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Last Updated: August 14, 2019
Benchmade’s Hunt series (or “Munt”, depending on how you interpret their packaging), is a series of outdoor inspired hunter focused knives. I have never been a hunter, so my first impulse was to ignore the Hunt series. But a deeper dive into the line left me curious about a couple of their knives.
The Small Summit Lake had me intrigued, especially given my somewhat newfound interest in traditional knives. And especially in the wake of the success of the Boker Urban Trapper, which masterfully blends old timey pocket knife charisma with titanium, bearings, and stainless steel.
The Small Summit Lake is less of a mashup, but it takes things people appreciate about knives like the Buck 110, classic lines, rugged build quality, and a practical, time-proven design, and mate those qualities to 21st century manufacturing methods, high end steel, synthetic materials, and creature comforts like pocket clips and torx bolts instead of pinned construction. That combined with an EDC friendly footprint and reasonable price drew me to the Small Summit Lake.
General Dimensions and Blade Details
The Small Summit Lake has an overall length of 6.89″, a 2.89″ blade, weighs 3.04 ounces, and is made in the USA. Blade thickness is almost 3mm and this knife has full stainless steel liners, so it’s not the absolute lightest knife on the market, but it’s still certainly small enough for daily carry. The Small Summit Lake has a substantial feel to it. That makes sense, given how the Small Summit Lake is marketed as a hunting knife.
The Small Summit Lake features a modified drop point blade with a high flat grind. The edge of the knife rides along a near continuous belly. The tip is fine and pointy, but it is not delicate. The blade has been given an attractive two-tone satin finish.
Benchmade decided in CPM-S30V for the blade steel. I have had great success with Benchmade’s S30V in the past. Most notably, I have enjoyed the S30V in my Benchmade Volli. That knife continues to impress me, even though it has flown under the radar for most. At any rate, while I would prefer to see Benchmade upgrade all of their CPM-S30V knives to S35VN, I found that the S30V on this knife performed well. It’s reasonable to sharpen, holds a nice edge, and is resistant to corrosion. In short, it’s good stuff.
The blade is ground from thick stock. The thick stock combined with a narrow blade, and high flat grind all lend to a stouter geometry. This results in a stronger blade that doesn’t slice as well as something like a traditional slip joint. But the Small Summit Lake still slices, and it cuts well considering. I am guessing that the blade will also hold up a little better under the rigors of hunting and camping than a thinner ground knife.
Handle, Ergonomics, and Pocket Clip
The Small Summit Lake’s handle scales are made of DymondWood. DymondWood is a resin-impregnated hardwood veneer designed to be used in place of real wood manufactured by Rutland Plywood Corporation. The pro to DymondWood is that you have a product that looks a lot like wood, so it should be tougher than natural wood. The con is that it’s not real wood, so you lose a little of that character and depth that only real wood provides. I like the DymondWood scales and think the material works nicely on this knife.
Underneath the DymondWood handle scales you have full steel liners. I suspect they did not skeletonize these liners to make cleaning easier. A wise choice if you are going to be using the knife to skin a deer. The backspacker and lock bar are all stainless steel and the handle is held together with 3 torx bolts and a pivot bolt. Fit and finish is excellent.
In hand the Small Summit Lake performs like an upgraded traditional slip joint. There is a generous amount of jimping on the spine and handle. The jimping runs a fine line between provided adequate traction without tearing up your hand. There is a further run of jimping on the spine of the blade towards the tip. This is supposed to aid hunters in skinning and breaking down carcasses – can’t say I have used this feature much. The handle itself is simple , inoffensive, and allows for a comfortable 4-finger grip. The DymondWood isn’t a high traction material, but it isn’t slippery either. For my purposes the Small Summit Lake has great ergonomics.
A nice surprise with the Small Summit Lake is that it comes with a deep carry pocket clip. This is something you don’t see on a traditional knife, and it’s a welcomed addition in my book. The handle has only been tapped for right side tip up carry. I would prefer an ambidextrous mounting option, making the entire knife (more or less) fully ambidextrous.
The knife carries deeply and discretely in your pocket. With a weight of 3.04 ounces and a closed length of 3.65″, I did not notice the Small Summit Lake as I carried it around. The clip all but completely buries the knife. And traditionalists could always take off the clip and let the knife ride free in the pocket or in a leather slip sheath if they wanted to.
Deployment and Lockup
The Small Summit Lake comes equipped with a single (right side) nail nick. No thumb studs, flipper, or thumb hole on this knife. I don’t have a problem with this. The knife looks clean with the traditional nail nick, and the blade is easy to open with either hand. Inside Benchmade included phosphor bronze washes – another welcome modern touch. There is also an adjustable pivot which is great for on the fly tweaks, or a full take down. If you disengage the lock the blade swings freely, and there is even a little “half stop” milled into the tang of the blade. This is not something I have seen on a lock back before, but I like half stops, and I enjoy it here.
For lockup you have a traditional lock back. This tried and true design has worked for decades, and it continues to work with great success here on the Small Summit Lake. The lock is sturdy, popping in the blade in place with a satisfying “snap”, and it disengages with relative ease. Lock up is secure and as you would expect from a lockback with full steel liners. There is no side to side or up and down play in my knife. While it probably isn’t on par with a Tri-Ad lock, this is still a strong lock.
Blade centering is good on my knife, and favors the show side by a hair.
Benchmade Small Summit Lake Review – Final Thoughts
This is a surprisingly good knife from Benchmade, and I think it would be a mistake to gloss over the Small Summit Lake, even if you aren’t a hunter. The knife does a great job blending traditional with technical, and is a modern twist on a classic folding knife. And the price is reasonable too – at a little over $100, the Small Summit Lake isn’t cheap, but it isn’t a bank buster either.
I enjoy the addition of jimping, CPM-S30V blade steel, phosphor bronze washers, and pocket clip. These modern conveniences elevate this classic pattern, and I find little to fault with the Small Summit Lake. It would be great if Benchmade made this one fully ambidextrous. That would be nice.
I also would be curious to see Benchmade take this concept, slim it down, and offer a full on gent’s folder. It may not belong on the game trail at that point, but a refined and updated traditional folder from Benchmade could give something like the Indian River Jack a run for its money.
I think the Small Summit Lake could be a great choice for someone wanting an updated traditional folder, or a modern lock back with some traditional charm. This knife straddles a couple genres with surprising grace. The Small Summit Lake is just as at home by a camp fire as it is at a pocket dump on Instagram. For that reason it has earned my recommendation.
- BLADE STYLE: 2.89" (7.34cm) Drop-point style blade, weighing only 3.04oz. (86.18g)
- AMERICAN MADE STEEL: CPM-S30V (58-60 HRC) premium stainless steel with well-rounded characteristics, including excellent corrosion resistance and superb edge qualities. The well-balanced stainless steel makes it one of the best choice for daily tasks.
- DURABLE MATERIALS: The stabilized wood handle offers much more resistance to environmental hardships than natural wood. Also, includes a standard tip-down clip.
- TRADITIONAL MECHANISM: A lockback gets its name from a rocker partially visible on top of the knife. Opening the blade causes the "rocker" to lock against the blade to lock open. Pushing down on the rocker releases it; enabling to close the blade.