Bear Grylls Ultimate Survival Knife Review – Good or Great?
I can’t remember a survival knife ever causing as much of a stir as the Gerber Bear Grylls Ultimate Survival Knife. And really, it’s no wonder…
Gerber has been around for over 70 years and already has a huge presence in the world of knives. Then they teamed up with Bear Grylls, hero of the popular ‘Man vs. Wild’ TV show to put together a hybrid survival knife that is priced low enough to make it hard for a millions of Bear Grylls fans, and the rest of us, to resist.
Proven Design – A Good Place to Start
The Bear Grylls knife is based on the proven design of it’s BIG brother… the Gerber LMF II ASEK… which is not a bad pedigree at all…
But, honestly, with all the vintage bad press and assorted opinions lingering online… I didn’t expect much from this knife.
However when my Bear Grylls knife arrived, I must say that I was quite surprised with the look, feel and overall quality.
My only initial complaint… was that the knife was a bit tricky to get out of the package without slicing into the knife handle or cutting the pocket survival guide which is on the back side under the knife.
The Gerber Bear Grylls is a medium sized survival knife with an overall length of 10 inches and a blade length of 4.8 inches, which makes it slightly larger than the Gerber Prodigy and a little smaller than the Gerber LMF II ASEK.
This Bear Grylls knife weights 14.7 ounces with sheath and 11.2 ounces without the sheath this is significantly heavier than the Gerber Prodigy which weights 7 and a quarter ounces without the sheath and 12 and a half ounces with. So this is a meaty knife, comparable in weight to the Gerber LMF II ASEK.
The Bear Grylls knife sports a drop-point, fixed blade that is made of high carbon, stainless steel, that is similar to 440B stainless.
The drop point blade design is known for providing strength across the entire length of the knife and for good edge preservation. The blade is made of stainless steel so corrosion should not be an issue. The knife is three quarter tang construction (similar to the LMF II ASEK) which means that this knife should endure just about any abuse your can throw at it.
The knife is made in China, unlike the Gerber Prodigy and LMF II ASEK, which are made in Gerber’s Portland Oregon facility. However the knife still carries Gerber’s Lifetime Limited Warranty and I guess being made in China is the tradeoff for getting a knife of this caliber at such a low price point.
I did not sharpen mine right out of the box and was very happy with the blade… but then again, I did not gut or skin any game with it.
Just to make sure I recommend a few strokes through a Smith’s Pocket Pal knife sharpener.
Half Serrated Blade
Like most survival knives today… the Bear Grylls Ultimate Survival knife goes from a fine to a serrated edge toward the handle.
Serrated blades like this are somewhat saw-like and can cut through a much wider range of materials like, rope, wood, wire and even sheet metal in a pinch. Best of all, a serrated blade will often keep cutting long after your fine edge is quite dull.
The knife held a nice edge in my torture testing… but after an afternoon of heavy use which included throwing the knife for about a half hour with a reasonable number of drops, the fine and serrated edges needed touched up.
Sharpening the Blade
Sharpening the knife edges was easy enough to remedy with my pocket pal sharpener. I recommend that you grab one of these on Amazon and include it in your survival kit. It makes quick work of touching up your blade and has an elongated, cone-shaped sharpener that makes it easy to sharpen the serrated edge of this blade.
Some folks don’t like the serrated edge of the Bear Grylls knife, so Gerber responded by coming out with the Bear Grylls Ultimate in a fine edge (with no serrations).
However, if you want added cutting power and don’t want to fuss with sharpening your blade as much, I recommend the serrated version.
The handle of this knife is made of a special injection molded plastic that is covered with a durable, textured rubber.
Owners report that the handle is comfortable for extended use without blisters and has a good grip even in changing conditions. I have confirmed this in my own testing.
I found the handle to be very comfortable. It felt very good in my hand and is well balanced so that there is very little hand and wrist fatigue during use.
The handle made it easy to use the Bear Grylls Ultimate Survival knife to cut, slice, pound and chop. One thing that I really like about the handle design and balance of this knife IS it’s ability to chop…
With the butt-end of the handle a bit wider it was natural for me to wrap my fingers around the butt-end of the handle to chop. Chopping is made even easier because of the placement of the serrated edge… and the mass of the blade.
Three Lashing Holes
Much like the Gerber LMF II ASEK… the Bear Grylls Ultimate knife also has three strategically placed holes in the handle for lashing this knife to a pole to extent it’s use as a spear.
