Best ESEE Knives: Blades Made for Survivalists in Mind

Conrad Novak

Introduction

Having a dependable knife when you are out in the wilderness is crucial, we all agree that a knife is the most important tool to have for bushcrafting and survival, but most often than not, these knives are designed by people that are not field experts that put into a rigorous test their products before launching them into the market, this is where ESEE knives truly shine. Founded by Jeff Randall and Mike Perrin, this renowned brand has created some exceptional knives that are very popular and well received by the survival community. In this article, we delve into what we consider are the best ESEE knives on the market and what makes this company such a respected knife brand for survivalists and bushcraft experts alike.

At a Glance: Our Choices for The 6 Best ESEE Knives

Click on one of the links to go directly to our overview, opinion, and features of each knife.

About ESEE Knives

The two owners Jeff Randall and Mike Perrin started Randall’s Adventure Training in 1977 as an outdoor survival training school to provide their students with the training and gear necessary to enable them to survive in remote and hostile environments. Thus, in conjunction with the Peruvian Air Force, they introduced many students to the art of jungle survival in the vast Amazon jungle. Then, after several years of working in South America, they decided to start a U.S. based company which they later chose to rename ESEE (pronounced “S” “E”) which is an acronym for Escuela de Supervivencia (Spanish for “School of Survival”) and Escape and Evasion to produce high-quality field grade knives and survival gear. But, rather than produce their own knives, they instead chose to partner with Wicked Knife Company to produce their line of RATK knives which they later licensed to Ontario Knife Company who still produces the line today. Then, after five years of working with OKC, they decided to form their own company which they called RAT Cutlery in conjunction with Rowen Manufacturing in Idaho Falls, Idaho. But, in order to avoid confusion with OKC’s line of RAT knives, they eventually decided to change the name of their company to ESEE. Thus, while Rowen Manufacturing still produces the large majority of their knives, they also design knives for such companies as Blue Ridge Knives. Meanwhile, their philosophy has remained the same which is to produce best quality knives possible based on their many years of practical field experience and to back them with the best warranty and customer service in the industry.

Consequently, with this philosophy in mind, all ESEE knives are made from SAE 1095 (except for the ESEE 5 which is also available in 440C) which is an American made, high carbon, Plain Tool Steel and, because 1095 is not a stainless steel, all ESEE knives have an epoxy powder coated blade to help prevent corrosion. In addition, all of their knives feature a drop point blade design with either a flat grind or a saber grind and, they all feature full tang construction with canvas Micarta handles (except for the Candiru) which are extremely tough and thus, they will not crack, chip, split, or absorb moisture.

Furthermore, while I understand the purpose of choosing 1095 for the blade steel, some users prefer stainless steels over plain tool steels because stainless steels do a better job of holding an edge and they are far more corrosion resistant than plain tool steels. Thus, given the choice, I would prefer to see more of their knives available in 440C because it is an excellent stainless steel for knives intended for wilderness survival and/or bushcraft since it is a very strong stainless steel. But, because it does a better job of holding an edge than plain tool steels due to the formation of chromium carbides, it is more difficult to sharpen than plain tool steels. On the other hand, plain tool steels are generally stronger than stainless steels due to their lack of chromium carbides and, they have a smaller grain structure which enables them to be honed to a finer edge than stainless steels. However, at the same time, they do not hold an edge quite as well as stainless steel do and, of course, they do not resist corrosion. So, not everyone may agree with my choice of 440C over 1095.

Last, the drop point blade design featured on all ESEE knives is one of the most popular blade designs ever developed and it is an excellent choice for wilderness survival, bushcraft, and utility knives. Plus, the flat grid featured on almost all ESEE knives is again the perfect choice since it produces a stronger edge than a hollow grind but, also produces a sharper edge than a saber grind. Plus, Micarta is the ultimate choice of handle materials for outdoor knives since it is made from layers of linen or canvas that have been impregnated with an epoxy resin and then subjected to both heat and pressure to weld the many layers into a single piece of material that is extremely tough and provides an excellent grip. So, when you couple 1095 with a full tang and canvas Micarta handle slabs, you end up with a very strong blade and handle that will withstand anything you put it through.

Our ESEE Knives Top Picks

As mentioned above, all ESEE knives are based on many years of actual field experience and thus, each one is an excellent choice for the purpose of bushcraft or wilderness survival as well as for use as an everyday carry utility knife. Plus, they are all made from superior materials and feature meticulous attention to detail in their construction. However, because the line of ESEE knives is so broad, I have chosen what I feel are the six best bushcraft/wilderness survival knives from their extensive line.

