Tom Claycomb reviews four of the best camping knives you should have in your kit.
Idaho –-(Ammoland.com)- I’m going to tell you what I look for in a camping knife. Or actually what I use one for, which will determine which type that I will be recommending. If you plan to use one differently then buy accordingly.
I’ve noticed on a few forums that someone gives a review and criticizes a knife because they don’t think that they could chop down a redwood tree with it (ok, I’m exaggerating a little, maybe they said a sapling).
I’m sure to have a guideline to rate knives someone developed a list of what a good knife has to be able to do and chopping firewood was one of the items. I just don’t do that. I’ve chopped a lot of wood with an axe. I’ve chopped a lot of fence post with an ax. But I’ve never chopped the above with a knife and I’m up in the mountains a lot. A couple of years ago my wife thought I’d been up a little excessively. I figure it was 60-90 days that year.
So with that said, I’ll tell you the task that I want my knife to be able to perform and a few knives that fit that bill. First, I’ll be slicing sausage and cheese. Setting around camp at night I’ll be cutting my steak. I’ll cut string or rope around camp.
I want a stout knife in case we have a horse wreck and need to cut out of it.
One year up elk hunting my buddy rolled two horses and a mule off the trail and into the river. One horse got swept under a log and its head came up on the other side of the log. My cohort Shawn, jumped in chest high and held its head up. Its front leg was hung under the log and he had a mess. With his free hand he was able to pull out his knife and cut the pack loose and save the horse.
I think it was the next year a horse blew up with an elk packed on it and that had to be pulled off right fast. So you get my drift.
For camping, I want a straight bladed knife that is readily accessible. I also want a good scabbard that will hold up in a horse wreck or when I take a spill on a mountainside or when rafting and a rope gets tangled up.
Myself, I favor a four to a six-inch blade, which works for all of my camping needs. If I want to play Paul Bunyan, I’ll take my axe or chainsaw. But that’s me. If you like chopping trees with a knife, get a big heavy one. Which brings up my next requirement. I like a lightweight knife. Maybe I’m a wimp but it’s tough duty scrambling up and down mountains all day so I try to cut all of the weight that I can.
I do want a stout bladed knife though, one that won’t easily snap off because I am a little rough on my camping knives, so I somewhat want a little thicker blade than I normally carry.
Let’s talk a little more about scabbards. I do like a lot of the newer hard plastic scabbards that the knife snaps into for quick access. But I also like one that the knife sets deep and has a snap around the handle so it can’t fall out in a wreck. You also want one that is stout so you don’t get stabbed in a horse wreck. For example, I was writing an article on knife scabbards and just the day before we’d packed out of the backcountry and got within 8-feet of the truck and a horse blew-up and threw a buddy. So whichever scabbard you go with, get one that you knife sets deep in with no chance of falling out.
I read an article once about a guy named Cliff Jacobson who seemed to be somewhat famous and canoes a lot in the boundary waters. One of his main requirements was that his knife absolutely must be long enough to scoop peanut butter out of the bottom of a jar. Well, it just so happened that I met the Mike & Debbie Mann with Idaho Knife Works at the Boise Knife Show a couple of years ago and they make Cliff’s knives for him. So if you have an idiosyncrasy like this, buy accordingly.
Since we have a lot of whitewater rafting and kayaking in Idaho you may want the first 1 ¼-inches of your blade to be serrated. Your camping knife will probably be used to eat with, perform camp chores and off and on even skin an animal.
Here are four knives that I’d recommend as my pick of best camping knives, with one twist:
- Knives Of Alaska Bush Camp Knife
- Idaho Knife Works Cliff Knife
- Puma (SGB) XP Forever Knife
- SOG Pillar Fixed Blade Knife
- Browning Outdoorsman Axe
Knives Of Alaska Bush Camping Knife:
The Bush Camp Knife is Knives Of Alaska’s most popular knife. Double finger choils and lanyard opening for perfect grip and safety.The ideal knife for outfitters and taxidermists performing precision skinning duties and fine detail work.
