Last Update on by
Ray Mears Woodlore
- 1 What is a bushcraft knife?
- 2 What makes a good Bushcraft knife?
- 2.1 The Tang
- 2.2 The Handle
- 2.3 The Blade
- 2.4 The Features
- 2.5 To wrap-up
What is a bushcraft knife?
Bushcrafting, at its core, is a method of survival and an essential one at that. If you end up stranded in the wild, you need to have the essentials, including a tactical torch, a compass, a water filter bottle, an emergency blanket, and a watch. But with my little adventures I can assure you, if you don’t have a knife, you are just asking for it. A bushcraft knife is your way of collecting and carving wood, cleaning a small game like rabbits and fish, and an irreplaceable combat tool and an essential piece of your gear for building a shelter. It’s a heavy-duty alternative to the typical Swiss Army knife, and in this article, I’m going to show you why you need it, how to choose it, and which one is the crème de la crème of all bushcraft knives.
1. Ka-Bar Becker
1. Cro-Van Carbon Steel compound
2. Powder Coated Blade
3. Food Prep Favorite
4. Ergonomic Handle
he Ka-Bar Becker Unisex Outdoor Knife is a perfect combination of style and substance. Even if it was dropped five years ago, it is still one of the most critically well-received bushcraft knives out there. While its blade is a 1095 Cro-Van Carbon Steel compound, it is just as competent a stainless steel bushcraft knife because of the black protective powder which comes with it. Although it isn’t as resistant to rust as the former alloy, the powder is good enough, while still giving you the strength and rigidity of a carbon steel blade.
Its sharp drop point blade is also a sizable 5.25 inches in length and combined with its small cutting angle, and a durable and robust alloy makes it the Swiss army knife of the bushcraft knives. It can chop and carve wood, kindle a fire, cut food just like a kitchen knife while also being sharp enough to skin almost any small game.
And we shouldn’t forget about the handle, because its made of some of the best stuff out there – DuPont’s trademark Zytel high durability, impact, and abrasion-resistant nylon, which has high amounts of fiberglass, similar to G10. All of this, combined with its size, is the same as the blade and the full-tang of the bushcraft knife make it still lightweight at only half a kilo, while still being well balanced and durable.
While this knife is more substantial than others of its class, the lightweight handle makes up for it. It perfectly fits in your hand but is still big enough to be used as a baton or a chisel. It comes with a sizeable heavy-duty pouch that has a neat pocket in which you can carry a pocket whetstone.
- Even if it was dropped five years ago, it is still one of the most critically well-received bushcraft knives out there
- Its blade is a 1095 Cro-Van Carbon Steel compound, it is just as competent a stainless steel bushcraft knife because of the black protective powder which comes with it
- The handle is made of some of the best stuff out there – DuPont’s trademark Zytel high durability, impact, and abrasion-resistant nylon, which has high amounts of fiberglass, similar to G10
- All of this, combined with its size, is the same as the blade and the full-tang of the bushcraft knife make it still lightweight at only half a kilo, while still being well-balanced and durable.
- There have been numerous reports of issues with the sewing on the seams, which may be unreliable
- The hood is positioned in a strange way, so wearing a backpack underneath may not be very comfortable
2. Spyderco 3.92″ Pattada
1. high-grade N690Co stainless steel
2. excellent corrosion resistance
3. Perfect for meal prep and skinning
4. Classic Italian Design
The Spyderco isn’t an ordinary mass-produced knife, it’s made with love and care. Its a tradition and has been passed on for generations. This bushcraft knife’s origins are traced back to the island of Sardinia, an autonomous region of Italy. The knife bares itself capital’s name Pattada, where this type of blade has also been known as resolza.
Let’s face it – the knife does look stunning. It keeps the classic lines of its ancestors, while also looking modern thanks to the G10 used in the handle. It uses one of the best high-grade N690Co stainless steel, which is a tad bit softer, but it does give it excellent corrosion resistance. Its curved blade is more suited towards meal prep and skinning, though its flat grind and narrow cutting angle still give it the versatility of a bigger knife.
