When it comes to backpacking, every ounce of luggage counts.
This is especially true for longer trips where a pound’s worth of items it will feel like ten after some time on the trail.
When you’re out alone in the wilderness, you need the right tools to keep you company. That’s probably the exact reason why you’re looking for the best backpacking knife.
You’re trying to keep your hiking backpack as lightweight as possible, so you only want to carry around the tools you know you can truly rely on.
Before you purchase anything, you need to make some considerations about what really makes a knife the best knife for backpacking.
Everyone has different requirements when they travel and stay outdoors. A knife like this is a personal decision – only you can really know what kinds of tools will make your life easier when you’re backpacking.
It’s time to hit the drawing board and consider the way you travel and find a knife that meets all of your criteria.
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- How Will You Use Your Backpacking Knife?
- The Importance of a Backpacking Knife
- Finding the Best Backpacking Knife
- Choosing the Best Backpacking Knife
- Top 20 Best Backpacking Knives
- Kershaw 1990 Brawler
- Kershaw Cryo
- StatGear Pocket Samurai Folding Knife
- Benchmade Mini Crooked River
- Spyderco Endura4 Folding Knife
- Victorinox Swiss Army Huntsman Pocket Knife
- Stansport Campers Multi Tool
- Gerber Suspension Multi-Plier
- Leatherman Wingman
- Victorinox Swiss Army SwissChamp Pocket Knife
- SE KHK6320 Outdoor Tanto Knife
- Rogue River 6-in-1 Survival Knife
- OutNowTech VANTAGE Multi-Purpose Folding Pocket Knife
- Gerber Bear Grylls Ultimate Pro Knife
- Schrade SCHF16 Full Tang Neck Knife
- SOG Snarl Fixed Blade Neck Knife
- Ka-Bar Fighting/Utility Serrated Edge Knife
- Morakniv Bushcraft Fixed Blade Knife
- Schrader SCHF9 Stainless Steel Fixed Blade
- Buck 692BR Vanguard Fixed Blade Knife
- Making The Final Decision
How Will You Use Your Backpacking Knife?
Many backpackers prefer tools that serve multiple purposes. Versatile tools cut down the amount of weight you’ll be carrying with you, which is vastly helpful if you intend to travel and hike for a long time.
If you need to fish and camp and start fires while you’re out, you want to be able to do that with as few tools as possible.
The best knife for backpacking will incorporate a few implements that will handle a wide variety of things.
The amount of functions is very important.
Complicated knives tend to be a little more expensive, but it’s less expensive and less weighty than purchasing all of these tools separately. This means you could also want to take a look at some of the best multitools for backpacking that we have reviewed.
You’re getting a better value and a knife that’s useful in many ways.
The Importance of a Backpacking Knife
Your knife is easily one of the most important (and versatile) tools that you should always have when backpacking.
With a proper knife, you’ll have no problem doing the following tasks:
- Cutting rope and cord – Whether it’s for emergency or utility purposes, there will be times when you’ll need a specific length of rope.
- Preparing food – Need to open food packets or prepare meat and fruits? A knife makes things a lot easier.
- Preparing campfire – You can easily shave off branches for kindling and split branches with a trusty backpacking knife.
- Jury Rigging – Did you forget to bring a tent stake or a walking stick? Need to patch something with a specific size of cut fabric? Use your backpacking knife to make them.
- Making fire – If you lost a striker for your fire steel, you can always use the back of your knife in a pinch.
- First aid – You may need a knife to cut things for first aid ranging from moleskin pads (for blisters) to wood and pieces of clothing (for making splints).
Think that’s a lot?
It doesn’t matter how long or short the trip is; you’d want to have a backpacking knife with you at all times.
Finding the Best Backpacking Knife
The best backpacking knife will have a lot of capabilities that other knives won’t. Most knives are designed to cut, but backpacking knives are designed to help you in the event of an emergency.
