CRKT M16-01KZ Knife Review - Perfect Camping Knife?

Thursday, January 29, 2015 , , 8 Comments

When most individuals think of a camping knife I believe they incorrectly jump into thinking they need either a tactical survival knife like the SOG Seal Pup or a Bush knife like the Mora. While both these styles have their place in the outdoors, I believe that for most common campers they are too large and unwieldy as a primary camping blade. Most of you will not be splitting wood, building structures, creating spears, digging holes, signaling for help, or slaying bears with your knife. Years of camping experience has taught me that the most common applications for a camping knife are cutting rope, preparing food, and creating tinder and kindling for a fire. Further, we only have so much room to pack or carry with us while camping and so I have found the size and weight of an item plays an important role in my decision whether to bring it or not. That being said, each camping situation is different and a person hiking 7 days in the back country will have more demanding requirements than someone who is doing a weekend trip at a public camp site. In other words your mileage may vary and I do believe a survival knife is a critical item to bring along in addition to a camping knife if you may be more isolated or at higher risk of finding yourself in a precarious position. 

If we assume the primary role of a camping knife is cutting rope, preparing food, and as an aid to start a fire; here are some of the characteristics I look for when choosing one: 1.) large enough to fit comfortably in the hand, yet small enough as to minimize weight and maximize portability. 2.) Spear point design - which allows for detail work using a strong sharp tip, and a modest belly for slicing and cutting. *Note: a drop point blade would be a close second. 3.) Affordable, I don't know how many times I have seen a knife lent to another person and never returned, or in the rush to pack up camp a knife is left behind. 4.) Straight edge design over a serrated blade. This allows maximum usage of the blades belly and is much easier to resharpen. 5.) Is durable to modest abuse and rust resistant. 6.) Is composed of a steel that is easily sharpened and retains an edge well. All of these things led me to the CRKT M16, but is it the perfect camping knife? 

The Good: The M16 design has some very strong attributes in its favor. First, ergonomically it fits wonderfully in my hand, being a folder makes it compact (open length is 7"closed is 4"), and at 2.3 ounces it is light weight. Secondly, the blade design is perfect for food preparation and other detailed tasks and strong enough so you don't worry about damaging the tip or folding over the edge when preforming more rigorous tasks. Third, it is very affordable and if I lost one or irreparable damaged it I wouldn't shed a tear. MSRP is $49.99 but can easily be found in the $24 dollar range at several retailers. Fourth, the guard design allows for rapid one hand deployment when folded and once open provides modest protection to prevent your hands from slipping onto the edge. Fifth, the steel, 8Cr15MoV very easily sharpened and resistant to wear and rust. 

The Bad: Lets first start with the steel, while 8Cr15MoV is very easily sharpened and resilient, I would classify its edge retention as moderate. This means that if you plan on doing a lot of heavy cutting, say on cardboard or wood, you will quickly wear down the edge and it will need to resparpen--but again it is a very easy knife to resharpen to a razor edge. Secondly, some may find the grip marginal and thus I am putting this in the bad category but I feel the ergonomics overcome this for me. Third, and the big one for me, I find the locking mechanism weak and prone to lockup. The M16 is a liner lock design with an AutoLAWKS safety mechanism. Therefore the knife is designed to have a greater resistance to unexpectedly collapsing while in use and thereby adds the safety to protect your hands. This is great and I would love that about the knife if only it was executed more precisely. Allow me to explain. Over the past four years I have owned three M16 knives, the first I lost and the second I sent back to the factory due to malfunction with which they sent me a new knife. That malfunction was due to me placing an increased pressure on the blade of the knife which caused the locking system to seize or permanently lock up. In other words, while it did protect my hands, the locking system caused the blade to stay in the open position. You were unable to close it. CRKT has since sent me what is now my third and I have had this problem with it again. Instead of sending it back I just take a pair of pliers and squeeze the liner lock so I can close the blade again. No time has it done this under normal use but when higher stress is applied the knife has locked up five or six times. 

Conclusion: For many years I thought the CRKT M16 was close to the prefect camping knife. The shape, ergonomics, price and size matched perfectly with my needs. But to answer the question, is it the perfect camping knife? No. But then again almost all gear is a combination of compromises and advantages. The M16 has a lot going for it but the steel and locking are subpar yet this is balanced with its affordable price. Compromise. I still take the M16 with my camping as I have a love for its feel, but it now comes as a secondary blade not a primary and in those extreme size and weight circumstances it does not come at all. I still like the knife, but it is not perfect. I would still recommend it as a light EDC or Camping knife but for those looking for something capable of more rigorous use there are better options out there. Verdict: 7/10.


Kansas Has Its Moments

Saturday, January 24, 2015 9 Comments

While hiking yesterday I took this picture at sunset. Kansas is not Colorado, Utah, or Washington, but it has its moments.


