What is the best knife for wild camping?
An all-purpose knife is such a useful tool when you’re wild camping in the glorious British countryside.
It could help you make shelter, cut firewood, butcher game, and prepare foraged vegetables. So, what’s the best knife for wild camping and what do you need to know to ensure you carry it legally?
How will you be using your knife?
Make a list of what you’ll need a knife for so you can make an informed decision about the best blade for you. Will you be…?
- Clearing the campsite of scrub and bracken
- Cutting firewood
- Cutting branches and trees to make a shelter
- Digging for edible roots while foraging
- Butchering game
- Cleaning fish
- Preparing food
- Making other tools like walking sticks
Ask yourself what sort of blade would be useful in those activities? Will you need a serrated blade for sawing wood? Will you need a hooked knife or multi tool to gut game or fish?
Do you need a locking or a folding knife or a fixed blade?
When deciding whether you need a folding, locking, or fixed blade knife, consider the experience of the person who’s going to use it, and the amount of space you have in your backpack.
Some compact knives have folding blades which fold into the handles when not in use, others have a locking mechanism that keeps the blade in place when open and closed. When a locking knife is closed, its sharp blade is concealed in the handle.
If you’re not experienced in using a camping knife, many people would suggest a locking blade as it is seen as being than a fixed blade.
What does the law say about having a wild camping knife?
In Britain, if you have a bladed or pointed article in a public place, you could be committing an offence (under section 139 of the Criminal Justice Act, 1988).
There are exemptions to this. Any non-locking folding knives measuring under three inches are exempt, as is carrying a knife for work purposes, or being part of a religious or national dress. If you can prove you have good reason or lawful authority to carry the knife, that is also exempt.
Find out more about what the law says on knives.
For wild campers, the most useful exemption is having a knife for a lawful purpose. The length of the knife you carry should be determined by the use you’ll make of it. For example, for food preparation, bushcraft, and general use.
The onus is on a wild camper to prove they have a knife for a lawful purpose, so ensure you keep it in its packaging and with the receipt when you take it home, keep it with the tent when you make camp, and don’t keep it in your pocket. If you plan to take it foraging or use a bivvy and don’t have a tent, be prepared to explain what you use it for and how you store it safely.
If you’re planning to make a shelter and need a knife for bushcraft, keep it packed away and safe, never use it in built up areas, never leave it on the back seat of your car, and if the authorities question you, be friendly at all times and be prepared to give it up if they wish to seize it.
The authorities would not accept any reason for possessing a combat knife, Kukri knife, or machete as we don’t have bears in the UK, you (probably) aren’t a Gurkha, and there is no jungle! The police also take a dim view of gravity knives or knives where the point or blade is not made from metal. Don’t leave a knife in a vehicle, either, as this is technically a public place in law.
The takeaway: Don’t take any knife wild camping that you don’t really need and won’t be able to justify having to the police.
Should you have a compact knife, fixed blade knife, or multi-tool?
When you go on your wild camping trip, what sort of knife would be the most useful to pack in your backpack?
Benefits of a compact knife – Ideal for typical use around a campsite and it doesn’t take up too much room in your backpack. It stores away securely in a sheath, and you can choose a folding knife or locking knife.
Benefits of a fixed blade – Perfect for tougher tasks like cutting down branches and trimming sticks, this has a more robust blade and a stronger grip.
Benefits of a multi tool – The versatile option with blades, pliers, springs, and other tools to help you make camp in the wild. Multi tools can also be a lightweight addition to your hiking gear.
How much should you spend on a knife for wild camping?
There are several options available to you, from just a few pounds to more than £100. To know how much you should spend, decide how long you’d like to keep the knife in good use, whether you expect to use it for one or two years, or want it to last a lifetime.
If you want it to last for many years, look for a knife that is rust resistant and titanium bonded, and ensure you also have a good leather sheath in which to keep it and an appropriate sharpener. Look for an ergonomically designed handle to ensure you can grip it easily and use it comfortably, reducing the risk of injury and cutting the risk of damage to the blade.
Here are some of the best wild camping knives we’ve found…
Gerber STL 2.5 Fine Edge Pocket Knife – This lightweight locking knife has a comfortable handle, so it’s easy to stow this away safely in your backpack and carry it on a long hike. It’s ideal for preparing food and general campsite use. Retails for £20.34.
