From Blade to Handle: How to Choose a Camping Knife

There are almost an endless number of camping knives to choose from and they all claim to be the best. So how do you choose the perfect camping knife for you?

Here is how to choose a camping knife:

  1. Determine Your Needs
  2. Choose a Blade Type
  3. Select a Blade Size
  4. Pick a Blade Material
  5. Decide on a Blade Design
  6. Choose a Handle Material
  7. Think About Extra Features
  8. Create a Budget
  9. Get Recommendations
  10. Buy a Knife and Go Camping

Determine Your Needs

Before diving into the world of camping knives, take a moment to think about the activities you’ll be doing while camping. From food prep and fire-making to carving and emergency situations, your camping knife should be versatile enough to handle your specific needs.

Here are some things you might want to do with your camping knife:

Food Preparation

When camping, you’ll likely need a knife to help with tasks such as cutting fruits and vegetables, slicing meat, and opening food packages. A sharp, versatile blade with a comfortable handle will make food prep a breeze, ensuring you’re well-fed and energized for your outdoor activities.


A camping knife can come in handy when creating kindling or shaving tinder to start a fire. Opt for a knife with a sturdy, durable blade that can withstand the pressure of splitting small branches and shaving wood. A knife with a built-in fire starter is a bonus, allowing you to ignite a fire with ease.

Carving and Whittling

Whether you’re carving tent stakes or engaging in the relaxing hobby of whittling, a camping knife with a precise, sharp blade will be your best friend. Look for a knife with a comfortable handle that allows for extended periods of use without causing hand fatigue.

Cutting and Slicing

From cutting rope and cordage to opening packaging or slicing through fabric, a camping knife should be capable of handling various cutting tasks. A versatile blade shape, like a drop point or clip point, will provide excellent cutting performance for a range of materials.

Emergency Situations

In the great outdoors, you never know when an emergency might arise. Your camping knife should be reliable and accessible in situations like cutting through seat belts, creating makeshift tools, or even self-defense. A knife with a partially serrated blade can be helpful in such scenarios, as it can easily saw through tough materials.

General Campsite Tasks

Camping often involves numerous miscellaneous tasks, such as repairing gear, opening cans, or even prying things apart. Having a versatile and robust camping knife that can handle these diverse tasks will make your camping experience more enjoyable and stress-free.

Want to know some other things your knife might be good for? Check out my post titled, “21 Reasons You Need a Camping Knife“.

Choose a Camping Knife Blade Type

When it comes to choosing the right camping knife, understanding the differences between the two main blade types – fixed and folding – is crucial. Each type of blade comes with its own set of advantages and is better suited for specific tasks and camping styles. By familiarizing yourself with these blade types, you’ll be better equipped to make an informed decision that caters to your camping needs.

Fixed Blade Knives

Fixed blade knives are known for their durability and strength, making them an ideal choice for heavy-duty tasks such as chopping wood, splitting kindling, or even clearing brush. The fixed blade is a single, solid piece of metal that extends from the tip of the blade through the handle, providing superior stability and resistance against breaking or bending under pressure. This type of blade is particularly popular among campers who prioritize ruggedness and dependability in their camping gear.

Folding Knives

Folding knives offer a more compact and lightweight option, making them an excellent choice for campers who prefer to travel light or are seeking a versatile tool for lighter tasks. With a folding mechanism that allows the blade to fold into the handle, these knives are easy to carry and store, providing quick access when needed. Folding knives are suitable for everyday camping tasks such as food preparation, opening packages, and whittling wood. However, due to their folding design, they may not be as robust as fixed blade knives when it comes to tackling more demanding chores.

Ultimately, the choice between a fixed and folding blade knife will depend on your camping style, the tasks you expect to encounter, and your personal preferences when it comes to gear durability and portability.

Blade Size

The size of a camping knife’s blade is a crucial factor to consider when selecting the perfect tool for your outdoor adventures. A blade length between 3 to 5 inches is generally recommended for most camping tasks, as it strikes a balance between versatility, portability, and ease of use. However, the specific size you choose will ultimately depend on your personal preferences and the types of tasks you plan to perform while camping.

Smaller blades, typically between 3 to 4 inches, offer greater control and precision, making them suitable for tasks like whittling, peeling fruits and vegetables, or skinning game. These compact blades are easier to maneuver, allowing for intricate cuts and detailed work. In addition, a smaller blade is generally more lightweight and convenient to carry, making it an ideal choice for those who prioritize portability.

