Out in the backcountry a good, reliable knife can be the difference between a good trip and a bad one.

Anyone who has seen 127 Hours or ever tried chopping firewood with a blunt, dollar-store blade will know exactly what I mean!

The world of camping knives, however, is one far more complex and intricate than many novices expect.

Before buying, there are several factors, features and specs to be taken into consideration in order to get the best camping knife our budget will allow us to get our hands on.

To help you navigate these various ins and outs and finer details, we’ve compiled an ultimate guide to the ten best camping knives you can buy right now.

Top 10 Camping Knives Compared

How to Choose a Camping Knife

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 camping 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 (HRC)

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.

Corrosion Resistance

There’s nothing worse than a 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.

Features

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.

One-Handed Opening

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.

Assisted Opening

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.

Full Tang

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.

Blade Shape

The most common type of blade shapes include the following:

Drop-point

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.

Clip-point 

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.  

Tanto Blade 

Heavy-duty and feature a strong tip. Ideal for piercing or splitting but not the best for food prep.

camping knife blade shapes

For more on camping knife blade types, check out this article from Rei.com.

Appearance

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.

Ranger Mike created a very thorough, detailed video called 17 Survival Knives and Knife Skills which offers a few great insights into the potential uses of a camping knife.

Now that we know what we’re looking for, let’s get down to business with our review of the best knives for camping.

Review of the Ten Best Camping Knives You Can Buy Right Now

Morakniv Companion Heavy Duty Knife with Sandvik Carbon Steel Blade, 0.125/4.1-Inch, Military Green

$19.54

This tough, carbon-bladed knife has a lot going for it.

It’s sturdy, 1/8-inch thick, has a very grippy handle and weighs in at only 4.8 ounces.

It’s not as classy-looking as some other items on our list but boasts a modern, no-nonsense kind of look that will appeal to many other buyers.

What will also appeal is the price. Given that this is the cheapest item on review and still boasts a quality build, it’s hard to go wrong…

Pros

  • Very sharp
  • Nice price - very kind on the wallet!
  • Very grippy and solid handle
  • Weighs only 4.8 oz
  • Plastic sheath with belt clip included

Cons

  • Not the most durable - the blade tends to round off quite easily and requires frequent sharpening
  • Blade a fraction on the short side (4.1 inches)

$19.54

Gerber Big Rock Camp Knife, Serrated Edge [22-41588]

$31.24

The Big Rock is a well-made, budget-priced knife that can compete with many of its costlier competitors in the quality stakes.

It features a full tang, serrated steel blade, a very grippy ‘Softgrip’ rubber handle and offers great versatility owing to its 4.5” blade and 9.5” total length.

The downsides to this knife are a poorly made sheath and softer steel blade.

Neither of these are deal-breakers, however, but simply a reflection of the quality differentiation to be expected when buying a knife in this price range.

Pros

  • Full tang 440A steel blade
  • Serrated blade great for sawing wood
  • Softgrip rubber handle
  • Good value for money - high quality at a low price
  • Designed by renowned knifemaker Bill Harsey
  • Versatile, 4.5-inch blade

Cons

  • Looks kinda like a kitchen knife!
  • The plastic sheath is laughably inadequate
  • Steel a little on the soft side and requires frequent sharpening

$31.24

Editor's Choice

KA1214-BRK USA Fighting Knife

$63.52

Another all-time classic that is incredibly well made, rugged, durable and is sure to earn you some serious campsite kudos.

The 1095 Cro-Van high carbon, corrosion-resistant steel is just about indestructible and adds sheen to the Becker’s classy, no-nonsense look.

Although originally sold as a combat knife, the Becker is just as at home in the backcountry. 

It’s very large, granted, but the clip-point, saber grind design makes it a decent performer on more nimble, delicate tasks.

Pros

  • Very high-quality construction
  • Comes with a quality, heavy duty leather sheath
  • Blade length - at 7 inches, this could easily double up as a machete for bushwhacking
  • Quality, grippy leather handle
  • 1095 Cro-Van high carbon steel blade

Cons

  • Quite pricey
  • Weight (11.2 oz) and length (11.8”) won’t appeal to everyone
  • If you happen to find any others, please let us know…we’re still looking!

$63.52

Best Value

Opinel No 08 Stainless Steel Folding Everyday Carry Locking Pocket Knife with Beech Wood Handle

from $7.95

An all-time favorite with hikers, campers and outdoors people worldwide.

This incredibly simple, lightweight knife features a 3.25-inch, carbon steel blade that is ideal for whittling, food prep and light knife work about camp.

The blade is very thin and not as tough as other items in our review but all in all the Opinel No.8 offers great value for money and a classic, simple design.

Pros

  • Virobloc lock keeps the blade safely closed/open
  • Very light (1.1oz)!
  • Good for food prep
  • Great value for money
  • Comfortable beechwood handle

Cons

  • Blade prone to rust if not oiled regularly
  • Very thin blade can ‘ding’ or become blunt easily if used on harder materials
  • Lack of serration makes it harder to trim or cut larger pieces of wood
  • Relatively short (3.25-inch blade)

from $7.95

Kershaw Blur Black (1670BLK) Everyday Carry Pocketknife with 3.4” Stainless Steel Drop Point Blade, DLC Coated Handle Features SpeedSafe Assisted Opening, Lanyard Hole, Reversible Pocketclip; 3.9 OZ.

