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The Best Camping Knives For The Outdoors

Photo: Opinel No. 12 Explore Survival Knife

When headed out on a camping trip, there are numerous pieces of essential gear to bring along to ensure you make the most of your trip — ranging from tents, to sleeping bags, to adventure coolers, and more. And while there’s plenty you’ll want to remember as far as amenities go, it’s also a good idea to make sure you have some handy tool in your camping kit, even just as a contingency plan.

As far as those tools are concerned, the best thing you can probably pack, as far as overall versatility is concerned, is a knife. Keeping a bladed tool on your person while you’re camping will give you the ability to tackle simple DIY fixes and improvements on-the-spot, they can help with prepping kindling and firewood, and they’re even great for self-defense in a pinch. Of course, some knives are more suited to outdoor usage than others. That’s why we’ve put together the following list of the 15 best camping knives.

The Best Camping Knives

Camp-Specific Qualities

The Main Factors To Think About When Buying A Camping Knife

While outdoor and camping knives don’t differ all that much from regular everyday carry blades, there are a handful of small but important differences that are crucial to be aware of when shopping. Below, we’ll briefly break down the most pivotal areas to think about when purchasing a new camping knife. 

Size & Shape: The size and shape of a knife will play a major role in its conduciveness to outdoor use as well as its overall performance and how mobile and easy to carry it is. Blades with a finer, more tapered point — such as wharncliffe or clip point blades — offer superior piercing abilities and are a better choice for finer tasks, though aren’t as proficient at chopping compared to a beefier drop point profile. 

Blade Steel: Another factor that will massively effect a knife’s performance and durability is the type of steel used to construct its blade — an always-crucial element when looking at any knife, though even more pivotal when discussing fixed blades as this steel runs the entire length of the knife, comprising the tang/handle section before culminating in a sharpened blade. The more modern powder metallurgy steels will almost always do a better job of retaining a sharper edge for longer, however, the same elements that afford them these properties also make them more difficult to sharpen. 

Blade Thickness: Because outdoor knives are often used for hard tasks — such as being hammered through a log for splitting firewood — a thicker blade is preferred as this beefier construction makes for a markedly more hardwearing knife with much greater structural integrity. 

Handle Material & Ergonomics: The type of construction used to make a knife’s handle is important on several levels, as it’s directly responsible for the handle’s durability as well as the level of grip it provides — though this latter area is also owed to whether or not the material has been bestowed with any type of ridging or texturing to enhance traction and grip. Additionally, grip is also determined by the shape of the handle and how well said shape fits in the human hand — another crucial factor for outdoor and camp knives in particular as solid ergonomics and grip are a must for hard-use tasks. 

Build Quality: Areas such as the materials used to construct it and how a blade was heat-treated play an enormous role in deterring a knife’s overall quality, though the time, attention, and skill that goes into piecing each knife together can also hugely separate the more premium knives from their cheaper counterparts. While there are big-name brands that offer great quality despite producing their knives in huge numbers — such as Benchmade and Spyderco — boutique outfits tend to offer a superior, more hardwearing build quality along with a better overall fit and finish. 

Number Of Components/Moving Parts: With exceedingly few exceptions, when it comes to outdoor and camping knives, the more spartan and minimalistic designs are usually the best choice. Fewer moving parts essentially means fewer chances for components or mechanisms to break or fail, and fewer sensitive areas and recesses where dirt and grime can collect.

Ease Of Cleaning/Maintenance: Because camping knives are meant for outdoor and off-grid use, they unsurprisingly tend to get dirty and gunked-up pretty quickly. As such, you’re going to want to consider how difficult a knife will be to clean and maintain. As previously touched on above, you’ll want to look for knives with very few components and moving parts, though you should also avoid knives with skeletonize handles and other elements that are susceptible to collecting dirt and grime. 

Sheath &/Or Clip: Even the most utilitarian knife suddenly becomes a lot less convenient and practical if you have to dig and fish it out of a loaded backpack every time it’s needed. This is what makes a camp knife’s deployment so important, as the way it’s carried when not in use plays an enormous role in the overall user experience. 

