camp knife vs survival knife vs hunting knife

Aug 18, 1999
We use these terms all the time and they are often used interchangeably. What do you think they mean (i.e., how would you define each type of knife)? Are they the same or different? What knives do you think best illustrate each type? Do we need more well-defined categories?


Why dost thou whet thy knife so earnestly?

The Merchant of Venice, Act IV. Scene I.
I think of them like this:
Camp knife: a large 8" + knife suitable for
everything from slicing steaks off a deer
to chopping/splintering up wood for the campfire. When I visualize "camp knife" I
envision a large chef's knife or even a
10" machete like some of Livesley's products.

Survival knife: a generic 5-7" knife that will do most anything adequately and be nearly indestructible. Easy to sharpen and
usable for self-defense or even primitive
hunting as a spearhead. Randall model 15's
and 18's and Kabar's come to mind.

Hunting knife: any drop point knife with a
blade length of 3-5". When I visualize "hunting knife" I think of an Ontario leather
handled Quartermaster model or a Loveless DP

I personally feel that a"survival knife" and a "camp knife" are one and the same. Wilderness "survival" is "camping" at an extreme level, and vice versa(Camping is "survival" at a lesser level)

The "hunting" knife does need to be a little more specialized.

I think it is necessary for the "camping/survival" knife to be able to double as a "hunting" knife. Food prep is a necssary part of camping/survival.

I also feel that it would be nice to have a hunting knife that could double as a camp/survival knife due to the fact that you never know what you are going to get yourself into. A hunting trip could definately turn into an emergency survival situation.

So, to sum it up. The first two are the same. The third is a different animal. It is necessary for the first two to have properties of the third. And it would be nice for the third to have properties of the two, but not necessary for it's "intended" function.

Did any of that crap make any sense???


Louis Buccellato
Knives, Weapons and equipment. Best prices anywhere.

"only the paranoid will survive"
Camp knives go with the heavier camp equipment such as tents, fuel bottles and comfort kit.

Survival knives should be the one you have on you when the **** hits the fan. However the marketing types would sell you a robust multi purpose seven incher which would be not quite too heavy to carry all the time. Anything too heavy and you are having the wool pulled over your eyes. (Machetes are not heavy.)

The Hunting knife is the knife most suited to the field preparation of the game you are after.

gorm comments were about right.
I've always considered "camping" and "survival" knives to be fairly synonomous, with alot of overlap between their intended missions. There may be variations in size or design, but both would fulfill the same basic chores.

A "hunting" knife, however, can mean quite a few different things. It can be a slender, thin-bladed skinner, or a "bird and trout" knife, or a caping blade, or any other type of blade that fulfills some of those "special" types of cuts that hunters make while dressing game. Not that a "hunting" knife can't be used for "camp" or "survival" purposes, but I think sometimes, depending on the blade design, that more specialized blades can be reduced in their utility as an "all-around" knife.

JMHO, of course.

Don LeHue

Rome did not create a great empire by having meetings...they did it by killing all those who opposed them.
My opinion:

Hunting knife: as it says, used for skinning and butchering.

Camp knife: what is that exactly for? Anyway, how often do you chop/split wood with it?

Survival knife: supposed to do all. Obviously, that comes with compromises. However, it MUST be strong to be reliable and also non-specialized. That is where the compromises are. You might pick some but have to live with the others.

My 2 cents.

Originally posted by HM:
My opinion:

Camp knife: what is that exactly for? Anyway, how often do you chop/split wood with it?

My 2 cents.


As I understand your post, I think I'm with you. I don't see a camp knife as a survival knife. Two different breeds, IMO. My current fav camp knive is my #12 Opinel. Thin bladed slicer for food prep and most general cutting chores around camp. Slicing celery and tomatoes and spreading mayo with a knife with a 1/4" spine and an 8-12" blade is not my idea of a camp knife. If we are talking about survival camping, that's another story. But the knife I use most around the camp is not the big chopper.


Why dost thou whet thy knife so earnestly?

The Merchant of Venice, Act IV. Scene I.
Camp Knife- mostly used for food prep including game after it has been gutted and skinned by the individual hunters' knife.also used for prepping kindling,opening packaging, and a multitude of miscelaneous,general camp cutting chores where you normally have sharpening equipment,tools, and a hathet,axe,saw(where it is important to be relatively quiet or where people inexperienced whith a hatchet or an axe will be helping at the camp),or other tool available for large chopping jobs.

