Usually this is where the cliche one liner goes to get your attention and make you interested in the article, But to be frank I think everyone knows how important a knife is when it comes to camping trips.
Camping knives must perform a variety of different functions, they must be strong yet versatile. It is almost impossible to have a knife that can do everything, so keep that in mind when you’re purchasing. Different knives may be designed to do different things.
This guide will touch on the following points to give you an introduction and foundation to camping knives. At the end I will guide you through how to purchase your first camping knife.
- Fixed blade and folding knives
- Blade designs
- Common camping knife materials
- Putting it all together, how do I choose a camping knife?
Fixed Blade or Folding?
One of the most important factors when it comes to choosing knives. This is also something you can tell from a mile away.
Something so simple can have a large impact on their function and abilities.
Fixed blades are often more durable and tough. The blade often extends quite deep into the handle meaning the pressure and stress that the knife experiences can be dissipated along the entire knife and not at a specific point. They also have less mechanical components and require less cleaning.
However because they are longer and cannot fold into something smaller, fixed blades can be clunkier to store. And let’s all be honest, sometimes they just don’t have the flair that the folding knives do.
These knives are able to fold up and are more compact. They also have a design that is loved by many, there’s just something cool about owning one. If you take a folding pocket knife out your friends will think you’re cool and ask to see it, if you take a fixed blade out they’ll call you a serial killer and run.
The drawbacks with this design is that they are not as strong. With the folding design the most of the pressure is exerted on the blade at the point where it attaches to the handle; while they are still quite tough they can’t measure up to the fixed blade design.
These knives also require more maintenance and cleaning, you must ensure rust doesn’t develop.
Design of the blade – it actually serves a function
There are 3 common designs when it comes to camping knives. They are clip point, drop point and sheepsfoot. There are other designs but they are not as common.
1. Clip point
One of the most popular designs. The spine (the back of the blade) begins straight from the handle, but eventually it starts to dip down sharply towards the tip of the blade; the dip can be straight or curved.
This allows the clip point knives to have strong piercing abilities with a lot of surface area for slicing, but the tip of the knife can be quite fragile since there isn’t much material there.
2. Drop point
Similar to the clip point, the drop point is also extremely popular. The spine of the drop point knife runs in a straight, or slightly curved fashion towards the tip of the blade. (unlike the clip point which dips down sharply).
These knives are not as good as clip points when it comes to piercing, but it is very easy to use and has a lot of area for slicing as well.
Unlike the last two designs where the cutting surface is curved. The sheepsfoot blade has a straight cutting edge. The spine is dull and straight with an ending that is curved down to the tip.
These knives provide a lot of control to the user however it lacks in piercing ability.
Material – look at the blade, but don’t forget the handle
I have mentioned material many times on my website, so if you’re following along you may get sick of this. But most outdoor knives are made of similar materials. I have covered materials in my other guides as well, so please feel free to skip it if you need.
The blade is the business end of the knife and is commonly made of an alloy of steel. The most common three types are as follows.
1. Carbon steel – The traditional material, it is tough, it holds an edge well. However, it can be brittle, some carbon steel variants may not be suitable for folding knives. These steel are more suited for fixed knives with a full tang (the knife extends into the handle). Carbon steel is also more prone to rust.
2. Tool steel – These are often used in industrial equipment, it is more resistant to rusting than carbon steel, it also resists impact force and holds and edge well. The one major drawback is when it comes to maintenance and sharpening, these steel often require specialist equipment.
3. Stainless steel – These steel are the most resistant to rusting, they are also used very commonly. The major drawback with stainless steel is that they are the least tough out of the 3 common types, it may not hold up an edge as well as the others.
Often overlooked by many, it is arguably even more important than the blade itself. The handle is your direct connection to the knife. A badly designed handle can fit badly in your hand and be the cause of much frustration. The most common handle material are as follows.
1. Plastic handles
These are hardy, they do not absorb moisture or water (good for those wet environment and beach hikes). These are often very well practical.
2. Rubber handles
Like plastic handles, the effect of water won’t affect them. Rubber also adds the benefit of extra grip. However unlike plastic rubber can be damaged and may not be as durable, a rough journey in the hot sun may also cause some rubber handles to slightly melt and become sticky.
3. Metal handles
These are the most durable of all handles, they can look quite sleek as well. BUT THE DESIGN IS QUITE IMPORTANT!! If the metal handles are not designed well, they may not be comfortable to hold and may dig into you. These handles can also be quite slippery (especially if badly designed).
4. Wooden handles
The traditional handle, the handle that everyone thinks of when it comes to knives. They are beautiful, they come in various colors and shapes and the grain of the wood can be captivating (I may be slightly biased when it comes to these handles). These handles can also be quite comfortable in your hand, and has some grip (not as much as rubber handles). There is however, a major drawback. The wooden handles will absorb moisture and water, meaning they can be damaged by wet conditions (especially salty), when used for cutting food, oils and food particles may also stain and damage them which is an issue.
How do I choose a camping knife for myself? The million dollar question
Now that you’re equipped with enough information about what a camping knife is, how it’s constructed and the different designs, it’s time to choose a knife for yourself. The most exciting part about going camping in my opinion.
What do you need the knife for?
The main question you need to ask yourself is function. Whether you’re glamping, base camping and exploring different trails you always need to ask yourself, what do you want the knife for? If you’re looking for a hiking knife then you’re in the wrong guide, please look at how to choose a hiking knife in 4 steps. Often camping knives are less concerned about size and weight when compared to hiking knives.
Would you like to use a knife to chop things? Or maybe you’ll need your camping knife to skin some game? These are all things you’ll need to consider.
Remember different knives will be designed for different purposes, you can use the guide and information above to determine what the knife is designed for.
Where will you be taking your knife?
Think about where you will be taking your knife. Different environments will do different things to your knife, so think about the materials that you will choose.
Do I like the knife?
Lastly, don’t forget about the design of the knife. I always say this, but choose a knife that you like. Some people may prefer to choose everything based on statistics, that is fine as well. But don’t forget to choose a knife that you enjoy looking at, a knife that resonates with you.
If at the end of the day you buy a knife but hate it, or maybe you don’t like the look of it, you’ll constantly be online looking at another knife you want to buy.
For an value for money camping knife that is durable and proven, you can consider the Morakniv Companion. I have reviewed it on this site and have attached the review below. Morakniv Companion Knife Review
So what now?
With your newly equipped knowledge about camping knives feel free the flex on all the clerks at your nearest camping store. With great knowledge comes great responsibility, so use your knowledge wisely. There are a lot more in depth things that I didn’t cover, but what I have covered should take you through some basics on how to purchase your camping knife.
Thanks for taking your time and reading my post. Hope I was able to help you out. Best of luck and hope you enjoy your next hiking trip.
If you have any questions please feel free to leave them down below.