The best hiking knife will give you a few more options than merely cutting or sawing.
What kind of knife should you bring with you?
Unlike in the kitchen where you have the luxury of having an entire selection of blades to choose from, you can’t be carrying a lot of knives when backpacking.
There are different types of outdoor knives, each of them with its own strong points. Let’s take a quick look at the most common aspects you should keep in mind:
A knife with a 12-inch blade will be virtually impossible to carry around with you. That’s why backpackers hardly ever carry things like machetes if they’re going to be traveling for a long time.
A one-inch blade is too small to do you any favors, even though it will be easy to carry around. You’ll want a mid-sized blade, especially if you’re looking to get a fixed blade hunting knife.
Your knife is very important, but you don’t want it to crowd your backpack.
You want to optimize all of your gear for travel, and the best way to do that is by picking a knife that’s fully equipped with helpful gadgets.
Many knives include things like bottle openers or glass breakers on the end. While these features are helpful in everyday life, they may not be especially useful while backpacking.
Look for knives that include things like scissors and can openers. These are things you’ll probably use a lot, and if they’re included with your knife, you won’t need to carry them separately.
The wrong knife can cut right through your bag, spilling the contents down the hill. Whatever knife you choose needs to be able to close securely.
If you want a fixed blade knife, you’ll need to pick one with a sheath made of reliable material. Nylon never lasts long. The fibers become weak from the edges of the knife rubbing against the threads, eventually cutting through them.
You’ll need a leather sheath that closes securely to properly protect the blade, your bag, and yourself.
Reaching into a bag with an unsheathed knife is very dangerous. You can get cut, and the belongings in your bag can become destroyed.
Some knives come with plastic carrying cases, and others fold and safely lock. This is what you should be looking for.
Traveling with Your Backpacking Knife
If you keep a knife in your carry-on backpack and you intend to board a plane, that knife is going to be confiscated.
If you’re going to fly with your knife, it needs to be put into your checked luggage. Knives are safe below the plane, as long as you follow a few safety conditions.
These knives must be perfectly sheathed or have their blades wrapped for the safety of airport security personnel.
Now let’s talk more about the blades in these best backpacking knives.
Choosing the Best Backpacking Knife
Single Blade Folding Knives
Simple but effective, these knives feature a single blade that can be tucked away into the handle when not in use. They’re very portable and lightweight.
These are widely considered as the safest options because they don’t take up much space and they’re still rugged enough for moderate knife work.
Multi-Tools and Multi-Blade Knives
If you’re looking for a lot of versatility then these knives make the best backpacking knives. The most common examples of these ones are Swiss Army knives and those combination knife/pliers.
These make sure you have all the necessities.
Multipurpose Survival Knives
While these may not have as many features as multi-tools, they do have more options than a typical single-blade folding knife.
Many survival knives come with a built-in whistle (for easier location) and fire steel or small flashlights.
A survival knife is the best knife for backpacking if you want some versatility without being too bulky.
If you expect to use your knife a lot, then a neck knife is the best backpacking knife for you.
As their name implies, neck knives are stored in a sheath secured around your neck with a cord.
Because neck knives can be pulled out and stored faster than any other knife, many people end up using neck knives more often than other kinds of knives.
Fixed Sheath Knives
When it comes to heavy knife work like cutting through large branches or even digging on the ground, nothing comes close to sheathed knives.
Strapped to the hip belt or on your back, a sheath knife is the best, fixed blade knife for backpacking in terms of durability and cutting power.
Some people prefer having a sheath knife for more rugged applications and a neck knife for lighter tasks.
Choosing the best hiking knife can be confusing, especially with hundreds of different knives to choose from.
To help you start your search, we came up with a list of some of the most popular knives you can find online.
If you’re looking for the best hiking knife, below are the top contenders. All of the best backpacking knives on the market have unique features and are designed to be used in innovative ways.
