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Published Jul 18, 2022 9:55 AM

There are many outdoor tasks that require a solid camping knife to accomplish. Maybe you’re just getting set up and need to clear a campsite. Perhaps you need to cut some paracord to set up your tent or build some form of shelter, which you can’t very well do with your teeth. And while you hopefully use a proper hatchet to cut firewood, having a blade for feather-sticking and striking a ferro rod is a great way to get a crackling fire started. 

Camping knives are specialized tools, and whatever your requirements, there’s likely an ideal blade for you among our top picks for the best camping knives on the market. Let’s get to it, shall we? After all, those s’mores aren’t going to cook themselves.

Methodology

I’ve been collecting and selling knives for about a decade, and was even a blacksmith apprentice for a while. I’ve also written extensively about the subject for Task & Purpose. In addition to writing guides about Damascus knives, utility knives, and karambit knives, I’ve also reviewed individual blades like the Cold Steel American Lawman, WE Stonefish, Leatherman Curl, Cold Steel Storm Cloud, QSP Penguin, and Spyderco Slip Stone. Bluntly put, I’m a nerd — pun intended.

For this article, we used recommendations shared in forums around the internet, particularly a handful of Facebook groups for knife enthusiasts. We relied on these sources because the members tend to provide better feedback than what you’d find in product review sections on most knife websites. 

The knives we selected came highly recommended because of their overall quality and performance. We looked for blades that were durable, versatile, and easy to maintain. We also considered things like the materials used for the blade, handle, and sheath, as well as the manufacturer’s reputation for quality control. We specifically looked for blades that were corrosion-resistant, either due to them being stainless steel, or having a protective coating if they were high carbon steel. Leather and cloth sheaths were avoided, as were wooden handles, due to their tendency to retain moisture.

For more information on our methodology and product reviews, check out the Task & Purpose review guidelines.

Best Overall

Morakniv is known for making quality knives at an affordable price, and the Garberg is no exception. The saber-ground blade is made from 14C28N Sandvik stainless steel, which has better edge retention than the company’s standard 12C27 steel. The molded polyamide handle has a finger guard and pommel swell to keep your hand from slipping off the grip and is remarkably comfortable in hand thanks to TPE inserts.

The only complaint we have with this knife isn’t even the knife — it’s the sheath. It would have been nice to have seen one that could be easily attached to a belt, but the bulky sheath that comes with the Garberg is more suited for storage than it is comfortable to carry. That said, the Morakniv Multi-Mount system is great for fastening it to four-wheelers, kayaks, or any MOLLE-equipped packs.

Named in honor of the Morakniv’s roots, the Garberg was designed as its toughest blade yet, for its most devout fans. Not only does it feature its thickest blade yet, but it also has a robust full tang for even more strength. Combined with Morakniv’s razor sharp zero-ground edge, this knife is sure to please any outdoor enthusiast.

Product Specs
  • Blade length: 4.25 inches
  • Blade material: 14C28N Sandvick stainless steel
  • Blade finish: Satin
  • Handle material: Polyamide/TPE
  • Blade shape: Clip point
  • Sheath material: Polymer
  • Weight: 9.6 ounces
PROS

Ergonomic, grippy handle

Easily resharpened

Excellent corrosion resistance

14C28N for better performance than the 12C27 used on their cheaper models

Inexpensive

CONS

Bulky, plastic sheath

Multi-Mount system can be confusing

Another blade offered by Morakniv, the Companion Spark is based on arguably its most well-known model. The addition of a ferro rod stored conveniently in the handle makes this camping favorite an even better choice for your next outdoor adventure.

The blade is similar to that of the standard Companion model, however Morakniv added a 90-degree spine for striking the ferro rod against. It’s made from the company’s standard 12C27 Sandvik steel, which, due to the fine grain structure, is known for having an excellent edge while remaining easy to maintain. Combined with its corrosion resistance, it’s an excellent, inexpensive choice.

