Morakniv is the maker (more affectionately known as “Mora”) and Garberg is the model. Since this is BushLife, it’s time to man up that blade and skip the stainless steel. We’re reviewing the Morakniv Garberg Carbon. Carbon steel that is!
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- So What is a Knife Really?
- The Bushcraft Knife at Your Service
- Morakniv Garberg Sheath
- Morakniv Garberg Pricing
- Let’s Go Back to My List For A Second
- Morakniv Garberg Carbon
- Is There a More Budget Friendly Knife than the Garberg?
- Further Reading: The Total Knife Manual
So What is a Knife Really?
A tool that can be traced back 2.5 million years! Even the first known folding knife goes back to 500-600 BC. I bet you didn’t know that. Truth be told, 5 minutes ago I didn’t either. Obviously we are discussing one of the oldest known tools used by humans. While things have changed over the years, the basic principle of a knife is still the same: a sharp edge that can cut things. We’ll, yes and no. A modern knife can do a lot more than that!
Why do I bring this up, get on with the review already???!!! We need to put things in context to match the knife to the task(s) at hand in order to review it properly. If we ask ourselves what we truly need our knife to do in the bush, the list looks something like this:
- Cut vines to make rope
- Cut wood to make shelter
- Chop firewood
- Split firewood (Batoning, I’ll explain below)
- Preparing tinder (Feather sticking, also below)
- Hunting and god help you on this one:)
- Processing food
- Digging and harvesting what we can forage
- Carving containers, utensils, furniture and tools
- And on and on
That’s a lot more than just a sharp edge that cuts things. It also means the discussion is not just about what it’s made of or some fancy specs. It’s about how these specs achieve the items on this list! Now I hope you see where I am going with this.
The Bushcraft Knife at Your Service
Now that we know a knife can do several things, vital things, here comes the bad news: no knife does it all perfectly! A knife that has properties good for batoning might render it horrible at feathersticking. This is why we have knives in categories like hunting, survival, bushcraft, tactical and so on.
The Morakniv Garberg is by definition a bushcraft knife and bushcraft knives have certain attributes that makes it better at handling “the list” in general. Let’s cover the top attributes of bushcraft knives and we’ll bring the Morakniv Garberg in as we go.
It is said a bushcraft knife should not be too big, it should be just right. You end up losing finer details with big blades. Think of carving a spoon with a machete, while exaggerated you see what I mean. Same goes for skinning a harvested animal, a big knife will only get in the way. You don’t want it too small either or you won’t be processing much firewood.
The Morakniv Garberg has a blade length of 4.29″ or 109 mm long. That’s the general sweet spot for this category of knife. Think of it as the right size to do most around the camp chores.
This is a big one! Remember you are out in the bush and the loud man with the shiny sharpening truck is nowhere to be seen. After years of laziness, I learned to sharpen my own stuff, as should you. But there’s a complication.
So grab a knife, any knife and look at the part where it starts to angle away from full thickness to where it forms the cutting edge. Plain and simple it looks like a wedge. Now look closer and carefully at the actual edge and you will most likely see a second bevel at some point. In other words, you have a wedge in a wedge! While its pretty cool, it’s also a LOT harder to sharpen! You need to feel that angle change across a very small surface if you want to enjoy any sharpening success.
By comparison, the Garberg is a scandi grind. Ie. that wedge shape goes all the way from the full thickness part to the actual cutting edge. More technically, it’s a single angle. This means you can grab a sharpening stone, lay that wedge part flat which is pretty easy to feel now that its a bigger surface area and sharpen away! It’s foolproof, simple and can be done in the bush even by a noob.
The tang is basically the steel portion of the handle and you want a full tang knife for bush use. In other words, full tang means the metal goes all the way through the handle and not just partly into it. Why is this so important? Strength! You’ll see why when we get to batoning farther below.
The Garberg is full tang and put it this way, I wouldn’t be writing about it if it wasn’t. If I’m not mistaken, I believe it is the only full tang knife made by Morakniv. And if it’s not, it will be one of only a few full tang models.
Metal is more expensive than plastic and precisely why there are so many non-full tang knives out there. On that very note, those knives have no place in the bush other than maybe a fillet knife.
There are a lot of elements that can go into steel and each one changes certain characteristics. Iron and carbon are ALWAYS a part of the mix and the more carbon, the harder the steel. While this seems generally good for knives, there’s a catch. Harder steel means less toughness. In other words it’s more likely to chip or break. The beauty of steel making (a major part of knife making) is finding that right balance of hardness vs toughness. Amongst a balancing act in other areas.
