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Published Apr. 14, 2021

The phrase “bushcraft” is often dismissed by novices as just a fancy word for whittling sticks, a perception that makes even the best bushcraft knives seem overkill. The reality is that solid bushcraft skills can (and do) save lives in a wilderness survival setting. Whether it’s crafting an expedient litter to carry an injured person to safety, building a shelter to keep warm and dry, or crafting a greenwood grill to cook food, bushcraft techniques are invaluable tools in the repertoire of any serious outdoors enthusiast. Specialized knives which prioritize coarse tasks like stripping branches, drilling holes, and splitting logs are essential for bushcraft tasks. 

The best bushcraft knives will commonly have a Scandinavian grind and are ideally full-tang to achieve the durability required for arduous outdoor tasks. All of the options listed here were personally tested by Task & Purpose gear reviewers — and all of them passed their tests with flying colors. Here’s what you need to know when looking for the best bushcraft knives.

How we tested

Bushcraft is, by necessity, in the bush, and the best bushcraft knives are meant to be taken outdoors and used in extreme survival situations. In the right hands, they can be used to build entire sets of camp furniture, complex structures, and roaring fires to keep you warm. It stands to reason that the way to test these knives would be to take every single one of them into a field environment and evaluate how they perform these essential tasks, while also seeing how they stand up to the elements, and how easy they are to resharpen. These knives were also subjected to strenuous tasks, including soaking the blades in wet salt and leaving them in open air overnight, being used to hack through logs in lieu of a hatchet, and being used to strike ferro rods to start fires. While they vary in their strengths and weaknesses, I’m confident in recommending any of the bushcraft knives on this list for intensive outdoor use.

Best Overall

The TOPS Brakimo is not ashamed of what it is: a big, bold knife that’s designed for heavy use outdoors. In our testing, we split logs, shaved branches down, stripped saplings of their brush, and easily returned it to hair-shaving sharpness with the use of a simple pocket sharpener. This is a purebred, Scandi-grind knife that made short work of everything we threw at it in testing, except perhaps resistance to corrosion. With a blade made of 1095 carbon steel, micarta handles, and grip panel features designed for the outdoors enthusiast in mind, it’s not for everyone, but if the Brakimo works for you, it’ll likely be the only bushcraft knife you’ll ever need.

Probably the most significant advantage of a TOPS blade is the overbuilt, durable design that will stand up to anything. This blade is roughly 5 mm thick at the spine, and the aggressive modified Scandi grind means that this will baton with the best of them. Having a broad spine going to a zero-angle grind means that the entire blade functions as a splitting wedge or a hatchet blade when swung, which makes the Scandi grind a natural choice for bushcraft. The blade is made of 1095 carbon steel, which is tough, easy to resharpen, and holds an edge well. To counteract the rust-prone nature of carbon steels, TOPS has cerakoted the non-cutting surfaces of the blade in a steel-tone coating, which will protect those surfaces and provide a factory-new appearance for longer. The inclusion of a Kydex sheath is a fantastic one, especially for the money paid, and the sheath is serviceable, although I modified mine. Finally, the micarta handle features divots for use with a stick and bow to make a friction fire, and a specially designed lanyard loop that’s shaped to allow you to straighten out arrowheads if they become bent.

Of course, the Brakimo isn’t perfect. The 1095 blade is cerakoted, but the large exposed bevel of the Scandi grind means that roughly half the blade is uncoated, and therefore prone to rust. The other consideration is that the 90 degree spine of the blade may be used for striking a ferro rod to make fire in a pinch, which will wear off the cerakote finish. On the salt test, which consists of wet salt rubbed into the steel and left exposed to open air, the Brakimo performed miserably, and severely corroded overnight. While this is expected of 1095 carbon steel, this illustrates that those who anticipate using this knife in any coastal region with salty air, those who work in high humidity, or those who anticipate working around corrosive materials should be proactively cleaning their knife, and should regularly have the blade serviced.

Then there’s the sheath’s included belt clip, which is only held in place by friction so it rotates somewhat freely and isn’t wide enough to fit on military rigger or gunfighter belts. In addition, the sheath locks around the grip scales of the knife, shortening your effective grip length by an inch when drawing the knife. My personal preference is to keep it on a winglet attachment inside my plate carrier cummerbund, but that required me to spend the extra money on a BladeTech clip and the necessary screws to mount it.