On the other hand, larger blades, usually between 4 to 5 inches or more, are better suited for heavier tasks such as chopping wood, clearing brush, or even self-defense. The longer blade provides more cutting power and leverage, enabling users to tackle more demanding jobs with ease. However, larger blades can be bulkier and heavier, potentially impacting your overall pack weight and size.

When selecting a camping knife’s blade size, consider the types of tasks you expect to perform and weigh the benefits of control and portability against the need for a more robust cutting tool.

Blade Materials

When selecting the perfect camping knife, the material of the blade plays a significant role in its performance, durability, and maintenance requirements. Two of the most popular materials for camping knife blades are stainless steel and carbon steel. Each material offers unique advantages, and the choice between them will depend on your preferences and maintenance habits.

Stainless Steel Camping Knives

Stainless steel is a popular choice among campers and outdoor enthusiasts due to its excellent rust and corrosion resistance. This material is a blend of iron and chromium, which creates a protective layer on the surface of the blade, preventing it from rusting or corroding when exposed to moisture or humid environments. Stainless steel knives are low-maintenance and can retain their appearance and functionality for extended periods without requiring frequent care. However, they tend to lose their sharpness more quickly than carbon steel blades and can be more challenging to sharpen. Stainless steel camping knives are ideal for those who prioritize ease of maintenance and resistance to the elements.

Carbon Steel Camping Knives

Carbon steel is known for its ability to hold a sharp edge longer, offering exceptional cutting performance. This material is made from iron and carbon, resulting in a blade that can be sharpened to a razor’s edge and maintain its sharpness through extended use. Carbon steel knives are favored by many experienced campers and bushcraft enthusiasts for their superior edge retention and ease of sharpening. However, they require more maintenance than stainless steel blades, as they are prone to rust and corrosion when exposed to moisture. Regular cleaning, drying, and oiling are necessary to keep a carbon steel blade in optimal condition. Carbon steel camping knives are a great choice for those who are willing to invest time and effort into blade maintenance in exchange for enhanced cutting performance and edge retention.

Making Your Choice

The choice between stainless steel and carbon steel blades for your camping knife will largely depend on your preferences and maintenance habits. If you’re looking for a low-maintenance option with good rust resistance, stainless steel is the way to go. However, if you value exceptional edge retention and are willing to put in the effort to care for your blade, a carbon steel camping knife may be the perfect choice for you.

Personally, I think both of these blade materials are great for camping knives and I don’t think I’d ever choose not to buy a knife because of it’s blade material. This being said, I do prefer carbon steel over stainless steel.

Blade Design

Camping knives come in a range of blade shapes, including drop point, clip point, and tanto, each offering unique advantages and characteristics. Selecting a versatile blade shape like the drop point is often recommended for general camping tasks, ensuring that your knife can handle a wide range of situations in the great outdoors.

The drop point blade is characterized by its gently curved spine that slopes down towards the tip, creating a strong and versatile cutting edge. This design allows for excellent control and precision, making it ideal for tasks such as slicing, carving, and skinning. The drop point blade’s robust tip can also withstand prying and digging, contributing to its overall versatility. As a result, the drop point is a popular choice among campers and outdoor enthusiasts who require a multi-purpose knife capable of tackling a wide array of tasks.

Another common blade shape is the clip point, which features a spine that dips slightly towards the tip, forming a more pointed and sharp end. This design allows for greater piercing ability, making it well-suited for tasks that require puncturing or precision cutting. However, the clip point’s finer tip may not be as robust as the drop point when it comes to prying or handling heavier tasks. Despite this, the clip point remains a popular choice for those who value a balance of cutting and piercing capabilities in their camping knife.

The tanto blade shape, inspired by traditional Japanese swords, features a straight or slightly curved edge and a distinct angular tip. This design provides exceptional strength and durability, particularly at the tip, making it suitable for tasks such as prying, scraping, and puncturing. However, the tanto blade may not be as versatile for general slicing and cutting tasks as the drop point or clip point designs due to its unique geometry.

Here is a table comparing the 3 blades:

Here’s a table comparing the drop point, clip point, and tanto blades:

Blade ShapeKey FeaturesStrengthsWeaknessesBest For
Drop PointGently curved spine, strong tipVersatile, good control, robust tipLess piercing abilityGeneral camping tasks, carving, slicing, skinning
Clip PointSpine dips towards the tip, sharp endSharp tip, good for piercing and slicingLess robust tipPrecision cutting, puncturing, slicing
TantoStraight or slightly curved edge, angular tipExceptional strength, durable tipLess versatile for slicing and cuttingPrying, scraping, puncturing

This table provides a quick comparison of the key features, strengths, weaknesses, and best uses for each blade shape. Use this information to help you choose the ideal blade shape for your camping knife based on your specific needs and preferences.

