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Best Trekking Knife (and Backup)

The Ka-Bar Dozier Folding Hunter

Ka-Bar's Dozier Folding Hunter (Drop Point)

Preface

In this review we're looking at two knives. The main one is Scramble's official recommendation (a consensus opinion) and the backup is the editor's personal choice (no consensus was reached in this regard). For this reason, only the main (Ka-Bar) knife will get a rating.

We're not going to pretend to be outright knife experts (we're not full-time bushcrafters, hunters or live-off-the-land survivalists) and this choice of knife is predominantly the result of a good deal of research and testing in the field. Is the Ka-Bar Folding Hunter the best knife out there? No. Are there better value knives? Not in our opinion and we're certainly not alone in this view.

As always, we're looking at the Ka-Bar Folding Hunter (and the mini Douk-Douk) from the point of view of long distance trekking over tough terrain.

Test subject: Hand Size 8.5", Typical Glove Size = Medium, right-handed (though not relevant due the knives under review)
Test item: Blaze Orange, Drop Point (thumb stud deployment)
Kit Tests: Winter, Summer (multiple)
Disclaimer: None required (items not provided by manufacturer)

Datasheet

Materials (Blade): AUS 8A Stainless Steel (Rockwell Hardness) 56-58CR
Materials (Handle): Zytel -
Blade Characteristics (Grind / Shape): Hollow / Drop Point
Blade Dimensions (Length x Height x Thickness): 7.70 x 2.20 x 0.29 cm
Knife Length (Open / Closed): 18.40 / 10.70 cm
Weight 65g
Manufacturer RRP (approx. range, USD conversion) ~ £25.00 - £30.00

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Scramble Review

Contents

 

Introduction: A Brief History

Around 2 million years ago there was an inflection point in human evolution where our brain size began growing logarithmically. It just so happens that this coincides with the first known cutting tools shaped by our ancestors (the bifacial Acheulean tools of Homo habilis, since you ask). Our ancestors had begun hunting and devouring meat. This was about 1 million years (give or take plenty) before we discovered fire. Just a side note - since we started our agrarian farming revolution about 15,000 years ago our brains have been shrinking.

The moral of this short story? Knives (and other cutting tools) have been around a long time; they're probably the most useful tool known to man and have played a profound role in our development. Surely it's time we made them illegal (we'll get onto that later).
 

Fit For Purpose: Materials & Uses


What Do We Want?

For trekking purposes, what we're after is a simple, durable, safe (i.e. locking), lightweight knife that takes a good edge and is easy to sharpen both at home and in the field. We don't want it to take up too much room and unless we're in the jungle, we don't need a machete; a small folding pocket or EDC knife will do fine. 

Here's an incomplete task-list of knife-chores (food, fire, first aid, repairs):
cutting tapes, cords, ropes, threads, bandages, removing large splinters (and other excisions), slicing blisters, fashioning supports, food prep, fire prep (feather sticks, kindling) if gas runs out, and on and on ...


The Right Material

In the simplest of terms, when it comes to cutting tools there are two types of steel: stainless and high-carbon.

  • Stainless steel resists rust very well but sharp edges may dull more easily, under pressure it tends to curl, bend or warp.
  • High-Carbon steel is more prone to rust but will keep an edge well, under pressure it's more likely to chip or splinter.

Most mass-produced steels are somewhere in between.

The Ka-Bar Dozier Folding Hunter (we'll call it the Folding Hunter from hereon) is made from AUS-8A stainless steel which (unlike AUS-8) has been heat treated. It has a relatively low carbon content but contains Vanadium which improves its hardness; it resists rust well and can be sharpened to a razor edge but dulls quicker than a comparable carbon steel blade.
 

Design, Dimensions & Weight


Design: Blades & Aesthetics

The Folding Hunter comes in two blade variants (drop point, spear point), two deployment options (thumb stud [common], thumb notch [rare]) and in a wide range of colour schemes from the subdued (Foliage Green, Coyote Tan) to the florescent (Zombie Green) to the eye-catching (Blaze Orange, Pink). I like the Blaze Orange as it's easy to locate in the undergrowth.

For the purposes of this review (forgetting colour schemes), we're specifically talking about the most common, and in our view, best option: The Folding Hunter drop point with thumb stud. The drop point blade is generally regarded as being a little stronger than the spear point design (which is more for penetration than cutting). Both have a hollow grind.


Weight & Dimensions

What sets the Folding Hunter apart from much of the competition is how much knife you get for so few grams. It's pretty remarkable that such a capable knife weighs in at just 65g.  Let's see how it measures up:

Ka-Bar Dozier Folding Hunter : Weight & DimensionsA very low weight for such an effective knife.


Safety Measures & Southpaw Features

The Folding Hunter is by default set for right-handed users but both the clip and the thumb-stud can be switched over for left-handed use. The blade can be deployed one-handed via the thumb-stud and, with some care, closed one-handed too.

The Folding Hunter is a locking knife, so once extended it won't fold back and cut your fingers off. Once deployed there is little to no vertical or lateral blade play and it's a very steady, solid-feeling, safe knife to use.

