• Leon Pantenburg | Survival Common Sense


Video and Review: Bark River Mini Aurora Hunter

600 286 Survival Common Sense Blog | Emergency Preparedness

Looking for an excellent hunting/bushcraft/backpacking knife?

This latest Bark River Mini Aurora Hunter may check all the boxes for you.

by Leon Pantenburg

When the standard Bark River Kalahari came out in 2014, I got one immediately and took it on a Mississippi deer hunt. (This model was improved and re-named the Aurora Hunter about two years ago.) The Kalahari got used for the first time at dusk. I was about one-half mile from the road, and I had to gut, skin and quarter a large whitetail doe, and haul it through the swamp to my truck in the dark. I needed a quality tool, and luckily I had one.

Mike Stewart, President of Bark River Knives, said the Aurora Hunter combines the time-tested Kalahari blade with the Aurora handle. The Aurora and Bravo are the company’s most popular handles, he said, and users like them. I certainly do – I have a couple of Aurora handles on knives and they get used regularly.

I liked that original Kalahari so much it was given to one of my elk Hunter buddies. (Good friends should have good knives!) That Kalahari gets used every fall, and still gets rave reviews around the skinning rack.

So there was no sales resistance at all to the Mini Aurora Hunter.

The micarta handle on this Bark River Kalahari never got slippery, even when covered with blood.

The micarta handle on this standard-sized Bark River Kalahari never got slippery, even when covered with blood. The blade design is outstanding. (This is for you KSF people.)

Here are the Mini Aurora specs (Courtesy of Knivesshipfree.com)

 Overall Length:   7.775″
 Blade Length:   3.775″
 Cutting Edge Length:   3.6″
 Blade Height:   0.850″
 Blade Thickness:   0.135″
 Blade Steel:   CPM 3V at 58-59 HRC
 Weight:   3.5oz.
 Price:   Starting at $142.47

The good stuff:

Blade design: The strong point of this knife is the blade design. It’s easy to tell that this hunting knife was designed by hunters, not the guys in the marketing department. The knife is so effective because there are subtleties that are hard to detect. But these subtleties all work together to make a superior product.

Point: This is an upswept point, with a curved spine. It works well for that initial spine-down, belly-up cut that opens up the abdomen of a big game animal. The belly, that part of the blade from the tip to where the edge straightens out, is curved just right for skinning.

Size: The best size for a knife depends on what it will be used for, and who is using it. The Mini is sized just right. I could use it for skinning very effectively. My wife can use it in the kitchen. It is a good knife for backpackers or hikers, weighing only 3.5 ounces.

Steel: CPM 3V is one of my favorite steels, as evidenced by many of the knives in my collection. I’ve used blades in that steel since 2011, under all sorts of conditions, and I’ve never found the material wanting. I also really like A2 steel. I appreciate Bark River using these quality materials!


The Mini Aurora works well with a variety of handle grips. All these will be used when skinning or butchering a large animal. From left, pinch grip, hammer grip and reverse hammer grip

Handle: There are a variety of materials available. For a user knife, it is really hard to beat a micarta handle. I also really like curly maple, stag or walnut in a handle – those materials worked well for the old timers, and they are great choices today. Here is how to measure your hand for a handle.

I consistently bellyache about short, slender handles. But this handle works for me because I can use a pinch grip safely and effectively while skinning.

Grind: The best grind, again, depends on what the knife will be used for. For my cutlery needs, a convex grind works best, and all Bark River knives are convex ground. I find this grind holds an edge exceptionally well, and is easy to re-sharpen and maintain the edge.

Sheath: A sturdy leather sheath protects the blade and the user.

Made in USA: All Bark River knives are made in Escanoba, Michigan by skilled craftspeople. These folks and the company pay local, state and federal taxes and are assets to their community. Buy from an American small business and you help someone make a mortgage or car payment, pay for their child’s braces, band instrument, dance lessons, clothes and food – you get it. Bark River CEO Mike Stewart is at the plant every day, and he is generally a phone call away.

Buy American!

Do you need a Mini Aurora?

The Mini is a good solid knife that can do just about anything you might need a knife for. It’s lightweight and easy to carry. It’s handy, so you will take it with you a lot. That means you’ll have a knife when you need one.

So, yeah, you may need a Mini!

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