Handle Materials

Camping knife handles are made from a variety of materials, each offering different characteristics in terms of durability, comfort, grip, and resistance to environmental factors. Some common materials used for camping knife handles include:

  1. G-10: A fiberglass laminate that is lightweight, strong, and moisture-resistant. G-10 handles usually have a textured surface for a secure grip.
  2. Micarta: A composite material made from layers of linen, canvas, or paper soaked in resin. Micarta is known for its durability, moisture resistance, and improved grip when wet.
  3. Rubber: A comfortable and affordable option that offers excellent cushioning, shock absorption, and slip resistance. Rubber handles, however, may not be as durable as other materials.
  4. Kraton: A synthetic rubber material that provides good grip, comfort, and shock absorption, often used as an alternative to rubber.
  5. Wood: A traditional handle material that offers a classic aesthetic and natural feel. Wood handles can vary in durability and grip, depending on the type of wood and finish applied.
  6. Bone and Stag: Natural materials that provide a unique look and feel. These materials can be quite durable, but may not offer the best grip, especially when wet.
  7. Aluminum: A lightweight and durable metal that can be textured for improved grip. Aluminum handles can become slippery when wet and may feel cold in low temperatures.
  8. Stainless Steel: A strong and durable metal that resists rust and corrosion. Stainless steel handles can be heavy, cold to the touch in low temperatures, and slippery when wet.
  9. Titanium: A lightweight and strong metal that is often used for premium knife handles. Titanium can be textured for better grip but may become slippery when wet and feel cold in low temperatures.
  10. Carbon Fiber: A lightweight and strong composite material that offers a high-end look and feel. Carbon fiber handles can be textured for improved grip, but can be expensive and prone to chipping or cracking under extreme stress.

Added Features

Camping knives can come with various added features that enhance their versatility and functionality, making them more useful tools for outdoor adventures. Here are some common added features you might find in a camping knife:

  1. Folding Mechanism: Some camping knives have a folding design, which allows the blade to fold into the handle for compact storage and easy carrying. Folding knives often feature locking mechanisms, such as liner locks, frame locks, or back locks, for added safety during use.
  2. Serrated Edge: A portion of the blade may have serrations or a saw-like edge, which can be useful for cutting through fibrous materials, rope, or small branches more efficiently than a straight edge.
  3. Gut Hook: A specialized blade feature, often found in hunting knives, that helps with field dressing game by allowing for easy, clean cuts through the animal’s hide without puncturing the internal organs.
  4. Lanyard Hole: A hole in the handle that allows for attaching a lanyard, cord, or carabiner, making it easy to secure the knife to your gear or carry it around your neck or wrist.
  5. Firestarter: Some camping knives come with a built-in firestarter, such as a ferrocerium rod, which can be used to create sparks for starting a fire in emergency situations or when matches or lighters are unavailable.
  6. Multi-tool Functionality: Camping knives may also include additional tools, such as a can opener, bottle opener, screwdriver, or scissors, making them more versatile and useful for various tasks around the campsite.
  7. Sheath: A protective sheath or case for the knife is a valuable added feature, especially for fixed-blade knives. Sheaths can be made from materials like leather, nylon, or kydex, and may have a belt loop or attachment points for securing the knife to your gear.
  8. Glass Breaker: Some camping knives feature a glass breaker or pointed pommel on the handle’s end, which can be used to shatter glass in emergency situations, such as escaping from a vehicle.
  9. Whistle: A built-in emergency whistle on the knife’s handle or sheath can be a useful feature for signaling for help or alerting others in case of danger.
  10. Integrated Sharpener: Some camping knives come with a built-in or separate sharpening tool, allowing you to maintain the blade’s sharpness while in the field.

When choosing a camping knife with added features, it’s essential to consider the specific tasks and situations you may encounter during your outdoor adventures. Keep in mind that while added features can increase a knife’s versatility, they may also add weight and complexity to the tool. It’s crucial to strike a balance between functionality and simplicity, depending on your needs and preferences. Even the Forest Service’s camping checklist doesn’t recommend a specific set of features in a camping knife.

In my opinion, the “more is better” attitude doesn’t apply to camping knives. I try to buy knives that only have the features that I’ll need for a particular camping trip. I’d recommend making your first knife a standard one without any bonus features. After you’ve taken the knife camping a few times, you’ll have a better idea of what additional features you might want to get when you buy your next camping knife.

