piphanies happen. Mine arrived in the pre-dawn darkness as I stared into 200,000-plus acres of timber so thick even the Forest Service can’t say for sure what lives in there. Waiting for the fire to kick in and coffee to boil, I had my moment of clarity: I could use a bigger knife. You probably could, too.
1. Cold Steel San Mai III Trail Master (blade: 9 ½ in. stainless; weight: 17.7 oz.) A knife that knows its purpose in life. Unique ultra-sharp rolled edge. Shock-absorbant handle. Carbon model available. ($433.99; 800-255-4716; www.coldsteel.com)
2. 1861 Pattern Bowie (blade: 8 ¼ in. stainless; weight: 14.7 oz.) A first-rate historical reproduction doubling as a great field knife. Sharp, responsive CNC-ground hand-finished blade. Solid, well-balanced feel. 100 percent U.S. made. ($299; 800-255-9034; www.agrussell.com)
**3. Marble’s Trailmaker **(blade: 10 in. carbon; weight: 22 oz.) Well-balanced, razor-sharp, tough enough to do it all and keep an edge. Leather or bone handle. Outstanding production knife. ($189; 906-428-3710; www.marblesoutdoors.com)
4. A.G. Russell Camp (blade: 8 in. stainless; weight: 22.3 oz.) Big and heavy enough to handle any task you throw at it. Full tang, shaped for comfortable chopping. Easily quarters largest North American game. ($175; 800-255-9034; www.agrussell.com)
5. Cabela’s Handmade Stag (blade: 10 in. carbon; weight: 15 oz.) Handmade quality/character. “Off-the-shelf” price, direct from a reputable dealer. Hand-crafted antler handle. Great value._ ($119.99; 800-237-4444; www.cabelas.com)_
6. Marble’s 8-inch Ideal (blade: 8 in. carbon; weight: 14.8 oz.) A classic returned in an upsized version for general camp duty. Same quality as bigger Trailmaker, scaled for easier carry._ ($199; 906-428-3710; www.marblesoutdoors.com)_