Any outdoorsman will vouch for the fact that a quality knife is one of the single most important and versatile tools in the world of outdoor sports and activities.
A high-quality backpacking knife enables you to set up camp, cut up firewood, defend yourself, clean fish, field dress your hunt and so many other uses that I just couldn’t imagine going on a backpacking trip without one! With that said, you’ll need a knife you can depend on consisting of high-quality metals that contain all the tools and functionality you’ll need while away from society.
You can’t just waltz out into the wilderness without a solid backpacking knife, so in this guide we’ll talk about what makes a particular knife good for backpacking and then I’ll do the internet trekking for you, finding the best backpacking knives at the best prices so you can get back to hitting the real trails!
- Here Are The Best Backpacking Knives in 2019
- 1. ESEE Knives 6P
- 2. Benchmade Bugout 535
- 3. Gerber LMF 2
- 4. Benchmade Grizzly Ridge
- 5. ESEE Izula 2
- 6. Spyderco Delica 4
- 7. Gerber Paraframe 2
- 8. Morakniv Companion Carbon
- 9. Benchmade Barrage 581
- 10. Benchmade Griptilian 556
- 11. Ontario Mark 3
- 12. KA-BAR Becker BK2
- 13. KA-BAR Combat Kukri
- 14. Tops Bushcrafter Kukuri 7.0
- 15. Schrade SCHF9 Bushcrafting Fixed Blade
- 16. Victorinox Swiss Army Knife
- 17. Kershaw Ken Onion Black Blur
- 18. Gerber MP600
What Makes a Knife Good for Backpacking and Hiking?
Defining what a backpacking knife isn’t easy due to the fact that there is no right choice that covers all types of backpacking. Even backpacking itself isn’t easily definable because so many people have different experiences and expectations of what “backpacking” actually is.
Finding yourself in difficult terrain without the proper gear is a major buzz kill but aside from a good day gone bad, you could actually die. Yeah, getting the right knife and being prepared is that important, however, since you’re backpacking and that likely means covering a lot of distance on foot, you have to keep in mind the weight and size of your gear. More knife means less clothing, food, etc, so you need to choose a knife that gets the job done while taking up the least amount of space.
Are you trekking through the jungle or making your way up a 4000-meter mountain trail? Those two activities are both under the backpacking category as you’d need lots of gear and, of course, a backpack, to carry everything you’d need, however, with the difference in terrain and climate in mind, the knife you choose to bring with you will also change.
Depending on where you’re going and what you’re doing, you’ll need to be prepared for the challenges that you’ll face. Lucky for us, we aren’t Christopher Columbus discovering new worlds and instead, we likely have a pretty good idea of what we’re getting ourselves into.
So, what is a backpacking knife, then? Well, I’d define it as anything with utility with regard to your activities and location. Making your way through a dense forest might require something hefty, such as a Kukri or heavy fixed blade. These ensure you can knock down foliage in your way, clear a space for camp, cut down timber to create shelter and defend yourself from big cats, bears, etc.
If you’re going light on the intensity and you’ll be sticking to maintained trails or you have vast distances to cover all on foot, you won’t need or want a cumbersome kukri taking up space and weighing you down. Instead, a decent fixed blade around 5” or a high-quality folding knife no less than 3.25” is probably just fine and will suit your needs quite well.
If your plan is to backpack out into the wilderness and set up camp, and you need a knife specifically for camping related activities, head over to the Marine Approved camping knives guide to see which knives perform the best on the campground! Of course, I’ll hit on some great camping knives in this guide too, as many camping knives make for great all-purpose backpacking knives as well!
Something else I’d consider before buying a new knife for backpacking trips is what gear you already have and what gear you’d like to have. It might be money well spent getting yourself into a good multi-tool, some of which have decent blades among entire suites of tools that can certainly be handy out on the trail. I’ll speak on one of my favorites in this guide, however, if you think a multi-tool is right for you, I’d suggest checking out the Marine Approved multi-tool guide here.
In the rest of this guide section, we’ll cover some terminology and considerations you should know, so you’ll know exactly how to choose the best backpacking knife for your particular needs. After we cover terminology and features, we’ll jump into knife reviews!
First and foremost is the quality of materials and construction of the knife. In General, you get what you pay for, but in the world of knives, this actually stings a lot less than you think. I’ve gone through so many cheap knives that have broken on me when I really needed them that spending the extra cash on a knife built from top tier steel constructed by a highly reputable company is worth it, as I have peace of mind and preparedness for anything.
Just as houses constructed on a solid foundation can stand for many years, a knife has specific structural components that enhance its durability and strength. Understanding the construction of your knife will help you properly utilize the knife in various environments as well as in a survival situation.
Before we really begin, you should know the different portions and pieces of a knife so that you can start to understand what you should be looking for and what features are worth spending the extra money on. The idea of a knife to the untrained eye may seem like all pieces of metal capable of cutting something are potential candidates, but that’s simply not the case!
Spine: The spine of the blade is the unsharpened back of the knife that provides strength and flexibility to the knife.
Edge: The edge is the cutting portion of the knife. The edge is created by utilizing a grinding pattern to shape the geometry based on the blade’s intended use.
Cheek: The cheek of the knife is the section between the spine and the edge; this can be flat or beveled on double-edged blades.
Choil: An indented portion of the edge located at the start of the blade edge near the handle, preventing the user’s hand from sliding onto the cutting surface.
Guard: The guard is between the ricasso and the handle; preventing the user’s hand from sliding onto the blade during stabbing.
Ricasso: The ricasso is an unsharpened length of a blade just above a guard. The ricasso reinforces the connection between the blade and handle portions of the knife.
Bolster: The bolster is a band of steel that joins the knife blade to its handle. The bolster provides protection preventing the hand from slipping to the edge on unguarded blades.
Tip: The blade tip is the forward part of the knife that includes the knifepoint. The tip is used for detailed cutting.
Heel: The heel is the rear part of the edge opposite the point.
Butt: The butt is the end of the knife handle.
Scale Material: The scale material is handle material that sandwiches the tang on a full tang construction.
Pommel (Butt Cap): The pommel can be added to handles to secure a handle or guard and to add balance.
Rivets: Rivets are a mechanical connection that secures the handle material to the tang, often paired with epoxy or glue.