For those looking for a dedicated bushcraft knife, the TOPS Brakimo provides a terrific experience that performs admirably in every way — and for a fair price. A carbon steel knife with a truly aggressive design, the Brakimo will make short work of any bushcraft task and still come out ahead. Most of the knife’s limitations are simply acceptable trade-offs for the easy-to-sharpen carbon steel, or are at least easily correctable in the case of the sheath design. To top it all off, the knife is proudly made in the United States. What more could you ask for?

Product Specs
  • Blade material: 1095 carbon steel
  • Handle material: Micarta
  • Blade grind: Scandi
  • Blade length: 5.25 inches
  • Country of manufacture: USA
PROS

Durable, thick blade

Cerakote on the flat of the blade to fight corrosion

Easy to resharpen in the field

CONS

Flimsy sheath clip

Steel is prone to rust

Sheath covers much of the handle

Best Value

Morakniv has made our buying guides at least three times as a fantastic option for people who want knives that punch so far above their weight, it’s almost criminal. The Swedish company does one thing extremely well, and that is make durable Scandi-grind knives meant to be used, abused, and re-sharpened in the field. Squarely centered in the Morakniv price spectrum is the Garberg, a full-tang utility knife that comes in either carbon or stainless steel and in a variety of sheath options. This knife offers capabilities well beyond what other sub-$100 options could dream of — and all with the endorsement of the Swedish crown.

The Garberg is compact enough for wear on your belt, pack, or body armor for military applications, and features the same Scandi grind as many of the other knives on this list, making it great for bushcraft tasks. It features a hard 90 degree spine that can be used to strike a ferro rod, but unlike some other options on this list also features an exposed tang that allows the user to strike a ferro rod there rather than on the spine, or to scrape wood shavings to use as kindling. Morakniv has also nailed the practice of producing a solid factory edge aggressively sharp out of the box to the point of meriting a warning here for your own safety. The carbon blade steel is essentially Swedish 1095, and so it’s easy to resharpen, tough, and holds an aggressive edge with the right maintenance approach.

Morakniv excels at making incredible blades, but not the other aspects of their knife production — chief among them the Garberg’s sheaths. Yes, all of them — the polymer sheath has a flimsy belt clip and shaky retention, the leather sheath doesn’t fit the high tech polyamide appearance and doesn’t provide positive retention without the snap flap, and the MOLLE multi-mount is a bulky affair that’s not great. The leather is the best stock sheath option of these three, but the real best option is to go get a quality kydex sheath, especially if you plan on using the Garberg for any sort of military use.

It’s also worth mentioning that the blade steels are a bit of a conundrum. The carbon steel is prone to corrosion, but takes on a pleasant patina after consistent responsible use, and offers a marginal toughness increase over the stainless steel variant. The stainless steel variant defeats most of the persistent rust concerns, while also preventing the blade from developing a patina, and sacrifices some toughness for this capability. The end result is that many outdoors purists will insist on a carbon steel, but the more practical option for most entry level users is to purchase the stainless option to save on cleaning.

The Garberg is an outstanding entry into the world of bushcraft knives. Anyone who wants a solid, dependable knife for less than $100 can have one from Morakniv, and the Garberg brings the full-tang durability that serious users need. The sheath options are nothing to write home about, and detract from making the Garberg a truly full-featured knife, but some corners had to be cut at this price point. Even so, I challenge you to break this knife by using bushcraft tasks, because I haven’t had luck with that yet.

Product Specs
  • Blade material: UHB-20C (suspected)
  • Handle material: Polyamide
  • Blade grind: Scandi
  • Blade length: 4.3 inches
  • Country of manufacture: Sweden
PROS

Economically priced

Easy to resharpen in the field

Razor-sharp from the factory

CONS

Flimsy sheath

Carbon steel is quick to corrode

Stainless steel variant is less tough

Editor’s Choice

Prices in the mid-$200s represent the boutique end of the bushcraft knife market and therefore the first sign of exotic materials and workmanship. Wander Tactical tests every single one of their knife designs in the Italian Alps to ensure that if you ever needed your life to depend on a knife, Wander Tactical has your back. While the Lynx is not a perfect design by any stretch of the imagination, in terms of sheer attention to detail and careful design, the knife is one of the best on this list.