The red accents on the rubberized handle, combined with the red polymer sheath and reflective nylon lanyard, ensure high visibility no matter where your adventures may take you. The included ferro rod is good for an advertised 3,000 strikes. While there may be knives that hold an edge longer, you’ll be hard-pressed to find one that can compete at this price.

Product Specs
  • Blade length: 4 inches
  • Blade material: 12C27 Sandvik steel
  • Blade finish: Satin
  • Handle material: Polyamide/TPE
  • Blade shape: Clip point
  • Sheath material: Polymer
  • Weight: 4.5 ounces
PROS

Ferro rod stores conveniently in handle

Ergonomic, grippy handle

Easily resharpened

Excellent corrosion resistance

Inexpensive

CONS

Bulky, plastic sheath

Editor’s Choice

New in 2022, the Anonimus is the latest in Benchmade’s recent push to update its lineup with more premium steel offerings — and it doesn’t disappoint. Made in the USA, five inches of American steel ensure that this full tang blade is a serious contender. CPM Cru-Wear is a tool steel prized for its impressive toughness and edge retention, while still having decent corrosion resistance.

At less than six ounces, the Anonimus isn’t a heavy knife, and that’s intentional. It’s not designed to take the place of a proper ax or hatchet, but the 2.9 mm thick blade cuts through materials with ease. And with a hardness of 62-64 HRC, it’ll keep cutting as long as you do.

The thin G-10 scales are textured and have grooves to accommodate a pinch grip for detail work or food prep. The hand guard is modeled after a Geissele trigger, and the sharpening choil next to it is designed for you to easily strike a ferro rod on. Rounding it off nicely, the Boltaron sheath even has a loop to hold the ferro rod when not in use.

Product Specs
  • Blade length: 5 inches
  • Blade material: CPM Cru-Wear tool steel
  • Blade finish: Tungsten Gray Cerakote
  • Handle material: G-10
  • Blade shape: Drop point
  • Sheath material: Boltaron
  • Weight: 5.94 ounces
  • Weight with sheath: 8.5 ounces
PROS

Made in the USA

Corrosion- and wear-resistant Cerakote coating

Sheath includes loop for adding ferro rod

CONS

Price

Best Swiss Army Style

Whether you were in the Boy Scouts or not, chances are you came to recognize the efficacy of the Swiss Army Knife. The SAK form-factor allows you to pack away an incredibly handy multitool into a very compact package, and at four inches closed, the Voyager is no exception. Made in Italy by Mercury, it features red aluminum scales for high visibility and durability, while giving a not-so-subtle nod to its Swiss cousin.

This particular style of SAK is commonly referred to as a hobo knife, and is perfect for camping. It contains a fork, knife, and spoon, and the handles slide apart allowing for two-handed use. The blade has a blunt tip like a butterknife, making it an ideal choice for more restrictive counties. The Voyager also has a corkscrew, flathead screwdriver, and unlike most hobo knives, a bottle/can opener so you can get to the grub.

Product Specs
  • Tools: 6
  • Blade length: 3 inches
  • Blade material: Stainless steel
  • Blade finish: Satin
  • Handle material: Aluminum
  • Sheath material: Nylon
  • Weight: 4.21 ounces
PROS

Lightweight and compact

Disassembles for two-handed use

Inexpensive

CONS

Aluminum scales aren’t textured

Best for Cooking

Condor, a division of Imacasa, is known for making durable, practical designs at a great price, and the Hivernant is a great example of the company’s work. Its Nessmuk-style blade is effectively a modified drop-point blade, featuring a deep, continuously curving belly. This thin blade is a traditional design dating back to at least 1884 and is a popular choice for food prep or skinning game.

True to its roots, this knife is a diamond in the rough. It comes with a traditional, thick leather sheath and rustic walnut scales. The scales are affixed to the full tang knife by four brass pins, and have a brass lanyard tube as well in the pommel.

