What Knife Should I Take Camping? | Jonas Blade

What Knife Should I Take Camping?

When you’re camping out in the wilderness you need to have the right tools. Even when everything is going according to plan, having the right tools can make all the difference in the world. And when things aren’t going according to plan, the right tools can make the difference between survival and…not. One of the central items in your toolkit, I believe, has to be a knife for camping, a versatile cutting tool that should be central to every camping loadout. 

What is a camp knife? In short, this type of knife is large enough to do large tasks and small enough to do small tasks! It can cut down small trees, break a trail, prepare kindling, build a shelter, and it can dress game and tackle dinner prep by the fire. That sounds like a lot, and indeed it is no trivial list. The good news is that in a general sense, it is easier to do small things with a large knife than it is to do large things with a small knife, so camp knives tend to be fairly large in order to pack in all that versatility. 

How large should this knife on your camping trip be? Usually, a blade somewhere in the 8”-10” range will be the sweet spot. A shorter blade may struggle on the swing, such as when you need to clear a trail or a campsite. Meanwhile a larger knife might excel on the swing—although then again you might fatigue more quickly—but it could also feel cumbersome dicing veggies by the campfire. 

On a knife you’ll bring camping, edge geometry (i.e. the cross section of the blade) is also important. As a multi-use tool, you will need to compromise to get the broadest versatility. For example, if you’re going to need to fell a lot of trees, what you’ll really want is an axe. Its sturdier cross section will hold up better to all of that chopping. On the other hand, if you don’t really need to do anything other than cooking, you want a chef knife; its thinner section will cut food items with less effort and less mess. With a camp knife to be able to do both, you’ll want a slightly convex cross section with a spine probably no thicker than 3/16”, and somewhere in the neighborhood of 2” at its widest point.

Naturally, the shape (or silhouette) of the blade is also a major factor in the design of the camp knife . You will want something with a decent length of fairly straight edge, transitioning up toward the point with a fair bit of belly or curve. The tip should be located higher than the midline of the blade, usually in the upper third. When you bring a knife camping, you want to make sure it can do all the things you need it to. A more curved edge will likely be better in clearing a trail, but a straighter edge will help if you need to baton through a larger piece of firewood or a small tree limb.

Similar to the needs of a chef, grip and ergonomics must also be considered when designing a knife when camping. A slightly down-swept handle will improve your leverage and power with the knife, but too much sweep could interfere with smaller, more intricate tasks like food prep. You also want to be able to rely on your knife in cold and wet conditions, or when you are wearing a glove.

There are a lot of factors that come into play when you consider what type of knife you want to bring camping. It comes down to personal preference and comfort, which will in turn translate to safety and reliability. At the end of the day, you want your camp knife to feel secure and lively in your hand. This is a tool your life may depend on, so make it a good one!

About The Author

Zack Jonas was born and raised in Massachusetts in the 1980’s and is still a New Englander today. With his growing love for art over the years, he took an introductory bladesmithing class at MASSart. It was there that he learned one of his most valuable lessons, which is that everyone has some insight worth learning. Today, he is a full-time bladesmith and feels incredibly fortunate to have found his calling.