The Lynx is a multipurpose knife that works not only for bushcraft, but also for hunting, survival, and general camping. As a bushcraft knife, the Lynx works with its flat-ground blade, a large choil for the user to hike up on for added purchase, jimping along the spine for better control, and the requisite 90-degree spine for use with a ferro rod. The blade is made of a semi-carbon, semi-stainless tool steel known as D2 which is cryogenically treated for a more precise tempering to ensure that the blade will last longer, chip less, and stand up to the use and abuse that comes with a survival scenario. Additionally, unlike many bushcraft knives, the Lynx is not so thick-spined that it can’t be used for fine slicing tasks such as cutting vegetables in a camp kitchen environment. Finally, the quality control of the Wander Tactical Lynx is absolutely pristine given its boutique design and small-batch production.

The knife has a sheath that’s disappointing at this price point, an unremarkable kydex sheath that was out of spec on the one that I evaluated. Additionally, the blade coating, which is KG Gunkote, rubbed off under normal use for batoning, stripping saplings, and notching trees to build shelter. Finally, the biggest drawback of something with the production scale of the Wander Tactical Lynx is that you’re looking at $260 (at least) for a new one and well above $400 if you want one made-to-order, which is a tough cost to justify when you consider that, at the end of the day, it’s a D2 blade with a micarta handle.

If outdoorsmanship is something that you pride yourself on and you need a blade that works and plays as hard as you do, the Wander Tactical Lynx is the knife for you. It isn’t just a tool, but it’s a hand-worked piece of art that comes with the attention to detail and consideration that you’d expect from a boutique knife. Not everything about the knife is perfect, but the level of performance is more than acceptable, and even with the steep price tag, this is a knife that you will not regret purchasing if you can pony up the cash.

Product Specs
  • Blade material: D2
  • Handle material: Micarta
  • Blade grind: Flat
  • Blade length: 4.25 inches
  • Country of manufacture: Italy
PROS

A do-it-all knife with great ergonomics

Durable blade steel

Hand-made, boutique design

CONS

Flimsy blade coating

Subpar sheath

Costly due to small batch production

Best Folding

Fixed blade knives aren’t for everyone, and for someone who wants a pocket knife that functions well as a bushcraft knife but doesn’t want to take up belt space with a sheath — or lives in an area where fixed blades of certain blade lengths are legally restricted — the Cold Steel Finn Wolf is a solid choice.

A stainless steel knife with a healthy 3.5-inch blade that fits in the user’s pocket as easily as any other folding knife, the Finn Wolf is still capable of handling any task with that of a fixed blade of equivalent blade length. The blade is made of AUS-8 stainless steel, capable of resisting rust from pocket sweat a little better than a carbon steel option even if AUS-8 is generally considered a “cheap” steel. The grips are made of a simple plastic, which keeps the weight down as well as the cost, all while containing the super-secure Cold Steel Tri-Ad lock that provides a similar blade locking strength to a fixed blade knife. Above all else, the Finn Wolf is a stellar deal for the price you pay, even for those who just want a great knife for casual whittling or opening MREs.

The Finn Wolf exemplifies the ideal beater bushcraft knife, a durable, affordable blade constructed specifically to mess up enough foliage to make achieving field tasks expediently a breeze. I tested the durability of the Finn Wolf with my usual tests of corrosion testing and sharpness testing, but also in a way that would have made Lynn Thompson proud: by stabbing and cutting apart no fewer than five cans of soup. While the blade was absolutely ruined afterwards, some attention with a sharpener brought it back to hair-shaving sharpness due in no small part to the sturdy Cold Steel Tri-Ad lock and the thick blade design; a lesser knife, by contract, would have been completely destroyed. The Finn Wolf’s blade is made of AUS-8 Steel, which despite being stainless, is very easy to resharpen in the steel, and if well-treated, will hold an edge very well, which the Finn Wolf does. Finally, the cost of this knife means that you won’t be afraid to beat it up and handle outdoor tasks with it, which is a concern I’ve often heard from casual knife buyers who are afraid of breaking tools that they see as “too nice.”