We all know stainless steel, it’t the simple addition of chromium to the mix. It’s biggest benefit is preventing rust and probably why it’s the most popular steel for knives. It’s also because people are too lazy to oil and periodically take care of their stuff – so we sell them rust proof things, at the expense of hardness or properties that are vital in the bush.
Getting back to carbon steel, it’s hard, holds its edge longer, is strong and easy to sharpen. It’s also guaranteed to be harder than a ferro rod and anything harder than a ferro rod means it will throw sparks.
Yes, even this is important. You’ll find most knives have a nice bevelled spine, it feels great on the hand. This is a selling feature for the average Joe blow who wants a cutting knife. The Garberg has a 90 degree spine which does not feel so good, it’s almost sharp but it’s intentional. Instead of gliding, it digs right in and throws wicked sparks off a ferro rod. The bushman is not Joe blow, he wants a guaranteed way to make a fire at some point.
As you can imagine, we never want to use our blade for striking a ferro rod as it would wreck the blade. A bushcraft knife should always parallel as a ferro rod striker, period. It’s not about being pretty or feeling good, its about getting things done!
Morakniv Garberg Sheath
A good sheath is precisely that and unless you like displaying your knives on a wall, don’t just leave this as an afterthought. You need a way to safely and conveniently carry your fancy bushcraft knife. The more comfortable, the more likely it will land on your belt.
The Garberg definitely has some sheath options. The first is the multi mount and it reminds me of your typical molle style. I don’t want to say tactical but think of it as more functional. Next is a basic polymer sheath. Expanding on the polymer comes the survival kit which includes a diamond sharpener and fire steel. Lastly, my favourite and my personal choice, the good old leather sheath!
Tip: When you’re in the bush, carry your knife on your belt, not in your pack! Why? just in case you get separated from your pack. Trust me, it happens. It’s also a good idea to generally keep a backup knife in your pack.
Morakniv Garberg Pricing
I have a tendency until recently not to talk price too much in my blog. When it comes to assembling a basic set of gear, the price is what it is. We can splurge in some areas that are more important to us and save on others. As long as we understand that good gear doesn’t come cheap, we are on the same page.
Today however, we have some harder and uncertain economic times. It’s times like these we want to spend $100 – $200 on a knife that does what we NEED and the Morakniv Garberg fits the bill. Budget permitting you may chose to, but you certainly don’t need to spend the $500 and up it takes to get fancier brands or custom Damascus blades. We also don’t want to spend $25 – $50 on knives that will keep breaking and cost us more in the long run.
Morakniv is more of a budget knife maker that puts out an amazing product for a fair price. Bearing in mind that we need that full tang for a durable bushcraft knife, the Garberg is on the upper end of Morakniv’s price point. But understand this, most serious knife companies start their prices well above the Garberg’s price point. This makes it a gem when it comes to price and I absolutely had to make of point of that in my post. The value in this knife is perhaps unparalleled in the market and it’s a known opinion amongst it’s loyal followers.
Let’s Go Back to My List For A Second
If you ask anyone, that knows their stuff: “If you could only have one item in the bush, what would it be? That answer is always a knife! It’s because of how many different things you can do with it to survive.
While my list of what you can expect your knife to do is fairly self explanatory, let’s cover some of the more advanced topics:
Batoning With a Knife
Your knife is an axe! This one blew me away when I learned it years ago but it’s true. After cutting your firewood to length, you now have the problem of splitting it. So here’s what you do if you don’t have an axe and this assumes your blade is a bit longer than the thickness of the wood:
- Flip the wood upright just like you would to chop it
- Place your Morakniv Garberg on top
- Make sure the wood is as far back towards the handle as it goes
- Hold the handle in one hand, then whack the blade with a big piece of wood in your other hand
- You’ll see your knife starting to dig in and split the wood
But my knife went in all the way and the wood didn’t split… No problem, there should be a little bit of blade sticking out of your wood. That’s why we put the wood as far back towards the handle as we can. Now whack the front part of the knife that’s sticking out while you keep holding the handle in the back. You’ll see your knife will keep going down until that wood splits.
How Does the Morakniv Garberg Baton?
I’ve already mentioned that the Morakniv Garberg is not huge. We don’t want it too big or we won’t be able to do finer tasks like carving. With a 4.29″ (109 mm) long blade, you are easily good to baton 4″ thick wood. You only need a little bit of blade sticking out on one end to whack. This is why we say to place the wood as far back towards the handle.
The Garberg is super strong and full tang. I’ve batoned many a log without worry of it breaking, in fact it never crosses my mind. The blade is 3.2 mm thick which is plenty for strength and thickness in terms of acting as a splitting wedge.
The video below is from Dutch Bushcraft Knives. I love these guys, they’re a bit crazy but they have an awesome channel that’s all about knives. The video will show you how to baton properly. While this video is not about the Garberg, don’t worry about it as the technique is the same. The video will perfectly supplement my instructions above.
