Choosing the right type of outdoor knife can be very daunting. Not to toot my own horn but I believe this guide will be an excellent place for you to start your research and understand more about outdoor knives.
Broadly speaking there are a few major groups of outdoor knives. They are designed for different purposes and serve different functions.
I will go through the major groups below and explain the characteristics of each. For further information on the different types, please feel free to visit the other guides published on my website.
These are the main types that I swear by. In each main group there can also have sub-groups. For example fishing knives have fishing knives but also filleting knives which are very different.
It is also important to note, one knife may belong to many of these categories.
General or Camping Knives – Jack of all trades
They are one of the largest groups of knives. These knives have many names; general knives, camping knives, pocket knives and so on. What are they used for? Well, who knows, they can be used for everything and anything.
More often than not the customer service staff just lump most of the knives in the cabinet into this category. You’ll also commonly find many cheap, low quality knives in this category as well; so beware of your purchases.
However just because they are not as specialized doesn’t mean they are not useful. These knives are designed to be strong and versatile, serving a variety of functions.
I have written a more indepth guide to camping knives, it can be found here at What is a Camping knife? Which one do I need?
Fishing Knives – Has been exposed to enough salt to cause heart disease
From here on out we’ll be discussing more specialist knives, and what’s more iconic than your fishing knives? Also, known as angling knives by some.
These knives are one of the most important tools for both professional and recreational anglers, and they serve a variety of purposes. Snagged line? Cut it. Bait’s too big? Dice it. Want to eat your catch? Stab it. How do I prepare the fish? Fillet it. Need I say more?
Going back to general knives for a bit, yes of course you can use those knives for fishing and bring them to the sea or lake. But the problem here is they won’t perform as well as specialist knives AND they won’t last as long.
Fishing knives are designed to withstand brutal conditions, sea water, lake water and fish guts can have devastating effects on the metal, mechanical parts as well as the handle material.
This major grouping has many sub types to beware of, such as the filleting knife.
Please make your choice wisely, nobody wants to see you bring a filleting knife to a diving trip. If you would like more information on fishing knives, you can read about it here at What is a fishing knife – How do I choose one?
(This isn’t strictly correct but I’ve also included diving knives in this category, since many fishing knives can also be used for diving purposes)
Hunting Knives – No no, please don’t try to chase down a deer and stab it with your hunting knife
When I mention hunting knives people often think about a 6’2 man running butt naked into the bush, with nothing but his trusty dagger to chase down a 200kg buck and bring him to his knees.
While entertaining, this is far from the truth. Hunting knives are not hunting daggers. Hunting knives are knives used to prepare game destined to be food. More often than not they are used for skinning and boning.
It is very important to choose your hunting knives carefully. I believe that the hunting knife is actually more important than what you’re hunting with. A good knife will allow you to save time when it comes to processing your kill and make your life a lot easier.
A detailed guide to hunting knives can be found here, written by yours truly.
Survival Knives – Your trusty companion in a sticky situation
There are thousands of survival knives out there. These knives have been designed for many purposes and come in a variety of shapes of sizes.
We can sit here and talk all day about survival knives but in the interest of keeping everyone awake, I will discuss these knives in detail in another guide.
However, briefly speaking, these are the knives designed to keep you alive in the wild. Fell out of a safari truck? Better hope you have your survival knife with you. Got lost in the forest and can’t find your way home? Your survival knife will lead the way. (Not really but you catch the drift)
The single most critical factor of these knives is durability, they are designed to last a long time, to be the faith tool that will not fail their owners. So keep this in mind when buying these knives. Other than that these knives are versatile, they are used for a myriad of different purposes, from skinning meat to cutting small logs.
When it comes to buying your survival knife, remember to choose something you like and remember to find something durable that serves your purpose. A more detailed guide can be found here.
Hiking Knives – Lightweight yet durable
Who doesn’t love a good hike over 5 days, hilly terrain, across 43 different states and covering a ridiculous number of miles? Well not me, I like something a little less extreme. But that’s where hiking knives fit in.
Because of the long distances and rough conditions covered by hikers, hiking knives need to be lightweight. Every. Single. Gram. Counts! They must also be able to fit into small and tight areas in your backpacks or be comfortable enough to be worn around your belt.
Hiking knives must also be durable. Hikers experience a variety of different conditions and you must choose the knife to suit your purpose. To read more about hiking knives, I’ve covered how to choose a hiking knife for you on this website. Feel free to peruse it at your pleasure.
Multi-tools – Technically not a knife, but some have sharp and pointy ends
Picture this, what if you’re camping in the bushes but you need a corkscrew to open a wine bottle? What if you also need a knife to cut your apple and steak? What if you also need to cut a thick branch to make a walking stick? What if you also need to remove a nail from a tree where you’ve been hanging your supplies? What if…..
It goes on and on, it would be ridiculous to carry a saw, a knife, a corkscrew, a hammer etc. on your trips. Or what if you forgot one of those things? Well, multi-tools are your answer.
They serve a variety of different purposes and are generally fairly durable. However, their mechanical components may be more prone to damage overtime than traditional knives. An important thing to remember is that not all multi-tools are created equal.
In this broad category of tools/knives, different models are designed for different purposes. It is important to choose one that fits your needs (just like every type of knife out there). I went into a bit more detail in the specific guide about multitools, you can find it here.
Boutique Knives – Beautiful? Gorgeous? Does it work?
This is a type of knife that isn’t mentioned very commonly when we talk about knives. So I thought I would just mention their existence.
Often these knives are designed to be beautiful, you can take them out of your pocket on a hike and your friends from the next mountain over will see its gleam in the sunlight. But what are they used for?
These knives are generally just designed to look good, and appeal to your aesthetic side. However, some were not designed to be useful. These knives are getting more and more common in today’s market where someone can design a gorgeous knife with custom paint jobs, changing colors and bedazzled handles.
I’m not saying these knives are bad by any means but make sure you know what you’re buying, know what you’re getting. These knives will look good. Some may be good for outdoor adventures, but some may be better off used as letter and parcel openers to avoid damaging their exterior beauty.
Where should I go from here?
Well the sky’s the limit, you can stick around here and have a look at the different reviews and guides for your chosen types. You can head on out equipped with the knowledge of different outdoor knives. You can even use your newly learnt facts and impress your first dates.
Hope everyone was able to get something out of this guide, if you have any questions feel free to leave them in the comments below and I will get back to you.