How to choose the right camping knife for your next trip — plus 7 reliable picks


Whether you're shaving wood tinder or cutting a rope, having a knife around comes in handy when you're camping. Although the ideal style for you will depend on how you plan to use it, the best camping knives typically have two things in common: sharp, sturdy blades and reliable safety mechanisms.

Blade-wise, the most important thing is that it's made of strong, high-quality stainless steel. This prevents your knife from bending easily or flexing when pressure is applied. Premium steel is also less likely to chip and more rust-resistant.

In terms of safety, your knife should have either a sheath or a locking mechanism, depending on its style. Fixed blades (the straight ones that don't fold up) need sheaths so they don't cut you when not in use. Folding knives (the ones that look more like multi-tools) need locking mechanisms so they don't come open in your bag or pop loose while you're trying to cut something.

When selecting a camping knife, consider what you're most likely to do with it. Common campsite applications include cutting rope, prepping meat, shaving kindling, gutting fish, and chopping wood. Fixed blades are typically better for making kindling or fire shavings while folding blades are often preferred for food-related tasks. And an ax will be necessary if you need to chop wood.

Also think about where you'll be taking your knife. If you're backpacking, for example, you might want something smaller and more lightweight. But if you're stationed at a campsite, you may want to go with something a little heavier that offers extra features or tools, like a built-in sharpener, a fire starter, a glass breaker, a flashlight, or a whistle.

Below, you'll find the best camping knives in a variety of styles. Read on to find the one that best suits your wilderness adventures.

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The basic fixed-blade knife

If you're looking for an excellent all-around camping knife with a fixed blade, this option from Gerber is one of the best out there. With a sturdy, straightforward design, the blade is made of strong stainless steel. Its partially serrated on one end, making it versatile for around camp uses, and the rubber handle offers solid grip. The knife's protective sheath features a sharpener on one side and a rod fire starter on the other, and there's also a small emergency whistle on the lanyard. I've tried this knife myself and, in addition to cutting easily, it feels solid in your hands.

One reviewer says: "Awesome camping, hunting, & all around nice knife w/ Fire Starter built into sheaf. Also love the holes for [tying] up knife as spear or many other uses with some paracord."

The basic folding knife

For folks who prefer a folding design, this compact camping knife is ultra-portable and comes in six different color choices. It's constructed with a durable stainless steel blade that's resistant to rusting, and multiple reviewers noted how lightweight it is, especially given its strength. They also pointed to how much they like the locking mechanism, writing that it's easy to open and close without sacrificing safety. As a bonus, it has a loud 110-decibel survival whistle built in.

One reviewer says: "Really functional, lightweight and easy to open. [...] Easily straps to a carabineer clip, locks easily and does not come unlocked inadvertently. Arrived very sharp already. I would buy again."

The one for backpacking

Not only is this Benchmade camping knife outfitted with an exceptionally sharp stainless steel blade, but it also clocks in at just 1.5 ounces, which makes it a good choice for backpacking or other situations where you'd need to keep your load light. Unlike some knives that are more for general use, this one is built specifically with outdoor survival scenarios in mind.

Reviewers noted that it feels featherlight in your hands and it's easy to carry thanks to the comfortable ergonomic grip. You'll pay more for this higher-end choice but for folks who do lots of camping it's a worthy splurge. Plus, you can snag it in two different colors: the eye-catching orange featured above and white.

One reviewer says: "I chose this model specifically with long-distance backpacking in mind, to replace a small folding ultralight utility knife. I have an average-sized hand and this ergonomically fits very well despite my initial concerns. Sharp as can be after multiple days in the backcountry (light to medium-duty use), high visibility, weight (or lack thereof), lets me easily give this 5 stars."

The multi-tool

Leatherman makes some of the best camping knives on the market, and this K2 multi-tool is no exception. Like the other options on this list, it boasts an ultra-sharp stainless steel blade that's resistant to rust and a sturdy aluminum handle. The magnetic locking system is strong and reliable, while the tools themselves are easy to use, according to reviewers. On top of the sharp camp knife, it contains an awl, a bottle opener, a package opener, a pry tool, and three screwdrivers. Plus, it's available in five different colors ranging from silver to crimson.

One reviewer says: "This is an incredibly versatile knife. [...] The blade came incredibly sharp and so far is holding its edge nicely to spite its almost daily use. The one hand operation is intuitive, easy to use, and allows for a great user experience. The fit and finish is incredible. The locking mechanism is solid, with [literally] no perceivable play. [...] Over all, this is a quality blade and definitely one that everyone should consider owning."

The one for emergency scenarios

Designed specifically for emergency scenarios, this lightweight camping knife comes with special tools built in for survival situations. In addition to its sharp stainless steel blade, it's equipped with a glass breaker and a rechargeable LED flashlight. The wallet-friendly option is ultra-compact and customers noted that the blade locks into place well. It conveniently hangs from a sturdy buckle clip, and it comes with a mini-USB cord to recharge the flashlight.

One reviewer says: "It's got a good weight and the blade is solid and sharp. I can see this quickly becoming my go-to camping knife, especially since it has a clip that allows me to keep it attached to my pack so I don't lose it."

The ax

If you plan to chop firewood while you camp, there's no better choice than this Silky ONO professional ax. It's designed for loggers and timber workers and features a high-quality Japanese steel blade, which makes it excellent at slicing through wood quickly and efficiently. The full-tang blade runs through the handle, offering extra stability so that it won't snap off in a log. This ax also comes with a specialized sheath for safety. It's a slightly pricer option, but it's worth the investment if you want to avoid tiring yourself out while you prep wood.

One reviewer says: "Wow. Incredible Japanese steel, comfortable handle, no risk of breaking the head off, this is the ultimate packable camping hatchet. [...] I love the low pack profile and weight. This isn't old school looking, but it is heirloom quality, and I appreciate innovative, tasteful design."

Also useful: a pocket-sized sharpener

If you want something to complement your new knife, this pocket-sized tool is one of the best camping knife sharpeners around, largely due to is portable, lightweight design. In contrast to the heavy blocks that might sit on your kitchen counter, this one measures just 1.5 by 3.5 inches. It'll easily slide into your pouch or pack, offering a wide range of coarseness options to keep your new knife sharp on the go. You can also thread a lanyard through the built-in hole to make sure you have it on hand whenever you need it.

One reviewer says: "I'm very impressed with this little guy. It was able to sharpen an old bowie knife I'd never been able to truly get sharp. Now it's razor sharp. This will be very handy on camping and motorcycling trips. Awesome value too."