Bark River Knives, formerly Bark River Knife & Tool, is a family owned company located in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. In addition, BRK is run by veteran knife-smith Mike Stewart who teaches and employs a number of skilled artisans. Together, they make some of the finest knives made today and thus, Bark River defines quality American craftsmanship.
Bark River Knives feature extremely high quality workmanship from the tip of the razor sharp blade to the end of the ergonomic handle. Plus, Mike Stewart has his own heat-treatment regimen that exploits the specific strengths of each of the steels he uses. But, first and foremost, Bark River Knives are made to be used.
Therefore, Mike designs some of the hardest working knives in the industry and they are employed all over the world. In fact, every single knife is made with specific uses in mind. For instance, hunting knives are all designed with field dressing, skinning, butchering, processing or other hunting tasks in mind. Whereas, camping knives are built to take on the most demanding outdoor tasks. Thus, the first time you hold one of Mike Stewart’s survival knives in your hand, you will know that you can stake your life on it.
Bark River’s Trailbuddy III survival knife is certainly constructed with this philosophy in mind. This knife features and overall length of 13” with an 8” Persian Clip Point blade made from 1/5”, A2, non-stainless, tool steel with a continuous curve, a deep, flat grind and a Rockwell Hardness of 58. In addition, it is available with your choice of several different types of handle slabs consisting of linen Micarta in numerous different colors, plain woods, exotic woods, burl woods and natural materials. Plus, the knife is supplied with a fine quality, heavy duty, pouch-type, leather sheath.
When I first saw this knife, my first reaction was “Holy Cutlery Batman! Now that’s an awesome knife!”
In fact, the new Trailbuddy III is Bark River’s Version of a modern Camp Knife and, although this is a relatively large knife, it is not actually all that heavy in the hand. Therefore, it’s surprisingly quite suitable for a number of different camp jobs such as clearing your campsite, butchering your game and helping out in the camp kitchen.
In addition, it will also make a pile of kindling for your campfire in short order. In fact, the actual inspiration for the design for this knife is rooted in the 1915 Woodcraft model. But Bark River has intentionally made the knife much larger and specifically designed it to fill the role of a dedicated Camp Knife.
Consequently, this large, highly versatile, knife is comfortable in the hand and has a natural balance that will not tire the user. Last, the extended curve on the edge of this knife combined with the flat grind makes it a very efficient slicing tool and yet it is also agile enough to use to prep vegetables for your camp meals.
Furthermore, the A2 steel used in the blade is a very hard (0.95-1.05% Carbon) and very tough (1.0% Manganese & 0.90-1.40% Molybdenum) non-stainless steel (4.75%-5.50% Chromium) with a very fine grain structure (0.15% – 0.50% Vanadium) and thus it will take and hold a very sharp edge. Yet, the steel is tough enough to easily withstand the shock applied to the blade when the knife is used to chop saplings and smaller trees and when used with a mallet to split small logs.
However, since it is a non-stainless steel, it does require special care to maintain a corrosion free surface. Therefore, I would suggest Tuf Glide to keep your knife’s surface like new.
Last, although the knife is available with numerous different types of handle slabs, I personally have a distinct preference for linen Micarta handle slabs for this type of knife since they are impervious to moisture, abrasion, chipping, cracking, and splitting and thus, I know that they will last at least as long as the knife blade and will not let me down in a tough situation when I REALLY need my knife to perform.
So, in my opinion, the Bark River Trailbuddy III is not only one of the prettiest camp knives I have seen yet, it is also one of the best designs I have seen yet. However, just because this knife is billed as a camp knife, don’t be fooled because like many of the others we’ve broken down in detail, it would also be an excellent choice for a dedicated survival knife or EDC carry knife.