The Finn Wolf isn’t a perfect knife, especially for its relatively low MSRP. A large part of this is due to the construction of the knife and the opening action. As a folding bushcraft knife, the Finn Wolf has to be as durable as its fixed-blade counterparts, and part of that is the Tri-Ad lock, which I watched most users struggle to open one-handed compared to conventional liner, frame and axis locks. This is due to the locking system on the rear of the knife being a flat bar of steel, which means that until you get the blade open past the point of no return, there’s a lot of force that pushes against the force of opening. If your hands are slippery or if you don’t get a proper purchase on the opening stud, you may need to use two hands.

Another issue is the AUS-8 steel, which is nothing to write home about and, despite being stainless, doesn’t keep rust off the same way that more premium steels do. Cold Steel has hardened it to a very chippy 59-61 on the Rockwell Hardness scale. It’s a happy medium steel, but in this context and at this price, I would have preferred D2. A final gripe is the use of hardened rubber for the grip, which Cold Steel calls “Griv-ex.” In a world where more comfortable polymers like G-10 are becoming standard on even extremely cheap Chinese knives, a Taiwanese-made knife with cheap-feeling grips feels like cutting corners.

In the end, the Finn Wolf is a true folding Scandi knife that will handle the abuse that comes with outdoor usage. It’s not the most premium knife by any stretch of the imagination, but it fits into a niche that’s accessible for everyone who wants a quality knife. Just avoid activities that might chip the blade and make sure that you get the opening action right.

Product Specs
  • Blade material: AUS-8
  • Handle material: Griv-ex
  • Blade grind: Scandi
  • Blade length: 3.5 inches
  • Country of manufacture: Taiwan
PROS

Rock-solid opening action

Durable blade profile and decent steel

Affordable cost

CONS

Steel chips easily

Difficult opening action for new knife owners

Cheap-feeling grip construction

Best All-Purpose

Benchmade kindly sent their newest bushcraft and survival knife to me for testing a full month before it hit the market. The Benchmade “Anonimus,” rendered with backward “Ns” for added trade style, is a knife in Benchmade’s golden child steel, CPM-CruWear, that the company has gone all-in on in recent years. What I got was a very inspired, elaborately designed knife that, nonetheless, was lightweight and versatile, if a little overwrought, and not the best at pure bushcraft tasks. The factory edge was also even and hair-shaving sharp, which is a good return to form for Benchmade, who have been hit with complaints of poor factory edges as of late.

The Anonimus is a premium mass-market fixed blade that can do multiple tasks well enough to make this the one knife to rule them all in your personal kit, and comes in at a relatively affordable price that’s comparable to the Wander Tactical Lynx, with slightly better blade steel. The knife is a successor to Nimravus in many ways, a lightweight, ergonomic, and durable offering with a strong design language. The knife is somewhat handle-heavy, which is a departure from other knives on this list that put the center of gravity more towards the blade to aid with swinging as an improvised hatchet. But light doesn’t mean fragile, since CPM CruWear is a tough steel that’s simultaneously harder than steels like D2 and less prone to chipping, which has been a concern for harder steels since their inception. Despite the fact that the Anonimus is lighter than I’d like for bushcraft, I was able to make short work of a cedar tree in the field for position improvement to better conceal my position. This was aided by the ergonomic ridged G-10 grip, which does a good job of not only allowing me to maintain control of the knife, but also absorbing the shock of chopping through branches. The thinness of the blade isn’t necessarily a limitation entirely, since this means that it can function well as a camp or hunting knife in a pinch and retains slicing capabilities a lot better than larger, thicker blades that might split vegetables or damage an animal that you’re trying to dress.

Unfortunately, the Anonimus’ light weight means that every bit of cutting capability for bushcraft is coming from your muscles alone rather than aided by a front-heavy blade. Additionally, the blade is light because it’s thin, which raises concerns with regard to possible snapping hazards in a way that I wouldn’t be if the blade was as thick as something like a Wander Lynx. Finally, the cerakote finish on the blade, while not as prone to wear as something like KG Gunkote or powdercoat, picks up things like tree sap, blood, and other stains very easily and needs to be washed off with solvents. Thankfully, cerakote is very resistant to many popular solvents.

