By David Link
Havalon has been a leader in hunting knives for years, but their newest knife builds upon the company’s strengths while branching out in a new direction. We review their new every day carry model, the Havalon EXP.
The EXP is Havalon’s first everyday carry (EDC) knife, and it is styled to offer versatility wherever you go. The knife sports tactical styling not common in other Havalon knife lines, but it still functions with the signature Havalon pocket scalpel design that so many hunters have come to depend on. Let’s take a closer look at the Havalon EXP, new for 2017.
Havalon’s folding pocket scalpel knife design has been a game-changer in the hunting knife market since it was unveiled in 2005. It gets even better in the EXP with the combination of a standard folding knife blade and a replaceable folding pocket scalpel. The benefit of a pocket scalpel blade is obvious, especially for hunters. The scalpel blade is extremely sharp, and it allows the user to cut more precisely than most folding knives allow. Since the scalpel blade is thinner and not designed to be sharpened after use, Havalon has designed a removal tool (called Quik-Change) to swap out these sharp blades. The removal tool is a welcome addition to the nylon carrying case the knife comes with, and it makes it easy to swap out blades without cutting yourself. Of course, Havalon includes several replacement blades with their knives as well, and more can be bought from the manufacturer if you run out.
Havalon’s pocket scalpel is singularly unique in the outdoor market, and you can find it in a variety of designs. For my money, the concept really shines as a double blade knife, and that’s what we’re going to look at today.
The Havalon EXP utilizes the double blade configuration I outlined above, but this time the EXP isn’t necessarily focused on hunting. The primary tanto blade is better suited for EDC, and this blade type is versatile enough to handle most tasks including emergency ones like cutting a seat belt. The tanto blade has a black Ti Hard Coating to match the sleek black handle, and this knife certainly doesn’t stick out like the usual blaze orange Havalon knife. Of course when you’re hunting and field-dressing game, you want a blaze orange knife that you won’t set down and accidentally lose. Everyday carry on the other hand requires a more inconspicuous knife, which is why we see the departure from the normal neon color scheme of most Havalon knives. This is not to say you can’t hunt with the EXP, and its non-slip grip and ergonomic grooves make handling the knife easy in a variety of conditions.
- Primary Folding Tanto Blade: 3 1/16″ AUS-8 stainless steel blade with black Ti hard coating and an edge hardening treatment.
- Folding Pocket Scalpel: 2 1/4″ Replaceable 60A scalpel blade.
- Handle: Injection molded, fiberglass reinforced handle with nylon and rubber grip patterns.
- Holster: Havalon zipper holster.
- Extras: Havalon Quick-Change device included with 12 replacement 60A blades.
The best way to get to know the Havalon EXP, especially as an EDC knife, is to carry it frequently. First and foremost, the knife is an acceptable weight for EDC. The whole thing is built well and feels like it will last a long time. The belt clip is heavy duty metal and attached solidly to the frame with three screws, so there are no concerns there. When a blade is extended from either end, a contoured groove keeps your index finger in place on the handle and away from the blade. My first thought when using this knife was it would work great even when wet, and it’s ergonomic design lends itself well to operation even when your hands are wet or sweaty. On top of all of this, the knife’s design is pretty sleek, and the small holes in the tanto blade and handle give it a cool signature look.
Of course, this isn’t the smallest EDC knife on the market by any means, and the double blade style does give it some girth when it’s in your pocket or jacket. This is something to keep in mind for those shopping with EDC forefront in the mind, but really the knife is quite compact for what it offers, so this isn’t an extreme concern in my mind.
In The Field
I’ve tested the Havalon EXP in a variety of situations both around the house or in the truck, and then later on a long camping trip. I’m the kind of guy who has a sharp knife at my side at all times during a camping trip, for many reasons. It’s always good to be the person who has the sharp knife when someone needs it, and I use it for a variety of tasks as I set up and hang around camp. In one circumstance I even used the scalpel blade to open a pack of hotdogs. Ok…I know maybe not the most impressive use, but I’ll tell you it was the easiest cut on pesky packaging that I’ve ever made! This said, more serious tasks were usually what the EXP tackled.
I also like to hike with a knife whenever I go, and when I don’t carry a larger fixed-blade knife, a folding knife like the EXP would be great for the job. I placed it in my front pocket on one such hike, and in the middle of the trek I found myself patting my pocket to see if the knife was still there. It felt so light I didn’t even notice it while I was climbing and sliding over boulders on the hike.
I’m no first responder or anything like that, but I like to be prepared. The idea of having to cut a seat belt is one that sticks with me whenever I shop for a knife, I’m not sure why. Maybe I’ve simply watched too many movies. Whatever it is, I have no doubt the EXP could handle that task as well as other emergency situations. In a worse case scenario, you could even use the 60A blade for backcountry first aid, although lets hope you never have to. The only main emergency tool missing from the EXP is a glass breaking tool, but it does have a metal lanyard loop on one end that may work in a pinch.
As I wrap up this review, the lasting impression I have of this knife is just how great of a value it is. The knife came out of the box extremely sharp (as any outdoor knife should), and the tanto blade held its edge well through a variety of tasks. The scalpel blade is surprisingly useful as I’ve never carried one before, and it really opens up a variety of precision cutting options. Better yet, the scalpel blade prolongs the life of the tanto blade since I usually defer to the scalpel when I need a sharp, clean cut. I’m a little weary to place an extreme amount of pressure on the scalpel blade, but really that’s why the tanto blade is there, and any user will have to pick and choose which blade to use carefully. There is also a switch on the backside of the knife meant to hold the scalpel blade firm during heavier cutting tasks.
I will say this knife probably isn’t for everyone given the extreme sharpness of the 60A blades. For example, this is probably not your teen’s first pocket knife, and I’m sure a few clumsy users have given themselves a good nick or too. But hey, it’s a sharp cutting tool, you get what you pay for. If anything, the extreme sharpness is a huge selling point for Havalon, and it has been since their first models hit the market. All in all, this is an excellent knife at a surprisingly affordable price ($69.99 MSRP), and the price is even more appealing when you factor in the 12 replacement blades it comes with. This is a must have for anyone in need of a versatile EDC knife or a hunting knife that can do double duty.