Whether you’re a vegan who tears into roasted veggies with abandon or you don’t consider it a camping trip if it didn’t include hunting something wild, having the proper knife for cooking outdoors is essential. Still, if you’re smart, you’ll pick one capable of handling other camping tasks, too.
According to a Field & Stream magazine, “A good camp knife can take on many of the tasks of a hunting knife and do them faster and with far less effort. It’s also a survival knife if you’re unlucky or dumb and have to hack your way out of whatever you got yourself into.”
The term “camp knife” was first coined by Bill Moran in the 1960s, but the concept has been around since cavemen honed stone projectiles to apportion meat for everyone in the cave – none of whom were probably vegans.
Morakniv Companion – Our Pick!
+ Bang for the bucks
+ 4.1-inches long Sandvik stainless steel blade
+ Great for meat and bone
+ Patterned, high-friction grip
– Not dishwasher safe
– Blade is too thick for cutting some vegies
For less than the cost of two movie tickets, get your hands on this Swedish knife that comes in 10 colors. A favorite of campsite gourmands, this fixed-blade outdoor knife features a Sandvik stainless steel blade that’s a beefy 4.1-inches long, and you would be hard-pressed to find a fixed-blade camping knife that earns as many complimentary reviews. This knife does every meal prep task you require: Carve, dice, cut tinder, and filet fish.
Related: Best Backpacking Frying Pans
The stainless steel blade will stay sharp longer than carbon steel blades, and it’s less prone to rust. Use it in wet, cold conditions; the high-friction, the texturized grip will keep your hand in control of whatever you slice and dice. The color-matched plastic sheath’s belt clip is designed to stay put, too. This tool comes with a limited lifetime warranty, but no promise of longevity if you throw it into a dishwasher. This knife must be hand-washed, or it won’t stand the test of time.
KA-BAR Becker BK2 Campanion – Also Great!
+ Extremely well made and feels like a tank in the hand
+ Practically indestructible
+ Great hard shell black nylon sheath included
+ Steel blade is extremely sharp
– Heavy and beefy
This pricey camping knife will make a deep cut in your budget, but if you’re seeking a blade that is capable of cutting into the toughest piece of meat on the planet, don’t leave home without a KA-BAR Becker BK2 Campanion fixed-blade knife. Highly recommended by culinary Ninjas for its sleek black look and powerful cutting edge, this full-tang, heavy-duty field knife, made in the US, is as handy for cutting brush as it is for culinary tasks.
Designer Ethan Becker is responsible for this innovative design and quality raw materials that go into this camp knife’s fabrication. The durable, 1095 cro-van steel blade offers you a 20-degree blade angle, yet it’s comfortable to hold while undertaking a variety of tasks. Weighing 1 pound and measuring 10.5-inches long, this BK2 Campanion knife comes with a hard, glass-filled, black nylon sheath, so your blade stays put when it’s not being used.
ONTARIO KNIFE COMPANY RAT-3
+ Carbon steel sharpens easily
+ Razor sharp out of the box
+ Great multi-purpose blade design
– Big, heavy, and low-quality sheath
– Handle is small
If you crave quality at a price that won’t empty your wallet, the RAT-3 belongs in your rucksack next time you go camping. This popular camper pick features a plain edge, but that’s the only thing that’s “plain” about this culinary tool. Made in the USA, the RAT-3 is a new member of the RAT Series, a collection of knives launched in 2002 when the Ontario Knife Company partnered with Randall’s Adventure and Training Team (RAT).
The RAT-3 bears the distinction of being “a legal US representative of the Peruvian Air Force school of jungle survival,” so you never have to worry about your ability to divvy up a hunk of meat or cut your way through the underbrush. Crafted of 1095 carbon steel, this tool is nearly 8-inches long, and if you only buy knives that meet specific hardness scale numbers, this knife is rated between 57 and 59 HRC. Preferred by “hard-core adventurers, civilians, and professional soldiers,” you get bragging rights every time you sit around a campfire to show off your knife and the black nylon sheath that keeps it undercover.