Unfortunately, Condor isn’t known for coming with the best factory edges, and this roughcut design is no exception, with many users reporting edges more akin to that of an ax. While it’s worth noting that this knife is designed for cutting (not chopping wood), it’s also worth noting that Condor updated this traditional design with 440C stainless steel. This ensures that not only will it be easy to hone to a hair-splitting edge, but also that it’ll hold said edge without need for constant oiling to stave off rust.

Product Specs
  • Blade length: 4.375 inches
  • Blade material: 440C
  • Blade finish: Satin
  • Handle material: Walnut
  • Blade shape: Nessmuk
  • Sheath material: Leather
  • Weight: 7.2 ounces
PROS

Easily resharpened

Decent corrosion resistance

Inexpensive

CONS

Factory edge

Simple, traditional sheath

A predecessor to the popular Andrew Demko-designed AD-10, the Cold Steel Ultimate Hunter is an EDC folder that lives up to its name. Featuring premium S35VN steel, textured G-10 handle scales, and the beastly Tri-Ad lock, this tough folder is more than capable of anything you can throw it at.

Like most Demko designs, the ergonomics on the Ultimate Hunter are fantastic, with a comfortable finger groove and chamfered edges. Combined with Cold Steel’s infamous razor-sharp edge, this saber-ground, drop-point blade can go the distance, without becoming uncomfortable in your hand. Ferro rods spark easily on its 90-degree spine, and it feather-sticks with ease. Its linerless construction greatly reduces weight, while the G10 is thick enough to prevent any noticeable flex. The blade-to-handle ratio is slightly disproportionate, with the elongated handle ensuring those with larger hands or gloves can comfortably use the Ultimate Hunter in any position.

The finishing touch to this simple, yet timeless, design is its completely ambidextrous nature. Dual thumb studs, the Tri-Ad lock, and pocket clips for both right-handed and southpaw users ensure that you’ll have no issues using, or lending, this knife. Be aware though: As with most Cold Steel folders, the pocket clips and Tri-Ad lock tend to be rather stiff as a matter of policy.

Product Specs
  • Blade length: 3.5 inches
  • Blade material: CPM S35VN
  • Blade finish: Satin
  • Handle material: G10
  • Blade shape: Drop point
  • Weight: 4.9 ounces
  • Lock type: Tri-Ad
PROS

Demko Tri-Ad lock

Premium, American steel

Ergonomic G10 handles

CONS

Tight pocket clip

Best Folding Saw

While it’s not exactly a knife, the Gomboy Curve is a folding blade, and that’s close enough for us. Manufactured in Japan, it’s a great alternative to carrying a chainsaw or ax, and is great for awkward, tight spaces. A redesigned version of the original Gomboy, this saw is fitted with a curved blade that increases your cutting power, while also preventing it from slipping out of the cut.

When building shelter, being able to make precise cuts is a huge plus, and the Gomboy Curve does so quickly and efficiently thanks to its large, impulse-hardened teeth. The blade locks into two different positions for the optimal cutting angle, and also locks in the closed position for safe, easy transport in a pack. Whereas other folding saws are made from non-name mystery steel, the Curve is made from Japanese SK4 high-carbon steel, and given a hard chrome-plated finish for wear and rust resistance. With multiple available blade lengths, a durable steel handle, and comfortable rubber grip inserts, what’s not to like?

Product Specs
  • Blade length: 8.3 inches
  • Blade material: SK-4
  • Blade finish: Chrome-plated
  • Handle material: Steel, rubber
  • Blade shape: Sheepsfoot
  • Weight: 13.2 ounces
  • Lock type: Back lock
PROS

Chrome-plated for corrosion resistance

Made in Japan

Compact folding design eliminates need for sheath

Limited lifetime warranty

CONS

Not as sturdy as non-folding saws

Best all around

Originally designed as a PSK (pilot survival knife) for the U.S. military, this fixed blade has more than earned its reputation as a solid blade for the outdoors. With a cutting edge of five inches, it’s easy to see where its designation of the ESEE-5 came from. The full flat-ground blade is heat-treated to around 55-57 HRC and is given a durable powder coat to help prevent wear, tear, and corrosion.