Crafted by Alaskan guide and biologist Charles Allen, Knives of Alaska are made to handle the roughest abuse and skinning chores professionals could put them through in some of the most challenging conditions on the planet. Each has been extensively field-tested by experts on hunts around the globe to ensure it is worthy of the Knives of Alaska name. You’ll find a knife in this series to handle any in-the-field need. Only the finest blade steels are used in the Knives of Alaska Series. If you like the feel and heft of a heavy-bladed knife, the Bush Camp Knife will make a great addition to your working knives. Designed for heavy-duty general-purpose use around camp as well as field dressing or carving. The blade is double-drawn tempered D2 tool steel, and the black rubberized handle has grip ridges and lanyard hole. Includes leather sheath. Overall length: 10-1/2″ with a 6″ slight drop-point blade.
Idaho Knife Works Cliff Camping Knives:
If you want a handmade knife visit Idaho Knife Works (509) 994-9394 idahoknifeworks.com and check out their Cliff Knives. ( http://www.idahoknifeworks.com/cliff.htm )
The Cliff Knife, designed by canoe guide/author Cliff Jacobson. The blade is 4 1/4″ flat ground, high carbon steel with full tang 4 1/4″ handle. Various woods available, please see Idaho Knife Work’s Special Order Page for a list. Also special “rescued wood” (100+ years old) osage orange wood from Mann Family Farm in Illinois (+$35) or Maple from Lake Superior (+$45). Why use rescued wood? More stable, tighter grain, less likely to warp or crack, a beautiful piece of history!
Puma (SGB) XP Forever Knife
It also has a fire starter with it. PUMA XP Forever Fixed Blade Knife. 4 3/4″ clip-point 440 stainless steel blade; Co-molded, contoured scales; Full-tang construction. 9 1/2″l. overall, 8 ozs. Just a simple purpose driven knife that has repatedly earned a place on my list of best camping knives.
SOG Pillar Fixed Blade Knife
The SOG Pillar Fixed Blade Knife is another work horse camping knives design from the knife experts at SOG, This fixed blade drop point blade is razor sharp out of the box and comes with a rock solid Kydex scabbard that you can customize to fit any draw angle.
“Based around superior CPM s35vn steel, SOG’s USA produced knives offer improved toughness, better edge retention, higher resistance to wear and edge chipping while maintaining ease of sharpening. The USA-made Pillar is fully-equipped with a full tang CPM s35vn steel blade with a Stone wash and machine ground finish, canvas mic Art a handle, and kydex sheath with an adjustable low-profile, locking mount. This workhorse fixed blade is built to handle any task. The canvas mic Art a handle offers superior grip in wet or dry conditions and looks better the more it is used. Combining all these features with a versatile kydex sheath make it a perfect choice for your carry.”
Read a great review of the SOG Pillar Fixed Blade Knife by Mike Searson.
Browning Outdoorsman Axe:
For a little different twist but related to best camping knives let’s list the Browning Outdoorsman Axe.
“Outdoorsman Axe. The Outdoorsman axe offers the newest technology in a canoe axe and great partner for your camping knives. This axe has used knife technology in this forged one piece head. The unique axe head has a concave grind with a convex edge extreme cutting ability. The axe is perfect for chopping, splitting, cutting limbs. Features 2 1/4″ head tapered tail makes for easier removal for a stuck head uniquely designed handle has been modified for ease of choke up for splitting the smallest of kindling and work such as quartering big game. Liquid steel injection molded handle is as rugged as the guys who carry it. Includes nylon leather sheath.”
About Tom Claycomb
Tom Claycomb has been an avid hunter/fisherman throughout his life as well as an outdoors writer with outdoor columns in the magazine Hunt Alaska, Bass Pro Shops, Bowhunter.net and freelances for numerous magazines.
(You’ll want a sharp camp knife. I have an e-article on Amazon Kindle titled KNIFE SHARPENING for $.99 if you’re having trouble).
AmmoLand Editor Comments: This article was updated to reflect changes in product improvements/availability on 09/21/2017.