Read more: 35 Best Backpacking Meals of All Time
Buck Knives Hunter
+ Excellent build and finish
+ Great classic knife design
+ Easy to open with a nail notch on the blade
+ Made in the USA since 1902
– Stainless steel instead of carbon steel
– A bit heavy at 7.2 Ounces
For just a few bucks less than the jungle slayer mentioned above, this folding hunting knife has enough fans to start a club. Perhaps because the genuine leather sheath adds an aura of authenticity, harkening back to days when hunters relied upon their knives to get meals on the table. The brand is famous, and the razor-sharp clip point blade is precise, you could turn radishes into roses if you decide to start garnishing eats.
The easy-open blade has a lock-back mechanism for safety, and here’s a feature you won’t find elsewhere: Partnering with Taylor Guitars, this knife features sustainably sourced, genuine ebony handle inlays and brass bolsters that give this knife a beautiful feel, look and balance. The Buck brand has been around since 1902, and all products are made in the USA. This 6-inch knife is corrosion resistant, so count on performance and durability for generations to come.
Opinel No.12 Explore Knife
+ Blade is really sharp and high-quality
+ Includes firestarter, gutting hook, and survival whistle
+ Secure locking mechanism
– Blade is not very long
– Not a every day carry (
This beautiful, functional knife does everything but cook dinner on your camping trips, and you can count on it to undertake quirky tasks because it’s also designed to function as a fire starter, gutting hook, and survival whistle. The Opinel No. 12 is moderately priced and available in several colors, but that may be a moot point if this is the only knife you deem worthy of your bucks. It’s hard to find. Start your search on the Opinel website.
Be persistent if you crave excellence. Once you locate this knife, you’ll applaud all of the features on this 9-inch-long knife: The 2-section stainless Virobloc safety ring (one fixed; one sliding), Opinel’s signature blades crafted of Sandvik 12C27 modified stainless steel, a fiberglass-reinforced polyamide handle engineered to withstand extreme temperatures, humidity, and shocks. This knife comes with a product guarantee, so if it doesn’t perform to your satisfaction, you can try returning or exchanging it.
GSI Outdoors Santoku Knife Set
+ Sharp knives
+ Excellent case
+ Great for camping or overland rig kitchen
+ Clever, folding cutting board
If you aren’t ready to make a major gear investment, check out this knife set, a consistently-rated, 5-star tool collection that is so affordable, you can buy one for a fellow camper and earn a reputation as a big spender! The set consists of 3 knives with stainless steel blades of varying sizes plus safety sheaths to hold each one in place within the carry case, and the rubber handles are easy to grip in all types of weather.
The handy carry case does more than secure the knives to keep them from moving around. Shoppers also find a clever cutting board that folds down and fits into a mesh sleeve that, when fully opened, measures 9- x 12.6-inches. A quick-drying microfiber cleaning cloth that is rough on one side for scouring and smooth on the other is included. You wouldn’t be the first purchaser to wonder how Santoku can afford to sell this compact set for such a reasonable price.
Ka-Bar Tactical Spork
+ Knife is really sharp
+ Sturdy materials
+ Perfect for camping, hunting and fishing
– Difficult to eat soup. It’s more of a fork than a spork
What’s a spork? It’s an invaluable tool that takes up so little room in your backpack and costs next to nothing, you’ve got no excuse to take a pass on this essential. This sturdy polymer spork is a utensil that serves as a fork, spoon, and knife. All three components are nested together. Consistently named a #1 best-selling camp cooking utensil, this multi-function gadget is awesome.
Food and detergent safe, not only can you prepare and eat food using only this innovative product, but the manufacturer says that you can put it to use as a self-defense tool in a pinch, too. Whether you opt for the knife, fork, or spoon function, this lightweight product is just short of 7-inches in length, and this Tactical Spork’s cool factor is off the charts. You’ll spend more on a sandwich than you would on this multi-functional tool. Buy a bunch. Everyone’s going to want one when they spot yours.
