What makes a good backcountry hunting knife? It needs to be tough and light, sharp and ergonomic. With so many knife options out there, it can be tough to find one that checks all the boxes and checks them well.
I have used Iron Will Broadheads since 2017. So, when Iron Will Outfitters launched the K1 and K2 knives, I knew the quality and manufacturing would be unrivaled. The sharpness and edge retention are perfect for a backcountry knife using the same A2 tool steel.
For the past few years, I have struggled to find a durable, ultralight knife that maintains an exceptional edge. The replaceable blades are ultralight but fragile. They are dangerously sharp and require extra patience and caution when using them. My custom-forged Damascus skinner is heavy despite being artfully crafted. It’s excellent for the whitetail woods in upstate New York, but not ideal for a week in the wilderness.
After a season of chasing elk and deer, this knife earned a permanent place in my “kill kit.” It has dressed, skinned, and broken down several animals this past fall. The best part — other than a couple of quick blade “touchups” along the way, this knife is as sharp as the day I received it!
In short: The Iron Will Outfitters K2 Ultralight Skinning Knife ($200) is a bombproof and lightweight knife that isn’t just for the backcountry ounce counter. The K2 is ready to take on whatever adventure you throw at it.
Iron Will Outfitters K2 Ultralight Skinning Knife Review
- Overall length 7.2"
- Blade length 3.0"
- Blade material A2 tool steel
- Handle material G10 or paracord
- Weight 1.86 oz.
- Sheath material Kydex
- MSRP $200
- Country of origin USA
- Edge retention
- Bombproof construction
- Not designed for general bushcraft chores
- A2 tool steel takes time to sharpen
Iron Will Outfitters K2 Skinning Knife: First Impressions
Since 2017, there hasn’t been a season where I haven’t had an Iron Will Outfitters broadhead in my quiver. Like the broadheads, the K2 Skinning Knife comes packaged in a rectangular wood box. It’s an excellent touch marketing-wise, but it also reflects the quality of the product.
The K2 is ultralight. At under 2 ounces, you won’t notice it in your pack or “kill kit” until it’s time to use. In hand, the knife is balanced and dexterous. The subtle textured G10 grip is an excellent option for improved handling (especially when wet).
Out of the box, the blade is exceptionally sharp. This edge retention is attributable to the A2 tool steel Rockwell hardness (HRC) rating of 60. For the hunter, this translates into a knife with a resilient edge that breaks down the animal more efficiently rather than wasting time switching blades or resharpening as you go.
The K2 design offers some interesting design features. Iron Will offers its knife blades in natural steel or black ceramic coated. The black ceramic coating provides increased resistance to corrosion (and it looks cool, too).
The blade structure is deliberate. The “sweeping edge” blade offers an extended cutting surface, increasing edge durability. One of my favorite features, the “½ saber grind” on the knife blade, allows the K2 to make the most precise cuts effortlessly due to reducing the overall edge thickness.
An overlooked feature is the jimping on the spine of the blade. These machined notches provide grip and stability when processing your harvest.
Orange is the new black, and I would like to say it was my idea (OK, so technically it wasn’t) that Iron Will offer a black and orange G10 handle. We all know how easily a knife can disappear at night, in the leaves, or even just lying on the side of an animal. Iron Will offers a few different G10 and paracord options for the K2.
The K2 comes with a Kydex sheath in either orange or black. It’s lightweight, rugged, and weather resistant. The sheath can be paired with the pack attachment allowing you to attach it to your pack, bino harness, or waistbelt.
Iron Will offers custom engraving, making this knife an ultimate gift for any outdoor enthusiast.
For the knife aficionados out there, I am remiss if I don’t cover a couple of notes. A2 tool steel isn’t adamantium. There are other steels out there that do hold a sharper edge and are easier to sharpen. But that’s generally because those steels are “softer.”
Because A2 tool steel doesn’t have a high percentage of chromium, it’s susceptible to the elements (it’s not stainless), so be sure to maintain your knife with mineral oil or other wax-based repellants.
The K2 isn’t a bushcraft knife. It can handle some light utility in the wilderness, but you have other options if you’re looking for a blade to address more practical chores.
K1 Ultralight Hunting Knife
Iron Will also offers the K1 Ultralight Hunting Knife. The K1 provides the same customization features as the K2 but with a different blade profile. The knife blade is slightly shorter and more traditional in design.
Iron Will Outfitters is a Colorado-based company that designs, machines, and assembles its products in the USA. As a consumer, when you can support American companies that manufacture quality products, it’s a win for everyone.
For the price point and performance, this knife should cost more. It’s lightweight, durable, and holds a mean edge. Like the broadheads, the K2 uses the same high-quality materials and machining.
Whether you’re in the high country this season, chasing bugles, or just looking to fill the freezer, the K2 Ultralight Skinner is ready for your next adventure. I look forward to putting mine back to work this fall.