Practical Hiking/Camping/Outdoors/Survival Knives

Discussion in 'Outdoor Gear, Survival Equipment & More' started by BMCGear, Mar 15, 2015.

  1. BMCGear

    BMCGear Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 4, 2014
    Everyone has their own opinion of what knives work in the outdoors and I am forming mine. I've always been told the best survival knife is the one you have with you. With that being said the knives that I have bought recently aren't really knives that I want to carry due to bulk/weight mainly.

    I'd like to see what you guys think are practical outdoors knives.
  2. Brad "the butcher"

    Brad "the butcher"

    Dec 15, 2008
    Becker tweeners in whatever style appeals to you will handle anything you need except chopping
  3. 22-rimfire

    22-rimfire Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 20, 2005
    As a general purpose woods knife, tend to look at knives in the 4-6" blade length. I like the Dozier Wilderness knife or the Dozier Pro Guides knife. It really depends on how you feel about D2 for me as both knives are excellent. I carry both of these from time to time.

    Another of my favorites is the Blackjack 125 (5" blade). The only thing about this knife is that I would not be too rough on it doing serious batonning. But for a general purpose blade, I really like it.

    Of the Kabar Beckers, I have been developing a real appreciation for the BK-15. I like the trailing point blade shape for general purposes. The BK-16 and BK-17 are great also. I tend to leave the BK-7 or larger at home. But I appreciate its attributes.
  4. Huntsman Knife Co.

    Huntsman Knife Co.

    Sep 10, 2010
    Alot of it depends on the environment you are in a well as personal preference. I personally like to carry two blades with me when I camp/hike/kayak/hunt. I usually bring either a machete or a hawk to use for chopping and wood processing and a small 4-5in blade to use for everything else. If you really want to have all the bases covered bring a multi tool with you as well.

    Keeping weight down is important to me so I prefer to bring a machete as my chopper. The machete I bring comes in at about 20 ounces. For me that is much more manageable than a big heavy chopping knife or an axe but again that is just personal preference. Also the extra reach and brush clearing ability that a machete provides gives it a big advantage over an axe or knife in alot of climates.

    For my small utility blade, I like to bring a ~5in blade that can slice and carve wood well and be nimble for skinning and game processing. I'm not a fan of mid sized "Survival Knives" that are overbuilt and end up slicing poorly and are too heavy for their chopping ability.

    In the end you will just have to experiment and find what works for you. Some guys have all their bases covered with a $12 mora. Other guys like to bring a 8in camp knife that can do it all. Still other guys like myself feel most comfortable with a chopper or saw and a bushcraft knife.

    As for brands and specific blades. I've used hundreds of knives over the years. Here are some of my favorites

    Swamp Rat RMD- thin and satin finish
    Busse Basic 4
    ESEE 4 and 6
    Spyderco- Phil Wilson collaboration in 10V
    Fallkniven S1
    Fiddleback Bushfinger
    - Most comfortable knife I've used.
    I really only like custom choppers now. Once you've gone custom, you never go back. A maker here named Big Chris makes amazing 3V choppers.

    This is what I usually bring when I hit the trail- I'm too poor to actually buy knives now days :eek:

    Last edited: Mar 15, 2015
  5. Codger_64

    Codger_64 Moderator Moderator

    Oct 8, 2004
    HKC stole my answer! :grumpy: :)

    Location matters. "Top of the boot" tells us nothing about yours, on purpose or not. Are you in the high Rockies? Florida mangrove swamps? New Jersey Pine Barrens? Arizona desert? And what activities do you do when you are outing? Backpacking with a fuel stove and eating freeze dried meals? Bushcrafting? Historical reenactment? Canoeing? Car camping? Backyard playtime? ;)
  6. BMCGear

    BMCGear Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 4, 2014
    I'm located in Arkansas. Near the Ozark Mountain Region. Camping will consist of anything from car camping to hiking out and staying in tents/built shelters (I don't plan on backpacking a fuel stove). :)
  7. Codger_64

    Codger_64 Moderator Moderator

    Oct 8, 2004
    Ahhh! Then I suggest you make a trip up to visit A.G. Russell and Phil Gibbs! Both fine gentlemen and they will have a wide variety of knives in stock and can advise you with many years of experience! Plus you get to coon finger and chicken eye the knives before buying on. Or tw. Or...

    Each activity you mention has different criteria for which knife is "best". And in spite of my and others' personal preferences, what suits you and your needs is likely to be an entirely different animal. Fit to the hand is one important criteria. A slicer vs. a chopper vs. a.... Different profiles work best for different uses. You will no doubt get many specific suggestions here. Uplands hardwoods environment.
  8. druid189


    Apr 27, 2008
    * While that's true, the knife you have has limitations. Size, weight, steel construction, tang, handle ergo's ability to take an edge, blade grind style - all play a part in what it's got to do.

