Finding a good knife for backpacking is not an easy task. There are way too many knives to choose from online, so someone has to weed out the trash from the good ones. And that's exactly what we did in this detailed review!
From fixed blade knives to multi-tools - expect to find a little bit of everything here. So, whatever you are looking for, you should be able to find something suitable for your needs right here.
At A Glance: Our Top 3 Picks for The Best Backpacking Knives
Since the best backpacking knives can cost quite some money, the knives below are featured in order of price - from the cheaper options, to the ones with steeper price tags. Good to know if you're on a tight budget.
Victorinox Swiss Army Classic SD Pocket Knife
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CRKT Minimalist Tanto Neck Knife
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Opinel Stainless Steel Folding Knife
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Gerber Suspension Multi-Plier
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Condor Swamp Romper
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Spyderco Delica 4
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Buck Knives CSAR-T Responder
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Victorinox Swiss Army Swiss Champ XLT
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Benchmade - Adamas 275 Knife
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The Best Knives For Backpacking
If you’re looking for an affordable Swiss Army knife, then this is your best option. The Victorinox pocket knife is really cheap – depending on the color you want, you can get it for less than $15. And it is still a pretty versatile tool, with several other functions apart from the blade. This Army knife includes a nail file with a (flathead) screwdriver, scissors, tweezers, a toothpick and a key ring. Great for grooming on the go.
The case/handle is only 2.25” long, and it is made from polished ABS plastic. The handle is not really ergonomic, and it is pretty short – people with big hands will struggle to get a good grip on this knife. The blade is also pretty short, so I wouldn’t recommend this knife for cutting through anything too thick.
This is not a rust proof backpacking knife, so you will need to take good care of it to avoid corrosion. The manufacturer actually recommends that you maintain this with knife oil – apply some to the blade (and other tools) whenever you want to clean the knife or get rid of some rust. It should prolong the life of your Swiss Army pocket knife significantly.
The knife that is pictured here has a fixed tanto blade, but there are more options available. In fact, there’s four other types of blade apart from the tanto – bowie, drop point, keramin and wharncliff, all of which are made from the same materials. And none of which are completely impervious to rust, so remember to wipe the blade of your knife before you sheath it again.
The handle of this CRKT knife is ergonomic, and features three finger grooves, as well as texturing on the spine (where your thumb would naturally lie). They ensure that the handle lies comfortably in your hand, and help you make small cuts with great precision. It is the best backpack knife to get if you want to have complete control of the blade, or if your hands are somewhat weak.
You get a glass-reinforced nylon sheath with a belt loop. Which many say is not easy to hook onto your belt, ironically! But you can also wear it around your neck.
However, there’s a good chance that the nylon sheath will become a bit loose over time. I would definitely recommend you get a better one, if you don’t want your knife just slipping out of the sheath and into your lap randomly.
The Opinel folding knife is a classic, and it still has the original design from 1890. It’s a reliable and efficient hiking knife, with a sharp stainless steel blade. You can actually choose the length of the blade you want – the options range from 7cm to 12 cm, and the price varies depending on the length of the blade and the design of the handle. The most expensive version of the knife has a buffalo horn handle, which will set you back over $100. But the plain oak, beech and olive handles are pretty affordable.
The No. 8 is a particularly popular version of the knife, if you’re looking for something that’s been tried and tested – it’s actually rumoured that this was Hemingway’s favorite knife. It will be sharp out of the box and made from modified stainless steel. And, with the addition of chromium, the knife is corrosion resistant too.
The blade on this folding knife is pretty thin, and I wouldn’t recommend it for heavy duty use. But I think it’s just fine for the average backpacker. The safety ring is also made from stainless steel, and it can block the blade in both open and closed positions. So, it is perfectly safe to transport and use.
The handle is not really ergonomic, and the raised end get you into trouble. Additionally, the length of the handle depends on the length of the blade you get, but generally it’s about 3.5” - 4”.
If your backpacking adventures require some serious tools, then forget about foldable knives and Swiss army knives – you need a proper multi tool. And the Gerber Suspension is one of the best choices for a pocket knife (even though it's not). It’s highly practical, compact to carry around, lightweight considering the number of tools you get (yes, even a bottle opener), and pretty affordable on top of all that.
The Suspension model is only about 4” long when folded. It has 12 different functions, with needle-nose pliers at the center of the tool. It has two knives – one is a straight blade, and one serrated.
