Skip to main content

Field-Testing the Esee Izula Neck Knife for Survival and Backpacking

Dan Human shares what he has learned from several thousand miles of backpacking, hiking and paddling.

The Esee Izula is a compact neck knife perfect for backpacking and survival.

The Esee Izula is a compact neck knife perfect for backpacking and survival.

Reviewing the Izula Neck Knife

The compact and lightweight Esee Izula neck knife is a tough outdoor tool for survival, backpacking, and hiking. Even though many of my fellow outdoor enthusiasts glare at the blade hanging down around my neck with apprehension, for me there is nothing handier than having something where you can reach it. Those of you familiar with the time I had to cut a dangling sled loose while snowshoeing, realize why I love neck knives.

The Izula is a short-bladed two-ounce knife that features an injection molded sheath, which is perfect for carrying around your neck. Using the optional MOLLE clip, this knife can be attached to tactical gear or even clipped on a belt for low-profile carry.

So what does "Izula" mean anyway?

According to the guys at Esee, Izula comes from Isula a local Peruvian word for what most of us call Bullet Ants. These tenacious insects come equipped with a poisonous bite, so watch out!

I remember rutting through the Panamanian jungle myself and becoming rather acquainted with these crafty little critters. It hurt like hell when they stung you and tasted terrible when you tried to eat them. Cutter Ants on the other hand—are delicious.

So let's see if this tough blade warrants the moniker of the most ferocious ant in the jungle.

Here, I used the Izula to make a figure-4 deadfall trap trigger.

Here, I used the Izula to make a figure-4 deadfall trap trigger.

Neck Knife Safety

With all knives there are safety considerations, but neck knives have additional concerns.

  1. Don't strangle yourself. Tie your knife so it easily slips over your head. Even better, think of using a ball chain or a partial chain so the neck cord will break in case you get tangled.
  2. Don't stab yourself. Though people that stab themselves shouldn't be allowed to use knives, it may be a little easier with a neck knife. Remember, guide the blade back into its sheath.
  3. Tuck the knife under your shirt while conducting patient assessment or anytime you are leaning over someone. As a SAR team member, I found out that people don't like to have your knife handle banging them in their face while you are trying to put them in a cervical collar.
The ESEE Izula in the snow with green paracord wrap.

The ESEE Izula in the snow with green paracord wrap.

Knife Specifications and Features

  • Manufacturer: Esee (Randall's Adventure and Training)
  • Model: Izula
  • Overall Length: 6 1/4"
  • Blade Length: 2 3/4"
  • Weight: 2 oz - knife only
  • Sheath: Injection Molded - like Kydex
  • Steel: 1095 -57 Rc.
  • Handle: Skeletonized, optional micarta handles are available.
  • Lifetime Warranty
  • Made in USA
I attached a Jetscream whistle to the sheath so I could still blow it.  Remember, a whistle blast carries much farther that your voice will;  blow three times if you need help.

I attached a Jetscream whistle to the sheath so I could still blow it. Remember, a whistle blast carries much farther that your voice will; blow three times if you need help.

Wrapping the Handle with Paracord

The skeletonized handles are superbly functional; however, they can be a bit uncomfortable after carving for a while. Though you have the option of adding micarta handles, those slabs aren't as handy as a cord-wrapped grip in a survival situation.

I wrapped the handles easily with four feet of parachute 550 cord in about five minutes using a simple weave. The trick to wrapping any knife with parachute cord, is to be able to untie it quickly so you can use it for survival purposes.

But you'd never actually unwrap it right?

That is what I thought until I needed cord to set up a tarp during an emergency bivy in the Adirondacks. I was glad I used real paracord with multiple strands inside. By stripping out the "guts" of the nylon, I was able to increase the length of my rope by five times.

Some Izula users hide fishing line, ferrocerium (sparking rods), and other wilderness survival supplies inside the handle as they wrap the cord.

How to Wrap an Izula Handle with Paracord

Attach your whistle to the knife sheath easily with a little bit of duct tape.

Attach your whistle to the knife sheath easily with a little bit of duct tape.

A Great Backpacking Knife

You can't beat a neck knife for backpacking. Carrying a knife in your pocket on a twenty-mile day is a recipe for chaffing. Of course, while scrambling over rocks and crossing rivers, you are apt to lose that trusty pocket knife. While winter backpacking, I've found that most Gore-tex pants don't have any pockets at all.

