Best Knife for Camping and hiking
What Makes a good camping/outdoor knife?
A good outdoor knife is your best friend and the most useful tool to have when you are out in the wilderness. Most people prefer a fixed blade over a folding knife for outdoor/survival scenario since fixed blades are stronger, more reliable, and easier to maintain. You don’t have to worry about it failing on you due to the relatively simple structure, as long as you take proper care of your knife. Another key benefit of having a fixed blade when you are in the mountains is that it can be used with your flint or fire starter to make a fire in the case of an emergency. It is also fairly easy to clean and service fixed blades compared to folding knives since a good fixed blade knife would be one whole piece of steel without unnecessary mechanisms while folding knives normally have a pivot, lock, and a hollowed-out handle to rest the blade. A good fixed blade knife can be used for chopping wood, preparing food and also can be used to defend yourself against wild animal attacks.
Key factors to consider when buying a survival knife:
The following few tips will make it easy for the consumer to pick the right blade when buying a camping/outdoor knife.
The Proper Steel: there are so many different knives with different steel types in the market. Some of the most popular steels in the market for bushcraft knives are 1095 high carbon steel, SK5, CPM-3V, S35VN and others. Blade steel has a huge impact on the price point and performance of a knife. For example, a Cold Steel SRK fixed blade knife with SK5 steel can cost between 60$ to 70$, which is a great bang for the buck choice, since it comes with a chunky blade of a decent length and thickness to get the job done. However, the Benchmade Puukko with 3V steel can be 200$ in the North American market, but the boost in performance can be huge compared to the SRK aforementioned, since the CPM-3V is a much tougher premium steel that can withstand a lot more impact before giving in, and can hold an edge for a longer period of cutting time. As for the 1095 High Carbon Steel, it is one of the most commonly used mid to blade steel for outdoor and survival knives and is seen in knives manufactured by major knife brands such as Ka-Bar, ESEE, and OKC knives. The 1095 High Carbon Steel keeps a good balance of different properties, such as ease of field sharpening, toughness, and edge retention. However, it is not the best against rusting due to its chemical composition and manufacturers who utilize this type of steel would usually put anti-corrosion coatings such as DLC (Diamond-Like-Carbon) Coating, Powder Coating, or Cerakote. Such coating can protect the blade from corrosion from water or blood, and keep the need for resharpening to the minimum.
A Firm grip: Grip is essential to consider when picking the right fixed blade knife. If the grip is not very comfortable, working with it in the field can be dreadful and not very productive, and can sometimes cause injuries. A grip made of the wrong material or wrong size to you might slip from your hand when your hands are wet or cold. In the market nowadays, G10, compressed leather, Micarta and rubberized grips are the most common since they are slip-resistant, durable and more comfortable in the long run. Also, it is important to make sure the grip shape and texture of the handle are the right so that you can use the knife when wearing gloves if you often use the knife outdoor when the weather is cold.
The Appropriate Length: The right length of the blade depends on the purpose and personal preference. Some people prefer to have a 3-inch blade, some might rather have a 10-inch blade. There is no right or wrong when it comes to blade length, only the fittest. If you need to chop firewood often, a knife with a blade length of 4-6 inches and decent thickness might be the best choice, so it is long and strong enough for batoning while at the same time not too long to carry around. Some of the best choices in this category include the SRK by Cold Steel and ESEE-4 by ESEE. If you need a knife for preparing food or processing your game after hunting, a thinner knife with a blade length of 3-4 inches might be the best candidate since the job emphasizes more on slicing and attention to detail. In this category, the knives worthy of mentioning include the ESEE-3 by ESEE and the RAT 3 by OKC (Ontario Knife Company).
A Durable Sheath: for outdoor, it's always suitable to have a Kydex or molded plastic sheath since the material is tough, waterproof, and the key benefit is that it holds the knife nice and tight so you don’t need to worry about it drop into the bush or cut yourself. The Hard case would also protect the blade from the impact of dropping.
The Right Price: When looking for the right outdoor knife to purchase, it is very important to take the price tag into consideration. There are trusty budget knives that will get the job done (maybe with some more effort) with a price tag of 25$, while there are premium knives that will cost you 7 big notes easily. Practically, a proper outdoor fixed blade knife should start from the 70-80 dollar range, which should withstand some beating and last you a while if you choose the right one (consider the factors above first). Cold Steel and OKC often provide good candidates within this range. And if you can give your budget a slack and stretch your wallet a little bit, a trusty companion that will last you a lifetime should cost within the 180$ to 400$ range, depending on the brand, steel, and size.
Note: Don't buy a survival knife that comes with fire starters, a compass and some other accessories stored in the handle. They only look good in the movies, and in real life their hollowed-out handle would not withstand any hard use and can snap in the middle of the handle or the connecting point of the blade and the handle, rendering the knife useless. Also, if you run out of the fire starter that it already comes with, good luck replacing them. Based on my experience I would always stick to a full tang fixed blade since the blade and the spine of the handle are made out of one whole piece of metal and it's way stronger since it is very hard to compromise the single-piece structure.
