GRAY’S BEST 2020

ACCESSORIES

BY MIKE FLOYD

DIAMONDBLADE SURGE

When my old friend David Summers pulled me aside at Safari Club International to show off a knife he’d grown to love, I already knew him to be a guy who wasn’t easily impressed. A professional bear guide and proprietor of Alaska Knife Works in Juneau, Alaska, David is something of a Renaissance man. And on this topic, in particular, he knows a few things. But when he told me he’d skinned eight black bears with a DiamondBlade Surge ($299–$529) and never once resharpened it, I was a bit skeptical. Nine deer, five wild hogs, and two turkeys later—all without being touched up with a stone or honer—the Surge has erased any doubts I once had about its ability to hold a razor-sharp edge. The Surge has a four-inch fixed blade with six options of pleasantly oversized handles, but the one we suggest is the presentation-grade desert ironwood (PRDI on the website), which has proved to be indestructible and remains ever handsome. There is some real science behind the unique Friction Forging technology used by DiamondBlade, but I lay no claim to be an expert on the techniques and metallurgy behind it. For that, you’ll need to visit the company’s website. But as a hunter who skins a lot of game, I can tell you this—the Surge in my knife roll is as sharp and beautiful today as when I first opened the box. www.diamondbladeknives.com


NEMO—FIRST LITE KODIAK BACKPACKING TENT

New England Mountain Equipment—NEMO, for short—has been making award-winning adventure gear since it first set up shop in a restored New Hampshire textile mill some 17 years ago. Meanwhile, Idaho-based First Lite has built an excellent reputation of its own, using the virtues of merino wool as the foundation to erect an apparel company that has become popular among western big game hunters. Owners of both companies were long-standing members of a mutual admiration society, so when NEMO decided to get serious about creating a hunting line, the two collaborated with the common goal of providing a premium product for those who strive to thrive off the grid. Their pairing yielded the Field Collection and, with it, the Kodiak ($520)—an exceptional tent designed to tame the ever-changing weather and terrain that come with pursuing game in the backcountry. A true three-plus-season shelter, with mountaineering stability at a backpacking weight, the Kodiak has all the technical features you’ll need to excel under adverse conditions. Setup can be completed in less than five minutes, and its double-walled construction keeps moisture away while making sure you’re protected from strong winds and blowing snow when wintry weather rolls in. There is excellent gear storage thanks to a large vestibule, and its tub-floor-construction design is guaranteed to keep water out. As to finding an alluring spot, yet to be explored, that part is entirely up to you. www.firstlite.com www.nemoequipment.com


YETI LOADOUT GOBOX

As you’ve likely noticed by now, Yeti is well down the path of becoming significantly more than just a world-class cooler manufacturer. Chairs, blankets, and backpacks are merely a fraction of the topnotch gear this Austin-based innovator and industry leader keeps adding to its already impressive product line. The new LoadOut GoBox ($250) may top them all. While camping, it protected our fire starter, flashlights, and cooking supplies. When working on photo journals, it kept our camera equipment and battery chargers free of moisture. And whether we’re offshore fishing, sitting in a duck blind, or heading to the range, the GoBox has proved an ideal companion to protect our most sensitive gear from the forces of nature. Virtually indestructible, but still lightweight and portable, it is the perfect carry case for imperative but vulnerable items such as firearms, knives, medical equipment, electronics, ammo, and, yes, even toilet paper. Impervious to negative temperatures, searing sunlight, and the wettest conditions, the GoBox comes with a standard set of accessories that includes a divider, caddy, and pack attic to create a waterproof fortress that keeps your necessities safe, organized, and easily accessible. We test a lot of equipment here at Gray’s, but the GoBox, more than any other, raised the question of why nobody made a product like this before now. The concept is obvious, but it took Yeti to perfect it. And if you’re a hunter, fisherman, camper, or photographer, one GoBox probably isn’t going to be enough. www.yeti.com


GERSTNER 1900 SHOOTERS COMPANION

Back in 1906, Harry Gerstner began making fine machinist chests with a primary design principle: “There’s a place for everything and everything has its place.” Tool chests are still the most popular item in the Gerstner line, but demand for heirloom-quality storage and display cases for hobbyists, sportsmen, and jewelers continues to grow and, with it, Gerstner’s dedication to producing them in the same Dayton, Ohio, facility it has occupied along the banks of the Miami River since 1913. Its new 1900 Shooters Companion ($595) gun-cleaning kit—not to be confused with the since-refurbished 12G Shooter’s Chest, a 2013 Gray’s Best winner now called the 1901G—is a prime example of figuring out what customers need and meeting the demand with a truly premium product. Built for ease of use with an emphasis on portability—it weighs 33 percent less than the 1901—the 1900’s fully integrated quick-set skeletonized gun forks can be ready for action in less than 10 seconds while movable storage compartment dividers keep your accessories in place when you are on the go. And, like the 1901G, there’s a removable utility tray for your essential shooting and gun-cleaning items. Available in walnut, cherry, oak, or hickory, the 1900 comes with a comfortable shoulder strap along with a premium leather carry handle that accentuates the box’s nickel-plated hinges, latches, and corners. If you’re an admirer of premium craftsmanship, the 1900 is the perfect addition to your gun room, where it will remain for generations to come. www.gerstnerusa.com