This bushcraft knife, unlike other ones, is a folding one, but that doesn’t make it less viable. Just the opposite, the knife becomes more portable and lightweight, therefore allowing more quick actions, but this results in a knife that isn’t very good for heavy-duty use.
The Spyderco Pattada is an excellent quality knife, one made with care, with a beautiful design and a razor-sharp blade with a fantastic finish. It is gorgeous, don’t get me wrong, but that’s it. You wouldn’t take a Mone out in the wild to help you survive, would you? I’ve felt one in my hands, and I can assure you, it does feel premium, and that is a given if you know anything about the company, but that feeling doesn’t give you anything useful. For example, the painstakingly carved scales in the G10 handle do look amazing, but it doesn’t give you any grip.
So to wrap it up, if you want this knife, hang it on the wall at home and brag to your friends how much you know about blades to have chosen this art piece, but if you want a hardcore bushcraft experience, you’ll need something a bit bigger and bulkier.
- The knife is made with love and care from a long-lasting company with tradition, so you get only the highest of quality materials and quality cheks
- The knife looks as good as it functions – it keeps the classic lines of its ancestors, while also looking modern thanks to the G10 used in the handle
- It uses one of the best high-grade N690Co stainless steel, which is a tad bit softer, but it does give it excellent corrosion resistance
- Its curved blade is more suited towards meal prep and skinning, though its flat grind and narrow cutting angle still give it the versatility of a bigger knife.
- While the fact that it is a folding knife may be a good thing for its compact nature, it can never match the rigidity of a full-fledged blade
- The knife functions well enough in most bushcraft tasks, but in the end, it’s just a stunning piece of art, not a real survival tool
3.Morakniv Bushcraft Carbon Steel
1. Narrow and Sharp Knife
2. Drop Point Blade
3. Anti Corrosion Black Coating
4. Heavy-Duty Plastic Sheath
The Morakniv Bushcraft Carbon Steel Survival Knife is a carbon steel drop point blade, narrow and sharp, a good feeling ergonomic plastic handle, making it very lightweight and easily used and a Scandi Grind, that gives sharpness.
It has a very durable black coating against wear and corrosion and a hardened steel blade that gives the small relatively small 4.5-inch blade strong and stable enough to chop a small tree to help you build a fine enough shelter. Another great thing is that its easy to sharpen, thus you shouldn’t worry too much about your knife’s durability.
While the coating is good enough for a small number of consecutive uses, you should oil after every use to make sure the knife well adequately protected against the forces of nature.
Another great thing about the Morakniv is that there is an optional heavy-duty plastic sheath with an included diamond sharpener and a fire starter kit. That, with the help of the sharpened spine of the knife, can produce sparks as high as 300 degrees Celcius and can last for 7000 uses, which is long enough for almost any bushcraft artisan.
- The knife has a very durable black coating against wear and corrosion and a hardened steel blade that gives its relatively small blade enough strength and stability to even chop a small tree
- there is an optional heavy-duty plastic sheath with an included diamond sharpener and a fire starter kit, so you’ve got your accessories covered
- Its blade is of very high quality, being made out of premium carbon steel, narrow and very sharp, and utilizing a scandi grind to complement all of those things in a pretty stunning knife
- The black protective coating can’t live up not only to its claims but to other competitors, and if you don’t oil it after almost every use, it will stop doing its job pretty fast
- The knife will arrive dull, and that combined with its poor quality in the retention of the handle shows just how bad the quality cheks are
4. Benchmade Bushcrafter 162
1. S30V Stainless Steel Alloy
2. Premium Micarta Handle
3. High-Quality Buckskin Sheath
4. Fire Starter Rod
The Benchmade Bushcrafter 162 is a bushcraft knife that has a hair popping sharp drop – point type blade made with a high-grade s30v stainless steel alloy and a premium micarta handle. This alloy is still as hard as some more commonly distributed tool steel but has the weather resistance for it is known. Another great thing s that you can go out in the wild and forget about it – it doesn’t require as much care as its carbon steel brethren, while still being as rigid as them, but doesn’t mean you shouldn’t oil it once in a while. I can attest to the durability of the edge, being as sharp as when I left the house at the end of the weekend.
