What is the Best Bushcraft Knife?
Bushcraft is a term that is gaining popularity lately. It's about learning and using wilderness skills. With so much of our world being disconnected from nature these days, it's not hard to see why more people are turning to learning bushcraft.
There is a wide variety of bushcraft gear out there to choose from and cutting tools are no exception. A good knife is one of the most important tools you will need when heading out into the wilderness. I hope to help you look for certain features when you are trying to decide what is the best bushcraft knife.
I've comprised a list of the features that I feel like you need to think about when deciding on which bush knives to buy. As with anything, everyone has their own criteria on what makes a great blade and opinions will vary but let's take a look at my list.
Best Bushcraft Knife 2017 Guide
Brand & Model
O-1 Carbon Tool Steel
1095 Carbon Steel
1095 Cro-Van Steel
1095 Carbon Steel
High Carbon Steel or Stainless Steel?
The majority of bushcraft knife blades are either made with high carbon steel or with stainless steel. You're going to have to decide which one you like as it will help you determine the best knives for you. Both steel materials have their pros and cons. Let's take a look at each.
High Carbon Steel - High carbon steel has a few advantages over stainless steel. First, is that if there is enough carbon in the blade it will throw a good spark when you strike something like flint against the spine. This basically gives you another source of fire.
The most common high carbon steel used in bushcraft knives is 1095. The 95 in this means that the material is comprised of 95% carbon. There are some knives that have less as in the 1075 material that Condor uses. The 1075 will have a much harder time throwing a spark than the 1095 material will. It is ,however, cheaper.
The best high carbon steel in bush knives are the ones that use O1 Tool Steel. O1 is tougher and will hold an edge better than 1075 or 1095. However, it's also the most expensive of the three so keep that in mind if you are on a budget.
Another advantage of high carbon steel is that it generally holds an edge better and is easier to sharpen than stainless steel. This advantage isn't as great as it used to be because the stainless steel alloys have gotten better. But it still does exist.
The big disadvantage to high carbon steel is that it will rust easier. You need to protect the blade with oil and possible a patina. I suggest using a food grade oil to protect the blade if you plan on using your blades in food preparation. If you are going to be in a wet environment consistently then I'd suggest you go with a stainless steel knife blade.
Stainless Steel - The other blade that makes up the majority of the bush craft knife market is stainless steel. There are several different kinds of stainless steels out there and it seems each manufacture makes their own special mixture.
The advantage of stainless steel is that is has much better corrosion resistance properties when compared to high carbon steel. It doesn't need the maintenance and care when using it wet environment.
It also can throw a spark as well as high carbon steel when using a ferrocerium rod. However, it won't throw a spark when using a fire starter like flint. Also stainless won't be as easy to sharpen as high carbon steel.
Like I said there is several stainless steel mixtures out there so I won't go over each one. However, on the high end you have something like S30V. S30V is double tempered for edge retention and hardness. As you might imagine S30V stainless steel is one of the more expensive steels used in bushcraft blades.
Fixed Blade or Folder?
Another thing you might want to ask yourself is whether or not you want a fixed blade cutting tool or a folding knife. The majority of bush craft blades are fixed blades.
Fixed blades have the advantage of being stronger than folding blades. It just stands to reason that with less moving parts the knife will be more durable. They are better for heavier task jobs around the camp like batoning and splitting down wood.
However, folding knives have the advantage of being able to slip into a pocket for easy carrying. Most folders also do a better job at fine detail work. You are not going to want to baton wood with a folder though or you will risk breaking it.
In the end both have their place. Considering you can buy a cheap folder like an Opinel for around $10 you are probably better off just carrying both styles. That way you have the best of both worlds and also a backup cutting tool which is never a bad thing.
Should my knives be full tang?
If you are going with a fixed blade cutting tool then you are going to have to decide if you want a full tang or rat-tail blade. A full tang blade is one solid piece of steel sandwiched between the handles. This makes it stronger and less likely to break when doing a heavy task like batoning wood.
I rat-tailed blade tapers at the opposite end of the point and goes inside the handle. It's not a great blade to baton with because it could break free from the handle when doing this. I wouldn't recommend a rat-tail for this task because of that. If however, you are carrying an axe to process wood then rat-tailed knives are just fine.
How long of a blade should bushcraft knives have?
The length of the blade on your bush craft knives will depend on what tasks you want to do with them. A shorter length blade like one under 4" is better for fine tasks like carving, notching, and processing small wood.
However, if you are going to use your bushcraft blade to process larger wood, then I'd suggest with going with a cutting tool that is closer to 6" and over. You need the blade to be able to go through the log with enough point sticking out that you can strike on it without damaging the cutting tool.
My personal preference is knives that are somewhere in the middle like 4" to 5" blades. I leave the wood processing to my axe but many bushcrafters like to be able to baton with their knives.
How thick of a blade do I need?