Popular survival knife brands that we recommend and believe that totally worth every penny:
Cold Steel: This is probably one of the most popular and well-known brands of knives. The main reason people like cold steel is because of the quality, reasonable price, and lifetime warranty. Most of the Cold Steel knives come super sharp right out of the package, and they are ready to go. Cold steel becomes very popular through their video testing on their website, and the tests they put their knives through are absolutely brutal, which demonstrated the quality of their knives.
Cold Steel uses many different types of steel, including AUS 8, SK-5, 440C to premium steels like VG1, VG10, and S35VN.
Price range: cold steel fixed blades can range from 40$ to 500$.
Ka-bar: A legendary knife company, they have been manufacturing combat knives for the US military since the late 1800s. They are known for their USMC-issued fixed blade combat knives. Primarily, Ka-bar uses 1095 high carbon steel, a very common mid to high-end steel in the world of outdoor knives. This type of steel keeps a good balance between hardness and toughness, which means it keeps an edge quite well and at the same time not to hard to sharpen. Most of the Ka-bar combat knives are made in the USA and they come with either a leather or plastic sheath. In their popular models, Ka-bar uses compressed leather as their handle material, which is very comfortable for handling and provides a cushion when used for chopping hard objects. Also, it prevents the knife from being slippery when being used. Generally, there are USMC, USN and Army versions of Ka-bar combat knives that will have a compressed leather handle and leather sheath. However, Ka-bar also provides a version of their classic combat knife with a rubberized handle and with hard shell plastic sheath. Any of those combinations are a pretty good choice to have as an outdoor knife. Another very hot-selling Ka-bar is the BK series survival knife. The knife speaks for itself, with its beefy blade and full tang design. Knives from this series have very good customer satisfaction reviews, it's something that will never make you disappointed.
ESEE: The designers of ESEE Knives were not only dedicated craftsmen and veteran survival experts but also their years of experience in the field. Their knives are always built to solve practical problems and they often come with a very high-quality Reinforced Plastic sheath. Some of the most popular ESEE knives that are very hot sellers and highly recommended are ESEE-3, ESEE-5 and the ESEE IZULA II series. All three of them are designed to serve in different scenarios in the wilderness, and the material used in these knives are top quality. Mostly ESEE fixed blade knives utilize 1095 high carbon Steel, while some versions of ESEE-3 and 4 are made of S35VN steel. All of the ESEE products are solidly built and they are very durable in the long run. However, ESEE will usually cost more than a regular Ka-Bar and OKC. But keep it in mind, ESEE knives usually feature a Micarta handle which is way better than having a plastic or compressed leather handle.
Another feature of the ESEE Knives worthy of noting is their “No-Question-Ask” lifetime warranty, which has much better coverage compared to the limited lifetime warranty provided by other companies such as Ka-Bar and OKC. One good example would be my experience with my ESEE-4 S35VN version, which did cost me quite some money upon purchase. Once when I was using it to chop firewood on the campsite to make a bonfire, the blade hit a small rock after it went through the piece of wood I was chopping. Hitting the rock chipped the blade quite badly and I wasn’t confident enough to fix it myself (since S35VN is very hard steel and it would take me hours on a whetstone to fix it). I contacted ESEE for this incident and sent my knife to them, and without any further hassle, they fixed my knife perfectly, as if the incident never happened.
Among all of the ESEE knives I own, my favourite goes to ESEE-3 MIL. It features a durable yet lightweight design, makes it good for both Everyday Carry and the outdoors. Also, the sheath for it is Molle compatible which is very easy to attach to a backpack, tactical vest, or belt.
Ontario Knife Company: Ontario Knife Company is one of the most famous manufacturer of outdoor knives based in Ontario California. OKC makes some of the best quality fixed blades with very competitive prices. Most of their fixed blades are made in the USA and they enjoy the reputation of crafting good quality and practical knives. Some of the bestselling Ontario knives are the RAT 3 series and the RAT 5 series. They are very well built, featuring decent blade length and thickness with a useful drop point blade and full-tang design. Also, they have very comfortable Micarta handles, providing a good textured grip that will work under any condition. It certainly gives the impression of a heavy-duty workhorse when you hold it in hand.
Ontario knives usually use high carbon family steel, mostly the 1095 high carbon steel. However, some of their knives come with a nylon sheath instead of finer leather or Kydex sheaths. The sheath might be a minor drawback when compared to the more high-end ESEE and Benchmade Knives, but do keep in mind the OKC knives are built with comparable quality but go a lot easy on your wallet. In addition, due to its popularity on the market, it is easy to find third-party sheaths for the RAT series knives, from hard plastic to genuine horsehide.
As discussed above, I hope the topic helps you with some informative tips that can help you with your next fixed blade. By now you should know what to look for in a good solid outdoor knife, all the stuff mentioned above is very important and it will make it easier for you regarding your new knife.
Our collection of good fix blades:
Our collection of good folding knives: