A camping knife should be strong but versatile enough to handle a variety of tasks. It should be compact enough to carry easily but robust enough to cut rope, carve stakes, clear brush and help with food prep. And it should be durable. Because nothing will test the mettle of a knife like life in the great outdoors. Below are the best camping knives of 2018.
Our Top Picks – The Best Camping Knives
1. Morakniv Companion
The Morakniv Companion has a 4 inch blade that actually feels much larger due mostly to the solid, high friction rubberized grip and the lustrous 12C27 stainless steel it’s made from. The Companion utilizes a partial stick tang that may some day in the distant future betray itself, but you will have no trouble putting this puppy to work carving tent stakes, clearing bush and hacking firewood. With its affordable price point, true Scandi grind and lifetime warranty this may be the best all-around camping knife value on the market today.
Available in a variety of colors.
8.6 inch overall length.
- Weight4.1 oz. (116 g)
2. Opinel Carbon Steel
The Opinel Carbon Steel Folding Pocket Knife provides an excellent cutting edge which stays dangerously sharp for a good long time. The beachwood handle looks simplistic but is surprisingly effective from an ergonomic standpoint. And of course all Opinel knives sport the Virobloc safety ring which ensures your fingers won’t fall victim to a blade that closes accidentally. If you want you can purchase a sheath for the knife that will allow you to carry it on your belt. You couldn’t call this a survival knife but for most tasks around the campsite it will do the trick.
Virobloc safety ring.
Can be exchanged in cases of manufacturing defects.
3. Gerber Bear Grylls Ultimate
The Ultimate Knife has a textured rubber grip that doesn’t let you down when conditions get sloppy. The stainless steel pommel comes in handy when you need to drive stakes into frozen ground and the high carbon steel drop point blade makes short work of everything from trout to firewood. The Ultimate Knife is beautifully balanced with just enough heft to provide it with cutting and hacking credentials. There’s a small emergency whistle lashed to the handle via a lanyard, a flint for starting fires and on the back of the sheath are instructions for transmitting your condition via Alpine rescue signals.
Outstanding comfort and balance.
Sure grip rubber handle.
Additional emergency features.
- Weight14.7 oz. (w/sheath)
4. Gerber StrongArm Fixed Blade
The Gerber StrongArm features a 420 high carbon steel blade with full tang. There’s a rubberized handle for a sure grip even when the weather is close and a striking pommel at the base you can use to break glass or soften up frozen earth without having to ruin your blade in the process. The diamond textured grip never lets you down even when the mercury has plunged and you can barely feel your fingers. The blade has a ceramic coating that keeps corrosion at bay and the serration near the handle helps you hack through the toughest bush.
420HC Stainless blade.
Sheath is durable and effective.
Made in the USA.
- Weight7.9 oz
5. Spyderco Tenacious Plain Edge
The Spyderco Tenacious sports an 8Cr13MoV stainless steel blade that will more than live up to its responsibilities and an overall balance that is actually quite good for a folding knife. The blade itself is 3.39 inches long, enough to handle most responsibilities around the campsite, and the knife as a whole tips the scales at a svelte 4 oz. The handle is comfortable and offset to maximize leverage. While inside there are steel liners that work to increase the rigidity of the handle so you can take advantage of that leverage. Great for cutting stakes or cutting steaks.
G-10 laminated handle.
8Cr13MoV stainless steel blade.
4 way pocket clip.
- ModelSP122GP: C122GP Tenacious
- Weight4 oz
6. Smith & Wesson SWA24S 7.1
The S&W 7.1 inch SWA24S Stainless Steel Folding Knife is an aggressive looking device although it doesn’t sacrifice function for some silly notion of looking “extreme”. It’s a beautifully balanced piece of camping kit with a 3.1 inch blade fashioned from 7Cr17MoV black oxide stainless steel. You’ll have no trouble cutting tinder, whittling stakes or clearing brush with this knife. The inner lock on the handle ensures the safety and longevity of your fingers and the light weight of the SWA24S means you won’t tire from using it for long stretches.
Double-edge serrated blade.
Thumb knob for easy opening.
7Cr17MoV black oxide stainless steel.
- BrandSmith & Wesson
- Weight3.5 oz
7. Schrade 10.4in Stainless Steel Fixed Blade
The Schrade SCHF36 blade is fashioned from 1095 high carbon, powder coated stainless and is razor sharp right out of the box. That fixed blade is 5 inches in length and sits atop a textured TPE handle that provides the kind of secure, comfortable grip you want with a fixed blade camping knife. Every effort is made to ensure you always have a firm hold of the knife. There is the forward finger choil as well as thumb and finger jimping and a forward quillon, which prevents your hand accidentally slipping forward and engaging the blade.
Overall length of 10.4 inches.
Full tang design.
Textured handle with upper and lower jimping.
