A fixed blade knife is an essential for camping. For many of us, one of the great joys of camping is the chance to get out and really use a fixed blade knife. But it’s important to consider what we’re really using it for.
A lot of us, when we think about camping, start to diverge into survival-show-fueled fantasies about outrageous wilderness adventures. We see ourselves grappling grizzlies and building log shelters. But more often, our actual camping experiences are not far from a road, at a designated spot with other campers in earshot if not right next to us. It is not serious survival, and so we want to consider this reality for the absolute best knife for camping!
Before we get started, please take a moment to view some of the best camping knives available on the market:
|Flexcut Whittlin’ Jack||$$|
What Does a Camping Knife Do?
So what DO we use a fixed blade knife for when we’re camping? For a lot of folks, the camp knife will mostly be used to prepare food. Well, there is certainly some wood work involved, whether just whittling down sticks for the kids to roast marshmallows over the fire, or splitting down kindling, maybe even making feather sticks or whittling tent pegs or a making a tripod for cooking.
So perhaps the most fun part of a camping knife is its ability to work with wood at this level.
And before we move forward, please take a moment to view some of the best selling fixed blade knives currently on sale at Amazon:
|1) Mossy Oak|
|2) Ka-Bar USMC|
|3) Cold Steel Survivalist|
|5) Camp Lore PR-4|
|4) Cold Steel San Mai SRK|
Good Uses of a Camping Knife
Must a blade be able to baton through two inch branches? Probably not. Many campers also like to bring a hatchet, an axe or even a folding saw.
Does it need to be a high-skill tool for making intricate carvings? Not unless that’s your thing, in which case you will likely have a dedicated tool for that.
What else might we use a fixed blade for at the camp site? Well, I’ve used one to gut and fillet fish. I’ve used it to set small traps (just for fun, not for trapping). I’ve used one to work with paracord for bear bags and shelters, and to punch and cut tarps. I’ve used one to carve a steak, to slice potatoes, to open a can and to cut the end off a cigar.
So, it seems there are two major categories of usefulness, and then some fun utility purposes as well. The two biggies are wood handling and food prep. Beyond that, a little bit of craft function is good too.
So what kind of blade is best for these purposes?
What do we NOT want?
Well, for starters, let’s eliminate all of the enormous blades that are just unwieldy unless you are in gladiatorial combat. Lets also do away with some of the exotic blade shapes. You aren’t going to have much use for a claw-shaped kerambit or those Rambo-style military combat knives at your campsite.
Next, I will say that I have tried to limit the cost factor in this selection, for the simple reason that there is so much other gear involved in camping. If money is no object, then sure, take your $300 knife on an overnighter with the kids and use it to stir their mac and cheese.
They’ll be impressed!
But for the rest of us, we want a knife that suits its purpose while leaving us a little something in the bank for a decent sleeping bag. Again, a camping knife is not meant to be your ultimate survival tool, or the best wood working blade money can buy. It should be versatile, useful, effective and fun.
I am throwing in another criterion from experience, and that is it should be visible! There are lots of cool knives out there with camouflage handles and/or sheaths.
Do NOT bring these camping!
A camping knife tends to be all over the place, used after dark, put down here and there, and SO easy to lose! That’s why all but one of my recommended camping knives are available in bright colors. They may seem a little nerdy at first, but trust me, after just one time having completely forgotten where you put your knife down (maybe after gutting a fish by the lake, in tall grass…) and seeing that day glow orange shining out to you, you will realize that bright is good.
Remember, you’re camping, not stalking your next kill through the jungle, so avoid camouflage pocket knives.
So, with that said, here are my top five picks for great camping knives:
- SOG BladeLight Hunt
- Gerber Bear Grylls Ultimate Pro Knife
- Mora Light My Fire Swedish FireKnife With Fire Starter
- Tops Knives Fieldcraft Knife by B.O.B
- Buck Knives 65 Hood Punk
Yes, these knives all include some level of gadgetry. I am usually a knife purist, wanting only a good blade with a good handle and maybe some leather to keep it in. But for this set, I wanted to spotlight knives that are really fun and can add to the camping experience, so I’ve picked knives that also give you that extra something, whether in utility or in design for fun camping activities, like starting a fire without a lighter or matches.
First, the SOG BladeLight Hunt is just genius! This is a knife you will be SO glad to have with you. If you camp at all, you’ve been there… having spent a little too long looking for the perfect site and setting up camp, and now it is full dark and you are just getting around to making a fire and getting some food going. Fumbling around with a flashlight just sucks.
Maybe you’re smart and have a good headlamp, but even then it is like looking through a tube, plus you can’t look at your buddies without blinding them. Wouldn’t it be great if you could just see the stick you are trying to feather down to start your fire? Or the fish you are prepping for dinner?
