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TOPS Wilderness Guide

Discussion in 'Knife Reviews & Testing' started by B Griffin, May 2, 2012.

  1. B Griffin

    B Griffin Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 22, 2007
    A few weeks ago I ordered a TOPS Wilderness Guide because from the specs it looked to be a perfect candidate for a kit I am putting together for a friend who is moving to Taos New Mexico for an internship and will be spending a lot of time in remote areas the Santa Fe National Forest. I wanted something tough but not too heavy, something with a secure purchase for the hand without being roughly textured and uncomfortable in long term use, and something that would be just as at home prepping meals in a cabin as out wandering trails. I can't help but play around with pretty much any knife I get my hands on, so since I have seen where so many have expressed the opinion of wishing TOPS would do some thinner knives and higher grinds I thought I'd photograph my use of this knife and do a review. I haven't put it through any abusive tests, just general utility uses, and I still think it's perfect for what I was going for.


    The knife in hand.

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    The specs as taken from the TOPS website.

    O/A Length: 8 3/4”
    Blade Length: 4 1/4”
    Thickness: 1/8”
    Steel: 1095 High carbon Steel RC 56-58
    Handle: Tan Canvas Micarta
    Blade Color: Black Traction Coating
    Sheath: COYOTE TAN BALLISTIC NYLON, WITH REMOVABLE FLAP
    Weight w/ Sheath: 10.7oz
    Weight w/o Sheath: 6.5oz
    Designed by: Leo Espinoza
    BLADE AND HANDLE 101% MADE IN USA


    I like the flap type sheath this knife comes with. It is molle capable for attaching to vests, packs, or water bottle carriers, and has a loop for belt carry. I like the flap cover, but it is removable for those who do not. The knife also comes with a few extra goodies: a compass, a very loud whistle, a small signal mirror, some trail marking ribbon, and a snap ring.

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    The knife has a neutral balance point, good for long term use in general utility functions.

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    Out of the box the knife had an extremely sharp edge So the first thing I did was see how it handled whittling. The handle offers a very secure purchase, and the cutting edge is just in front of the handle so getting the pressure where it was needed and controlling the edge were really easy to do.

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    The person I had in mind when I picked out this knife is not exactly the type to be roasting crickets...

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    Much more likely to be making home cooked meals and sandwiches and maybe some freeze dried foods in the field. So, thought I'd play around in the kitchen a little bit. Even though the knife has a blade shorter than the block of turkey I was cutting on it still managed the task just fine. Dividing a small tomatoe between three people was no trouble either.

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  2. B Griffin

    B Griffin Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 22, 2007
    I'm not sure of the terrain in Taos NM, I've never been there. Here in my woods we have some vicious brier vines than can be very annoying at times. Holding the knife in a rearward grip snap cuts through them are a breeze with the thin sharp blade.

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    That same rearward grip worked well for quickly chopping through some seasoned deadwood branches when I decided to try a little carving and made a couple of L-7 trap triggers.

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    The thin blade and high grind made push-cutting into the twigs to ring-and-break them an easy task. I like this method because it exposes the edge to less of the dulling abrasion of slicing. The very sharp edge made quick work of the notching and the two triggers were finished very quickly.

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    Another thing I played around with was some Yucca and making a two-stick heart board. The thin sharp edge sliced through the yucca like it hardly noticed it was there. Using the amount of paracord in a paracord bracelet, making a fire bow set up would be easy. The bow in these photos is one I already had on hand, but making another could easily be done with this knife.

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    Even using the very fibrous Yucca stalks fine curls were easily achieved

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    Granted in a more northern wilderness the knife would, like most others out there, need to be augmented by a heavier chopping tool to deal with a harsh winter, but for general utility in a wilderness environment I think the knife does very well.

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  3. tknife

    tknife Gold Member Gold Member

    Mar 18, 1999
    That knife is a bit funky looking but it appeals to me. Looks like it would make a great backpacking/camp knife especially leaning toward food prep. And I love those thin but wide blades :thumbup:

    I know it's a great review when it makes me want the knife even more now :D
     
  4. TheGame

    TheGame

    Sep 24, 2008
    How comfortable is that handle? The knife looks like a winner, I am just not sure about the handle on it. Any noticeable hotspots on it?
     
  5. Claudiasboris

    Claudiasboris

    143
    Aug 23, 2010
    Great review as always Mist, I love the way you always include some skills in there as well!

    Just do me a favour and stop finding more knives for me to want. Please?

    Claudiasboris
     
  6. B Griffin

    B Griffin Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 22, 2007
    That's the same thing I thought when I first looked at it, but in thinking that Taos is up in the mountains I thought the handle should offer a secure purchase even with cold and fatigued hands. It's actually comfortable in grip and in use though. It works better at a cutting board than most of my other knives and that was another feature I liked the looks of it for.