 #1

ESEE Candiru

1-esee-candiru
Our Rating: (4.4/5)
Steel: 1095 Carbon
Blade:  2.0 in
Blade Thickness: 0.125 in
Handle: 3.125 in
Overall: 5.13 in
Weight: 1.7 oz

Pros:
(+) Exceptionally light weight makes it a good neck knife
(+) Small size makes it very handy
Cons:
(-) Extremely short blade limits its utility

The ESEE Candiru is an exceptionally small knife with a lightweight, skeletonized, handle design that features an overall length of 5.13 inches with a blade that measures 2 inches in length and weighs a mere 1.7 oz. In addition, it features a drop point blade design with a spine that measures 0.125 inches and the blade has a saber grind with a plain edge. Plus, the blade is made from SAE 1095 (which is an American, high carbon, Plain Tool Steel) with a Rockwell Hardness of 55-57 and, it is available with your choice of a black, olive drab, desert tan, dark earth, purple, or pink corrosion resistant finish. Furthermore, it features a full tang with a skeletonized handle and, it includes your choice of a black or clear/white molded Kydex sheath.

Also, due to its exceptionally short blade and ultra lightweight, the ESEE Candiru is what most people call a “neck knife” because it can be suspended on a cord and worn comfortably around the user’s neck where it is very convenient to get to. Thus, it serves the same purpose as a pocket knife.

 #2

ESEE Izula II

2-esee-izula-ii
Our Rating: (4.6/5)
Steel: 1095 Carbon
Blade: 2.63 in
Blade Thickness: 0.156 in
Handle: 3.8 in
Overall: 6.25 in
Weight: 3.2 oz

Pros:
(+) Short blade makes it very handy
(+) Positive edge angle increases cutting power
Cons:
(-) Short blade limits the jobs for which it is suited

Reminiscent of the Candiru, the ESEE Izula II is also an exceptionally small knife with a canvas Micarta handle and it features an overall length of 6.25 inches and a blade that measures 2.63 inches in length and which weighs 3.2 oz. In addition, it features a drop point blade design with a spine that measures 0.156 inches and the blade has a flat grind with a plain edge. Plus, the blade is made from SAE 1095 (which is an American, high carbon, Plain Tool Steel) with a Rockwell Hardness of 55-57 and, it is available with your choice of a black, olive drab, or desert tan corrosion resistant finish. Furthermore, it includes black, molded, Kydex sheath.

Also, similar to the Candiru, the Izula II serves the same purpose as a pocket knife or a folding knife but, unlike the Candiru, it has a positive edge angle which increases the user’s leverage. Thus, combined with the canvas Micarta handle slabs, the Izula II provides the user more control and more cutting power than the Candiru.

 #3

ESEE 3

3-esee-3
Our Rating: (4.4/5)
Steel: 1095 Carbon
Blade: 3.88 in
Blade Thickness: 0.125 in
Handle: 4.375 in
Overall: 8.31 in
Weight: 5.2 oz

Pros:
(+) Small size and light weight makes it easy to carry
(+) Blade design makes it a good utility knife
Cons:
(-) 1095 tool steel is not corrosion resistant

The first knife produced in the RAT/ESEE line, the ESEE 3 features an overall length of 8.31 inches with a blade length of 3.88 inches and weighs 5.2 oz. In addition, it features a drop point blade design with a spine that measures 0.125 inches and the blade has flat grind with your choice of a plain or partially serrated cutting edge. Plus, the blade is made from SAE 1095 (which is an American, high carbon, Plain Tool Steel) with a Rockwell Hardness of 55-57 and, it is available with your choice of either a dark earth, black, or venom green corrosion resistant finish or, an uncoated blade to allow the user to apply a corrosion resistant patina. Furthermore, it features a full tang with a very ergonomic handle made from canvas Micarta that provides a very positive grip even when the handle is wet. Last, it includes a coyote brown, molded, Kydex sheath.

Thus, with its relatively short blade, it is an excellent choice for users who are looking for a compact, high quality, utility knife for wilderness survival, bushcraft, or every day carry. Plus, due to its light weight and thin profile, it is a favorite among military teams and law enforcement personnel as well as outdoorsmen.

