call of the yooper

Machete Challenge - Do You Get What You Pay For?

I basically gave up on machetes. After some unimpressive chopping at camp, they found themselves confined to the bottom of the camp container not to see the light of day. In theory a machete sounded like an excellent tool. In practice they were totally disappointing. 

Then we started watching Forged in Fire, and I was tuned into the reality that the quality of steel was paramount to an effective working blade. So we took a chance and bought three high quality machetes to compare to our current ones - Svord Golok, Condor Kukri, and Condor Primitive Bush Knife. A big ticket difference than the first couple, Colghan and Gerber Gator (the higher quality ones were all over $100 compared to around $20 for the other two). The challenge was either going to be a huge waste of money, or we would finally have some tools that would get the job done.

I took a trip hiking through a remote area in the UP before Owen and I had a chance to make an official comparison, and grabbed the Svord to chop through branches while mounting trail cameras. Driving along the two-track after a storm, a full grown Aspen tree blocked my progress. Way too big to move (although I tried), the only option was to chop through it. The tree broke from it's base, with the skinniest part much larger than my calf. I figured I'd be there around 20-30 minutes sweating my way through. Had I known what was going to happen I would have set up a camera to record it for proof. Huge chunks flew around and I was through in what seemed like a minute. It could have been more, I didn't time it, but I definitely did not break a sweat. If I had the Gerber I'm not sure I would have even gone through it. Just as impressive, upon inspection of the blade, you couldn't see a mark anywhere and the edge was a sharp as ever. 

Of the three quality machetes in our test the Svord is my favorite. I love the looks and the function is just as impressive. The micarta handle feels great in the hand and allows for a solid grip. Condor's Primitive Bush Knife (machete length) is totally functional, but it's designed for more of a survival tool. The taper in the front of the blade doesn't make it as good of a chopper, but the steel is sharp and will hold an edge. The Condor Kukri is definitely a chopper, but the round wooden handle tends to roll in the hand. Owen and I are tempted to try and grind it flatter on the sides for a more secure grip.

We were so impressed with the results of the quality machetes that I went and bought a Gransfors Small Forest Axe as I've been equally disappointed with camp hatchets. 

One thing is certain from this, I will NEVER buy a inferior quality steel tool to do important jobs. It's much better to spend a few extra bucks and buy quality. It will save you time, and I'm not talking a minute here or there, I'm talking hours! It will also be much safer. You use very little effort chopping with a quality tool. Compare that to my older machetes and hatchets, we'd hammer away at things with brute force to compensate for the poor edge quality. In fact, one deer camp after late night chopping session the head of the hatchet went flying off the handle and we never found it. That could have been a problem to say the least. 

So for your sanity and safety, take our advice and spend a few extra bucks for something good. It's worth it.

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

Mountain Light Hikers on autumn adventures

Smoked salmon cooked on my Campfire Grill

Benchmade Grizzly cutting through strings

These are a few of my favorite things...

I know, not quite as poetic as Julie Andrews. But if you are going on an adventure, whiskers on kittens and brown paper packages won't do you much good. Nope, you'll need stuff that's been tested and you can depend on. 

If it's on my Favorite List then it means it's good - really good, but probably not cheap. I'm highlighting quality above all else. So if you see a smoking deal this Thanksgiving weekend, be sure to gobble it up.

American Made Scott Fly Rods

For the fall 2015 salmon run I had the pleasure of using a Scott 8# fly rod. I had high hopes, but questioned whether the rod would perform significantly beyond my other fly rods. The day before the trip I put together the 4 piece Scott, and my current 8# for comparison. The Scott felt better, I thought, but I could only notice a marginal difference if that. The real test would have to be at the river. So I drove north to one of my favorite UP rivers. I woke from my tent to the sounds of eagles. You know what they say about the early bird, the eagles beat me. The rapids were calling. 

Scott Fly Rod

A quick stop at the bank to tie a salmon egg pattern - and then finally the river. It didn't take long to find fish - and hook them. And it took even less time to know I was holding a fine piece of equipment. The fly landed exactly where I wanted it to... most of the time. When it didn't - it was definitely my fault and not the Scott rod. The control, precision, power and feel were beyond what I had experienced with other fly rods (I fish with Sage, Temple Fork, Redington and Orvis).

If I didn't land the fish I couldn't blame it on the rod. Strikes were definitively set before I even knew I did it. The Scott became an extension of my arm and attached to my brain.

The rod worked with me. Maybe it was just meant to be. I bought a Bowtech Carbon Icon earlier this year on the spot. I sampled nearly 10 other bows, some were considerably more expensive than my Carbon Icon - but none of them worked as well - for me. Other people would have a different experience. The same could be for fly rods. Depending on your personal style, casting rhythm, fishing technique - the attributes of one rod or another might fit with one person but not as much for another.

That I don't know. But one thing is certain - this Scott rod performed better in my hands than anything else I've ever fished. I can guarantee this - there will be a Scott 6# and 8# rod in my gear arsenal before the next fishing season.