or a portable cooking system.


We used some Kevlar oven gloves and tongs for convenience but other than that all we needed was an appetite.

The Benefits of using the EcoZoom Stove

The Benefits of using the EcoZoom Stove

In the end, we love this thing and consider it to be one of those things you will only need to buy once and keep using for many years to come. Its amazing ability to be useful in almost any environment, using almost any combustible solid material is a big plus for us as we are hard on equipment and go to some rough places.

For more information check out their website at:

Website developed by