Your knife is going to be more than just a tool – it’s going to be your companion when you’re out in the world. However, you must also take care of it at all times, and learning the best way to sharpen a pocket knife will help you a lot. Also, you need the right tools for that, so take a look at the best knife sharpeners we have reviewed.
These are all knives you can count on to carry you through your day-to-day life as a backpacker.
Top 20 Best Backpacking Knives
Kershaw 1990 Brawler
At first glance, the Brawler has all the makings of the best knife for camping and hiking; it’s compact, lightweight, and it’s even long enough to serve as a self-defense knife.
The Tanto point edge makes it an excellent tool for piercing and cutting through all but the thickest materials you’ll come across during your trip.
When folded, the Brawler measures a little over 4 inches – not bad for a medium-length blade.
This knife also features a clip that can be attached to the left or right side so you can have quick access to it whether you’re right or left-handed.
- Fits almost anywhere.
- Ambidextrous clip attachment.
- Easy to maintain.
- Might need to switch to a bigger/tougher blade for heavier knife work.
If you want something a bit shorter than the Brawler, you should consider getting the Kershaw Cryo. Like the Brawler, the Cryo also features the SpeedSafe opening mechanism that lets you open the blade with just one hand.
It features a much shorter blade at 2.75 inches, but it’s good enough for most of the knife work you can expect during backpacking.
The jumping on the top and bottom part of the Cryo’s handle gives the much-needed traction when pushing or slicing on tougher materials.
While the metal used for the blade isn’t the toughest one, a few minutes on a diamond stone should be more than enough to get its edge back.
- More compact than the brawler.
- Excels at making slices on softer material.
- Solid build and good-looking gray finish.
- A bit heavy for its length.
- Metal edge wears out easily under heavy usage (but it can easily be sharpened).
StatGear Pocket Samurai Folding Knife
At less than an ounce, this is one very, very light weight knife. But it doesn’t end there.
The StatGear Pocket Samurai Folding Knife also manages to be very strong, sharp and easy to carry, making it an ideal option for ultralight backpacking.
It doesn’t have a million functions, but if a knife is what you need, a knife is what you get.
- Very lightweight, in part due to the titanium handle, this knife weighs less than an ounce.
- 5cm blade is long enough for most basic knife requirements.
- Comes with a pocket clip for easy transportation.
- Stainless Steel Tanto blade is sharp and strong.
- May be a little small for some uses.
- Pricey for such a small knife.
Benchmade Mini Crooked River
Designed for hunting, this is a strong knife with a comfortable handle and a compact, fold-away design.
Designed to be well balanced and safe to use, this knife can be opened and closed with one hand.
It is very expensive, but if you’re looking for the best, then the Benchmade Mini Crooked River could be the only knife you’ll ever need to own.
- Stainless steel blade is 3.4” long, strong, sharp and rust resistant.
- Stabilized wood handle is durable and long lasting.
- Well balanced design results in good tip control and.
- Limited Lifetime Warranty and LifeSharp Servicing provides for all repair and sharpening needs.
- Very expensive.
Spyderco Endura4 Folding Knife
Spyderco are another reliable brand of knife makers who produce affordable, good quality knives.
The Endura4 is no exception.
Its fantastic value for money makes this a great beginner knife that will perform all basic camp kitchen tasks with ease. It comes with a pocket clip and a fine, non-serrated, 3.75” blade that is sharp and strong.
- Good value for money.
- 6 oz is a reasonable weight for a knife this size.
- Convenient fold-away design.
- Ergonomic wood handle is comfortable.
- Folding knives are never quite as strong as fixed blade knives, but this knife is still pretty strong.
Victorinox Swiss Army Huntsman Pocket Knife
Many people swear by Swiss Army knives, particularly because of the number of functions that come in one small case.
This is a lightweight Swiss army knife that comes with 15 basic functions that any backpacker would be glad to have.
