It’s not often that a preparedness or survival product reaches into the mainstream but when attach name of a star of a popular survival TV show there is a good chance the product will have a lot of people talking.
This happens to be the case with Bear Grylls, the Hollywood survival TV show persona from the Discovery network, who has teamed up with Gerber Legendary Blades to make a series of survival knives and tools.
The most hyped product in the Bear Grylls Survival Series is the Bear Grylls Ultimate Knife. The toy-ish looking fixed blade knife comes with a variety of additional goodies to maximize its versatility. These add-ons include a fire starter, a whistle, a knife sharpener, a sheath, and a small survival guide. Let’s take a look and see if it is a marketing gimmick or a real survival knife.
Call me pessimistic but when I see any “celebrity” branded product I automatically assume that it is crap though in this case I was mostly wrong. I’ve been burned a couple times in the past buying celebrity endorsed products so I’m naturally more skeptical when evaluating those types of products.
To start off you go to the money maker, the blade. It is a serrated fixed blade with a full tang, for knife newbies, that means that the blade doesn’t stop at the handle but it continues under the handle the full length of the knife. This makes for a much stronger knife, rarely will you see a break at the handle like you will with cheaper quality knives.
The handle has a great ergonomic shape that fits in the hand and comes with a double guard to prevent slippage. The textured rubber grip is pretty sticky, even in moist/wet conditions, a nice touch for sure. While I really don’t like the gimmicky bright orange color accents it really is a pretty nice knife overall.
According to Gerber, the blade is high carbon stainless steel measuring in at a tad under 4.8-inches. The spinge is almost 1/4 inch thick which is pretty solid, not bad at all for a price point we’ll take about later below. The knife mates carbon steel which is known for its good edges and hardness with stainless steel so you avoid the staining that is prone to happen to plain carbon knives. The blade will be resistant to rust while maintaining its edge and hardness, a nice combo. As for data to back up its claims, the Grylls Survival knife has scored a respectible Rockwell score of 55-59 (57+/-2).
Aside from the blade, the spark emitting tool and whistle are pretty good. We prefer using our UST BlastMatch and Storm Whistle but if you don’t have those with you the ones that comes with this knife are pretty solid performers.
The Ultimate Survival Knife from Gerber does provide what many other knives don’t which is a wide range of uses due to the add-ons to the sheath and knife lanyard. The sheath contains a fire starter, a knife sharpener, and survival guide booklet, while the lanyard (attached at the bottom of the knife) has a whistle. Another interesting additions is the two holes at the top of the handle that allow you to lash the knife and make a spear as seen in the image to the left.
So how did all of these add-ons perform? Well we were able to start a fire quickly with a little dryer lint and the sharpener did a pretty good job of bringing the knife back to its original sharpness after putting it through its paces. In the end, all of the items worked well on their own and would be pretty decent stand alone items to pack with you. The fire starter was our favorite of the added fetaures with the whistle being our least favorite.
By itself the Bear Grylls Ultimate Knife is a good product at a pretty fair price, but when you start to compare it against other survival knives in the marketplace you to really question what you are looking for. At a retail price of $62 you can get some pretty high quality knives from the likes of Ka-Bar and Cold Steel SRK but they won’t come with added gizmos. If you really value the fire starter, knife sharpener, and whistle and feel that those are significant by themselves then this survival tool is going to probably have a 5 star value rating. If the knife is all that you are interested in then this is where the decision becomes more cloudy as there are some pretty nice alternatives out there in this price range.
Gerber places a limited lifetime warranty and a 1 year warranty on its Bear Gryll line of products. I could cover the legal speak but no one wants to read it so I will summarize. If your device has a failure in any way and was used in a normal manner they will fix it or replace it for the life of the product. I have read up on different websites to get a feel for other’ experiences, since I have yet to test their warranty (have a Gerber multitool that is over 15 years old), and from the looks of it they are really good honoring their warranty.
Usually companies that have a good warranty make good products. They don’t want anyone to have to use it. History has shown even with this line of products if they find problems they correct them. This is the case with this specific knife and with the Bear Grylls Parang where both devices were launched and shortly after recalled due to various issues. The Ultimate Survival Knife’s pommel would break when struck extremely hard, so they came out with a revised version that addressed the issue. In the cases of the parang and this knife Gerber emailed the owners to let them know of the recall and sent replacements of the new and improved versions free of cost.
We performed a variety of tests when we first got the knife and here is how the fixed Ultimate Survival Knife performed:
1.We hammered nails into plywood with the butt of the knife. The retail packaging demonstrates putting the knife into its sheath and using it as a hammer so we did. Surprisingly it worked well. Would you want to build a house with it? No way, but if the pommel end of the knife can drive nails into plywood you know the knife is built to withstand a beating as this puts serious stress on the unit.
2. Carve up kindling. We needed to test the firestarter so what better way than to build a fire? We had a small amount of dryer lint to help us get it going but ended up needing some kindling to help the bigger sticks get started up. The blade made easy work of the collected wood. My only complaint was the serrated edges getting in the way of this chore. I personally am not a fan of serrated edges for knives like this for the reason of the extra work it requires when whittling wood. Most times the serrations arn’t needed and it takes the 4.75″ blade down to about 2.5″ in length for the straight edge.
3. Spark a fire. The Bear Grylls Ultimate Survival knife did a great job at throwing some serious sparks toward the fire. I fully expected this to be a gimmick but the special section on the back of the blade was a perfect match to ferro rod resulting in very nice sized sparks. This set up worked better than some other stand alone fire starters I have used, I was really impressed!
4. Get attention with the whistle. Lastly, my 5 year old helped me test the whistle by walking down to the end of the street, a distance of around 300 yards. She was instructed to raise her hand if she could hear me. The whistle passed that test and it kept its loudness level up to about 50 yards before starting to fade away. We’d prefer something like the All Weather Storm Whistle or UST JetScream in its place.
Our Bear Grylls Ultimate Knife review really brought along some nice surprises. It helped me realize that not all celbrity endorsed items are just marketing hype. In fact there is a lot to like with this emergency survival knife, in fact we would highly recommend it if you can get it in the $30-40 price range, especially if you like the fact that it comes with the extra doo-dads. If you are looking for a knife and a knife alone and you are shopping in the $50-60 range we think you might be better served looking at Ka-Bar, Mora, and Cold Steel SRK.