ESEE Candiru Review

Small, sharp, and damn near indestructible. If you want the short version of my Candiru review, that was it. Coming from ESEE, a company with a pedigree for making tough as nails outdoors and survival blades, that should come as no surprise. Fans of their extremely popular Izula pattern will no doubt be intrigued by this smaller cousin. Named after a most nefarious of jungle catfish, the Candiru is meant to be lightweight, discrete, and versatile.

I carried mine for some time as an urban EDC, and also tested the knife outdoors on an extended trip to the rugged Canadian coast. Does it live up to expectations forged by ESEE’s other blockbuster blades like the ESEE 3 and Junglas? Lets find out…

General Dimensions and Blade Details

The Candiru is a small knife with an overall length of 5.13″, a 2″ blade, and a weight of 1.7 ounces (not including the sheath). This has been a nice backup knife for suburban EDC and has also served as a (very) small outdoors blade. ESEE also suggests this knife to round out your Personal Survivavl Kit (PSK), or as part of your First Aid Kit. I think all of these are legitimate uses for the Candiru.

Each knife ships with a fold-over cordura sheath, and the entire package makes for an extremely slim and discrete carry. I find the knife very easy to tuck away in a pocket and also would work well as a neck knife. Any way you carry it, the Candiru is the kind of blade that is soon to be forgotten until that moment arrives when you need something sharp.

ESEE Candiru

The blade is a simple drop point shape with a partial flat grind. The entire knife is cut from a piece of 1/8″ thick 1095 high carbon steel, powdercoated in your choice of OD green, desert tan, or black. As I mentioned earlier, the entire package is damn near indestructible. The Candiru has held up well to heavy cutting, batoning, and even prying apart a particularly nasty piece of salt cured driftwood. The edge geometry on the Candiru is pretty stout, and the powdercoat finish is textured – so don’t expect the most amazing slicer. On the plus side you can pound this thing through a 2×4, and the knife will be no worse for the wear. I found the knife useful for everything from opening package, to building fires, to even helping dismantle a lobster dinner.

ESEE Candiru

The choice of steel is 1095 – a high carbon non-stainless steel selected for it’s toughness and ability to easily take a keen edge. All ESEE knives come in 1095, and at this point I am very familiar with the steel. 1095 will rust if you aren’t careful, and I experienced some slight rust spotting on the logo and edge – so you will want to keep the knife clean and oiled. That said, I think the corrosive tendencies of the steel are well outweighed by the excellent toughness of the steel. I experienced no issues with chipping, and the tip passed some gruesome pry tests with flying colors.

Handle and Ergonomics

A stock Candiru ships without any handle scales. I didn’t mind this at first as it kept the weight down and the knife slim, but I have greatly enjoyed the micarta scales on my Izula II and I kind of regret not purchasing the optional micarta or G10 scales for the Candiru. My guess is they are well worth the $15, although I am sure an enterprising individual could fashion his own scales for a fraction of the price.

ESEE Candiru

As far as ergonomics are concerned the Candiru is a 3 finger knife. For most of your EDC tasks this isn’t going to be an issue, but I found that for outdoor use the small knife tended to slip in my rather clumsy grip. A short run of jimping helps control the blade, but I found myself using this one in a pinch grip a lot. That said, this thing is plenty capable, and will be fine for small woodworking jobs as well as typical chores around camp. I managed to prepare food, cut rope, and whittle sticks without major issues. Like I said before I think the optional scales would have been nice on this one, and I would recommend the upgrade.


ESEE includes a small black cordura sheath with every Candiru. It’s a fold-over style sheath with a little piece of velcro for the closure. Inside the sheath is a plastic lining where the blade fits snugly inside. Besides that the only other landmarks are a belt loop and a small metal grommet for attachment to a lanyard. The sheath works. It requires 2 hands to get at the knife, but given the size of the knife it all seems reasonable. That said, I am such a big fan of the plastic sheath on the Izulas that I can’t help but wonder what the Candiru would have been like with a molded plastic or kydex sheath.

ESEE Candiru

So as it stands the sheath earns passing marks. It takes two hands to open it, but it holds the knife firmly in place and makes the Candiru very comfortable to carry in the pocket. I’m not going to call it my favorite sheath ever, but it’s not bad either.

ESEE Candiru – Final Thoughts

The Candiru is a charming little knife. It manages to pack rugged functionality into a tiny sub 2 ounce package, and is built with the same practical and rugged mindset of everything else in the ESEE lineup. And of course the knife comes with ESEE’s legendary no questions asked use-or-abuse warranty, and the Candiru is 100% made in the USA. Those in need of an ultra light backup knife, or a small fixed blade for a PSK or First Aid Kit could certainly do much worse than the Candiru. I happen to like mine a lot. That said, I do have one lingering issue with the knife.

