The Best Bushcraft Knife: A Buying Guide
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If you love spending time outdoors – whether it’s camping, hunting, fishing or something else – you know you need good, reliable gear. That’s particularly true if you regularly hike out to your adventures. You want good quality stuff that fulfills multiple purposes, so you can whittle down your gear and travel light.
One of the most important items in your pack is the best bushcraft knife you can find. It’s got so many uses, from cutting kindling to marking your route to processing food, and more! You want a good bushcraft knife that is versatile, made to last and will get the job done when you need it most. Here’s how you can make sure you’re getting the best bushcraft knife for your needs and budget.
What Is Bushcraft?
Before we dive right into how to buy the best bushcraft knife, it’s important to understand what bushcraft is.
Bushcraft is essentially the same thing as wilderness survival. It’s a term for people who understand the natural world and are skilled at not only surviving but also thriving in the wild - in other words, skilled at living in the bush. Bushcraft knives are a tool that helps people 'surthrive' in the wild.
They are probably the most important tool in a bushcraft arsenal and are used for many utilitarian functions. While they might be used for camp craft, hunting activities, or processing fish, they’re not purpose-made for those things specifically. They’re more of a universal knife that is designed to be used for whatever might arise while you’re out in the wilderness.
How We Chose the Best Bushcraft Knife Options
Of course, when you’re dealing with a wilderness tool like a bushcraft knife that is so versatile, it can be hard to figure out exactly what you need. Which also makes it harder to find a good bushcraft knife in general. We based our assessment on a set of basic criteria that all the best camping knives should have.
In other words, this is not a list of the best camping knife brands and models out there, but rather a shopping guide that you can use with your budget and specific needs, to find the one that best matches each of these criteria. So, let’s get right down to what each of those criteria are, and how you can choose the best bushcraft knife for all of them.
1. Full Versus Partial Tang
When it comes to choosing the best bushcraft knife, the first thing you need to decide is whether you want a full versus a partial tang.
The tang is the piece of metal that goes into the knife handle. In some knives – like kitchen knives which aren’t subject to very hard wear – a partial tang is perfectly okay.
However, a full tang knife is always stronger than a partial tang knife because the metal of the tang itself reinforces the blade. A strong bushcraft knife is a good bushcraft knife, so you should always opt for full tang whenever possible.
2. Fixed Versus Folding
While there is definitely a use for folding blade knives, the best bushcraft knife options are always fixed blade. These knives are used for hard jobs out on the trail, and the last thing you want is the folding mechanism to fail. This could cause injury and render your knife useless.
So, if you’ve got a choice between fixed and folding blade knives, always choose the fixed option.
3. Handle Material
The handle of a knife is a crucial part of the design and has a huge impact on the usability of the knife.
In this case, you want to look for high tech modern materials like synthetic laminate (micarta or G10, for example) if you can find them, or if not, bone or hardwood.
These materials are hard and hard wearing, and heavy enough to give the knife some heft. This means your knife is more balanced, and that makes it easier to use.
4. Blade Profile
The next thing you want to consider when choosing a bushcraft knife is what the blade profile is. This is also called the “grind” of the blade, and it refers to the bevel or cutting edge of the blade. There are several types to choose from:
- Convex Grind, which applies to the primary bevel only
- Scandinavian / Scandi Grind usually the primary bevel
- Flat Grind usually primary bevel
- Chisel Grind primary bevel, but not commonly used
Where these are the primary bevel, they might be combined with a secondary bevel, which is a different angle and makes the actual cutting edge of the blade.
When you are choosing the blade profile, the best all round knives are usually either Scandi or Full Flat.
5. Steel Composition
When you first start looking for a good bushcraft knife, you probably won’t know too much about steel. You might even think that it’s all the same thing.
However, different alloys and different production methods can result in vastly different blades that are stronger, more corrosion resistant and have other desirable features.
As a general rule of thumb, the higher the carbon content – 1095 carbon, D2, or higher-end steel composites (VG10, CPM-types, Sandvik Stainless etc.) – the better suited to making quality bushcraft knives the material is.
6. Knife Profile
The knife profile, when it comes to choosing the best bushcraft knife, is the shape of the blade itself. There are various kinds of profiles you might be able to choose from. Some are longer and narrower, while others are shorter and rounder.
Given the kinds of things a bushcraft knife is usually used for, including cutting firewood, you usually want a stronger blade. That typically means a knife profile that is shorter and rounder, giving the blade more strength even when you apply some leverage.