Jimping: Jimping is an area of the spine that has been ground to create high and low areas in the spine similar to teeth. Jimping is often confused with serrations and saw teeth. The difference being that jimping is not at all sharp and is designed for the user to put a finger or thumb on in order to better control the blade during detail work.
Serrations: Serrations are teeth cut into either the blade edge or spine on both sides to create an angled tooth pattern.
Saw Teeth: Saw teeth are cut into the spine of a blade coming to a point perpendicular to the blade edge, often confused for serrations.
Primary Bevel: Also called the primary grind is the first grind applied to a knife-edge, often forming the blade edge.
Secondary Bevel: Also called the secondary grind is a second grind that is applied to further shape the primary bevel at a new angle down to the edge.
Every quality knife is made of a form of steel to ensure it remains strong as well as holds a sharp edge. Knowing the quality of the steel used to construct the knife can be very important for the user. This knowledge will allow the user to utilize the knife and accomplish the task at hand.
Usually, there are trade offs here, like trading a strong and rigid blade for an edge that holds its sharpness for long periods of time. You’ll need to think long and hard about how you’ll be using your knife and how often you’ll be able to sit down and devote quality time to sharpening and care.
There are two main types of steel, high carbon steel (HC), and stainless steel (SS). Both types of steel have advantages and disadvantages and based on your intended usages and environments will serve you in different ways.
High carbon steel blades have the advantage of being very strong with the best edge retention. High carbon blades will need to be sharpened less often than their stainless steel counterparts, they will better retain an edge during chopping and cutting.
While high carbon steel edges are considered the strongest of materials for blade construction, they also require more maintenance due to the fact they contain no chromium. This lack of chromium will cause high carbon steel knives to rust more often than a stainless-steel blade. Rusting of your blade can often be delayed significantly by oiling your knife, thus making high carbon knives a bit more time-consuming in the care and attention department. Don’t oil the handle, though!
High carbon blades have a wide range of prices due to the different quality and construction methods used. Each level of high carbon steel can be graded against another for specific applications as well as quality. The most expensive high carbon steel being Crucible Powder Metallurgy (CPM) 10V Knife Steel.
A lower-cost blade may utilize 1045 carbon steel, often resulting in a more brittle edge that is both easier to sharpen but also loses that sharp edge much quicker. While steel is still very durable no matter it’s grade, it’s very obvious that different levels of quality have different levels of performance.
A happy medium seems to be knives which are constructed of 1095 high carbon steel. This grade of steel creates both a razor-sharp edge as well as an incredibly durable blade while maintaining price levels that I think most people could afford.
Although many of the top brands are constructing their knives out of high carbon steel, stainless steel is still a very worthy choice and certainly worth considering, especially if you’re on a budget.
The advantage a stainless-steel blade has over the high carbon steel blades is its anticorrosion properties. I mentioned earlier that you may want to oil your high carbon blades every so often, and that’s true, but with stainless steel blades, this really isn’t necessary.
So, what makes a blade able to withstand harsh elements without rusting? For a blade to be considered stainless steel, it must contain at least 12 percent chromium. Adding chromium into the mix during the blade forging process results in a blade that can more effectively resist rust and corrosion for extremely long durations of time and abuse.
The disadvantage of a stainless-steel knife is that the edge is not as durable due to the increase in chromium, which is rather soft and not able to withstand heavy usage as a full high carbon blade would. Stainless steel blades are often seen as a nuisance as they require sharpening often.
1095 stainless steel knives sit right in the middle between high performance and the overall time it takes to care for the blade as well. Steels with really high levels of hardness require a significant amount of energy and time to keep sharp, but if you go too soft, the edge won’t hold for more than a few uses, so 1095 seems to be a great middle-ground.
Stainless steel blades also have many grades. These various grades are primarily based on the alloys in which they are constructed. Where VG-10 steel is a premium stainless steel, AUS 6 is of lower quality and can be found in many less expensive stainless-steel blades.
With these points made, trying to damage a stainless-steel blade is a task you will find very challenging. Stainless steel blades are still very durable, and in some cases, such as blades made from Japanese VG-10 steel, are vastly more durable than high carbon steel blades.
When considering which type of steel you need your blades to consist of, you need to consider the purpose in which you will utilize the knife. Yes, this requires a little forethought but don’t worry if you don’t get it perfect, most knives on this list are here due to their excellent value and versatility!
High carbon steel knives make great knives for hunting due to the very sharp edges attainable and the durability of the edge for repeated cuts. Many professional chefs still utilize high carbon steel blades due to their durable and sharp edge. While a stainless-steel knife can be very sharp, stainless steel can not be sharpened to the level that a high carbon steel blade can and thus, isn’t as good for precise workmanship.
An essential aspect of a knife’s construction after considering the type of steel is the tang. The tang, in the simplest terms, is the portion of the knife that connects the blade portion to the handle, or, in many cases of high-quality knives, is the handle.
There are five main tang styles: full tang, Half tang, Push tang, Rat Tail tang and Encapsulated tang each with advantages and disadvantages.
The full tang knife; constructed with the steel as a solid piece from the tip of the blade through the entire handle material, is considered the strongest of any construction and is generally the preferred configuration for high-quality knife manufacturers. The handles cannot fall off, an obvious advantage!
The half tang knife has only a partial length of steel into the handle material. Half tang knives have steel that extends the entire length of the handle. The steel does not fill the whole width of the handle. This construction can become loose over time as well as in tough use situations. Some of these are held together with welds, screws, etc and are prone to becoming damaged and becoming unattached from high levels of force and abuse. Half tang knives are generally found in the low price market and generally speaking, I try to stay away from them if possible.
Push tang designs are constructed in both full tang and half tang styles. A knife built with a push tang utilizes glue or epoxy in the handle, and the tang is pushed into the epoxy filled handle. It is important to note that with push half tang knives the tang is only secured one half the length of the handle material. With no mechanical connection, this tang relies solely on the epoxy to keep the handle secured. These knives are not recommended for heavy or tough use situations. These knives are usually extremely lightweight and are used in easy and non-abusive manners, not ideal for a backpacking knife.
The rat-tail tang utilizes a tapered tang that extends beyond the handle material that can be either welded, peened, or threaded. A pommel is most commonly attached to the end of a threaded end for balance as well as decoration.