The BladeLight has built in LEDs in the handle of the blade! With 30 lumens from a AAA battery in a waterproof handle, this is just a great innovation. There is a slightly larger blade model (the one they consider a “camp” knife) but I don’t think the blade size is necessary, and I like that the HUNT model has a bright orange handle.
Plus, I prefer the blade design on this model for camping — the large choil and big round belly make it really good for food prep, not just skinning game! Good 8CR13MOV stainless means low maintenance.
Though I generally try to avoid any knife with the name of a TV personality attached to it (since to me that says sensationalism instead of quality), Gerber’s Bear Grylls Ultimate Pro Knife is actually, of all the Bear Grylls tools, a well thought-out knife, and good quality for the money. It is a full tang blade of 9CR19MoV stainless steel.
Now, this steel can be a drawback for a survival knife because you need a synthetic sharpener to really get an edge on it — but they thought of that! There’s a draw sharpener built into the sheath! Now, these kind of sharpeners aren’t going to give you a shaving edge, but will keep it up to camping tasks.
There is also a ferrocerium rod in the sheath, and the spine of the knife has a notch designed to be a striker (rather than a true 90 degree edge on the spine). There is also a whistle in the lanyard. Bright orange styling on the knife and sheath make it visible, and the heavy rubberized grip means you can safely handle it when wet. And in case you get bored if you’re stuck in your tent in the rain, it comes with a mini Bear Grylls Survival Guide! Seriously, will be fun to talk over with the kids.
The knife world has a love/hate relationship with Morakniv from Sweden. Many have pointed out the incredible quality and utility of these knives that are SO much cheaper than other comparable blades. Others stick with the “you get what you pay for” approach.
I have always found Mora’s to more than live up to expectation, and for a great camp knife, it is hard to beat their Light My Fire Swedish FireKnife With Fire Starter. First of all, you can get it in a range of day glow colors, which I will emphasize again is a huge plus! I especially like the bright red, because it really stands out in the woods without looking like it fell out of someone’s 1990’s gym bag.
As the name suggests, it is specifically designed for fire starting, using a magnesium alloy fire starter rod integrated into the handle of the knife. The 3 3/4” blade is Sandvik 12C27 stainless steel and of course Scandi ground, but with a specially profiled tip to make it better for slicing. It just does all you want your camp knife to do.
We will round out the list with a couple of pricier, more “serious” knives. First off is the Tops Knives Fieldcraft Knife by B.O.B, which stands for “Brother of Bushcraft” and this is in fact a bushcraft knife, and a good one! If you want to do a little bit of bush craft work at the campsite, this is a great option.
One of my favorite features is the integrated socket for a bow drill fire in the handle itself. They know you don’t HAVE to make a bow drill fire, but it’s fun! I’ve always found the bearing block to be one of the most troublesome parts of a bow drill set. How cool is it to have it right on your knife?
Yes, it will heat up, and maybe even char a bit with repeated use, but that just adds to your blade’s character. The knife also comes with a ferro rod (which is how they know you probably aren’t using that bow drill to save your life!) and the steel butt end (extending from full tang) has a special groove called a “shango notch” that is designed to work with the fire starter rod to get you good sparks. A hefty knife for serious woodsmen as well as causal campers.
And lastly, the mighty Buck Knives 65 Hood Punk. This knife too has some fun gadgetry elements but is also a for-real woodsmen’s knife. The blade is a beautiful powder-coated 5160 spring steel full flat grind that comes VERY sharp and is over 5 1/2” making it by far the largest blade in this set.
That said, it weighs in at only 7.4 oz. (significantly less than the B.O.B. knife). This is largely because of the hollow tang – an interesting design feature. Though the tang extends all the way through with a protruding butt for hammering, it is hollow in the center, and the handle scales are designed for easy removal with just two large screws holding them in place. This gives you a fun little hidden chamber where you can keep matches or fishing line or char cloth, or whatever little trick you want to spring on your amazed and impressed camping guests.
The scales also cover a special liner Buck calls a Shock Mitigation System, ostensibly ease your soft green-horn hands when you are hacking through scrub oak with this powerful steel! The sheath is a real piece of design too, with a utility pouch and made for integrated MOLLE use (“Modular Light-weight Load-carrying Equipment”, meaning you can strap it to your awesome tactical vest).
Any of these knives will make you a happy camper, giving you fun and functionality at the campsite. Having the right things with you is what camping is all about — learning what you can do and how much you can enjoy just being alive without a whole house full of stuff. Pick the right knife and you shall be rewarded with great memories around the camp fire, some great bonding moments, and maybe even that feeling we all crave in the woods — of connecting with our more basic, intrinsic selves. The value, the ability, the peace are within us, and the right blade can help us to let them out!
If you enjoyed this article, please “like us” on Facebook too!