One of my tests of this knife was fashioning a spear out of a small tree. I used this knife in conjunction with the Bear Grylls Scout… folding survival knife for my little bushcraft experiment.
I chopped a less than perfect tree, cleaned bark off of essential areas of my pole… Used the two knives to notch and trim my pole… and then I lashed the knife to the pole with some parachute cord.
Then I had some fun throwing my spear at trees… the holes in the handle are well placed for lashing. Even after over fifteen minutes of use and abuse the knife was still tightly attached to the pole. This three hole design is a big plus in my book for this knife.
Butt-End Hammer / Pommel
There is a stainless steel pommel at the butt end of the handle that is design to hammer, pound, break and smashing things.
The original version of this knife had some serious problems with the pommel. This problem was not good for the initial reputation of the knife since some owners reported the pommels falling off even after initial use.
However, this issue was immediately identified and resolved by Gerber in Early 2011. All knives on the shelves today are fine.
Owners from around March 2011 on verify on the pommel’s ability to stand up to abuse. Owners also report “beating the tar” out of the pommel and the Bear Gyrlls Ultimate Survival knife in general taking the abuse quite well.
In my testing I threw the knife (with plenty of misses and drops)… I hammered stone… and used the pommel as a mallet while making my spear. I also used it to hammer several nails into a tree, with no problems at all.
The knife comes with a very sufficient sheath that is made out military grade, mildew resistant nylon. The knife is held firmly in place with an innovative and simple friction thumb lock mechanism. The knife can be placed in the sheath for left or right hand carry. The knife handle is kept tight against the top of the sheath through the use of a nylon strap with a Velcro closure.
Diamond Sharpening Stone – Built In
A real nice bonus of this sheath and knife is diamond sharpening stone that is built into the inside of the sheath.
This sharpener will do a good job at touching up the fine edge of the knife but won’t help you out when it comes to sharpening the serrated edge.
One cool innovation that is included with the Gerber Bear Grylls Ultimate Survival knife is a fire starter rod that locks firmly into the bottom of the sheath. I was surprised at the tight, precision fit of the rod in it’s storage port and the overall quality of this tool.
Fire is important when you camp out and even more important in a survival situation.
So this fire starter is a welcomed addition that is both durable and well designed with a solid handle. On the back of the knife there is a striker notch.
To Start a Fire… Angle the blade slightly and strike the rod to generate sparks in any weather condition.
A small but loud emergency whistle is incorporated into the lanyard at the butt end of the knife. This is a nice feature if you are in trouble or injured, allowing you to make your position or situation known. Some will want to remove the whistle and lanyard as they will have a tendency to get caught when moving through thick brush or densely wooded areas.
Honestly, one of the first things I did was take my whistle off because it quickly got in the way of my testing.
Regardless, the whistle is a nice bonus item that is well built and could come in handy in a pinch.
Bear Grylls Priorities of Survival -Pocket Guide
A pouch is sewn into the back of the sheath which holds is a basic survival guide that was put together by Bear Grylls. The guide is made out of a soft, durable and weatherproof plastic sheet.
This guide may be the most important bonus offered with this knife because it will aid anyone, even the most inexperienced explorer, in staying alive in a wilderness survival situation.
The only problem that I had with the guide was getting it back into the pouch. It’s a real tight fit so it’s not going to slip out and get lost, but you’ll have to work at it to get it to fit in the pouch.
For a knife comparable in quality, style and design to the LMF II ASEK it’s amazing that it’s street price is around $50 on Amazon. That’s pretty darn good for a knife of this caliber especially with all the extras.
Reviews for this knife usually average over 4 out of 5 stars… this is really pretty astounding considering all the bad reviews that are factored into the equation for it’s early pommel issue.
We rate this knife at 4.0 out of 5 stars for value, quality of design, innovation and getting such a great survival knife package to the masses at such an affordable price point!
So Who Is This Knife For?
Well… the Gerber Bear Grylls ultimate survival knife is a great choice for camping, hiking, backpacking, hunting, emergency preparedness, home security and general peace of mind.
However, if you are looking for a military or tactical knife, look elsewhere. The Bear Grylls Ultimate survival knife is not purposed for these scenarios.
That being said… the Gerber Bear Grylls Ultimate Survival Knife is impressive value rivaling the Gerber LMF II ASEK in design, durability and craftsmanship… and with it’s: fire starter, emergency whistle, diamond sharpener and survival guide… it is more like a wilderness survival system than just a knife… all for a crazy low street price of around $50.