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Last Updated: July 15, 2019
You’re familiar with the concept of being “fashionably late,” right? It’s the idea that, by showing up to a party well after the festivities have begun, you’ll gain coolness-points by joining in just as the fun hits its stride. While no one has ever accused me of being either fashionable or cool, I am a bit late to the coming-out bash for the Mora Garberg.
But, when Morakniv offered to send me a sample for review, I knew I couldn’t pass up the invitation. This party of two took me from the dry winter of New Mexico to the snows of Colorado, with food, fire, and woodworking along the way. Now that the festivities have faded, here are my thoughts on the Mora Garberg.
General Dimensions and Blade Details
There are two major differences between the Garberg and its more budget-minded cousins like the Companion. First is the main thrust of its existence – That glorious, full tang construction. See that bit of metal peaking from the back of the pommel? Wonderful!
Then there’s the steel. While most of Mora’s lower lines employ carbon blades (yes, I know you can get the Companion in stainless), the Garberg utilizes Sandvik 14C28N. According to the maker’s website, this is a steel intended for situations placing “Very high demands on edge sharpness, edge stability and corrosion resistance such as chef’s knives, pocket knives, hunting and fishing knives.”
Mora has put 4.25-inches of Sandvik’s finest into the Garberg’s clip point blade, 4-inches of which are sharpened. The square-edged spine is fairly broad, with a lateral measurement of 0.12-inches. Add in 4.75 for the handle, and you’re left with an overall length of 9-inches. It’s a pleasing, medium-range design from the Swedes, weighing in at a hair under six ounces.
So, how does it perform in the field? In short, it’s a Mora. Carving, spine scraping, and wood shaving are an absolute breeze. And, thanks to its full tang toughness, I had no trouble batoning through small and medium sticks. This knife was a pleasure to use in the field.
One important note – While most Mora’s come with a scandi edge, they’ve opted to include a tiny micro-bevel on the Garberg. It’s an interesting departure from their usual MO, but not one that causes a whole lot of concern. Anyone looking to remove the bevel can do so with relative ease, given enough time at the sharpening stones. Plus, look at these ultra-fine shavings I was able to get. This, ladies and gents, is a precision instrument. Full scandi or not, the edge gets the okay from me.
Out of the dozen or so fixed blades to come across my review table, the Garberg is one of the two best fire starting implements I’ve tested. The other is the Cold Steel Finn Wolf, which I jokingly referred to as the “Finn Dragon” due to its ability to draw fire from a ferro rod by essentially breathing on it. The Garberg is the only other knife I’ve used capable of generating this sort of spark shower.
There are a few weaknesses here, however. As good as the Garberg is at striking a cooking fire, it’s not much help when it comes time to prepare your dinner. Slicing onions and other produce was a rather unpleasant experience, in fact. But, this is a known quantity with scandi grinds. Even with the microbevel, the Garberg’s edge geometry and thickness are ill suited to the kind of delicate slicing needed to produce evenly-shaved foodstuffs. It’ll do the job, but it’s happier squaring off against branches as opposed to brie.
Speaking of kitchen nightmares, I did encounter one issue with the microbevel. When rinsing the blade in the sink, I tapped its edge ever so slightly against the faucet. This produced a tiny, tiny roll that I’ll try to capture below.
Now, this is purely my fault. The knife still cuts with no noticeable difference, and I’m sure I can buff this right out. But if you’re using the Garberg in the wilderness, be sure your woodworking area is free of rocks.
Handle and Ergonomics
Per the folks at BladeHQ, the Garberg features a “polyamide handle with textured TPE inserts.” That’s a fancy way of saying “This is a $90 knife with a plastic handle.” And I’ll be honest – That choice of materials doesn’t exactly thrill me. I understand the reasoning (mass production, durability, lifespan, etc.), but I actually prefer the slightly softer and grippier handles on the Companions.
The ergonomics, however, are just fine. Its gentle ovoid swell fits my medium/large hand like a glove. And speaking of such, the polyamide handle actually works well with gloves. Cold weather testing for knives is a relatively new thing for me (despite growing up in the frozen tundra of Wisconsin), and the Garberg performed significantly better than the Condor I tested a while back.
Let’s briefly revisit the blade or, more specifically, the tip. It held up fine during a stab/pry test on wood, but the lack of a forward finger guard makes this a somewhat risky process. Grip is great for carving and other lateral cutting, but the impact of direct thrusts could slide your finger down onto the edge. This is especially true if you’re wearing gloves, because of the slight tactile buffer between the hand and handle. I’m not overly concerned about this, however. 99-percent of the time, the Garberg’s grip is solid.
In standard trim, the Garberg arrives with two options – an unobtrusive leather belt loop and a MOLLE-compatible multi-mount setup. I didn’t test the more military minded option because, well, I’m not that hardcore. Truth be told, I don’t think I own a pack with MOLLE webbing, unless you count my Vanquest organizer pouch. But affixing the MORA to my backup kit would look a little strange.
The ride on the Garberg’s plastic sheath and belt loop is light and effortless. So much so that, when I got home from the woods, I left it on my belt for the rest of the day. While I’m not sure about the longevity of the leather loop (the material is a bit thin), it’s going to be great while it lasts.
The hard, plastic profile of the Garberg’s stock stowage fits the knife pretty well, and I enjoy the reverberating clack on the draw and return. It’s a sound I associate with Mora as a brand, so that’s part of the charm for me. Blade retention is only okay, however. Given a medium-strength shake, it will pop out of place. Part of the multi-mount system includes a leather fold-over clasp, but this slide-on accessory occupies the same space as the belt loop. So, you choose one or the other.
Mora does offer a full leather sheath for those willing to pay a slight premium. This option has a more substantial fold-over flap with snap closure and a belt loop. I didn’t get a chance to sample this option, but it certainly looks interesting. If you’re after a more traditional outdoor aesthetic, you may want to give it a go.
Morakniv Garberg Review – Final Thoughts
My three-word summary of the Garberg is as follows: Confidence in hand. From the moment I drew it from its sheath, I knew this was going to be a solid tool. While I’m not the biggest fan of the handle’s material, its shape and performance eventually won me over.
The biggest knock on the Garberg isn’t the microbevel, or the sheath, or its lack of foodprep prowess. It’s the price, plain and simple. Most folks are used to paying $15-$30 for a Mora, and this model costs at least three times that. Personally, I can see where the angst comes from. Steel Will and Buck make blades that are almost as good functionally, while costing substantially less.
But what it boils down to is this – Of all the fixed blades I’ve tested, the Garberg is the one I’d want to take with me into the wilderness. It’s an all-around performer from a storied company, perfect for buyers who are looking for a single, do-it-all bushcraft blade.
Do I think it costs too much? Absolutely. But in the field, far away from your bank and bills, this is an excellent knife.
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