Survival Knife- An almost indestructable,easy to sharpen(even on a suitable rock),large enough to chop and split with,small and handy enough to have with you when you need it,fine enough to do fine jobs with knife with a multipurpose(compromise)shape and cross section.

Hunting Knife- used to gut and skin game.
Camp Knife: Performs the civilized chores and functions of chosen/equipped wilderness living. E.g. Chris Reeve Shadow IV, BK&T Campanion and the like. Leave the chopping to the hatchet and axe that one would have in "camp."

Survival Knife: Performs the less than civilized chores and functions of involuntary and often ill-equipped wilderness living (survival), including self defense/CQ combat. Chris Reeve Project 1 (or 2), Fallkniven A-1 and the like. Have to chop with the knife because you don't have a hatchet or axe. Typically a "camping" knife on steroids, larger, heavier and pronounced blade heavy balance.

Hunting Knife: Field dressing and quartering of game species. Chris Reeve Skinner, Puma White Hunter (and WH-II), Buck skinner, Dozier, Randall, etc, etc. Should have point designed for skinning, some belly, easily sharpened, controllable balance, "grippy" handle. Balance should not be blade heavy for controlled dressing, skinning and caping of game. Folders can also serve well here, as evidenced by such examples as the Wegner, Buck 110, Puma, etc.

Footnote: I do not suggest that the examples I have chosen are the absolute best for each catagory, but are examples I am personally familiar with that have succesfully filled the bill for my description of the three tasks.

Overlaps: Yes, there are overlaps, a "Survival Knife" could serve as a large/heavy "camp" knive or, conversely, a good stout camp knife could be a survival knife of called upon. Pen knives and Bowies have field dressed, skinned and cut up game animals of all sizes. For skinning however, the point shape needs to be somewhat specialized to avoid snagging the hide.

[This message has been edited by Nimrod (edited 08-20-2000).]
Hoodoo, I got the idea about the use of a camp knife. Thanks.
As I understand from you guys, the camp knife is usually of a good size that is used for slicing NOT for chopping. That definitely suggests a different edge profile.
Also, it seems to be a general view that a survival knife has to be able to endure extreme use. That might require the use of thicker blade or "stronger" steel (INFI). Thicker blade stock might easily compromise slicing ability if not well-thought out.
Still, in a survival situ, the worst that can happen is that the blade brakes. Less of a problem in the case of a camp knife, probably.
Furthermore, hardness of the blade is many cases lower to increase toughness in the survival blades.

Camp, survival, combat, and hunting knives usually refer to the same thing. the names are more a reflection of targeted marketing than actual features.

All of these come in an endless variety of sizes and shapes. A survival knife does not have to be like Rambo's knife to be a survival knife, it may be a folder or fixed, and it can range anywhere in size.

All to often we confuse the application with the tool. The best knife for any of these applications will depend on the users skills and preferances, and on the situation. Sometimes one knife may be the best choice for all four applications, or it may be better to use a variety of knives.

Camp knife:
Strong enough to baton with, medium-large blade length, won't mind abuse. Primary use: chores.

Survival knife:
Advertising gimmick. My personal survival knife is the spydie Native that has permament residence in my pocket. Primary use, in my mind: always be with you.

Hunting knife:
Small-medium knife with good size belly. Primary use: skinning/cleaning game. Knife to be modified in size and style depending on personal preference and target game. Rabbit will require a different knife than Moose.

I have to agree with Stryver.

A survival knife is a gimmick, though given understanding about the role of a knife in the outdoors one could be speaking of the knife you carry in preparation for emergencies. A knife of sufficient strength though convenient to carry, often a folder if your paths are in the city or among citified people.

There are two schools on camp knives, Bill Moran uses it to describe his one knife to do it all big blades. In the other usage it is meant as a small utility knife for around camp. I think both are OK, it depends on your preference.

Hunting knives are whatever somebody uses to turn a animal corpse into pieces and parts apropriate to his/her use. After hearing about someone using a tanto to process there animal, I have no idea what this sort of knife is.

