Best Camping Knives of 2023, Tested and Reviewed

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Best Overall

Benchmade Bushcrafter



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Summary

The Bushcrafter is awesome on edge retention but is also rugged enough for heavier tasks like splitting wood if called upon.

Most Ergonomic

Uncharted Supply Co Empire Knife



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Summary

The Empire knife’s rugged construction is only bested by an incredibly ergonomic handle that makes handling this knife a true joy.

Best Folding

Benchmade Bugout



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Summary

The Bugout is insanely sharp straight out of the box and is one of the smoothest folding knives I have ever handled.

Every outdoor enthusiast needs a good camping knife. It doesn’t matter if you spend most of your time enjoying the modern convenience of full hook-up campgrounds or roughing it 10 miles deep in the backcountry. They are useful tools for everything from fire starting to bushcraft to food preparation.

Anything from a simple pocket knife to a heavy-duty fixed blade can be an ideal knife for camping. But every camper’s needs are going to be a bit different, and you should tailor your knife selection to your camping style. With that in mind, we did extensive in-the-field testing of some of the most popular brands to figure out the best camping knives for a variety of budgets.

Best Overall: Benchmade Bushcrafter

Best Folding Knife: Benchmade Bugout

Most Ergonomic: Uncharted Supply Co Empire Knife

Best Budget: Morakniv Kansbol

Best Multi-Tool: Gerber Armbar Scout

Best Small: CRKT Minimalist Drop Point

Best Lightweight: Gerber Assert

How We Picked the Best Camping Knives

I tested every knife on this list, and many were used on my camping trips this summer. But I also subjected them to purposeful stress tests to see how each knife retained an edge. Specifically, I ripped a lot of cardboard with each of these blades because it’s a useful way to quickly test edge retention. Since cardboard is highly abrasive, overuse will quickly dull a blade of lesser quality.

As for camping-specific tests, I did some wood carving, food prep, and spark testing with a ferro rod. For fixed blade knives, I subjected them to a wood splitting test using the baton technique. Then I inspected the edge to see how well it was holding up. In addition to my real-world testing, I also considered the following factors:

Blade Material: What type of steel was used in construction? How well does it hold an edge?

Tang: If the knife is a fixed blade, does it have a full tang for additional strength?

Handle: How ergonomic is the handle? Is it comfortable for heavier tasks?

Mechanisms: How smooth are the folding mechanisms of the blade?

Value: How does the price point compare to the materials and other components? Does the knife include a sheath or other extras that add value?

Best Camping Knives: Reviews and Recommendations

Best Overall: Benchmade Bushcrafter

Best Overall

Specs

Type: Fixed Blade

Blade Material: CPM-S30V Steel

Blade Length: 4.40”

Overall Length: 9.15”

Pros

Great looks

Excellent edge retention

Good ergonomics

Cons

Expensive

The Bushcrafter was also our top choice for the best backpacking knife, and it continues to impress me the more I use it. The knife’s beefy full tang construction feels right in the hand, and it has a thick blade that can easily split wood. This blade also handled my cardboard slicing tests very well. Although the cardboard did eventually dull the blade a bit, it took a very long time to do it. And the Bushcrafter held up to all the abuse of testing and camping without any damage.

The $300 price tag and lack of a ferro rod are the only two downsides of this knife. Although that price point becomes more understandable once you have it in hand. This knife also comes with a nice leather sheath, and the construction is extremely rugged. You can put a ton of leverage and pressure on the knife without worrying about damaging or breaking it.

The Bushcrafter’s beefy design makes it ideal for camping. Travis Smola

Best Folding Knife: Benchmade Bugout

Best Folding Knife

Specs

Type: Folding Blade

Blade Material: CPM-S90V Stainless Steel

Blade Length: 3.24”

Overall Length: 7.46”

Pros

Extremely light

Crisp, easy mechanism

Unbelievably sharp

Cons

Cost

The Bugout series has proven quite popular for Benchmade and with good reason. These lightweight knives are extraordinarily sharp and easy to carry. It is the sharpest knife I own, and there’s not much it won’t cut through. The Bugout is a great EDC option that can easily transition to a variety of lightweight camping tasks. I especially love the Axis lock system on these blades. Which makes it easy to operate with only one hand.

The only downside to this blade is the price tag. The carbon fiber version that I own starts at around $330. But there are other options with a variety of grip styles that are slightly more affordable. Benchmade also has a great warranty service, and they will resharpen the Bugout for free over the lifespan of the knife. That’s a great deal for anyone who lacks the time to maintain their blades.

