Best Backpacking Knives in 2019: Buyer’s Guide & Reviews
Best Pocket Knife
Victorinox Swiss Army
The Victorinox is a great everyday army knife that has 7 functions and is made of stainless steel.
Best Folding Kinfe
Spyderco Delica 4
The Spyderco is the perfect choice as it is lightweight, compact and very sturdy. It folds easily for easy storage, making it simple and functional to carry.
Best Fixed Blade Knife
SOG Fixed Blade
The SOG is our top fixed blade knife because it is titanium coated, stainless steel made and still lightweight.
If you’ve got a hiking trip, fishing expedition or camping getaway on the horizon, you need a backpacking knife, without question. Not only are backpacking knives incredibly handy, they can actually come to the rescue in iffy situations. We’ll get deeper into this further along...so keep reading!
Then we get to the crux of the matter...which is the best backpacking knife for you? Never fear. To help you on your hunt for a good camping knife, we’ve sorted through the market to find the very best.
Let’s get started!
Different Types of Backpack Knives
Fixed Blade Sheath Survival Knife
A fixed blade knife is a simple, single-blade knife with a fixed handle. The blade is kept protected by a sheath to keep the sharp edges from being exposed until needed. A fixed blade stays put, it doesn’t fold, switch or rotate like other knife varieties.
Some have a full tang, which means the blade extends fully into the handle. This makes for a super durable knife.
Others have a partial tang which means the blade extends only part way into the handle. They will usually have either a drop point or a clip point blade (more on those later).
Folding Blade Survival Knife
A folding blade survival knife is a single-blade knife which folds to create a small, compact unit when closed. Folding blade knives come in different blade lengths, thicknesses and grinds.
They’re often designed to be opened with one hand, with either a protruding tab or thumbhole to quickly flick open the blade. A folding blade survival knife generally has a larger blade than a folding pocket knife.
Folding Pocket Knife
A folding pocket knife is generally what you might recognize as a Swiss Army Knife. They’re small, compact and smaller than a folding survival knife, and often have multiple blades.
Some pocket knives feature a single blade, folding into a small base. The key thing to recognize is that they’re smaller and more lightweight than folding blade survival knives.
A multi-tool is a tool which generally has a main base of pliers, with other tools attached to the handles. Not to be confused with a pocket knife or Swiss army knife which doesn’t have a specific tool as a base.
The extra tools generally are tucked into the plier handles, including various blades, screwdrivers and bottle openers.
Chefs Knives or Knife Kit
Chef knives and knife kits are created and used for food prep during long camping trips. Instead of being designed for heavy-duty survival and first-aid, they’re made for effective outdoor food prep.
They often come in a fold-up pouch with plastic sheaths or slots for each knife for safe carrying. There’s often a sharpening tool included too.
Why Would You Need a Backpacking Knife?
A backpacking knife is crucial for camping for both safety and practicality. The best camping knife is one which can be easily and safely stored and used for a variety of tasks such as: chipping and cutting wood for fires, cutting rope and cord, repairing equipment (i.e. cooking equipment or packs), food prep (cutting meats and veggies, opening packets), and first aid (cutting cloth to create bandages etc.).
If your camping trips don’t require a lot of on-foot travel, you could go for a heavier knife with a longer blade. If your camping trips involve a lot of hiking and on-foot travel, a lightweight knife would be better for keeping your load weight down.
Hunting calls for at least one sturdy knife with a secure grip and a sharp, strong blade. Your hunting knife will come into play for skinning and preparing animals. You’ll also need your hunting knife for safety and protection measures while out in the wild. The best choice for hunting is a knife which is easy to access, easy to get a strong wield and can multitask.
It does depend on what you’re hunting, in terms of choosing the right size and shape. A knife you’d use for skinning and prepping small animals such as rabbits is not going to be the same knife you’d use for boar or deer.
Every Day Carry (EDC)
For EDC, you’re more likely to need a multi-tool or a folding pocket knife with a variety of uses. You’re generally not going to be worrying about preparing animals, chipping wood, or cutting through heavy-duty rope.
You’re more likely to be faced with opening stuck locks, releasing zips, opening bottles, tightening screws, opening boxes and cutting loose thread. Something with a small-yet-tough blade, safe and compact construction, and a variety of small tools (i.e. a Swiss army pocket knife) would be ideal.
What To Look For In a Good Backpacking Knife
Figure out what you’re going to be needing your backpacking knife for. Are you going camping? Hunting? Preparing for general everyday life? For very rugged camping, you’ll need something tough, with a good grip and an effective blade.
A fixed sheath knife is best for this. But for lighter, less risky excursions such as light hikes, a lightweight folding knife would suffice.