Winter Fishing Taneycomo

Monday, January 19, 2015 , , 19 Comments

Tailwater's simultaneously offer some of the greatest fishing opportunities and some of the most frustrating. They can be exciting due to the sheer number of fish, the potential to hook into some monster trout, and the multitude of water scenarios with which you can fish. Yet water conditions often fluctuate throughout the day and regardless of planned generation schedules the powers that be often seem to have their own maddening sense of humor as to what they will dish out to anglers. As such, when fishing tailwater's it is always best to have a back up plan. Originally Jeff and I had hoped that unseasonably warm conditions this weekend would equate to low power generation and wadable conditions,  and thus we would be able throw large streamers for big Browns. However, water was up and we were confined to sticking pretty close to the banks.

Making the best of the situation we still were able to get a productive day of fishing in, as you can see from the above photo with Jeff hooking into a nice Taney Rainbow. 

Instead of throwing 10" streamers to Browns we targeted the gorgeous Rainbows, rich with their winter coloring. Originally the fishing was a touch slow, but as they increased generation from one unit to two the fishing improved. This was unsurprising as it seems no matter the species, fish seem more willing to eat on rising water. The only problem of course is the rising water limited wading opportunities even more. Productive patterns for me were the usual: Red Zebra Midge, Scuds, and G-Bug. It was a good day minus the fact that that I slipped and fell into the water above my waders. Even on a warmish day in January, falling in 40* water is cold, very cold. Glad my belt was cinched on my waders and that I had extra clothes. Regardless it was a good day, and the trout put on a good show with their colors. 


Fly Line Characteristics -- Basics of the Build

Tuesday, January 06, 2015 , , 6 Comments

Recently the President of my local Federation of Fly Fishers chapter, Martin Kollman, wrote the following article on fly lines and their construction. I found it very informative and it is with his permission that I am republishing the article. I hope you enjoy it and learn as much from it as I did. You may find a link to our FFF chapter here: Free State Fly Fishers.

I get a weekly news letter from Deneki Outdoors and one of their topics was on fly line construction and how it is put together to achieve different results. I pay attention to this after asking Davy Wotton what was the biggest advance in fly fishing over the last years and he said easily fly line. We typically use weight forward (WF) lines, as they shoot well and give a little more power in the wind than the double taper (DT), but the DT is smoother on the roll and prized by dry fly fishermen for it's fineness. Shoot heads and skagit/spey tend to be for chucking big flies or going the distance, so these work more like throwing a baseball to drag the running line out into deep water than worry about how stealthy they are. Take a look at this section description of your fly line and think about what you are tossing on your own rig this trout season.

In a typical 'weight forward' fly line profile you can expect to see some, or all of the following components…

30 ft Weight: Just what it says, the 30 ft. weight is the weight of the first 30 feet of line measured in 'grains'. It is what dictates the line's appropriate line weight (i.e. 5 wt., 6 wt., and so forth). Why 30 feet? at 30 feet, both weight forward and double taper lines of the same 'line weight should weigh the same, allowing for some consistency when matching lines to rods from varying manufacturers. However, there is an accepted degree of error in line weights, and some lines can vary from 1/2 to even 3/4 of a line size within the same 'weight'. Therefore, knowing the 30 ft. weight can be helpful in matching a line to your specific needs.

Tip: The tip of the fly line is nothing more than a short level section to which the leader is attached. In the past, the tip was used to extend the life of the line by providing a section that can be trimmed after attaching a leader, without cutting into the taper of the fly line. With the popularity of welded loops however, the tip of the fly line is not as important today as it was before, and thus does not need to be as long.

Front Taper: The tapered section connecting the body of the tip to the line, the front taper determines how energy is dissipated from the line to the leader. A long gradual front taper allows for a more delicate and accurate cast, while a short aggressive front taper lends itself to better turnover when casting heavy flies or casting into the wind, although it is less accurate. Choose accordingly.

Belly (Body): The belly, or the body, of the line is the portion of the line with the widest diameter. It is where the majority of the energy is carried throughout the cast. The longer the belly of the line, the greater distance potential. The shorter the belly, the easier it is to load the rod quickly for shorter casts. Choose your belly length based upon the distance you fish most often.

Rear (Back) Taper: The tapered section connecting the belly of the line to the running line. the rear taper is an underrated portion of the fly line. A long rear taper allows for greater control of the fly lilne over longer distance by creating a smooth transfer of energy. A shorter rear taper creates a quicker transition to the thin running line, allowing for greater distances when shooting line. Both have their advantages depending on the type of fishing at hand.

Head: The head of the fly line is the section comprised of the front taper, belly, and rear taper. The length of the head determines the amount of line that can be effectively carried in the air while casting. The longer the head, the longer casting potential. However, more false casts are often necessary to length the amount of line being carried in the air, which may be difficult for some casters. The shorter the head, the less false casts needed to load the rod before shooting line and may be easier for casters of all abilities.

Running Line: The thin, level line comprising the back end of the fly line, the running line provides a low friction segment designed to send the head as far as possible when shooting line using weight forward or shooting taper fly lines. Unless you are planning on boasting casts around the 100 foot range, the length of the running line is not overly important.