The entire tool is made from stainless steel so it is not rust proof.
You get a nylon pouch with the Gerber Suspension, but it’s not really a great one. It is pretty basic, and the Velcro strap gets worn out pretty quickly. But, at least it really easy to replace it – especially considering that this is a really small tool when folded.
The weak link of the product are the pliers. It appears that they break easily, whether you’re just trying to cut a zip tie or repairing your car. Try not to apply too much force on them, especially if you’re cut something – use one of the knives instead. Even if you are using them for fishing!
If you want to get a fixed blade knife, the Condor Swamp Romper is a great option. For a backpacking knife has a really sturdy carbon steel blade, which is about 3mm thick. It’s pretty sharp out of the box, but it is not rust proof – you’ll want to take really good care of the blade, to avoid any corrosion. That’s a general downside of carbon steel blades.
The handle is made from walnut, and it is ergonomically shaped. It is long enough that it’s comfortable even for people with large hands.
This backpacking knife comes with a decent leather sheath that has a loop you attach to your belt. In fact, it’s so nice that it’s probably half the price of the knife – meaning that the actual price point of the knife alone would be about $20-25. Also, the sheath features as loop designed to hold a ferro rod – very convenient if you use those.
If you get a brand-new knife, you’ll probably find that the sheath is a bit too tight. That’s completely normal – it will loosen up over time, once you “break it in” a little. Just like your new leather shoes would.
Condor coats the blade to ensure the knife doesn’t rust on its way to you, since it does have to travel overseas. You can remove the sticky substance with some alcohol or solvent, and it will not damage the blade. Actually, it is recommended that you remove the coating before using this fixed blade knife, especially if you’re going to use it on food!
The Delica 4 is a backpacking knife with a folding blade – one of the best-selling knives that Spyderco ever made. The blade locks in both closed and open positions, so you can safely carry it in your pocket. Which you might just have to, since you don’t get any kind of sheath or pouch with this backpacking knife.
The handle is made from fiber reinforced nylon, with stainless steel liners inside. It is textured with spine jimming for good grip, and it’s very sturdy. The shape is not completely ergonomic but still comfortable.
There’s a clip on the handle that allows you to attach this to your pocket or belt, and it is not fixed. It’s held in place with three screws (t6 torx), and there are four places on the handle where you can attach it to.
The flat-ground blade of this backpacking knife is made from VG-10 – stainless steel produced in Japan, with high carbon content. Because of the high carbon content, it is a little more prone to rust then some other Spyderco knives (like the 100% rust proof one that I will tell you about next). But, that’s not something you should be too concerned about, as long as you properly care for your knife – meaning you’re going to wipe it down after every use, and you are not going to expose it to elements for too long.
This is actually a survival knife – initially designed for soldiers, so that they could defend themselves in case of a personal attack at all times, even while in the shower. And there are some features that are included specifically for that purpose, most notably the textured handle that offers amazing grip even in really wet conditions.
The Always Ready Knife (ARK) also features a 100% rust proof blade. If you want to make sure of that yourself, go ahead and put it in salty water overnight. That is a really useful feature for all of you whose backpacking adventures often include rain, snow or just large bodies of water.
It is a really sharp knife, but it has a pretty thin blade. Because of that, you will need to sharpen it sooner rather than later. Especially because the simple act of unsheathing the knife dulls the blade a little – so don’t take it out just to brag to your friends. In addition to that, because the blade is pretty thin and the H1 steel is somewhat softer than other types of steel.
The Spyderco knife comes with a polymer neck sheath and a breakaway ball chain. There is a release button on the sheath, and it takes some getting used to. Maybe practice at home first, in case you actually need to defend yourself with this knife. The chain feels pretty comfortable, and it doesn’t bounce on your chest even when you are running.
Buck Knives is one of those brands that’s been around for ages. And whenever you’re not sure which pocket knife you should get, one of theirs is always a safe option.
This survival knife will arrive to you razor sharp. But that’s not the best thing about the blade – it wasn’t enough for it to be a plain knife blade. So, it also features a notch for bending wire and a thumb stud for smooth opening.
The handle of this knife has even more features, including a reversible carry clip, glass breaker, seatbelt cutter and a hex tool. That’s in addition to its ergonomic and textured design with a finger groove.
