Workhourses for the Wild | Folding Adventure Knives Review

First look at Emerson’s new pair of folding knives that are ready to stake their rightful claim in the adventurer’s backpack!

To an outdoorsman, losing a favorite knife can bring about a sinking feeling in the gut. I vividly remember the sensation I felt when I realized my first Emerson knife was no longer my pocket after a day of underground tunnel exploration with my friend Elliot. After retracing our earlier route and coming up empty handed, Elliot said, “Sorry we couldn’t find it, I know you really loved that black pocket knife.” He was right; I carried the_mg_6771.gif spear-pointed folder on and off for several years, tackling chores ranging from making a soda can stove all the way to performing an autopsy on a dead snake. The knife was a well-known tool among my friends, as they borrowed it on many occasions until I convinced them to carry their own knives. I was overjoyed when I found out I would be using two more Emersons for this article.

Ernest Emerson and his knives have always proven that they can keep up with modern blade designs, but, at the same time, there is still something to be said for some of the classic models. The blades evaluated for this article were the new CQC-16, a folding hunting knife, and the classy A-100 based on one of Ernest’s old designs.

A Hunter to Kill For 
Emerson’s first move in designing his new CQC-16 was to talk to a lifelong friend that happened to be a record-holding big-game hunter. They based the design on the legendary Commander folder, a knife that shares the same handle. The 3.6-inch 154CM Bowie blade was considered an ideal length for heavy duty chores. The spine also has a unique apex near the middle of the knife, complete with thumb grooves before and after the “Wave” blade opener. When skinning, users can apply pressure with the top of their index finger on the grooves. I found the Wave feature on this knife was harder to deploy on my deep-pocket nylon pants than some of the past Waved knives I’ve handled, but worked well on cotton pants and BDUs. The Wave feature of the knife isn’t just used for quick openings, as I love using the hook to open beer bottles and to pull loose staple nails out of wood, which is common on the beehives that I work with. 

A Folder That Skins
I’ve heard of many people dismissing a folder for use as a skinning knife; however, there may be many circumstances where one does not want to carry a fixed blade as a hunting tool. OK, cleaning a fixed-blade is easier; however, a helicopter hunting guide I know always carries a folder. He complained of fixed-blades catching on things in the crowded cockpit. So how does the Emerson hunting knife fit into this folding hunter criterion? In my mind, a good hunting folder has to be three things: easily cleaned, easily opened with gloves, and it must have a locking mechanism that can be easily cleaned as well. Like most of Emerson’s knives, the CQC-16 has an open back, so one can easily flush the blood and chunks of fat out from the middle of the spacers. It has grooves on the handle, with an employable thumb stud on the blade that is textured and grabs larger gloves well. Normally, I tend to deer hunt in colder weather and need gloves even when skinning. This is where the glove-friendly feature comes in handy. When the knife is closed, there is a generous space between the thumb stud and the handle. If you look on a smaller knife, you will see that the space is minimal. The large area between the thumb stud and the G-10 handle on the CQC-16 makes it easy to open with a gloved finger. 

A-100—Sweet Simplicity
The synergy of function and geometry is well represented in Emerson’s normal top-notch work, but one may want a less tactical-looking knife that is well balanced and simple for EDC. The A-100 is just that knife, a beautiful mixture of symmetry and geometry. The knife even reminded me of my old spear-point CQC-7B, which I lost. The Emerson A-100 boasts a 3.6-inch spear-point blade, made out of 154CM steel and available in half serrated or plain versions. I opted for the plain edge, as the folding knife reminded me of all the good aspects of an outdoors knife. Actually, if this knife were a fixed blade, it would be the essence of a good bushcraft knife. I wouldn’t be caught dead without a proper fixed blade in a survival situation; however, if I had to be stuck with a folder, this A–100 would be high up on the list.

Every Day Emersons
Both knives were rotated on an EDC basis, where I used them in my day-to-day chores. Each knife was given a complete workout. I used the skinner to open up a large shipment in cardboard boxes, and the semi-serrated blade came in handy as it ripped through the plastic lashing in a split second. As stated before, the Wave feature helped me undo beehives and, at the end of the day, it handily opens up a nice cold one. I used the pronounced spine in the middle of the blade to open up ornery paint cans. The A-100 scored a 100 on all of its day-to-day chores and activities, from light chopping in the kitchen to carving plugs for holes to plug up my hive smoker. As for comfort, another top score as it rode easily on the hip, conforming to pocket. The Emerson clip didn’t stand out as it nestled on the side of the pants.

Folders in the Gorge
I took both knives out to Linville Gorge, North Carolina, where the focus of the trip was to work on primitive living skills and to tailor my personal fishing kit. After the success of catching the first few fish, I set about cleaning them with the Emerson CQC-16. I know what you are thinking: Who in their right mind would go about preparing fish with a knife like this? The razor edge of the Emerson parted the belly of the fish as fast as any other knife I’ve seen. Due to their small size, I did not attempt to fillet the fish; instead, we used the spread and cook method. The A-100’s primary duty was just about everything else in camp. It went right to work behind my machete trimming out a mallet used to crush various objects that we found. I wanted to try out a fungus I found for fire-making properties and the knife cut pieces out of it smoothly. The bottom of the knife worked well for light pounding of different fibers for a tinder bundle. 

I enjoyed the A-100’s simple design and wanted to honor the loss of my old Emerson CQC-7A by replicating some of the chores that I used to do with the long-lost knife. Most notably, this included making a soda can stove. I learned about the famous soda can stove while talking to hikers on the Appalachian Trail. As the soda can stove gained popularity, so did the number of design variations. The stoves run on denatured alcohol. One design stood out, as the man who designed it, Alan Halcon, is into primitive skills and knives as well. Alan Halcon’s soda can stove design utilizes one can and one pocketknife for the entire construction, as opposed to two cans, insulation, razor blades and a number of other supplies needed for the other versions. I used the Emerson A-100 as the knife to construct the lightweight pocket cooker, paying heed to the instructions from Halcon’s web page. The knife cut through the can, scored lines, and cut holes for the flames easily. I created a flawless stove on the first try, and I must admit, much faster than any of the other versions that I have made. This will be a great party trick around the fire with other campers and aluminum cans. 

Both of these knives exceeded the reputation that Emerson imparts on his knives. As the company continues to bring smart designs that are tough and tactical, the knife users will continue to pay attention. These two knives broke the tactical line and easily found their way into the camping and hunting fields.  Needless to say, deer season 2009 can’t come soon enough.

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