 #4

ESEE 4

4-esee-4
Our Rating: (4.6/5)
Steel: 1095 Carbon
Blade: 4.5 in
Blade Thickness: 0.25 in
Handle: 4.5 in
Overall: 9 in
Weight: 8 oz

Pros:
(+) Choice between 1095 and 440C
(+) Choice of a coated or uncoated blade
(+) Choice of a plain or partially serrated edge
Cons:
(-) 1095 requires either a coating or a patina to prevent corrosion

One of the most popular ESEE knives ever produced, the ESEE 4 features an overall length of 9 inches with a blade length of 4.5 inches and weighs 8 oz. In addition, it features a drop point blade design with a spine that measures 0.125 inches and the blade has flat grind. Plus, the blade is made from your choice of SAE 1095 (which is an American, high carbon, Plain Tool Steel) with a Rockwell Hardness of 55-57 or 440C which is an American stainless steel with an unstated Rockwell Hardness and, it is available with your choice of a plain or partially serrated edge with either a black, dark earth, or venom green corrosion resistant finish or, an uncoated blade to allow the user to apply a corrosion resistant patina. Furthermore, it features a full tang with a very ergonomic handle made from canvas Micarta that provides a very positive grip even when the handle is wet. Last, it includes a heavy-duty, molded Kydex sheath or a MOLLE compatible nylon sheath in your choice of black, coyote brown, or olive drab.

In addition, the 4.5-inch blade makes it an excellent choice for users who are looking for a longer knife than the ESEE 3 for wilderness survival, bushcraft, or every day carry since the longer blade provides both greater reach and a longer cutting edge.

 #5

ESSE 5

5-esee-5
Our Rating: (4.8/5)
Steel: 1095 Carbon
Blade: 5.25 in
Blade Thickness: 0.25 in
Handle: 5.75 in
Overall: 11 in
Weight: 16 oz

Pros:
(+) Longer blade is good for a wide range of uses
(+) Extra-thick spine makes the blade exceptionally strong
(+) Cutting edge has a saber grind for extra edge strength
Cons:
(-) 1095 is not corrosion resistant

The ESEE 5 was designed by U.S. Military SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape) instructors for use as a downed pilot’s survival knife and thus, it features an overall length of 11 inches with a blade length of 5.25 inches and weighs 16 oz. In addition, it features a drop point blade design with a spine that measures 0.250 inches and the cutting edge has saber grind. Plus, the blade is made from SAE 1095 (which is an American, high carbon, Plain Tool Steel) with a Rockwell Hardness of 55-57 and, it is available with your choice of a plain or partially serrated edge with either a black, olive drab or, venom green corrosion resistant finish. Furthermore, it features a full tang with a very ergonomic handle made from canvas Micarta that provides a very positive grip even when the handle is wet. Last, it includes a heavy-duty, molded, black Kydex sheath or, a MOLLE compatible Cordura Nylon sheath in your choice of black, khaki, or olive drab.

In addition, the 5-inch blade makes it an excellent choice for users who are looking for a dedicated wilderness survival, bushcraft, or camp knife since the choice of 1095 combined with the longer blade and the saber grind makes it the perfect choice for these purposes.

 #6

ESEE 6

6-esee-6
Our Rating: (5/5)
Steel: 1095 Carbon
Blade:  6.50 in
Blade Thickness: 0.188 in
Handle: 5.25 in
Overall: 11.75 in
Weight: 12 oz

Pros:
(+) Long blade is good for cutting, slicing, and chopping
(+) 1095 makes the blade both tough and strong
Cons:
(-) Long blade makes it unwieldy for fine cutting tasks
(-) 1095 requires a coating

An excellent choice for those who prefer a larger knife for wilderness survival or camp use, the ESEE 6 features an overall length of 11 ¾ inches with a blade length of 6 ½ inches and weighs 12 oz. In addition, it features a drop point blade design with a spine that measures 0.156 inches and the blade has a flat grind. Plus, the blade is made from SAE 1095 (which is an American, high carbon, Plain Tool Steel) with a Rockwell Hardness of 55-57 and, it is available with your choice of a plain or partially serrated edge with either a black, dark earth or, venom green corrosion resistant finish. Furthermore, it features a full tang with a very ergonomic handle made from canvas Micarta that provides a very positive grip even when the handle is wet. Last, it includes your choice of a molded Kydex sheath in black, coyote brown, or olive drab or a MOLLE compatible Cordura Nylon sheath in your choice of black, khaki, or olive drab.

 In addition, with its 6.5 inch blade, the ESSE 6 makes it an excellent large knife for users who need a knife that can chop as well as cut and slice and thus, it is a very good choice for a dedicated wilderness survival knife or camp knife since the choice of 1095 combined with the significantly longer blade provides a wide range of versatility.

Conclusion

So, for those users who are in need of a high quality knife for every day carry, bushcraft, or wilderness survival, it is difficult to find a better line of knives than ESEE since all ESEE knife designs are backed by many years of actual field experience and each design has been thoroughly tested by users who know what features they in want a knife and what tasks they need it to perform. Therefore, all ESEE knives are made from top quality materials with meticulous craftsmanship and thus, they are designed to be there for you when you need really need a knife.

Image by Adam Meek

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