Friday, 11 September 2009


I’ve been using a Mora knife (also known as a puukko) for quite a while now. A traditional Scandinavian bush craft knife, very simple, no frills at all really. Oval handle, no guard, nothing fancy about the steel. But it’s pretty effective and does what it’s meant to do. Not to mention that you can get one for a song. (less than $20 @ Lee Valley)

I’d used one for years, but felt it was time to get something better. After spending many hours researching what to get, I opted for a Doug Ritter RSK Mk 3. I appreciated his rationale as far as the design objectives, and the execution of it was fantastic. CPM S30V steel (arguably about the best out there), G10 handles, and made by Benchmade. And the price was far below what a comparable quality knife would cost.

The sheath that came with it was a muddled afterthought (to be honest, many sheaths fit that description). I went out and purchased a SpecOpsBrand Survival Sheath, and it still left something to be desired though. So I changed it.
First, the knife. The Mora did what it was supposed to do, but the leap in quality from that to this is a huge one. Perfect size, fits great in the hand, nicely balanced, nothing more than I need, razor sharp, and easy to resharpen. It can easily handle task I need to perform out in the bush. Very happy with it.

Now on to the sheath. They don’t make that model anymore (hhmmmmhhhh) so I just pulled some pictures of it off the net. And of course, me being me, I got so into making the mods, I forgot to snap any pictures of it before the remodelling. It was available in two lengths – one for knives up to 6" long, and one for knives up to 9" long. Since the RSK Mk3 is only 4" long, I got the shortest of the two.
It is very well made, and the split loops are a good touch. A way to keep it from sliding around on your belt.
The pouch on the front of the sheath is purportedly made of “stretchy” Cordura. I think at most it stretches about 3%. It’s frankly a lot of bulk with very little usable space.
Now the ads for this sheath would lead one to think that all of this stuff can be fitted into the pouch on the front of the sheath. Great idea in theory. Knife and a few other essentials - a way to start a fire, a compass, a whistle, some water purifying tabs, a few other things.

In reality it holds about the equivalent of 2 Bic lighters. Not to mention that small things, like a flint have a tendency to work their way out. There is an opening at the top that is covered by a flap, but there are gaps on the sides that allow small things to wiggle out. Not good.
The rest of the sheath was great, but the pouch I really didn’t like. So I decided to just remove it altogether...
...and sew on PALS webbing so that I could mount a pouch of my choosing.
It worked out perfectly so that I  could stitch it on in between the grommets.

The Chicago screw at the bottom allows the user to remove the Kydex insert and customize it to fit whatever knife you want to put in.  Take it out, heat the Kydex, put the knife in, mold it to fit the shape of the knife, and voila, custom fit.
Used a few scraps I had, hence the different shades. Like that effect.
I molded the Kydex sheath inside by warming it in my oven and shoving the knife in. Took on the shape of the blade and part of the handle, and now clicks in.
So that was the sheath taken care of, but now for a pouch that could hold some necessary survival items. I initially tried out a Maxpedition M-1 pouch that I had. I tried it out on a week long canoe trip, but it wasn’t right. Just stuck out way too much and I didn’t like the way things were organized in the pouch.

Back to the drawing board.

