Ah, the ESEE Izula, one of the most iconic small fixed blade knives of our time. Named after an infamous South American Ant, the Izula was designed to be a small, sharp, and incredibly tough blade for outdoor and everyday use. In practice, the knife is just that. The simple design and solid build catapulted the Izula into fixed blade fame in very short order. More recently ESEE released the Izula II, a version of the knife with a slightly longer handle. Having larger hands I went with the Izula II, but 95% of this review applies just as well to the original Izula.
As for the intended use (and my overall perspective of this knife for purposes of the review) I have carried my Izula II extensively as both a suburban EDC and as an outdoor knife. The Izula is a great size for the pocket and is something I have no issue pairing with a larger fixed blade, a folder, or just carrying it by itself.
General Dimensions and Blade Specifics
The main differences between the Izula and Izula II include the handle length, weight, the color selection and the fact that the Izula II comes standard with micarta handle scales while the scales are optional with the original Izula. The handle of the Izula II is exactly half an inch longer than the Izula, giving the knives a total length of 6.75″ and 6.25″ respectively. Both have a blade length of 2.75″. The Izula II has a weight of 3.2 ounces and the Izula has a weight of 2.0 ounces.
Both knives are forged from a single piece of 1095 High Carbon steel (the same steel used in all ESEE knives). 1095 is a very tough tool steel that is great for outdoor and survival knives because it is very tough (less likely to chip or break), sharpens easily, and takes a very nice edge. The biggest disadvantage to 1095 is that it is not a stainless steel and will rust if you aren’t careful. In order to help combat rust ESEE coats the knives in a textured powder coat. 1095 is a proven steel that I have written at length about, and Rowen (the manufacturer for ESEE) knows how to heat treat this steel (to 57 HRC).
The Izula and Izula II share the same drop point blade shape. This is a great shape for all around utility, with plenty of belly, a stout tip, and a full flat grind. What impresses me the most is how thick the blade is at .156″ (~4mm). The thick steel holds up well to batoning, tip torture tests, and everything else I could throw at it. “Indestructible” is a word that readily comes to mind when I ponder the Izula II’s blade. Of course the thick geometry means that this won’t be your best slicer – it’s no chef’s knife for sure. But the Izula does a good job cutting and will make quick work of most EDC tasks, camp chores, basic food prep, and carving.
Handle and Ergonomics
The regular Izula comes “naked” without any kind of handle material. The skeletonized 1095 is perfect for wrapping paracord around it, or you may opt for the canvas micarta handle scales ESEE sells separately (they can be had for around $15). The scales beef up the knife a bit and it provides a great feel to the knife. Even without any kind of handle scales the Izula is a reasonably comfortable knife. A paracord wrap is an attractive and inexpensive option that will add additional comfort to the handle and also allow you to carry a couple extra feet of cord on you with the knife.
The Izula II comes with canvas micarta scales that feel good and wear well. They are attached to the handle with two sets of allen bolts – making them fully removable. Having used the knife hard in the outdoors I do wish the bolts were flathead bolts. That would make them much easier to service with something like a multi-tool, coin, or even the spine of another knife. That is probably my biggest complaint with the Izula II, and I generally feel they did a great job with this handle. The micarta is lightly textured, and it provides a good comfortable grip in wet or dry conditions. One thing about canvas micarta is that it will soak up sweat, oils and moisture and it will darken over time. I happen to think this looks cool and adds a little character to the knife.
As for overall ergonomics, you will want the Izula II if you have larger hands. I take a large glove and the Izula II fits me perfectly. In my opinion anything less would feel cramped. I also really like having micarta scales on this knife, it fills the hand well and makes for an extremely comfortable tool. Both knives have a nice spot for your index finger and functional jimping on the thumb ramp. It gives you good control over the knife and feels very natural. If you are the kind of person with smaller hands, in need of a neck knife, or want to take a crack at making your own handle scales then the original Izula might be a better choice.
Both knives come with black injection molded plastic sheathes. These are lightweight sheathes made of a dense polymer that is very durable. Blade retention with these sheathes is excellent – the knife locks into the sheath with a very satisfying audible “snap.” The fit is nice and tight (no rattle), but it is not impossible to pop the knife out with your thumb. This is about perfect in my book because the knife is secure but it is also easy to get at when you need it.
The sheath on the Izula (and Izula II) allows for multiple mounting options. The sheath has 2 smaller eyelets for paracord, a slot for belts or webbing, and a large eyelet near the tip of the sheath for a lanyard. My favorite way to carry this knife is in my pocket. I’ll sometimes loop a largish (18″ or so) lanyard through the large eyelet of the sheath and secure the other end to my belt. It makes retrieval of the knife easier and you don’t have to worry about misplacing your sheath.
All in all I am extremely pleased with the versatile and durable sheath that comes with the Izula / Izula II. This is easily one of my favorite small fixed blade sheaths.
ESEE Izula II – Final Thoughts
The Izula II is a great little knife. The simple design and sturdy construction make for a very versatile tool that works just as well around the house as it does out on the trail. If you need a small no-nonsense utility knife then I would say to look no further. The sheath is excellent, the handle is comfortable, and the 4mm blade stock holds up to even the toughest tasks.
The Izula goes for around $55 for the knife and the sheath ($16 more for handle scales) while the Izula II can be had for right around $70. I’d say these are fair prices. Remember that these knives are made in America and that ESEE has a no questions asked lifetime warranty so if anything happens to the knife (besides rust) ESEE will replace it. Some will argue these knives are expensive – I think in this case you get what you pay for.
Finally, if I could go back in time and pick between the Izula and Izula II again I would stick with my Izula II. I like the standard micarta handle scales, and greatly appreciate the slightly larger handle of the Izula II. That said, if you are looking to make your own handle scales, have smaller hands, or want to keep the weight down then the regular Izula is probably your best option.
ESEE Izula II – $69.99
Retail Price: $113.26
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