Over the years, I've used a variety of neck knives from Cold Steel and Boker, but the Izula is the one I usually carry.

Though I've written extensively on backpacking knives in my other Hubs, I'll show you the tasks I've accomplished with the Izula.

  • Cutting rope and cord
  • Slicing vegetables and sausage
  • Opening my bear canister
  • Carving tent stakes (I don't carry any to save weight)
  • Opening packages
  • First aid - cutting gauze, moleskin, etc.

A knife is after all a part of the Outbound Dan Critical Four: knife, compass, fire starting device, and whistle. These are the four things that every outdoorsman needs to carry on themselves whenever they venture into the wild.

Izula with survival shelter in background.

Izula with survival shelter in background.

Size comparison of the Izula and the Junglas.

Size comparison of the Izula and the Junglas.

Here my friend Steve batons with the Izula.

Here my friend Steve batons with the Izula.

Batoning with the Izula

The problem with most small knives, is that you can't baton with them. For those of you unfamiliar with batoning, it is the process of splitting or notching by driving a knife into a chunk of wood using a handle or baton.

This is an essential test for a survival knife, as it can be used for cutting notches for traps and splitting logs for making fire boards. I've snapped and chipped blades of lesser knives while batonning before. Though technique (and avoiding knots) is important - high-quality steel is too.

Much to the amazement of my friends, I've easily driven this knife through small logs for making firewood or improvising survival tools.

Comparison of three knives, with the Izula, ESEE 3 and Zancudo folder.  Notice the optional green scales on my Izzy.

Comparison of three knives, with the Izula, ESEE 3 and Zancudo folder. Notice the optional green scales on my Izzy.

After splitting this piece of wood, I notched this fire board for use with a bow drill for fire starting.

After splitting this piece of wood, I notched this fire board for use with a bow drill for fire starting.

A Fantastic Survival Knife

Nobody plans on being in a survival situation, but you should always prepare by practicing your skills and carrying the right equipment.

Though many outdoor experts prefer a large-bladed knife for survival, it is impractical if that isn't what you carry in the woods. The thick blade on my Cold Steel SRK is perfect for chopping branches and making shelters, but at nearly half-a-pound I rarely carry it on a wilderness trek.

What I do like to carry is a small neck knife like the Izula.

So what survival tasks have I performed with this knife?

  • Notching for a trip-up snare.
  • Notching for a figure-4 dead fall.
  • Making and preparing a fireboard for a bow drill.
  • Carving points and stakes.
  • Fire starting by sparking a ferocerium rod. I usually carry a small beater-knife or partial hacksaw blade for this purpose, but I've practiced with the Izula.
  • Splitting wood for building fire.

As a side note, none of these tasks were performed while in the midst of a true survival situation. I do however practice my woodsman skills regularly.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Dan Human

Comments

Dan Human (author) from Niagara Falls, NY on April 08, 2014:

I did a strider- type of wrap on a little Kabar piggyback and it came out pretty well. Someday I may try it with one of my Izzys. I have two, but I want to pick a third one up in venom green. Thanks for the information Chris!

Chris on April 04, 2014:

Nice review. I'm a little more fond of the Izula 2 though. ;) You may want to look at how strider wraps their knives. That weave takes a little longer to do but the cord comes off a LOT easier than the weave you're using and IMO taking the cord off is where you want to save time.

Dan Human (author) from Niagara Falls, NY on September 24, 2012:

Well the Izula is a fantastic knife and it may be a good knife for someone; however, it really matters on what kind of knife wielding activity you intend on doing.

If the person is only carrying the knife in the outdoors or perhaps looking for something as a concealed defense carry, I think the Izula would be a fine choice.

For everyday carry though, I usually recommend something multipurpose like a multi-tool or a single bladed folder.

Of course, one of my favorite "first knives" is the good old fashion Victorinox (or Wenger) Swiss Army knife.

Thanks for reading and sharing Wesley!

Wesley Meacham from Wuhan, China on September 23, 2012:

This is a very informative hub. Would you recommend the izula as someone's first knife?

Voting up and sharing.

Dan Human (author) from Niagara Falls, NY on August 27, 2012:

The Persian is pretty sweet, but you are right - it is just a tad too large for EDC.

The wrap was pretty easy to do - the Izula's handle was made for wrapping, so it wraps pretty well.

Christopher Price from Vermont, USA on August 27, 2012:

My favorite Emerson is my Persian...a bit large for EDC but...