I have just received what I think is the best woodsman’s knife design I’ve ever seen, the Bark River Bravo Vortex. Or, perhaps, I should say the other best design. After a few months testing, I’ll do a review on it along with my other favorite, the Pasayten (that I’ve been carrying awhile now). Both are drawn from ancient know-how. The Pasayten was a favored design among the French Canadian fur traders and coureurs de bois, and is ideal for processing food, game and moderately good for woodworking. It’s weakness is it doesn’t have much fight in it and lacks a very stout point. The Vortex is clearly modeled after the Hudson Bay Company’s Roach design. Just slightly larger than the Pasayten and quite a bit thicker and stouter, it has the piercing drop point that became very popular among later American and Canadian frontiersmen, giving the knife some fight. However, the drop is slight, providing a lot of belly for skinning, butchering, and other backwoods tasks. A stouter point makes the Vortex much more suited to bushcraft tasks, such as pinholing fire boards. Both are extremely good all around designs, with the Pasayten favoring tasks like foraging, fish and game processing and camp cookery and the stouter Vortex being more an extremely good jack-of-all-trades but favoring bushcraft and large game processing. Both these knives are in my top 3 designs now.
Those who appreciate good woodsmen’s tools know of the unfortunate fact that many excellent knifemakers do not seem to understand at all what it is that woodsmen and bushcrafters want in a sheath, and we often end up replacing the sheaths their knives come with for custom made work. However, the Pasayten and Vortex both come with remarkable sheaths that really cannot be improved on in any way that I can see. The Pasayten is straightforward, functional kydex. As one might expect, the Bark River made Bravo Vortex is fine leatherwork, but made after much consultation with expert woodsmen.