    ** Again, depends on what you want it to do. I use big blades because I baton my firewood. I rarely take an axe anymore because using it expends 2-3 times more calories.

    Don't get me wrong, I love my axe, hatchet and small blades too.......but I assign my tools certain roles and functions and thus, have to prepare for my trip accordingly.

    If I'm going into really 'off the beaten path' kind of back-country [like the 2+ week-long trips I used to take], I'll take an axe because I may have to fell smaller trees for the amount of wood I'd need. Trips lasting up to a week, I'll just take a big knife and scrounge for dead fall.

    My advice? Decide how long the trip is, what your knife has to do versus what you want it to do. Then decide if a smaller blade + axe would be the benefit.

    If weight is a concern, smaller blades + axe may be more than just a big blade. Only you can decide that.
  9. 22-rimfire

    22-rimfire Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 20, 2005
    What knives you choose is pretty task specific. I choose different kinds of knives while hunting (or the central focus). But what I say below still applies overall.

    Anyone who has explored the world of knives and uses them outdoors certainly has their favorites. I just bought a small Gerber River knife (~$20) to clip to my PFD vest while kayaking. And I probably wouldn't carry one of my better fixed blades in a kayak unless I was camping. It cuts, but I certainly wouldn't want to skin a deer with it. I think that I could get by with it and a folder as it sure beats my finger nails.

    My favorites change and evolve based on what I have recently acquired. For example, I just got a GEC #42 Missouri Trapper and I would feel perfectly fine in the woods with that being my only knife. But I typically will have two knives in the woods (fixed and folder) and I generally recommend two knives even if the fixed blade is middle sized as I still tend to reach for my folder first. Hence, the fixed blade doesn't get used much. This is one of the reasons that the Kabar BK-15 appeals to me so much. It's light but still tough.
  10. fmajor007


    Apr 1, 2010
    Really a simple Mora knife is quite useful. Partner one up with a folding saw of some flavor or another and BAM!!! you've got yerself a great "survival kit".

    I have one of those mid-length brutish custom knives (to some it would be considered a sharpened pry-bar) and love it to tears. It doesn't slice the greatest nor really chop wood all that well (I'm not really a chop-wood-with-a-knife kinda guy anyway), but it will split kindling, make notches, whittle a tent stake/pot holder/spear (just kidding :D sort of... ) and do some of the more hefty wood shaping chores I find myself doing. I've been through .gov "survival training" and know what I need in my primary field knife and mine does it all and I *never* worry about whether my knife will fail/break/whatever. However, a simple Mora does provide a lotta bang fer the buck.

    If you go the semi-custom or full-custom route, there are many bladesmiths here who can hook you up properly. I won't mention specific 'smiths (don't want to leave someone out), but there probably 4 or 5 regulars here that could help you.

    Otherwise, for off-the-shelf blades, ESEE, Becker Knife & Tool, Condor (easy to find many who like their stuff), TOPS (though I personally don't prefer most of their designs) are all mostly well-regarded brands.
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2015
  11. Greykilt

    Greykilt Platinum Member Platinum Member

    Dec 12, 2013
    I like the Scandi styles best....


    Or this... any good WSK is a hikers buddy


    Bowies are good too...

  12. Steve6387


    Jul 1, 2013
    For me, it's all about weight vs activity. A basic small folder and multi-tool is all I take on extended backpacking trips where weight is a major consideration.
    Although chopping and battoning is all the rage, I never had a need to do it in the backcountry.
    When I am car camping, I take an axe and saw of some sort, but for the most part a multi-tool and a Rat1 or BK16 is more than enough knife for most real world and post-apocalyptic scenarios.
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2015
  13. pinnah


    Jul 28, 2011
    Will and plan... Suggests that you're still in the process of getting into camping and backpacking?

    That's awesome!

    I don't think of fire-craft and stove-craft as either/or. I find they complement each other wonderfully both car camping and in the woods. When I'm hungry, or when the kids are hungry, and it's pouring down riain, it's nice to be able to put warm food on the table reliably. Stoves take skill, actually. It's a good still to have in the quiver, imo.

    For harvesting wood, I think cutting and chopping. Saw and something big.

    I almost never harvest wood, at least not for shelters. Tarps are so light and provide so much protection. And fast. And dry underneath. In terms of weight, I'd rather carry a tarp and light knife than no tarp and more tools.

    I did a 9.5 mile backcountry XC ski tour yesterday. Carried a light tarp and an Emberlit stove, to deal with the possibility of somebody in the party getting injured and being forced to stay the night. I carried a Mora Companion. Plenty knife to feed the stove and cut spruce boughs.

    On normal backpacking trips, I carry a Batchstovez alcohol stove (they're just amazing). So nice to make breakfast while still in the bag.

    For knives on normal trips, I carry this
    [​IMG]Outdoor Carry by Pinnah, on Flickr
  14. BMCGear

    BMCGear Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 4, 2014
    Yes sir. I haven't done a ton of camping but I hope to soon.

