My search for the perfect small fixed blade continues with the ESEE Camp-Lore JG3, a compact, high-carbon design sporting bushcraft credentials and an American pedigree.
Designed by James Gibson, a Tennessee native “born and raised around the Great Smoky Mountain area,” the JG3 is intended as a friendly, field-ready tool. Here’s how it fared over several weeks of testing.
And while this blade has been on the market for a few years, we had to weigh in. It’s widely available and ought to be in the running for anyone looking for a fixed-blade bushcraft option.
Do you know what ESEE stands for? Per the company’s website, it originated with the Peruvian Air Force’s School of Jungle Survival (Escuela De Supervivencia En La Selva). In my case, it stands for “enablers sending extreme euphoria.” The brand was kind enough to supply this blade for review, and I’ve had a blast testing it out.
Let’s hit the specs. The JG3 measures 7.63 inches from the tip of its drop point to the tail of its micarta-clad tang. Its 1095 carbon steel blade hits the 3.5-inch sweet spot, with a maximum thickness of just 0.125 inches and an unsheathed weight of 4.5 ounces.
While ESEE’s website lists the JG3 as an uncoated knife, the tester the brand sent has an attractive black stonewash. This model is available through Amazon, BladeHQ, and other online retailers.
On the Belt, in the Hand
Whichever trim you opt for, the JG3 ships with a leather sheath, handmade in the USA. Its simple loop design allows the knife to hang comfortably below the belt. Retention is a little loose, but the ride is deep enough to soothe my concern. It’s not a design I’d choose for rigorous climbing or belly-crawls. But for hiking and working around camp, you should be just fine.
But enough beating around the bush — let’s get to the good stuff. As you can see from the photos, the JG3 is a beauty from any angle. From the subtle swoop of its blade to the gentle swell of its pommel, this knife is a pleasure to behold. Designer James Gibson has done an outstanding job here, hitting all the right notes with its outdoor aesthetic.
The mastery doesn’t end there. By some form of bushcraft magic, the JG3 manages to be as easy in the hand as it is on the eyes. Though the handle is slightly thinner than the PR4 I tested a while back (0.54 inches versus 0.60), the flat micarta feels more substantial than the scalloped pattern on its larger cousin.
The grip is excellent, thanks in part to the large, natural landing point for the index finger. Despite lacking a blade guard (we’ll come back to that later), this is one of the comfiest ESEE knives I’ve handled.
So, it looks great and feels amazing. But how does it fare in the field?
ESEE JG3: What It Can Do
Oh, be still my heart. I know I’m gushing here, but as you can see from the photos, this is a knife that’s eminently capable. From batoning to carving and kindling prep, the JG3 really lights my fire — literally. Its 90-degree spine (left uncoated by ESEE) pairs perfectly with a ferro rod. And, while I prefer an axe or long blade for heavy splitting, the JG3 has no problem tackling small logs.
Its all-around credentials are further bolstered by its performance around the cook fire. The thin stock is capable of slicing through apples, onions, and other spherical foodstuffs with ease. Remember, though, that this is a high-carbon blade. Any traces of moisture will need to be cleaned off unless you like the taste of rust in your supper. Certain foods (such as raw garlic) will also bring on a dark patina, so plan your prep accordingly.
What It Can’t Do
What can the JG3 not do? Not much, folks. I mean, you won’t be felling trees or hacking through the underbrush. But for day-to-day camp tasks, this is an excellent little blade.
Still, there are a few shortcomings. The lack of a forward guard, while excellent for bushcraft applications, could allow your fingers to slide up onto the blade during any sort of aggressive thrust or stabbing motion. The spine is also free of jimping, which leaves your thumb to roam against its somewhat sharpened edge. This isn’t an issue for me, but it’s something to consider if you don’t need to use a ferro rod.
As always, ESEE’s warranty merits a few words. If you run across something the JG3 can’t do (and break your blade in the process), the company will repair or replace it, no questions asked. Even if you’re someone like Advanced Knife Bro, who hammered this same tester through some pretty gnarly wood.
ESEE Camp-Lore JG3: Rundown
There’s one more point that needs to be made here. Say you’re an outdoor enthusiast who’s been thinking of picking up a fixed blade. But you don’t want to be “that person,” the one who carries a 10-inch machete to barbeques and friendly camping trips. The ESEE JG3 is for you. It’s small enough to carry in mixed company without sacrificing competence and durability.
Because let’s face it: Even a Buck 119 will make some folks uncomfortable at a community picnic. But if you’re manning the grill with the JG3, you won’t draw so much as a second look.
In the end, this knife ticks just about every box for me. It’s an excellent, purpose-built bushcraft tool with a friendly blade size, equally proficient at the campsite and in the kitchen. Well done, ESEE and Mr. Gibson. You’ve got a winner here.
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