    I know, as a general rule finger grooves limit the number of people who will be comfortable using a knife. But I happen to like having a first finger notch and have used them on my own designs because of that. On this knife I like that it has a well defined first finger notch and that the second notch is well rounded and barely there. It is for me, just enough texture to get a good grip without being overly busy and uncomfortable. The edges of the scales are well rounded over and the turn down pommel is as comfortable on the heal of the palm as it is useful in a rearward grip. I haven't exactly carved any spoons or wooden toys with it, but I haven't experienced any hot spots in the whittling and carving I have done.


    Thanks Claudias, glad you enjoyed it. I think that the skills help put to the knife into a better context for uses, so I'm glad folks like that.

    Sorry man, I just like playing with knives and cameras....
     
  7. RUNIT

    RUNIT

    Mar 26, 2011
    Another great review! This one looks like it might be my first TOPS!
    They make so many knives it is hard to choose one to try out.
     
  8. LG&M

    LG&M

    Dec 19, 2005
    You sure do like your TOPS .This is one I have looked at before. I would like to try the handle. Thanks for the very nice review. The next time I buy a TOPS I will check for your review or ask you.
     
  9. vic2367

    vic2367

    Sep 15, 2006
    liking this tops model ,,thanks for the great review,,
     
  10. B Griffin

    B Griffin Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 22, 2007
    Thanks man. Yeah, they do make several designs.


    Well...it's not like I don't have and like SKW, Beckers, RAT/ESEE, DPx, Ontario, SAKs, FBF, Breeden, and others...but yes, admittedly, I do have a fondness for TOPS Knives. I do seem to have a thing for heavy duty knives that are what many consider to be over-built.
     
  11. B Griffin

    B Griffin Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 22, 2007
    From all the times I've been told "I wish TOPS made thinner blades" I thought some here might like this one.
     
  12. retzius

    retzius

    Sep 17, 2009
    Hey Mist.

    Nice review. I really respect that you are willing to try new models and post your experiences without forum input first. That is an interesting model. If it was a full flat grind I would give it a try. The Pasayten Lite looks good too. have you tried that one? Also, have you tried the SOG Force yet?
     
  13. TwinStick

    TwinStick

    Jan 21, 2011
    Great review as always Mist. Now you got me lookin----again !!! LOL :D
     
  14. WILLIAM.M

    WILLIAM.M Gold Member Gold Member

    Apr 14, 2006
    Another GREAT Review

    Thanks Mist!!!
     
  15. Chambers

    Chambers

    Jul 11, 2001
    I live in Albuquerque, NM. About 2 1/2 hrs away from Taos. I am ass over teakettle in love with Taos. I get up there every chance I get. Already told my wife that we're moving to Taos when I get my degree. (she replies, "you might.")
    Based on my time up there, and naturally the reputation of TOPS That knife will serve your friend perfectly well in Taos.
    Tell your friend to check out the Taos Diner when he gets into town.
     
  16. Axisjoe

    Axisjoe

    259
    Feb 25, 2012
    I've always liked Tops products, never seen this one before. Thanks for the review, looks like a useful blade.
     
  17. B Griffin

    B Griffin Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 22, 2007
    Thanks. I have 1/8 knives with flat grinds and with scandi grinds. I like how the flat grinds slice and how the scandi grinds have less flex. I was thinking this would be somewhere in between and I was right. It has less flex than my flats and slices better than my scandis. I do need to try a Pasayten out, that's for sure. No, haven't tried the Force, but as much as I hate to admit it the new style Demo really has my attention.


    Thanks man. Hey, styles, geometries, and steel types are more diverse now than ever before, if you're not looking you never know what's out there :)


    Thanks Bill! Gad you enjoyed the post!


    Thanks man, if you live that close I have a few questions for you I'll send you in a PM. Apparently your wife doesn't share your infatuation eh? Taos Diner, got it.


    TOPS makes some great stuff. Not all is tactical in design either. They makes some hunters and skinners too, and I have plans to play with a few of those at slaughter time on a friend's farm this coming autumn.
     
  18. omniviking

    omniviking

    Feb 9, 2008
    nice review and pics, thanks so much.
     
  19. B Griffin

    B Griffin Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 22, 2007
    Thanks man, glad you enjoyed the post.
     
  20. Bama Joe

    Bama Joe

    56
    Apr 4, 2012
    Thanks for a very well thought out and photographed review! I own a few TOPS blades myself and have yet to be disappointed. I particularly like my MIL- SPIE 3 and use it in much the same way you do the Wilderness Guide.
     

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