Big Blades for your family’s Get Home Bags.

Blades discussed in this article: (Top) CRKT Kangee T-Hawk. (From Left to Right) Cold Steel Gurkha Kurki Plus, Ontario OKC Kukri, Ontario SP10 Marine Raider Bowie, Ontario SP5 Survival Bowie, Becker BK5, Cold Steel Drop Forged Survivalist, Cold Steel OSI, Cold Steel Rajah 2.

2020 UPDATE:

In the description section of my Bowie vs Kurki vs Tactical Tomahawk video on my Youtube channel I made the following comment:

"When asked which blade I would take into a survival situation, I usually reply “That depends what I am trying to survive.”

If I was trying to move through or around obstacles in an urban environment, then I would want an all steel tactical tomahawk. (The CRKT Kangee T-Hawk is what I keep in my car emergency bag, AKA my Get Home Bag.)

If I was trying to survive in the wilderness, then the kukri gives you many of the functions of both a hatchet and a machete. Conversely, if I needed a melee weapon, (such as trying to escape a riot, where I have time for only one cut per opponent), then the kukri hits harder than the bowie knives I own, while being far less likely than one of my tomahawks to get stuck in a target.

If I was trying to survive a knife fight against a well trained, single opponent, (and was limited to the three choices given here), then I would choose a bowie knife because of its maneuverability and its better thrusting ability than the other two weapons."

The first half of this article explains which of these blades I have chosen for my family and why, while the second half gives details on the other items in our kits.

 

PART 1. BLADES:

Choosing a blade for your own emergency bag should be a fairly easy job: but what if you need to choose blades for the rest of your family? Here are my choices for my own family and how I made the decision on each one.

What’s in my families Get Home Bags? First, these are not the typical “Bug Out Bags” that are designed to help us survive in the wilderness for 72 hours. I think of these more as “Overcoming Obstacles During Travel” bags, so you will see that my list is stronger on tools then it is on camping gear. 

The process of choosing a blade/tool for your emergency bag begins with the bag itself.

My general practice is to first decide which bag I am willing to carry in a given environment (family car trip, day hike, urban or rural setting.) Then I decide how many people will be carrying the gear, (Dads, the younger your kids are, the more gear you will need to carry yourself as moms of young kids will be focused on their everyday needs, not on “survival” gear).

After the bag is decided upon, I then choose the longest tool that will easily fit in that bag.

Why choose the longest tool? Because length provides leverage and leverage helps get the tough jobs done more efficiently.

 Here are my GHB choices:

 

CRKT KANGEE T-HAWK

Overall Length:13.75"
Head Thickness: 0.23"
Steel: SK5 (equivalent to US 1085)
Finish: Black
Cutting Edge: 2.93"
Handle Material:Glass-Filled Nylon
Color: Black
Weight: 1 lb. 8.60 oz.
Sheath: Molded Polymer

 

This is the tool that goes in my own bag. As a retired peace officer who can carry a concealed handgun throughout the U.S., I already have a good weapon on my person in most instances. Therefore, I choose the Kangee T-Hawk as the most versatile tool for my own GHB option. The Kangee hawk was designed by Ryan Johnson of RMJ Tactical and made by Columbia River Knife & Tool. This hawk is the multitool of small tactical tomahawks, it can chop through plywood and sheet metal, it can be used as a pry bar and its spike will penetrate into hard surfaces better than the broader cutting edge will. However, that spike can pose a potential danger to the user when chopping with the axe.

Since I have the most experience with edged weapons in my family and still wanted the versatility of this tool, I choose the CRKT Kangee T-Hawk for my own bag. 

 

ONTARIO OKC KUKRI 6420

Overall Length: 17.00"
Blade Length: 12.00"
Cutting Edge: 10.375"
Blade Thickness: 0.26”
Weight: 18 oz
Steel: 1095
Hardness: 53-58 RC
Blade Grind: Flat
Finish: Black
Sheath: Black Nylon

 

I choose the Ontario kukri for my 18 year old son’s emergency bag. He’s a big strong guy with a good amount of experience using axes and hatchets on our property, but I chose a kukri for his bag as a blade with the same weight as a small hatchet, but being far more versatile in use. I also find that a kukri is a bit easier to control on the swing than a hatchet of the same overall size. The Cold Steel Ghurka kukri has more weight (my preferred model, the Ghurka plus weights in at 22.9 oz) and therefore, a bit more bite on the cut, but the Ontario kukri is one third the price (something to consider when equipping a family on a budget).

