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Sometimes I catch myself getting a little opinionated while enjoying survival-themed reality shows. Can’t craft a canoe out of some leaves and a pointy rock? What an idiot. I’d have salmon flopping across the beach to roast themselves by dinner time. On the other hand, there is a chance that true wilderness survival is easier said than done.
One thing I’ve noticed about the survivalists on TV is that the knives they carry don’t look like the ones you and I see every day. That’s good for them because I don’t think many of my knives would last very long taking the kind of abuse those people dish out on the regular. Bushcraft requires knives to pull extra duty as machetes, hatchets, and shovels; if a blade can’t handle that, it has no place in the deep backcountry.
This difference has never been clearer than when I opened the Jeo-Tec No. 29 bushcraft survival knife. The Spanish knife-maker specializes in tools for the wilder corners of the earth. Everything from the knife to its sheath and accessories is purpose-built. At $124.95, it’s certainly not cheap. Most of the options being marketed as survival knives cost between $50 and $100, with some coming in as low as $20 (be very wary of those). The No. 29 might end up being the most expensive blade in your collection, so you need to know that it can justify that kind of money before pulling the trigger on it. That sounds like a recipe for a gear test if I ever heard one.
Let’s dig into those juicy details, shall we?
Yes, I know the first question everyone wants to ask about survival knives, and this one does indeed have a full tang. See that exposed steel running the length of the handle? That’s a continuation of the five-inch blade and it adds a huge amount of strength to the knife. The steel itself is MV-58, which is a type of Chinese stainless steel known elsewhere as 8Cr15Mov. It prioritizes corrosion resistance and is sometimes described as a more cost-effective alternative to AUS-8.
The cocobolo handle is tough and well-shaped. Are synthetic handles more durable? Sure, but if you want the natural look, it’s hard to do better than this. Cocobolo trees grow in Central America and produce beautiful hardwood. Natural oils keep cocobolo naturally conditioned without regular upkeep, and the wood is known to be particularly resistant to insects.
A lot of manufacturers phone in their sheathes, but this one is an exception to that rule. Thick leather creates a feel (and pleasant smell) similar to that of a western saddle. Heavy-duty snaps on the belt loops and retention strap inspire confidence. Two small elastic cords pull the retention strap out of the way when it’s unhooked, which is a really considerate and well-thought-out feature. You can wear the sheath vertically or horizontally on your belt, or mount it to a shoulder strap if a pack’s hip-belt is occupying your waistline.
Also in the box was a ferro rod and steel striker. Fire-starters are readily available on their own, but it’s nice to have them included with a survival knife. The sheath also has a loop to hold the ferro rod, which is an unexpected perk.
How we tested the Jeo-Tec No. 29 bushcraft survival knife
If there’s one thing that consistently frustrates survival show contestants, it’s starting a fire in the rain. We’ve all gotten so used to lighters and prepackaged tinder that the art of creating a spark in a wet environment has become a bit of a lost art. I figured the whole process was a perfect test for the Jeo-Tec and a chance for me to learn a new skill.
According to my extensive YouTubery, the first step to starting a fire in the rain is splitting a log into smaller pieces to expose the dry inner goodness. If all you have is a knife, that means batoning––a technique of beating the blade through the wood with another log––is required. Fortunately, brute force is one of my favorite problem-solving tenets. With a forearm-sized log split into quarters, I could reserve three for fuel and turn the fourth into tinder.
When dry kindling isn’t available, split logs can be feathered to give sparks a more combustible place to land. Little by little, I shaved strips of wood into thin curls. Each got progressively smaller until the base of the feathers was filled with tiny pieces no thicker than paper. Ferro rods come with a protective coating, so I scratched a bit of that into the feathers to add a little extra spice to the mixture.
Finally, I poked the end of the ferro rod into the feathers and gave it a few flicks with the spine of the blade. If you’ve never used this method, I cannot overstate how thrilling it is. Sparks flew and the wood lit up within seconds. I couldn’t believe it. Maybe this was beginner’s luck, but I feel pretty damn good about my chances of repeat success.
After all this, the knife shows minor signs of wear. The spine of the blade is scratched from striking the ferro rod, but the marks are superficial. Everywhere else, the steel is unmarred and the edge is still sharp enough to shave hair off my arm. The five-inch blade was a little short for the log I used, so I had to hammer it through the wood by using the baton on the handle at times. The cocobolo proved much harder than the log I hit it with, and it looks untouched after wiping it clean. Knives like this are meant to be used; I don’t expect the No. 29 to be a display piece, but it held up to this testing better than I expected.
