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Reviews > Knives > Fixed Blade > Hultafors Expedition Knife > Test Report by Coy Ray Starnes
Hultafors Expedition Knife
Test series by Coy Starnes
Initial Report: March 3, 2017
Field Report: June 6, 2017
Long Term Report: August 5, 2017
I live in Northeast Alabama. I enjoy biking, hunting, fishing, canoeing/kayaking and most other outdoor activities, but backpacking is my favorite pastime. I enjoy hiking with friends and family or solo. I hike throughout the year and actually hike less in the hot humid months of summer. My style is slow and steady and my gear is light. However, I will sacrifice weight for comfort and durability. A typical 3-season load for me is around 20 lb (9 kg) not counting food or water.
Product Description and Initial Impressions
I should first point out that I'm not a knife expert, but I do like knives. The knife I'm testing is distributed by Sport Hansa out of Asheville North Carolina. I mention this because the Expedition knife is not listed on the Hultafors website. I looked and as best I can tell this knife is called the Outdoor Knife OK4 there. The specifications and pictures are identical.
The Hultafors Expedition Knife is a classic example of what is generally regarded as a "bushcraft knife". It is not a big knife like Rambo or Crocodile Dundee would carry. It is a fixed blade with a Scandinavian grind, often called a scandi grind. All this means is that the knife is full thickness for the most part, only tapering down to the edge well below the halfway point of the blade. It is also a flat grind, meaning there are no secondary bevels. Each side of the knife is identical in this regard. The blade profile (shape) is very close to a drop point. The knife blade is heat treated to 58-60 HRC. As a general rule, the harder the Rockwell number, the sharper the blade will stay, but is also harder to sharpen and also more brittle. However many other factories come into play and this review is not about metallurgy (witchcraft...). The blade is a high carbon steel, and as such, prone to rusting. However, Hultafors uses an electrophoretic coating to help withstand corrosion. Whether it gets scratched off during use or sharpening remains to be seen. The instructions also recommend cleaning and oiling the knife after every use. These is also a measuring scale etched onto each side of the blade. It measures 2 in (50 mm) and starts at the tip of the blade. The spine (top of the blade) is squared off which aids in making sparks with a ferro rod.
The handle on this knife is great. The knife tang (steel that goes into the handle) is listed at 3.2 in (81 mm) or about 2/3rds of the way into the handle. This should mean the knife is able to withstand a considerable amount of pressure such as when batoning (splitting) wood or making press cuts. The grip is listed as PP plastic with a Santoprene friction grip. All I know is it feels very secure but is not sticky feeling. The palm swell is pronounced enough to make gripping the knife feel like an extension of my hand. I'll go on recorded as saying this is probably the best grip on any knife I own, and I do own several....some folks collect coins, I collect knives.
I consider the sheath almost as important as the knife since a fixed blade knife without one is basically a kitchen knife. The sheath (called a holster by Hultafors) for this knife is made of a PP plastic. It is basically an open top friction fit affair and the knife slides in easily since there is no flap or buckle to worry with. I will say that the knife is very secure inside the sheath. I took the knife outside and shook it vigorously holding only the sheath and could not get the knife to fall out. I feel this is a very important safety feature because the knife should not fall out accidentally, and perhaps more importantly, be easy for someone to grab away from me, not to mention a small child trying to pull it out of the holster. Having said all this, the knife is fairly easy to deploy quickly. There is a protruding tab on the upper side of the sheath where my thumb can rest and by applying pressure against the sheath with my thumb it allows the knife to be pulled free. There is a drainage hole in the bottom of the sheath. The top half of the sheath features a belt clip. Keep in mind this is all one piece of plastic. It is thin enough at the top to allow the clip part to unfold. The bottom end of the belt clip is notched in such a way that it will unlock and lock back into place. On the inside I found a plastic ridge that appears to be in the way, at least if clipping it onto a solid belt. Fortunately, I watched a video on the website and saw that this is easily cut off. I'm really at a loss as to what its purpose might be. This clip looks like it will work on most belts as long as they are not too thick and not more than 1.5 in (38 mm) tall. However, there is another way to carry the knife. Inside the folded over section on the side that would be next to my body is a keyhole shaped opening with the big end at the bottom. I had to research a little to find out this is for carrying the knife on a button. I don't have any pants with buttons on the side where I would put the knife but Hultafors is part of a group that also makes work wear called (don't laugh) Snickers. Perhaps their pants have the needed button? Anyway, in theory, I would slide the button on my pants into the big opening and then push the sheath down to secure it.
