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CRKT’s Ritter RSK Mk5 Review

RitterMk5005cGetting back to his roots, Doug Ritter of Equipped To Survive has come up with a new knife design.  The CRKT Ritter RSK Mk5 is intended to fit the niche for a backup blade.  We’ll take a look at it and share our thoughts.





RitterMk5003aHello, my name is Garrett.  (crowd responds, “Hi Garrett!“).  I’m a survival junkie.  It all started pretty innocently at first.  I’d pick up a knife here, a flashlight there, and from time to time, I’d pull out all the stops and get another fire starter or even a spool of paracord.  What can I say? Back then, I was just experimenting.  Then one day, about ten years ago, I came across a website that was chock full of great articles about survival gear and how to make your own kits at home.  At home?  Perish the thought.  But, it was true.  Doug Ritter of Equipped To Survive had written an article about how he made his own survival kit that fit into a tin box–the kind you might find tobacco, candy, mints, Altoids, etc.  Well, he had me hooked at that point.  That weekend, I went about getting all the required materials and put together the exact same kit.  After it was done, I have to say that there was a certain level of satisfaction from that building process.  That article is still online even today.

I only mention my status as a survival junkie so you’ll understand why I (and others like me) get a little tingle when we come across a small, empty tin.  You see, we look at that container and are just consumed with an overpowering drive to fill it with stuff that we can use out in the field.  So, you can see why my mood was elevated when I got a package in the mail from Columbia River Knife and Tool that contained the new Ritter RSK Mk5 knife, and an empty tin that you can personalize with your own surival items.  What can I say?  A  smile spread across my face as I fondly remembered that first kit I built ten years ago with the assistance of Doug’s article.

KS2R3576aI’ve written about Doug previously in another knife review, but for those unfamiliar with him, Doug is a leading expert on survival equipment particularly with regard to the marine and aerospace sectors.  Additionally, he’s started his own line of gear including knives, lights, and survival kits.  Doug’s latest submission to the knife industry is his RSK Mk5 fixed blade knife.  First, let’s just get a couple of things right out of the way.  This is not going to be your primary blade out in the field or in most situations where a knife is required.  It’s probably not even going to be your backup blade either.  The Mk5 is intended to be your last ditch, go-to knife when you’ve got nothing else on you to cut stuff.  He’s already gotten feedback from folks that are carrying it as a neck knife and Doug mentioned that he didn’t even really design it for that type of carry either.  It certainly works because it’s small and light, but you have to hold it in your hands to get the gist of the concept.  It’s a tiny knife that’s intended for you to easily carry and always have on your person–except, of course, on airlines where they ban fingernail clippers.

RitterMk5006aThe steel is 3Cr13 in the 52-55 Rockwell hardness range, and given it’s intended role, does a nice job with whatever cutting tasks you need to do.  Granted, you’re not going to be chopping with it, and it’s not going to be your first choice to clean game either.  But, understand that Doug’s concept was not for this to be a “first choice” knife.  It’s purpose is as a last resort tool and it’s just about perfect for that role.  When not in use, it’s stored in a molded Nylon sheath that has its own lanyard hole.  You can use a small clip to attach the sheath to a pack or other piece of gear, or you can run some cord through it for the ever-popular neck carry.  As handy as neck carry is, I would advise you to check your local laws to see if this type of every day carry is legal in your area, particularly since it’s a fixed blade.  In fact, I recently wrote a review about the Chums Fishing Lanyard, and the RSK Mk5 is the perfect size to clip onto that piece of gear where I currently have another CRKT blade residing.

RitterMk5004aFor such a little knife, it’s got a lot of curves giving it a nice profile and clean overall appearance.  The blade is just 1.75 inches long with a handles that’s just a hair over two inches.  That’s approximately 3.8 inches in length for the entire knife.  When I use the knife, I’ve got enough room on the handle for my forefinger and half of my middle finger to secure my grip on it.  The blade has a drop point profile with a lot of belly for such a dimnuitive cutter.  I like the fact that he designed a skeletonized handle and added the extra holes near the spine of the blade.  Not only does that reduce weight, it also provides a lot of options for lashing the knife to a long stick for an improvised spear, or you could lash it to a shorter piece of wood to make a larger handle for a little extra reach with the knife.

RitterMk5007aEveryone loves fuzz sticks.  You see see everyone out there making fuzz sticks as a test for knives.  I believe I even read something on CRKT’s web site about making fuzz sticks with the Mk5.  I’ve never claimed to be a bushcrafter, but I know what I need a knife to do for my needs in the outdoors.  So, I went ahead and did a quick (very quick) test to see if the Mk5 had the right edge to make a fuzz stick.  Sure enough, it does.  This is probably one of the primary things you would do with a knife like this in a survival situation.  For the benefit of our Associate Editor, Tim, I did try to baton with the Mk5, but the results weren’t very good.  The best I was able to do was split a wooden strike anywhere match into 4 pieces.  And, if you think I’m being serious with that last part, lighten up Francis.