It comes in different colors, and all of the blades and tools are made out of high-quality stainless steel.
- The largest blade is about two and a half inches long, which is the perfect length for cleaning a small fish to prepare a meal.
- Features a saw blade for cutting through thin pieces of wood or creating tinder for a fire.
- Includes can openers, bottle openers, and even scissors.
- Doesn’t come with a Firestarter.
Stansport Campers Multi Tool
There’s never been anything better for backpackers who sleep outdoors. This is more than just a knife – it’s a complete campsite multi-tool with everything you’d need to handle outdoor work.
This tool is ten inches long, so it will fit perfectly in your bag. It even comes with a belt clip so you can wear it while you’re hiking.
It comes with both a straight blade knife and a mini saw in addition to its other tools.
- This is one of few multi tools on the market that comes with an ax and a hammer. You can cut down wood and hammer tent stakes into the ground without switching tools.
- The included knives are perfect for fishermen. You can fillet a fish and even cut through bones with the saw blade.
- Comes with a secure safety lock to keep the knives inside of the casing while you’re carrying the tool.
- The amount of other tools included makes this multi-tool heavy.
Gerber Suspension Multi-Plier
With 15 tools for almost anything you might have to do while backpacking, it’s not surprising that the Gerber Suspension is considered by many to be one of the best hiking knives.
Most of the tools can be accessed without having to open the pliers, and the thumb catch lets you do it with just one hand.
When not in use, the Suspension sits perfectly in its own pouch that can be attached to your belt for easy access.
At a good price, you get a lot of value out of this versatile backpacking knife.
- Has all the necessary tools you might need.
- Good overall build.
- Ergonomic; tools can be accessed with one hand.
- Slightly heavier than usual.
- Bulky; takes a lot of bag space so it’s almost always in its own pouch when not in use.
Beginners that want to keep all their bases covered when backpacking will like the Leatherman Wingman.
Lightweight and compact, the Wingman is portable enough to store anywhere while still sporting 14 tools for almost any tasks that might need tools while you’re out there.
If you want the Wingman somewhere more accessible, it comes with a clip that lets you attach it to your belt. Like the Suspension, the Wingman lets you access most of its tools with just one hand.
With no major downsides, this is a solid, jack-of-all-trades option.
- Lightweight despite number of features.
- Clips on belt easily.
- Great price.
- Has only one edge.
- The single edge may be too short for some applications.
Victorinox Swiss Army SwissChamp Pocket Knife
If you really want a one-and-done solution to all of your backpacking needs and you can appreciate the construction of a top-notch Swiss army knife, the SwissChamp is going to be the one for you.
This one comes with 32 tools made out of stainless steel, and 3 of them are knives.
- This Swiss army knife includes a lot of tools that backpackers who fish for food would find particularly useful, including pliers, a fish scaler, and a hook disgorger.
- Comes with two straight blades and one saw blade.
- Attachments like can openers and chisels are always handy at a campsite.
- Since this knife comes with so many other tools, it’s a little on the heavy side.
SE KHK6320 Outdoor Tanto Knife
This is a smaller knife, but it packs a big punch. It features a 3-inch blade, and the overall length of the knife comes in at 7 inches.
It’s full tang and designed to be rugged. The traditional tanto point can be used for a lot of things, including preparing meals.
This is a lightweight slim profile knife that would make a great addition to any backpacking trip.
- The handle is wrapped through with a lightweight cord to improve the grip. If you ever needed to, you could unwrap the cord from the handle of the knife to use it for campsite tasks.
- Comes with a magnesium alloy fire starter that’s good for thousands of strikes. You should never go out alone without a fire starter.
- The back of the knife doubles as a small saw. You can cut through logs with it, though larger logs may take a longer time. It’s the perfect size to cut medium sized branches that could be used to create an impromptu shelter.
- Included sheath is made of nylon. You might want to get a better one. Since the knife is so affordable, it’s still worth purchasing even if you do need a separate sheath.