  

BECKER BK5
Overall Length: 13-1/2"
Blade Length: 8"
Thickness: 0.188"
Blade Material: 1095CV Carbon Steel
Blade Shape: Trailing Point
Handle Material: Grivory GV-6H
Sheath: Nylon Fabric w/h Fiber Liner
Weight: 11.9 oz.

 

In my wife’s emergency bag blade is the Becker BK-5. This was sold by Becker as a great knife for the camp kitchen and it will do the tasks needed there very well. However, I also choose this for my wife’s bag as an intimidation tool to keep bad guys away from her should she need to do this again (I say “again” because she had used a Spyderco Endura to scare off two would be rapists several years ago. You will find that story in my article on EDC Knives for Women’s Self Defense).

The first thing I did after purchasing the BK5 was to remove the black coating from the blade, so we could use it in the kitchen. The 1095CV steel takes a nice sharp edge.  The blade shape falls in-between a chef's knife and a Persian fighter closely enough that is does well in both kitchen cutting chores and the few cut and thrust tests I put it through during my evaluation for inclusion in my wife’s GHB. Weighing in just under 12 oz, this knife is wickedly fast in my wife’s hand. I have confidence that any miscreant that tries to attack her will draw back a dub where his hand used to be. Unfortunately, this knife has been discontinued by Becker. However, the Cold Steel OSI could be a viable option for you. You may notice that I have removed the top quillon and sub hilt. This was to make it a more versatile tool. (More on that in the Modification section below).

 

COLD STEEL OSI

- Weight: 8.5oz
- Blade Thickness: 4.7mm
- Blade Length: 8-1/4"
- Blade Steel: Japanese AUS8A Stainless
- Handle Length/Material: 5-1/8" Kray-Ex™
- Overall Length: 13-3/8"
- Additional Features: Secure-Ex® Sheath

 

 OTHER OPTIONS: 

I wanted to include some other blades on my GMB list, as to give you more options when making your own choices.

COLD STEEL DROP FORGED SURVIVALIST
Weight: 18.3 oz.
Blade Length: 8.0"
Handle: 5.0" Long
Overall: 13.0"
Steel: 52100 High Carbon Steel, Grey Teflon Coat
Sheath: Secure-Ex

 

I picked this up recently as a “one tool option” to keep in my laptop messenger bag. I had seen and handled the previous model of this knife at a knife making seminar last year, but found that I did not like the balance (far too handle heavy). When I read reviewers for the new model saying that this problem had been solved, I was quick to order one. I’ve always liked the bowie design as a versatile tool that can handle many tasks well. The entire knife; blade, guard and handle, on the Survivalist are forged from one piece of steel. This monolithic design gives it strength, as does the choice of steel used. Note to Cold Steel: I wouldn’t mind seeing a longer version this model more in line with the Trailmaster or Laredo in size, (9 to 10 inch blade, with a 5.5 to 6" handle, as well as a larger guard on the larger knife. Such as the knife shown below).

 

 ONTARIO SP10 MARINE RAIDER BOWIE

Blade Length: 9.75"
Overall Length: 15.125"
Blade Material: 1095 Carbon Steel
Blade Grind: Flat
Blade Thickness: 0.25" (6.4 mm)
Weight:  1 lb. 6.40 oz.
Blade Finish: Powder Coat
Edge Type: Bowie
Handle Material: Kraton
Blade Color: Black 
Sheath: Nylon, Manufactured by DeSantis Gunhide of New York
Made in the USA

 

The Ontario SP10 would be an excellent choice for those looking for a heavy duty, carbon steel bowie. It has a steel cross guard that I consider as my minimum size to offer realistic protection to the hand from an opponent's blade, (as opposed to smaller guards that are only there to keep your own hand from sliding up onto your blade). It's a big, intimidating knife that can get the job done when those specs are exactly what are required. 

 

 ONTARIO SP5 SURVIVAL BOWIE

Blade Length: 10"
Overall Length: 15.125"
Blade Steel: 1095 Carbon Steel, 53-59HRC
Handle Material: Kraton
Blade Color: Black Powder Coat
Weight: 15.0 oz. Knife Only, 1 lb. 3.6 oz. with Sheath
Sheath: Nylon, Manufactured by DeSantis Gunhide of New York
Made in USA
 
This is a more "pure" woodlands survival knife than the SP10, which is geared primarily towards combat, while survival is a secondary function. I believe the SP5 is based on the Marbles "Michigan" bowie. While the Marbles design had a single quillon brass guard, the Ontario has one of rubber, but either way, the single quillon gives it more versatility for most tasks in the woods. The SP5's 15 oz is a lot easier to carry on your belt or backpack than the SP10's 22.4 oz too. 

