When I was growing up and first going camping, there was this little store in the town in Wisconsin that I want camping at. For the life of me, I can’t remember the store’s name or much about them. What I can remember though was the camping knife section in the glass display case in the back.
They had a little Swiss Army knife that was essentially just a small, red pen knife. I was obsessed with that (and a Red Rider BB) gun that seemed like the coolest thing in the world. I saved up allowance money from doing laundry and ended up buying it one summer. I used it mainly for cutting fishing line that bird-nested in my reel, but I felt so cool for having it.
These days, my standard camping knife is more than just a little red Swiss Army Knife pen knife. The camping knife is a critical part of any camper’s gear and plays a key role in any campsite. While there are many camping-specific use cases, such as striking flint or stripping wood of twigs, it’s typically just useful in general to have a knife with you at all times.
With all that in mind, it felt like it was time that I wrote my thoughts down for everyone on which were the best options out there so you can skip the ones that aren’t nearly as good.
For this post, I’ll highlight:
- A buying guide of what you should be thinking about when looking at a knife
- The five best options in 2020
- A FAQ section on key questions you might have regarding knives while camping
So, let’s get started!
Camping Knife Buying Guide
When buying a knife, there are a couple of things to keep in mind and to think about:
- Fixed vs folding: There are two different types of knives: fixed blade and folding. The difference is exactly what it sounds like, where a fixed blade doesn’t have the ability to fold, while a folding blade can fold into itself to protect the blade. A fixed blade is often stronger and more useful for heavier-duty cutting while folding blades are viewed as safer, a better price-performer, and better around kids.
- If Fixed, the sheath: If the blade is fixed, then it can’t fold into itself to protect you and your family from the blade when not in use. With that in mind, you absolutely need a sheath. While almost all fixed blades come with a sheath, it might be an added cost. If it comes with a sheath, make sure it’s of high-quality material. A lot of sheaths are of low quality, so they fall apart quickly, which can lead to accidentally cutting or stabbing yourself
- Blade Shape: There are a couple of blade shapes you could see. The most common is a drop-point blade that is a good all-around performer. If you’re looking for more precise work, such as carving or whittling, then a clip-point would be better. If you’re looking for a blade meant for scraping away twigs from a (future) fire log, then a tanto blade would be best.
- Material: Most blades will be stainless steel. The thing to keep an eye on is the thickness, with the hardier blade being thicker, but also more difficult to sharpen. If you find a high-carbon steel blade, then know it’s just about the best blade you can find, but also will not last as long.
- Multi-tool: Many camping knives now have added features that might be useful, like a compass in the hilt or a cord trimmer. If you are looking to save money, you might want a multi-tool. However, I believe you should prioritize an actual compass
- Weight: As always here on Sit Around the Campfire, regular readers (and regular campers, for that matter) know that weight always matters when you are camping. The heavier your pack, the more you aren’t going to enjoy your time camping as you have to lug your pack around with you as you camp. While a camping knife is typically a light product, it’s always a good idea to look for the best combination between high quality and lightweight
Now that I’ve outlined some of the key features you should think about with a knife, I’m now going to share my five favorite knives from 2020.
Best Camping Knives of 2020
My overall favorite: Gerber Ultimate Camping Knife
This camping knife from Gerber is one of the most popular camping knives currently available in the market, and for good reason. It is specially designed to provide versatility to people that love camping, hiking, and other recreational outdoor activities. The best thing about this knife is that it features a half serrated drop point blade, which is made of high carbon stainless steel. This blade is very versatile, you can easily cut ropes or any other fibrous material with its serrated part and it is also perfect for edge retention.
It features a textured rubber grip that makes it very easy to hold and handle. This rubber also prevents the knife from slipping off even in the high moisture areas. It comes with a stainless steel pommel at the base that can be used for hammering. Another great thing about this knife is that it comes with a fire starter rod, which is very useful in starting a fire.
This is another product in the “Bear Grylls” line. While I was initially skeptical about any of Bear’s products due to all the marketing hype, I actually really liked this knife and liked his fire starter as well.
Pros of Gerber Ultimate Camping Knife:
- This knife is very lightweight
- It features a rubber grip for easy handling
- The blade is constructed with high-quality stainless steel
- Comes with different useful features, like a fire starter rod
Cons of Gerber Ultimate Camping Knife
- Needs more maintenance and sharpening than some of the other options on this list.
Highest Quality Knife: The Benchmade Outdoor
This knife from Benchmade is perfect for those who are searching for a well-designed, durable camping knife. It’s just straight-up quality, there’s no other way to describe it.
It features a robust look, which sets it apart from all the other options. It comes with an ultra-durable G10 handle that provides a strong grip and a better holding experience. The best thing about this knife is that its blade is made of American Made CPM-S30V steel, which makes it very durable and with a little care, it can stay with for a very long time.
This knife comes with a resin-soaked fiberglass body that is moisture resistant and if you live in or travel to high moisture areas, then this knife is perfect for you. Its fixed blade makes it very stable and for easy access, with a leather stealth and D-ring are also given. This blade is versatile and can be used for different purposes.
