This is the follow-up article on one awesome knife from Rat Cutlery, the RC-5. Now if you’ve read our previous review on this knife, you’ll know lots about it already. It’s 1095 Carbon steel, it’s a little over 10″ long and a quarter inch thick, and it has a great sheath. Here’s my take on it after using it at PWYP, on a few of my own camping trips, and uusing it during reviews of other stuff (making tent pegs, large vertical supports, felling small trees and what not). I batoned this knife to death but could not kill it. This baby would do everything I asked and never break a sweat. I’m sure the Nessmuk Trio is familiar to most of you Woods Monkeys. A small folder, a mid sized fixed blade, and a small hatchet are key tools that will help you make a life in the wilderness. But, what if you could only have one of those? The hatchet? Mmmm, too big for lots of tasks. Let’s see you make a feather stick with that. The folding knife? Count out batoning through thick logs. The fixed blade knife? You could baton and do some of the chores of the hatchet, and it could do in a pinch for fine work, like utensil carving, feather stick making, tent pegs, kitchen chores, etc. But, it would be better if it was just a touch more heavy duty. It’s better to lean toward durability in the woods. Especially if it’s the only tool you have. Enter the RC-5 from Rat Cutlery.
Now, this isn’t touted as a bush knife per se, but rather more as a downed pilot’s survival knife. I have never been a downed pilot, but I would assume the first task might be getting out of the cockpit, so this knife has a glass/canopy breaker pommel with lanyard hole. Next you might need to slice your way out of seat/parachute harness webbing. No problem for this knife. The idea of this one knife being able to help you in a survival/evasion/resistance/escape is very real and I doubt it would let you down.
My first in-hand impression was that the knife is heavy duty enough to handle anything thrown its way. The jimping on the spine gives great traction while doing choked up fine work. I added a wrist lanyard later on and tried using it as a swinging chopper, choking back on the handle. However, I think one of its best features is that it can be batoned through some damn thick logs. Whether you’re splitting wet wood to get to the dry center, or felling small trees to help in survival shelter construction, it will do it. First off, make yourself a nice think rabbit stick to beat on the spine with. I took down a 5″ thick tree for the beginnings of a shelter in reasonable time. I then used the above-mentioned choke-up, choke-down techniques to chop off the limbs to make small tent pegs and feather sticks with the RC-5.
After a good bit of work I stropped The RC-5 back to about hair shaving sharp with the trusty JRE Sheath’s Strop Bat. I love that thing! I know this knife’s intended purpose really doesn’t need a hair shaving edge, but I try to keep it close so that it makes the finer work go easier. The coated 1095 steel comes back to sharp pretty easily and really stands up to some abuse. The blade showed some shiny marks from getting batoned so much but that was it, no signs of the coating coming off. Speaking of sharpening, while I was stropping the RC-5 in the woods I was thinking about how to have this luxury all the time. I started looking more at the sheath and seeing what I could do with it. It’s an Eagle Industries sheath and it is, of course, built like a tank. You could always keep the strop bat in a bag or something but as this might be the only survival item strapped to you at time of ejection, how about putting something in the sheath to sharpen it with? I started looking closer at the sheath pouch. It has a big Fastex buckle to hold items in and an elastic strap on the outside that holds stuff down and quiet. The elastic is a great idea but makes the pouch look smaller than it is. I started packing it with stuff and it just kept taking it. First was just a Leatherman Wave multitool. That went down easier than a cold beer on a hot day. It would take care of any fine work; make crafting utensils easier, aid in drilling small holes to make a toggle, etc. Adding the multitool now gives you an onboard wood saw, 2 more blades, a can opener, some screw drivers and all the other tools that the Leatherman has. Quite a powerful ally to have in that pouch.
Now for some sharpening. I usually use my DMT Double Sided Diafold diamond sharpener to get the edge back to where I want it, and then go to the strop. In the pouch it went with the Wave. The DMT is 5″ closed and all but about 1/4″ or so fits. So, what’s the next item that we could really use? Something to help make fire! Thinking on the rule of 3’s, three hours without shelter, I figured that a shelter would be much nicer with a fire going. And what else to put in but Rat Cutlery’s very own Rat Fire Kit? I have an older version of this I think, from the web page it looks like it now has survival tips printed on the barrel and comes with the 20mm button compass. I put in my own compass, and into the o-ring sealed handle went 4 pieces of fire tinder and a waterproof match that I broke the end off of so that it would fit. So now I had an incredibly hard-core survival knife, all the features of a Leatherman Wave, a misch metal fire starter, a compass, some tinder, a match, and a double-sided sharpener.
One small thing I wish the knife had was a ferro rod scraping area on the spine. The spine is rounded just enough that it won’t make sparks. The thick coating protecting the blade isn’t helping with the spark making either. I modified my own RC-3 on the spine so that it will really throw some good sparks with a ferro rod, and if the RC-5 was going to be my only survival blade I would do the same to it. However, with the kit I have stuffed into the pouch on the sheath, you can use something on the Leatherman to strike the ferro rod with and save the sharpened blade of the knife. That’s pretty awesome all in one package, but I saw more space in there. The last item I added was a thin signal mirror. It’s tucked in there, but it fits. Even if it breaks for some reason, you’d still have pieces big enough to use for signaling. I threw in my Scott’s Knot’s survival bracelet too because I always have one on, and that’s 8 feet of paracord added to this kit.
Another great feature of the sheath is the hard plastic liner to protect the nylon. It works great and gives it a more robust feeling. The only thing I personally didn’t like was the Velcro that closes the belt loop kept coming open and closed just a little bit. Understand, this was not enough for it to open all the way and lose the knife or anything; it was just annoying hearing that small portion of Velcro ripping open. I think I would prefer just a normal belt loop. Even if it were big enough to fit a duty belt, the leg strap would help keep the sheath in place. Also, it seemed to me that with whatever pants I had on, the leg sheath would ride in such a spot that it would act like a keeper, and any small item that was in my right front pocket was retained better by it. I usually have a Zippo lighter in my right front pocket and the leg strap would help it stay put, even if I was upside down for some reason
I hope I’ve shed some more light on an already fantastic knife after our previous review. I love this knife! I couldn’t hurt it. It held up great, took a nice edge, and I had everything I wanted in the sheath pouch. It really turned out to be more than just a knife, but more of a survival system, once you added some items to the sheath’s pouch. If I had a choice, I would compliment this kit with my SOG tomahawk to make a true Nessmuk trio. But just as it comes from Rat Cutlery the RC-5 is a ready, willing, and able survival knife that’s just waiting for you to customize with your own additions to the sheath to make it a kit suited best for you