It’s the little things in life. They can save you or hurt you even in the wilds. Little steps add up to miles on the trail. They also can get your leg broken with a single badly placed step on rocky footing. That doesn’t mean you need to avoid them. You just need to give them a degree of notice you might not have before.
Take for example the Candiru from ESSE knives. It’s a little knife. The first time I held one a few months ago I was on a quest for an EDC fixed blade to use for occasional treks out hiking. A local shop had one by chance so I could check it out up close.
My initial impression was that I needed more after handling the rather small Candiru. With its minimal length and skeleton handle I thought it might be taking my preference for smaller trail blades too far to the extreme end. If a piece of gear doesn’t fit it doesn’t fit. I decided to not pull the trigger until I could play around with one for an extended period. I was afraid that its slim handles would be too uncomfortable for extended use. Its sheath system (a pouch style with a flap over handle Velcro closure) would be too restrictive. When the Woods Monkey asked me to review the Candiru I figured I would be turning in my first really unhappy review.
Happily, I was wrong.
The Candiru is made by ESSE knives, so you know you’re getting a thought filled design and execution tempered by experience. Jeff Randall and the guys at ESSE are not into designing knives that don’t work. I get the impression it offends them on a deep level, and that means the knives they put out are top quality pieces. Made in Idaho Falls, Idaho by Rowen manufacturing their knives are high carbon steel for the best compromise between toughness and ease of sharpening. All edges and machine work was perfect on the knife. On such a small piece the little things become very important as there is less room for error.
The Candiru (Google the name of the fish and get the giggling over with, then return here) has an overall length of just short of 5 and 1/4 inches with just a 2 inch cutting edge drop point blade. Weight wise it’s a negligible 2 ounces or so. Its 1/8 inch thick 1095 carbon steel and is coated in black, olive drab green or tan powder coat finish to help keep corrosion down. They bear the ESEE logo on the blade and are serial numbered for quality control purposes.
It’s a three finger grip for most folks and fits the hand well. Even better, after market OEM handle scales can be had for it in canvas micarta or ‘don’t lose me’ orange G10. I did part of this review with the scales on and off to give a fair accounting. If you don’t want to use the knife with the bare skeletonized handle the option of cord wrapping, or grip tape are also possibilities. You will find a handle system that works for you and the design of the knife encourages this experimentation. This factor would also come in handy in the field if repair or modification became necessary.
The nylon flap sheath (with hard plastic liner) can be carried vertically on a belt or strap or inverted hung by a grommet inset into the sheaths tip. The flap closure is good and secures the knife in the sheath and makes it being grabbed by a branch and flipped out of the sheath very unlikely. Aftermarket sheaths of leather and Kydex are able to be found on the net with some searching. Once again the Candiru is easily adaptable to the user and by the user. It’s a great all around knife for whatever you need. I put it through its paces in the kitchen and as EDC and there was very little the little knife could not accomplish. Processing meats and vegetables, fire starting, fuzzing up wood, it’s the total minimal package. The handle was comfortable for most tasks and with the addition of the aftermarket scales was a solid knife/hand interface platform.
During my gear evaluations I sometimes like to find out what others may think about it cold. With no preconceived notions their honest opinion can give you surprising insights. First up was a retired Marine that I gave it to and asked for his first impressions. He was really impressed and handled it easily even with his considerable sized digits. This was before I had added the aftermarket handles. I would NOT have thought his big mitts and the little Candiru would be a good match. He deftly manipulated the live blade without looking at it. He remarked that it would be a great knife to attach to your web gear in a handy position. In his experience he felt it would make a great utility/contingency cutter. More surprisingly he thought it would also be good for hand to hand killing (not knife fighting) implement. He especially liked the ‘disappear in the hand’ factor of it. This was a chilling reminder of an objects efficiency of use in many areas.
Self-defense is only one of many tasks a knife can be called on to perform, and excelling at many tasks it did. The Candiru cut through old carpet slowly but the blade worked fine even with extensive dirt and fibers. The knife was easily sharp enough; it just requires more movement to keep the edge traveling through the 11 feet of material. The Candiru worked good on trimming branches while doing yard and garden work as a handy utility cutter on the belt. It was barely noticeable and rode well on the belt. My wife liked its compact carry size that worked well in a purse without scratching up anything around it as the full flap sheath protects everything else, not just the knife. Gear damaging gear is a bigger factor in packing than you think.
One of the few down sides was the Velcro closure: stealthy it is not. Opening the Velcro closure is too loud for some people. If you are going ‘hi speed low drag’ get a silent sheath from a custom maker. For most people it’s not a problem.
In summary the Candiru is worth checking out in the flesh if you’re in need of a small high quality user knife. Its versatility is matched only by the ingenuity of the user. Its small size means it’s appropriate and legal practically everywhere which insures you have the means to cut something when the need comes up unexpectedly. It makes a great addition to your kit for the trail on an ultra light hike, or as a backup that’s always there.
You can find the Candiru in knife shops and online for around $50 and the add on grips can be found for under $20. It’s well worth the time to check one out if you’re in the market for a small knife with ability to have greater effect than what you would think it could be capable of. After all, the little things can have a bigger influence than it seems.