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As survival-minded readers, you know that tools can be lifesavers. But since you can't roll a six-drawer tool chest with you everywhere, you should have a capable knife and flashlight at the ready at all times.
Knives are one of the most versatile inventions ever. They let us slice, pierce, dig, fight, and even start fires. Flashlights let us see in the dark, signal for help, and double as blunt instruments in a pinch. Having both in hand greatly increases your chances of enduring an emergency — so why not combine them into one tool?
In an effort to add utility to their tools, some manufacturers are adding lights to their knives. Of course, there's nothing particularly new about combining knives with other tools — after all, the Swiss Army first purchased multitool-style knives for its soldiers way back in 1891. Adding LEDs to knife handles is just the latest in the evolution of the knife. At first glance, it's easy to dismiss these lighted knives as nothing more than marketing gimmicks and consider them inferior to standalone knives and lights. But carrying one tool rather than two isn't such a bad idea. With so much equipment one must have prepared, reducing cargo weight while increasing functionality is a plus.
So, is a lighted knife just as good as its dedicated counterparts? Clearly, a more detailed inspection is required. So, in our premiere edition of Hands On, we shine the spotlight (pun intended) on Brite-Strike's Brite-Blade and SOG's BladeLight Camp. Read on to find out if they're a good fit for your preparedness plans.
411: Featuring replaceable LED lights, the multi-featured Brite-Blade is specifically made to handle diverse survival situations. It includes a 3.5-inch blade, carbide window punch, a seatbelt and line cutter that doubles as a wire stripper, and a fire starter-striking tool. Its body is made of 6061 hard-anodized aluminum and has a slot just above the blade for one of two included mini LED flashlights (one white, one red) to adhere to. At the base of the mini LED lights are magnets that allow them to not only be retained in the body's light slot, but also on any ferrous metal, such as iron and steel. The mini flashlight units are interchangeable and rated at 45 lumens each. To power the light on, it must be removed from the knife and its head twisted until it turns on, then replaced back into the knife's body.
With the light being positioned just above the blade, shadows are cast from the blade depending on what angle the knife is being employed. Most chopping and slicing maneuvers will create a dark enough shadow to make it cumbersome to use. The good news is that head-on stabbing and jabbing angles are affected less by the shadow of the blade. (At least you can see what you are stabbing.) Since the light is removable, you can conceivably remove it and reposition it to cover the area you need to see — even on the blade itself. The two lights are small and not meant for any meaningful use at distance, but are serviceable in your immediate workspace.
The knife has many features we like seeing in a folder, including the use of 440C stainless steel for its blade, an interchangeable full-length spring steel pocket clip, and spring-assisted opening mechanism. The blade stayed straight no matter what angle we used it at, even under full body weight. The model we received for this review has a combination blade with nice serrations, though a full straight-edge version is also available. The blade is quickly deployed with a flick of the thumb and kept in place with a stainless steel liner lock.
Verdict: The Brite-Blade is a solid-feeling folder that incorporates a few survival-themed features that we really like, such as a removable fire-starter striking tool and robust window punch. As competent as the knife is, we feel that the flashlight portion of this combination was not as strong — surprising since it comes from Brite-Strike, which is primarily a maker of tactical illumination products. All in all, it's a very capable knife with a light that you can use in a pinch. We look forward to seeing what innovations the next generation of lighted knives will bring.
Make & Model
8.6 in. (open); 5.1 in. (closed)
440C stainless steel
5.35 oz. (with batteries)
LR621 (eight, included)
411: The BladeLight Camp is one model in a full line of illuminated knives offered by SOG. Designed with campers and outdoor enthusiasts in mind, the BladeLight Camp features six bright LED lights and a satin-polished 4.5-inch stainless-steel fixed blade. With three LEDs mounted on either side of the blade, the lights combine for an output of 30 lumens. That's enough illumination to light up a small workspace or the path in front of you. We found the positioning of lights on both sides of the blade allow for shadowless, uninterrupted light to shine out to an effective distance of 20 to 25 feet. Its real strength is within the confined workspace of 2 to 3 feet however. The light's color is white bordering on bluish-white and isn't harsh on the eyes, even when being used close up in the dark.
The knife is securely stored in a hard nylon sheath that has an integrated blade sharpener and metal belt clip. It has slots that allow the six LEDs to shine through it so you don't need to point your unsheathed knife at whatever you wish to light up. The lights are powered by one AAA battery and are activated by a rubberized push-button switch in the butt of its glass-reinforced nylon handle. Those with sausage fingers might find the handle a bit small for their liking, but its slightly grippy rubber texture does make it easier to maintain a good grip.
The BladeLight Camp measures a length of 9.2 inches overall and weighs a paltry 4.3 ounces. The blade is made of 8Cr13MoV, a made-in-China stainless steel that's commonly used to help balance price with performance. We observed no flexing even with our full weight on it while cutting into different materials and at different angles. The blade looks and feels capable and should offer problem-free usage.
Verdict: After spending an extended period of time with the BladeLight Camp, we see why SOG made efforts into creating a line of light-capable knives. Being able to light up what you are cutting, slicing, or prying is a definite bonus when you only have two hands to work with while in the dark. Sure, it's easy to say that you wouldn't need a lighted knife if you were wearing a headlamp, but let's face it, we don't always have the right tools for the right job available to us at all times. A lighted knife takes two tools and combines them into a single useful package. Granted, the knife's light is just enough to work with and isn't a replacement for a dedicated flashlight by any stretch of the imagination. You'll still want a “real” flashlight when you really need to see what's lurking in the dark. But if we had a choice between a knife that can help light up the night and not, we'd choose this one for its added capability.
Make & Model
SOG BladeLight Camp
8Cr13MoV stainless steel