Batoning Bigger Pieces of Wood
Here’s another YouTube video. This time from Survival Lilly. She will demonstrate how to baton a larger piece of wood. In other words, how to split wood wider than the length of your blade. Although I don’t recommend batoning things this size as it’s easier to just find smaller pieces. There may however be a situation where you have no choice.
This is the simple process of taking your knife and shaving thin curls down a piece of wood. You end up with multiple curls that light easily, even with a ferro rod. The beauty of this really begins to shine during wet times.
When everything is soaking wet, look for dead standing wood. This means something up and off the ground. Dead wood will be nice and dry inside and when you feather stick, you expose the drier inner parts of the wood. This really aids in getting a fire going during the wet times.
The upper of the two videos on this post shows how to feather stick nicely. I’ve seen many a DBK knife review as they test each blade to see how it performs in various tasks. Feather sticking always being one of them. It’s a great skill to learn if you intend to spend some time in the bush.
Since this is a review of the Morakniv Garberg, it should be said that these knives come sharp. They are good at staying sharp and easy to sharpen if that ever changes. The Garberg has the right amount of bite to easily shave nice curls off wood without digging in too much.
Morakniv Garberg Carbon
You can get your Morakniv Garberg Carbon online. I noticed Morakniv calls it the BlackBlade now, probably because of the black coating which aids in rust prevention.
The Garberg really is the go to knife for countless bushcrafters or outdoorsmen. I have several great knives myself but honestly, they stay at home. My first decent knife was a Ka-Bar USMC. It’s known as an epic blade, but I find feather sticking hard with it and would never consider finer work as it’s too big. I also dropped a pretty penny on a Buck Open Season Skinner. Once again a great blade, if you’re only skinning animals with it. I wouldn’t baton with it, it’s too small.
It’s not hard to spend thousands of dollars in search of that special knife. But it’s just as easy to be disappointed over and over again. If the knife doesn’t match the job, I don’t care how shiny, how cool or what fancy specs it has because it’s irrelevant. We often confuse what we want versus what we really need and hopefully I can spare you that aggravation if you are serious about going to the bush.
When heading into the woods, the experts turn to the Morakniv Garberg Carbon. That’s what its made for! It’s shape, specs and features are designed for that purpose and that purpose only. That’s my knife in every photo you see and I certainly wouldn’t stand behind this product if I didn’t know first hand how good it is really is.
Is There a More Budget Friendly Knife than the Garberg?
Absolutely: The Morakniv Companion!
The big knife brands out there like Fallkniven, Bark River, Benchmade, Esee and so on will charge several hundreds of dollars for a knife. These are excellent knives, but the Garberg can compete with them at around the $150 mark. However, even $150 for a knife may seem steep right now in these harder economic times. In comes the Morakniv Companion to the rescue. It’s under $30 and it’s a serious knife! That comes from experience as I have one myself.
The Morakniv Companion comes in stainless (pictured above) or carbon (preferred) steel and it still sports Morakniv’s lifetime warranty. In Mora style, it also arrives razor sharp – also from experience as the first thing I did with it was effortlessly shave a patch off hair off my arm! That makes it an insane value.
Can the Morakniv Companion Baton?
The Companion has a 3/4 tang meaning precisely that the tang comes up 3 quarters of the knife’s handle. While not full tang, it’s quite a bit. The blade however is thinner at 2 mm than that of the Garberg’s at 3.2. It should handle some light batoning, but keep it light. That would cover tasks such as processing smaller softwoods for kindling.
Can the Morakniv Companion be Used With a Ferro Rod?
Yes. Morakniv actually says no since the knife isn’t “polished”, but there is a solution. All you need to do is file down the back of the knife until you get that 90 degree spine just like the Garberg! It’s that defined edge in carbon steel that allows you to throw sparks with a fire steel. If you are willing to put in a little work, you’ll get your results here even on the tightest budget.
While the Companion will never be a Garberg, it has several similar attributes that suits that bushcraft / survival niche just fine. And yes, many people use it as their daily and swear by it after years of abuse! It’s definitely worth being considered as an ultra budget friendly alternative to the Garberg.
Further Reading: The Total Knife Manual
Here’s an awesome book by Field & Stream I want to pass along. The entire series is amazing and every page has photos. This book covers knife design, types, multi-tools, custom knives and knife care. Then it covers knives in the context of: hunting, fishing. wild kitchen, camping and survival. If that’s not enough, it then covers axes, hatchets and saws!
I’ve not only read this book, I refer back to it over and over again. If you like knives or enjoyed this post, The Total Knife Manual is definitely for you. Grab one while you can!
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