Backpacking and survival knives have a variety of knife types, discernable by their shape. Most backpacking knife blades are either totally straight-edged or just have one serrated section or side.
Why? Because straight knife edges are easier to sharpen.
When choosing your backpacking knife, look for one with a drop point blade. This is when the blade slopes downward from the handle end of the blade down toward the tip edge. This makes for easier sharpening. It’s generally fatter at the top half of the blade and has a wider tip.
The other kind of blade to look out for is a clip point blade which has a little curve at the tip, creating a narrower, sharper tip which has a slight hook shape.
Again, consider the purpose for your knife. A longer blade is best for hunting tasks, providing a longer knife stroke.
While a shorter blade is ideal for tasks such as opening packets, cutting cord and nylon, and chipping wood. A longer blade length is anything from around 5 inches, with a blade length of 2 or 3 inches.
Most high-quality survival knife blades are made from carbon steel, VG-10 stainless steel, or tool steel. Some knives are made from Aus-8 stainless steel which is really rust-resistant but a little harder to keep sharp.
This is different to the grind. The blade shape refers to the overall shape of the blade, whereas the grind refers specifically to the blade edge.
Some wilderness survival knives and backpacking knives have small, fatter shapes for more control and jabbing or digging motions. Others have longer, more slender blades for slicing and carving motions (i.e. cutting open packets).
The grind refers to the shape of the blade edge, i.e. the angle of the edges to create the point and thickness of the knife edge.
There are lots of different kinds of knife grinds, each better for a certain purpose. Scandinavian grinds are popular for hunting knives because they can be more easily sharpened in a pinch.
Size – when open and closed
Choosing the size of your knife will be related to where and how you plan on storing it. A fixed blade sheath knife which you plan on attaching to your person or to your pack should be reasonably small so as not to get in the way.
A knife to be stored in your pocket (likely a folded knife) should be small enough to fit snuggly but large enough for a easy grab.
Consider your hand size, grip style and what you’ll be using the knife for to determine the best handle. For tasks which require a tight-as-nails, sturdy grip such as skinning and prepping animals, you want an ergonomic blade with contours, grip-friendly features and a substantial size.
This is so you can get a full-hand grip on the handle with enough distance from the blade to get a strong wield.
Weight – lightweight, ultralightweight, heavy
What you need your knife for will directly influence which weight you should go for. Obviously, a very heavy knife is generally going to be less practical when hiking and backpacking, as extra weight is generally avoided.
For heavy-duty tasks such as skinning and preparing animals during hunting, you’re going to need a fixed blade knife on the heavy side of the weight range. This is simply because the size, length and thickness of the knife need to be substantial for the task.
For light hiking and camping, a lightweight or ultra-lightweight folding pocket knife would suffice.
6 Best Backpack Knives Reviewed
1. Spyderco Delica 4 Folding Knife
Best Ultralight Knife
Camping, pocket, backpacking, EDC
Fiberglass reinforced nylon
Spyderco is a huge name in the backpacking and survival knife game. This little folding camping knife from Spyderco is so incredibly lightweight you’ll wonder if it’s effective at all. But it sure is, as Spyerco have formulated the blade with high-quality VG-10 steel which is both extremely durable and remains sharper for longer.
You’re not going to hack through a beast with this ultralight backpacking knife, so it’s not the best sole knife for hunting trips. However, it will come in handy on hikes, camping and backpacking for tasks such as cutting cord, opening packets and chipping wood into small kindling.
2. Victorinox Swiss Army Classic SD
Best pocket knife/swiss army
Stainless steel (coated)
You’ll recognize this little Victorinox as a classic example of a true Swiss army pocket knife. It has 7 different functional tools: scissors, nail file, small blade, screwdriver, keyring, tweezers and toothpick. Made in Switzerland, with a lifetime guarantee, you can certainly be sure of the high quality of this little tool.
Obviously, it’s not going to come in very handy on intrepid hikes, hunting or backpacking trips through the bush. But it can come in super handy for everyday carry. You could use it for anything from cutting loose thread, tightening screws, cleaning tools or removing splinters (among the multitude of other uses).
You could still absolutely stash it in your pack for on-foot trips or rough backpacking, to supplement a more substantial knife. It’s super affordable and comes in a range of colors, so could be a great gift for new campers or young hikers just getting used to outdoor survival.
3. SOG Seal Pup Elite E37T-K Survival Knife
Best fixed blade survival / camping knife
Survival, camping, backpacking
This is a wilderness survival knife not to be messed with. It’s from popular, trusted knife brand SOG. It’s a fixed blade sheath knife with a super-hard, varied blade. It has both serrated and straight knife edges, with a curved, sharp tip (clip point) and a decent flat edge on the side.
