A reliable knife is necessary for many situations – it’s one of the most important pieces of equipment you need to bring on your trip. You’ll find it handy for many things – preparing food, cutting cords and ropes, carving, making firewood, and many others. A knife for camping should be strong and durable so it can handle all these tasks.
Of course, different knife designs exist and each one has its upsides. In addition, various materials are used in making the best camping knives. Choosing the perfect knife for camping largely depends on what you’re going to use it for. For this reason, some blades will be much easier to use than others. Check out the products we picked out for you, as well as the detailed buying guide below to learn more and help you decide on the best camping knife for you!
How To Choose A Camping Knife – Buying Guide
The knife you choose needs to be practical – don’t go out and buy the largest one available. Put some thought into the features you need – the type of knife, blade length, and edge design among others. Take a look as we explain these features and more. Then you can form a clearer image of what you’re going to find useful, and which features perhaps aren’t necessary.
Two types of camping knives are most commonly used – a folding blade knife and a fixed blade. In addition to this, some people like to carry a multi-tool when going camping, because they offer versatility (at the expense of strength and stability).
A folding blade (or a pocket knife) is an excellent choice in many situations. It’s very easy to carry and doesn’t take up much space so you can put it in your pocket or a small compartment in your backpack. The blade opens and folds into the handle. This makes the knife safer to carry because the sharp edge is protected by the handle. You don’t need a sheath for this knife.
Some better products have blades with assisted opening, which opens the knife on its own after you started opening. Also, some have holes or notches which allow you to open them one-handed which is a big plus in many situations.
Your folding knife should also have a locking mechanism, whether it’s a liner lock or a frame lock. This way the blade will stay in place until you unlock to fold. Many of the earlier pocket knife models didn’t have this feature, which can be dangerous if the knife accidentally closes on your fingers.
While there are exceptional products in this category, they come with certain downsides. The first one is that because they have a folding mechanism they simply aren’t strong enough as a fixed blade. In addition, you need to put more effort into cleaning and maintaining this type of camping knife.
A fixed blade knife is generally better for larger tasks. It offers a stronger build because a single piece of steel is used – there are no moving parts. For this reason, it’s safer to use and easier to clean. Compared to folding knives it usually comes with a larger handle and a more comfortable grip. On the other hand, it’s heavier and noticeably larger because it doesn’t fold. Also, you need to be extra careful when carrying – it needs to have a protective sheath so you won’t accidentally pierce or cut yourself.
A number of people prefer having a multi-tool with them when they go camping. This is perfectly fine since a multi-tool is great for many things. Depending on a particular product you buy, it may come with pliers, screwdriver, bottle opener, scissors, wire cutter, or various files among other things.
While it’s undoubtedly handy, it won’t offer the strength and versatility a regular knife has. This is because the blade is often shorter and doesn’t have the same operational strength. Also, the grip is not ergonomic, so it won’t be comfortable to use for a longer time period. If you need additional tools, then buying a multi-tool is a good choice. However, if you’re looking for a knife, it’s better to go with a regular one (folding or fixed blade).
This is certainly the most important part of your camping knife – without a superb blade, everything else is insignificant. Materials used to make the blade determine its quality and durability. Also, length, weight as well as design influence knife usability in many situations.
The blade is going to be made from steel, but different types are used. Let’s say that the two main types are stainless steel and carbon steel. In addition to this, many modifications are made to the steel formula to make it better and stronger. However, most blades will do a good job if you take proper care of the knife.
When it comes to high-carbon steel, it’s a type that contains carbon in a certain percent of its weight. This makes the knife harder and more durable. It’s easier to sharpen, and has better edge retention (holds an edge longer). The downside is that it can rust very quickly if you don’t pay attention to it. There are special oils that you can apply to the blade to prevent corrosion. On the other hand, blade performance isn’t compromised even if it gets rusty, so you will still be able to fully use it (just avoid cutting food with it).
Stainless steel is an excellent material choice for camping knives. It’s very corrosion-resistant, so it will perform well in a dirty and wet camping environment. It’s a better choice for cutting food before you put it on your camping stove or grill, and you can safely wash it afterward. Also, nothing will happen if it’s left in the rain. However, if used heavily they will get dull quickly and are a bit tougher to sharpen.
As we mentioned earlier, the knife needs to be effective. For camping knives, optimal blade length ranges between 3 and 5 inches. This allows the best balance between strength and maneuverability. A shorter blade won’t be able to perform some tougher tasks, while a blade that is too long will be impractical to handle and won’t be able to perform precision work. Some of the best camping knives (in terms of balance) have blades around 4 inches long.
