While specificity was the guiding factor when choosing a hunting knife, versatility is the goal when choosing a camping knife. A camping knife is not a bushcraft or hunting knife. However, the right camping knife can accomplish a wide array of tasks. The camping knife should aid you in cooking, cleaning small game or small components of the larger game, and building and maintaining a fire.
Fixed Blade Knife or Folding Knife
Similar to choosing a good hunting knife, choosing a good camping knife starts with the same question; fixed blade or folding knife?
Since you are looking for a camping knife and not a survival knife, you do not need a knife that can fell a tree or one with a handle designed to store “the survival essentials.” However, you will need a knife that is sharp and durable. You will need a knife that allows you to trim a branch for kindling and clean a fish. Based on these requirements, unless you have several knives with you, we may feel steered toward fixed blade knives. This is only an illusion.
Folding knives can accomplish all the tasks of a good fixed blade camping knife with the added benefit of collapsibility. The locking mechanism for such a knife is a paramount choice. The last thing you want is for the knife to collapse when you did not want it to. If you plan to do a lot of cutting, slicing game or splitting limbs for a fire, you will find that a fixed blade knife is a superior choice.
With no moving parts, the amount of buildup the fixed blade knife accumulates will not affect the performance or use of the knife. The folding knife, however, may suffer failure – in the locking mechanism- if extreme care is not taken to ensure no buildup negatively affects the knife’s performance. Once you have selected a fixed blade or folding knife, the next choice will be size.
Measurement of Your Best Camping Knife
A good camping knife needs to be easy to wield. Carrying a giant Rambo styles knife will only impede you and possibly result in you injuring yourself. Likewise, a small blade will also prove fruitless. A camping knife needs to be a lightweight, durable, medium-sized blade. Most importantly, your camping knife, whether a fixed blade or a folding knife, must be rigid and durable. Rigidity and durability mean the knife will not chip, crack, or easily rust.
Choosing a carbon steel will provide more durability but leaves the knife susceptible to rusting. Selecting a stainless steel will prevent rusting, with no additional work, but limits the knife’s flexibility. If you opt for a stainless steel knife, choose a grade of 440 or higher. Adding a serrated edge can increase the versatility of the knife, but unless you are cutting bread or ripping and breaking bones, this option may prove useless in a camping knife.
While you do not want the knife to be so heavy you get tired holding it; the weight is less important than the length. As mentioned earlier, the length of the knife must be appropriate to the tasks. Choosing a camping knife with an overall length of eight to ten inches provides an excellent length to weight ratio. The blade geometry will directly contribute to this ratio and the overall weight.
Blade Design of Your Camping Knife
Likewise, the blade shape will play a large factor in the knife’s weight. Most camping knives will be a drop point or a variant of a drop point. If you chose to deviate from a drop point, to a gut hook or a clip point, it is imperative you understand what you are sacrificing and what you are gaining.
A drop point gives you a strong blade tip and a wide ‘belly’ for cutting and slicing. The tip is not as sharp as the clip point, but unlike the gut hook, it has a functional tip. Since the tip is not as sharp, the knife is more durable, much like the gut hook. The gut hook also has an excellent ‘belly’ for slicing and cutting. The durability of the drop point knives means that if you keep them sharp, they can easily slice game and small timber.
Here we can accomplish several of the tasks we want from a camping knife, cooking, preparing and maintaining a fire, and cleaning small game or small pieces of the larger game. If you plan to do a lot of prying you will want a stronger tip like you to find with a drop point. Likewise, if you plan to rip through a lot of small bones, you may want to add a serrated edge to the blade.
The Handle Structure of the Camping Knife
As with any knife, the handle must be suitable for the tasks. Wooden handles often provide an old-world feel and add to the overall beauty of the knife. However, a wooden handle can be damaged by water and subsequently fail, resulting in an injury. Taking care of the knife and cleaning it regularly can prevent this from occurring. Maintaining a grip trumps the desire to have an attractive knife.
If a wooden handle fits your hand and provides grip, the only deterrent to having a wooden handle camping knife id your ability to maintain the knife. Other options such as bone and plastic exist too. Like a wooden handle, a bone or plastic handle must fit in your hand well and allow you to grip the knife in all circumstances.
If you choose a folding knife, you will not need a sheath. However, if you pick a fixed blade camping knife – which is most likely a better choice for your needs – you will need a sheath. Many knives come with a sheath so selection may be a simple as color, material, or both. Since you are not hunting, choice a sheath that fits well is durable; a stands out in case you drop it in the woods.
A camping knife should make camping easier. You should have a durable knife that is easy to hold on to and when cleaning game and preparing a fire.