The Bugout has great looks and is unbelievably light. Travis Smola

Most Ergonomic: Uncharted Supply Co Empire Knife

Most Ergonomic

Specs

Type: Fixed Blade

Blade Material: 420 Stainless Steel

Blade Length: 4”

Overall Length: 10.5”

Pros

Excellent grip

Hefty, rugged feel

Durable finish

Cons

We wish the steel was higher quality

How could a $40 knife possibly be the most ergonomic of the bunch? Because the Empire has a beefy blade with a good amount of heft and balance. But my favorite feature is the comfortable rubber handle. It has just the right amount of “stick” to it. As a human perpetually plagued with butterfingers, this grip has never let me down.

I wish Uncharted would offer an upgraded version of this knife in something better than 420 stainless, but I can’t argue with how this blade performs and feels in the hand. The Empire knife will effortlessly baton wood, and it slices through cardboard like it was butter. The bottle opener and emergency gas breaker are just icing on the cake for this handy, hardworking blade.

The grip of the Empire knife is comfortable and easy to hold. Travis Smola

Best Budget: Morakniv Kansbol

Best Lightweight

Specs

Type: Fixed Blade

Blade Material: Swedish 12CR27 Stainless

Blade Length: 4.29”

Overall Length: 9”

Pros

Excellent fire starting ability

Extremely light

Highly affordable

Cons

Low quality steel

Partial tang

For its bargain price and lower-quality steel, the Kansbol is a surprisingly well-built and robust knife. This is the lightest fixed blade I own in a medium size. Morakniv does make a few variants of this same blade. However, in my opinion, this best option due to the survival kit sheath. Mostly because it comes fitted with a very nice fire starter that I found to throw off the most impressive sparks of any of the blades I own. The grip also feels quite nice for a budget knife.

The only real downside is that the knife is a partial tang. But because the Kansbol is such a low price, you won’t sweat it if it gets lost or breaks while camping. In fact, it is affordable enough to pick one up for each member of the family to keep in their pack on a hike. It would also be a solid choice if you just want something to throw in the glove compartment of each of your vehicles for emergencies.

The grip looks simplistic, but it feels very nice in the hand. Travis Smola

Best Multi-Tool: Gerber Armbar Scout

Best Multi-Tool

Specs

Type: Folding, multi-tool

Blade Material: 440a steel

Blade Length: 2.5”

Overall Length: 6.5”

Pros

Great price point

Multiple useful tools

Extremely compact and light

Cons

Folding mechanisms are a bit stiff

Coming in at 3.1 ounces, the Armbar Scout packs a ton of functionality into an extremely small package. Gerber doesn’t list the steel type on their website, but it is made from 440a steel. I’ll admit that I wasn’t expecting much of the blade, but I was pleasantly surprised at the sharpness and edge retention. Because of the high-carbon steel, the blade is also corrosion-resistant—something you’ll want in any camping blade.

The saw is tiny, but surprisingly functional. Then there’s a small pry bar, a bottle opener, a hammer, and a scissor. It took a little bit of leverage on the scissors to get them to work, but once I found the sweet spot, it quickly cut through paracord.

The blade and tools were rather stiff when I first took this knife out of the box. However, once I worked them several times, they did eventually loosen up. I also found the frame lock button a little stiff. But, again, once I got the button broken in, it became extremely functional. The Scout will work well as an EDC-style knife with a lot of versatility in the backcountry.

The saw is small, but surprisingly sharp and functional. Travis Smola

Best Small: CRKT Minimalist Drop Point

Best Small

Specs

Type: Fixed Blade

Blade Material: 154CM or 5CR15MOV Steel

Blade Length: 2.16”

Overall Length: 5.25”

Pros

Multiple steel options

Extremely compact

Affordable

Cons

The handle is a little small

At just 1.8 ounces and 5.25 inches long, the Columbia River Knife & Tool’s Minimalist blade is one of the smallest full tang knives you can buy. The blade is a little over two inches, but I’ve found it quite handy for food prep, slicing paracord, and a variety of other tasks. It will also spark a ferro rod better than you’d expect. I appreciate the fact CRKT offers it in two different steel types, which allows campers to better pick one that fits their budget.

This is a great option for anyone with smaller hands. But at the same time, the small size is a downside for users with larger hands. It’s only a three-finger grip. It doesn’t bother me, but I know it might bug some users who want the dexterity of all four on the handle. For a knife that starts at only $40, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better deal for a full tang camping knife.

This knife is much smaller than I expected. Travis Smola

Best Lightweight: Gerber Assert

Best Lightweight

Specs

Type: Folding

Blade Material: S30V steel

Blade Length: 2.98”

Overall Length: 6.95”

Pros

Ridiculously light

Infinite customization options

Great edge retention

Cons

Up to two-week wait times from ordering

The Assert is Gerber’s newest addition to their lineup of folding knives. This blade is shockingly light at just 1.87 ounces. The glass-filled nylon handle is a standout, and I love the texture of it. Not once did I have this knife slip on me. The S30V plain edge blade was extremely sharp out of the box. It handled my cardboard test with ease, and I was left wanting more. It is a great option for a variety of light camp tasks.

