Way back when, a young knife nut stared in awe at an article in a prominent knife magazine, where a man named Jeff Randall talked about a knife he designed called the RTAK, a large blade that was produced by Newt Livesay. That young knife nut was me. The blade really struck my fancy, and the jungle trip that Jeff Randall, co-owner of Randall’s Adventure and Training with Mike Perrin, took the knife on was a no-holds barred tropical extravaganza. After reading the article, I said to myself, “I’m going to keep an eye on this company.” Fast forward a bit, and I find myself playing with other factory knives that Mike and Jeff have designed since that first concept. Along the way, Jeff and Mike started their own knife-making operation as an adjunct to their jungle training business, and named it RAT Cutlery. A few of their contemporary cutlery designs are on the top of many outdoor knife enthusiasts’ lists. These guys have some serious experience when it comes to being in the real “bush”. They have organized and lead jungle training expeditions for many people during the past decade, so they know what makes a great knife out in the field.
When the news came out that the company was releasing a neck knife, my “awesome gear-o-meter” definitely swung to the right. The previous knives that RAT Cutlery had designed always had a unique theme of a flat ground blade and good ergonomic styling. In my head, I knew RAT would make a knife that was smart and compact, and when I finally saw the pictures of the prototype, I knew my hunch wasn’t wrong. As listed on their site, here are the specs for the Izula.
- Overall Length: 6.25"
- Blade Length (end of handle to tip): 2.88"
- Thickness: .156"
- Steel: 1095 Carbon
- Weight: 2 ounces without sheath
- Finish: Textured powder coat (Black, Desert Tan, OD Green, or Tactical Pink)
- Blade Width: 1.0"
- Grind: Flat
- Handles: None
- Sheathing: Molded
- Pommel: Hole to accommodate carabiner
- Spine: Thumb grippers, .5" long
There are many neck knives out on the market, yet there are only a handful of factory made blades that are worth carrying. Among these select few, the Izula shines in both form and function, boasting good clean lines and a tapered handle combined with a great kit that will get the outdoorsman out of harm’s way.
The Izula is more compact than many other factory neck knives that are available. The 2.88 inch blade is just enough length to work with, making itself extremely handy with most small knife chores. Width is a factor too, as a 2.88 long blade would not feel substantial if there wasn’t enough “umph” behind it. At about 1 inch wide, this knife has the feel of stout dependable tool, yet is small enough to tuck away in a lapel pocket. If you were to have a thinner knife at this size, you may feel you have a sharpened scalpel rather than a capable woods tool. From the few professional walking stick carvers I know, the top blade length for use is about two inches and under. The spine has light jimping on it, giving the knife some texture if you were to use it with gloved hands. The jimping doesn’t cause blisters like some of the abrasive thumb-gouging perforations on other manufacturers’ knives. A tapered hole in the middle of the knife takes the weight out, but still leaves enough metal for a solid foundation. To finish the knife, a big lanyard hole is at the end–larger than most that you would find in almost all other neck knives.
A large hole in the end of a knife might put some people off once they first see it. However, one of the arguably most solid and useful knives of the outdoor range could be the Bird and Trout knife. That small hole on the back is handy to hang on the pinky while one ties a fly line, or does other things where the user would need the knife out of the way in a second. Think of this blade as a Bird and Trout knife for the jungle. Where do I sign up? Having a hole that a small knife can spin around on is nothing new. Some designs are even based around that aspect, whether you want to look like a wild west cowboy or you just like it for function. It’s handy and fun! There is a small clip that comes with the knife, allowing the user to carry it dangling from the blade rather than the sheath. The large lanyard isn’t the only interesting aspect of the “skeletonized” handle, as there is a large tapered space that makes up most of the handle itself. This can be used to your heart’s content to gain leverage on things that may need to be turned, like a large wing nut for example. Sadly, I tried and tried, but I couldn’t get the opening to pry off a bottle top. I guess I will just have to use the back of the spine like the rest of my knives.
In talking with Mike Perrin, it seems that the biggest headache of the whole process was getting the injected sheath straight to the manufacturing process. That must be a pain in the rear, to have invested all this time into making a well designed blade only to have a hold-up with something as mundane as a sheath. The sheath is made out of an injection molded thermoplastic, which is a little more cold tolerant than kydex, and is also a different process that how kydex sheaths are produced. The sheath features both a screw hole (to attach the MOLLE clip) and a nice size slot for webbing that is large enough to have a belt loop woven through it if you are like me and forgot all the clips at home. In fact, there’s a great PDF available on their site that shows the various modes of carry that can be employed and how to cord-wrap the handle as well. You can find that information sheet here.
Izula Survival Kit
When you purchase the Izula Survival Kit, you aren’t getting just a knife with a kydex sheath. Enclosed with the Izula is a whole elaborate system that RAT Cutlery produced to help the user if they find themselves in a primitive pickle. The system includes a whistle clip, paracord, cord locks, mini whistle assembly, a handy MOLLE lock, split rings (such as on a keychain) and even a handy ferrocium magnesium combination rod. The whole kit can attach together as its own little survival kit. The rod can be attached to the sheath using paracord, or any other handy way you can envision, such as a innertube tire cut like a ranger band. I have one buddy that likes to attach a p-38 can opener under his other neck knife systems to keep everything compact. What I thought was really unique about the kit was the instructions on how to use split rings to improvise a trap trigger. It seemed like a great way to save some time from whittling.
The system, as a whole, opens a wide array of possibilities for attachment. This could be one of the most well thought out and functional attachment systems that I have seen. With one look at the contents of the bag, it may seem like there is just a bunch of annoying plastic parts, but it only takes a quick look at the enclosed double-sided instruction sheet to see just why RAT Cutlery went ot he trouble of including all of the accessories. The sheath also attaches to a Tek-Lok or can be attached to the belt using the cord lock as well. For those who want something less complicated, don’t worry, the knife works great too, and is available with just the sheath.
In the Field
The Izula accompanied me on a weekend backpacking trip into the mountains of North Carolina. It functioned well for the usual camping tasks such as cutting small items like summer sausage and treats, and also did just fine cutting line and was easily accessible when needed. It did just fine for normal backpacking chores, but I’m not your normal backpacker. I used the small, but mighty knife, to snap cut a sapling and whittle the ends down for a toaster stick. I then played with it to split small kindling down to a flat trap trigger and a tiny funny bull-roarer. What a fun little knife this was to have on the trail! Not to mention it wasn’t made out of some crazy stainless steel, but good old carbon steel that you can field sharpen in a jif. Even the belt sander crazed guys can get along with this knife, as the full flat grind makes it a slicing and carving joy to use.
I have an RC-3 knife also made by RAT Cutlery, and I think if I had a chance, I probably would love the RC-4 even more. If you would take all of the blade aspects of that knife and make them into a neck knife, you would get the Izula–a no-nonsense flat ground knife that aims to please. With its nice contours and small form-factor, this compact knife is a top choice in the one piece neck knife category.