Big Blades for your family’s Get Home Bags.
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
Steel: SK5 (equivalent to US 1085)
Handle Material:Glass-Filled Nylon
Weight:1 lb. 8.60 oz.
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
Weight: 18 oz
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 choose 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).
Overall Length: 13-1/2"
Blade Length: 8"
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 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, an Ontario Spec Plus Gen II SP45 has a similar length and weight and could serve a similar function.
Ontario’s SP-6 Fighting Knife is another , less expensive option, but this is not a knife civilians can carry in my area, so my wife will keep her Becker BK-5.
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
Steel: 52100 High Carbon Steel, Grey Teflon Coat
I picked this up recently as a “one tool” blade 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 knife that can handle many tasks well. The entire knife, blade, guard and handle 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 bit longer handle on this model (currently at 5”). You could add length and compensate for the added weight by turning the lanyard hole into an elongated slot. You will notice that I have added grip tape to the handle. I find many of the Cold Steel fixed blade knives have handles that are a bit small for my large paws.
COLD STEEL RAJAH II
This goes in my smallest EDC bag, a Maxpedition Jumbo Versipack. I like this bag because it holds my 32 oz Nalgene water bottle in its side pouch, but the main compartment of the bag is too small to hold any of the above mentioned fixed blades. However, the Cold Steel Rajah II 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”.
OTHER ITEMS IN MY EDC BAGS:
My bare bones EDC kit usually includes the following:
1. Bags: One of two bag choices: As my EDC or travel bag I choose 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 MIKE Tactical Messenger Bag.
2. Stainless steel, single wall, water bottle: I usually carry either of two sizes of bottles.
Bottle one is a 32oz Nalgene stainless steel water bottle (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 Maxpedition bag down).
Bottle two: The side pockets on my 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.
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 the nylon poncho and protects it 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):
Leukotape medical tape 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.
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 my Maxpedition bag holds several pairs of Nitrile gloves, while the small side 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. In my family's bags we 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:
- My family's current Get Home Bags are from Maxpedition and include the Vulture II and the Condor II.
- These bags contain the large blades and tools shown above.
- Folding saw. I carry a Silky while my son's bag has my old Bahco.
- Larger first aid kit with bulky dressings such as Israeli Bandages or the multi-functional Olaes bandage.
- 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.
- 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 (and lately a 2Go Systems bag that fits me better), but there are many new brands out there now that cost much less. You can ever 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.
- 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.
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