What makes a good camp knife?

After I filmed with Ray Mears for his BBC documentary Northern Wilderness he asked me how he could repay me. I said “Teach me how to sharpen a knife.” The world-renowned survival expert gave out a bit of a giggle at first. He had a hard time believing I couldn’t sharpen a knife. Truth is, I can’t.

Ray spent a good part of the morning while we camped on the French River, upstream of Blue Chutes, showing me the skills required. The BBC also filmed the segment for the documentary (it was included as an extra bonus feature on the Northern Wilderness DVD). Problem was they had to take a few takes. I kept laughing through it because Ray continually made fun of my knife, making comments mostly about the quality of steel and that I would never be able to grind an edge on it. I made a comment that I purchased the knife on sale and thought I got a good bargain. His rely was that it would be best to bend it, hammer it in the wall and use it as a hook rather than try cutting anything with it!

A few weeks after the segment I received a knife in the mail from Ray. It was a Helle Fjellkniven Bushcraft Knife purchased from the Canadian Outdoor Equipment Store in Mississauga, Ontario.

What an amazing knife. Ray was right. It’s all in the steel and craftsmanship of the knife itself. The Helle knife, made in a Norwegian steel mill, comes with laminated steel that allows for a tough, razor-sharp blade that’s easy to sharpen — even for me.

I made good use of the knife this past canoe season and I have to say that being embarrassed about my knife sharpening abilities on national television was well worth the lesson given to me by Ray Mears — and the gift he sent me in the mail.