Finally, an encapsulated tang construction is as simple as the name sounds. The handle material is fitted or molded around the tang, so the tang remains unseen. These are usually full tang in nature, just with something covering the metal for additional grip or functionality, like having paracord wrapped around them.
The shape of the knife is often overlooked and not understood by most users. Anyone who has served has seen one of the members in their organization carrying an unnecessarily large knife on his belt and if you’re an avid backpacker, you certainly want to keep an eye on the overall weight of your pack, meaning choosing a knife that is long and heavy enough to do the job without being too large is at the forefront of decision making.
In many cases, larger blades require more manufacturing effort, design, and structural support, thus making larger knives not as durable under abuse and heavy usage. That’s right, bigger is not always better, but there is far more to shape than just the length and size of a blade.
The first blade shape we will discuss is the drop point. A drop point is the most versatile all-around design, perfect for use as a backpacking knife! With a convex curve that runs from the blade tip to the spine, this shape makes for a flexible utilitarian design.
The clip point features a concave curve from the spine to the tip; this is easy to see on the iconic Bowie style knives. Clip points are ideal for stabbing and striking as well as for precision cutting, these blades are often light and versatile, able to tackle many different tasks and are excellent in self-defense, also making them a good choice for backpacking applications.
Where the clip point and drop point are an all-purpose style knife, many knives are designed instead for self-defense and combat. Blade shapes such as the spear point, tanto, and straight back are durable and designed with stabbing and slashing in mind, leaving out application able usages in a campground or hiking trail.
Anyone concerned about survival and backpacking in thick brush or jungle environments should consider the shape of the Kukri. The Kukri is an incredibly versatile and robust blade very similar to a machete. Kukri style blades are generally very large with a lot of the weight at the front of the blade. With that said, these can often be attached to a bag. These are one of the best when it comes to chopping and hacking your way through the trail as well as felling small trees and bushes to be used for shelter. Having a blade like the Kukri can save your smaller blades that have finer edges from damage, so if you plan to hike through difficult and dense foliage, having a Kukri in addition to another knife has obvious benefits.
Shape, steel, and tang are all critical factors to consider when buying your knife and most people stop there, assuming those are the only boxes to check off. Many times, the edge grinding is overlooked because edge geometry can be confusing.
Most users buy knives based on the shape and style of the knife instead of its edge, just assuming that if it cuts stuff and fits in their pack, it’s perfect for them. Understanding a blade’s edge geometry can help you maintain your knife for years as well as ensure that your edge stays razor sharp.
For a backpacking knife, there are two main grinding patterns for edge geometry. These are Saber and Flat grinds.
The saber grind has a short bevel from the back of the blade to the cutting edge. This edge is ideal for chopping and splitting as it is a thicker edge, creating a blade that is harder to sharpen but withstands and performs well in situations backpackers may find themselves in fairly well.
The flat grind is a happy marriage of the saber grind and a hollow grind. The hollow grind concaves inward from the blade edge to the cutting point. The hollow grind allows for an extremely sharp edge. The hollow grind falls short in the area of edge retention, due to the edge being so narrow it becomes very prone to chipping. The flat grind introduces a bevel that starts at the cutting edge and extends to the back of the blade. This grind creates a finer edge than the saber grind but allows for a more durable edge than a hollow grind.
The grind angle is also important to consider when determining how your edge will hold up to repeated abuse. Knives with angles between 12 and 17 degrees will be considered fine edges and are not good for general backpacking applications as these angles, commonly found on fillet knives, razors, and scalpels do not handle abuse well and require tons of attention for care.
Angles between 18 and 25 degrees are found on general-purpose knives that will not receive large amounts of abuse. Kitchen knives and hunting knives designed for skinning and harvesting are examples of this edge degree.
Angles in the 26 to 30-degree area are the most common angle for pocket knives, hunting knives, bushcraft, and other knives designed for abuse, meaning they’re probably what you want to look for in terms of backpacking. Blades with this angle are designed to endure moderate damage while maintaining a sharp edge.
Machetes, Kukri’s, survival knives, hatchets, as well as other hacking and chopping tools have grind angles of 31 degrees or higher. While these knives are not as sharp as knives with thinner angles and are more difficult to use precisely, the edge geometry is designed to take large amounts of abuse and perform well in difficult environments. These might be what you want to invest in if you’re backpacking in heavily dense foliage or in a jungle.
Folding or Fixed
A point many individuals debate is between folded blades or fixed blades. The truth is, there are great advantages and disadvantages to each and despite even that, some people just simply prefer one or the other and there’s no telling them otherwise!
In many non-survival situations, a folding knife that fits comfortably on the belt or in a pocket is all you will need. With that said, many survival situations call for the durability of a fixed blade knife.
A folding knife should never handle heavy chopping or tough use situations. There are many physical limitations with the chassis and moving parts that make folding knives inadequate for many situations you may find yourself in when backpacking. Furthermore, folding knives have much higher chances of mechanical failure, due to the moving parts and higher complexity in design. Folding knives are also much less comfortable to use over long durations of time.
A fixed blade, on the other hand, will take up more pack space or add quite a bit of weight to the belt, offering little to know pocket carry options unless you get something extremely compact. High quality fixed blades are significantly stronger and more robust, offering much higher levels of durability due to having no moving parts and the added bonus of rigidity from full tang capabilities.
Another option many people may not consider for backpacking is a multi-tool. Of course, it’s fairly difficult to find a multi-tool with blades of super high quality, however, I do think they are excellent options for backpackers and there are multi-tools with emphasis on quality blades while also offering entire suites of tools at your disposal.
Often multi-tools such as the ones shown near the end of this article can be carried comfortably on the belt or in a pocket. Tasks around camp such as setting up your campsite or starting a fire can be accomplished with the multi-tool alone, perhaps even saving pack space by being able to leave redundant tools at home. Multi-tools are awful for self-defense and offer absolutely no utility for trekking difficult terrain, perhaps even being more difficult to use than a standard fixed blade or folding knife.
Backpacking Knife Reviews
Many individuals who have utilized and relied on their knives for survival or hunting will tell you what they believe to be the best knife. The best knife for backpacking is subjective, there is no one size fits all kind of deal here but more so what you’re comfortable with using and what fits your budget while including the functionality your activity requires.