While Gerber is selling this knife in standard models, they are also offering them through their custom shop. That means you can change the colors of the handle and all the hardware. You can also change the finish of the blade. But the coolest custom feature is the ability to add laser marks in the form of lettering and graphics to the blade. The prices for these additions are very reasonable. If you’re looking to gift a custom blade, this would be a solid price point. Just know that a custom Assert requires a 10-15 day wait time for it to be manufactured.

The customization options for the Assert are nearly endless. Travis Smola

What to Consider Before Buying a Camping Knife

In most instances, the more expensive the blade, the better steel you’ll get. That’s not a hard and fast rule, but it does reinforce that adage of getting what you pay for. When it comes to picking a camping knife, the number one deciding factor is usually price. And the price is directly affected by a few different factors:

Steel Type

The blade’s steel will directly affect edge retention. Higher-grade steels like S30V will hold an edge for an extremely long time, while inexpensive steel will dull quicker. That’s not always a bad thing because some high-carbon (lower quality) steels sharpen easily while other higher-grade steels do not. That S30V I mentioned is rather hard to sharpen and can be a real challenge for a novice knife enthusiast. It can be especially frustrating if you’re deep in the backcountry without a sharpener and need to put a fresh edge on a blade like that.

Still, my advice is to purchase the highest quality steel you can afford. I own plenty of very functional knives that retail in the $40 to $50 range. These knives are more than adequate for most light camping scenarios.

Additionally, it’s good to know how to take care of the blade regardless of the steel type. The highest quality steel in the world does you no good if it rusts and dulls before you need it. Invest in a high-quality knife sharpener and learn how to properly use it before you go camping.

Fixed Blade vs Folding

The great thing about folding knives is their lighter weight and low profile. Many modern folders weigh only a few ounces at most. It also makes them slightly handy because they can be easily deployed from a pocket at a moment’s notice. They are perfect for the casual camper who just needs something for cutting open a bundle of firewood or whittling around said fire.

On the flip side, folding knives are much more limited in what they can do as far as bushcraft is concerned. These knives are usually not nearly as strong, and the blades are much thinner. However, a full-tang fixed blade knife is usually exceedingly strong and can be used to effectively split wood.

There are trade-offs no matter which way you go. That makes it a good idea to think about just how you plan to use the knife. If you want to spark primitive fires and split wood, a thick fixed blade is probably best. However, if you just need something to slice the cord on a bundle of firewood or for casual whittling around the campfire at night, just about any pocket knife will handle that task.

FAQs

Q: What knife material stays sharp longest?

Every knife is going to dull with use. The more it is used, the faster it wears down. In my experience, an expensive, higher quality steel like S30V holds an edge much better than something a cheaper 420 stainless. Although many cheap high-carbon steels do hold an edge decently. Just remember that those high carbon and stainless steel blades are more likely to dull faster than powdered steel ones.

Q: Are pocket knives good for camping?

A folding knife can easily function for a camping knife. However, it’s a good idea to think about the type of camping you’ll be doing beforehand. Mostly because heavier bushcrafting tasks are better suited to a longer, full tang fixed blade knife. For the casual camper who plans to spend most of their time at an established campground, a pocket knife will probably be ideal.

Q: What is the best blade thickness for a survival knife?

There are many conflicting opinions on this, but most survival experts will agree a thicker blade is better. The most often cited thickness is at least 3/16 of an inch. Although personally, I believe a well-made blade like the Benchmade Bushcrafter, which has a blade closer to 1/8 of an inch, is plenty rugged enough for most tasks. It depends on how rough you are being with your blades. If you expect to do a lot of heavy bushcraft, it’s best to err on the larger side.

Best Camping Knives: Final Thoughts

Best Overall: Benchmade Bushcrafter

Best Folding Knife: Benchmade Bugout

Most Ergonomic: Uncharted Supply Co Empire Knife

Best Budget: Morakniv Kansbol

Best Multi-Tool: Gerber Armbar Scout

Best Small: CRKT Minimalist Drop Point

Best Lightweight: Gerber Assert

While just about any knife can be suitable for camping, the Benchmade Bushcrafter was a rather easy choice for our best overall. There are a lot of quality blades being made today, but few can top the craftsmanship and standards Benchmade has been setting. For anyone looking for a top of the line knife that they can rely on for years and pass down to future generations, the Bushcrafter is the one to consider.

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For more than 125 years, Field & Stream has been providing readers with honest and authentic coverage of outdoor gear. Our writers and editors eat, sleep, and breathe the outdoors, and that passion comes through in our product reviews. You can count on F&S to keep you up to date on the best new gear. And when we write about a product—whether it’s a bass lure or a backpack—we cover the good and the bad, so you know exactly what to expect before you decide to make a purchase.

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