Like any young boy growing up in the countryside of America, I was always fascinated with knives. I grew up hunting, fishing, and being in the woods.
Knives were second nature to me from a very young age and I learned to use them, throw them, make them, and sharpen them. Rarely was I without one of my favorite camping knives on trips with my grandfather.
As I grew up to become an outdoor guide and of late, a blacksmith, the role of knives in my life evolved through many stages. Today I carry one on a lanyard attached to my hiking backpack.
When you’re looking for the best camping knife you’ll find no end of varieties and marketing language. Once you understand how they’re made, which features make sense, and how to “cut” through the hype and find a truly great knife you’ll have a keeper. Let’s dig in!
So what is the best camping and survival knife?
Quick Answer: The 7 Best Camping and Survival Knives for 2017
- Gerber Bear Grylls Ultimate Knife
- StatGear Surviv-All Outdoor Knife
- Victorinox Swiss Army Pocket Knife
- Benchmade Bushcrafter 162 Knife
- Fallkniven A1 Survival Fixed Blade Knife
- Spyderco Endura4 Lightweight FRN
Now I’m going to help you decide on a camping knife and recommend a few top performers. Here is a feature overview of my top 3 picks for knives with full reviews and our buying guide below.
Best Camping Knives
Camping Knife Reviews
This one earns top marks for blade design, handle design, and color. It’s a camping knife made with a beefy drop point profile, nearly full-bevel, and deeply inset finger relief.
On top of that, they put a nice ergonomic bolster on it to separate the handle from the blade. Just in case your hands are wet and you stab the knife into something, you don’t want your hand sliding down the blade!
A nice feature of this knife for camping is that they’ve included a ferro rod and striking notch on the back of the blade. Ferro rods are modern “flint” and steel kits which throw off showers of hot sparks.
This is a perfect accessory for a camping knife for the obvious reasons. I love that they put the striking groove on the spine of the knife to avoid dulling the blade by striking the ferro rod.
The knife is made by Gerber, one of my all-time favorite knife makers, and sponsored by Bear Grylls, one of my all-time least favorite “survival” gurus.
If you don’t like the half-serrated knife blade, which renders half the blade useless for most tasks, it is also available in a non-serrated “Fine-Edge” model as well. I like the orange accent color – easy to spot if you drop it or set it down in the leaves.
Overall the Gerber Bear Grylls knife is my top pick for the best camping knife.
Don’t forget the knife sharpener.
Now we’re really thinking! The StatGear knife is a 440-stainless steel drop point blade that’s beefy and lacks any serrations! The synthetic handle is rugged, features finger relief, and a wide bolster.
They put a ferro rod in the sheath like the Gerber Bear Grylls knife, but instead of serrations they opted for a webbing cutter on the sheath!
Overall I really think they put together the most critical design features of a good survival knife. They even made the smart move to put a few brightly colored yellow-green strips on it for visibility.
No survival knife is useful if you set it down and can’t see it amongst the leaves! They also put a sharpening stone in the knife sheath so that in a worst-case scenario, you’ll be able to rudimentarily hone the blade.
Overall I think this survival knife brings together everything we need in knife and nothing we don’t. My biggest complaint is that the sheath is ugly as sin, but I’ll give it a pass on that since they did forgo the serrations!
With a built in fire starter and knife sharpener, the StatGear would be my top pick for the best fixed blade survival knife.
There are a few Swiss Army Knife tools that I find to be universally useful for woodscraft. The magically sharp and hyper effective folding pocket saw always seems to work better than it has any right to.
The included scissors are always on-point and ready to do work. Also, the Swiss Army pocket knives always seem to be nicely sharpened and ready to go.
If you want to take the kitchen sink with you when you go hiking and backpacking, this knife will be ready to help you set it up. It’s got over 30 different functions from screwdrivers to cork screws.
I will mention that I find many of the features on the full-size Swiss Army Knife don’t get used very often. That’s why I use the Classic SD version for most of hiking needs.
While it’s not going to win awards for innovation in blade design or knife quality, the Victorinox Swiss Army knife is a classic and my pick for the best hiking knife.
There’s something to be said about having the right tool for the job when you need it!
That said, however, they will cost you a pretty penny more than your standard off-the-shelf knife. Why? Because they take the quality and craftsmanship up a level.
Benchmade produced this fine-edge knife with a nice wide bevel and gentle taper. The perfect design for a great utility knife for camping.
On top of that they kept the handle simple with a 3-rivet micarta handle that features generous finger relief to prevent any slipping. There’s even a lanyard hole at the end, just waiting to accept your favorite paracord color.
I love the full tang construction and nearly indestructible micarta handle. I think the sheath leaves something to be desired, but I’ll accept that considering that the knife is high quality. While its probably the best knife for camping, the higher cost may put some people off.
Another name in the high quality, budget priced knife arena contributes this very similar drop point camping knife.
A generous blade length, substantial finger relief and bolster, and full tang construction make it rugged and beefy. You’ll be hard pressed to find something about this knife that you don’t enjoy.
It is a modern looking knife, although it’s austere and plain. If you’re looking for the classical wood and leather feel, however, this isn’t going to be for you.
Getting the job done with modern materials, machining, and quality is the name of the game here.
I do like that the tang extends beyond the end of the handle. This is a desirable characteristic for those who might consider throwing their knives or using it to hammer in tent stakes.
Note, however, that I do NOT recommend throwing this knife. Use a cheaper and more disposable knife to throw! A good candidate for the best backpacking knife, but also comes at a higher price.
Spyderco is yet another name in the realm of high quality affordable knives. This pocket folder comes with a pocket clip, low profile, and fine-edge blade lacking serrations.
I applaud the lack of serration particularly on this shorter length blade because it would crowd the already short blade length.
While the handle is slim and features minimal bolster or finger relief, it has a decent texture to provide grip. It can be hard to make a folder with great ergonomics so we won’t dock them too many points for this.
Besides, the overall shape and design of this knife lend it more toward slicing and peeling then any kind of stabbing.
I would wholly recommend this knife as a camping supplement though I worry that it lacks the features many will require for a utility camping knife.
The folding design also makes it more likely to damage when using for heavy duty tasks like splitting. As my primary knife I want a fixed blade but this would be my choice for the best folding knife for camping.
This is the only knife in our lineup that is a clear holdover to the times of old. With a lacquered wooden handle and a wide bolster, polished steel blade and handle fixings, it’s a beauty.
The plain leather sheath is unassuming but fitting. Overall this knife knows its home is in the woods, and that’s where it wants to be.
Without a doubt, it fills all the needs of a fixed blade camping knife that we’ve been looking for. With a deeply recurved tip it also would make a decent little skinning knife.
Some of the other knives on our list, I think, might be a little more robust. However, none of them feature the soul of a woodsman the way that this knife captures it.
I know this is the knife I would have found in my grandfather’s tool box. He always kept something like this close at hand and sharper than a razor and makes a good good camping knife
How to Choose the Best Camping Knife
Somewhere in all the rush to make and sell great camping knives to unassuming buyers, most companies have surrounded their camping knives in complicated lingo.
Things like “ultra-high carbon” and “freeze tempered” are all too common buzz words that get knife enthusiasts drooling. Unfortunately, they don’t mean anything and simply act as a disservice to confused buyers. Let’s find out what you really need to know.
One of the first things that will attract the attention of new knife enthusiasts is the type of steel the knife is made from.
When we see the words “high carbon” it’s often taken as a positive indicator, since high carbon steel is well known to be “good knife steel”. Truth be known, everything from stainless steel to cast iron is technically a “high carbon” steel.
My advice to new knife hobbyists? Unless you’re paying top dollar for your knife, don’t get hung up on the steel type. The vast majority of knife blade materials will hold up just fine as long as you use your knife responsibly and for the proper tasks.
Many knife manufacturers simply state “high carbon” which doesn’t tell us anything meaningful anyways.
Anatomy of a Knife
Few people pay attention to blade design as a fundamental factor in knife buying. This is a big mistake! Why? Because the size, shape, bevel, taper, and overall design of a blade massively impact its overall characteristics and performance.
Since we’re talking about camping knives, I’ll recommend the modest drop point design. This is a classically adopted American utility knife profile with a thick, beefy blade that tapers very little along its length.
I’ll even recommend a full bevel, where the knife is ground from blade to spine in a single continuous slant. Why?
Because these characteristics are rugged, universal, and the full bevel strikes me as perhaps the best overall design for splitting wood (in the same manner as a froe).
For most knives, I advocate a wide and obtrusive bolster (the “cross guard” area). Why? To prevent hands from slipping off the handle and down the blade. On top of this, I also like to see inset finger relief along the handle for the same reasons – improved grip.
Time and again I weep for a beautifully executed knife that is ruined by serrations. They’re one of the most popular, and most useless, additions to modern blades and I’d love to see them removed from the majority of knives.
Common reasons for serrations include: cutting rope, cutting bone, “sawing” wood, cutting seat belts, etc. I stand before you today as an example of a human capable of doing all of these things with a non-serrated knife. Please, don’t fall over in astonishment.
Best I can tell, serrations have become wildly popular in today’s ever expanding hype of tactical everything. Tactical paracord bracelets, tactical bb-guns, tactical knives. For military service people, sure, I will concede that there is a real need for serrations.
In camping situations, the need for a longer fine-edge blade are far more common. Things like skinning animals, woodworking, and blade control are far more effective without a serrated segment of your knife getting in the way.
We won’t delve too deep here, but suffice it to say that camping knives deserve to be made of rugged materials.
Some knife enthusiasts may sneer at synthetic handles but so long as they’re durable, rugged, and made to last, I see no fault. A well done wooden handle, however, belongs on camping trips where it can be back in nature.
As long as both wooden and synthetic handle materials are properly made, they should each be equivalent. Mostly it will boil down to tastes.
I will make a note that some modern camping and survival knives like to hollow out the handle and hide survival supplies inside. This is worth considering as well.
Video: Choosing the right camping knife for your needs.
I hope this guide was helpful for finding the best camping and survival knife to fit your needs. If you want to comment or recommend a knife I didn’t include, please use my contact form to get in touch.
Have fun and be safe out there!