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Orion Knives K2 Backpacker Review

K2Backpacker3cWoods Monkey takes a look at Orion Knives’ new K2 Backpacker knife–a great new tool useful for much more than just backpacking!





K2Backpacker1aIn the competitive world of outdoor equipment, many manufacturers are looking for an advantage.  In the world of knives and outdoor cutlery, this is exceptionally true.  Whether it is a color, handle material, weight, heat treatment, metal alloy, or any other factor, companies want consumers to be talking about how their knives are unique in certain ways.  When it comes to unique features, the K2 Backpacker by Orion Knives is no exception. Being named the Backpacker, anyone could reasonably assume that Orion intends for the knife to simply be used as a knife that is part of your backpacking kit.  That would be quite a false assumption.  The knife is made of Crucible’s CPM 154 stainless steel heat treated to a Rockwell hardness of 58-60.  The shape is a handy drop point, with a 3 ½ inch blade. The handle is cord wrapped with 550 style paracord.  The specifications that this knife offers very clearly show how versatile it can be. 

K2Backpacker7aK2Backpacker2aWhen I received the knife, it was wrapped up in a paper towel inside of a nondescript knife box with a simple note to enjoy.  I can certainly say that I have.  Straight out of the box, the knife came with a slightly uneven bevel that was what I would call “scrape shaving sharp”.  It was a touch rough, but more than sharp enough for daily applications.  The finish on the knife is bead blasted and was flawless, with no scratches or other unsightly blemishes.  The cord wrapped handle was even and tight with no fraying.  Some people prefer having a nice lanyard on a knife, and the cord wrapping extended into one about 6 inches long off the handle of the knife.  I personally shortened it to about an inch, but for those that enjoy lanyards it is a great feature. 

The most surprising feature of the knife was the kydex sheath it comes with.  The sheath is set up so that the knife can be carried on the belt in a horizontal or vertical manner; it can be carried as a neck knife, attached to a pack belt, shoulder strap or harness, and the belt loop can even be removed to facilitate carrying the knife in your pocket!  The sheer number of variations in carry capabilities that are built into the sheath makes me wonder how the whole package can cost so little.  The retention of the sheath is excellent as well, locking the knife in with no wiggle or looseness, but still allowing the knife to be easily removed when wanted.  When carrying the knife I usually have it set up horizontally on my belt.  I’ve found that since the kydex doesn’t flex, it is the most comfortable position that allows carry both sitting and standing. 

K2Backpacker4aAfter receiving the knife and touching up the edge, it immediately went into my every day carry (EDC) rotation along with other knives ranging in value from $20 to $300.  The K2 can really hold its own!  On the very first day I carried it, I used the knife to cut up an apple, open a few shipping boxes, open a letter, and cut up a block of cheese.  The thin flat grind allows the knife to cut well with little resistance.  The point is rather refined, being much akin to a needle.  Just a few days after I started carrying the K2, I happened to be at a cookout where one of the guests was attacked by a Cedar door.  There were several long nasty splinters deep in his thumb, and tragically a needle couldn’t be located.  I thought to offer the knife, and another one of the guests (who happened to be an EMT) used the tip of the knife to cut and pick the splinters out.  After he finished using the knife, he remarked how similar the tip of the K2 is compared to a scalpel.  Comparing any production knife with a factory bevel to a medical scalpel is a rather impressive feat, let alone a knife that retails for just under $60!

K2Backpacker6aWith all the wonderful things I have to say about the K2 Backpacker, someone might think the K2 to be nearly ideal for me, but that wouldn’t be completely accurate.  The Backpacker has a cord wrapped handle as a substitute for using wood or micarta.  Usually this is done to save weight, which makes sense for a knife intended to be used backpacking.  Some people will take every little bit of weight savings they can.  The fraction of an ounce difference has a price, though.  In extended use, the thin, rough handle doesn’t do your hands any favors, eventually starting to blister your hands and remove skin.  I wouldn’t recommend the Backpacker to anyone who likes to whittle for extended periods of time.  Another concern of mine is related to the 550 cord and the porous nature it exhibits.  Most of the time a knife like this is used for cutting up sausage, cheese, onions, veggies, other foods, and food packaging.  As Orion suggests, the knife could even be used to field dress game.  Using the knife in any of those ways could result in a serious case of bacterial contamination, which could create very serious consequences for the user or users of the knife.

K2Backpacker5aWhen backpacking recently, I used the knife extensively for food prep and little for whittling on the side.  I was extremely cautious about contaminating the handle.  My concern did limit the knife to a lesser level of utility than I would have preferred.  The easiest way to prevent this problem would be simply to use a wood or micarta handle material, which Orion offers on the other K2 varieties.  With that said, many users don’t share my contamination concern as cord wrapped handles are fairly popular. If you’re one who prefers that style handle the Backpacker is wonderful how it is, and will save you a few bucks over the other K2 models.

The Backpacker is one of several K2 varieties by Orion Knives, and it certainly performs!  I’d suggest that anyone who wants a high quality, stainless knife that will hold a great edge should check one out.  The sheath it comes with is fantastic and offers an almost limitless number of attachment options, whether it is in a pocket, on a belt, attached to a pack, or attached to other gear.  The whole package is excellent, combining a wonderful knife and a versatile, sturdy sheath.  In today’s market, a knife of this quality that merely costs $60 stands out quite a bit!  Orion Knives has a real winner in the K2 Backpacker.

Visit: Orion Knives

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