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Cool Stuff: EESE & CRKT Onions

In the real world, situations and drama confront you, and you deal with it with what you have in your pocket.  All the preparedness, your "Go Bag", your 72 hour food kit affords... all mean nothing when you are out and about and the prep kit is at your home or in your car.  


So I absolutely encourage your "Go Bags", store food/water at home, have essentials like a Steripen water purifier in your car... if your home or car are still there after an earthquake, tsunami or cyclone... you will still need those resources if you can get to them.


While the big dramas are infrequent, even daily minor obstacles have to be dealt with, thus a Ken Onion gentleman's knife or the smaller EESE knives uniquely rise to any challenge.


For me, yes me, it’s all about me today. I always have a struggle with opening the latest generation of factory sealed packaging... camera batteries, cheese, US Mail, Fedex, & UPS packages, all the great lanterns, external batteries, and accessories from Goal Zero, yes and even a simple envelope I want to open properly instead of tearing. For daily carry for these tasks, Ken Onion's gentleman's line of knives are functional, and rather than scaring quiche eating Yuppies, they have a sense of dynamic art.  


My regular daily carry knife was a Ken Onion Zero Tolerance (ZT) design, which between TV production meetings, cars and restaurants in Seattle, fell out and vanished.  Ken promised me a custom hand made super duper better Kydex sheath, but I think his pig hunter buddy that fabricates them sorta has me at the bottom of his priority list. An Onion gentleman's knife has proven for me a convenient daily alternative to the superb, and more robust ZT.


In restaurants these day — let’s say American Samoa's Maliu Mai Resort — borrowing silverware has gotten so bad that the last steak I had there came with a knife that was wimpier than a plastic picnic knife. So, I whipped out my Onion CRKT "Ripple"  and polished off that medium rare fat dripping magnificent delight. After returning home, Mapu received a set of real steak knives from my reserve collection. Now, just a hint, always wipe your blade with a touch of "Extra Virgin Olive Oil" so its protected, smells healthy, and is ready to rock 'n roll when you need it for a meal.  


Ken Onion was surprised that for we, in the islands, his "Ripple" grips seem reminiscent of a New Zealand Silver Fern Maori design. The designs have nothing to do with each other, except being similar in their flow. As my son is a Kiwi born, Samoa-raised kid, it gives me extra affection for the Ripple ($59-$135 w/ Titanium grips).


 Onion's "Swindle" (second knife in photo, $79) is in some ways a throwback to a clean 1930's Streamline Moderne design, with a classic swayback Modified Wharncliffe blade, with IKBS pivot system, and a new innovative pocket clip. The blade, now memorize this, is "8Cr14MoV", handle "2CR13" stainless steel. No, forget what you just memorized as anything Ken Onion makes he makes as if his family's life depended on it. Everything always works, every product is clever, and beautiful, and... oops, am I talking about Onion's designs or my editors here (fa'alata tele, eh)? CRKT, Ken Onion's contracted manufacturer honors every product they make with enthusiasm. It’s a perfect union of two class acts.  


The "Swindle" is initially confusing. No one I have shown it to has intuitively held it right side up. Once you have it right, it is extremely comfortable for household and office tasks, a little less functional for my Maliu Mai steak and maketi palusami.


The Ken Onion gentleman knives are important for my coverage of our legendary Manu Samoa and soon to be historic Talavalu. Besides not wanting to offend Yuppie clowns after the USA Sevens on downing my steak, while covering the Japan Sevens and Hong Kong Sevens, I am in serious trouble for possessing anything but a small folding pocket knife. Fixed blades are an Asian “no-no” for some goofy reason. Yet for my documentary work on purse seiners or in canneries, I would choose nothing but a fixed blade. Goes back to almost drowning while covering the launch of the Voyaging Canoe Iosepa, at Hukilau Beach, Laie, Hawaii.


My camera case strap caught on the canoe's rope and was dragging me down.  Had I been carrying a fixed blade on me I would have quickly grabbed it and slashed myself free. In my situation, a man grabbed me after he saw my camera above water, and me gurgling my last few bubbles of breath.