Rogue River 6-in-1 Survival Knife
This multi-purpose knife may only have one blade, but the combination edge lets it chew through wood with relative ease while still having enough precision to cut more delicate material such as food or fabric.
It also comes with a dedicated belt cutter for quickly cutting snagged cords in case of an emergency and a LED flashlight, as well as a magnesium fire starter to help you set up a heat source anywhere you can find kindling.
The best thing about this knife is that it works well even when not on the trail.
The belt cutter will help you free yourself in case you get caught by a stuck seatbelt, and the window breaker lets you break out of a car through tempered glass with minimal injuries.
- Includes a flashlight and fire-starter.
- Combination edge works on almost any material.
- The blade can be tucked away safely like other folding knives.
- Size keeps it from being a true everyday carry knife.
- LED light rattles a bit.
OutNowTech VANTAGE Multi-Purpose Folding Pocket Knife
While most survival knives have the LED light as a standard feature, few of them have the lights as completely detachable.
This means you can use the flashlight without having to hold the entire weight of the knife.
This may not seem much, but if you’re cutting something in the dark, you’d want to have the light coming from somewhere else rather than your knife handle.
The main blade has a sleek, matte black finish and features a cord cutter and a bottle opener.
A partially serrated edge makes sure it can cut through tougher materials while still being precise when it counts.
- Detachable LED.
- Has all the necessities usually found in multi tools.
- Sleek black finish.
- You have to be specific if you want a left or right-handed variant (to determine belt clip location).
Gerber Bear Grylls Ultimate Pro Knife
We’ve all heard of Bear Grylls and most are familiar with his brand. It stands to reason that anyone, as dedicated to survival as Grylls, should have his priorities straight when designing a knife.
Looking at the specs, it does seem as though he’s thought of everything.
With a 4.8 inch fine-edge blade and nearly as many functions as the multi-tool knives above, this knife may just be worth its high price point. And, it even comes with a “Priorities of Survival” pocket guide.
- Military grade nylon sheath includes pull-through blade sharpener.
- Full Tang stainless steel is durable and strong.
- Includes built in fire starter in waterproof holder.
- A lanyard with emergency whistle allows the knife to be worn around the neck if desired.
- Pricey, but if you’re a fan of the brand then the money may be justified.
Schrade SCHF16 Full Tang Neck Knife
Neck knives are usually small and lightweight, but the SCHF16 is solid and rugged enough that it feels like a full-sized fixed blade. The grip is just the right size and provides you with a good enough grip to get the leverage you need for moderate to heavy knife work.
Pound for pound, we think, the Schrade SCHF16 is the best fixed blade knife for backpacking.
The SCHF16 comes with a black polymer sheath that gives it a clean, simple look and hangs neatly around your neck with its paracord lace.
A common gripe with neck knives is that the sheaths are often too loose; this is not the case with the SCHF16 so you don’t have to worry about it falling off.
- Excellent grip
- Tough enough to use for carving and moderate to heavy knife work
- Secure sheath
- The sheath may feel too secure; takes some effort to pull out
SOG Snarl Fixed Blade Neck Knife
One of the highest-rated neck knives available online, the SOG Snarl is pretty much a solid piece of sharp metal.
The finger hole and ring pommel greatly help in keeping a good grip on the knife, which is important in getting every bit of leverage with such a short blade.
The knife perfectly fits its molded Kydex sheath, which can also be clipped to your waist belt if you don’t feel like having something dangling on your neck.
Comes with a shiny stainless finish, which also makes it one of the best-looking neck knives you can find.
- Good grip
- Can bring it with you in 2 ways – hanged on the neck or clipped to the waist
- Cool style
Ka-Bar Fighting/Utility Serrated Edge Knife
With a 7-inch blade with a full tang, you can expect to do serious knife work with this black sheath knife from Ka-Bar.