The saber-ground blade is complemented by grippy micarta handle scales that guarantee you’ll be able to maintain a solid grasp, even in the wettest conditions. The exposed tang on the pommel works great as a glass-breaker, and can double as a small pry tool, while the lanyard hole is a great touch to ensure retention in unfavorable conditions. The Kydex sheath really puts the icing on the cake, with adjustable retention, an ambidextrous mounting clip, and a ton of MOLLE-compatible holes.

Our only real complaints revolve around the weight (it’s an absolute chonk), and the entirety of the blade being powder-coated. We’d have liked to see a small uncoated area for striking ferro rods on, though it’s not really necessary as ESEE included a divot in the micarta scales to seat a bow drill. If you absolutely have to see those ferro sparks fly, you can always scrape off part of the coating (or, as much as I hate this, use the edge). With ESEE’s warranty, this USA-made fixed-blade is sure to last you a lifetime.

Product Specs
  • Blade length: 5.25 inches
  • Blade material: 1095
  • Blade finish: Powder coat
  • Handle material: Micarta
  • Blade shape: Drop point
  • Sheath material: Kydex
  • Weight: 16 ounces
PROS

"No questions asked" lifetime warranty

Glass-breaker pommel

Divot for fire-starting

Corrosion-resistant powder coat

Made in the USA

CONS

Weight

What to consider when buying camping knives

Types of camping knives

Camping knives come in many different forms and sizes. No matter what task you have in mind or what your local restrictions are, it’s probable that you’ll easily find a camping knife that suits your needs. You can find them at pretty much any sporting goods store or online, and they’re available at pretty much every price point.

Fixed blade

A fixed blade is any knife with a blade that is “fixed” in place, meaning that it doesn’t have a pivot, and is firmly, immovably attached to the handle. They’re essentially the opposite of pocket knives. The blade is always exposed unless it’s covered by a sheath. They’re simple, easier to manufacture than folding knives, and very user-friendly due to the absence of a confusing locking mechanism.

Fixed blade camping knives come in many varieties, including drop-point and clip-point knives. The better-designed fixed blades are also full-tang, where the part of the blade that’s part of the handle is the same size and shape as the handle, as this provides the greatest overall strength. The majority of cheap camping fixed blades, unfortunately, are not; these knives have a thin metal ‘tail’ that is typically pinned or glued inside of the handle and are more prone to breaking.

Folding

Also referred to as a pocket knife, a folder is a compact knife that features one or more blades that fold up into the handle, in lieu of using a bulky sheath. Meant to fit easily inside your pocket, these knives are legal to carry in most places, and are convenient to carry and use daily. They are frequently smaller than fixed blades, with blades typically between three and four inches long, although there are many exceptions that are both longer and shorter than this. While these aren’t common choices for camping knives, they can be quite handy for anything from peeling an apple to cutting rope. Though these folding knives are typically smaller and not as strong as their fixed blade siblings, they’re highly versatile.

Multitool

While technically a variant of a folding knife, the main selling point of a multitool isn’t the blade itself, but rather the multiple tools that accompany it. This can include anything from pliers or scissors to screwdrivers and corkscrews. It can come in the form of a small Swiss Army Knife, or a larger Leatherman multitool. Companies such as Victorinox, Leatherman, and Gerber are well-known for their multitool offerings.

Camping knives key features

Steel type

As large as the variety of blade shapes is, there are even more types of blade steel you can choose from for camping knives. High-carbon steel tends to be tougher and easier to sharpen than stainless steel, but rusts much easier, and often doesn’t have as good edge retention as premium stainless steel. Lower-end steel is cheaper and typically easier to resharpen, but premium steel, whether stainless or carbon, tends to have noticeably better edge retention and toughness.