 

COLD STEEL RAJAH II
Overall Length:14.00"
Blade Length:6.00"
Blade Thickness:0.19"
Weight: 13 oz
Blade Material:AUS-10A
Blade Style:Kukri
Blade Grind:Flat
Finish:Stonewash
Edge Type:Plain
Handle Length:9.25”

 

The Rajah 2 goes in my EDC bag, a Maxpedition Jumbo Versipack. I like this bag because it can hold a 32 oz Nalgene water bottle in its side pouch. Unfortunately,  the main compartment of the bag is too small to hold any of the above mentioned fixed blades. The Cold Steel Rajah 2 however, is a folder that punches way above what its specs on paper would suggest. Yes, it has a blade that is “only” six inches long; but you put those six inches at the end of a nine inch handle and now you have some good leverage that gives you surprising power in a blade this small. The overall length on this knife is 14”, so it is understandable that it chops like a knife with a much longer blade. For comparison, the Drop Forged Survivalist has an 8” blade, but an overall length of 13”.

 

MODIFICATIONS: 

I will often change the grinds and resharpen my large blades that I intend for camping/survival use. On the Ontario kukri shown above, I have given the base of the blade near the handle a flat grind to help with wood working tasks, such as making feather sticks for a campfire. The main section of the blade now has a convex edge, (area in red) to take impact better when chopping. I've left the tip with its factory edge, since the blade is at its thinest here and I didn't want to take away too much steel. As for the spine, I've rounded the base where my thumb would rest when doing fine work, flattened a section above this for scrapping a fire steel and then rounded the top half of the spine to make my grip there more comfortable when using the kukri as a draw knife.  

On smaller knives, such as either the Cold Steel Drop Forged Survivalist or OSI, I will just round off the spine area under my thumb and then also flatten the middle section to a sharp 90 degrees so I can scrape a ferro rod or make fine tinder shavings. I will usually leave the clip point untouched on a blade of this size.

  

When it comes to cross guards on survival knives, I find that the back quillons can get in the way of woodworking jobs, where you will often need to put your thumb on the spine for extra control. I therefore took the top quillon and sub hilt completely off the Cold Steel OSI and ground the top one down on the Cold Steel DF Survivalist. This makes each knife much more useful for food prep and woodworking tasks. (I did just the bare minimum mod on the DF Survivalist and may take the quillon down more after further testing). 

COLD STEEL GURKHA KUKRI PLUS
Blade Length: 12"
Overall Length: 17"
Steel: O-1 High Carbon
Weight: 22.9 oz
Blade Thickness: 5/16"
Handle:5" Long. Kray-Ex™
Sheath: Secure-Ex® Sheath
Made in Taiwan

 

I did milder versions of the edge and spine mods on my Cold Steel Gurkha Kukri Plus. In addition I rounded the edges of the quillon: especially where my hand would come in contact with the guard when gripping the handle, but also on the top edge to relieve any stress risers. In a perfect world, the tempering process should take care of any problems of this kind, but mistakes can happen in the manufacturing process. (Remember when Cold Steel had that problem several years ago with their Trailmasters and Recon Scouts snapping at the tang-blade juncture? I was told at the time that this was caused by the water jet cutter making too sharp an angle in that area and causing stress risers at that juncture). A note on the current insane situation on the streets of some of our cities. If I could not carry a firearm and had to choose a blade that could be carried in a medium sized pack that may be needed, when all else fails, to escape a mob of attacking rioters, the Cold Steel Gurkha Kukri Plus is what I would carry. 

 

PART 2. OTHER ITEMS IN MY EDC & GH BAGS:

My bare bones EDC kit usually includes the following:

1.  Bags: One of two bag choices: As my EDC bag I use a Maxpedition Jumbo Versipack: This is one of the smallest shoulder bags that I can fit a 32oz water bottle into, using the dedicated side pouch on this bag. My laptop bag is a 5.11 RUSH Delivery Tactical Messenger Bag: either the MIKE (SM) or LIMA (LG) model, depending on what size electronics I am carrying.

2.  Stainless steel, single wall, water bottle: I usually carry one of three sizes of bottles.

Bottle one is a 32oz Nalgene stainless steel water bottle in my Maxpedition Jumbo Versipak. Pro tip: there is a small roll of duct tape in a cotton bag that sits under the steel bottle that protects the bottle from dings and dents when I set the bag down.

Bottle two: The side pockets on my MIKE 5.11 bag are too small for the 32oz bottle, so I got a 17oz stainless steel water bottle from Triple Tree that’s narrow enough to fit.