These blades don’t have the overly rounded “belly” you find on some butcher knives, but they also aren’t long, thin and flexible. They’re somewhere in between, built to be short, stocky and powerful.
Your knife blade should also have what is known as a Drop Point or Spear Point – which means that it’s neither too long and thin or too blunt. This will help to prevent the tip of the blade from breaking when you apply pressure to it.
7. Knife and Blade Size
The best bushcraft knife is not the largest one. In fact, by some standards, these knives could even be called petite!
On the shorter end of the spectrum, there are some that are about 3.5” long, but that’s not usually the best camping knife size, as it’s less versatile. Ideally, you want to go with a blade that is about 4 to 5” long, with a handle that fits comfortably in your hand.
These knives should be shorter, well balanced, and easy to use, even when you are cutting into hard materials.
8. Ease of Sharpening
The next important factor in choosing a good bushcraft knife is ease of sharpening. You will want a knife that can be easily sharpened to a keen edge, which will allow you to cut easily through even harder materials.
In this case the shape of the blade as well as the ground can play a role, and the best choice is often a Sabre or full flat without a hollow grind. These will be the easiest to sharpen and micro bevel for a razor edge.
Make sure that you also choose a knife that has a strong and durable sheath. you want to make sure that even a well sharpened knife won't accidentally cut you while you're out in the woods. the sheath should fit tightly too, and ideally have some form of closure mechanism that's easy to use but won't accidentally come loose. This will allow you to safely carry a good bushcraft knife in your pack or on your belt.
9. Cost Versus Benefit
You might think that the simple solution to get the best bushcraft knife is simply to throw more money at the problem. However, in this case this can be counterproductive. A bushcraft knife by definition is used to do a range of heavy-duty operations in the wilderness. This might include things like cutting firewood or prying things loose or similar.
Using a knife in this way always runs the risk of damage or even breaking the blade. So, while you want a knife that is good quality and not the cheapest on the market, you also don't want something that you'll be afraid to use when the time comes.
For this reason, the best bushcraft knife is often a middle of the road model that is high quality and from a good manufacturer, but that won't break the bank. In fact, since these knives do tend to wear out overtime, if you find one that you like and that is budget friendly, you might want to purchase more than one to keep one in stock.
Expensive knives may look beautiful, but if they don't get the job done, they are decoration and not a tool.
A good knife as we've mentioned before should fit easily into your hand. it should not have a handle that is too long or too short, and it should be rounded with a design that allows for some “slip.”
The best bushcraft knife is also not the heaviest one out there. You don't want something that is too lightweight to be effective, but you also want something that you can use easily without strain.
The best way to find the best camping knife for your needs, is to go to a store and try several different models. holding them in your hand will give you a better idea of how they fit and how they might feel to use. Again, take note of the make and model that you have purchased, so that when you want to buy it again, it's easy to find.
11. Use Cases
The best camping knives have a multitude of uses. They can be used to cut jerky around a campfire, or to whittle kindling from a log, or to cut into trees to mark a trail when hiking in the back country. They're not quite a hunting knife or a knife that's designed to gut fish, but they can be used for both in a pinch.
The best bushcraft knife is a knife that you can take along anywhere and that can be used for many different purposes. It might not be a Swiss army knife, but it's just as versatile, and because it's bigger and stronger could actually be more useful on the trail.
You might think that the best bushcraft knives are all black or camo, but those colors can make your knife harder to find when you’re out in the wilderness. A bushcraft knife that has some element of bright color on the handle or sheath is a lot easier to spot when you’ve put it down somewhere and are trying to locate it again!
So even if you go for black, look for a knife that has a bright orange or even blue on the handle of the knife, so you can spot it easily in the grass or on the trail. The last thing you want is a knife that is so well camouflaged it can’t be seen when you’re trying to find it!
Buying the Best Bushcraft Knife
Now that you know more about how to buy a bushcraft knife, you will have a better idea of how to buy the best fixed blade knife for camping.
Remember that this knife is not designed to replace all the other knives you might want to use when you're out on the trail. they're not as good in a life and death situation as a survival knife. they are not designed to be flexible like a skinning knife, and they don't have enough serrations to be good at sawing.
But if you are traveling light, and you need a knife that is a great allrounder, the best bushcraft knife is the best middle of the road option you can choose. They are also a fantastic gift idea for anyone you know enjoy spending time outdoors.