My friends Jarkko and Jay had both been using a roller lock tin for several years. I had always really liked them, but they were impossible to find. Finally I stumbled across one at Best Glide. I got one and decided to build a pouch around this tin.
Survival Kit Contents
  1. 2 large Safety Pins (repairs, securing items to prevent loss, fashioning a sling, fish hooks)
  2. 4 small Safety Pins (repairs, securing items to prevent loss, fashioning a sling, fish hooks)
  3. 3 small Corks (floaters for fishing)
  4. 2 Breast Milk Storage Bags (water storage, tinder storage, collecting food stuffs, transpiration bag, etc.)
  5. Ranger Fire Lighter
  6. 2 m of 0.020” Stainless Steel Wire (repairs, snares)
  7. 1 #22 Scalpel Blade (rudimentary back up blade)
  8. 2 Earl Grey tea bags
  9. Aluminum Foil Baking Tin (boiling water)
  10. 1 sq m of Aluminum Foil (cooking, insulation, signalling, waterproofing)
  11. 2 Elastic Bands (repairs)
  12. Fishing Components - 12 various sized Fish Hooks, 8 Sinkers, 8 Snap Swivels
  13. Pen (Autocross, Tech3, and Compact Ballpoint Pen Refill) wrapped in ? m of 2.5cm military Duct Tape and ? m of 2.5cm TransPor Tape
  14. Sparklite (waterproof firestarter that can be used one handed)
  15. 1 Large Needle (awl, repairs, splinter removal. Large eye for large cord)
  16. 3 Sewing Needles (repairs, splinter removal) wrapped in ? m of Dental Floss (hygiene, expedient repairs)
  17. ?m #69 Black Nylon Thread - (4.8 kg test, repairs, fishing line, light duty lashing and much more)
  18. ?m of SpiderWire
  19. 66cm x 5 cm Duct Tape (repairs, first aid, can be formed into rope)
  20. Compressed Sponge (collecting water from crevices, collecting dew, first aid)
  21. 2 pieces of Rite in the Rain Paper (for leaving notes for rescuers, as a memory aid)
  22. Phone Card
  23. 5µ Silicon Carbide on a mylar backing (micro-abrasive for sharpening)
  24. 2 Small Zip Ties (repairs)
  25. 1 Benzalkonium Chloride Pad (disinfecting wounds)
  26. 1 Povidone-Iodine Pad (wound cleansing, purifying water)
  27. 12 MicroPur MP-1 Water Purification Tablets
  28. Bic Mini Lighter (small zip tie placed under plunger to prevent inadvertent release of butane.)
  29. 4 Tinder-Quick
  30. 2 Nails (repairs, shelter building) wrapped in ? m of Orange Flagging Tape (signalling, trail blazing, site marking)
  31. 1 Compass
  32. 1 StingStop Pad
  33. Imodium 
  34. 3 Aspirin
  35. Fresnel Lens Magnifier (fire lighting in day light hours, aid in removing splinters, aid in reading instruction sheet)
  36. Vial of Potassium Permanganate (disinfectant, fungicide, fire lighting, water purification)
  37. 10 Meters of 96 lb. Test Nylon Cord (shelter building, repairs, traps, fishing, etc., etc.)
  38. 10 Meters of 190 lb. Test Nylon Cord (shelter building, repairs, traps, fishing, etc., etc.)
  39. Whistle (took a hacksaw to a WSR Whistleloc Buckle)
  40. Instruction Sheet (printed on waterproof paper)(hi res version suitable for printing)

Two things that have been added since the photo was taken are a Signal Mirror and laminated pictures of my nieces and nephew. I also tend to put dryer lint in there to fill any crevices. Stops rattling and good tinder.

I tend to go through my kits periodically and change things around, and replace items. The breast milk storage bags for instance will likely be ditched. They are handy for a few things, but since I already have a better and much larger means to store water (pics coming up), I’d rather replace them with Micropur tablets. After my recent experiences in Kejimkujik, I realize that more, lots more of them are a good idea.
A high rez version of the above picture if you want a closer look at anything.
The pouch that I made for it.
 Tin and front pouch.
I thought of putting Velcro on as the flap closure, but opted not to. Velcro just wears out way to quickly. I won’t really be opening and closing this all that often, but I know that from where the pouch would be positioned it would be subjected to a lot of wear and tear, catch on everything, and get sand and bits of foliage, etc. into the Velcro. While the surface mount buckle adds a bit of weight and bulk, I won’t have to replace it a year from now.
Back showing the PALS webbing.
After using it for a while I decided I didn’t like how the sides flared out. To remedy this I put a tab on each side with Velcro on it. Here was an instance where Velcro could work and was really the only option in this case. Also, the flap over it was protection enough from wear and tear and crud getting into the Velcro.
But now beside the tin and what could be carried in it, there were also a few other things I saw as important, and these couldn’t really be carried comfortably in the tin. Namely, a way to stay warm, a way to stay dry and a way to stay hydrated. Really, these are perhaps among the most important factors if you should ever find yourself stranded in the woods. What I decided was to then build a second pouch for these bulkier but still vital items, that would sit behind the sheath.
2 gallon water bag, space blanket, and contractor grade garbage bag. The space blanket won’t keep me that warm (the claims made on the packaging are just a tad exaggerated) but it will help. The garbage bag can be used as a rudimentary poncho, cut open to help make a shelter, collect leaves to make a debris shelter, etc., etc. I’m trying to find a contractor grade garbage bag that is orange though.
On this pouch I did use Velcro, partly because I didn’t have a lot of other options given its location, and also because I knew that because of where it was situated, it wouldn’t be subjected to the same stresses that the front pouch would be.
I staggered the Siamese Slik Clips slightly so that they wouldn’t interfere with one another.
Initially the back of the pouch was bare, but after using it for a while, I found the sliding to and fro unsatisfactory. So, I added two  tabs, one at the top and one at the bottom. I also had to add a tab at the top of the sheath. I then added Siamese Slik Clips and this stopped the sliding. 
The back pouch and sheath joined up.
The back pouch, sheath and front pouch joined up.
View from the bottom, including the drain hole. I couldn’t use Malice Clips, so just used two strips of webbing instead. I’ll probably bar tack it across the bottom, but haven’t yet. No problem so far.
Views from the side.
The whole shebang.
I had a piece of gripper webbing, intended for drop leg holsters and the like. It was 2 inches wide however, so I took a hot knife and cut it right down the center to give me a 1 inch piece that could fit through the tab at the bottom of the sheath. Keeps it from flapping around if you run or are really active. I never really use it though. I have it if I need it, but...haven’t ever felt it’s necessary. I also put a length of parachute cord (not really sure of the length) through the grommets on the sheath, and finished it off with a king cobra knot.
A glimpse of it being worn up in the French River area.
(photo taken by Jason Irwin.)

