I was excited when The Survival Mom asked if I wanted to write a review for a knife that Larry Connelley, knife expert and founder of knifeart.com, wanted to have run through its paces – the White River Knife & Tool Sendero Pack Knife. This project really peaked my interest when I found out it was a field knife designed by renowned Master Bladesmith Jerry Fisk, MS.
White River Knife & Tool teamed up with Jerry, to create what I consider to be one of the best all around lightweight field knives I have ever used, and I don’t make this recommendation lightly. Throughout the over 30 years of working professionally in the outdoors, I have had a chance to use many types of knives: Several configurations of both straight and folding blades as a mountaineering, technical rock climbing, and white water rafting guide; dive knives as a divemaster, rescue diver and water safety and survival instructor; knives made specifically for outdoor survival and search and rescue work; not to mention knives used for general outdoor hiking, backpacking, hunting and fishing. Each had their strengths and weaknesses and many were configured and manufactured specifically for the task at hand. But most importantly, having used many specialty blades, I have come to realize the value of and use for a high quality multi-purpose field knife. The Sendero Pack Knife is that knife.
About the Sendero Pack Knife
Before I tell you how the knife performed in the field, a little background information. The Sendero Pack Knife is a semi-custom knife with a full tang and guard notch for your index finger at the back bottom edge of the blade. This knife has a tough carbon fiber handle and comes custom fitted in a kydex sheath.
The full tang provides an extra measure of overall strength to the knife. The guard notch is great for protecting your hand from slipping onto the blade and allows your index finger to help control the knife. The blade itself is made from CPM S30V steel with a Rockwell Hardness (HRC) of between 58-61. This composition of steel is well suited to stand up to heavy use in tough environments. In fact, Larry Connelley notes, ”It makes a great field knife blade that is tough and unlikely to break with heavy, near abusive, use.” The razor sharp blade with a flat grind is 3.25” in length, and has a nice stonewashed finish that fits well with the intended use of this knife.
White River Knife & Tool and Fisk married the blade to an eye catching carbon fiber handle, an incredibly durable and nearly indestructible material. Carbon fiber is five times more durable than steel, very lightweight, and able to handle tremendous pressures without flexing, deforming or breaking. It’s an ideal material to use if you want to build a tough, lightweight, no nonsense knife capable of standing up to the rigors of outdoor use. The polished handle is shaped and press fit to the blade with two stainless steel pins and the butt end of the knife is slotted for a lanyard.
This well-crafted knife comes in a custom molded and highly versatile sheath made of kydex that I found very functional. The design allows the knife to be carried either for a right or left handed draw, and in multiple positions from dead vertical to horizontal on your belt or pack strap. Remove the belt holder and attach a lanyard through the two holes at the bottom of the sheath and you can even carry the knife around your neck. You have many choices depending on your circumstances and needs in the field.
Jerry Fisk and White River Knife & Tool have created a knife of excellent quality. Right out of the box, this knife felt great in my hand. Nicely balanced and lightweight, yet meaty enough to fit well into the palm of my hand in both a standard and reverse grip. The blade was razor sharp with a very even edge. The handle was cleanly fit to the blade with no rough edges and secured with two well-placed and beefy stainless steel pins. The knife pulled from and locked into its kydex sheath smoothly each and every time I used it.
Quality and Guaranty
A couple other points worth noting. With the Sendero, each knife is hand finished and stamped with the designer’s name and serial number (mine is number 131.) The blade is precision ground and leather honed. The handle is polished, shaped, and fitted to the blade. The tough Kydex sheath is custom molded for fit and is designed to be configured in many different ways and positions depending on the user’s needs. All of this, White River Knife and Tool backs with an unbeatable warranty: Each knife is guaranteed for life. If you are not 100% satisfied with your knife, just return it for repair or replacement, free of charge, no questions asked. I like that! After my initial out of the box evaluation of the knife and sheath, I was really looking forward to field testing it.
I wanted to put The Sendero Pack knife though its paces, as if it was being used on an extended camping, hunting or fishing trip. With that in mind, the first stop was my kitchen and some of the basics of food prep: I chopped, slice, slivered, and diced a variety of vegetables and fruits. The knife easily handled all that I tried. It even made short work of some very hard potatoes, carrots, and Jicama. I had no problem neatly slicing, without mushing, a couple of medium sized ripe tomatoes, as well.
Next, I took a whole frozen silver salmon from last season’s guiding in Alaska, directly out of the freezer and cut it into steaks. The Sendero cut cleanly, no tearing or jagged edges to the meat. The knife was so sharp that, over the course of a couple of weeks, I was also able to use it to easily clean a catfish, some crappie, and a bass with very little effort. In addition, I gutted and skinned a squirrel and rabbit. The blade handled well, particularly when skinning and fleshing out both animals. I wasn’t able to try the knife on any larger animals such as a raccoon, coyote, or even a small deer, but based on the knife’s performance with the smaller animals, I think it will also work very well when dressing them out.
I didn’t want to stop there. A good all-around field knife should be able to handle some simple tasks needed while camping or in a survival situation. The Sendero Pack Knife made short work of a variety of fishing lines, twine, rope and even cut a thick rubber hose cleanly. Additionally, I used the knife to baton some small pieces of wood, whittle some feather or fuzz sticks for use in making a fire, and then started one using the Sendero and my ferrocerium (also known as a ferro) rod. With all of the tests and tasks I put the knife through, it maintained its edge very well. No additional sharpening was needed.
Lastly, I took the knife out with me on half a dozen hikes to test out the sheath. I reconfigured the kydex sheath in many different positions in the field, attaching it to my belt and two different packs. With the very clear instruction sheet provided by White River Knife & Tool, it was a snap to do. The Sendero Pack Knife and sheath are so light in weight that I barely noticed them on my belt, and the overall slim form factor made the knife very unobtrusive.
One Last Unexpected Test
During one of my recent outings, while testing the Sendero Pack Knife, I was caught in a sudden rainstorm in the southern end of the Ozarks where I was hiking. Nearing the end of the trail, I made a dash to my car as the rain picked up. Somehow, while stowing my pack and gear, the sheathed knife fell to the ground by my trunk. Exiting the parking area, now quite muddy, I ran it over with my car!
Later, while cleaning and putting away the gear, I realized the Sendero was missing. A day later, while retracing my steps, I found the knife pushed into the dirt at the parking area and pulled it out of the mud, washed it off on the spot, inspected it, and found that both sheath and knife had suffered no visible damage whatsoever!
Have you been looking for a great all-around field knife that is ruggedly build and well balanced, yet lightweight, sleek, and low profile? A knife that you can wear on your belt, just as easily as attach it to your pack, or around your neck as a conceal and carry? Then you need to seriously consider the White River Knife & Tool Sendero Pack Knife offered by knifeart.com. It is priced in the $200 – $300 range, not inexpensive, but anything of high quality and craftsmanship seldom is. I think this knife is a worthy investment in a key piece of outdoor and survival gear that will last a lifetime. Jerry Fisk, designer and creator of this great outdoor knife, feels the same way. He said, “I like it [the Sendero Pack Knife] so well that it is now my main in the field knife.” Me too.
- Made in the USA!
- O/A Length: 7.45”
- Blade Length: 3.25”
- Handle Length: 4.2”
- Handle: Carbon Fiber
- Blade Type: Plain Edge, Drop Point
- Steel: CPM S30V, 59 HRC
- Blade Finish: Stonewash/Light Polish
- Knife Weight: 3.2 oz. (including the Sheath, 4.9 oz.)
- Sheath: Kydex
- Price: $200 – $300 range