Fixed Blades

Made For Adventure

Without any moving parts, fixed blade knives are ideal for outdoor usage (most of the time). They’re sturdy, reliable, and usually easy to clean and maintain. If you don’t have any restrictions, you’re almost always better off carrying a fixed blade when you head into the wilderness for any kind of adventures — be that hiking, camping, or even testing your mettle in a survival situation.

Morakniv Bushcraft Survival Knife

  • Protected by lifetime warranty
  • Offers great value
  • Blade is tungsten DLC-coated
  • Sold with Ferro rod-equipped hard sheath
  • Would benefit from better materials

Best Survival Knife: Morakniv specializes in building some of the best outdoor fixed blades on a budget around. And while most people are familiar with their companion, when it comes to camping we’re more drawn to the brand’s Bushcraft Survival Knife. They share similar silhouettes and build qualities — like a carbon steel blade and a high-friction rubber handle — but there are some noteworthy differences. They include a tungsten DLC coating and, most noteworthy, a sheath that comes equipped with a ferro fire starter good for 7,000 strikes and an integrated sharpening stone. If that sounds too good to be true at this price point, the brand also hit it with a lifetime warranty to ensure you that they mean business.

Blade Steel: High Carbon
Handle Material: High-Friction Rubber
Length: 9.1″

Ontario Knife Company Rat-3

  • Great build quality
  • Made in America
  • Full-tang 1095 carbon steel construction
  • Equipped with grippy, ergonomic Micarta handle
  • Not offered with hard plastic or Kydex sheath

Best USA-Made Knife: The OKC Rat is one of the best folding knives for any budget, but (as mentioned) folding knives don’t always make great trail blades. Luckily, OKC has pared it into an outdoor-friendly fixed blade, as you can see here. This particular knife measures up at over 7.5″ in length, has a canvas micarta handle, and a black-finished 1095 steel blade. It’s also made in the USA and comes with a nylon sheath. For the price, you’ll be hard-pressed to find another knife as reliable and versatile as this one.

Blade Steel: 1095
Handle Material: Micarta
Length: 7.625″

Buck Customizable 113 Ranger Skinner

Buck Customizable 113 Ranger Skinner
  • Timeless design made from modern materials
  • Offered with huge range of configurable options
  • Made in America
  • Benefits from Paul Bos heat treatment
  • Protected by lifetime warranty
  • Handle design is beautiful but lacks ergonomics

Best Vintage-Style Knife: Though it first appeared as a limited edition blade, Buck has since introduced a customizable production version of the 113 Ranger Skinner Knife that sees its timeless design bestowed with a wide range of custom-configurable elements such as a satin or mirror-polished 420HC or CPM S30V blade, brass or nickel rivets and bolsters, and a huge selection of different premium handle construction choices. Sold with a leather sheath, this fixed blade spans 7.25” overall — 3.125” of which is comprised of its drop point blade. Also able to be custom engraved, the Buck 113 Ranger Skinner is made in America and also benefits from Paul Pos heat treatment process and a lifetime warranty. 

Blade Material: 402HC or S30V
Handle Material: 9 Different Options
Length: 7.25”

Quiet Carry The Current

  • Made by boutique brand in small batches
  • Premium materials & build quality
  • Completely rust & corrosion-proof
  • Mated together using titanium hardware
  • Sold with included Kydex sheath
  • Can be difficult to buy

Best Corrosion-Proof Fixed Blade: Like their name suggests, Quiet Carry has been quietly producing some of the best everyday carry knives around. But they’ve also tried their hand at building a more outdoor-friendly fixed blade in their Current. As it turns out, they’re just as adept in this venture, as this bulldog-style knife clearly illustrates. It’s fitted with an LC200N blade, a high-end steel that’s practically corrosion-proof and widely used by NASA in space-faring equipment, and it’s attached to an ergonomic machined G10 handle that’s comfortable to hold and offers plenty of grip even when things get soggy. Available in a trio of finishes, this is an excellent all-around camping knife.

