In 1993 when I checked into 2nd Bn 8th Marines I was issued all the basic field gear I would need for use in an infantry MOS. Shortly after checking in my unit shipped out to the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center for a month of training in the Sierra Nevada mountains. I decided to take a trip to the PX to find a folding knife to carry. Back in 1993, we didn’t have access to the internet to shop or look up reviews. There also was not near the number of knife manufacturers as we have now. Three brands of knives were prevalent then; Emerson Knives, Spyderco, and Gerber. Emerson Knives were out of my price range, I didn’t have time to mail order a Spyderco, so I ended up finding a Gerber Gator folding knife at the PX.

That Gerber Gator knife stayed with me throughout my entire enlistment in the Marine Corps. I carried that knife on all field exercises and deployments over the course of 4 years active duty. That knife never failed me no matter how cold, wet or muddy the conditions were. Because of that first-hand knowledge of the field-tested durability, I have owned one much of the time since.

Make makes the Gerber Gator so great?

Most notably is the patent Gator Grip that Gerber developed. When Gerber debuted their line of Gator folding knives in 1991, they were voted “Most Innovative Knife of the Year” at the Blade Show. The handle is made of glass-filled nylon and it’s covered with a rubberized alligator skin texture for a tacky, comfortable grip.

I do own the full-size Gerber Gator, but what I find myself using more often than not is the Gerber Gator Mate (the smaller version of the original). With the Gerber Gator Mate, I can still accomplish 99% of field tasks I need to. Although it is a smaller profile I can still get a full 4 finger grip on the handle.

Due to the subtle finger choil and contoured handle, you don’t have to worry about your hand slipping, even if you have to use it for defense. I wouldn’t classify this as a defensive or tactical blade, but it can certainly be pressed into that role if necessary. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again; A knife with an overall length of 7″ and a blade length of 3″ is the ideal size in my honest opinion, which is why I prefer the Gerber Gator Mate for most of my outdoor tasks when out hiking.

Gerber Gator Mate Folding Blade
3″ stainless steel blade

Gerber Gator Mate Folding Blade

Now some will argue that the steel Gerber uses is sub-par. I suggest not getting all wrapped around what the type of steel is and worry more about actually maintaining your blade. Hone your blade often and sharpen when necessary. If you do that, your knife will be ready when you need it to be.

Specifications (courtesy of

Gerber Gator Mate Folding Blade

Available on Amazon for around $26