In this section, we will explore various styles of knives and multi-tools available on the market and I’ll show you exactly where to snag some killer deals on them! Remember, there are literally thousands of options for backpacking knives and as such, I can’t possibly have reviewed or experienced each and every possibility. I do have extensive experience though and I will do my best to suggest knives that I think are the top of the iceberg in the utilization niche they are apart of.
If I’ve missed one of your favorites or something new and amazing hits the market after I write this, let me know in the comments and I’ll do my best to review it and add it to the list!
Here Are The Best Backpacking Knives in 2019
1. ESEE Knives 6P
Price Range: Around $130
Overall Length: 11.75 inches
Blade Length: 6.5 inches
Weight: 12 Ounces
My Review: The ESEE 6P-B is one of my favorite fixed blade knives. With an overall length of 11.75 inches and a weight of 12 ounces, this full tang knife is an incredible asset to have while backpacking or in a survival situation.
The drop point blade design constructed of 1095 high carbon steel creates a versatile and durable blade that will make even the toughest tasks easy to complete. The blade has a textured powder coat to help reduce corrosion and rust, however since this knife is constructed of 1095 high carbon steel some maintenance will be required.
Like other ESEE knives, this blade has a one hundred percent lifetime warranty. If you can break this knife, as hard as that would be, ESEE will repair or replace the blade for you. The handles are constructed of linen micarta and create an ergonomic shape with a choil that prevents the hand from sliding during chopping.
Although this knife has a heavy price tag and certainly isn’t the lightest on this list, this blade will last a lifetime and stand up to many years of abuse. While many individuals who specialize in truly remote camping and hiking may choose to also carry a hatchet and multi-tool as well, this knife can stand on its own for both applications if this is all you carry with you.
Bottom Line: This knife isn’t ultralight like some of the others on this list, but if you want a dependable knife that will hold an edge and last forever, I recommend giving the ESEE 6P serious consideration!
2. Benchmade Bugout 535
Price Range: Around $140
Blade Length: 3.24 Inches
Overall Length: 7.46 Inches
Weight: 1.85 Ounces
My Review: Benchmade is the ultimate buy once cry once brand when it comes to knives in many categories, especially for camping, EDC, and backpacking. Simply put, if you can afford a Benchmade, you’re pretty much set forever as they guarantee and repair all of their products for life. Of course, this guarantee is almost useless as most of the knives they offer are of the absolute highest quality and technology available, so you’ll likely never need it.
Like most of the high-quality Benchmade folding knives, the blade here is constructed from the same CPM-S30V that we know and love here at Marine Approved. Simply put, this is one of the top quality steels you’ll find in a folding knife. The blade is roughly 3.24” in length making the entire knife 7.46” in length when opened and only 4.22” when closed.
The real selling point here and the reason this knife is on the list is that it’s one of the lightest knives on the market that offer such superior quality and versatility. The entire knife only weighs only 1.85 ounces and although a 3.25” blade sounds a little small, this knife actually feels much larger due to its blade design being so useful and thoughtful of its real-estate. I found that using this blade and its entirety to be incredibly easy compared to similar length blades.
The Bugout was designed for an EDC style carry and although it’s, of course, excellent in the EDC department, I believe that it hits every requirement for a light backpacking knife as well. The manual locking mechanism is excellent, smooth, usable with one hand and trustworthy with great thumb placement. The blade, despite being a little on the small side, is versatile with a drop-point, and the knife overall is so light that you can easily forget it’s in your pocket!
You can find these in a few different color schemes but the real kicker is that they sell models with portioned serrated blades as well. I’m not usually a fan of those and I haven’t tried a serrated Bugout yet, but I’m sure it’s great if you like that type of thing!
3. Gerber LMF 2
Price Range: Around $75
Blade Length: 4.84 Inches
Overall Length: 10.59 Inches
Weight: 11.67 Ounces
My Review: While the ESEE 6PB is one of the toughest knives you can find, the most versatile survival knife I’ve ever seen is the Gerber LMF II. This knife was issued to soldiers deploying overseas for a number of years and has proven its worth multiple times over. While some knives are created to do one task better than any other, this knife does every task near perfectly. The downside to this knife is the steel used in the construction.
The steel used in this blade construction is 420 high carbon steel. 420 high carbon steel should not be considered weak steel and will provide manyof the benefits of a high carbon steel blade. If this knife was constructed of 1095 high carbon steel, it would be even stronger. However, with a lifetime guarantee this blade breaking and or being damaged is highly unlikely.
The reason 420 high carbon steel was utilized in construction is due to its ability to lightly resist corrosion over the 1095 high carbon steel. Boasting multiple features such as a glass punch, hammer, integrated sharpener, spear lashing point, serrated blade (portion), and robust and versatile sheath there is hardly a job this knife cannot accomplish.
Even when transitioning from heavy chopping or batoning to slicing through animal hides, if the blade feels dull it can be run through the sharpener in the sheath to quickly get back to sharp. The blade shape is a drop point design with piercing in mind. This knife was designed to cut through the body of an aircraft, and still be tough enough to handle other tasks after.
4. Benchmade Grizzly Ridge
Price Range: Around $120
Blade Length: 3.5 Inches
Overall Length: 7.84 Inches
Weight: 3.77 Ounces
My Review: The Benchmade Grizzly is an excellent purpose-built knife for the modern outdoorsman. These knives are not only beautiful in appearance but are backed by incredible toughness of the CPM-S30V steel and Versaflex fiberglass handles.
The American crafted CPM-S30V drop point blade is 3.5” in length creating a 7.84” total open package and 4.34” closed length. This is simply one of the most durable and versatile blades ever put into a pocket knife and I highly recommend this knife just for the blade itself. Of course, there are a few other pocket knives from Benchmade with the same blade and I recommend those too, but the Grizzly Ridge is just one of the best for backpacking due to its incredible strength and durability.
The Axis locking mechanism is amazing and the placement of the thumb switch is perfect, something I usually complain about on knives like these. The blade action isn’t assisted like some of my favorites but it is smooth and easy to open with one hand.
5. ESEE Izula 2
Price Range: Around $75
Blade Length: 2.63 Ounces
Overall Length: 6.75 Inches
Weight: 3.2 Ounces without sheath
My Review: For those who are truly concerned about weight this is an incredible knife. The ESEE Izula II is a workhorse packed into a small lightweight frame. With an overall length of 6.75 inches and a weight of just 3.2 ounces, this fixed blade full tang construction is nearly impossible to beat.