There is one more way to carry the Hultafors Expedition. The plastic sheath came with a wide elastic strap around it that can be removed if I prefer just the plastic sheath. Sewn to the strap is a piece of webbing that makes a belt loop. The webbing is about 1.5 in (38 mm) wide and has an opening of about 3 in (76 mm) tall. There is a button sewn near the top which fits inside the afore mentioned keyhole which sort of locks the webbing belt loop to the top end of the sheath. There is a small opening on the side of the elastic part for storing a ferro rod. I have only worn the knife briefly but I used the webbing option and I think this will be my preferred carry method. As a matter of fact, my belt was too thick (not to wide) to fasten the plastic sheath over even after I cut off the offending piece of plastic sticking up.
The Hultafors Expedition arrived very sharp. I did a quick typing paper cut test and it sliced through it like hot butter, with no tears in the paper which a dull blade will cause. I next tested it by shaving a small patch of hair on my arm. It actually took quite a bit of pressure to coax the hair off but I didn't feel it pulling the hairs. I later cut the plastic off the sheath as pictured above. It cut it just fine and I liked how the handle felt while making the cut. All good signs so far. In other words, I feel it is plenty sharp for a woods knife. I'd rather sacrifice a little sharpness for blade toughness which is sometimes lost by making a knife edge razor sharp.
Manufacture Provided Information
A durable outdoor knife with friction grip suitable for tough tasks in the field. The hardwearing textile beltloop allows up to 80mm wide belts and is equipped with a pocket for a fire starter. The blade has a scandi grind and is made from Japanese knife steel, 3.0 mm carbon steel that has been hardened to 58–60 HRC and has a rust protective electrophoretic deposition coating to withstand corrosion. The grinded spine of the blade is designed for starting a fire with a fire starter.
The cutting edge has a scandi grind for superior sharpness and is easy to resharpen. A protective electrophoretic deposition coating (EPD) for best rust protection.
The handle is made from super-durable PP plastic and fitted with a Santoprene friction grip. A long tang makes the knife very durable.
The textile beltloop allows up to 80mm wide belts and is equipped with a pocket for a fire starter. It is also detachable if you want to attach the holster to the button on your work clothes.
Grinded spine for use of fire starter and scale engraved on blade is optimized for outdoor usage.
I wasn't sure where to put my thoughts on a few things about the Hultafors Expedition so here goes. I find it interesting (puzzling) that the exact steel used in making this knife is not revealed. I realize that in years gone by many knife makers were sometimes secretive about what steel they used, but in today's age of internet and social media, most now advertise the steel they use proudly. I won't name the steel but it is not hard to find. I googled "steel used in Hultafors knife" and found several references to the same steel in their non stainless steel blades. And it is not like the steel used is not good. No, it is not the most exotic and not usually found on the high dollar or handcrafted knives, but several well respected knife makers use it and the knives have good reviews and a loyal following.
My other thought is that I don't normally carry a knife this big backpacking. As a matter of fact, I usually carry a medium sized Swiss Army type pocket knife with several tools on it such as scissors and a cork screw. However, the Hultafors Expedition is not all that big or heavy and looks like it will do most of the things I ask of from a knife. I guess if I were more into bushcrafting I would carry a knife like this more often. However, I will use the knife as needed and practice my fire making skills. I've been lazy about building a fire on most of my recent backpacking trips. Partly because over the summer the entire state of Alabama and most of the southeastern US was under a no burn order but more so because I didn't need a fire and just used my headlamp. I always enjoy a small fire even when hiking solo so look forward to getting reacquainted with one.
This concludes my Initial Report. Please stay tuned for my next update which should follow in about 2 months time. My thanks to Hultafors and BackpackGearTest.org for this testing opportunity.
I used the Hultafors Expedition Knife for several tasks, both at home and out in the field. I carried it on several day hikes and three overnight hikes. It has been rainy here the past month so I got a chance to observe the rust resistance of the blade. Temperatures have been on the warm side but not hot with highs in the mid 80s F (30 C) and lows around 60 F (16 C). All hikes were on local trails which are steep and muddy when wet and with plenty of roots, rocks and stream crossings.