    Just trying to get a feel for what is useful and practical; not necessarily what's cool.

    I appreciate everyone's thoughts and opinions.
  15. gadgetgeek


    May 19, 2007
    My main fave knives, although I don't carry them on every trip are the ESEE-3 and Mora 2k. The ESEE (although mine is the in-betweener rc-3) Is a good size (I have smaller-ish hands) and so far does everything I've asked of it. The Mora is great as it needs a little less TLC but the sheath is not super-great. I'd be happy to have either one at hand if I was in a tough spot.
    I don't usually carry a fixed blade on trips, or I carry a smaller-ish one because of work, or I'm in a location where a SAK is going to be plenty.
  16. rbmcmjr


    Apr 10, 2005
    Do you mean the grind or the style? My two scandi-ground knives are fiercely sharp but I doubt that I can maintain that edge in the field.


    Charlie makes a fantastic knife, by the way.
  17. Hacked


    Jun 1, 2010
    I swear by my Mora Classic 1 and won't go to the woods without it. Its under three oz with the sheath making it a lot of knife for both the weight and the money. Its taken everything I've thrown at it with ease. If need be I can pair it with a 4 oz folding saw and or hatchet/Axe.

    If I was going to be purely backpacking I would probably go with the Mora, Leatherman PS4, and 1.5. Oz Pocket Sierra Saw. This would probably land somewhere in the 5-6 oz range with a good amount of utility. Thats far more than a lot of backpackers are willing to carry but you have to hike your own hike. It all depends on what you are trying to do, where you are trying to go, and what you are willing to carry at the end of the day.
  18. 22-rimfire

    22-rimfire Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 20, 2005
    I would think in terms of different setups for both car camping, and back pack/hiking and camping. Obviously the knives you choose may be better suited for one type of camping over another, but it is a matter of what you are willing to carry if you are hiking and camping out of a pack. Mora's and Opinels are good choices where weight is a concern. I tend to prefer something like my previous suggestions over a Mora, but that is me.

    For car camping, you can take many more cutting tools with you and it serves as a testing ground for deciding what you prefer to use. They also fill in time around the camp. I enjoy car camping as the tool choices are not as limiting. I can take my Coleman stove and regular sized skillets and pots. I can string up a tarp or put of a formal shelter plus the tent. Plus you have a place (vehicle) to keep more expensive things that you might not want to find missing when you are out tramping around. You can also get inside your vehicle in really big rain events versus being forced into your tent.
  19. cybrok


    Aug 7, 2005
    In 2007 I bought a factory second RAT-3 in D2. It has been my project blade since. It got uncoated, blued, convexed (fun activity with D2). It has been on my belt for most of my wilderness/survival activities. I also have a Fiddleback Ladyfinger, but if it is going to get dirty I prefer the RAT (which is most of the time). RAT/ESEE and Fiddleback Forge knives are the most comfortable knives I have ever held by far.

    Granted, it won't baton as much as a big blade, but personally I find the 5-8" range inconvenient for what I do. As other said, it all depends of your location. In the boreal forest, wherever you look you can find dead balsam fir or spruce. Up to 5-6 inches you can put them down simply by pushing, and lever them between strong living trees to break them. I keep a folding saw or a camp knife in my pack at camp, but mostly use my RAT-3. It is also borrowed a lot by other instructors, especially for dressing animals and scraping skin for tanning.

    I am the one giving the lecture on knives at my survival school. Here is what I recommend for a bushcraft knife:
    - Fixed blade, pivots are weak points.
    - 3.5-4.5" blade (my preference for what I do, YMMV)
    - No serrations. Combo edges affect carving abilities. Saws on the back affect batoning abilities. If you want a saw, buy a saw.
    - Carbon/tool steel: Stainless tends to snap (I have seen it 3 times in the last month). Stainless can also rust (also seen recently).
    - Watch out for high wear steel: They are a PITA to sharpen.
    - Ideally, steel should be blued or coated. For a coating make sure it is "baked" and not painted on. Painted coating can flake. A patina is also a good solution.
    - For carving, you want your hand as close to the blade as possible. So no guard. I love when there is a choil for the index.
    - Handle material is a matter of preference, all I will say is that wood can shrink or expand and kirinite is slippery if your gloves are full of snow.
    - Grinds are also a matter of personal preference. I prefer convex as the edge is tougher, but scandi is easier to sharpen.

    This is my personal opinion and I won't be mad if anybody disagrees :) My conclusions could be different in another environment.
  20. Swampdog

    Swampdog Gold Member Gold Member

    Apr 14, 2007
    I suggest you get a Mora Black Bushcrafter and use it for a while until you draw your own conclusions on what knife would work best for you. Paired with a multi-tool and an axe or saw, should cover all of the bases for you and a good start.

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