CRKT Homefront Folding Pocket Knife
+ Great high carbon stainless steel
+ Limited Lifetime Warranty
+ Very nice slim profile
+ Construction is simple, solid and rugged
– This knife is a bit heavy at 4.8 Ounces
You might have to put your home on the market if only the green version of this knife will do. It costs twice as much as the black-handled version, but all four designs bare the hallmark of Kaneohe, Hawaii’s Ken Onion, which stipulated high-quality CRKT aluminum construction. Choose the color you like and enjoy features that include a take-apart field strip, satin blade, flipper open, liner lock, aluminum handle, and deep-carry pocket clip, so your knife doesn’t go missing.
If you like to sharpen your own blades, this knife takes an edge nicely, performs like a champ, and if, for any reason, you see signs of material or workmanship defects, the company’s Limited Lifetime Warranty will cover those situations. This is the knife for people who are too busy hunting, camping, and otherwise engaged in outdoor challenges to tote knife cleaning tools; just field strip it to take it apart, clean up, and you’re good to go.
Schrade SCHF36 Frontier
+ Great value
+ Good overall design
+ Durable and sharp blade made of carbon steel
– Blade coating chips off easily
– Needs better sheath
Looking for a highly-rated knife that won’t force you to liquidate the kids’ college fund? Consider this Schrade Frontier. It costs the same amount of money as the Santoku knife set, but this tool is much more sophisticated. Not only does this 5-inch, 1095 powder-coated, high-carbon steel full-tang fixed blade perform brilliantly, but the ring-textured thermoplastic elastomer handle brings the knife’s length to 10.4-inches.
A favorite of folks who camp for fun and those who are into outdoor survival, you get a polyester belt sheath for fast access to your knife, and once it’s engaged, use it for any chore you like with confidence since neither the blade nor your grip on the handle will slip. This knife includes a ferro rod, sharpening stone, and lanyard hole, making it an ideal pick for budget-conscious adventurers who never miss an opportunity to spend time in the company of Mother Nature.
Spyderco Endura 4
+ Lightweight and sturdy
+ Great high-strength back lock mechanism
+ Includes both our PlainEdge and SpyderEdge grinds
+ Available in more than 10 variants
– Eye-watering price tag
The hyperbole associated with this camping knife is impressive, as are the features and benefits of this pricey product. Made in Japan, where steel cutlery products have been crafted for centuries, the Endura 4 upholds best-selling standards, delivering a dependable stainless steel blade, 4-position clip, high-strength, back-lock folding mechanism, and the brand’s signature trademark round hole.
This Endura 4 blade is ground to a flat saber edge, it’s extremely lightweight and durable, and the fiberglass-reinforced nylon handle is injection molded for a solid, textured surface that assures a solid grip in all sorts of climate conditions. Get the Spyderco PlainEdge and SpyderEdge grinds for powerhouse cutting performances even on fibrous materials. Are you looking for a combination edge blade? You’ve found it here.
Gerber Bear Grylls Ultimate Pro Knife
+ Great knife for survival enthusiast
+ Nice grippy rubbery material in the handle
+ Excellent full tang fine edge blade
+ Includes emergency lanyard whistle, pull through sharpener, and fire starter
– Very hard to pull the knife out while the sheath is on your belt
This camping knife is the third in our review to come with a celebrity endorsement. The Gerber Bear Grylls Ultimate Pro Knife sells out fast, so if you’re a fan of the adventurer whose survivalist techniques make his programs must-watch TV, if you see one of these knives anywhere from Amazon to Walmart, grab it.
Marketed as the ultimate pro knife and featuring a fine edge manufactured of full-tang, premium 9CR19MoV stainless steel, this military-grade knife measures 10-inches (the blade length is 4.8-inches), so it will perform as well vanquishing vampires as it does slicing breakfast bacon ultra-thin. The mildew-resistant nylon sheath with a pull-through carbide sharpener guarantees blade sharpness. Bear also provides you with a built-in fire starter rod in a watertight holder, a lanyard-bearing emergency whistle, and a copy of his “Priorities of Survival” Pocket Guide.
10 Knife types you should know about
Patrick Murphy never met a camping knife type he couldn’t categorize for the GearJunkie website, so we refer to his expertise. From what he calls “the humble pocketknife to serious “survival” blades,” you can take his picks seriously.