Thank you,
Marion David Poff aka Eye, Cd'A ID, USA

My review of the World Survival Institute, Chris Janowsky survival knife, the Ranger.

Talonite Resource Page, nearly exhaustive!!

Fire Page, metal match sources and index of information.

"Many are blinded by name and reputation, few see the truth" Lao Tzu
I have hunted , canoed,and backpacked in places from the Adorondacks to the Yukon and for ME and most others I've come across whatever knife your carring does all three.If I'm hunting its my hunting knife in camp that becomes my camp knife, opps the canoe floated away now its my survival knife.
I guess I used many words to say this; Camping, hunting and survival are three different activities with different knife needs.

Camping is mainly food prep with maybe some whittling and very light chopping involved, like preparing kindling or making a hot dog/marshmellow stick. Hunting is field dressing and skinning, and cutting pepperoni and hard provelone at the poker table in "camp."

Survival, now that's different. You are not usually staying put, otherwise you are camping. You will use your knife for cutting, chopping, hammering, just about everything that you could not use your hands for. Sure, Rambo-style marketing has perverted the idea of what a survival knife really is, but give me a Chris Reeves Project One, a metal match or other reliable way to start a fire, a supply of water or a way to make found water potable and I'll show you what a survival knife is.
I have to disagree with the term survival knife as a gimmick. I feel there are knives out there that deserve that title. However, there are those knives out there that are marketed as survival knives and are clearly not. This is generally found on the factory side of the house.

I also agree that the survival knife will be the one you have on you when things go bad.

Stryver, if you ended up in a real survival situation I think you will be wishing for a little more knife than that spydie in your pocket, although it is better than nothing.

Guys, Survial and Camping are not even remotely close. Camping is a activity that you and/or your family will enjoy. For the most part you will have everything you need and will not come into harms way.

Surival is just that, survival. This is an extreme sitiuation that calls for clear thinking and prepartion, before and after the fact.

In this situation if you do not find water, shetler and food (especially if you find your self in very extremet climates) you could be dead in a day or surely within 7 days (if you don't find water).

Not injured, not sick.....DEAD!

While accidents happen to camper's and some do end up dead. It is usually something stupid they did on their part. Occasionally, through no fault of their own the wind up dead.

So consider wisely what your life is worth when you chose your knife.

Excellent thread.

Les Robertson

"If you are out to describe the truth, leave elegance to the tailor"
Albert Einstein
Hey Hoodoo...

3 Different Knives with 3 Different Lives...

My 3 blade choice would be:

Fallkniven FI - Camp Knife
Spyderco Moran - Hunting Knife
Busse #7-#9 - Survival knife

ttyle Eric...

On/Scene Tactical
Leading The Way In Quality Synthetic Sheathing
Les -- If I find myself in a survival situation, I will be wishing for a lot more than a larger knife, but I also am confident in my abilities to survive and return with my spydie. (Now, if you have people shooting at me while this is happening, I might change my mind... )

Survival is not something that can be planned for, and it can just barely be prepared for. I have larger knives in what I would call my survival kits, and depending on the purpose of the kit, the size of it, and the size of the knife I had to spare, they all differ. None of these are knives I would call 'survival' knives, except that they happen to exist in a 'survival' kit. My survival knife is one that will be with me whenever the **** hits the fan, or the plane hits the ground, or whatever.


Some say that a "Camp Knife" should be big enough to chop wood. I disagree. When I camp, I generally take a camp axe along for chopping. Thus, my camp knife cuts rope, preps food, whittles the tent peg that got left back in the garage, and sharpens up the marshmallow sticks for the kids.

My "Hunting Knife" has the belly and length for gutting and skinning medium to large sized game, as this is the purpose for me carrying it into the woods with me. If I happen to get lost, then I guess you can call the same knife a "Survival Knife"

Guess what: All the above mentioned knives just so happen to be the same knife. So, are they different knives? Not necessarily, IMHO.
Originally posted by Stryver:
Survival is not something that can be planned for, and it can just barely be prepared for.

I guess I'm confused. What's the difference between preparing for something and planning for something. I'm not sure what distinction you are making.


Why dost thou whet thy knife so earnestly?

The Merchant of Venice, Act IV. Scene I.