A good knife is like a good watch. It will last decades and get used every day.
From slicing and food prep to cutting rope and whittling roasting sticks, camp knives need to do a little bit of everything. They can’t be too big to be hard to handle when carving but can’t be too small for other tasks. Some will prefer a small folding blade that tucks into a pocket and could be carried every day. Others will want a dedicated knife for heavy-duty work, able to chop wood or stand up as a weapon.
We’ve found some of the best all-purpose camp knives. From small folders to tactical blades, there’s something for everyone.
Gerber has been a fixture in the knife and multi-tool area for a long time and the new American -made Principle bushcraft knife shows that experience.The 3.7-ounce knife measures 7.5 inches total with a 3.1-inch blade. The .125 inch thick 420HC steel blade is solid yet maneuverable for fine detail work. The rubberized grip with lashing holes is comfortable to hold for long carving sessions. The flat, 90-degree spine on top of the blade works well throwing sparks with a fire starter for survival situations. The Principle fits very securely in the sheath on its own but also comes with a velcro strap for extra hold.
There’s no better value in the knife world than a Mora. With models for less than $20 that will last decades, utility per dollar is high. Beefier than some Mora’s but smaller than others, the Kansbol is a good mix of size and maneuverability. The Kansbol features a 4.3-inch blade from 12C27 Sandvik steel. The whole package comes in at 8.9 inches at 4.7 ounces. The blade is big enough for rough woodwork but can carve and skin like a smaller blade. The 90-degree spine throws sparks easily to get the cooking fire going. The molded polymer sheath can dangle from your belt or fit into an optional multi-mount that can be mounted anywhere. Mount to your pack, boat, or truck. For a slightly larger full-tang version, check out the Garberg.
Benchmade 535BK-2 Bugout
For those that are looking for something camp-ready but can be carried every day in a pocked, Benchmade has many options. The famous Bugout has a new option, blacked out from tip to tail and upgraded to a CF-Elite handle to increase stiffness and reduce weight. The CF-Elite version mounts the same S30V steel and reversible deep-carry pocket clip. The new handle material reduces the weight by .05 ounce to 1.8 ounces but keeps the same 3.25-inch long blade. The .09-inch thick blade is, no surprise, slick at slicing. While the Bugout might not have the strength of the full-tang fixed blades, it may be the only knife you have with you every single day.
From the 1.8 ounce Bugout to a 7.36 ounce beast from SOG: the Pillar. The 5-inch, S35VN steel blade on the Pillar is .16 inches thick, more than enough for pounding on with logs of wood to baton kindling. Throw sparks with the 90-degree spine. There is a Micarta-scale handle and an exposed pommel with lanyard round out the blunt end. The kidex sheath is one of the best. The Pillar snaps with snug with no rattle. The lockable mount can be screwed to the sheath any direction and then locked to backpack straps, belt, or MOLLE straps. A small finger choil along the bottom and comfortable thumb jimping along the top works well for the finer work. When you’re done, it resharpens easily and goes back for more.
Leatherman Free P4 Multi-tool
To save room and bring 21 tools in one compact package camping, we have to mention Leatherman. Needlenose pliers, three blades, a plastic blister pack opening tool, scissors plus 15 other tools fit into the 8.6-ounce multi-tool. Most of the tools have been upgraded from those on the Wave and Charge including stronger scissors and sharper tip on the serrated blade. The gray nylon sheath snaps shut with no loud velcro. So, what’s the deal with the new Free series? One-handed operation. Smooth openings and magnetic closures make it easy to pop open the pliers and get working.
Spyderco Paramilitary 2
It’s hard not to mention Spyderco when talking about knives. The Paramilitary 2 model has been a fixture in the EDC world for years now and it still stands as a solid camp knife. The G-10 handle is comfortable and easy to hold for long periods of time. The S30V flat-ground blade comes super sharp from the factory. Opening is so smooth with the oversized Spyderco thumb hole — it almost feels assisted. The thin tip is super-maneuverable for detail work. And when you’re done camping it can go back into your pocket for the hundreds of other uses at home.
Since 1932, Norwegian-made Helle knives look just as good skinning animals and carving wood as they do being displayed on the mantle. Their latest model, the Skog (coming late April) is a versatile bushcraft and carving knife weighing 2.53 ounces. The comfortable beechwood handle and 2.99-inch drop point blade is built for evenings around the fire carving. A small finger notch allows precision without limiting the hold. Easily sharpen the Scandinavian flat ground blade after hard use. The back-sewn brown leather sheath keeps it close by.
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