ESEE utilizes 1095 high carbon steel to manufacture its blades, meaning these knives are less likely to break or chip, feature great edge retention, are incredibly tough and durable.
The only downside to this knife is the maintenance required in preventing rust. This trade-off of maintenance to durability is greatly worth the extra thirty seconds you will need to wipe off your knife and apply a light coat of oil to the edge.
The blade, although 1095 high carbon steel, is manufactured with a textured powder coat to ensure users can keep maintenance to a minimum. The blade design is a thick drop point blade shape, which is rather stout in that it’s about 4mm thick. That might not be ideal for detailed slicing, but everyday tasks that involve cutting and carving will be no problem.
Meal preparation around camp and caving may require a little more coordination to work around that thicker edge, however, the sharpness of the blade will make these chores a breeze. From the factory, this knife does not include a handle and is of a skeletonized design to reduce weight.
The option to purchase canvas micarta scales will add weight and an attractive design to this knife. More cost-efficient and weight-efficient options include wrapping the handle in a few feet of paracord or carrying the knife as-is with no handle at all.
The Izula II is a small but mighty knife able to handle the toughest jobs around camp, and if you happen to break it or damage this blade, ESEE has a no questions asked warranty. ESEE boasts that their warranty is one-hundred percent unconditional and for life. If the knife breaks, the company will repair or replace the knife. While many manufacturers will require a sales receipt or warranty registration, ESEE does not require either. This company truly stands behind their products. This blade is reasonably priced below one hundred dollars and is unbeatable for the value received.
6. Spyderco Delica 4
Price Range: Around $80
Blade Length: 2.875 Inches
Overall Length: 7.125
Weight: 2.3 Ounces
My Review: For those who are looking for an everyday knife that they can carry easily in the pocket while on the trail the Spyderco Delica 4 is a wonderful choice. While folding knives are not ideal in a survival situation, this knife is a great option for individuals who are interested in lightweight blades that do not expect to be abusing the knife heavily.
The Spyderco Delica 4 blade is constructed from VG10- stainless steel and is available in a variety of different blade shapes. The full flat ground edge offers a sharp edge that will resist corrosion and is offered in both a metallic steel and matte black finish. This knife is also manufactured in a combination edge design, making this knife even more versatile.
The integrated hole in the spine allows for easy opening with either hand, while the patented bi-directional texturing on the reinforced nylon-fiberglass handle will ensure this knife stays in your hand at all times. The pocket clip is also adjustable and can be reversed allowing the user to carry this knife on either the left or right side of the body.
This knife is small but mighty with its drop point blade design capable of taking care of any light job around your campsite or throughout your day. The company has been producing knives since 1978 and were the first to feature a round hole in the blade. This one-hole design has become a signature look for Spyderco blades of all shapes and sizes.
If this knife seems to be lacking in length, the Spyderco Endura 4 is the exact same knife with a longer blade. The Delicia 4 has a blade length of 2.8 inches while the Endura 4 has a blade length of 3.75 inches. Both are priced very competitively at under one hundred dollars and can be found at most major retailers who sell knives.
7. Gerber Paraframe 2
Price Range: Around $35
Blade Length: 3.35 Inches
Overall Length: 8.27 Inches
Weight: 4.2 Ounces
My Review: Gerber never really sought out to make the best knives possible. Instead, they create knives at price points that anyone can afford that are decently versatile and very much usable on the trail. I won’t tell you this knife will last for generations to come, but I will say that for the price, the Gerber Paraframe II is definitely a good deal.
This knife, like the other eight knives in the series, is designed around a minimal frame-lock design that allows the knife to be somewhat lightweight without the handle taking major hits to its durability and grip. I wouldn’t ever use this knife to pry or anything like that, but it is rather tough and as far as regular backpacking trips go, this knife is plenty strong and only adds 3.5 ounces to your pack weight!
The blade in the Paraframe II is a fine edge 3.43” high carbon steel drop-point that does not come with assisted opening. The overall opened length here is 8.27” and the closed length is just under 5”. These can be had with serrated edges too, but as you know, I prefer the fine edge and that’s the one I had to review.
The Paraframe I and Paraframe II are basically the same knives but in different sizes. The Paraframe I is a bit smaller and to me, seemed to lack versatility due to its size for backpacking. If you need the absolute lightest knife at a super low price tag, the Paraframe I might be the better choice, but I chose the Paragrame II because the extra size, despite being a small difference, made a huge impact on user experience. The Paraframe II is the largest of the series and is the only knife I’d really recommend out of the series for backpackers as the others are too small.
8. Morakniv Companion Carbon
Price Range: Around $15
Blade Length: 4.1 Inches
Overall Length: 8.6 Inches
Weight: 4.1 Ounces (With Sheath)
My Review: Morakniv has actually been suggested to me by many friends and fellow outdoorsman and I’ve always slept on it due to loving Benchmade and KA-BARs so much. Well, I finally got to review the Morakniv companion after years of neglecting it and I must say, I am pretty surprised at what you get here.
The knife doesn’t look great. It just doesn’t scream high quality or super durability when you first look at it. It looks like something you’d get from the knife section at Walmart, honestly. Looks aside, though, this knife is durable as anything on this list and with the Swedish made Sandvik high carbon-based blade, it’ll cut just as good as anything too!
These are also available in stainless steel models if you plan on being around saltwater. The carbon blades are incredibly strong and super light but do not hold up well to salt exposure. I also usually opt for no serration on my blades and that’s the one I’ve chosen here but this knife is also available with a partially serrated blade as well.
This knife is equipped with a 4.1” blade and is roughly 8.5” in total length. Everything including the sheath only weighs about 4 ounces which is really where this knife package shines. The sheath is really above and beyond in terms of sheaths that come with knives and allows super quick deployability for those of you who like to wear a fixed blade on the belt or clipped to your gear.
The grip, although not satisfying to look at, offers some ridiculous performance and really gives the more well-known brands a run for their money. Everything is color-matched, including the sheath, and the grip is constructed from this ruggedized hard plastic that doesn’t give when exerting tons of pressure and it doesn’t feel squishy like some knives and their rubberized handles. I hate squishy handles, so the grip found here on the Morakniv was just perfect.