My biggest beef is with the price. ESEE knives are typically on the spendy side, and I tend to justify the premium with the USA craftsmanship and the killer warranty (well justified in my opinion). But the Candiru is priced at the point where it starts to compete with other blades in the ESEE lineup – which is where the real dilemma emerges. As shown the Candiru sets you back $47. If you were to buy the OEM scales the entire package easily pushes the $60 mark. At that price, you are firmly in Izula territory. $55 gets you an Izula, and $70 gets you the excellent Izula II (which includes the knife, micarta scales, and a nice plastic sheath). If you want an ESEE and are able to carry the larger Izula II, I would definitely go with the Izula II. I find it to be a much easier knife to work with as it includes full 4 finger grip ergonomics, a bigger and beefier blade, and a more convenient plastic sheath.

ESEE Candiru

So for that reason I have some difficulty giving the Candiru my absolute full endorsement. It’s a cool knife, but unless you absolutely need something that small I think the Izula is a much better buy. That said, if you really do need something as small as the Candiru (maybe for ultralight backpacking or a PSK) then I can definitely say the knife is a cool piece of kit. It is also just as well built as anything else in the company’s lineup – which is saying a lot as ESEE’s build quality is typically excellent.

While I wouldn’t call the Candiru a “must have knife,” it’s certainly not a bad blade either. If you can get past the price you are left with a solid performer for urban EDC and outdoor use alike. Small, sharp, and damn near indestructible.

I purchased my Candiru at BladeHQ and recommend buying the knife there.

ESEE Candiru on BladeHQ
ESEE Candiru – $46.95
Retail Price: $82
You Save: $35.05
From: BladeHQ

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  1. Micah says


    As usual, this is another superb review. Like you, the only dilemma that comes to mind when considering the ESEE offerings are the prices. Good alternatives for the spendthrifts are the K-Bar/Becker line up. The BK 14 (or 11) is an excellent stand-in for the Izula/Izula II and the Remora, while not quite as nice, deserves a look as a Candiru replacement.

    Keep up the great work.

    • says

      Hey Micah,

      Nice to hear from you man! I hope all is well. Thanks for the great suggestions. Although I don’t own them myself (yet), everything I have heard about the BK14 and BK11 has been great. I will get them at some point and stack them up against the Izula. That said, I doubt my perspective will break any new ground – those knives have been proven and are an excellent choice.

      Thanks again for the thoughts and the kind words. You may be happy to learn I’ve got a few more fixed blades on deck for review. :)

      Best regards,


  2. Roadkill says

    For that price it comes with not even a cheapy injection molded sheath? No nifty widgets in the sheath either. Just super extra low end basic. As I can see there is no option for a kydex job either. Man, this is a poor showing by ESEE. As it stands, I don’t like the name. Why the fuck would I want to carry a blade in my pocket, next to my junk, that is named after a horrible little fish that is known for causing terrible damage to said junk. Why not name is something equally vile and painful? Herpes. IRS. Deer tick. Round worm. Festering wound. Hemorrhoid!

    • says

      Yeah RK, the knife – while sturdy and well made, is a bit underwhelming. Hate to say it because I really liked the look of them at the 2012 SHOT Show but its true.

      And lol @ your thoughts on the name. No comment man – but I see your point! :)


  3. Lew says

    This is a fun little knife but for my clumsy pig-hands I don’t think it could be more than a toy. And when that blade makes it’s way over to europe-land it’ll have gone through the roof.
    I think I’ll stick to my Mora for the emergency-kits as they’ve always done the trick, have handles for my ham-fists, cost little to nothing and come with a grind that IMO is far superior.

    That being said, had they shipped it with a halfway decent sheath it’d have made a good necker.

    • says

      Lew, I hear ya on the “clumsy pig hands” (lol!). I am not the most dexterous either so I totally feel your pain. I think the Mora remains an excellent outdoors / emergency / survival blade – especially when you could get 4 or 5 of them for the price of the Candiru. Bigger isn’t always better, but then again smaller isn’t always better either! This would be a nice neck knife with a 1 hand sheath. You could still carry it that way but it would be less convenient.

      Anyhow, thanks for stopping by.


  4. Andy says

    Thats my only problem with the candiru. $60 for the knife with scales is just too much. The handle is made so that there’s no really effective way to cord wrap it, so the scales are pretty much a must have. And like you said, when you can get an izula for $41 and easily wrap the handle….there’s really no dilemma. Unless you just have to have something that small.

    • says

      Thanks Andy – yeah I totally agree with you. It’s a neat knife but unless you really need something that small I’d go for an Izula.

  5. says

    This is a mean looking little guy! What’s the spine thickness? And does it taper down to the edge? It would look like a nice little fly fishing knife. Small enough to fit in a chest pack and a good size for fileting up some trout. However, the drop point shape is a little interesting, it’s dissimilar with the Izula and ESEE.


    • says

      Hey Sahil!

      It’s 1/8″ of an inch thick. It tapes down a little to the tip, but it has held up really well. Honestly I find the knife a little awkward but for a specialized pouch or use it could be very nice. I like the drop point blade – it looks nice and has a good blend of utility and tip strength. I bought the G10 handle scales for it, I need to get around to updating the review with some additional thoughts.


  6. SakeCult says

    Hey Dan, I made my own kydex sheath for the candiru. Highly suggest that to the terribad sheath they included.

    • says

      Very cool man! I think a little kydex sheath would have been a lot nicer. Thanks for stopping by and letting me know it worked out for you.


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