How to Choose the Best Camping Knife for You
Before we get down to our review, let’s take a look at some of the things you should take into consideration when buying your camp knife.
Dimensions and Weight
How much weight do you want to carry? How much bulk against your hip?
There are usually benefits and drawbacks to both bigger knives and smaller knives.
For general camping tasks, we suggest aiming for a happy medium between the two.
This means a 4 to 6- inch blade and 9 to 11-inch total length.
If your knife is too big, you’ll find more delicate tasks tricky.
If it’s too small, chopping, hammering and bushwhacking become virtually impossible.
Hardness refers to the steel’s ability to resist bending. This is measured on the Rockwell scale (HRC).
Most folding knife blades have a rating between 54-64 HRC. The higher the HRC, the harder the steel.
Hard steel is desirable because your knife will maintain a sharper edge for longer than softer steels and provide quicker, cleaner cuts.
There’s nothing worse than a survival knife rusting or corroding following a few outings in the field.
Different types of steel offer varying levels of corrosion resistance. In a nutshell, these are as follow:
Carbon Steel: These blades feature outstanding hardness and edge retention, but are prone to rust and corrosion.
Stainless Steel: These blades offer the best resistance to both rust and corrosion. The most common types of stainless steel used in camping knives are as follow:
- 420HC: A cheaper variety of steel with good corrosion resistance and decent edge retention. Softer and easier to sharpen, but also easier to ding or dent.
- 154CM: Uses a higher degree of carbon to maintain hardness and a sharp edge.
- S30V: Contains rust and corrosion-resistant vanadium. A high-quality stainless steel usually featured in more expensive camping knives and tactical knives.
Fixed or Folding?
Fixed blades tend to be more durable and longer.
Because they are only covered by a plastic leather or nylon sheath, however, they can also be dangerous in the event of a fall.
Foldable knives are more compact, lightweight and far safer than fixed blades – as long as the blade can be locked open securely.
Handle and Grip
A poor grip can cause blisters and slippage, which in turn can lead to cuts and/or missing fingers!
Be sure your handle boasts an ergonomic design and is either contoured or made of materials that reduce slippage.
A ‘bonus’ feature is a solid butt or pommel, which can come in very handy for bashing in tent poles or other hammering tasks.
Several features can add to a knife’s safety, convenience and overall performance. These include:
A locking blade offers the user peace of mind when working with the knife by locking the blade open.
This prevents the potentially nasty consequences of accidental closure.
Knives with one-handed opening feature a button, stud or opening on the handle that allows you to release the blade quickly and with one hand.
This mechanism engages when you start to open a knife and springs the blade out fully.
This feature, like one-handed opening, is particularly useful if you happen to be engaged in other tasks (fishing, cooking, pitching a tent etc.) and suddenly require your knife.
A full tang knife is one in which the blade material extends and is housed within the handle, reducing the risk of breakage.
This is an important factor in fixed blades, where the lack of a full tang could compromise your knife’s sturdiness and lead to serious injury.
The most common type of blade shapes include the following:
These blades are strong, versatile and ideal for general cutting, chopping and heavier knife work.
The spine of the blade is curved, reducing the risk of poking, puncturing or piercing inadvertently.
Boast a thinner and sharper point and more suitable for detailed, delicate knife work. Not as strong as drop-point blades.
Sheepsfoot and Santuko
Feature a rounded spine and a straight cutting blade. Great for food prep and less likely to pierce or puncture anything accidentally.
Heavy-duty and feature a strong tip. Ideal for piercing or splitting but not the best for food prep.
For more on camping knife blade types, check out this article from Rei.com.
Because you don’t want to turn up at the campsite with something that looks like your grandma’s butter knife…!
That said, looks aren’t everything.
Be sure to check the specs of any knife before making a decision based on appearance alone.
Why You Should Carry a Camping Knife
A good camping knife carries many benefits and can be used in many different ways.
Below, we’ve listed some of the most important:
Food prep: slice and dice your grub before cooking, just like at home.
Cutting firewood: by placing your knife against a piece of deadwood and striking it with another piece of wood it can act as a ‘splitter’ to create adequately sized chunks for the fire.
Trimming firewood: if your kindling is too big for your fire-pit or barbecue, you can trim it down to size.
Skinning game: (if you’ve got the know-how, that is!)
Making roasting sticks: whittle off the bark and make a pointed prong for cooking sausages, burgers, marshmallows etc…
Trail clearing: use as a mini-machete in dense undergrowth.
Campsite repairs: cut cord, rope, laces, torn tent material etc…
Improvised hammer: for hammering in tent pegs, stakes or tarp poles.
Protection: you might not want to take on a grizzly, but for some campers a knife can at least offer a degree of peace of mind.
Conclusion: What is the Best Knife for Camping and Hiking
As with many camping and outdoor accessories, the camping knife you choose will ultimately depend on your needs and personal preferences.
Nevertheless, in terms of overall quality, value for money and performance, our review has found one standout winner.
Take a bow, the Ka-Bar Becker BK2 Campanion!
Compared to its closest runner-up, the Benchmade 162 Bushcrafter, the Ka-Bar doesn’t quite match up quality-wise, but also comes in at less than half the price and thus offers far better value for money.
Compared to the best budget options, the Gerber Blades Big Rock and Opinel No.8 Pocket Knife, the Ka-Bar is a hands-down winner in terms of quality, blade hardness, appearance and performance.
This is a no half-measures, no-nonsense kind of knife that offers high-quality steel and superb craftsmanship at an affordable price.
As a box-ticker, it equals or surpasses all of its competitors in everything except compactness and portability.
Despite its size, however, the Ka-Bar’s clip-point blade and saber grind allow it to perform as well on delicate tasks as far smaller knives.
It is big, sure, but we believe that if you’re going to do something, you might as well do it well.
And the Ka-Bar does things well. Very well!