CRKT Soldotna Review

It’s a lightweight hunting knife with a classic feel to it.

The Soldatna design celebrates CRKT’s 30th anniversary. If someone had made me guess what kind of knife they would put out for such an occasion, I wouldn’t have thought of a hunting knife like this.

But that’s part of CRKT’s charm. They find a way to surprise us every year.

There is a distinction that needs to be made here though. The actual “30-year celebration” knife is the Damascus version of the Soldotna, featuring a walnut handle and Vegas Forge Damascus steel. They only made 200 of those, though, and I don’t know how many are still around. We’re here for the common man’s version.

The CRKT Soldotna fixed blade hunting knife sticking out of a log in front of a campfire.
The Soldotna was designed by Russ Kommer and manufactured in America.

So, it’s a hunting knife made in the USA by TOPS Knives, which should set some reasonable expectations for some people out there. It certainly met and surpassed many of mine.

  • It has a tough, high-carbon blade blade;
  • It’s light with a grippy handle;
  • It’s a Russ Kommer design, which is always a good name to see on an outdoor knife;
  • The leather sheath is nice with decent drawing ergos and a good retention system;
  • And the knife just looks good. I like having it around.

Specifications

Overall Length:7.63”
Blade Length:3.48”
Blade Steel:1095
Blade Thickness:3 mm
Blade Shape:Drop point
Blade Grind:Flat
Handle Length:4.15”
Handle Material:Micarta
Weight:3.3 oz
Designer:Russ Kommer
Made in:USA
What I LikedWhat I Didn’t Like
Micarta handle has a strong gripA strong cutter but not a fine cutter
Tough blade with a good lookFit and finish could be a little better
Nice leather sheath that draws easy
Lightweight in hand and on the belt

The Blade

A close-up of the blade of the CRKT Soldotna hunting knife.

Damn it if I can find a better word to describe this blade other than “elegant”. I shouldn’t be using words like that on knives like this, but here we are.

It looks simple, but the shape comes close to leaf-shaped because there’s just the hint of a raised swell along the spine that makes it a drop point.

But this ain’t no laser. The blade is at most three-quarters of an inch tall with a three-millimeter spine. Even with a full flat grind, that kind of geometry is prone to ponderous cuts. And the 1095 steel behaves in a very carbon-steel way, which is that you will notice a drop in performance (if you’re cutting anything finer than cardboard) fairly quickly if you’re putting this to hard use.

Anyone who’s used to TOPS or ESEE knives won’t be surprised by the edge retention, though. I’d say it’s pretty standard: not too hard to sharpen in the field, and easy enough to put on a new edge.

In Use

A two-image collage showing the CRKT Soldotna being used in a chest lever grip to carve a stick.
The Soldotna’s wood carving performance was impressive.

As a hunting knife, what really matters is how it can dress game. But I spend more time cutting cardboard and carving wood, and I can tell you it’s a champ with wood.

I chipped out a few stakes from crusty, hard oak to tie down a tarp (the stake ended up doing better than my knots against the wind), shredded a good ten pounds of boxes, and, more impressively, chopped a small piece of wood over some concrete (I’m kind of a dummy sometimes) and didn’t even chip or roll the blade.

A close-up of the Soldotna  knife blade slicing a curl from a small branch.

I will say it’s not a great chopper. The edge geometry might be right for it, but the weight and length aren’t there, and the handle doesn’t like to stay in the hand that direction. That’s not what the knife was designed for, though. You really only need to look at the handle to see that.

Handle, Fit, and Finish

A close-up shot of the CRKT Soldotna handle on a tree stump.
The handle shape was comfortable for just about any task you would need a knife this size for.

This handle seems to have some universal appeal. I have somewhat fatter hands that can make thinner handles feel uncomfortable sometimes, but the curve and length seem to be good work arounds, because this feels solid in my hand.

Meanwhile, my wife decided to use this for breaking down boxes for a while (her hands are basically opposite in size and shape from mine) and mentioned how well the handle worked with her hands.

The CRKT Soldotna small fixed blade knife in a person's hand.

