There’s nothing like the great outdoors. But, it’s a dangerous world out there. Travelling out into the middle of the forest without the right tools can be dangerous and unpleasant. When I go out backpacking, one tool that I always take with me is the best backpacking knife I have. Being able to complete basic tasks like bushcraft and camp chores (or just cooking) to defending myself if needed is an absolute must.
If you want to learn what to look for in the best backpacking knife, you’re in the right place. This article goes over what you should keep in mind when purchasing a backpacking knife, then reviews a number of different knives that are good options for backpacking. Some of these are high-end backpacking knives, and some of these are at lower price points, giving you a ton of bang for your buck.
Table of Contents
- What Features Would the Best Backpacking Knife Have?
- Backpacking Knife Reviews
- Backpacking Knives – Our Thoughts
What Features Would the Best Backpacking Knife Have?
While there are a ton of things to consider, the main three that I think about most broadly are whether to get a folding knife or a fixed blade, what the knife’s blade and handle are made from, and how well built the knife is.
Folding Knife or Fixed Blade
I love both folding knives and fixed blade knives. Both types can be great for backpacking, and they each have their own pros and cons.
Folding Knives tend to be more compact, and can easily be carried without a sheath. While they tend to be a bit smaller than fixed blade knives (although not always), there are folding knives of all sizes. These knives have more parts, and can potentially break more easily if being used for hardcore tasks.
Fixed blade knives tend to be longer and sturdier. They generally come with a sheath of some sort, generally with a clip that can be used to hang them off of your belt. These knives are a little bigger than folding knives, and generally are carried outside of the pocket. This also means that these knives are more conspicuous. This is generally fine in a backpacking type situation, but if you want to be able to also use your knife in the city, you may want something that can more easily be hidden from the public.
Blade and Handle Materials
When going backpacking, your knife may get exposed to the elements. This has a few implications.
For the blade material, note that certain types of steel may be more prone to corrosion. If you expect that your knife may get wet, you may lean toward something more corrosion resistant. Additionally, some steels tend to stay sharper longer than others. If you want to be able to take your knife out to the forest and not have to think about sharpening it, something like D2 steel instead of AUS-8 may be ideal. Of course, bringing a knife sharpening with you is also an option.
For the handle material, you are generally looking at metal, wood, or synthetic materials. It’s a good idea to consider how well your knife’s handle will work in the elements. For example, if you intend to use a knife for fishing, a synthetic handle can be nice, since they tend to be slip-resistant, even when wet. If you choose a wooden handle, it may take damage from frequent exposure to water.
Knife Quality and Reliability.
If you have a knife with a seatbelt cutter on it, but it doesn’t work when you finally need it, that won’t do you a ton of good. If you have an okay knife, but it snaps in the middle of the woods, that’s not great either. It can also be dangerous, especially if you’re going on a longer trip. Even though I only carry and recommend knives that are reliable, I still usually take at least one backup with me when backpacking.
There are a few things to look for when considering how durable and reliable your knife will be. Is the knife full tang (or close)? Or is it the blade just barely extending into the handle? Where was the knife made? Knives made in western countries tend to be fairly high quality compared to third-world knives, but there are exceptions on both ends.
Backpacking Knife Reviews
This is a great knife for backpacking, as well as for everyday use. This is a knife that folds, rather than a fixed blade, but when open it’s blade is sizable. At the same time, it’s small enough that it’s easily portable without adding too much weight or size. The blade opens quickly, and the SpeedSafe opening is intuitive. Sharpening is fairly easy, although you may find it tricky to sharpen the serrated portions if you’re new to sharpening a serrated blade; it’s easy enough to pick up, though.
This is one of my favorite knives to take out on a camping trip. I love that I can open it with one hand in any situation. If an emergency were to come up, you can get this knife out ASAP. The blade is strong and sharp. I was able to easily shave wood trimmings off of a larger piece of wood, to be used as kindling. I love this knife, and it’s great in any situation. This is a must-buy in my opinion.
This is a nice, fixed blade knife. It’s three-quarter tang, which feels solid. The knife has a good length, but when it’s on your side, you don’t really notice it. If you want a fixed blade knife to carry with you, this is a great lightweight option that is also strong. This is a lot of bang for your buck and comes at a great price considering how good this tool is. It’s also good for general utility tasks around the house, in addition to being a nice knife to carry with you while hiking or bushcrafting.
This is another knife by Morakniv, which shares some similarities with the Kansbol. This is also a fixed blade knife and is a comparable size to the Kansbol. The main difference between these two knives is that this product is designed to be sold at a lower price, whereas the Kansbol is designed to be a little higher quality. Regardless, this product works well. The grip feels a little more awkward, the materials are a little lower end. Other than that, this is a light knife that does the trick.
If you’re looking for a solid knife at a great price, look no further than the Morakniv Craftline.
This knife looks great. There’s something about a wooden handle that can’t be beat. The sheath was a little stiff when I got it, but that’s about par for the course for sheaths; use them for even just a few days and you can already feel them start to loosen up.
However, this knife does have a few shortcomings. It was made in El Salvador, so it’s not surprising that some of the knives made in western countries were a little higher quality. Untreated, these blades will start to rust, and the edge isn’t as sharp out of the box as is ideal. But, you can polish the blade to help with rust, if you run into that issue, and the blade can always be sharpened.
You can get good US-built knives for comparable prices. I would generally lean toward one of those options. But, this knife does look great, and it does work well as long as you take care of it. It’s a nice addition to my knife collection; if I were to just buy one backpacking knife, I’d lean toward one of the first three knives on this list.
While this knife is made in Thailand, it is an all around decent product. The blade, window punch, and seat belt cutter all work correctly. There are higher end tools, but this will do the trick in an emergency situation, or if something comes up on the trail. This is a decent folder, and comes at a good rate. There are more durable products out there, but this is alright.
Backpacking Knives – Our Thoughts
There’s no question that there are a lot of good backpacking knives out there. It’s great to have a ton of knives, but if you want to narrow it down to a single pick, there are a bunch of options. If I were to narrow down the list of reviews above to a select few backpacking knives, then they would be the following:
- If what you’re looking for is the best-of-the-best at any price point, then you cannot beat the Kershaw Blur Tanto Black Serrated Pocket Knife. This is one of the highest quality backpacking knives that I’ve used in my life.
- In terms of finding a great deal on a high-end product, check out the Morakniv Kansbol Fixed Blade Knife. This knife is a good balance of cost and quality, and is surprisingly inexpensive considering how well it performs. I would recommend this knife in a second.
- For a reliable budget knife, check out the Morakniv Craftline Basic 511. This knife is a solid all-around backpacking knife.
With all of these amazing backpacking knives, it can be hard to pick a favorite. Which one do you think is the best? Let us know in the comments below. And, of course, if you have any questions about which knife to buy, or their pros and cons, let me know. I’m always glad to reply to readers with more information.
You may also want to consider a small knife sharpener to go into your back pack along with your knife, these hunting knife sharpeners would be ideal!