/  Gear   /  Kestrel Knives Review – By Randy Johnson

Basic Description of item:

KESTREL’S “Ultralighter” model knife is as light and as sharp as you can get in a fixed blade while still offering a full grip. This knife is a Mountain Hunter’s dream as you don’t have to worry about breaking and replacing blades which is common with the scalpel type knives on the market today. Weighing in at a mere 11.6 grams for the Titanium version Kestrel’s Ultralighter will go unnoticed in your pack until you need it. Coupled with the Ultralight velcro sheath the total weight comes to 16.8 grams. That’s only around 1/2 oz for knife and sheath. Simple to maintain and sharpen the “Ultralighter” is destined to become a mandatory item of gear on your backpacking list.

Just The Facts:

Kestrel’s Ultralighter Knife is made of 6AL-4V Grade 5 Aerospace Grade Titanium which is known for its strength, lightness, and corrosion resistance. It is commonly used in aircraft turbine engines, aircraft structural components and high performance auto parts due to its high resistance to hot and cold. Titanium will not break in subzero temps whereas a steel knife would if you dropped it on something hard. The corrosion resistance is a huge positive of titanium as it will not rust or corrode even in salt water.
In my opinion these details combined make titanium the perfect choice for a Mountain Hunter’s ultralight, low maintenance knife. Titanium is amazingly 45% lighter than steel and features the highest strength to weight ratio of any metal. This combination makes for an extremely light and tough knife. You could literally carry a caper, skinner and boning knife made of titanium and they would weigh less or equal to the weight of a single knife made of steel depending on thickness. The Ultralighter is so light that you will forget that you are even carrying one.
Kestrel Knife sharp
It should be noted that because titanium alone will not hold a great edge because of how soft it is, Kestrel, through extensive research found a remedy for this issue. Ingeniously, a layer of tungsten carbide is electronically impregnated onto one side of the knife. Tungsten carbide is one of the hardest materials on earth next to diamonds. The tungsten carbide, coupled with the softer titanium, creates a micro-serrated edge that will hold an edge and cut for a very long time. Many guides can cape and debone several big game animals before having to even think about sharpening which is a simple process. Toothy edges on knives are great for breaking down an animal and cutting up meat. The edge on Kestrel’s Ultralighter will stay toothy for a long time, thus enabling you to cut longer without sharpening. The edge on the Ultralighter is also somewhat self- sharpening because as the edge is used the softer titanium wears away and exposes more of the tungsten carbides.
The grind on the Ultralighter is a full convex. Therefore, getting the edge sharp is accomplished by sharpening only the titanium side of the knife in the same manner you sharpen any convex edge knife. Kestrel Knives recommends the lightweight mouse pad/sandpaper/strop method. They offer a series of videos on how to sharpen your Ultralighter and have developed a featherweight, simple sharpening kit. The edge on this knife, when sharpened correctly, may not feel as sharp as some of your steel knives but it will cut and stay sharp for a very long time. If you run your thumb or fingernail lightly along the edge of the blade you will feel the micro serrations which means it is ready to start cutting. If at any point you see some rolls in the titanium, they can easily be fixed with a pass or two on a steel rod or stone. Sharpening a titanium knife with a carbide edge is much easier than a steel knife and once you have it down you will see what Kestrel means. I have gone through a desert ram and rocky mountain sheep without having to even worry about sharpening my Ultralighter.

ABOUT THE KNIFE MAKER:

I don’t know about the rest of my Mountain Hunting friends but it has always been important for me to research and learn about the folks who manufacture the gear that I purchase. At Kestrel, the master knife maker is Nathan Creech, an avid hunter, fisherman, and backpacker. Now, that is a huge plus in itself! Born and raised in Northern California, Nathan attributes his love for all everything in the great outdoors to growing up among the wonders of The Golden State. Early in his youth, he discovered a passion for hunting, ultralight backpacking, and nature in general. That passion only matured over time. As a seasoned outdoorsman, Nathan often found himself frustrated when working with knives that weren’t as sharp as he wanted them to be. In teaching himself how to sharpen, he turned a hobby into a successful knife business: KnifeMods.com. Through his company, Nathan modifies and sharpens high-end knives for an international community of knife users and aficionados. Always looking to expand his horizons, Nathan has now brought to the Mountain Hunting Community a line of ultralight knives designed to be the world’s lightest and most functional. Specifically geared towards lightening the pack of the ultralight hunter, backpacker and mountaineer, the Kestrel Knives lineup promises to deliver top- notch cutting performance at an ultralight weight.
Story:

Like many of my Mountain Hunting and guiding friends I’m always looking for the sharpest and lightest knifes available since the majority of my hunting adventures include backpacking into very isolated terrain. I discovered many years ago that I don’t need to pack a “Crocodile Dundee” type knife to successfully cape and debone big game animals. In fact, a small, lightweight knife can be utilized much better. For the past several years I have been carrying the Havalon Piranha knife that allows you to replace the scalpel blades when they become dull. This knife has worked reasonably well but there are a number of issues with this type of knife that can be a problem:

#1. You may as well plan on breaking plenty of the thin scalpel blades and have to replace them.
#2. Because the scalpel blades are so thin and sharp it is a guaranteed fact that you will “nick” the animals cape and probably also cut yourself in the process. Taxidermists really don’t appreciate guides and hunters using the scalpel knifes to cape with.
#3. Scalpel type knifes are not very toothy and thus don’t cut very well through bone or difficult gristle and sinew.

This is where I discovered Kestrel’s Ultralighter Ti knife and the positive features that were missing with the scalpel knives. I found that the Kestrel Ultralighter was better suited for a wider range of tasks when I’m out on the mountain and I have been so impressed by how long it stayed sharp. I can use my Ultralighter to cut through and around joints of big game animals more easily and it is much nicer to use when cutting through rope or other material. Don’t get me wrong, I still use my scalpel knife for some details but now I always carry the Kestrel Ultralighter with me also. It is so functional to use when caping around horns and the face of your trophy animal.

If and when your Ultralighter’s blade becomes dull it is so simple to sharpen with the ultra lightweight field strop that Kestrel offers that includes some strips of wet/dry sandpaper and a small block of wood with mouse pad or leather backing adhered to it. When the edge of your Ultralighter gets really dull, you can “steel it” to eliminate any rolls or dings. You only need to steel the uncoated side of the blade. After this, Nathan recommends taking your wood block with some mouse pad or leather-backed 400-600 grit sandpaper (the softer backing allows the sandpaper to form or conform to the convex edge). Put the blade on the sandpaper and lift the spine so only the edge is touching the sandpaper. With a smooth motion, draw the knife over the sandpaper. Excessive pressure is counterproductive, so go light. Furthermore, you only need to sharpen the uncoated side of the blade. You are essentially uncovering carbide at the edge. Work your way up in grit to about 1500-2000. After that, employing the same motion on a leather strop loaded with some black or green compound will work to finish it up.

My Ultralight Kestrel Field Sharpening Strop Kit
Kestrel sharpeners

MY KESTREL ULTRALIGHTER KNIFES

The pricing for one of Kestrel’s Ultralighter Titanium knives with the carbide edge is $100. With my knife I ordered their ultralight Velcro Sheath for an additional $8. The velcro sheath is really neat, simple and functional. I recommend that serious Mountain Hunters purchase this very innovative knife to “take their game to another level.”
Kestrel Knife in Sheaths
ULTRALIGHTER VELCRO SHEATHS
As with all the gear I purchase I always look for what kind of warranty the company offers. It should be noted that Kestrel Knives Lifetime Warranty covers any defects in materials and workmanship for as long as you own the product. At Kestrel Knives discretion will be used regarding a defective product as it will be repaired or replaced. This warranty does not cover breakage due to misuse or neglect. Ultralighter knives, of course, were not designed to be used as pry bars or screwdrivers! LOL They were designed with the sole purpose of cutting and should be used with common sense. Use of a knife for any purpose other than cutting voids the warranty.
Kestrel Knives also has a free re-sharpening service. All they ask is that you pay the shipping. In the event that after many sharpening’s the tungsten carbide wears away, Kestrel Knives will also reapply it for free. For warranty issues or sharpening services please contact Kestrel Knives before sending your knife in.
Although I haven’t tried Kestrel’s “Tahoe EDC, a great light all around knife, or their Mouflon skinner model yet, you can check these two knifes out on their website at http://kestrelknives.com as well as any of their new products.
Kestrel Knife 1

What KESTREL COULD DO BETTER:
My personal “kudos” to Nathan Creech on designing an ultralight knife that will to meet the needs of Mountain Hunters. Great job.

Rating: 5 Stars
IReviewGear5Star

By Randy Johnson
iReview Gear Lead Field Editor
HIGH DESERT WILD SHEEP GUIDES
www.highdesertwildsheepguides.com
Alti2ude Outdoors Pro Staff

 

Comments

  • January 10, 2014
    reply

    Matt Eastman

    Great review Randy. Last season I used a Havalon knife. Very sharp, but you’re correct, the scalpel blades like to break. These Kestrel knives look to be the answer for the backcountry hunter.

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