Type #1: Assist-opening knife. Don’t call it a switchblade, says Murphy. This type of knife offers manual, spring-loaded action revealing the blade with a finger flick.
Type #2: Bowie knife. That’s frontiersman Jim Bowie, not David Bowie, dude. This knife is identified by its crossguard, sheath carry and perhaps by its distinct clip point.
Type #3: Clip Folder knife. This handy knife type features a clip mounted on the knife handle that allows you to hang it from a pocket, belt or loop. Murphy says he feels naked without his. You may feel the same way.
Type #4: Dagger. Best known for the role these knives play in select performances of Shakespeare plays, daggers are double-edged knives that don’t fold down, and sometimes, they feature ornamental embellishments.
Type #5: Machete. The ideal choice for work at a banana plantation, machetes are essentially the tool you want if you have to cut a path to your campsite. Machetes are usually long, heavy blades that mean serious business.
Type #6: Multitool. Not content to bring along an ordinary knife when you venture forth? Multitool knives serve as pliers, drivers, files, and blades. Once folded down, all of these tools disappear into the casing.
Type #7: Pocketknife. Pocket knives may or may not come with extra tools, but they all fold down, so the family jewels stay safe while this blade is in your jeans’ pocket.
Type #8: Survival. Most often, fixed-blade tools, survival knives are designed to tackle every job under the sun, building a shelter, cutting firewood, and dressing the animal you caught for dinner. Don’t buy a survival knife until it is designated full Tang.
Type #9: Swiss Army. This iconic fold-down knife handles an infinite number of tasks because it comes with so many tools. According to Business Insider, factories churn out 10 million annually at a rate of 45,000 per day (https://www.businessinsider.com/swiss-army-knife-factory-victorinox-pocket-knives-manufacturer-2019-9).
Type #10: Throwing. This type of knife has a blunt-end handle butt, and it’s weighted, so it spins when it’s thrown. You’ll need at least one if you take up certain types of martial arts, intend to participate in a Central African knife-throwing ceremony or plan to become a mercenary.
What does the term tang mean?
For folks who think the word Tang refers to either a powdered beverage made for astronauts or the Chinese Dynasty holding power between 618 to 906 AD, you’d better keep reading. Camping knife tang designations, according to KnifeManual.com, refer to how far a blade is inserted into a handle.
To qualify as a full tang knife, the blade must run the entire length of the handle. Partial or half tang knife blades are inserted up to halfway into the handle. Learn about more tang designations here.
Materials used to manufacture camping knives
Survey veteran campers and they will all likely agree that most camping knife blades are made of carbon steel, titanium, and stainless steel. Each of these metals is strong and lightweight, while stainless steel is the more affordable option. If you are most interested in survival knives, your choices get more exotic and include:
-AUS-8; Japanese steel with a higher chromium percentage that resists oxidization
-1095-HC high carbon steel that isn’t rust-resistant but extremely durable and offering excellent edge retention
-D2 is high carbon steel that’s not as durable as 1095-HC, but it resists corrosion
-154CM steel is the high-end choice of most survival knife owners because it’s an amalgam of stainless steel and high carbon, won’t rust, chip, break or corrode. Want to learn more about knife materials? Here you can find more about the topic.
How important are blade coatings?
According to the Boker-Solingen factory website, knife blade coatings are an important element of the manufacturing process because coatings help knives perform better and stay sharper for longer periods of time than non-coated knives.
The coating process consists of “a firmly bonded layer consisting of a shapeless substance that is applied to the surface of an object.” The coating process alters the chemical, physical and/or electrical properties of the knife, and proper coating may entail one or multiple applications of agents classified as gaseous, liquid, dissolved, or solids.
The application process consists of sanding (micro-blasting; CCVD or silanization) and “spraying, vapor deposition or immersion in a galvanic bath.” A heat treatment cures the coating, so a permanent bond is achieved that’s capable of resisting external and environmental assaults. Knife blade colors have become trendy. To achieve this look, a color agent is added to the coating mix to produce the black blade you admire.