There's some mild (not overly aggressive) jimping for aiding grip and stability when close control is required (carving notches etc...). The Zytel handle is superb and makes the knife very comfortable in the hand. 

The Folding Hunter, packed away is 10.7 cm long, 3.5 cm wide (at its widest point) and just 1.5 cm deep (including the raised clip).

The Folding Hunter packs up small and is quick and easy to deployThe Ka-Bar Dozier Folding Hunter safely packed away.


Any Negatives?

None. It's a great value knife. Holds an edge very well, works well in wet conditions and is really the ideal trekking knife. Nothing bad to say about it after many years of use.


What makes this knife very safe also makes it illegal to carry in the UK (unless you have good reason). Let's have a quick look at the law, before we get to the second knife in this review.
 

Let's Make Safety Illegal: UK Knife Laws

Greenman Bushcraft has a useful summary of UK law (as it relates the Ka-Bar Folding Hunter):

1) Folding Knives - UK knife law clearly states that any knife with a non-locking blade less than three inches in length is legal to carry in the UK. However, should you take this into an environment where you have no justification to carry a knife, such as a petrol station, sporting event, supermarket, etc, then you should expect* to be prosecuted. (* could be prosecuted may be a better wording, also there's a big difference if it's in your pocket or you're waving it around in your hand)

2) Fixed blade or locking blade knives - of any length are not illegal to own or carry, if you have ‘Reasonable Cause’ for doing so. For example, you’re a chef carrying a roll of knives to and from work. or, you’re a fisherman needing a fillet knife, or maybe a woodworker / carpenter / bushcraft instructor travelling to and from work.  If you’re unable to show ‘Reasonable Cause’ then you could be prosecuted.

The Folding Hunter falls into category #2 above, as its blade is a fraction over 3" and more importantly it's a locking blade (which makes it fundamentally more secure and safe compared to non-locking blades). What makes something safe in the mountains where emergency services aren't quick to your side, makes it illegal in the UK. So, unless you've got a good reason to carry it, you're in trouble. Personally, when travelling through populated areas, I keep my knives packed away in a belt bag, sealed inside a dry bag (so not exactly Quick Draw McGraw). I have to say, I've never had any issues with anyone in uniform to date.
 

Detour Ahead: Musings on the criminalising of objects rather than deeds

The following views are singularly those of the editor and are not an attempt to synthesise any kind of Scramble "party line" with regard to knife legislationFor those uninterested, feel free to jump ahead to the backup knife review.

Caveats out of the way, assuming you're still with me, let's see what all the fuss is about ...

Firstly, I find it funny that I can walk through London with a far more deadly ice axe strapped to the outside of my pack and all is well in the eyes of the bewigged. Such absurdities are merely emblematic of the deeply worrying political trend of banning things as a first resort, because it's easy, requires little imagination and may result in fines and thus revenue for a state always looking at ways to extort the populace (speed cameras anyone?). 

So, while freedoms and rights are currently being eviscerated on the back of a virus, let's take a minor detour and talk about law and order. Again, if you want to skip this insightful section and jump into the Douk-Douk, click here.
 

Laws Don't Protect You

Let me state the obvious and say by definition a wanton criminal is someone who will not observe, and indeed will willfully ignore government diktat. So when we institute laws, they generally, a) only really affect the majority of law-abiding citizens, and b) do nothing to protect the public since we already have laws against murder and other things, but murderers and criminals don't seem to care.

In terms of serious offences (where motivation is so far beyond the rational cost-benefit calculation inherent in a law's deterrent power), the law, rather than protect the public, merely enables a framework for reparations and punishment (often referred to as "justice").
 

There must be 50,000 ways to kill A. N. Other
  1. We have laws that prohibit actions for moral reasons, such as killing or injuring another person.
  2. We have other laws that aim to curb behaviour that the state deems "undesirable".

Since we mentioned speed cameras earlier, let's use driving as our guide.

You're not allowed to intentionally kill someone with your car - that's murder (we've got laws of the #1 kind for that). "Undesirable behaviour" in terms of driving might be that which could lead to a serious crime (like manslaughter), for example driving too fast in a built-up area. So we have speed limits.

Notice what is being legislated for here: the subject's deed, not the method / object used to execute the deed. The deed / action is the crime, the person (subject) committing that action is the criminal:

  • I (subject) exceeded the speed limit (deed) while driving my car (object).
  • I (subject) killed a man by accident (deed) while driving my car (object).

Now let's think about knife laws and whether they're needed at all.

  • I (subject) killed a man on purpose (deed) with my knife (object).

The object is superfluous; it's already against the law to murder (what I used to commit the crime has no bearing). That's why it makes no sense to ban the object, if it did, then we'd have to ban almost everything. We don't ban water (object) because someone drowned their victim; we don't ban vans (object) when they're used to murder people on London Bridge and we wouldn't ban fridges (object) if I dropped mine on some unsuspecting passer-by.