All in all, this knife was made to be durable and get the job done, period. It’s not stylish and it doesn’t come with extra tools or intuitive design form, instead, it’s constructed from tough and durable materials that will probably last longer than you do!
9. Benchmade Barrage 581
Price Range: Around $185
Blade Length: 3.6 Inches
Overall Length: 8.35 Inches
Weight: 5.2 Ounces
My Review: I mentioned earlier that recommending one single Benchmade pocket knife would be a difficult task, but honestly, I’m kind of eating my words now that I’ve gotten to review the Barrage 581.
Let’s start with the hard stuff, the M390 steel. Most Benchmade products up until recently have their blades constructed from S30V stainless steel. S30V stainless steel, even today, is still amazing and considered top quality, however, I believe the throne as the cream of the crop has been stolen by the M390. The M390 steel beeing used in Benchmades newer blades is far superior, especially in edge retention and sharpening, which is weird because you usually have to trade one of those for the other, but the M390 gives you an excellent experience in both!
The M390 blade is 3.6”, which I believe is a great blade length for backpackers and the entire package length comes out to 8.35” when opened. I love this design and I love the sizing of everything they’ve done here. I don’t mind adding a few ounces for better functionality and the Barrage just blows me away in every category. The drop-point is the all-inclusive blade design and I don’t know why you wouldn’t choose a drop-point for backpacking.
The grip in the barrage is equally as amazing as the blade. It’s the G10 grip designed for harsh environments and easily capable of handling abuse which is exactly what I’d buy this knife for! All in all, this is one of Benchmade’s best pocket knives overall and, in my opinion, probably the toughest and most versatile pocket knife you could buy for backpacking. If money is not an issue for you, this is the knife to have.
By the way, as with most Benchmade products, these are available in several colors and also with options for serrated blades. All Benchmade knives are guaranteed for life, so if you do somehow kill this thing, which I’d be super surprised so please let us know in the comments if this happens, you can just send it in and they’ll fix it up like new!
10. Benchmade Griptilian 556
Price Range: Around $115
Blade Length: 2.91 Inches
Overall Length: 6.78 Inches
Weight: 3.88 Ounces
My Review: The Griptilian was built to be good at everything and honestly, I think they got pretty dang close! Every detail and every design decision that went into the construction of the Griptilian was completely focused on creating the most functionality while maintaining a sleek appearance and being durable. All things most knife manufacturers attempt but typically lack massively in one or two of those categories.
The Griptilian not only achieves all three but smashes the previous bar for all of them! This is one of Benchmade’s, and honestly, the entire pocket knife markets, most sleek and beautiful design. Of course, this is largely personal preference, but take it from someone who has really high expectations as they’ve seen hundreds of pocket knives, the Griptilian is simply one of the best.
The drop-point blade is made out of the 154CM stainless steel, which isn’t the strongest, lightest, or best edge retaining material available, however, it is highly versatile and rust-resistant, which most of the better materials aren’t, making this blade exceptionally useful for prolonged trips where your knife will be abused and exposed to water.
I hate buying nice knives only to have to safeguard them from specific things in life due to them having a weak spot. Despite the 154CM steel not being the strongest, this knife really does feel like I can do anything to it and it’ll survive. Drag it through the mud, beat it off a rock, kick it across the desert, take it scuba diving with you, whatever. This knife is capable of doing it all and is built for someone who doesn’t just backpack but enjoys every outdoor activity and needs a knife that will be there through it all.
These knives aren’t assisted opening. A lot of people ask me this and I want to make it clear, most of the best pocket knives on the market don’t need assisted opening because their opening mechanism is already ultra smooth and can be opened with one hand, just like the Griptilian.
11. Ontario Mark 3
Price Range: Around $80
Blade Length: 6 Inches
Overall Length: 10.75 Inches
Weight: 10 Ounces
My Review: The Ontario Mark III is a standard-issue blade for members of the Navy SEAL community. This 6” or 6.5” blade is constructed of 440A stainless steel and is a very versatile utility knife. While many members of the SEAL community do not carry this after their training ends it is an iconic piece of equipment that has been issued to SEALS for over 50 years.
These knives offer top-class durability and functionality while only costing you 10 ounces in terms of weight. In most light cases, this knife is overkill, but if you’re the type to want to be prepared for literally anything life throws at you, this knife is an excellent addition to anyone’s arsenal.
12. KA-BAR Becker BK2
Price Range: Around $80
Blade Length: 5.25 Inches
Overall Length: 10.5 Inches
Weight: 1 Pound
My Review: Our final blade in this review is a tried and true classic that any survivalist can carry with a high degree of confidence. Seeing as this is MarineApproved I felt it necessary to save the best for last.
The Marine KA-BAR is easily one of the most recognized blades of all time. Both the Army and the Navy still have a style of KA-BAR due to its strength and versatility. The 7-inch blade constructed of 1095 high carbon steel has created a time tested design that can endure any situation.
The obvious choice here is the Ka-Bar Becker knife, of which there are many great varieties. From the standard-issue Marine Corps Fighting Utility Knife to the BK2 and BK7 adaptations, this knife is made with survival in mind.
All Ka-Bar knives are forged from the toughest of steels, 1095 high carbon steel. With the iconic seven-inch blade length various adaptations have been made to the blade shape. While the classic USMC Ka-Bar has a bowie style drop point, versions such as the BK2 and BK7 feature a flat drop point and clip point respectively.
The saber grind on this blade allows for high levels of sharpening as well as structural stability due to the thickness of the spine. The classic USMC blade has a leather-wrapped handle whereas the BK2 and Bk7 are both composite materials. These knives truly are the toughest of the tough and are capable of handling any task a Marine or survivalist can throw at them.
13. KA-BAR Combat Kukri
Price Range: Around $55
Blade Length: 8 Inches
Overall Length: 13.375
Weight: 0.9 Pounds
My Review: Anything that says KA-BAR is going to be great so it’s tough to give negatives when every KA-BAR, no matter if its a combat knife, outdoors knife, kukri, etc, has served me incredibly well, leaving me with no complaints!
