By far and away the most popular knives chosen by hunters and outdoorsmen around the world are fixed blades, there is something romantic about the ubiquitous image of a mountain man striding through the woods, rifle in hand, pack on back with a knife hanging from his belt. Fixed blades are certainly stronger; as they have no moving parts.
Larger; which might be important for certain tasks such hacking through undergrowth or preparing firewood. Safer; as they won’t fold up on your fingers and I certainly can’t say that a folding pocket knife is better than a fixed blade but there are a lot of reasons to consider a pocket knife as your primary and possibly the only knife on a camping trip.
Why Not A Fixed Blade?
Although the aforementioned image of a hunter with a knife dangling from his belt is a popular one those knives aren’t always practical, they often get in the way on camping trips and realistically if you are carrying all your basic equipment, food, stove, tent etc.. you don’t need a large bushcraft or hunting knife. You can do everything you need to with a pocket knife.
The convenience of a knife that can fit in a pocket and fold can’t be underestimated either if you are used to carrying a pocket knife every day any way they are hard to forget so you know you will always have a knife with you even if you forget your preferred fixed blade.
The advantages of having a knife which you not only are unlikely to forget but which isn’t immediately obvious to everyone you meet, bearing in mind that not everyone will share your enthusiasm for camping and the outdoors life, can’t be underestimated.
What to Look For
Modern knives are adorned with many features which are functional and innovative but which are not always essential; pocket clips, lanyard rings, tweezers and multiple screwdriver bits can all be useful but are normally not essential in a hunting knife. Things that you definitely have to consider though are the following;
My first folding knife was a wooden and brass handled buck copy which I was given when I was eight years old and which I used for many years to gut fish and skin rabbits.
Nowadays an outdoorsman might want an attractive wooden handled knife like my old one but I would always recommend a knife with a synthetic handle for hygiene reasons.
There is always the chance with wood, bone, and antler that they will soak up contaminants and pose a hygiene risk if you are using them to prepare food.
There is less chance of this with impervious synthetic materials. Plastic, G10 or metal handles are all preferable to micarta, wood or bone on the handle of a pocket knife.
Because the handle of a folding hunting knife will be more than just a handle, it will house the blade when it is folded and possibly contain additional blades and other tools there will be plenty of nooks and crannies for dirt and grime to get lodged in.
For this reason, the knife should be made of a material that you can clean easily. So on top of an impervious synthetic handle material a stainless steel or titanium frame would be advisable to avoid rust forming from repeated thorough washing.
I would always recommend and prefer a stainless steel blade in a pocket knife, the term ‘stainless steel’ is a bit of an exaggeration, it’s not really ‘stainless’, it does stain less but it’s not stained free and you will still need to care for your stainless steel knife by cleaning it properly and oiling it occasionally.
What makes the stainless steels ‘stainless’ is the fact that it contains chromium, normally at least ten percent although it will vary slightly from manufacturer to manufacturer.
The advantages that stainless steel gives is some additional protection from rust and corrosion, which means it will stand up to regular cleaning better and therefore be more hygienic.
Yes, a carbon steel knife will do the same job as a stainless steel knife but just for ease of maintenance and hygiene stainless is always what I would recommend for a pocket knife.
Suggested steels for pocket knife blades
It’s worth considering that it’s just as important that your knife performs other tasks on camping trips as well as what can be accomplished with a knife. Useful tools might include;
Top 5 the Best Pocket Knives
My edc (every day carry) folding knife since I was eighteen years old when my parents bought it for me. As a gamekeeper and deer stalker (professional deer hunter) by trade I find it useful to have a knife that is dedicated to hunting and which includes a dedicated gutting blade as well as a large plain edge knife blade and other tools.
The large saw is another useful addition and can make fabricating extra tent pegs or cut a walking stick very easy.
Böker Tech Tool
The tech tool series by böker are a great alternative to victorinox pocket knives, they come with a pocket clip but I prefer to carry knives of this size in my pocket and they come with a strong lanyard ring which allows you to carry them on a lanyard.
The larger versions even come with pliers and the sharp hollow ground blade is ideal for the basic camp tasks of opening food packets, basic food prep and even a bit of whittling around the camp fire.
Cold Steel Finn Wolf
A no-frills single bladed folding knife, the robust Scandinavian ground blade is almost trying to be an alternative to a fixed blade bushcraft knife and is a great alternative to a fixed blade for camp chores like firewood preparation on a camping trip.
The locking mechanism cold steel uses is just about the strongest in the industry too.
This one actually breaks my preference for stainless steel blades on a knife for hunting but is on the list because of its affordability and great performance.
I bought the peasant knife when they first became available in the UK as I had been really impressed with one I had borrowed while working in New Zealand.
I’ve used it for just about everything from whittling, to skinning and butchering deer. It has no mechanical lock but instead has a tang which folds flush with the handle when open and with the hand squeezed tight around it is impossible to close and therefore very safe.
SOG Power Assist
Perhaps an unorthodox choice but I am rarely without my multitool, it’s not the smallest or lightest on the market but it comes with a robust belt pouch so it doesn’t have to weigh down your pockets.
The name power assist comes from fact that the knife blades on this multitool have an assisted opening feature which snaps them into place with just a gentle flick on the thumb stud on the back of the blade.
It also has other useful features including can and bottle openers a Philips screw driver and a ‘v’ belt cutter. The multiple tools give me everything I need to adjust or tighten camp stoves, repair tent poles and do a multitude of camp tasks.