Overall, the Anonimus is a very capable knife that is excellently executed and delivers on inspired design and quality materials at an affordable price. While it’s not what I’d consider a purebred bushcrafter, not everyone needs a knife primarily for bushcraft and instead might want a knife that can do many things well. In that case, this is the knife for them.

Product Specs
  • Blade material: CPM-CruWear
  • Handle material: G-10
  • Blade grind: Flat
  • Blade length: 5 inches
  • Country of manufacture: USA
PROS

Lightweight

Durable blade steel

Comfortable grip

CONS

Thin blade

Too light to get much swinging momentum

Blade finish easily picks up stains from natural materials

Cold Steel! It’s a knife! What more do you want?

The Cold Steel Drop Forged Hunter is as full-tang of a knife as you’ll ever get; there is no handle and the entire knife is made of the same slab of 52100 carbon steel, which is so unglamorous and old-fashioned it would probably complain about “these newfangled radio things” considering that it first saw use in the 1910s. The fact that it’s still in use is a testament to its status as a hard steel drop forged to make durable tools easily, hence its use in this inexpensive knife. The Drop Forged Hunter has a deeper blade, meaning that the spine can be thick while also allowing the blade to be reasonably slice-y and reducing the risk of snapping, while also allowing the blade to be used for campground tasks like cooking or animal dressing. While the knife is extremely simple, it would merit from some DIY grip material to really come into its own.

The Drop Forged Hunter is part of Cold Steel’s Drop Forged line, meaning knives that are pressed from a single slab of steel with a dropping, weighted die. The 52100 carbon steel is incredibly hard, and this means that once you get it up to a good edge, it will likely stay that way for some time, barring sharp impacts on objects like rocks or other metal. All this comes in a sub-$50 knife that’s affordable for anyone, making this a great choice for people who want a knife that they can purchase and DIY some grips for.

The DIY grips are unfortunately very necessary, since this does not come with any sort of grip material, making it uncomfortable to hold even with a tight grip. This is doubly true when using it for the hacking and striking actions necessary in bushcraft where every shock and impact are felt throughout the user’s hand. Another issue is that this extremely hard steel that makes up the entire knife isn’t very easy to resharpen. My colleague Josiah Johnston, a wellspring of cutlery knowledge and Cold Steel fanatic, tried to grind out a portion of a knife made of 52100 and destroyed the grinding wheel in the effort. The knife is not easy to resharpen in the field and is therefore likely only suited to short trips rather than expeditions that last weeks. In addition to this, 52100 is still a carbon steel with almost no corrosive-resistant properties, making it maintenance-intensive in the field in the same way that other options on this list are.

If you want a sharp knife that stays sharp for a good price, the Cold Steel Drop Forged Hunter is the knife for you. I personally took rubber erasers, put them in the grooves of the grip, and wrapped them with paracord to solve the issue of shock absorption, and when this one goes dull, I’ll have it professionally sharpened.

Product Specs
  • Blade material: 52100 carbon steel
  • Handle material: N/A
  • Blade grind: Full flat
  • Blade length: 4 inches
  • Country of manufacture: Taiwan
PROS

Inexpensive

Very hard steel that will hold an edge well

Deep-bellied blade allows a thick spine and gradual slicing

CONS

Steel is difficult to sharpen

No grip means every shock will be felt

Blade has no corrosion resistance

Shoddy sheath

Our verdict on bushcraft knives

For most users, the TOPS Brakimo or Morakniv Garberg will do everything they need and more. These knives are hardly the be-all-end-all of bushcraft knives, but they perfectly exemplify the sub-genre of knives designed specifically for carving your own survival and comfort out of the wilderness. As always, if we missed any of your favorites, feel free to leave comments on social media letting us know which knife you prefer for bushcraft.

What to consider when buying bushcraft knives

Bushcraft knives are a very specific type of knife made for a very specific purpose, and therefore have different considerations that are specific to this particular variety. Bushcraft knives need to be set up specifically to work well on brush and wood, as opposed to prioritizing effectiveness in delicate applications like fileting a fish. Think of them as knife-shaped hatchets, dedicated to splitting, chopping, and peeling.

