Knife

Best Backpacking Knife

Written by: Dave NartinFebruary 5, 2020Updated: February 13, 2020

Guide Overview

When you’re heading out on a backcountry adventure, you want to be sure to take gear that’s useful, lightweight and serves multiple purposes.

One of the most versatile tools to take when backpacking is a knife. The best hiking knife can serve as a cutting tool when setting up camp, processing any game you may catch, or just help to chop veggies and prepare a meal to cook on the fire. Whether you’re a backpacking chef or you’re out on a survival trip, finding the best knife to carry will make your backpacking adventures easier.

Let’s take a look at the best knife for backpacking, first examining what to consider when choosing one.

Things To Consider

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Material 

The best outdoor knife is made of some type of steel, with carbon steel being one of the most popular. In reality, there are many varieties and weights available, of different strength and weight.

A hiking knife made of a soft steel will be easy to sharpen to a razor’s edge, but may lose that edge more quickly and not be as durable. Harder steel pocket knives are harder to sharpen but tend to be more durable.

The best knife for hiking will be strong enough for a variety of cutting needs, and retain its edge long enough to last throughout your trip. And like anything else, some types of steel are more expensive than others, so you may be choosing between a high-end knife and the best budget pocket knife.

Weight

If you’re doing exceptionally long hikes, you’ll be looking for an ultralight backpacking knife to ensure it’s easy to carry long distances. Check the total weight, and remember that a fixed blade knife will have the added weight of a sheath. A lightweight pocket knife or lightweight folding knife might be better suited for long hikes, but all of our choices are relatively light.

Types

Hiking knives typically come in two different styles: fixed blade, or folding. It can be difficult to find an all in one knife, so it’s good to examine which type is best for you.

Folding knives tend to be more compact and lightweight, because they don’t require the added weight of a protective sheath like knives that don’t fold. You can store them anywhere, since the sharp edge folds away. 

And if you want to choose the best multi purpose knife, you can look at a lock blade knife that also includes other tools. The best backpacking multi tool may even include a key ring or pocket clip, allowing you to clip it anywhere. If you do want a multi-tool, consider carefully what other tools you really need, otherwise you may sacrifice a quality knife for a bunch of tools you won’t use.

Otherwise, a folding knife is one that folds up with the blade tucked into the handle for easy carrying. If you do choose a folding knife, be sure it includes a locking mechanism for added safety. You don’t want the knife folding in while you’re whittling a tree. And if you want added convenience, look for a design that allows you to open the blade with one hand. 

A fixed-blade knife may be heavier but they provide greater strength when it comes to cutting. You don’t have to worry about moving parts, or cutting yourself if the lock mechanism slips. The best backpacking knife with a fixed blade will be extremely durable, especially if it has a full tang, which means the steel of the blade goes all through the length of the handle.  This type of heavy-duty knife is almost indestructible if you look after it.

And then there are some hikers who decide that the best backpacking knives are one of each type of knife. 

Uses

This is probably the most important consideration in choosing a knife. The answer to “what is the best backpacking knife” is actually “it depends.” In other words, it depends how you’ll be using it.

If you’re looking for the best survival pocket knife, you may be looking for a knife that will clean small game, prepare kindling or whittle a fire stick. The best wilderness knife will allow to do heavy duty work, but will likely cost you more money than a simple pocket knife for light chores like cutting twine or opening packages of food.

If you won’t be doing heavy cutting, like trimming branches or dressing game, you can look for the best inexpensive knife that will suit your simple needs.

Size

Another consideration which can impact your decision is the size of the knife. Depending on how you’ll use the knife, and how much room you have in your backpack, you may be choosing among knives based on size. 

If you need a knife for heavy duty use, you may want a larger, fixed blade knife. But if you need to save room in your pack, and will use your knife only occasionally, you’ll be looking for the best small knife, or the best small folding knife that you can find.

You can also get a sense of the ergonomics by considering the size of the knife handle. If you have large hands, a small handle might be uncomfortable, and even the most amazing pocket knives will be frustrating for you to use.

Now that you know what to look for in considering a knife, let’s look at some of the best rated pocket knives and why we like them.

Related Knife Buying Guides

Best Backpacking Knives

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Spyderco – Delica 4Spyderco Delica 4Spyderco Delica 4Spyderco – Delica 4

This lightweight folding knife has Spyderco’s defining features: a round hole in the blade for one-handed opening (a larger, a 13-millimeter opening) and a clip on the handle for carrying at the top of the pocket. The clip can even be modified to carry the knife tip-up or tip-down, and for left-or right-handed clipping.

The blade is a plain edge and made of full flat-ground VG-10 steel, a popular cutlery steel used in kitchen knives and other types of cutlery. VG-10 is an ingot steel with an alloy composition. It resists corrosion and keeps its edge. The opening and closing action is smooth thanks to internal phosphor bronze washers and the knife has a back lock.

The handle is made of fiberglass-reinforced nylon polymer, making it strong but light. The handle also features dual stainless steel liners which strengthen the knife without adding weight. The spine’s ergonomics are such to prevent slippage when using, with a bi-directional texturing pattern for extra grip.

The overall length is 7.15 inches, with a 3-inch blade length, and weighs 2.4 ounces. And for those who care about how their knife looks, the Spyderco comes in a wide variety of handle colors, from black to purple, green, orange and more.

Pros:

  • One-handed opening.
  • An adjustable pocket clip.