- Weight12.3 oz.
8. Benchmade Bushcrafter 162
With the Bushcrafter 162 from Benchmade one could be forgiven for thinking they had grabbed one of their kitchen knives by mistake. That said, the 4.4 inch drop point blade is full tang which means it’s not going to shy away from the more down and dirty campsite responsibilities. The scales on the handle are molded G-10, very comfortable and able to provide a firm grip in any conditions. The flared tubing in the handle is designed to pull the handle material in on the tang and ensure that it won’t come loose following the repeated application of lateral force.
Overall length 9.15 inches.
Included leather sheath.
Lifetime LifeSharp Service.
- ModelBushcrafter 162
- Weight7.72 oz.
9. ESEE 4P with Molded Polymer Sheath
With an overall length of 9 inches you wouldn’t call the ESEE 4P a piece of everyday carry but based on the quality of the knife, the toughness and effectiveness of the blade and the sure, comfortable grip you get from the handle you’d do just fine calling it your go-to camping knife. The blade is fashioned from high quality 1095 carbon steel with a cutting edge 4.1 inches in length. That 1095 carbon steel sharpens up real nice and holds its edge through thick and thin. The 4P comes with a Kydex sheath that the knife slips into easily and snugly.
1095 HC steel blade.
Micarta sure grip handle.
10. Fallkniven F1 with Thermorun Handle
The Fallkniven F1 is standard issue for pilots of the Swedish Air Force. The blade is a 3.75 inch VG 10 stainless steel beauty with a satin finish and is sandwiched in the handle by dual slabs of 420J stainless. The Thermorun elastomer handle material is a mixture of rubber and plastic that retains the latter’s long term durability while also exhibiting the sure grip qualities of the former. In other words, it’s perfect for outdoor applications. Whereas a folding knife may suffice for the state park, camping in the deep woods calls for something like the Fallkniven F1.
Checkered Thermorun elastomer handle.
Comes with .black zytel sheath.
Official knife of the SAF.
Buying Guide & FAQ
What is a Camping Knife?
Regardless of whether you camp in a roadside campground where you pitch your tent next to the car or you saddle up and hike miles into the woods your experience will be largely defined by the quality of your gear. It was true for Lewis and Clark and it’s still true today. Without a doubt a high quality camping knife will need to be among your gear, but just what is it that makes a knife a camping knife?
While there is bound to be overlap between the different categories of outdoor knives the camping knife is loosely defined as a heavy duty knife, typically full tang, whose blade is typically under 5” in length and which can be used for splitting kindling, cutting cord and rope, assisting with food prep, whittling tent stakes, batoning firewood and clearing brush if necessary. While survival knives should always be fixed blade affairs some knives used for camping are folding knives, like the Opinel Carbon Steel Folding Pocket Knife profiled above.
When is it a Good Idea to Carry Multiple Knives?
If your outdoor excursions tend to center around state parks, roadside campgrounds or summer weeks camping at the beach a standard camping knife like any of the ones profiled above should be more than adequate. However, if you’re a dedicated fan of the great outdoors and regularly find yourself in those remote places known only to the deer and the antelope you know the weather can change at the drop of a hat and a pleasant day in the woods can turn into a survival situation in under an hour. For that reason the informed outdoor enthusiast always brings more than one type of knife with them into the deep woods. Why? Because it’s likely they’ll encounter situations where a standard camping knife will be too little and other situations when a survival knife will be too much.
Camping Knife Care
A good camping knife is a precision tool that will not only cut your bacon it will also save it on occasion. As such it deserves to be treated with the same respect you’d show your tent or hiking shoes. Therefore:
- Don’t put your knife away until it’s clean and dry - Your camping knife is a workhorse so it’s going to get wet and dirty. That’s unavoidable. What is totally avoidable however, is putting the knife away when it’s in such a state. Always make sure that before you sheath your camping knife or otherwise put it away that you first make sure it’s clean and dry.
- Make sure you hone the blade regularly - Honing the knife on a regular basis ensures the blade is always crisp and sharp and ready for what’s next. Honing the blade is roughly akin to changing the oil in your car while sharpening the blade is like bringing the car in for a tune up. Hone after each use.
- Don’t abuse the knife - A camping knife is designed to handle tasks around the campsite like whittling stakes, cutting rope and perhaps cleaning fish. Unless it has a pommel built into the base it should not be used as a hammer. Also, don’t use the knife as a screwdriver or an ice pick and don’t practice throwing it.
- Lubricate your knife - Folding knives need to be kept properly lubricated. Most will use some type of oil based lubricant that is applied to the various moving parts. Don’t overdo it though and be sure to wipe away any excess.
Camping knives are essential woodland gear that are every bit as important as the stove, the rain fly and more. Before you set out on your next woodland adventure make sure you have a high quality camping knife with you.