I’ve also been playing around with a wrist loop. Not sure I’m entirely sold on the idea, but figured I’d give it a try. Also, because the Kydex is two inches longer than the blade itself, I was able to really wedge it in there, something to grab onto in order to help pull it out is handy.
While there might be an instance where a wrist loop could come in handy, any other time it’s a nuisance at best, and a hazard at worst. It catches on everything – door knobs, branches, etc. With two lengths of cord and a cord lock, it can form a loop when needed. I can make a large loop to put it around my wrist, but usually I just make a small loop, put my thumb through it, and put the braided part over the top of my hand. This way, if I should drop the knife, it doesn’t fall very far.

But really, I can’t think of too many instances when a wrist loop would be useful. Field dressing a moose, hand covered in blood making it slippery, maybe. I figured it was a worth a try, but I think I’ll take it off. I’ll just have a sinnet on it to pull it out of the sheath.

The only instances when I really use this set up is on canoe trips, especially on white water, where the potential exists to quickly become separated from canoe and stuff. If (heaven forbid) the canoe should capsize and my pack and/or the canoe and myself become separated, I can come ashore and have the means to keep myself alive. The likelihood is small, but why take the chance.

Everything in the two pouches I generally have a better, more robust version of. I have proper shelter and insulation, water containers and means of purifying, a vessel to cook and boil in,  a compass, etc. But should I lose anything, or all of it, or if anything fails to function, I have a backup. Two is one, one is none. Words to live by. 


  1. Here is a sheath that we are currently making that may be more easily modified as described above.

    Basic Modular Knife Sheath

    We also have a couple of really good organizational pouches that might be useful for a project like this one.

    Op-Order Pouch


    Dry-Cell On-Board

    Please let me know if you have any suggestions concerning the use of the products.


    Wes Davis
    SPEC.-OPS. Brand

    1. Yeah, but you guys no longer offer anything in OD. Boooooo....

  2. Hi ya,

    Well, if youre interested in that tiny knife i posted, im always openminded for trading....and i like belt know.

  3. Thomas, I was going to tell you I ordered some OD 5.11 products that are on closeout. Killer deal. Found out about it through EDCF. Here's the link to the blurb:

    I picked up the water bottle carrier, a 6x6 pouch and a 6x6 med pouch. Use the coupon code he mentions later on and it knocks the prices of the stuff from $10 to $8.50.

    1. Hey thanks for the heads up on this. But....alas, I have no money to spend on gear right now, and really, I need more OD gear like I need more gray hair. I have bins full of the stuff. Some OD material and webbing I do want to get, but finished gear, well other than one or two things from Kifaru, are on the back-burner for the foreseeable future.