The common thickness for bush craft blade is 1/8", 3/16", and 1/4". Much like the length question, thinner material with be better for the light work around camp while thicker material will be better at the heavy tasks like batoning wood.
If you are only carrying one cutting tool then I'd suggest going with at least a 3/16" thick blade. However, if you followed our example above you could carry a thin folder and thicker fixed blade knife. Another combo might be a thinner Mora Companion or Old Hickory and an axe.
What kind of sheath is included?
Another personal decision for you to decide on is what you want in a sheath. A sheath will help protect your investment. Most knives come with one but you can also make your own. The majority of sheaths are either leather, kydex, plastic, or nylon.
- Leather - Traditionalists like leather sheaths for their looks and durability. A good quality leather sheath will last a long time if taken care of and maintained. A lot of bushcrafters look to a time long ago and leather sheaths were mainly used then.
- Kydex - At the other end of the spectrum is kydex. It's newer technology and it gives a custom fit to your knife. It has nice knife retention and it is weatherproof. One disadvantage is it tends to be noisier when you pull your knife from a kydex sheath.
- Nylon Sheath - Nylon is probably my least favorite sheath. Mainly because they are usually used in cheaper knifes. Nylon tends to stretch over time and sometimes use Velcro closures. Nylon can be fine for your bushcrafting if you make sure to get a quality one.
- Plastic Sheath - Generally plastic sheaths are used on the cheaper budget friendly cutting edges. They tend to be noisier than other sheath materials and don't protect as well as say kydex sheaths. I'd recommend replacing these sheaths when your budget allows it.
What else should I look for?
Well we have covered the main things that I would look for in good bush craft knives but here is a few more things that you might think about.
- 90 degree spines - If you want to be able to throw a good spark from the back of your knife, then you are going to want a blade with a 90 degree spine. You could always grind down any spine to get that 90 degrees but I find it easier to just start out with one made that way.
- Handle Material - Bush knives use several different materials for handles. Wood, G-10, micarta, leather, and paracord are all used on these knives. Mostly your handle choice will be a personal preference based on looks and providing a good grip.
- Accessories - While this doesn't really affect the bush craft blade itself, some knives come with some good accessories or features. They might come with a ferro rod for fire starting or a stone for sharpening. Some have handles setup to handle a bow and drill. These are little things that could swing the balance if it's a close decision. However, most of the time I would just focus my attention on the quality of the cutting tool itself.
Best Bushcraft Knives on a Budget
Bushcrafting and the gear you carry varies from one person to another. Sometimes it's just a difference in personal choice but at other times is comes down to your budget.
Usually something more expensive comes with a little better quality materials, better workmanship, ergonomics, or accessories. How much better is up to the end user - you.
I'll give you my personal choice for the following 3 budget ranges.
Best Bushcraft Knife under $200
Benchmade Bushcrafter Knife
While Benchmade is normally known for their great pocket knives, they also make some excellent bushcraft knives. It is made from high quality stainless steel and also comes with a premium sheath.
If you have the money, you can't go wrong with the Benchmade Bushcrafter. It's the winner of the best bushcraft knife under $200 budget for me.
Check out the full review here. (Coming Soon)
- S-30V Stainless Steel Blade - Rockwell Hardness 58 - 60
- Green G-10 Handle Scales
- 4.43" Blade Length
- Full Tang
- High Ground Drop Point Blade
- Premium Sheath with Ferro Rod Loop
- D-Ring on Sheath to Convert to Dangler
Best Bushcraft Knife Under $100
Ka-Bar Becker BK2 Campanion
The Ka-Bar Becker BK2 Campanion is my best budget bushcraft knife under $100. It's build like a tank and has a lot of features that more expensive knives would have.
Check out the full review here.
- 1095 Carbon Cro-Van Steel
- Full Tang Blade - Exposed on Butt End
- Drop Point Flat Grind Blade
- 1/4" Thick Blade
- Zytel Handle Scales
- Kydex Style Sheath
- Made in USA
- Limited Lifetime Warranty
Best Bushcraft Knife Under $50
Mora Companion Outdoor
Mora knives and budget bushcrafting go hand in hand. It's definitely my best bushcraft knife for under $50.
If this is your price range and you are worried that you won't get much of a cutting tool, think again. Mora knives hold a great edge and won't break the bank. The high carbon steel blade will throw sparks with flint or a ferro rod.
Check out the full review here. (Coming Soon)
- 1095 High Carbon Steel Blade
- 4.1" Rat-tail Blade
- Rubberized Ergonomically Handle
- Plastic Shealth
- Made in Sweden
- Limited Lifetime Warranty
I have given you some of the features that I look at and think about when I'm looking for the best bushcraft knife. Going forward I will be doing my best to provide in-depth reviews of some of the knives that I like and that are popular throughout the bushcrafting community. I'm sure you will find that perfect blade for you before you head out into the wilderness.