Field Test Results
I have not had the opportunity to use all the features the Hultafors Expedition Knife is capable of, namely fire starting. I did use the knife to cut some summer sausage on one overnight trip but had jerky the other two nights so use for food prep was limited. I did use the knife to whittle out some stakes for my hammock on one occasion and it cut through the dead limbs I used with ease. It was hot and muggy and had been raining a few hours earlier so the limbs were soaked and I was pretty wet with sweat but the Santoprene grip material proved to be very secure in my hand. Here are the stakes I whittled.
I used the Hultafors to remove some low growing shrubs that were under my hammock every time I hung it. It cut the offending brush easily but to be honest, they were all really small shrubs, smaller than my little finger even.
I did use the knife for several chores around the house, opening boxes and even opening envelopes. The toughest task was definitely the big box I opened that had 6 fiberglass straps surrounding it. I had to bear down to get it to cut through each strap. There were also several zip ties inside the box that needed to be cut which were about as hard to cut as the outer fiberglass ones, mainly because I had to be careful not to scratch the paint on the metal the were strapped too. The Santoprene handle material allowed me to safely make the cuts and control where the blade ended up during and after each cut.
I did finally get a ferro rod to use with the knife and it fits in the sheath nicely but the little striker that is attached to it is just dangling. I wrap it around the handle but between it and the sheath and it stays in place fairly well. The Hultafors Expedition Knife has remained sharp so I have not felt the need to re-sharpen it yet. I will say that I have not been diligent about oiling it between uses but so far I'm not seeing any rust on the blade. The EDP (electrophoretic deposition coating) seems to being a good job as far as rust protection goes. It is also not wearing off yet but then again, I have not used the knife for a lot of bushcraft type activities.
slicing a pear as part of my supper
Test Locations and Conditions
I used the knife while camping and at home so all use was either at my house or in the woods on some nearby trails I frequented. The weather conditions really didn't effect the knife so I will just mention that it has been hot and humid. I guess the high humidity could cause the knife to be more susceptible to rust since it is not a stainless steel blade.
Long Term Observations
I have used the Hultafors Expedition Knife as much as possible over the test period. At home it was used mostly to cut fruit and slice tomatoes. While camping I used it to slice pears and making tent stakes, but the most use was clearing away underbrush where I hung my hammock each nite. I appreciated the size of the Hultafor for this task, especially when I cut down a few saplings the size of my little finger. I garden and my favorite food from the garden is tomatoes. As a result, I have made a "mater samich" nearly every day for the past couple of months. One thing about a tomato is it is highly acidic and will rust a non-stainless steel knife in short order if care is not taken. For this reason I was mindful to always wash the knife after slicing tomatoes and have not had any problem with the blade rusting. I regret that I didn't have the time to practice my fire making skills but I did throw a few sparks with the knife using my ferro rod. It throws a nice shower of sparks when I do my part.
I also have a nice pear tree in my yard but they have only been ripening for the past couple of weeks. However, in that time I sliced and ate a lot of pears. I even carried two on my last overnight trip. I could have sliced them with the much smaller Swiss Army knife I normally carry but I actually felt like this size knife made the job a lot safer. I know I just naturally select a pretty large kitchen knife for slicing tomatoes or pears. The same was true for when I made the tent stakes. A knife with a fairly large and very secure grip along with a sharp blade is easier to control and less likely to slip and thus safer to use. Having said that, I probably would not carry this knife on a long trip (three nights or more) when every ounce is scrutinized and space in my pack and on my person is at a premium. But, if I were to get lost and need to build a shelter and start a fire I'd probably regret this decision. So there you have it, a conundrum
The Hultafors Expedition Knife is a nice camp knife that is also designed for bushcraft type activities like primitive fire making or making an emergency shelter. I love the handle on this knife and it fits my hand perfectly. The Santoprene handle material is remarkably easy to grip, not too firm and slick when the handle is wet from my hand sweating but not too soft which would effect the durability of the handle. The sheath has worked as intended, it kept the blade from damaging the outer mesh pocket on my backpack in which it rode during my backpacking trips. I never worried about the knife sliding out of the sheath and damaging the mesh pocket or any of the other gear it was stored alongside.
This concludes my testing of the Hultafors Expedition Knife. My thanks to Hultafors and BackpackGearTest.org for this testing opportunity.
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