A reliable camping knife is a staple part of any backpacker’s inventory. A trusty knife will see you through many situations, be it whitling, hunting, fishing, slicing, dicing, or repairing. As with any backpacking trip, the goal is to maximize efficiency and minimize size and weight.
With a little research, you stand a chance of finding a knife that meets all your camping needs.
Fortunately, there are many multipurpose knives out there that can help you do anything from opening a food packet at your local campsite to hunting and shelter-building in the wild.
Read on to find out which backpacking knives make the cut.
Best Backpacking Knife of 2020
Smith & Wesson Extreme Ops SWA24S 7.1in S.S. Folding Knife
This 7 inch S.S. folding knife from Smith & Wesson is not only the optimum backpacking knife, but it is also excellent value for money. For less than $20, Smith & Wesson offer a handheld knife with a razor-sharp blade made from high-quality metal.
The thumb studs enable quick and easy opening for one-handed deployment. The handle is enhanced with textured material for a secure and solid grip. When the knife is open, it is balanced perfectly towards the center.
This makes for the perfect hunting knife, while the serrated edges mean you can also saw wood.
If an affordable, light-weight multi-purpose knife is what you are after, the Smith & Wesson S.S. Folding Knife ticks all the boxes.
Bear Grylls Knife Ultimate Fixed Blade Survival Knife
The Bear Grylls survival knife truly is the “ultimate” backpacking knife. It is capable of enduring a range of camping situations and is endorsed by survival expert Bear Grylls himself.
The blade is made from premium grade steel and had a serrated edge for cutting rope. The textured rubber grip makes for a convenient and sturdy hold. The sheaf also boasts the added feature of a fire starter.
The rod locks onto the sheaf and the striker notch is built into the back of the knife blade. What’s more, the sheaf has a diamond sharpener integrated into it so you don’t need to buy a separate knife sharpener.
Even the most adventurous campers will have trouble finding problems with this knife.
Morakniv Companion Fixed Blade Outdoor Knife
The Morakniv companion blade is ideal for preparing food and cutting or carving wood. It is rare for a knife to have the finesse to finely cut something like fish while also having the ability to cut timber.
Although it is branded as a “companion knife”, for the majority of backpackers, the Morakniv fixed blade will be the only knife you ever need. The stainless steel blade is highly durable and is less prone to rust than carbon steel.
Considering it is a budget knife, the Morakniv’s ability to carry out versatile camping tasks is highly impressive.
Benchmade 535GRY Bugout
If one of your biggest backpacking concerns is saving weight, the Benchmade 535GRY Bugout is an excellent choice. The knife itself weighs less than 2 ounces and the reversible pocket clip offers maximum accessibility.
The high-quality stainless steel blade boasts a sharp edge and excellent endurance. The handle is tough but comfortable and the blade folds up to fit neatly inside.
The blade can be easily deployed with just one hand, making it an attractive option for survivalists.
Victorinox Swiss Army Multi-Tool, SwissChamp Pocket Knife
If you truly want to maximize function and minimize space, the Victorinox Swiss Army knife is everything you could want and more. It packs 33 functions and is essentially a mini toolbox for your pocket.
The knife blade is 3.6” and there are different knives for different tasks. The fish scaler is particularly convenient if you are going to be preparing your own food.
You’ll find a tool for every job without having to waste space on a selection of individual products.
Schrade SCHF36 Frontier 10.4in Stainless Steel
This product from Schrade is another high-quality camping knife that is excellent value for money. The blade is strong and sturdy and can tackle whatever survival tasks your trip throws at you.
Better still, the sheath comes with a sharpening stone and a fire starter kit. The blade has been modified to include a finger coil for a secure grip.
This is a trusty knife and at 10.4”, the blade can handle all kinds of materials.
SE Outdoor Tanto Knife with Firestarter – KHK6320
The SE Outdoor Tanto Knife is excellent value for money. The Tanto blade is 7 inches long and made of sturdy stainless steel. The handle is wrapped in cord to ensure maximum grip even in slippery conditions.
The knife comes with a nylon sheath for safe carrying. The sheath is also kitted with a firestarter that works better than most firestarters products of the same price.
In this case, however, the firestarter comes with a fantastic backpacking knife.
