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A reliable bushcraft knife is an essential tool for outdoor survival and camping. With the right blade, you can build shelters, process firewood, carve tools, prepare food, and protect yourself in the wilderness. But with so many options on the market, how do you choose the best bushcraft knife?
This buying guide covers the key factors to consider before investing in your go-to survival knife. We’ll explore the anatomy of the ideal bushcraft blade, top knives on the market, and frequently asked questions to help you make an informed decision. Let’s dive in!
1. The Rise in Popularity of Bushcraft Knives
Outdoor survival skills have seen a significant resurgence lately. In 2020 alone, US households spent an average of $17 on cutlery, including kitchen and survival knives. With this growing interest, quality bushcraft knives have become a staple for many outdoor enthusiasts.
A reliable blade allows you to perform various bushcraft skills efficiently. Whether processing tinder and firewood or carving tools and traps, a good knife can distinguish between struggle and survival. The right and best bushcraft knife gives you the confidence to take on the wilderness independently.
2. The Anatomy of a Perfect Bushcraft Knife
So, what defines the ideal bushcraft knife? The Gerber Fastball is a popular choice made 100% in the USA. It features a CPM-S30V blade and durable aluminum handle scales. Quality materials like these demonstrate the critical components of a top-rated blade.
Blade Design – A complete tang construction is vital for strength. The blade should have a drop-point shape for versatile cutting tasks. A spine 90° from the edge allows scraping and striking ignitions.
Steel Type – Stainless steel holds up well in wet environments. But many prefer high carbon steel for exceptional edge retention and ease of sharpening.
Grind – A Scandinavian or “Scandi” grind is excellent for bushcraft. Its simple beveled edge is easy to sharpen in the field.
Handle – Look for durable, weather-resistant handle scales. They should provide a comfortable and secure grip without hot spots.
When sourcing your knife, go with trusted makers that handcraft each blade. This ensures you get the features you need for wilderness survival.
3. Factors to Consider: From Blade to Handle
With a wide range of bushcraft knives available, it’s essential to select yours based on how and where you plan to use it. Consider these factors:
Blade Length – A 3-5 inch blade offers control, precision, and maneuverability for delicate carving tasks and creating traps. For chopping firewood and clearing brush, 5-7 inches provides better leverage and efficiency. Assess your expected needs and environment.
Blade Style – A straight-back edge is ideal for carving feather sticks or tools. A section of serrations can be seen through wood, bone, and sinew. Spear or needle points are excellent for drilling holes and puncturing materials. A curved belly facilitates the skinning game.
Tip Shape – A robust, pointed tip excels at piercing and drilling holes. A wider belly shape makes skinning and slicing easier. For stability, the tip should align with the center of the handle when gripped naturally.
Blade Thickness – Thinner blades ranging .25″ or less are more nimble and suited for detail work. But they’re also less durable for hard use than thicker blades, around .25″-.125″. Find the right balance based on your intended tasks.
Handle Material – Natural smooth materials like wood avoid blisters during prolonged use. Synthetics like canvas micarta are highly weather-resistant and durable. Ensure the handle fills the palm and provides ample grip, even when wet.
Sheath – Look for a form-fitting, protective sheath with fire-retardant materials. It should hold the knife securely while allowing quick, easy access. Bonus points for sheaths with external pockets for carrying gear.
4. Top Bushcraft Knives on the Market
With an understanding of what defines a quality bushcraft knife, here are some of the top-rated options on the market today:
- Morakniv Companion – This classic Swedish knife features a 4.1″ blade made from hardened Sandvik 12C27 stainless steel with a Scandi grind. It’s praised for its consistently sharp edge, comfortable oiled birch handle, and tremendous value for money.
- Helle Utvaer – Handcrafted in Norway, the Utvaer has a 3.9ʺ triple laminated stainless steel blade. It’s known for holding an incredibly keen edge and having excellent edge stability. Its curly birch handle is shaped for comfort during prolonged use.
- Condor Woods Wise – A compact 4″ bushcraft knife with walnut handle scales and hand-forged 1075 high carbon steel blade. Its nimble size, leather sheath, and attractive wood make it perfect for fine carving and a day in the woods.
- Morakniv Garberg – A full tang 4.3″ knife crafted from hardened Swedish 14C28N Sandvik stainless steel. It has an ergonomic rubber grip handle and a multi-mount sheath system. This rugged bushcraft knife was built for hard use.
- ML Custom Knives Kephart – This premium knife is handmade in the USA with a 1095 high carbon steel bowie-style blade and green canvas micarta handle. It’s a high-end wilderness workhorse, fully customizable with your choice of materials.
- TOPS Fieldcraft 3.5 – A popular 4″ bushcraft knife with balcony heat-treated 1095 RC 56-58 carbon steel blade and contoured black canvas micarta handle. It’s known for its comfort, quality construction, and ability to strike fire steel.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best knife for the money?
Quality doesn’t always mean expensive. Affordable brands like Mora and Condor offer superb bushcraft knives under $100. Look to premium makers like Helle, ML Custom, and TOPS for a higher budget.
What is the best steel for a survival knife?
Carbon steel is trendy for its ease of sharpening and edge retention. But stainless steel works well, especially in wet, salty environments. High alloys like CPM-S30V also take a keen edge. Evaluate your environment and preferences.
What knives do survival experts use?
Preferences vary based on habitat and task. Some like small fixed-blade knives for woodland areas. Others opt for larger blades or machetes in the jungle. Customized blades are also popular among experts.
Key Takeaway: Putting Your Bushcraft Knife to the Test
A top-quality bushcraft knife tailored to your needs can make all the difference outdoors. But don’t just browse reviews online. Get hands-on experience with a knife before purchasing. Test its balance, grip, and ability to carve and strike ignitions.
Aim to become self-reliant with your gear. Practice bushcraft skills like making traps, building shelters, and lighting fires using your knife. Then, when you head into the wilderness, you can trust your knife skills and chosen blade to tackle the challenges of nature.
Picking the ideal survival knife requires research and reflection on your needs. Use this guide to understand the key components and narrow your preferences. With a well-suited bushcraft blade in hand, you can fearlessly embark on your next backcountry adventure.