Finally, let's look again at the #2 type of laws; those intended to curb behaviour that the state deems "undesirable". If we wanted to make "aggressive behaviour with a knife" a crime (analogous to exceeding the speed limit) as it may portend a more serious offence, this legislation may (or may not) have value. But that's different from a blanket ban on the object (the knife). Indeed, we already have laws that make such behaviour criminal when directed at an individual (perhaps even a small group). Common assault (if I'm not mistaken) includes cases where someone genuinely perceives a legitimate threat of injury to their person. So, if I go out into the street and wave a knife around at people, I've likely already broken the law.

So, no need to ban knives, water, vans, fridges or any of the other 50,000 latently lethal tools that were invented to make our lives a little easier.

Finally, just to underline the absurdity of such laws, the next knife in this review, beloved by Algerian assassins, has a dark and murderous history. Because it doesn't lock and its blade is a fraction under 3 inches in length, this proven killer is legal to carry in the UK.

Go figure (as our more knife-friendly, freedom loving cousins in the US might say).
 


Backup Knife (Editor's Choice)

Folding Hunter (Main) + Douk-Douk (Backup) = A Great Combo

Douk-Douk (Small) Pocket Knife

Datasheet

Materials (Blade): XC75(AFNOR) Carbon Steel (Rockwell Hardness) 60-62CR
Materials (Handle): Steel -
Blade Characteristics (Grind / Shape): Flat / Scimitar (Clip Point)
Blade Dimensions (Length x Height x Spine Thickness): 7.40 x 1.40 x 0.27 cm
Knife Length (Open / Closed): 16.20 / 8.80 cm
Weight 38g
Manufacturer RRP (approx. range, EURO conversion) ~ £20.00 - £25.00

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Overview

The Douk-Douk (petite) folding pocket knife has an interesting history, as Inside Hook detail:

This French folding knife was used by Algerian rebels in the mid-20th century to terrorize fellow countrymen and French colonists. Noses were sliced off with its razor-sharp steel. Eyes gouged. Ears dismembered. Such nefarious purposes weren’t the original conceit: the Douk-Douk was originally a peasant’s knife, created for idyllic pastimes like slicing cheese, cutting rope and skinning sheep. [...] The carbon steel blade is easy to sharpen and ideal for cutting rope, whittling and other simple jobs you’ll find on the trail.

The Douk-Douk is a tough carbon steel, slip-joint pocket knife made in France. It has a simple scimitar / clip point blade with a flat grind. The handle depicts the Melanesian spirit-god of doom and destruction and is made from a simple wrap-around steel.

Here's its weight and dimensions:

The Douk-Douk Folding Pocket Knife : Weight & DimensionsThe Douk-Douk makes for an ultralight yet highly effective trail knife.

The Douk-Douk has a very strong back-spring. It opens in two distinct stages and requires some force to complete its opening and closing, allowing the user to make sure their fingers are out of the way. Unlike the Ka-Bar above, the Douk-Douk cannot be opened one-handed. Due to the extremely strong back-spring, the Douk-Douk is as close to a locking knife as a slip-joint is likely to get. 

Being carbon steel, the Douk-Douk is prone to rust and so some care should be taken to keep it oiled (I carry it as a backup and its generally in a dry bag, but because I spend so much time in pretty saturated environments, mine has gathered a little rust on the handle. If this was to be your primary knife, carrying a little olive oil (which I do with my food supplies) would be sensible.

The Douk-Douk is a small but very effective ultralight option. It takes and holds an edge extremely well. When packed away it measures 8.8 cm long, 2.3 cm wide (at its widest point) and just 0.6 cm deep.

The Douk-Douk packed away - keep it oiled (in wet conditions)The Douk-Douk packs away small and has a very low profile.

For me a knife is an essential companion for long distance treks, useful for a wide variety of tasks. For indispensable items, I always like to carry a spare and the petite Douk-Douk at just 38g is hardly burdensome and makes a fine companion for the more utilitarian and less romantic Ka-Bar Folding Hunter.  

Main + Backup Knife Packed AwayTwo great knives, weighing in at 103g (in total).
 



Conclusion & Rating (Ka-Bar Dozier)

The Ka-Bar Dozier Folding Hunter is a simple, highly effective, durable, safe (i.e. locking), and impressively lightweight knife that takes a good edge. Everything has been well thought out from the clip to the thumb stud, the comfortable Zytel handle, the drop point blade design and overall construction. The Folding Hunter is easy to open and close one-handed and is a good performer in wet conditions. There's really nothing to dislike. The Ka-Bar Dozier is the ideal trekking knife and Scramble's top pick in the (Main) Trekking Knife category.

 

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Rating for the main (Ka-Bar) knife (out of 10)

Function
 
8.5
Durability
 
9.0
Weight
 
9.0
RRP Value *
 
9.5
OVERALL RATING
 
9.0


* The value score is derived from two factors:
1) Competitive Market Price (CMP). This represents our judgement of a competitive online price point if we were to stock the item. e.g. if we feel we would need to sell an item at 40% off (i.e. 60% of its full RRP) to be competitive, then our CMP score will be 6/10.
2) Customer Value Price (CVP). We then make an honest appraisal of the maximum price we would be willing to pay for the item (and we're mean). So if we'd pay 80% of its RRP our CVP score would be 8/10.
We then average the two scores to get our final value score, which in our example would be 7/10.

 

Last Updated: 24/04/20



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