What we like about the Jeo-Tec No. 29 bushcraft survival knife
The No. 29 is a dedicated bushcraft knife, and it excels at all the things that normal knives struggle with. There’s no ignoring how thick the blade is––I measured 3/8 of an inch. That’s excessive for most of the things we expect knives to do, but it’s also a huge asset when you need to turn logs into firewood or hack through a frozen pond to drop a fishing line.
Every aspect of this knife––from the materials used to the sheath that carries it––is built to perform in the wilderness. Weather-resistant materials stand up to the elements when you don’t have time for maintenance. The design clearly comes from people who use these knives and know what separates the good from the bad. Holding the No. 29, it’s easy to see exactly where your money goes.
What all this translates to is a knife that’s able to handle the unrelenting abuse that bushcraft tools get subjected to. It’s thick because it’s going to get pummeled with logs. It’s corrosion-resistant because it’s not going to be dried and oiled regularly (or ever). It comes wrapped in a rugged sheath because that’s all the protection it’s going to get. And all those traits make it that much better.
What we don’t like about the Jeo-Tec No. 29 bushcraft survival knife
The people at Jeo-Tec are undeniably good at making knives, but their communications team is riding the struggle bus all the way to the failboat when it comes to getting the word out. The company’s website is barely there, and there’s no explanation of what the various models are or what separates them. Consumers shouldn’t have to chase down specs and translate steel nomenclature on other websites. I had to turn to forums and the Amazon product page to find out anything beyond the most basic specs about the No. 29. But the website does have a broken video player and random quotes from Amelia Earhart and Jacques Cousteau. So there’s that.
The No. 29 itself performed well for me, but I want to know more about the people that made it. Other artisan knife-makers add value to their brands by telling their story, and I’m more than happy to pass on the information to readers. Selling knives is a competitive business, and I’m more willing to pay my hard-earned money to someone who can explain to me how they crafted a blade with care using their ancestral forging methods and a carefully selected kind of steel. When companies leave us in the dark, all we can do is wonder.
I’m genuinely impressed with how well the No. 29 performed––and how much it flattered my first attempt at bushcraft. If I had 10 minutes to prepare a survival kit, it wouldn’t be the only thing I reached for, but it might be the first.
Because of the size of this knife and its utilitarian sheath, it’s not something I’d carry in most situations. Depending on your style of camping, it may or may not be the right choice. It’s certainly heavier than most backpacking knives, but if it replaces a hatchet, you’ll end up with net weight savings. For extended hunting and fishing trips in remote areas, it would be an extremely wise choice. The rest of the time, it can live in your bug out bag.
As for the value for money, the Jeo-Tec No. 29 is the real deal in my book. I’m very careful with my spending, and this is a quality item that can absolutely justify every dime. This knife makes me want to explore and push my boundaries. That––not features or pricing––is the sign of a great product.
Bushcraft and survival skills are no different from anything else; they take practice. If you add this knife to your collection, get out there and use it. Practice building things and starting fires in challenging environments. Pick up a whetstone and learn how to use it. Dust off those scout skills and learn to tie a new kind of knot. If you ever find yourself in a survival situation, you’ll be far better prepared. If not, you’ll at least be more interesting at parties.
FAQs about the Jeo-Tec No. 29 bushcraft survival knife
More questions? Here’s Task & Purpose’s additional brief.
Q. How much does the Jeo-Tec No. 29 bushcraft survival knife cost?
A. The No. 29 can be yours for $124.95. That’s not pocket change, but it’s more than fair considering how well-built this knife is. It’s not uncommon for handmade knives to sell out, given their limited production runs, and this is one I’d wait for.
Q. What makes a knife good for bushcraft?
A. In addition to normal cutting duty, bushcraft knives need to function as a chopping tool when called upon. This requires true bushcraft knives to be fairly large, heavily built, and exceptionally strong. One telltale characteristic is a full tang; meaning the blade’s steel continues through the handle and is visible from the top and bottom. The Jeo-Tec No. 29 checks those boxes.
Q. Where are Jeo-Tec knives made?
A. Jeo-Tec knives are hand-made in Spain.
Q. What tools are included with the No. 29?
A. Jeo-Tec packages certain knives with accessory tools, and I love that they include storage in the sheaths. The No. 29 comes with a ferro rod and striking steel, although you can also use a non-edge portion of the blade like I did. There isn’t a place on the sheath for the striker itself, so maybe that’s your best bet.
Q. Is the wood handle durable?
A. Cocobolo is a Central American wood that is very durable. In addition to being quite hard, its natural oils make it resistant to rot and insects. Being extremely pretty doesn’t hurt.
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Scott Murdock is a Marine Corps veteran and contributor to Task & Purpose. He’s selflessly committed himself to experiencing the best gear, gadgets, stories, and alcoholic beverages in the service of you, the reader.