Blade length 

You wouldn’t use a sword to open an envelope, and you probably wouldn’t use a box-cutter to hack away at brush. Depending on the intended use, you might need a longer or shorter length blade for optimum efficiency and safety. However, you also have to take into account the laws for your state, county, and city, in case they restrict your maximum blade length. That said, it’s usually better to have slightly more length than necessary, than not enough. We find that one between four and six inches is usually ideal for most outdoor tasks.

Blade shape

One of the most important things when picking out the right blade for your task, the blade shape and overall geometry can greatly impact the usefulness and longevity of your knife for specific tasks. A box-cutter will do notably better at its stated use than a machete, and the machete will do notably better in outdoor use. Some jobs require a thicker, stronger blade, while others require a thinner, slicey blade. A knife with a super-thin tip might be great for delicate, detailed work, but will likely break if used for chopping.

Handle materials

There are a plethora of different materials available nowadays that are commonly used for handles, and each has their own unique qualities. Wood and leather are some of the oldest choices, and are commonly found on traditional knives, despite not providing as much traction as newer options. They’re also more prone to water damage. Rubber provides a better grip, but depending on the composition may be damaged easily by UV rays or abrasion. Our personal favorites are G10 and micarta, due to their resistance to damage from abrasion, chemicals, water, UV rays, and temperature changes, as well as the improved grip in extreme environments.

Camping knives pricing

Budget

A plethora of camping knives are budget-friendly and priced at $100 or less. You’ll find quite a few fixed blades and a few decent folders in this price range. If you just need something as soon as possible for a dedicated camping knife, an expendable tool, or if your inner Scrooge absolutely has to pinch those pennies, this might be for you.

Mid-range

If you’re looking for a camping knife that offers the best bang for your buck, you’ll find most of those in the mid-range bracket of $100 to $300. These knives will tend to be made with better materials, designs, and overall much better quality control.

Premium

Only accepting the best of the best? You’ll want to look in the $300-and-up price range. Here’s where you’ll find specialized and custom-made camping knives, which typically come with premium materials and a fantastic warranty.

Tips and tricks

As with something you do for decades upon decades, you pick up a few tips and tricks along the way in terms of selecting the right product, and/or using it. That’s the case with us and camping knives. To help you bridge the information gap, here’s a selection of what we’ve learned along the way. 

  • Even if your knife has a corrosion-resistant coating or is made from stainless steel, keeping it clean and lightly oiled is always a good idea. Not only will it make your tool last longer by minimizing the slightest chance of rust, but it’ll perform better as well. Knives long thought dull frequently are found to have sap, tape residue, or similar substances gumming up the edge. Never put a knife away unless it is clean and dry.
  • Additionally, keeping a small strop and sharpening system with you is a great idea to maintain a functional edge in the field. It doesn’t have to look pretty to cut. We’re big fans of the Spyderco Sharpmaker for this.
  • According to a study in 2007 released by Wilderness & Environmental Medicine, the most frequent cause for hunters to go to the hospital was from knife-related injuries. Take your time, slow down, and consider stopping to touch up the edge whenever you find yourself having to use more force than normal.

FAQs on camping knives

You’ve got questions, Task & Purpose has answers.

Q: How sharp should a camping knife be?

A: Sharp is sharp — either your knife is dull, or it’s not. That said, typically you won’t need as refined of an edge as you would on, say, a straight razor. For most camping knives, a 25 to 30-degree edge is strong enough to not need much maintenance in the field, while remaining acute enough for most tasks. Knives used for fileting and similar tasks will be more acute, while those used instead of proper hatchets or machetes will benefit from broader edges.

Q: Can you have a knife for camping?

A: That is what the title of this article implies, yes. It is worth noting, however, that local restrictions apply, so make sure to be informed before you pack up to head out. KnifeUp.com is a fantastic source for up-to-date information.

Q: What is a knife used for during camping?

A: If your answer is “everything,” you’re on the right track. Foraging, fishing, gutting, cooking, starting a fire, building shelter — the list goes on and on, and is only limited by your imagination.

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