It’s not exactly a lightweight knife. At 9.1 ounces, it is heavier than even the multi-tools I showed you. But the weight is not surprising, due to the heavy-duty materials used in this folding knife. Overall, the premium quality and lifetime warranty are definitely reasons to get the CSAR-T Responder, as long as you don’t mind the higher price tag.
I’d say that this is a great pocket knife for pros – it has everything you could possibly need when you’re out on the trails. The knife has 33 different functions, and I’m not going to list all of them - head over to Amazon if you want to see the full list. But I will tell you that those functions include two knife blades, a nail file, a corkscrew, a screwdriver (Philips and Torx), bottle opener and a toothpick – and they’re all made from stainless steel. Talk about functionality.
With this pocket knife, you can be a hero whenever a friend of yours goes – oh I broke a nail, does anybody have a nail file? But you can also remove pretty much any obstacle that you find in your way, and easily open everything except maybe the Pandora box. And that’s only because you shouldn’t do that – but with this knife, you probably could.
Now, since the pocket knife is like a mini toolbox in your pocket, you can’t really expect it to be lightweight or small. It’s not ridiculously heavy – in fact it weighs about as much as an average smartphone. And you carry that with you wherever you go every day. Plus, this knife features a loop, so you can attach this to your carabiner or that keychain clip most modern backpacks have, and have it handy at all times.
It is 3.5 inches (91 mm) long, so it is long enough to fit comfortably in your hand. The handle (case of the knife) is plastic and not rubber, so it doesn’t offer amazing grip. But the length will make it easy to have a firm grip on any one of the 30+ different tools you want to use.
This is a folding knife by Benchmade – a USA company that makes premium tools. They stand by their products with limited lifetime warranty, which pretty much means that they can fix or sharpen your Adamas knife whenever you want. And that’s exactly what you want, for the price you are paying for this folding knife.
The drop point blade of this pocket knife is made from D2 steel – air hardening tool steel with high abrasion and wear resistance. It is not 100% rust proof, but you would have to use it in wet or humid conditions for several months in a row just to begin to experience issues with rust.
The knife features a pocket clip on the handle. You can actually remove the pocket clip and place it on either side of the handle, which is pretty convenient. And you also get a Corudra sheath with a belt loop, so there are several carrying options. The handle is somewhat ergonomic, features slight jimping on the thumb grip area, and it will fit comfortably in your hand.
The blade is very sharp, and it should stay that way for a long time even with heavy use. After some time, you should notice microchipping on the blade – this is actually a common occurrence with D2 steel. If you prefer smooth blade or like to sharpen your knife frequently, then I’m afraid this isn’t the right choice for you.
Picking Out The Best Backpacking Knife For You
How Do You Carry It?
Do you always carry the knife in your pocket, or do you put it in your backpack? Or perhaps you attach it to the exterior of your pack or jeans with a carabiner?
If you prefer to have a knife easily accessible in your pocket, pick up a foldable knife. Because the blade folds into the handle, these are safe to carry around in your pockets, and pretty compact as well. And some of them come with keychain loops, which allow you to secure the knife with a carabiner.
Then, there are also the more serious knives that don’t have foldable blades. These come with a safety sheath, and they are not quite as compact as foldable knives. You can’t really keep them in your pockets – a popular way of carrying these knives is around your neck, or just tucked away safely in your favorite backpack. With some of these knives, the safety latches will have loops or holes for a carabiner, se be on the lookout for those.
If you’re getting a sheathed knife, you need to pay attention to the material of the sheath. Is it fully waterproof? Because if it is not, your knife will get rusty a lot quicker than it should. Aim for something plastic and sturdy. And in cases where you get a nylon or a leather sheath, consider getting something better.
What About Versatility?
What is a great backpacking knife for you? Is it one that weighs less than an ounce and has a really sharp blade, or a utility knife with over 20 different tools?
It’s simple really – think about what you will use the knife for. But be real – the chances that you will actually have to split a log in two or defend yourself from a wild animal are equal to the chances or me giving up sugar. It is possible theoretically, but it’s not going to happen.
Think about the mundane stuff – do you use your knife more frequently to cut cords and kindling, or is it mostly opening food packets? Or is it for starting a fire? If it’s the first, I would recommend a lightweight knife with a big and sharp blade. It will cut through thick rope and tree branches easier than a utility knife.