The fixed blades I depend on are the ESEE knives made by Randall's Adventure & Training. it’s terrific that ESEE (TransEquitorial Solutions, Inc) partners Jeff Randall and Mike Perrin are good buddies with knife designer extraordinaire featured above, Ken Onion. You know they are bumping future ideas off each other.  


ESEE knives are fabricated in Idaho, USA by Rowen Manufacturing — great people I had the pleasure of meeting last year.  Randall & Perrin's company train American law enforcement to deal with the environmental elements of Central and South American for their ongoing battles against the drug cartel bad boys. Jeff Randall has also helped field produce many national TV productions exploring the cartels. So when you buy an ESEE knife you are getting a solid tool born of tropical real life experience. You buy a Ken Onion design, you get the experience of a former US Marine, who dedicates his valuable time and resources to care for our current injured military veterans' through various non profit programs. Creme of the crop Coolios, these guys, families, and their companies. 


On a Coast Guard C130 rescue mission I always carry an ESEE 5 ($135) with serrated blade to cut myself out if we don't enjoy a safe landing on a short or afa damaged runway. While working on a purse seiner or in a cannery, the smaller ESEE 4 (last in above photo) serrated is on my hip. On a recent anticipated Mainland trip to cover a Mexican based fishing operation (didn't happen), I packed the tiny ESEE Izula II. I speak Spanish enough to reason with folks, but my fondness for Mexico is tapered by the reality of social issues they face, drug cartels, and historic corruption. So tiny, was better for the anticipated border crossing.


Additional reasons for small Onion designed folders, or ESEE smaller fixed blades while traveling?  


Firstly, customs officials in some countries make up their own rules as they go along, not always following their nation's policies.  So they might confiscate a bigger knife because it looks like you are up to no good, but let a smaller one pass. Secondly, customs officials in some countries make up their own rules as they go along because sometimes they covet our cool stuff, Coolios. The small fixed blade ESEE knives are only attractive to those of us that know good knives as a tool. Besides cutting a hook or net away from my arm before getting dragged overboard, I might need the incredible strength of the ESEEs to dig a base for my tripod, battle a coconut, or chop up some Koko Samoa for the crew.


Thirdly, smaller knives are lighter, a real plus in these days of only 50lbs of luggage allowed, and paying for what used to be free. Sometimes two smaller knives are better than getting a big one hung up on machinery or caught up in the tight ladders between decks. Fourthly, and obviously redundant, some customs guys covet my stuff, and want cool things they can't get in their home country and they know there is very little I can do about it if they toss me in jail for complaining too much. 


Three of my four ESEE knives all have a tan powdered coating to prevent rust, and also because it looks more "peace, love, granola" to custom officials that think a black or shiny silver knife is more sinister. My largest ESEE, the Junglas, is a short powerful thick machete that came in a black powdered blade. My Junglas ($152 street price) would be used, as the name implies, when I am in a situation like covering Manua's Super Cyclone Olaf, where I potentially had to build my own temporary structure if the last plane could not accommodate my same day departure.


All ESEE knives need to be cared for as the blade is 1095 Carbon Steel. Greatest formulation for sharp working knives. Use them, wipe them, throw on some oil. I still stick with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, because onboard in the galley, the food is wonderful but you always have to get back to work fast. So I might be doing hand food in rough seas, with a few quick cuts to make it go down faster.   


ESEE's are great because you can equip them with Micarta handles, or just go with paracord. My dad tricked out one of my ESEE 4's with tuna line around the Micarta grips, the other featured above, he did with paracord (the best of both worlds for me). Earlier this year I gifted Tri Marine Chairman, Renato Curto, the ESEE 4 tuna line version. Tri Marine has done much for me, and continues to provide great hope for the economic future of the Territory.   Renato deserves much more than my ESEE... my year end Samoa News bonus is always $3000 too small and always too late... yes I am still waiting for my 1986 bonus. 


You will hear much more about Ken Onion and ESEE/Randall Adventure Training in the future.


Next column is time for the USA Sevens hotel, transport, and food options. Get your Hawaiian Miles miles ready for Vegas! Unless you'd rather fly Hawaiian to almost Hong Kong (they go to Japan, Taipei, and Korea) where, Coolios, it’s you & me and the Night Market every night after Manu Samoa and Talavalu.