Key features of bushcraft knives

Blade grind

For bushcraft, a blade grind is a demand rather than a suggestion. The blade must be set up for durability above all else, and prioritizing cutting through wood, which leads to Scandi, flat, and saber grind knives dominating the market, with Scandi widely considered the standard. Picking the right blade geometry is essential to ensure that tasks like batoning logs, stripping saplings of their bark, and hacking through branches are as easy as possible, and more importantly, don’t destroy the blade.

90-degree spine 

A crucial survival task is striking a ferro rod with a fire steel. Using a hard steel, with a 5-6 mm wide edge, cut completely flat at a 90-degree angle, you can strike a ferro rod to create sparks, allowing you to light whatever kindling you have. In a pinch, you can use the spine of a good bushcraft knife for this purpose, which is why they will usually feature perfectly flat spines with 90-degree corners on at least most of the blade. While this will inevitably damage the spine of the knife over prolonged use, it’s a solid emergency capability.

Full tang

Having a full tang means that the blade runs the entire length of the grip at full thickness. This is important for durability reasons, especially in a high-impact context like bushcraft that involves not only striking the blade, but also torsion, the possibility of accidentally hitting rocks, and other hazards not present in more delicate applications. While this adds weight and cost, the durability increase makes it more than worth it.

Exposed tang

An exposed tang means that the grip terminates just above the end of the tang of the blade, leaving a section protruding. This is very useful for scraping wood shavings from a log to use as kindling, to use as a fire steel, or to bash a car window in the event of a vehicle rollover or submersion.

Pricing considerations for bushcraft knives

Just because you want a tool that you can rely on in a life-or-death situation doesn’t mean that there’s a specific (and high) price tag that you have to clear to get something that will never let you down.

Budget

In the under-$100 price range, you’ll almost always find carbon steel blades in simple alloys, often made of imported materials. However, there are some real gems, like the Morakniv Garberg on this list. In this price bracket, one of the hazards is the lack of quality control that comes with lower pricing, which can be something that defeats the purpose of having a knife you can rely on. In this price bracket, brand is the most important aspect, so ensure that you’re purchasing from a brand that has a good reputation for quality control.

Mid-range

In the $100-$200 range lies a good number of the hard-used, American-made, mass-produced knives. In this price range you’ll see good quality control, designs by famous outdoors experts, and the beginnings of premium materials like CPM-3V with options from imported knifemakers like Cold Steel. In this bracket, you may find knives with artificially inflated prices due to brand tie-ins and celebrity endorsements, but the majority of the knives here will be priced according to their materials and designs. The TOPS Brakimo is a good example of this price range.

Premium

The upper limit doesn’t exist once you get above $200. In this category, you have everything from S30V Benchmade options that are little more than standard bushcraft knives made of more premium materials up to knives made by hand to your specifications by master knifemakers. In this price bracket, you are paying for unbelievable quality control, innovative designs, and exotic materials. There will also be knives in this price bracket that are priced according to their brand name, so ensure that if you’re unfamiliar with the knife that you’re looking at, look for reviews from knowledgeable sources.

FAQs about bushcraft knives

You’ve got questions. Task & Purpose has answers

Q: What are the best bushcraft knife brands?

A: Brands like TOPS, Morakniv, and Esee are known for making fantastic bushcraft knives, and companies like Benchmade produce bushcraft knives made from so-called super-steels which aid in corrosion resistance and edge retention.

Q: What size knife is best for bushcraft?

A: In my opinion, the sweet spot for regular use is from three to four inches, but there are larger and smaller knives that do very well for bushcraft purposes. Different people will have different preferences based on their experiences and equipment.

Q: What is the difference between a bushcraft knife and a survival knife?

A: A bushcraft knife is specifically designed for working with vegetation in the wild, and prioritizes this above other tasks. A survival knife is designed to accomplish multiple tasks in a survival environment, including bushcraft. Knives like the Benchmade Anonimus, Esee 6, and Wander Lynx all occupy a gray area between the two.

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