Cons:

  • Kitchen-quality steel may not be strong enough for some users.
  • One-handed opening.
  • An adjustable pocket clip.
  • Kitchen-quality steel may not be strong enough for some users.
ESEE – Knives Izula-II Fixed Blade KnifeESEE Knives Izula-II Fixed Blade KnifeESEE Knives Izula-II Fixed Blade KnifeESEE – Knives Izula-II Fixed Blade Knife

This fixed-blade knife is made of ESEE carbon steel or 1095 steel. This top choice for professional cutlery is designed for wear and tear, but needs to be cared for by keeping it clean. A dry film rust inhibitor cloth can help prevent rusting or staining.

The overall blade length is 2.63 inches, and the cutting edge is 2.625. The handle length is almost 4 inches. The knife weighs 3.2 ounces.

The durable handle is made of micarta, a rigid composite material of laminated cloth and plastic resin typical on knife handles. It comes with a molded polymer sheath and a removable ambidextrous clip plate.

Pros:

  • Made of strong steel.
  • Durable material.
  • Lightweight.

Cons:

  • Need to carefully pack a fixed-blade knife.
  • Have to add the weight of the sheath to your total pack weight.
  • Made of strong steel.
  • Durable material.
  • Lightweight.
  • Need to carefully pack a fixed-blade knife.
  • Have to add the weight of the sheath to your total pack weight.
Kershaw – Leek Pocket KnifeKershaw Leek Pocket KnifeKershaw Leek Pocket KnifeKershaw – Leek Pocket Knife

This knife has a 3-inch blade made of 14C28N Sandwich Steel. This is listed among the highest performing knife steels in the world, with increased hardness, corrosion resistance and edge retention.

The handle is made of 410 stainless steel alloy which also resists corrosion and extra strong and hard. It has a reversible pocket clip that allows you user to choose to carry the knife tip-up or tip-down, and on which side of the knife to place the clip.

The lock folds out and has a frame lock that holds the blade open during use. The Speed Safe assisted opening allows you to open it without much effort, just a simple pull back on an ambidextrous flipper.

The knife is 4 inches when closed, 7 inches when open, with a blade of 3 inches and a weight of 3 ounces.

Comes in a multitude of colors, including camo, silver, and a variety of solid colors from teal to orange and more.

Pros:

  • Made of high quality steel.
  • Easy to open.

Cons:

  • Harder steel can be more difficult to sharpen.
  • Made of high quality steel.
  • Easy to open.
  • Harder steel can be more difficult to sharpen.
Victorinox – Swiss Army Classic SD Pocket KnifeVictorinox Swiss Army Classic SD Pocket KnifeVictorinox Swiss Army Classic SD Pocket KnifeVictorinox – Swiss Army Classic SD Pocket Knife

Victorinox is known for its top rated folding knives. This model has all the tools you need for your hiking adventure. 

There are seven functions included:

  • A 1.25-inch blade on the knife
  • A nail file with a screwdriver end
  • Scissors
  • Tweezers
  • A toothpick
  • A key ring for clipping it onto your pack or your keys.

 The Swiss made product is stainless steel encased in polished ABS scales and finished with the traditional Victorinox red color.

Pros:

  • Easy to take anywhere.
  • You get a knife plus 5 other tools.
  • Comes with the Victorinox reputation.

Cons:

  • The knife is somewhat small.
  • Ideal for light use.
  • Easy to take anywhere.
  • You get a knife plus 5 other tools.
  • Comes with the Victorinox reputation.
  • The knife is somewhat small.
  • Ideal for light use.
Benchmade – Bugout 535Benchmade Bugout 535Benchmade Bugout 535Benchmade – Bugout 535

This is a folding knife with manual operation to open and close. Composed of American made CPM-S30V steel which provides edge retention and corrosion resistance. It has a drop-point construction that makes it strong, and it has a serrated edge at the base of the blade.

The handle is made of grivory, a thermoplastic construction material typical on knife handles, and is fully ambidextrous with a textured grip.

The locking mechanism keep the knife closed for your safety. It has a reversible pocket clip and a lanyard hole for carrying.

At just 1.85 ounces, it’s ideal for carrying. The blade length is 3.24 inches, with an open full knife length of 7.46 inches and a closed length of 4.22 inches.

Pros:

  • Lightweight but has a strong knife blade.
  • Serrated edge for multiple uses.
  • Locking mechanism for safety.

Cons:

  • Have to want a knife with a serrated edge.
  • Plastic handle isn’t for everyone.
  • Lightweight but has a strong knife blade.
  • Serrated edge for multiple uses.
  • Locking mechanism for safety.
  • Have to want a knife with a serrated edge.
  • Plastic handle isn’t for everyone.

Our Pick

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Any of these knives would be a good choice, depending on your preferences for a multi-tool, a folding knife or a fixed-blade knife.

We chose the Benchmade Bugout 535 as the best backpacking knife, and here’s why:

  • The knife is lightweight enough for long trips but strong enough for heavy duty work.
  • Quality steel that will hold its edge. 
  • Has a serrated section near the base of the blade, adding versatility to the knife.
  • The locking mechanism adds safety when using.
  • Durable plastic handle with a textured grip.
Dave Nartin
Founder at Mountain Leon
Hi. Im Dave. Mountain Lion is the name of this travel blog. It came from my love for both the English and Spanish language, my favourite animal (Lion), and my favourite activity (mountain climbing). Enjoy!