To keep you safe from the large blade, the synthetic rubber handle features a hilt that extends about half an inch on both sides.
The blade itself is made of Chrome-vanadium steel alloy, which is hard enough to regularly use on wood, leather, and other tough stuff with minimal wear, and is the best knife for backpacking when it comes to sheer durability.
The first 1.75 inches of the blade is serrated, allowing it to saw through branches to an extent, while the rest of the blade has a straight edge that allows good, clean cuts even on large slabs of meat or fruit.
Despite its imposing size, the Ka-Bar is a lot lighter than it looks, thanks to a 2.5-inch fuller.
- Perfect for heavy knife work.
- Solid, safe grip.
- Relatively light for its size.
- The leather sheath isn’t completely waterproof.
- Could be a bit too much for beginners.
Morakniv Bushcraft Fixed Blade Knife
Morakniv is a leading outdoor knife brand known for their high-quality Swedish steel.
The Morakniv Bushcraft is a straightforward knife. The 4.4-inch stainless steel blade is robust enough to cut through tough leather and rigid enough to easily punch through food cans, which is great if you don’t have access to a can opener.
The rubber grip provides excellent grip even when wet, allowing you to use it easily even when hacking through thick foliage.
One of the most interesting features of this knife is its color. The handle and sheath are bright orange for better visibility.
This doesn’t seem like an important feature (most backpacking knives have a wood finish, metallic, or matte black colors), but it makes it easier to find even under low-light conditions.
- Good rubber grip.
- Highly visible; easy to find in case dropped accidentally.
- Tough enough for moderate knife work.
- Comes with a hard plastic sheath. Your knife will always be safe in your backpack, and it will remain secure if you decide to clip the sheath to your pants.
- The back of the knife serves as a striking surface for a fire starter, so you’ll never need to worry about losing your fire starting equipment.
- Swedish knives will keep their sharp edge for a very long time. You won’t need to sharpen this constantly to keep it ready for use, and it will only need small touch-ups while you’re away.
- The blade is prone to showing signs of corrosion.
- Doesn’t feature any serrated edges or a saw back.
Schrader SCHF9 Stainless Steel Fixed Blade
Designed for all outdoor activities, this fixed blade knife is ideal for bushcraft and camping, being a one stop shop for all of your basic knife requirements.
This is one seriously durable knife that will stand up to every task with flying colors if you’re looking for a reliable all-rounder.
- 4” High carbon stainless steel blade is strong, light and sharp.
- Comes with ballistic belt sheath with removable storage pouch for convenient transportation.
- Full Tang design.
- Lanyard hole allows for the knife to be worn around the neck.
- Contoured TPE handle provides protection against finger slippage.
- A little more heavy duty than most backpackers would require.
Buck 692BR Vanguard Fixed Blade Knife
This is a knife for those who appreciate the beauty of old school designs.
With its polished blade and handle fixings, this is a good looking knife that is also strong, sharp and excellent value for money.
Made in the USA and with a lifetime warranty, this another knife that you’ll only need to buy once and likely won’t regret it.
- Polished steel blade is razor sharp.
- Full Tang construction is strong and durable.
- Protective Nylon sheath includes belt loop for easy transportation.
- Anti-slip rubber grip is balanced and ergonomically designed.
- Not as heavy duty as some fixed blade knives.
Making The Final Decision
After considering all of the reviews, you can probably tell which will be the best backpacking knife for you.
The areas in which you tend to backpack and how long your trips tend to be will have an effect on which knives will be the most useful for you.
If you’re unsure about the knife you wind up getting, take it on a three-day trip to test it out.
It is also a good idea to take a look at other types of knives. We have also reviewed the best bushcraft knives for camping as well as the best survival knives. They might be exactly what you are looking for.
If you find you need something different, you can always upgrade models and save the first knife for shorter trips that are closer to home.
Do you know any other backpacking knife that should make the list? Let us know by leaving a comment below!