The way it shrinks down into that deep well make by the finger guard creates a great spot where your grip locks in. When I get my index finger tucked in there, it feels like my hand isn’t going anywhere for anyone until I tell it to.

So all aboard, I guess. The Soldatna handle has apparently cracked a code.

I Like the Look, but It’s Not All Perfect

A fixed blade knife with its sheath on a tree stump.

The fit and finish aren’t perfect. The transitions from scale to tang create a few bumps, but nothing so extreme that I notice when I’m using the knife.

It might hold implications about the longevity of the knife. As I use the Sodatna more in dirty and wet conditions, it might get too much moisture between the scales down the road and get warped or rusted. That would be a worst-case scenario. But I think I’d have to use this thing hard for a few years to see that effect. If such a thing should happen, I’ll update this review.

The Sheath

A close-up shot of the CRKT Soldotna inside its sheath on a person's belt.
The Soldotna rides low and is almost unnoticeable while hiking.

I like this setup. I don’t feel it on my belt too much, and it’s easy to draw the knife.

It’s made of good, thick leather with double stitching. It doesn’t hug the knife at all. It’s held in place entirely by the leather flap wrapping over the finger guard, which means, among other things, that I can just pull the knife out with no resistance once the flap is unbuttoned.

A person deploying a knife from its leather sheath.

That button can be kind of a bear to undo sometimes, but that should get easier as I break in the leather.

Overall I like the experience of carrying the Soldatna.

Comparison and Alternatives

The CRKT Ramadi on a mossy rock offered as a cheaper alternative to the Soldotna.
The CRKT Ramadi is a cheaper alternative to the Soldotna, but it is not made in the USA.

I was geared up to say the Soldatna was a little too high-priced, but when I looked around for alternative recommendations the reality of inflation really hit home. This is how much 1095 fixed knives made in America cost now.

It runs about the same price as the TOPS BOB knife. I’m not exactly offering that as an alternative (although it’s worth a look), but I want to point toward the similarity for the people who are quick to tell me they would never spend so much money on such “budget material”. It’s fine if you don’t want to make the investment. Just know this is pretty much standard now.

Now, my recommendations:

The ESEE Izula II is a smaller knife with a somewhat similar gripping experience in that it has a well for your index finger to seat into.

If the price is an issue, the CRKT Ramadi is a great option with a similar feel and steel,

And just to disprove my point about the price standard in America-made knives, any number of Ka Bar Becker knives could serve well if you’re more interested in camping or bushcraft over hunting, and are mostly about half the price (there are a lot, but I’d personally go with either the BK2 Campanion or the BK 18 Harpoon).

Conclusion: A Good Knife and 30 Years Well Spent

The CRKT Soldotna sticking out of a piece of driftwood in a mountain creek.

Maybe the edge retention isn’t up to modern supersteel standards, and the price borders on extravagance, but the Soldatna is a solid hunting knife with an incredible handle and a nice blade shape that’s a little more refined than it might seem at first glance.

It’s also a great way for CRKT to mark their 30th anniversary.

30 years of CRKT making knives alongside some of the most innovative designers the industry has had the pleasure of witnessing in this millennia (where would we be if Lucas Burnley and Ken Onion hadn’t started designing with them?).

The CRKT Soldotna sitting on a rock next to a creek in the wilderness.

It also feels like celebrating a shift in CRKT’s direction, though. They put out their first USA-made knives in 2023, dropping into Shot Show with a couple of folders made by Hogue, with whispers of a fixed blade coming down the line. I remember thinking at the time “This is cool, I really hope they keep going with this”.

Now, over a year later, they keep hauling great designers out of the weeds to expand their catalog of premium knives made by great manufacturers, and doing the kinds of things that make the knife industry great: collaborating, experimenting, and just generally making cool shit.

So happy anniversary CRKT. Here’s to another three decades of cool shit.


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Avatar of Andrew North

Andrew has been a commercial writer for about a decade. He escaped from a life of writing mundane product descriptions by running away to the woods and teaching himself how to bake and chop stuff up in the kitchen. He has a background in landscaping, Filipino martial arts, and drinking whiskey.

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