Right side shows clip, framelock and jimping on blade’s spine.

While everyone wants the latest and greatest new toys, people often overlook the most basic items. I asked some buddies what they would take in a bug-out bag or if they had put a day bag together.

Guns, ammo, fire starter, and water were all on their lists, but from there it was anyone’s guess. Some thought that’s all they needed, while others included everything but the kitchen sink. The people taking everything had clearly never packed or hunted. But to my surprise, few of them mentioned a knife.

A good knife should be on everyone’s list. Have you ever tried to skin an animal without a knife? Or make a shelter without a cutting tool?

Growing up on farms and ranches, we used knives a lot. We butchered all our own meat, including steers, pigs, chickens, and turkeys. It was years before I knew you could buy meat already cut in the grocery store! While we were branding cattle in the spring, everyone had a knife. I often saw the old timers riding the ponies in to the corral while shaping their blade on a whetstone they had in their pocket.

Many things have changed since those days, but a good knife is still essential. Whether you are going out for a day trip or on a multi-day backpacking or hunting expedition, a good knife—or two—should be part of your gear.

Maxpedition Excelsa is 4.7 inches when closed.
Austin checks his Maxpedition Excelsa along with the rest of his gear before heading to the woods for a hunt.

When I say a good knife, I mean just that. I would not trust a $5 knife from the local blade shop. There’s a reason it’s five bucks.

A knife I recently had the opportunity to evaluate is the Maxpedition Excelsa, which comes in two sizes. The larger version was evaluated for this column.

The knife is of framelock design and the frame is made from Titanium. I wish they made framelocks years ago, as they would have prevented me from getting stitches more than once when the old common pocketknives closed on my hands and fingers.

The blade is D2 steel, a very hard steel used in a lot of cutting tools, but not so hard the steel becomes brittle. The blade is cryo heat treated to 58-60HRc.

The blade is 3.6 inches long. Overall length closed is 4.7 inches, and 8.3 inches open. The Excelsa has a 0.14-inch thick spine, so you can baton the knife with a piece of stick if the knife needs to be used more as a tool than a knife. For fine work, jimping at the rear of the blade is provided, allowing the user to choke up on the handle.

The belt or pocket clip can be completely removed or reversed for left- or right-hand delivery. The knife comes with its own tool to make cleaning and tightening the clip easier. The blade has a dual thumb stud for easy opening, and the end of the handle has a lanyard hole. Like the pocket clip, the thumb stud is reversible.

Left side of Excelsa in fully open position.

I definitely recommend this knife as everyday carry gear on your person or at the very least in your hunting or pack gear.

As a matter of fact, I bought my son, Austin, this very knife for Christmas. I do not give him something that I have questions about. Whatever I give him, we both need to trust.

The suggested retail price of the large Excelsa is $139.99. That may sound like a lot, but it is in line with knives of comparable quality. I believe it is better to have one or two very good knives than half a dozen cheap ones.

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