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Last Updated: August 1, 2019
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). The Candiru is made in the USA. 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.
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.
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.
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.
The original Candiru came with a small black cordura sheath. 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 would prefer that ESEE shipped the Candiru with a polymer (plastic) sheath.
Well, I was apparently not alone in my desire for a polymer sheath for the Candiru, and ESEE eventually switched over and now a polymer sheath comes standard. I have not had a chance to check it out personally, but from what I have gathered it is a nice upgrade over the original cloth sheath.
ESEE Candiru Review – 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. Around $55 gets you an Izula, and around $65 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.
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.