$46.39

A flip-open knife that packs a lot of punch in a very compact, lightweight package.

While a little on the short side for really heavy duty tasks, the Ken Onion Blur is ideal for the backcountry minimalist. 

Spring-assisted opening and a Speedsafe lock make it easy and safe to use, and a reversible belt clip lets you access the knife as quickly as you can get your hand on it!

On the downside, the DLC coating on the blade can scratch after heavy usage.

Pros

  • Spring-assisted opening makes it easy to open with one hand
  • Speedsafe lock prevents inadvertent closure
  • Comes in a variety of colors
  • Sandvik 14C28N, DLC-coated blade
  • Weighs only 3.9 oz
  • Trac-Tec grip-tape inserts provide a very solid grip

Cons

  • Blade is only 3.4 inches - very compact, but reduces cutting capacity
  • DLC coating on blade can scratch on harder materials

$46.39

Buck Knives 0192BRS VANGUARD Fixed Blade Knife with Genuine Leather Sheath

$89.99

A very classy-looking, tough, high-performing fixed blade knife that’s as fit for detailed knife work as it is for heavy-duty tasks.

Whether you’re skinning game, splitting wood, chopping kindling or cutting rope, the Vanguard can do it all with the minimum of fuss and maximum precision. 

A mid-range knife that performs and lasts as well as most top end competitors.

Pros

  • Tough, 420HC stainless steel blade
  • Forever warranty
  • Highly durable - maintains its edge well
  • Full tang construction
  • Integrated finger guard

Cons

  • Imperfect finish - factory sanding creates small indents and grooves
  • Poor sheath

$89.99

000968 Spyderco Endura4 Lightweight black FRN Spyderedge

$69.88

There’s a lot to love about the Spyderco Endura 4

It’s light, strong, razor sharp and features a corrosion-resistant blade that means it requires less cleaning than many other models in its price range.

Some users, however, will find the feel of the plastic handle just a little bit tacky and the blade a touch on the short side for more than basic food prep and trimming.

Another solid performer that ticks most boxes but doesn’t stand out quite as much as similarly priced competitors.

Pros

  • Available in a variety of formats: serrated blade, straight blade, hybrid blade
  • High-carbon, razor sharp, VG-10 steel blade
  • Blade coated with durable titanium carbonitride for enhanced rust and corrosion resistance
  • Weighs only 3.6 oz
  • Boye dent prevents closing the blade accidentally

Cons

  • The closed spine makes it difficult to clean and polish
  • Blade only 3.75 inches long
  • Handle feels a little bit on the cheap side

$69.88

Ka-Bar Becker BK2 Campanion Fixed Blade Knife

$77.38

The Ka-Bar Becker BK2 is a great all-rounder and offers a variety of desirable features for those seeking a super-strong, fixed-blade camping knife.

It’s tough, durable, full tang, and is a nice size for both smaller tasks around the campsite and lighter chopping or cutting.

The greatest downsides to the BK2 Campanion are its weight and occasionally slippery handle.

Pros

  • Very well made
  • Extremely durable
  • Good size of blade (5.25 inches)
  • A solid all-rounder - suitable for both delicate and heavier duty tasks
  • Comes with a tough, glass-filled nylon sheath
  • Comfortable, ergonomic Ultramid handle
  • Very solid feel

Cons

  • Although comfortable, the handle can be slippery
  • Fairly heavy (16oz), although this may be a ‘pro’ for some

$77.38

Runner Up

Benchmade - Bushcrafter 162, Drop-Point

from $182.75

You might need to rob a small bank to buy one, but the pricey 162 Bushcrafter will reward your efforts with something a little bit special. 

From the outset, this knife reeks of superior craftsmanship and quality.

It features a S30V stainless steel, drop-point blade with a 58-60 hardness rating and a contoured handle for superior grip.

Its 7oz weight means you’re paying a lot of $ per ounce, but every one of those ounces is packed with a whole lot of goodness.

Pros

  • Ergonomic, comfortable, grippy handle made of G-10 scales with flared titanium tubing
  • Tough, S30V stainless steel blade
  • Sleek, svelte appearance
  • Mid-sized, 4.4-inch blade suitable for more delicate tasks and heavier chopping, bushwhacking or cutting
  • 58-60 hardness rating (HRC)

Cons

  • Very (very) pricey!

from $182.75

Fallkniven A1 Fine Edge Fixed Blade Knife, Black

$188.04

Measuring in at a huge 11 inches long (the blade is 6.3”) and weighing in at 11.3 ounces, the Fallkniven A1 is a bit of a beast! 

As such, it won’t be to everyone’s taste.

One look at the blade on this beauty, however, and you might just be tempted to skip the details in the specs and dive right into the purchase.

Featuring a laminate, VG-10 and 420J2 steel construction, Kraton handle and a protruding broad tang, this is a knife that’s as practical as it is pretty.

If you’re looking for a blade that really means business, this just might be your gal.

Pros

  • Very high-quality construction
  • Steel butt/pommel perfect for hammering
  • Made from VG-10 and 420J2 steel
  • Virtually unbreakable
  • 59 HRC (hardness rating)

Cons

  • Very expensive
  • May be a touch on the large and heavy side for some

$188.04

Final Thoughts

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 Fighting/Utility Serrated Edge Knife!

Compared to its closest runner-up, the Benchmade 162, 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 8, 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!

Photo Credits

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