Pros of Benchmade Outdoor Camping Knife:
- It is highly durable
- Comes with a fiberglass body
- High-quality steel is used in its making
Cons of Benchmade Outdoor Camping Knife
- It is slightly expensive
Best Swiss Army Knife Multi-Tool: Victorinox Pocket
After my story at the beginning, did you really think I wouldn’t include a Swiss Army Knife in this list?!
This Victorinox Pocket Camping Knife is a multi-function knife from God. It comes with 33 different functions. From screwdriver to bottle opens, it includes everything. Due to its high versatility, it has become one of the most selling knives. It doesn’t matter whether you are camping in a forest or just doing regular house jobs, this knife can be used for all purposes.
Coming to its construction, it is made of Swiss-made stainless steel. And to make it even more durable, it is covered with translucent ruby ABS scales. The best thing about this camping knife is that it is very compact and you can easily carry it in your pocket and use whenever you want. In short, if you have this knife, then you won’t need any other equipment, it includes everything. Victorinox provides a lifetime guarantee in all of its products. If you see any defects in the material of your knife, then you can apply for a replacement.
Pros of Victorinox Pocket Camping Knife:
- It includes all the necessary tools
- Swiss-made stainless steel is used for its construction
- It comes with a lifetime warranty against material defects.
- It is very affordable for the functionality
Cons of Victorinox Pocket Camping Knife:
- Average quality handle
- Harder to get leverage on it to cut thicker materials
Most Portable Knife: Spyderco Endura
This Spyderco Endura Camping Knife features a very stylish look and available in different colors. The best thing about this knife is that it is very lightweight and Fiberglass Reinforced Nylon is used to make its handle. All the materials used its making are of high quality and it is specially made to last long.
While holding or using, it feels very comfortable and supports the wrist properly. This camping knife features a blade ground with flat levels that helps in reducing the weight and the drag while using it. Most people complain about their knife become slippery in the moist area but that’s not the case with this one. It comes with Bi-Directional Texturing, which provides a non-slip grip and makes it very easy to use.
Pros of Spyderco Endura Camping Knife:
- It features a clean look
- Very durable and lightweight
- Easy to hold and use
Cons of Spyderco Endura Camping Knife:
- While you get the higher quality and portability, you lose size as a result
Highest Quality Knife Blade: Buck Knives
If you are looking for a high-quality camping knife at a budget-friendly cost, then this camping knife for Buck Knives is the perfect option for you.
Said differently: Bucks has the highest quality knife blade I’ve ever seen. If you ask around on campgrounds, you’ll probably hear the same thing from others as well. Bucks is just straight-up quality, no doubt about it.
The best thing about this camping knife is that it comes with an integrated finger guard that protects your hand from cutting while using it. It features a highly durable drop point 420HC stainless steel blade, which is perfect for serious hunters or people that hike and camp frequently. This knife is extremely strong and comes with amazing corrosion and edge retention capabilities. You can use this blade for both indoor and outdoor purposes but make sure to use it carefully as it is very sharp. It comes with a classic walnut handle with a contoured grip, which makes it fit perfectly in your hand. Apart from this, you will get a leather sheath and an integrated belt loop so that you can carry it anywhere you want.
Pros of Buck Knives Fixed Camping Knife:
- Comes with different safety features
- The blade is very strong and sharp
Cons of Buck Knives Fixed Camping Knife:
- Average hilt design
Now that I’ve shared some thoughts on the five best options, below is a quick FAQ.
FAQ on Camping Knives
As with everything I write, I try to make sure that I answer some of the most common questions regarding camping! Let me know if there are more down in the FAQ and I’ll try to answer them as well!
Why do you need a knife for camping?
The short answer is you don’t need a knife for camping. It’s not a sleeping bag or fire starter in the sense that you absolutely need one.
However, a knife is such a utility tool that you’ll find yourself using it 5-10 times a day. Trimming twigs, cutting cords, opening food packages are all common uses for it. You can use your hands or another tool for all of those for sure. However, a knife is such a utility player that it’s definitely nice to have. I personally don’t go camping anymore without it.
How to make a camping knife?
I’ve had this question asked before and I honestly don’t know the answer. I bet there are some really slick blacksmith videos out there on how to make them.
One this I would say is don’t try to force another knife into being a camping knife. For example, I’ve seen steak knives brought camping before and tried to be used in this case.
It’s not a great idea for a couple of reasons. Not only can that hurt your knife and damage it, but you don’t have a great way to carry those. It’s not worth bringing a steak knife if it means accidentally cutting you or a loved one!
How to use a camping knife?
The biggest thing here is to ALWAYS CUT AWAY FROM YOU, NOT TOWARDS YOU.
If you find something to cut, make sure your knife stroke is going away from you. In that world, it makes sure that even if something goes wrong and your blade slips, it slips away from you and doesn’t cut you.
What size knife for camping?
You don’t need a huge knife for camping. There are always needs for hatchets or camping axes, but look for a knife that you can hold in one hand.
How many inches is the blade on a camping knife?
Most knives on this list are roughly six-inch blades, with some knives being shortly (like the Swiss Army Knife). This distance is typically a pretty good one, in that it allows you to accomplish just about most of your cutting tasks without needing to carry a bigger blade