The Gear Shed - CRKT Bear Claw
The Bear Claw from Columbia River Knife and Tool (CRKT) is one of the top contenders for river knives out there. Many boaters love this knife for its low cost and reliability. The features of the knife make it ideal on a rubber boat since there are no points or protruding edges. The claw shaped curved blade and hardened stainless steel make the knife both strong and keen. The teeth stay sharp for a long time and even through heavy use. The index finger loop as well as the shape of the grip allow for a good firm grip and protect your fingers as well as a strong hilt. The knife boasts a full tang and only 3 pieces total. The actual steel sandwiched between two polymer grips.
This knife is great for a wide variety of uses from cutting rope and cord, to sawing small sticks to make a fire, and even cracking glass if need be. It has less features than other knives like a bottle opener, or a straight edge so it is more purpose built as rescue hardware rather than a utility knife.
How is it in the water?
My favorite part is the shape which features the blade on the inside of the curve like a little sickle. Every time I drop it, the knife tends to fall on the back of the blade, so if it falls from a sheath on an exposed foot, drysuit, or boat the weight of the knife will either make it fall on the grip or the back of the blade in case you prefer to avoid a knife in the foot.
The overall pattern is small and just big enough to fit in a large hand like mine while keeping a workable blade. It makes the knife easy to maneuver and work with in the water, have only one hand free, or if you are confined with not a lot of room to move.
How tough is it?
With no moving parts this knife is just a solid piece of steel with a grip; plain, simple, and effective. If you are looking for a cool knife with tons of features talk to Bear Grylls. If you’re looking for a knife that actually works, gets the job done and is there when you need it this blade is where it’s at. Drop it, throw it, run it over, let it fall off a shuttle vehicle, or just leave it in a wet gear bag for months and this thing will still be ready to go. There’s not much else to say on this one, it is just a solid workhorse.
The Bear Claw is secured by a small locking screw threaded into the blade and sealed with Loctite. This little lug connects to a divot in the sheath to secure it in place. This can make the knife pop out easily if you have it exposed on your PFD during a swim, getting back in the boat, or the myriad other odd situations boaters find themselves in. One solution for this I have seen is an elastic cord loop tied through the hole at the end of the handle and secured by looping over the sheath. There are other options like storing it in a pocket or by using a Velcro covering, but the knife doesn’t come with anything special in that regard.
Although it is stainless steel it can rust if left in the sheath while your PFD is drying. When your gear is drying it is best to unsheathe the blade and let it dry.
If you use a lash tab to attach this knife, the belt hook often has little pressure and it can slip out. Many boaters use paracord or zip ties to secure the sheath to a lash tab. If you do decide to mount the knife externally just be sure you are aware of the risks of this and understand why you are mounting your knife this way. See Clean Line Principal.
Is it worth the cost?
At $50 for this knife it certainly fits into the price point of similar knives including the NRS Pilot Series or the Gerber river knife. Most guides we know use their knife for something other than peanut butter maybe once a season. If you are looking for a camp tool or a commercial guide knife as a wilderness kitchen multi tool then there are better options. If you run a lot of class IV or V, are a professional rescuer, or you are a private boater you will feel more comfortable with this knife at your side. It does everything you need it to do and a few things you want it to do. The things you need it to do though it does better, faster, and more efficiently than the competition. Just don’t expect to cut a pineapple boat with this thing.
If you are looking to pick one up you can get it here.