• Leon Pantenburg | Survival Common Sense


Review: The “just right” Bark River Ultralite Field Knife – CPM 3V

600 400 Survival Common Sense Blog | Emergency Preparedness

There is a lot to be said for a knife that is just enough, or just right. The Ultralite Field Knife may be just enough for what you need.

by Leon Pantenburg

Disclaimer: Bark River supplied the product for this review. I don’t work for Bark River, and I was not paid to do this review. Nobody had any input and this post is strictly my opinion. All I ever promise in any review is a fair shake.

My guess is that most folks buy more knife than they need.

I do. The worst case scenario for me would be only having one knife in a hard-core, hopefully-never-happen survival situation.  Several blades might be needed, ranging from a fighting knife for hand-to-hand combat (after I ran out of ammo:-) to a small, almost tiny knife for intricate wood carving. And all this gets into the “What is the best survival knife” conversation, for which there is no good answer.

The Ultralife Field Knife is a no-frills user.

In reality, all my knife does in normal, day-to-day life is mundane stuff like opening dog food bags, cutting string or rubber bands, slicing cheese or possibly being used to do some yard work. I have dozens of knives that can do that. On a daily basis, the small, 1-1/2 inch blade on my Swiss Army Tinker gets used more than all my other blades combined.

This week, the Ultralite went with me on a hike along a Mississippi creek, a medicinal wild plant foraging trip to a weedy vacant lot  and also was used to clean some panfish. (In Mississippi, numerous panfish are referred to as a “mess” of fish.) When you get a mess, a fish fry follows. Or the fillets can be cooked over a campfire, using a foil wrap.

The Bark River Fin and Bone (top) and the Ultralight worked very well to clean a “mess” of panfish.


Overall Length: 8.5″
Blade Length: 4.38″
Blade Steel: CPM-3V
Blade Thickness: .125″
Weight: 5oz.

Here’s how the knife worked out so far:

Point: Field knife has a clip point with a long swedge. This is one of my favorite combinations, and the blade overall is beautiful.

Grind: Convex rules. For me anyway. After trying several other grinds, in a variety of hunting, fishing and camping situations, convex emerged as my personal favorite. Rather than tapering with straight lines to the edge, on a convex blade the taper is curved. Such a shape keeps a lot of metal behind the edge making for a stronger edge, while still allowing a good degree of sharpness.

Steel: I’ve been using CPM-3V steel in various knife configurations for more than 10 years, and the steel is excellent. It holds an edge really well, but is still easy to sharpen. I used to carry sharpening equipment when backcountry or swamp hunting. Not anymore. Since discovering A2, CPM-3V and other fantastic steels, the sharpening stuff stays back in camp. I have gutted, split the ribcage, cut off the lower legs and head and skinned several whitetail deer with a 3V knife that was still razor sharp when the task was done.

 Handle: Here’s how to measure your hand to get the best handle fit. For me, with glove-size large hands, the handle has to be at least four-inches long for me to use it comfortably. The Ultralite handle is long enough, but a trifle slender for my tastes. It will be perfect for folks with average-sized hands.

The generous handle is long enough for serious work.

Blade thickness: At .125, this is considered a thin blade by some. For me, it’s about right. I don’t care for thick blades, nor do I see much point in them. Thin blades are better slicers, and they just work better. This isn’t just my opinion. Mike Stewart, president of Bark River Knives agrees with me.

Blade length: My favorite blade lengths fall somewhere between four and five inches.

Do you need an Ultralite?

I’m having a heck of a time trying to find something about this knife I don’t like. From the tip of the clip point to the end of the just-right-length handle, this knife shows incredible design.

I’m not done yet. I’ll loan it out to some students to try and the knife will be out on the Mississippi River soon. More to come, but as it stands right now I LOVE THIS KNIFE!!!

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  • Leon

    There is a supply problem, apparently, with blade steel. Several makers can’t keep up, because they can’t get the steel.

  • Max Fowler

    Really like and appreciate your useful reviews. I have a so-far-unused BR Ultralite Field Knife. Anxious to use it on a deer next Fall here in Texas.
    I also have a BR UL Bushcrafter. Very useful.
    I thought your review of the L.T. Wright Large Norther Hunter was interesting. Where can I get one? Everyone seems to be “out of stock”.
    Keep up the good work. We all appreciate a thoughtful take on a knife.
    Max Fowler
    Caddo Mills, Texas

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