The full tang means that the blade is incredibly strong and when you’re wielding it with the handle, you’re really wielding the entire blade for a super controlled, no-break performance.
The handle is made from glass-reinforced nylon which is hard-as-nails and incredibly durable. The handle has been texturized for a slip-free grip, with finger grooves and a flared end to protect your fingers from the blade.
The blade is made from stainless-steel which has been hardened by a method of chilling and heating and coated in black titanium nitrate. Yes, it’s as durable and tough as it sounds, according to many satisfied reviews and a guarantee from the maker.
The sheath is made of a hard material which keeps the sharp blade protected and shielded until required. The backpack strap knife sheath has the option of being clipped onto a belt or attached to your pack for easy, safe carry.
This is not a knife for EDC or light camping. It’s really for hunting, survival, rough hiking and deep, high-risk camping and fishing trips. It’s definitely very high on the list of the best fixed blade survival knife options.
4. Opinel Stainless Steel Folding Knife
Best folding survival / camping knife
This folding knife from Opinel is very highly-rated, and could well be the best pocket knife for light backpacking, EDC and camping. The blade is made from stainless steel (Sandvik 12C27 modified) with a 0.40% carbon content, offering a sharper edge.
Opinel have updated their folding knives to ensure a safe and secure open and closed position. This is due to the Viroblok safety ring which basically keeps the knife fixed when open and fixed when closed. This stops the risk of the blade opening and closing onto your hand.
The handles of these French classic knives are generally made from beech wood, which is super hardy and has a unique color and pattern. This is definitely a knife for EDC and casual, light camping. It’s not for hunting, survival, or risky, deep-bush hiking and backpacking.
It’s best for EDC tasks such as opening boxes, cutting food or opening packets in a pinch. You could keep this stashed in your camping pack to use for cutting and preparing food around the campfire.
5. Uncle Henry PH2N Mini Pro Hunter Knife
Best survival knife for the money
Camping, hunting, survival
This is perhaps the best survival knife for the money, clocking in at a super affordable price. This knife comes from Uncle Henry, (a brand of Schrade which is now owned by Taylor Brands) and has been a well-known USA brand for a very long time.
The knife has a fixed blade with a leather sheath and lanyard. The blade itself is made from high-carbon stainless steel which means it has the benefit of being rust-free and super sturdy at the same time. The blade features a drop point which has the benefit of a thicker, wider point while still offering sharpness.
Another important feature to note is that this is a full tang knife. The blade extends from the very tip, right to the end of the handle, with the handle coating the blade. The handle is made from Staglon which is a plastic material which has been textured and colored for a rugged aesthetic.
This camping survival knife would be great for camping, hunting small game, hiking (to keep for safety and practicality), and survival. You can strap the sheath to your belt and have it ready at the hip.
It’s not the best for EDC, as you’re better off with a folding pocket knife or multi-tool for everyday tasks. In saying that, if you like to carry a sturdy fixed-blade knife for EDC, this would be a good choice.
6. Gerber Suspension Multi-Plier
Best multitool for backpacking
Survival, camping, pocket, backpacking, EDC, field work
Aluminium and stainless steel
This is a true multitool, with a plier base and four extra tools tucked into each handle. The entire tool folds up to create a small, compact unit easy to stash in your pocket, pack or tool belt.
The tools are made from stainless-steel which resists corrosion and rust. The handle is made from tough aluminium with an open design which Gerber says is inspired by Oregon’s suspension bridges, and the comparison is clear once you see it.
The tools you get are: needle-nose pliers, wire cutter/stripper, straight blade, serrated blade, Phillips screwdriver, two flathead screwdrivers (large and medium), scissors, bottle opener, can opener, saw, awl, and lanyard ring. When the multi-tool is packed away and awaiting its next use, you can keep it safe in the provided nylon sheath.
So, what is this handy tool best suited for? Almost anything. It would make a great EDC tool as it can take care of little jobs such as opening bottles and cans, and cutting loose threads on packs and gear.
It will also come in handy during camping trips and fishing trips as you can fix tools and gear with the screwdrivers, slice through food and cord with the straight and serrated blades, and open packets with the scissors. It’s not ideal for hard-core survival-mode expeditions, but it could be a great supplementary tool for a larger, fixed-blade knife.
Weight Vs Functionality
Weight is an important factor when choosing a backpacking knife. In review sections for survival knives you will often read comments along the lines of “feels nice and heavy in the hand”. This is most common for knives used for heavy-duty tasks such as hunting which require a steady grip and a tough blade. Heaviness can denote a durable metal, a full tang and a generous blade size and thickness.
