Should I Take My Damascus Kitchen Knife Hiking? - Jonas Blade & Metalworks

Should I Take My Damascus Kitchen Knife Hiking?

Should I take my damascus kitchen knife hiking? At first glance, this may sound like a slightly silly question. In truth it is a silly question, but answering it will help illustrate the important differences between a damascus kitchen knife and a hiking knife. 

First it is worth defining a knife. In other words, what do all knives have in common? Most would argue that in its most basic sense a knife is a tool with a blade and a handle. Curiously, this actually leaves quite a bit of room for philosophical debate. Is a screwdriver a knife? The part that fits into the slot on a flat head screw is typically called the blade, and the tool certainly has a handle. What if we decide that for a tool to be a knife, the blade must be sharpened. OK, then a butter knife is not a knife. For our purposes, we’ll define it as a tool with a blade and a handle, meant for some form of cutting operation. 

If form follows function, then we will be able to see what distinguishes a damascus kitchen knife from its hunting counterpart. How are these tools used? (While there is a veritable cornucopia of kitchen knife typologies, for the purpose of this article we will focus on the two that account for 99% of most cooks’ cutting tasks: the chef knife and the paring knife.) 

Kitchen knives are used to cut and prepare foods. In most cases, the appearance and uniformity of the pieces are an important factor in the preparation, so it is important for a kitchen knife to cut the food items in such a way that they are not deformed. Sharpness and blade cross section (i.e. thickness) are the factors here. A dull blade will mush the food instead of cutting it, and a blade that is too thick will have quite a difficult time forcing its way through harder foods like squash, onions, and carrots. 

Hiking knives are used for a wide range of tasks, and as such they need to be built for versatility. It may even be used similarly to a kitchen knife; perhaps you take a rest on a rock and pull an apple out of your pack to keep your energy up, and you prefer to eat your apples peeled and sliced. But a hiking knife needs to be capable of more rugged work as well. A half mile later you come across a tangle of dead tree limbs that came down in a recent storm and are now blocking the path. You pull out your trusty tool along with a baton through a few of them until the tangle can be cleared away. Perhaps for you, a hiking knife needs to serve on hunting endeavors as well. It needs to be sharp enough to skin an animal, and tough enough to break open a joint, or even cut through bone. It is also worth noting that “hiking” can mean very different things—and different demands for the knife—depending on your environment. Hiking across the Siberian tundra and hiking through a Peruvian rainforest are bound to be two very different experiences.

In short, a kitchen knife should have a fairly thin blade and a slim handle for delicate control. The damascus blade on a chef will typically be no less than 6” long, and they commonly range up to 10” and beyond. A paring knife will have a much shorter blade that might resemble the blade of one for hiking at a glance, but it will be much thinner than that, and it will usually have a more delicate point. Meanwhile, a hiking knife will typically feature a blade between 4” and 8” for most environments. (You would likely also want to have a machete with you for that Peruvian rainforest hike.) While the blade of a kitchen knife will usually be between 1/16” and 1/8” thick, most hiking knife blades will be between 1/8” and ¼”. 

Another notable difference is that many hiking knives have a guard between the handle and the blade. Usually made out of something like brass, bronze, or aluminum, the guard protects the fingers in a couple of different ways. On the one hand—pun intended—it will deflect objects that could otherwise bruise or scratch the fingers (e.g. rocks, twigs, thorns), and on the other hand it allows for greater grip security when using the knife in a thrust, like jamming the it into a log.

In short there are many differences between a damascus kitchen knife and a hunting knife. One could certainly use either one outside of its intended environment, but as with any specialized tool, you’re better off using the one that was meant for the job. You wouldn’t take your Ferrari offroading, would you? 

At the same time, you would want the best kitchen knife and/or hunting knife. Jonas Blade can commission that for you.

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.