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Reviews > Knives > Fixed Blade > Cold Steel Trail Master > Owner Review by Doug White

August 20, 2015


NAME: Doug White
EMAIL: bakpack215atyahoodotcom
AGE: 33
LOCATION: Boulder, Colorado, USA
HEIGHT: 5' 6" (1.68 m)
WEIGHT: 170 lb (77.10 kg)

Backpacking Background: I've been backpacking for several years. I have tested a lot of different systems to find what works the best for me. I pack as light as possible without sacrificing comfort and functionality. I enjoy backpacking in all kinds of weather including winter. I also do snowshoeing and year-round mountaineering. I backpack in the Rocky Mountains just below treeline most of the time. My trips are normally at least a few miles (5 km) or more. Anytime I can get out and enjoy the mountains, even for a day hike, I do.


Manufacturer: Cold Steel, Inc.
Manufacturer's Website:
Listed blade length: 9.5 in (24 cm)
Listed overall length: 14.5 in (37 cm)
Listed weight (without sheath): 16.7 oz (473 g)
Listed blade thickness: 0.312 in (0.792 cm)
MSRP from website: $249.99 US

Measured Weight (Includes Sheath): 22 oz (624 g)
Measured Blade Length: 9.5 in (24 cm)
Measured Total Length: 14.5 in (37 cm)
Measured Blade Thickness: 0.312 in (0.792 cm)

Other Details: Per the manufacturer's website, the knife blade is made from O-1 High Carbon Steel and is precision ground, heat-treated and Mar Tempered in Taiwan. The knife is also available in San Mai stainless steel for a different price. The handle is coated in Kraton, which has almost a polyurethane feel to it, and the end of the handle has a one-piece grommet that goes all the way through it for attaching a lanyard. The knife also has a blade guard between the blade and the handle.

The knife also comes with a Secure-Ex sheath which is similar to a hard plastic. Around the sheath perimeter are twenty rivets or grooves that can be used as lashing points. The sheath has nylon straps attached to it for fastening onto a belt. The strap has a metal snap and a section of hook and loop style fasteners. There is also a smaller nylon strap with a metal snap to secure around the blade handle for extra security while the blade is in the sheath. Inside the sheath, there are four small plastic tabs that secure around the blade guard to keep the knife tight inside the sheath. There is a clicking sound when the knife is secured in the sheath by those tabs. The sheath even has a small hole at the bottom that will allow water to drain if it enters the sheath.
Various Pics Of Knife
Locking Tabs In Sheath


I have used this knife on about 20 overnight trips in temperatures as low as 0 F (-17 C) and in warmer temperatures around 90 F (32 C). I've owned this knife for five years. I have used it in thickly forested regions near treeline in the Colorado Rockies. I take it on day hikes along with multi-day backpacking trips. I have used it for off-trail bushwhacking but primarily use it at camp for batoning wood for processing firewood. Batoning wood is a process where the knife becomes the splitting object and another short log is used as the baton to hit the knife and push the knife into the wood that is being split. I have used it to chop down smaller dead trees as well.


I'd like to start with why I carry such a large knife for backpacking, especially since I'm more of an ultra-lighter by nature. I have found that it is worth carrying something of extra weight if the weight is worthwhile in the backcountry. This knife is just that for me. I used to carry an axe, however after discovering this jewel, it hasn't left my side during any backpacking trip I've taken since I purchased it. Although it is heavy for a knife, compared to an axe, it is lighter. I use this knife for processing wood (primarily in the winter and snowy trips), so I need something with chopping power. I have found it is difficult to get a fire going with the wood that is found in the winter due to high moisture content, so splitting the wood down to the dryer inner parts is something I've found that works very well for getting a fire going in moist environments.

I usually carry the knife on my side so it's easy to get to for chopping dead branches or even taking down smaller dead trees. This also allows for lighter pack weight. Because the weight of the knife is fairly heavy, it is a big plus for its ability to chop as it has a decent amount of mass to it. By batoning wood with the knife, I have found it to be safer than swinging an axe and also have found that it uses less of my energy than swinging an axe. My favorite feature on the knife is the thickness of the blade. This is a great blade for splitting wood in my opinion, and the spine has stood up to heavy pounding on it with a batonning log. The blade itself is strong, but I do find after a couple of trips, it has to be re-sharpened. I have gotten some chipping toward the blade tip when I've accidentally hit the dirt with it. As far as colder temperatures, the knife steel has held up well. I do keep the knife oiled after almost every trip, and it hasn't shown any signs of rust or corrosion even though I use it in very moist environments. The handle is very comfortable. It is sturdy enough that it feels durable, but also soft enough to provide a comfortable grip. I have never gotten any blisters with this knife even after hours of use. The grip of the handle is great too in my opinion. Even in rain or snow, it has never slipped out of my hand.

I really like the sheath as well. It has proved to be durable and hasn't worn out. The locking tabs inside are just as firm as the day that I bought it. The nylon straps, fastening buttons, and lashing rivets have all held up as well and show no wear on them.
Chipping On Blade Tip


Performs Well
Good Design
Sturdy Sheath


It's a little heavy


Product reviewed by Doug White.

This report was created with the Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2015. All rights reserved.

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Reviews > Knives > Fixed Blade > Cold Steel Trail Master > Owner Review by Doug White

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