If you are planning a camping trip or just going into the wilderness and expect to stay there for quite some time, your pack will definitely include a knife. For obvious reasons, you cannot carry too many because not only is that impractical, it’s also worthless because you won’t be using all of them at the same time anyway. But when asked which knife will you bring, and then everybody will have their own preference and choices. While these choices boil down more on personal preference on details, there are things that you do have to consider. Details like the size of the knife. Of course you will not bring a machete when backpacking unless you have a Jason complex. Backpacking is about having fun, not scaring the living Jesus out of the other backpackers. At the end of the day, the best knife of choice for survival is the one you have. It all boils down to skills and not simply equipment. But with that aside, let’s talk about what makes a great backpacking knife.
Size. A great backpacking knife is one that can easily be carried around and fits perfectly with the rest of your gear. Words like “tactical” or “everyday carry” comes to mind and the knives that often gets these words associated with them incidentally would work well as backpacking knives because they are not too big to cause problems and yet not too small to do anything other than open up boxes.
Blade. This is a great plus and is almost a requirement since you will not have a lot of time to spend maintaining your knife in the wild. Having a low maintenance blade like a stainless steel one would make it easier for you to focus on other more important tasks in the camp.
Construction. The ideal backpacking need not only be manageable in size and low maintenance. It also needs to be immensely durable and strong. This is because you will not have a lot to rely on in emergency situations like going up against a wild animal except your knife. A 2-inch blade knife is hardly a good choice for this task.
With all three considered, here are seven of the very best backpacking knives in the market today. All these knives have made quite an impact in the knife world and would fit perfectly as a great backpacking companion for anybody who appreciates and requires the best of the best.
COLD STEEL RECON 1
This tactical looking bad boy comes in four sizes. Micro, mini, standard and XL. For the purpose of this list, we will focus more on the standard sized Recon 1. Cold Steel had hit a homerun with the Recon 1 because it pretty much ticks all the boxes for a perfect backpacking knife. A 4-inch long 3.5 mm thick blade made from AUS 8A stainless steel that is coated with black Tuff-Ex for that acts as another layer of protection as well as making the knife look wicked cool. The tip of the Recon 1 comes in many variations like a clip point, modified drop point, tanto and spear points.
The handle strength and Triad locking mechanism of this folder is strong enough that it can carry 350 lbs. when fully opened without giving out and simply snapping shut. A solid handle, great locking mechanism, a premium choice blade and at 5.5 ounces makes the Recon 1 a great backpacking knife choice even for beginners.
The name Spyderco is almost synonymous to folding knives but they do occasionally produce fixed blades and when they do, it is nothing short of remarkable. The plain edged Spyderco Bushcraft with its contoured G10 handles is a fixed blade, full tang knife designed by legendary bushcraft expert Chris Claycombe. It uses an O-1 high carbon tool steel with a Scandinavian grind which gives it a tougher blade which then improves it edge retention properties. It can go through wood as easily as it would with meat. If you want an all-around knife that you can expend on over and over again, you want a Spyderco Bushcraft.
The contoured G-10 handles exponentially improves the control you have with this knife and the fact that it is a full tang fixed blade knife puts doubts about its strength to rest. While it is relatively heftier at 7.7 ounces, the monster 4-inch blade makes it ideal for most camping tasks from batoning to game preparation.
It’s hard to make a list of camping or survival knives without having the ESEE 4 in it and for good reasons. The ESEE 4 is perfectly sized for backpacking with a 4.5 inch long, 0.19 inch thick 1095 carbon steel blade that can handle pretty much anything you can think of in the wild. The overall length of the knife is at 9 inches and by no means is it a pushover. It has a full tang construction with an extended tang that serves both as a lanyard hole and a pummel.
This behemoth is all you need when it comes to camping because the blade is strong enough to slice through most and retains its edge very well. The Micarta handle is very light which means most of the 8 ounce weight of the ESEE 4 comes from the blade steel itself. The size and strength of the ESEE is simply a deadly combination.
BENCHMADE MINI GRIPTILIAN
The most recognizable Benchmade knife is also the smallest blade in this list. A shade shorter than 3 inches, the Mini Griptilian 154-CM stainless steel blade is crazy sharp right out of the box and stays that way for what seems to be forever. An EDC legend, the Mini Griptilian can easily be carried around without having to make a fuss against other tools in your backpack. You can clip it to your belt and you will barely notice that it’s there. The same reasons why it is the best EDC knife in the world are the same reasons that will cause you to appreciate the masterpiece that is the Mini Griptilian.
The ambidextrous AXIS locking secures the blade in place with zero blade play in any angle. One can almost say that it is as stable and dependable as a fixed blade. This devotion to quality performance is why the Mini Griptilian is one of the most popular folders in the market today and has become one of Benchmade’s best products to date.
ZERO TOLERANCE 0560
What do you get when you combine the lightweight and strong G-10 handle with the space age technology blade steel Elmax? You get a bull of a knife that is the Zero Tolerance 0560. With a monster 5.25 long handle and a 3.75 inch long ELMAX blade with a stonewash finish, it is no surprise that the Zero Tolerance 0560 comes in at 5.6 ounces. Elmax is still considered as an exotic choice for a knife blade not just because it is expensive but because it is still relatively rare. The technology that comes into play in producing Elmax steel is no joke either.
Originally designed for the U.S. Special Forces, the Currahee is built and feels like a tank. You can feel the quality of this knife just by holding it in your hand. I guess its hefty 13.35 ounce weight has something to do with that too. It is the heaviest knife in this list. Some would say that it is too heavy to be a backpacking knife but the Currahee is one knife that you can really depend on. It has a 4.5 inch long 0.21 inch thick drop point flat grounded Elmax blade with a plain edge and black coated for added protection The blade is strong and dependable enough that it can handle virtually everything thrown its way. Whether it be batoning or game preparation, the Currahee will not have a problem with it and will keep on going.. The word Currahee is Cherokee that translates to “stand alone” and you can definitely stand alone and survive with this behemoth of a knife.
The Elmax blade has unique properties that make it uniquely at home in the elements and the ergonomic design of Currahee’s polymer handle makes it both safe and manageable. Most of the weight of this knife is in the blade which then makes it ideal for throwing, if needed. If you ever get to that desperate point that you need to throw your knife, the Currahee will not disappoint. If your life depends on it, the Microtech Currahee is your best bet to survive.
KERSHAW OSO SWEET
This sweet little Kershaw knife has the looks but can definitely roll with the boys. For strength, the 3.1 inch long 0.11 inch thick drop point hollow grounded satin finished 8Cr13MoV stainless steel blade is perfect for light to medium camp tasks like cutting rope, food preparation and even opening cans. Anything heavier like batoning is not a great idea for the Kershaw OSO Sweet though. It is still one of the best backpacking knives because it is easy to carry around, it is not a push over and the blade has very good qualities like above average edge retention, strength, hardness, and wear and corrosion resistance. If you are not the Rambo type, this knife is perfect for you. The SpeedSafe assisted opening also allows for singe –handed opening which is quite useful when you are out there in the wild.
The nylon handle has incorporated texturing to improve grip and has an added bonus of looking really good. The ergonomic design of the handle also offers safety and control even in wet conditions, vital for many camp tasks especially game preparation. All in all, the Kershaw OSO Sweet is a sweet addition to your backpack whenever you have the urge to experience nature at its best.