RYOBI RFK25T Compact Folding Knife – The perfect choice if you have a small space in your hiking gear, and ideal for general use around your campsite including cutting rope and slicing food. This aluminium knife has an integrated glass breaker and strap cutter. Retails for £22.70.
Camillus CenterFire 30-30 Folding Knife – This non-slip, rust-resistant folding knife is bonded with carbonitride titanium, a substance which is harder than untreated steel. It also has an ergonomically designed handle for easy use. Retails for £29.07.
STANLEY FATMAX Premium Pocket Knife – A lightweight folding knife made from stainless steel and aluminium, this is durable and has a serrated and a smooth edge, making it an ideal knife for typical use around a campsite. Retails for £19.47.
Fixed blade knives
Gerber Moment Fixed Blade Knife – Perfect for butchering game and doing the rougher tasks around camp. This fine edged blade has a textured rubber handle for easy grip, it’s balanced well, and will stand up to long-term use. It comes with a sheath. Retails for £30.10.
Camillus VEIL Fixed Blade Knife – This titanium-bonded, rust resistant knife has a gut hook for gutting game and fish, and an easy grip handle. It comes with a protective sheath to ensure it will last you for years. Retails for £18.93.
Gerber Ultimate Knife – This is the ultimate multi-purpose, non-slip fixed blade knife for a camping trip, perfect for bushcraft. There is a comfortable handle for easy grip, a semi-serrated blade so you can slice and saw, and it comes with a multi-functional sheath with a sharpener, fire steel, and whistle. Retails for £62.91.
Camillus Western Black River Fixed Blade Knife – A titanium-bonded stainless steel fixed blade knife with a non-slip grip and ergonomic design. An ideal tool for general campsite use, bushcraft, and foraging. Retails for £19.48.
Victorinox Hiker Swiss Army Pocket Knife – Perfect for bushcraft, food preparation, and general camping use with 13 different functions. It has two blades, one large and one small, a can opener, three screwdrivers, a bottle opener, a wire stripper, a reamer, a wood saw, toothpick, and tweezers, so it can cope with most tasks during a hike or in your camp. There’s a lifetime guarantee for this Swiss-made stainless-steel knife. Retails for £23.37.
Swiss Eagle Multi-Tool Army Knife – Compact, durable, and packed full of useful tools. This lightweight knife has ultra-sharp blades, a metal saw, a magnifying glass, precision screwdrivers, pliers, a wire cutter, a wood saw, and a compass. Swiss-manufacturing with precision quality also makes this a sound investment. Retails at £24.99.
Honzin Swiss Style Multi-Function Pocket Knife – With 11 functions, this is an excellent budget option for wild campers. It includes a hacksaw, screwdriver, scissors, bottle opener, and a durable steel blade. Its handle is ergonomically designed and is slip-resistant. Retails at £9.99.
Victorinox Swiss Champ Swiss Army Pocket Knife – With a whopping 33 functions, this is the daddy of all multi-tools. It has a large and a small blade, a corkscrew, a mini screwdriver, a reamer, a punch and sewing awl, a can opener, a 3mm screwdriver, a bottle opener, a 6mm screwdriver, a wire stripper, scissors, pliers, a wire cutter, a wire crimping tool, a fish scaler, a hook disgorger, rulers, a wood saw, a nail file, a nail cleaner, a metal saw, a metal file, a magnifying glass, a Phillips screwdriver, a 25mm screwdriver, 4mm chisel, a multipurpose hook, a toothpick, tweezers, a pressurised ballpoint pen, and a pin. There’s also a lifetime guarantee against any defects in material and workmanship. Retails at £67.30.
Going to be walking on a long-distance hike? Make sure you look for a lightweight wild camping knife that won’t make your backpack feel heavy.
Although a knife is a relatively small item, when you add it to your cooking gear, tent, sleeping bag, food, and water, it can all add up to discomfort and shoulder pain. For an ultra-lightweight all-purpose blade, try the Gerber Para Frame Mini Knife which is a locking blade that retails for £17.74. It weighs just 45 grams thanks to its clever cut-out handle design.
Just starting out with wild camping? Here are some brilliant starter locations for you wherever you are in the UK.
So, now you’ve got your camping knife and a great idea for some stunning wild camping locations, all that’s left is to pack your rucksack, pull on those walking boots, and get out there!