While this isn’t the most important thing when choosing, there is something to be discussed. A heavy duty camping knife with a thick blade will have more strength when cutting wood for a fire, for example. It is going to save you some energy and do the job quicker. On the other hand, a lightweight pocket knife can fit anywhere, and you won’t even know that it’s there until you need it.
Several things need to be mentioned while we’re talking about blade design. It determines how the blade performs in certain situations. Something which people talk about most is the edge type – fine (straight) or serrated. A fine edge offers higher versatility, as long as it’s sharp. You have a longer cutting surface which is very useful. Alternatively, a serrated edge is useful for cutting rope, wood, bones, and other things that need sawing. However, sharpening a serrated edge can prove to be a challenge. The best camping knives will have an edge which is part fine part serrated – this way you get more options and the best from each type.
Blade points also come in different shapes, and each has its purpose. The most commonly found on a knife for camping is a drop point. It’s thick and strong which allows you easy operation, and the design minimizes chances of an accidental puncture. A clip point has a narrow sharp tip with a crescent drop. This is not as strong as the previous one, but it’s excellent for puncturing and precision work. Needlepoint (dagger) blades have double edges and a very sharp point. This is more commonly found on survival knives. Other designs exist too, but they are less common in camping knives.
One more thing to discuss is whether your folding knife has a full tang or a partial tang. A full tang will have the blade (single piece of steel) running the whole way, through the full length of the handle. This allows better stability and strength, with a smaller chance of knife breaking. A partial tang is a design where the blade is attached to the top of the handle. While this is usually lighter, it’s also much easier to break under pressure.
When you’ve chosen the blade style, you need to think about how the knife sits in your hand. It needs to be ergonomic and comfortable, so you can use it for extended periods of time without blisters forming on your palms. Also, you should have a solid, firm grip – the knife shouldn’t be able to slip out of your hand. All this will allow better control and your work will be more efficient.
Since you’ll be using the knife outside, the material used must be durable and endure weather conditions no matter what’s it made from. Classic camping knives have a handle made from wood. It looks and feels really nice, and it offers a good grip. However, it’s damaged more easily compared to some synthetic materials. Plastic is also sometimes used – it’s inexpensive and water-resistant. It can also be slippery in your hand, especially when wet.
The rubber feels very comfortable and it’s water-resistant, but durability can sometimes be a problem. Finally, metal (steel, aluminum) is very durable and sturdy and can look really good. On the other hand, it can also feel slippery and cold while in hand.
Handle design can make using the knife feel much better. As we said, ergonomics is important – the knife should be adequately shaped to fit in your hand, and it’s good to have finger relief. A crossguard (handguard) is a useful feature, so your hand doesn’t accidentally slip onto the blade. Some survival knives will come with a hollow handle in which you can put some survival necessities. Others will have a steel pommel at the handle base, which you can use for hammering.
Knife safety is very important, whichever type you get. You should educate yourself on how to use the knife properly, to minimize the risk of injury to you and those around you. Make sure the knife you’re using is sharp. Sharper knives are safer because you can do the job faster and with less force applied – meaning a smaller chance of slipping. Knives with sharp points (clip-point, needle-point) and long blades offer less control so you need to be more careful.
A good sheath is required for all fixed blade knives, so you can safely carry them. The sheath material needs to be tough, so the blade can’t penetrate outside. It also needs to lock the knife securely in place so it doesn’t fall out. Some will have snap buttons, while others will have Velcro straps or some other solution. It’s very useful if the sheath allows you to attach the knife to you in any position you like.
Q: What Is A Knife For Camping?
Q: When Should I Carry More Than One Knife For Camping?
Q: What Is The Difference Between A Regular Knife And A Knife For Camping?
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Having one of the best camping knives is essential and may greatly improve your camping experience. You will find numerous uses for it around the campsite, even if you’re not a hardcore nature enthusiast. Think about what you need most from your new knife – only this way you will find the best camping knife you’ll happily take on every trip.
In addition, be sure to get a versatile product, because it can have uses outside of camping too. You now know what to look for and how to choose. Be free to pick one from our list, we’re sure you’ll be happy with it!
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Have you tried a knife for camping that made it onto our list? Which one? Is it easy to use? Is it durable and strong? Please share your experience with us in the comment section below.