Blade Steel: LC200N
Handle Material: G10
Length: 7.23″

Benchmade 202 Leuku

  • Features a full-tang construction composed of CPM 3V “Super Steel”
  • Blade paired with ultra-grippy Santoprene handle
  • Sold w/ leather sheath w/ Ferro rod loop
  • Made in America
  • Modeled after traditional Leuku knives from Finland
  • Expensive price

Best Bushcraft Knife: For those who are unfamiliar, the Puukko is a traditional Scandinavian fixed blade silhouette that’s been widely produced by numerous knifemaking brands for generations. Benchmade actually makes one, but they recently took the Puukko concept and took the next step forward in its design with their 202 Leuku Fixed Blade. For the most part, the silhouette is intact — but the blade is a bit longer. This one also has a modern Santoprene handle, which is great for durability and grip in all conditions, and it boasts a high-end CPM-3V blade. At 9.69 inches in length, this is one of the larger camping knives on our list, but its no less suited to detail-oriented tasks, thanks to its slim, versatile, drop point blade.

Blade Steel: CPM-3V
Handle Material: Santoprene
Length: 9.69″

Folding Knives

Compact Carry

Most of the time, folding knives are not ideal for outdoor usage. Though there are numerous reasons, the largest of them is that folding knives have moving parts that can easily get gunked up by dust, dirt, mud. Their crevices can also capture moisture and, therefore, promote corrosion and rust. However, some brands have made folders specifically for the outdoors that are easier to clean, designed specifically to stave off corrosion and rust, and sometimes have some handy additional features.

Opinel No.12 Explore Survival Knife

  • Iconic knife design given ruggedized outdoor redux
  • Features integrated whistle, tick remover tool, & steel cutting hook
  • Secured via Opinel’s patented Virobloc Locking Ring
  • Blade made form Sandvik 12C27M stainless steel
  • Fiber-reinforced polymer handle sports topographical pattern
  • Requires two hands to open and lock blade

Best Knife For Backpackers: Like the Buck 110 Hunter, Opinel’s No. 12 Explore Survival Knife was built specifically with outdoor applications in mind. However, while this one also has a classic silhouette — older than a century, in fact — it boasts completely modern materials. That includes a Sandvik steel blade, a fiberglass-reinforced polyamide handle (which can survive even in extreme temperatures), and a number of other handy additions — like a 110-decibel survival whistle and a fire starter. For the price, this outdoor folder is nigh-unbeatable.

Blade Steel: 12C27 Sandvik
Handle Material: Fiberglass-Reinforced Polyamide
Length: 10.23″

Victorinox Soldier Swiss Army Knife

  • Features bevy of outdoor-specific tools & functions
  • Protected by lifetime warranty
  • Made in Switzerland
  • Includes a locking blade
  • Strange handle shape lacks ergonomics

Best Camp Multi-Tool: Perhaps no type of folding blade is more associated with the great outdoors than the Swiss Army Knife — thanks largely to organizations like the Boy Scouts of America. However, while most SAKs are passable for adventure usage, Victorinox’s Soldier Swiss Army Knife was actually made with camping, hiking, and exploration in mind. It boasts a suite of useful stainless steel tools (10, to be exact), it has durable dual-density handle scales, and the blades are even sized up to make them more friendly out on the trails.

Blade Steel: Stainless Steel
Handle Material: Two-Component Dual-Density Scales
Length: 4.4″ (Closed)

Spyderco Caribbean

  • Completely rust & corrosion-proof
  • Engineered for coastal & maritime use
  • FRN handle provides stellar grip even when wet
  • Loosely modeled after iconic Para Military 2 knife
  • Can be difficult to find in stock
  • Expensive price

Best Corrosion-Proof Folder: Many of Spyderco’s offerings are probably tough enough to weather usage in the great outdoors, but few can compare to the durability imbued into their Caribbean folding knife you see before you. You see, while this high-end blade does somewhat resemble the brand’s legendary PM2, it has a couple of major legs up. For starters, this one is equipped with a rust- and corrosion-proof LC200N steel — making it perfect for maritime usage. It also has vibrant black-and-yellow G10 handle scales — making it more visible against the natural background, in case you happen to drop it (even underwater). You’ll pay a premium price, but you’ll get one of the toughest outdoor-ready folders around.

Blade Steel: LC200N
Handle Material: FRN
Length: 8.54″

The Best Survival Knives for Off-Grid Living

Photo: SOG Super Bowie

If these camping-ready blades aren’t quite hardcore enough for you, you’ll want to take things to the next level with our selection of the best survival knives around.