Considered one of the ten essentials, knives are useful for food preparation, fire starting, repairs, climbing, first aid and so much more. Each member of any adventure posse would be wise to carry their own.
Options on the market are available to suit every personal preference and run the gamut from full on bushwhacking-style machetes to the ultimate ultralight single-sided razor blade.
Although I find myself firmly on the ultralight side of the spectrum, I still desire a solid cutting tool, with the safety of a reliable grip that’s sturdy enough to process wood and use with my ferro rod. Plus, I bestow major bonus points for a good-looking knife that is wildly cool.
The ULK by Rainy Day Forge suckered me in at first glance. This strikingly unique blade is like nothing I had ever seen before. It is a rugged fixed-blade with one-piece construction. Each knife is hand made from carbon steel. The handle has a beautiful satin finish and the blade is polished to a mirror shine. The knife’s edges have all been painstakingly smoothed to buttery perfection—except for the blade itself, which has been sharpened with extreme precision. Holes drilled throughout reduce the overall weight and provide pinch points to grasp the blade at any angle. A perfectly machined finger notch seats the knife so splendidly into one’s hand that the need for a full-length handle is completely eliminated. Tucked securely into a brightly colored sheath and tethered by a bit of paracord, the ULK still comes in at only 1.1 ounces. Forget razor blades, this is the tool for me!
What I Loved About the ULK by Rainy Day Forge
Exceptional design - It is easy to tell that everything about this instrument is purposeful and thoroughly thought through. The holes are placed and sized for specific grips used in a host of different actions. The divots on the blade’s opposite edge provide traction for any sized index finger opposing the force of one’s thumb. The sheath will only receive the blade in the correct direction ensuring a secure fit and the paracord tether can be used in an emergency, increasing the knife’s overall utility. It is comfortable to hold, easy to use, and so dang sexy looking all my friends are jealous.
True and durable minimalism - The simplicity borders genius and makes it ambidextrous. No folding, no hinges, no hardware that might fail. It won’t ever snap shut on your hand and, since it is all one piece, it won’t break. It might seem spendy for its size but it is built to last decades.
The weight - It is a whole lot of utility for very little weight. The blade length is just long enough without being overkill. There is no need to risk the instability of a razor blade when a stunning little shiv like this is barely over an ounce.
The sheath - The sheath that houses the blade was concerning at first. I thought vigorous hiking might jostle the knife loose inside my pocket. It doesn’t. The fit is superb. The material is soft enough on the inside that light pressure locks the sharp point of the knife in place. The outside is coated to form rigid protection that resists the elements. The grommets defy rust and the cordage is just long enough to keep the sheath out of the way while using the knife.
What I Did Not Love
It can rust - After a few trips and gutting several fish, the insides of the holes and notches are showing a bit of rust. A little light sanding polishes them right back up but maintenance is key to enjoying this knife for years to come.
Food gets lodged in the handle - cutting an avocado or slicing cheese can leave trace bits of food within the smallest holes on the handle. The corner of my bandana dislodged it easily, but it should be noted and remedied before placing the knife back in the storage sheath. Anything that gets shoved inside the tightly fitting sheath would be pretty hard to retrieve.
It is ultralight. It is ultra-sharp. It is versatile, beautiful, unique and durable. It is coming with me on every hike from now on. I can earnestly see and feel the great loving care that is handcrafted into each one. Get yourself in line for the next batch of ULKs by Rainy Day Forge. They are more than worth it.
Mandy Esch is an international pro skater turned avid outdoorswoman who enjoys backpacking, camping, fly fishing, cliff diving and passing on what she learns along the way. In her backpacking blog, Mandy shares video trail reviews and trip planning guides. Follow her adventures at www.backcountrydirtbag.com.
The Opinel No. 6 is only 0.1 oz heavier at 1.2 oz and you get the benefit of a nearly full sized, comfortable handle. That is if you’re looking for a folder. It also costs a fraction of the price of this knife.
Such a knife is not a good knife imo. Drilling out the holes to lose weight eliminates the purpose of having a fixed blade as this. I will always trust a neck knife over a folder but in drilling the holes you make it problematic. First, why did I say that? A folder isn’t the best for food prep since food debris can get caught in the joint.
A knife should be simple. Use it for food or wood prep, wipe then done. Having to worry about cleaning holes properly to prevent numerous issues is more effort than the grams that would be saved imo.
The ULK is very cool, but it’s sold out now. The Spyderco Dragonfly costs a little more, but it’s the same weight (1.1 oz), has a much more substantial handle, and doesn’t need the extra weight of a sheath, because it’s a folder. It’s also an extremely high quality knife, ergonomic, and cool.
As pretty as that ULK knife is I’ll stick with my Gerber LST lock blade because it’s lighter even W/O the ULK’s sheath and just as good at backpacking chores.