The next piece of the puzzle that Doug and CRKT threw into the mix was an empty mint tin to store some of your favorite survival gear.  If you’re not sure what to put in there, don’t worry; they also included a folded sheet that includes some tips and pointers about the kinds of things you can store in the tin. On that sheet, some of the following items are listed as good pieces to start with:

  • Firestarter
  • Tinder
  • Signal Mirror
  • Whistle
  • Compass
  • Duct Tape
  • Needle and Thread
  • Safety Pins
  • Aluminum Foil
  • Nylon Cord
  • Wire
  • Flashlight
  • Fishing Kit
  • Basic Medical Supplies
  • Personal Medications
  • Paper and Pencil

RitterMk5008aAll of those items are great suggestions as a starting point or as particular things to consider for your own personal kit.  More likely than not, you won’t be able to fit all of those items into the kit without skimping on the amount of each that you include–unless you have a hydraulic press to pack it all in there.  For instance, (as Doug points out in the guide sheet) a quality signal mirror will take up a good amount of space in the tin.  While it would be pretty groovy to be able to signal someone for rescue, I’d have some higher priority items that I want in the kit first.  You’ve got a limited amount of space to work with, so you’re going to have to make the choices that are best for you.  Some folks have medical conditions that would necessitate personal medications to be one of the highest ranked items to have in the kit.  Others don’t have to worry about that one as much.

As much as I enjoyed making my first survival tin, the one I made was just a bit bulky to carry around with me on a regular basis. When I was wearing cargo pants or my woods clothes, that original tin was easy to carry.  But, with every day style clothing, it got a little harder to comfortably carry it with me. The tin provided with the Mk5 by CRKT is just about the ideal size.  It’s not as long or as deep as the first tin I built, so stuffing it away in a pocket is going to be a lot easier and won’t print in your clothing as much.

RitterMk5001aSo, after having tested the knife, I decided to go ahead and put together a kit for the tin that CRKT included in the package.  If you’re anything like me, you’ve got all kinds of odds and ends laying around just waiting to be cobbled together into yet another survival kit.  I’ve got several “levels” of survival kits that I have already assembled and each one houses the best balance of quantity and quality of gear that I can muster for a particular purpse.  So, as I went about putting this new small kit together, my objective was not to strip gear from other kits.  I wanted this to be an addition to my kit collection.  So, I rifled through my various boxes and tubs and found a variety of items that I thought would be most beneficial for a small kit that could fit in the provided tin.  The list of items that I used for the CRKT/Ritter kit tin are as follows:

RitterMk5002aNow, I’m not going to take down a Death Star with this kit, but I’ve got a decent variety of items in there that would come in handy if I got into a pinch.  Keep in mind that this was just my first try at what I figured would fit in the tin.  After it was all put together, I saw that I had a little room left over.  One improvement might be to add a few lifeboat matches to it for a second fire source and glue a strip of sandpaper on the inside of the tin for a striking surface.  That would give the user a secondary source for starting a fire, and matches are a bit quicker most of the time.  Even after all of that, I think there’s room for my Fisher space pen and a couple of sheets of Rite In The Rain paper as well.  I’ve just got to find the pen!  Even without any additional items, it’s a little tricky to keep it shut, so I put a Ranger band around the tin so it wouldn’t pop open in a pocket.  The Ranger band is also an easy way to store the Mk5 with the kit.

As I mentioned earlier, this tin is just about the right compromise in size to make sure you keep it with you all the time.  Pair your new kit up with the Ritter RSK Mk5, and you’ll be better prepared for adverse events than about 95% of the population.  Also bear in mind that these two items are just an addition to what you carry on a regular basis every day anyway, which might including a folding knife, a multi-tool, condoms (you know how those optimists are) to store water, and a lighter.  Another easy addition to your every day carry is a survival bracelet made out of paracord.  There are a few companies that make them, but I got mine from Scott’s Knots and I like it a lot.  Yes, Scott writes for Woods Monkey (full disclosure), but he does a great job putting them together and they look good, too.  It looks more like an outdoors clothing accessory than an actual piece of survival gear.

PSPaAnd, maybe you’re not the type of person that likes to sit around and tinker with kits, but you’d still like to have one to go with the Ritter RSK Mk5.  That’s not a problem.  Doug worked with Adventure Medical Kits to develop what he dubbed the Personal Survival Pak.  This kit contains high quality gear at a decent price and it’s all contained in a Zip-Lok style pouch.  You can easily slide the Ritter RSK Mk5 right into that pre-assembled kit and you won’t have to worry about making your own.  No muss, no fuss!  The RSK Mk5, like all Doug Ritter gear, has a portion of the profits go to the Equipped To Survive Foundation which helps conduct research dealing with disasters and emergency gear and the foundation is involved with helping to set standards for different pieces of gear on the market.  That benefits all of us as a consumer.

So, does the RSK Mk5 meet expectations?  Sure it does.  It’s an extremely compact back-up knife that’s very easy to carry with you at all time.  There’s no reason to be without a blade.  No, you’re not going to be able to do the big chores like chopping or batoning your firewood, but I’d venture to say that it will serve your needs for about 85-90% of knife-related tasks.  Its suggested retail is $26.99 (U.S.), but I found it online for under $18.00.  For that price, you get the knife, a molded nylon sheath, a bright and colorful lanyard (I forgot to mention it earlier), and your own survival tin to fill with gear.  I think the price is very reasonable for what you get and the kit will keep you busy on a rainy Sunday afternoon.  As I was writing this, it just hit me that I need to find a small sharpener for the tin to touch up the blade in the field.  You see?  It just keeps going…

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