When you are hiking or camping outdoors, the single most important equipment that you should always carry with you is the humble camp knife. You need this knife for doing a variety of tasks ranging from slicing cheese to protecting yourself against a bear attack. The versatility and utility of a camping knife make it an essential tool for hikers. A careful consideration of various facts, therefore, should be done before buying one. A good knife could be the vital game changer in your outdoor trip as it has the power to change your otherwise comfortable trip into a nightmare. There are a lot of uses of a camp knife, but essentially it is about cutting and severing. Whether you need it for cutting open a canned food item or a paracord, you should know the features of your knife in hand.
If you start searching for a good knife for camping, you will find a lot of models, some of them having multiple features and contraptions like bottle openers, a small pair of scissors etc. Therefore, it is very important to understand the features of the best survival knife and choose a knife that fulfills most of your requirements.
Having such a great variety of camping knives in the market surely adds to the confusion of finding the best camp knife among them. Thus, if you want to avoid getting confused, you should know exactly what do you expect out of your knife. We have highlighted the various features that you should consider in a knife for camping and hiking, along with tips that will help you make this very important decision.
Basic Features for Choosing a Camp Knife
Let us look at the basic features that you should consider when buying a camping knife. While a lot of people would prefer to have many functions in the same equipment, many times, this arrangement does not work out in the best way, as we will discuss below.
Folding v/s Non-Folding Knife
The first decision that you have to make about your camp knife is whether you want a folding knife or a non-folding/ fixed knife. As their names suggest, a folding knife will have the provision of folding the blade, thereby protecting the sharp blade within the knife-case. These knives are ideal backpacking knives because of their compact size. This design is preferred for family camping trips when kids are around. However, these camping knives are not as strong as the ones with a fixed blade.
Fixed blade knives come with the advantage of more durability and strength, but their disadvantage is that the sharp blade is not inside any protective casing. Thus, they can be dangerous in family trips. Fixed blade knives are among the best camping knives because they have diverse uses. For example, they can be tied to a branch or stick and can then be used as a spear. Their other uses are in batoning, chopping, defense against wild animals and digging.
When choosing a camp knife with a fixed blade, you should check whether it has a full tang construction, meaning that the blade is made of a single piece of metal from tip to handle.
The quality of the knife blade will determine its efficacy. Of course, it is desirable that the blade of your camp knife be durable and sturdy. But it is also a good idea to read up a bit about the various materials of blade construction and their properties. For example, stainless steel blades don’t rust but carbon steel blades do.
Stainless steel is graded according to its quality, strength, and durability. Each grade has different utility. For camping knives, a grade of 440 or above is generally recommended. It is a favored material of construction for small fixed blades.
In contrast, carbon steel is the material of choice for larger knives with fixed blades, for example, a machete. The advantage of carbon steel is that it retains the sharpness for a much longer time than stainless steel. This means that frequent re-sharpening is not required for a camp knife made of carbon steel, unlike stainless steel.
Also, the shape of the blade is a vital thing to consider. Some of the best survival knives have sharp pointed tips instead of a rounded one.
There is no doubt that the blade of camping knives is their most important feature. But the quality of their handles will determine the ease with which you can hold and use the knife when needed. Having a top-class blade is useless if the handle hurts your fist while using the knife.
Popular materials of construction of camp knife handles are hardwood, bone, and plastic. It is advisable that you hold the knife and try to rotate the wrist swiftly in a few directions before finalizing the knife for purchase. Additionally, have a good look at the pommel, or the base of the knife. If it is solid and durable, you can use this side of your camping knife as a hammer, if needed.
Wooden and bone-derived handles are very comfortable but they require proper maintenance. Handles made of metal are strong and durable, but they can get cold or hot in extreme temperatures, making their handling a bit tricky. Rubber handles withstand temperature variations but are not very durable.
Size and Weight
The ideal size of a camp knife will depend on the size of your hand and fist. If a knife is too big in your hands, you won’t be able to perform minute tasks that involve precision. On the other hand, if your knife is too small in your hands, you won’t be able to exert enough force with it.
When considering the size of a camping knife, always consider the size when it is fully extended.
Also, give due importance to the size of its handle. If the handle is too small relative to the blade, your palm will get blisters while using it.
A knife with a large blade will prove to be the best survival knife and find the best use in heavy work like cutting trees and barks. The size of the blade might be your game changer when you want to choose a survival knife.
When comparing the size and weight of two or more camping knives, it is important to keep in mind that a heavier knife should have a heavier handle too. Otherwise many activities like chopping are affected. A heavy blade goes best with bone or plastic handles.
Common Uses of a Camping Knife Set
It is true that when we venture out into the wilderness of nature, nothing can be predicted. However, with the advancement of tracking systems and upgrades of hiking and camping tools, the occasions where we require a camp knife have become restricted.
Want to know about the common uses of the knife?
Here are some of the most common uses of a knife while camping:
- Cutting cord while unpacking, opening packed items.
- Splitting woods or fire-sticks.
- Opening packets of food and other basic packaged material.
- Repairing gear and other equipment.
- Chopping meat and vegetables for cooking.
- Carving on wood (only when absolutely necessary)
- Fending off animals
- Self defence
As you would believe, none of these requires a very fancy feature in a camp knife. However, this doesn’t mean that you should not give due importance to it. In the world of hiking and camping, it is believed that having a blunt knife is more dangerous than having a sharp knife. Therefore, you should consider the all the probable utilities before selecting a knife for yourself.
Check out the Checklist to Consider for your Next Hike
How to Choose the Best Hiking/Camping Knife
Now you know about the most important features to look for in a camp knife, and the most common uses of a knife when camping or hiking.
Here are few tips that will help you choose the best knife for camping.
- Multi-tools are great. They offer a lot of small contraptions and fancy little equipment in one tool. But they cannot replace the survival functions, utility, and impact of a good camp knife.
- Serrated camping knives look very hard-core and fancy. But practically all the functions that they serve are also achieved by non-serrated knives. In addition, serrated knives are very difficult to sharpen. Therefore, buy a serrated knife only if you have a very good reason for it.
- Think about your camping style. Do you believe in minimalism or are you a believer in having comfort when you are outdoors? This will help you decide between a pretty basic camp knife and a more elaborate tool. Usually, backpackers can survive pretty well with folding knife sets and multi-tools. Hence, they don’t want to spend a lot on a heavy knife that will not serve them enough.
As a caper, its vital that you know about Clean Camping: Hygiene Hacks to Make Camping Hassle-free
A camp knife serves many more functions than simply cutting vegetables and cords. It is one tool that will be your survival partner and make your trip comfortable. Therefore, choosing one is a big task and should not be taken lightly.
Do you have a favorite model of a camping knife that has served you exceptionally well?
We would like to hear about your experience with camping knives.