Spyderco Ark Fixed Blade Knife
The Spyderco Ark Fixed Blade Knife has a solid smooth blade and fiberglass reinforced nylon handle. This means it is lightweight but highly durable.
The blade prides itself in its detailed ergonomics. The knife is specially designed to increase cutting power and minimize fatigue.
This product is a great choice if you know that you will be using your blade for practical survival tasks like carving wood or hunting.
Kershaw Cryo Pocket Knife
The Kershaw Cyro Pocket Knife is a foldable knife that enables secure and fast one-handed deployment. Equally important is the knife’s secure locking system that ensures safe and secure storage when the knife is not in use.
The blade itself is created from carbon steel. The stainless steel handle is highly durable and incorporates etching for a more secure grip.
Additionally, the knife features a convenient choice of pocket clips so you can wear it in the most easily accessible position.
Gear Aid Kotu Tanto Fixed 3” Blade Knife with Sheath
The Kotu Tanto Knife features a fixed 3” blade. This makes it a viable option if you are looking for an everyday carry knife rather than a hunting knife.
The blade itself is inspired by the Japanese wakizashi sword and so you can trust that it will cut through most materials. The quick-release sheath allows you to attach the knife to a backpack, belt, or boot.
For a small blade, this product really does pack a punch.
Best Backpacking Knife Buying Guide
Shopping for the right backpacking knife can mean the difference between carrying multiple tools or one light-weight multi-purpose product.
If you are hoping to find the ideal knife for any backpacking situation, there are some things you are going to want to consider when reviewing your options.
First, evaluate how often you will be using your knife and how you will be carrying it. If you are going to be spending a long period of time in the wilderness, you may prefer a product that is designed to be easily accessible.
Foldable knives tend to be designed to fit in or clip onto your pocket. Typically, the blade can be deployed quickly so you are ready to defend or attack at any moment. Fixed blades are not foldable, but they do tend to be larger and sturdier.
If you opt for a fixed blade, be vigilant of the sheath material as well as the blade. A sturdy, plastic water-proof sheath should keep your blade protected from wet weather and potential rust.
Next, consider what you are going to be using the knife for. If you are serious about survival, you want to choose a knife with a thick, strong blade. A stainless steel edged blade should cut through thick rope and timber. A drop-point blade is going to be the best design for strength and versatility. A firestarter may be an attractive feature too.
If, on the other hand, your backpacking trip will involve more glamping than camping, a swiss-army knife means you can pack your corkscrew, kitchen knife, and other utensils in one convenient lightweight place.
You may, therefore, get more use out of a reasonably-priced multi-purpose knife than an expensive hunting blade.
Think carefully about the use you plan to get out of your knife and you can avoid overspending on features you are really not going to need.
Frequently Asked Questions
What should I look for in terms of blade shape?
The shape of the blade is fundamental to knife-buying. Generally, drop-point is considered to be the best blade shape when it comes to versatility.
This is a blade that has a strong convex curving sloping back to the point of the blade. Needle-point blades are handy for survival situations like puncturing whereas sheepsfoot blades are ideal for woodcutting and food prep.
What is a good material for a backpacking knife?
Stainless steel and carbon steel are both very good options for your blade.
These types of steel can cut through most materials and are not too heavy but not too light either. If you choose a knife with a sheath, plastic is a good choice as it is water-proof and sturdy.
What is the ideal size and weight for a blade?
The ideal blade length should be somewhere between 4 and 5 inches. A smaller knife is better for precision while although a knife that is too small has limited use.
When it comes to weight, heavier knives tend to offer more stability. That said, lightweight knives are preferable if you are aiming to pack light. 4 ounces is generally considered to be a good weight for a backpacking knife.
What is the benefit of choosing a serrated knife?
Serrated knives are handy for executing tasks like cutting rope, chiseling wood, cutting bone etc.
Realistically though, you can carry out these tasks with a smooth blade. In fact, survival tasks like skinning animals and woodwork can be carried out more effectively without separation.
What features improve grip?
Many knives will come with a finger insert along the handle to improve grip. Others will offer a wide, etched cross guard area for a more comfortable hold.
Knives that combine these two features tend to offer the best grip.