These are all important for safely and effectively preparing large game or splitting wood. You don’t want a super light, flimsy-feeling knife when carrying out these tasks. As long as the knife is well balanced in weight, a heavier knife is great for tough tasks. On the other hand, ultra lightweight knives are coveted for hiking, camping and EDC when the most important factor is ease and lightness when carrying in a pack or pocket.
For small tasks such as cutting cord, opening boxes, opening packets, and cutting food you need a knife with a sharp blade, easy-grip handle and a great size for storing. A lightweight or ultralightweight knife is ideal for these tasks.
Survival, camping, pocket, etc
Ropes, food, cutting packets, cutting nylon line
EDC, cutting nylon, opening jars, bottles, corks
Survival, camping, hunting
Animal prep, skinning, sharpening wood, cutting cord
Cutting boxes, light garden use. Light camping use (i.e. cutting packets, cutting food)
Cutting leather, carving wood, cutting packets, cutting rope/cord, small game hunting
EDC, backpacking, hiking
Cutting and stripping wire, opening boxes, opening bottles, screwdriving, cutting nylon
Safety is important when carrying, storing and using any knife. Here are some top tips for safely using your backpacking knife...
Invest in a belt sheath: if you plan on carrying your backpacking knife close to your body during hiking and camping, store your knife on your belt.
By keeping your knife securely and safely sheathed at your side (where your hand falls), it will be super accessible and easy to grab in a hurry.
This is generally safer than keeping it in a pocket when you could fall and risk the knife pressing into you. It also saves you from leaving your knife behind if it’s strapped to your belt.
Cut away from the body: when using your knife, cut away from the body with confident, sure strokes. Be mindful and focused when using your knife and avoid using it when fatigued.
Keep your workspace close to your body: if there are others around you, make sure your knife work-space is close to the body. Hold the items you are cutting close to you, with the knife cutting away from the body and straight ahead if possible.
Be aware of who’s around you and where your knife may land or reach if you were to slip up. This simply reduces the risk of others getting in the path of your active knife.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I sharpen a survival knife?
It does depend on what kind of knife you have, as different grinds do require a different sharpening technique. But for the most part, you’ll need a whetstone to sharpen your survival knife. There are many small, portable whetstones, ceramic sharpeners and diamond sharpeners on the market.
Find one which is small and light enough for you to carry with you during camping, hunting, backpacking and tactical expeditions. This is a highly-rated portable sharpener with different options for different blade types.
You need to be familiar with the grind of your knife as this will determine how you hold the knife when sharpening. There are lots of YouTube videos out there to demonstrate exactly how to sharpen each specific knife blade.
What is the best steel for a survival knife?
The most common steels used for survival knives are VG-10 steel (a high-quality stainless steel), carbon steel and tool steel. Many experts will tell you that carbon steel is the best, as it can achieve a much sharper edge than stainless steel.
Also, it’s harder and more durable than other knife steels. Stainless steel is also great because it resists rusting and corrosion for a very long time.
What things can I do to care for my knife?
Taking care of your backpacking knife will really help to extend the longevity and effectiveness of it. First, research the kind of steel your knife blade is made of, as it will influence the best care.
All knives should be wiped down and thoroughly dried after usage. Carbon steel should be oiled to prevent rusting and oxidizing. Keep your knives stored in dry places when not in use, and sharpen them whenever they begin to dull.
What’s the price range of these knives?
All of these knives clock in at under $100, with the cheapest being around $20 (or cheaper on special) and all the way up to $70 with prices in between.
Where’s a good place to buy a cheap but quality knife?
Amazon has great deals and sales so check them out to find the best cheap, high-quality knife.
The best backpacking knives are durable, easy to grip, safe to carry, and have the right set of features for their particular usage. Before choosing a survival, camping or backpacking knife, be clear on what your needs are.
If you’re in need of a sturdy knife for hunting large game, you’ll need a single fixed-blade knife with a decent weight and sharp edge. Whereas for EDC, you may need a multitool or pocket knife with a variety of applications, which can fit snugly in your pocket or EDC backpack.
Check out our backpacking knife reviews to get an idea of the best survival knives on the market to help you decide. Safe travels!
Backpacking Knife - Comparison Guide
|Knife Name:||Knife Type:||Blade Length:||Rating|
|Fixed Blade||4.1 inches (104 mm)|
|Fixed Blade||3.75 inches|
|Fixed Blade||7 inches|
|Fixed Blade||4 Inches|
|Fixed Blade||5"-8 Inches|
|Fixed Blade||8 Inches|
|Fixed Blade||3 Inches|
|Fixed Blade||12 ½-Inches|