But on the other hand, if you actually need more tools on your backpacking trips, it’s better to bring an army knife or a multi-tool than just a bunch of different tools. Maybe you need a can opener or a corkscrew – and you can those in one sturdy Swiss knife. Just bear in mind that the blades on these are rarely as sharp and sturdy as the blades of proper pocket knives.
How Much Are You Willing To Pay?
It goes without saying, but good backpacking knives can cost a lot of money. I will show you some knives that are pretty affordable, and those are a good option for you if you don’t really use a knife too often when you’re out in the woods. And that’s okay – you don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on something you’ll use maybe once every couple of months.
On the other hand, if you hit the trails more often, you will want to pay more to get a more reliable knife. Perhaps on that is rust proof, or has an ergonomic handle – features that will make your life just a little bit easier. And that make up for the knife’s higher price tag.
A good Swiss army knife with 20+ tools can easily set you back more than $200. But it will also be your go-to knife for years, if not decades.
So, think about what your budget is, and try to find a knife that’s within your budget. I will sort the review by price, so the first few knives you see should be good cheap options. And those towards the end have price tags in the triple digits.
Gloves Or No Gloves?
There’s two types of people – those who always wear gloves when they’re backpacking, especially when handling knives, and those who just don’t. If you’re the latter type, you need to take a good look at the handle of the knife.
Is it slippery? Will it fit comfortably in your hands? Size is really important here – if you have large hands and get a knife with a teeny tiny handle, you won’t be able to use it.
Also, look for knives that have textured handles or finger grooves – they are pretty much designed for people who don’t wear gloves, as they offer great grip.
When you don’t have good grip on a knife, or the handle is too small, it’s much more likely that the knife will slip and you’ll wind up cutting yourself. And that’s the one thing we want to avoid.
Best Backpacking Knives in 2019: Our Top Picks
Not quite sure which one of these is the best option for you? Here are our top three picks!
Oh, and I’ll focus mostly on foldable knives, since they are usually the go-to option for backpacking, due to convenience. But if you really want to get a fixed blade knife, feel free to pick up one that was features in this review – all of them are tried, tested and rated very highly.
The best value for money is the Opinel No. 8 – the knife that is rumoured to have been the favorite knife of Hemingway. It is very reasonably priced, especially if you go for one of the basic handle options, like beech or olive. The No. 8 in particular is an international best seller – the blade is long enough for most backpacking activities that would require you to use a knife, and so is the handle – enough to ensure you’ll have great grip and precision.
- This essential tool is unchanged since 1890 and is a must have for outdoorsmen and handymen alike
- The Stainless Virobloc safety ring has two sections, one fixed and one sliding for secure locking
If you’re a seasoned backpacker and you want a premium knife, I would suggest you go with the Buck Knives CSAR-T Responder. It has excellent corrosion resistance, thanks to high content of chromium in the steel blade. Which is certainly useful, if you tend to go on adventures in humid areas. The handle is textured and ergonomic for great grip and precision, and long enough to fit comfortably in your hand. The knife is actually pretty versatile, with the glass breaker, hex tool, seatbelt cutter and a notch for bending wire, all integrated into its design.
- RAZOR SHARP, CORROSION RESISTANT - 3 1/2 " Modified tanto blade with Zirblast finish holds up to piercing, scraping, and prying tough materials. The 154CM steel provides excellent edge retention, corrosion resistance
- STURDY, VERSATILE - The blade includes a notch for bending wire, and a thumb stud for smooth one hand opening. A hex tool is incorporated into the handle for added versatility. 5 1/4" Closed Length, 7. 0 oz. ; Carry Weight 9. 3 oz.
If you’re looking for something versatile, I’d have to go with the Victorinox Swiss Army Champ XLT. With more than 30 functions in one tool, it’s hard to imagine that you’ll ever need to bring a separate tool on your backpacking trip. It’s pretty lightweight, considering everything you get in it – 6.5 ounces for more than 30 tools is a good weight. Especially because all of them are made from stainless steel, with decent corrosion resistance. Additionally, the Victorinox multi-knife features a loop, so that you can attach it to your keychain or a carabiner, and always have it handy.
- Sport type: Camping & Hiking
If you’re thinking about getting one of these knives, head over to Amazon to check out the prices. You can also see the options for the length of blade or handle design, wherever available.
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