Set a Budget

When searching for the perfect camping knife, setting a budget is an important step to ensure you find a knife that offers the best quality and features within your price range. Camping knives can range from affordable to expensive, with variations in materials, craftsmanship, and additional features. By determining your budget, you can narrow down your options and focus on the knives that meet both your needs and your financial constraints.

Budget camping knives typically cost between $10 and $40. At this price point, you can expect to find knives made from more affordable materials, such as stainless steel blades and rubber or plastic handles. While budget knives may not offer the same level of durability or performance as their more expensive counterparts, they can still provide a decent level of functionality for basic camping tasks. Some budget knives may include basic added features, such as a folding mechanism or partial serrations.

Mid-range camping knives generally fall within the $40 to $100 price range. These knives often feature higher-quality materials, such as better grades of stainless steel or carbon steel blades, and more durable handle materials like G-10 or Micarta. Mid-range knives may also offer improved craftsmanship, better ergonomics, and more added features, such as integrated firestarters, multi-tool functionality, or protective sheaths. Overall, mid-range knives provide a balance of quality, performance, and affordability for most campers.

Premium camping knives can cost anywhere from $100 to several hundred dollars. Knives in this price range often boast superior materials, such as high-end stainless or carbon steel blades, titanium or carbon fiber handles, and top-notch craftsmanship. Premium knives may also come with a wider range of features, such as advanced locking mechanisms, custom designs, or unique blade shapes. While the higher price tag may be a significant investment, these knives often provide exceptional performance, durability, and aesthetics for those who demand the best in their outdoor gear.

Price RangeFeaturesBlade MaterialsHandle Materials
BudgetBasic functionality, limited added featuresLower-grade stainless steelRubber, plastic
Mid-rangeImproved craftsmanship, more added featuresHigher-grade stainless steel, carbon steelG-10, Micarta
PremiumSuperior materials, advanced features, custom designsHigh-end stainless steel, carbon steel, premium alloysTitanium, carbon fiber, premium wood

In conclusion, setting a budget is essential when choosing the perfect camping knife. By determining the amount you’re willing to spend, you can find a knife that offers the best quality and features within your price range, whether it’s a budget, mid-range, or premium option. It’s important to remember that while a higher price tag often correlates with better materials and craftsmanship, your specific needs and preferences should ultimately dictate your decision.

Camping Knife Recommendations

Here are three camping knife recommendations based on different budget levels:

Budget Camping Knife: Morakniv Companion

Morakniv is a Swedish brand known for producing reliable and affordable knives. The Morakniv Companion features a 4.1-inch stainless steel or high carbon steel blade and a rubber handle, offering excellent performance and durability for its price point. This fixed-blade knife is suitable for various camping tasks and comes with a plastic sheath for secure storage.

Mid Range Camping Knife: Tracker-X2 Fixed Blade Camp Knife

The Tracker-X2 Fixed Blade Camp Knife is a versatile and rugged tool designed for various outdoor tasks, from food preparation to wood processing. Its high-quality stainless steel blade ensures durability and excellent edge retention, while the ergonomic handle made of G-10 material provides a comfortable and secure grip. With its well-balanced design and included protective sheath, the Tracker-X2 is an outstanding choice for campers seeking a reliable and efficient knife for their outdoor adventures.

Premium Camping Knife: ESEE 4

The ESEE 4 is a high-quality fixed-blade knife with a 4.5-inch 1095 carbon steel blade, designed for durability and superior edge retention. The knife features a full tang construction for increased strength and comes with removable handle scales made from either Micarta or G-10. The ESEE 4 is suitable for various camping tasks, from food preparation to wood processing, and comes with a molded polymer sheath for safe storage and transport. This knife’s quality and performance justify its premium price tag.

Keep in mind that these are just a few examples of good camping knives to buy. There are hundreds, if not thousands of camping knife options out there, so don’t feel like you need to buy the first one you see.

Buy a Knife and Go Camping

Look, your first camping knife probably isn’t going to be the knife you end up keeping for life. Everyone’s needs are different and the knife that’s perfect for me probably isn’t going to be the knife that’s perfect for you and vice versa.

Just buy a basic camping knife and get out there! The more you go camping and the more you use the knife you have, the easier it will be for you to figure out what you like and what you don’t like in a camping knife.

Already have a camping knife? What do you like about it? Tell us in the comments below!

Jim Murphy

Jim's love for camping started at an early age. His parents would take him camping every summer, where he'd spend his days getting quality time in with his dad and his nights eating too many smores.

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