Bottle three: I finally broke down and got the larger LIMA 5.11 bag because it seems like I was carrying more and larger electrics each year when traveling. While the side water bottle pockets on the LIMA won't hold a 32 oz Nalgene, the 24 oz with the tapered bottom fits nicely.

3.  Nylon poncho: Mil-spec, or as close as you can get these days.

4.  Stainless steel cup: After many years of keeping a 16oz GSI cup nested under the water bottle in my Maxpedition bag and struggling to remove the cup when needed (it’s a tight fit), I finally moved the cup to the main compartment, where it holds my nylon poncho and protects the poncho from the other items in the kit. Keeping the cup inside the bag also allows me to move up to a 25oz cup.

5.  Small first aid kit: Along with stuff you expect, I also carry-

Compressed gauze. This is for stuffing puncture wounds at the hip joint or shoulder, i.e. places that you can't put a tourniquet or a compression bandage. 

Trauma shears. There is a good pair normally in this kit. But I specifically carry cheap models when flying because I have had them confiscated so many times when going through airport security overseas.

Gloves: The small flap pocket on the lip of both my Maxpedition and 5.11 bags holds several pairs of Nitrile gloves, while another small pocket holds alcohol gel and packets of wipes.

Tourniquet. If you carry a firearm or a large cutting tool, then a tourniquet should be part of your EDC kit. I keep a full size tourniquet that has a windlass to tighten it down in my larger bags and a elastic wrap type in my smaller kits. 

6.  Flashlights and headlamps: I carry both. Weapon carriers should have a tactical flashlight on their person on their non-dominant side. Everyone in your party should have a headlamp in their kit so they can keep both hands free for other jobs and when walking at night. Olight makes some of the best lights in the business as they have the most reliable switches and internal electronics. If you need an inexpensive headlamp for kids to wear, Energizer LED Headlamps have worked well for us for that purpose.

7.  Multitools: I used to carry a first generation Leatherman Wave, but now carry a Leatherman Rebar for the better wire cutters. My son carries a Leatherman Wingman for the spring load pliers. When I'm in Western Europe or Japan, the Leatherman is left in my hotel room because of its locking blades. Where locking blades are banned, I will carry a Victorinox Swiss Champ knife/multitool.

8.  Pen & paper: I keep a good ball point pen on hand (lately a Zebra model F-701, as I’ve had too many tactical pens confiscated by TSA), a Sharpie marker and a small Write in the Rain notebook.

9.  Cordage & tape: I carry a 1 inch roll of Gorilla tape in a bag under my water bottle, along with some tarred bank line. In our GH bags we also carry a small bundle of paracord that is wrapped with a length of bank line.

10.  Anker backup battery pack for my cell phone.

 

My family’s Get Home Bag list:

In addition to what's in my EDC kit, you will find the following items: 

  1. My family's current Get Home Bags are from Maxpedition and include the Vulture II and the Condor II.
  2. These bags contain the large blades and tools shown above.
  3. Folding saws. I carry a Silky Pocket Boy in my EDC bag and Corona saws in our larger kits. 
  4. Larger first aid kit with bulky dressings such as Israeli Bandages or the multi-functional Olaes bandage. Also Leukotape medical tape, which resembles one long strip of adhesive bandage. This has come in handy many times when the regular bandages in my kit weren’t large enough to do the job, or wouldn’t stick well.
  5. Water kit: In addition to the steel water bottle, each of my family member's bag contains a Sayer Mini water filter or a Grayl filter bottle.
  6. Minimal sleep system. This is a mylar or Tyvek bivvy bag in the summer or a small sleeping bag the rest of the year. For the mylar or Tyvek bags, my family has used SOL brand for several years (I use a 2Go Systems bag that fits me better), but there are many new brands out there now that cost much less. You can even buy some Tyvek on Amazon and make your own bivvy. Our sleeping bags include ones from Snugpak, Wiggy and Elite Survival Systems. Tennier Industries makes the bags for the U.S. military and these always get high recommendations from vets who have used them.
  7. Cordage: We have a larger supply of both paracord and bankline in each of our kits as well. I choose to carry both types of cordage as each has its pros and cons for specific jobs.

 We also keep larger tools such as a full size axe, machete, shovel, etc, in the toolbox in the back of our vehicle on longer trips.

Okay folks, that’s my take on blades and other gear for your get home bags. Please process my recommendations through your own family’s needs and the requirements for your area.

Train hard, but train smart,

Tuhon Bill McGrath