The Kukri by KA-BAR is no exception to their long-standing quality and dependability that I’ve enjoyed from KA-BAR. At just fifty bucks, this 11.5” 1.3lb trail destroyer is just flat out excellent, probably one of the best things you’ll ever purchase in terms of value. This knife can do just about anything from clearing an overgrown campsite to taking down terrorists, it does it all and it doesn’t complain!
KA-BAR has long been using 100% synthetic handle wraps. All of their products from what I’ve seen are full tang in construction, meaning that the metal used for the blade extends all the way through the handle. The synthetic Kragon G Thermoplastic handles they use are of insane quality and have always impressed me, but if they do break or come unattached somehow, the knife is still very much usable and easily wrapped with shoelaces or used bare if necessary. I’ve never had a KA-BAR kukri break on me, but if the handle did have an issue, you can rest knowing you still have a very usable kukri no matter what happens.
The entire package is coated in some kind of black carbon coating and I’ll be honest, it does look amazing when it’s new but this black coating will quickly become scratched and beat up, which actually, in my opinion, makes it look even better! The metal used here is the1085 carbon that is both light but fairly strong making for an excellent bushwacking experience. Included in the package is a nylon Cordura sheath which isn’t bad, but I’d probably choose a leather sheath to replace it.
14. Tops Bushcrafter Kukuri 7.0
Price Range: Around $175
Blade Length: 7.75 Inches
Overall Length: 14.0 Inches
Weight: 22.2 Ounces
My Review: Tops doesn’t make a lot of things, but the things they do make are incredibly impressive given you’re willing to pony up for their premium price tags. Of course, the Marine Approved mantra here is to buy once and cry once, and that’s exactly what you get with the Tops Bushcrafter.
Immediately after grasping this crazy thing in your hand you’ll notice that this knife was designed by people who love and experience the same things any outdoor enthusiast truly cares about. The very design and inspiration comes from an experience one of the Tops designers had when he was traveling in Nepal. Long story short, he learned that the Nepalese receive a Kukuri when they transition from boy to man and they carry their original Kukuri with them as much as possible, keeping it for their entire lives.
The Tops Bushcrafter was crafted with this experience in mind, trying to craft a Kukuri that someone could get their hands on as they become a man and can keep around and receive utility from their entire lives.
Tops achieved this design dream by utilizing 1095 RC 56-58 steel mated with a Linen Micarta handle, all coated in Black Traction Carbon finishing. This knife was meant to be tested, abused, and keep on kicking no matter what challenges it endures. The sheath you get is also the best sheath I’ve ever gotten that came with the knife itself. It’s a MOLLE compatible MIL-Spec ballistic nylon sheath and is just such a higher quality than included sheaths that I was surprised, almost thinking it was something aftermarket itself.
The entire blade is just 7.75” with a total length of 14”. This is just perfect for bushwacking and you get all of this lengthy might in just over 22 ounces, which is just incredible. When it comes to affordable Kukuri knives, this is the best out there!
15. Schrade SCHF9 Bushcrafting Fixed Blade
Price Range: Around $40
Blade Length: 6.4 Inches
Overall Length: 12.1 Inches
Weight: 15.7 Ounces
My Review: Shrade used to be one of those companies where I simply don’t expect top quality and industry-leading designs because they focus on those who are on a budget for the most part. A lot of Schrade products, while not being best performers overall, absolutely dominate their price ranges.
If you’ve gone on to blow all of your backpacking budget on hiking boots and other gear and you simply need a fixed blade that’s “good enough”, this 12” fixed blade is certainly worth taking a look at.
I said they’re cheap, and that’s still true as these aren’t even forty bucks to pick up brand new, but that doesn’t mean they’re crap. Constructed out of 1095 high carbon steel and a ruggedized thermoplastic elastomer handle, these give much pricier options a good run for their money. The blade material itself is typically found on much more expensive knives and a high-quality TPE grip this good is usually only expected out of high tier models.
These knives actually used to be a lot more expensive, but funny story, Schrade actually went out of business and it’s becoming nearly impossible to find these in actual stores. Instead, Taylor Brands out of Taiwan makes them and they continue to be available online. By the way, Taylor Brands actually collaborates with a ton of blade companies, even some of the top quality companies out there, so don’t let this scare you away, they are still high quality and provide excellent value.
16. Victorinox Swiss Army Knife
Price Range: Around $350
Length: 3.6 Inches
Weight: 12.3 Ounces
My Review: A required admission for any multi-tool discussion, the Victorinox Swiss Army Multi-tool and pocket knife. This classic tool is perfect for everyday carry and can be bought purchased in several different versions, all utilizing different tools and functionality. From four to eighty functions, you can buy a tool that truly fits your individual needs.
With a lifetime guarantee and an origin story that dates back to 1884, this multi-tool will serve you well as it has the thousands of people that have trusted them.
It is important to consider what functions and tools you would like your multi-tool to perform. While eighty functions are impressive, access to the tools you need can be difficult and the unit can feel cramped and tight. With a very affordable price point between $30.00 and $50.00 for tools containing fifteen functions, everyone can find the tool that best fits their needs.
17. Kershaw Ken Onion Black Blur
Price Range: Around $65
Blade Length: 3.4 Inches
Weight: 4.2 Ounces
My Review: As a backpacker myself, Kershaw is certainly one of the top brands that come to mind when I need a new blade to take with me out on the trails. Kershaw has an excellent reputation for being reasonably priced while offering top tier attributes, all while being manufactured in the US, so they certainly get an Oorah from me and the boys at Marine Approved!
These used to be made out of 440C which, honestly, was just meh. Now though, they’re made out of the 14C28N Swedish Sandvik steel that is far superior and honestly, one of the best blade materials out there for an all-around good backpacking knife. It’s super strong, holds an edge incredibly well, makes for somewhat easy sharpening, decently anti-corrosive, and is pretty lightweight!
The blade is coated in DLC which increases the hardness and corrosion resistance while also making the blade a bit more non-stick which is great because I use my pocket knives to cook a lot too, but you need to be careful because the coating can become damaged with normal wear and tear over time and some might chip into your food! The blades here are 3.4” in length and the entire knife weighs almost four ounces.
The grip is pretty great too, featuring a T6 anodized aluminum construction making the handle both very light and super durable. This knife was really built for outdoor use and the choice in materials shows as they are all very resistant to corroding. This is especially useful as you don’t always have time to dry off your knife before throwing it back in your backpack or your pocket while out on the trail.
The Kershaw Blur does come with the assisted Speed Safe opening system, which basically springs the blade out with just a slight nudge of the protrusion on the blade. This system is extremely smooth and is actually one of my favorite assisted opening systems on any pocket knife I’ve tried!
18. Gerber MP600
Price Range: Around $45
My Review: The multi-tool is an essential piece of equipment for everyone to carry when spending time in the outdoors. From simple pocket knives to tools with an entire package of different functionalities, having a multi-tool on you ensures you have at least the basics for most of the challenges you’ll face out on the trail or at the campsite.
At the top of our multi-tool list is the Gerber Multi-Plier 600. Anyone who has served in the military is intimately familiar with this piece of equipment. This tool can be carried on a belt, in a pouch, pushed through MOLLE weave, stuffed in a pocket, held in a holster, etc.
This tool is durable and requires little maintenance to function. Filled with dirt and sand, these tools work flawlessly. From weapons maintenance to demolitions this tool will take you all the way and surely has more than enough functionality for backpacking trips.
The MP-600 encompasses fourteen total tools included in a slim and sleek form factor. You will be hard-pressed to find a better value for the money spent. As far as cost, this multi-tool is reasonably priced and certainly one of the best valued multi-tools on the market today.
While the Gerber Multi-Plier 600 has not been in service as long as other pieces of equipment, almost every member of the military has been issued at least one. This multi-tool is an incredibly versatile tool that is used almost daily by service members.
This tool has become a requirement for many military schools and is considered a required item for the US Army Ranger Course packing list. With the one-handed opening, as well as fifteen tools you would be hard-pressed to find a more iconic tool for soldiers during the Global War on Terror.
I actually like this multi-tool so much that I’ve also written about it in my multi-tools guide that you should definitely check out! The MP-600 is great, but there are many multi-tools that may suit your needs better with a purpose-built set of tools.
More Tips on How to Choose a Backpacking and Hiking Knife
Many of us will never find ourselves struggling for survival, trusting our knife and our wits in the wilderness. However, knowing your knife and its limitations is paramount in a survival situation. If your budget only calls for carrying one knife, then there are a few “rules” to follow when selecting a survival knife.
The type of knife you choose will largely end up being a personal preference choice and although I can’t tell you for certain which you should have, you should consider the style and environment of your backpacking trips. If you’re a light hiker taking well-maintained trails in environments that are comfortable, a good folding knife or multi-tool would likely suffice.
If you’re trudging through the jungle, a Kukri would probably be your best bet. It all depends on you and the task at hand, so my best piece of advice is to buy them all and be prepared for anything! Okay, fine, that might not be feasible for those on a budget and I understand that I’ll try and give you a few pieces of advice to follow.
Tip One: Full tang knives are the most structurally sound. You may not need to do some heavy chopping or dig through snow and ice to make a shelter, but in the off chance that you do, you want to have the most durable construction possible. Keep in mind even with heavy workloads a broken handle on a full tang knife can be fixed in several ways. Paracord, tape, or in the very worst-case scenario you can hold onto the tang itself to get the task accomplished.
Tip Two: Drop Points offer ultimate versatility and are probably the best for those of you who aren’t well experienced in using knives. While there are many styles of knives with blade shapes that look very versatile, none is more versatile than the drop point. In a survival situation, you may need to make snares or carve fish hooks from bone. These tasks will be more difficult with certain tip shapes. Having the drop or spear point will allow you to do fine detail work as well as utilize the sharp edge for cutting, hacking, and whatever else you may need. All around these provide the most utility in a blade.
Tip Three: Focus on single-edged blades. Two edges may seem to provide an advantage, two edges means more surface area to cut and if you damage one side, you still have the other side intact. While this seems to be an advantage, in situations such as batoning to split wood you may end up working against yourself. Blade geometry often works against flint fire starters as well. While it is possible to utilize the sharp edge of your blade with a flint fire starter it is drastically easier to use the unsharpened spine of the blade. The spine will skate across the flint creating sparks instead of biting in and taking off excess material. Double-edged blades are built for combat and self-defense at the forefront of design and thus, are not built for backpacking and camping and have an entire suite of different attributes.
Tip Four: What other tools are you carrying? If your goal is to pick up a quality knife for backpacking trips and you already have a shovel, hatchet, and a wire saw, do you need a more substantial knife designed for chopping and heavy-duty sawing work? Of course not! Based on the other equipment you are carrying, you may find that a simple drop point, six-inch, full tang blade with a flat grind is all you need to take with you. Everything will depend on what you are carrying and how you intend to use it. Having a do it all knife sounds great, but in all reality, if you can spare the weight, usually having tools dedicated to their task is the better bet and will offer advantages.
There are many factors that must be considered when choosing the appropriate tools for backpacking trips. There is no “right” choice, but more so the knife that fits your needs while fitting your pack and budget.
Each individual will have to decide based on the length of the trip and the conditions in which the hiker will face. As with any equipment that you choose to buy, it is important to test the equipment so as to be comfortable with the operation and the limits of the tool. Being lost in the woods with a weak blade and having that blade fail on you is not an ideal time to learn the limit of a blade.
The shape, style, construction, steel, and handle are all important aspects to be considered when selecting a quality knife. Many of the blades listed above are capable of lasting a lifetime if the steel is maintained and properly utilized. Many individuals choose to carry a combination of folders or multi-tools with heavier blades or hatchets packed away for emergency situations or heavier tasks such as making camp.
I hope this review has provided some insight into the wide world of knives and as to what qualifies as quality construction. If this list hasn’t satisfied your lust for blade acquisition, I have many other knife-related guides such as this throwing knives guide, my fixed blade specific guide, and the guide I wrote on combat knives!
As always, if you find my tips useful or you’d like to share your thoughts and experiences, please do so in the comments section below!
Corporal Wabo is a former Infantry Squad Leader with 3rd Bn 4th Marines that specialized in Mortars. In his free time, he enjoys hunting, hiking, running, shooting guns, and reviewing gear. He started this website while transitioning out of the Marines, and since has recruited several other Marines to help him work on the Marine Approved website. We are currently looking for former Marines that like to talk tactical gear, survival gear, hiking supplies, etc. For more information about us or to join the team, check out the “About Us” tab.