The premium price of the knife comes with some goodies included. They include a high-quality buckskin sheath and a fire starter rod. The sheath is one of the highest quality ones I’ve felt in a while. It’s a perfect size, it sits well on your belt and is ideal if you draw and put back your bushcraft knife a lot. The fire starter rod is infinitely reusable, because of the high durability of the blade’s s30v stainless steel alloy.
While the knife uses some high-quality materials, like it is micarta handle, most of the costumers report of many quality control problems, like missing handle pins, and the fact that the knife isn’t a Ray Mears licensed product.
So, the knife is a pretty good piece of gear, but poor marketing and quality standards don’t justify its high price point, because, for the same price, you could find even more quality knives.
- This bushcraft knife has a hair popping sharp drop – point type blade made with a high-grade s30v stainless steel alloy and a premium micarta handle
- There are some welcomed bonuses like a high-quality buckskin sheath and a fire starter rod, with the sheath being one of the best out there
- It manages to stay on a pretty reasonable and affordable price without cutting any major corners and retaining the brand name
- While it is being advertised as one, the knife isn’t a Ray Mears licensed product, and that is a huge detriment to the company
- There have been numerous reports from customers of some glaring quality control problems, like dulled out blades and missing handle pins
5. The Gerber Strongarm
1. Full – Tang Drop Point Blade
2. Ceramic Coated 420HC Blade
3. Diamond-Shaped Rubberized Handle
4. Made In USA
Gerber has been in the market since 1968, with its knife line up, which has been made for the military. Its blade’s design is rooted in the martial art of survival, with its 420HC ceramic coated full – tang drop point blade.
The handle has a diamond-shaped rubberized coating to give your knife more grip in harsher conditions. The handle mentioned above has a striking pommel for added versatility in the case of an emergency. The included sheath has a variety of ways it could be mounted, including a drop-leg belt mount fashion.
This knife looks and handles just like a piece of military gear, with its bulkier look and feel in hand. While it is more significant than most knives, it can also do more detailed work like carving and meal prep. So if you’re searching something produced in the good old USA, this is one of the best homemade knives out there
- Gerber has been in the market since 1968, with its knife line up, which has been made for the military, so quality brand name is the name of the game here
- The handle has a diamond-shaped rubberized coating to give your knife more grip in harsher conditions and it also has a striking pommel for added versatility in the case of an emergency
- The included sheath has a variety of ways it could be mounted, including a drop-leg belt mount fashion, and the whole package has a very nice and bulky military feel
- While the diamond pattern is a pretty nice addition to the handle that adds some grip, the fact that it isn’t carried all the way makes it pretty much unnecessary
- The blade uses a pretty nice blade, but there could be a much better one at this price
What makes a good Bushcraft knife?
Bushcraft is a way of life, a philosophy, an art form. And just like every eccentric artist who has his way of painting or composing, everyone who is into bushcraft has a different idea of what is the perfect tool for the job.
Several key features determine the quality of a bushcraft knife, they being:
- Build Quality
- Fit and Finish
There are specialized bushcraft knives for wood carving and crafting, which need to have an excellent curved handle, or for a general surviving task that requires a full – tang. The blade runs through the handle. The general all-purpose bushcraft knife has to have some defining features, which will make it your best companion in the wild.
And what gives you all the features you need? The Tang. It is this part of the blade, which runs through and connects the handle with the cutting element. There are three main types. They were a full – tang, a partial – tang, and a stick- tang. They define how the knife feels in your hand, how it’s balanced, and how rigid it is.
While I’m personally most affiliated with the full – tang knives because I prefer their feel, some people swear to the quality of the stick ones, so I’m going to list you their pros and cons.
The defining feature of the full-tang bushcraft knives is the rigidness that the full-length blade gives. While they are more substantial, some people prefer them because the weight makes them feel higher quality and much more robust.
2.Partial – tang knives
This old school construction is the least used one because the blade isn’t securely connected to the handle, making it unbalanced, less durable, and thus less desirable. While they’ve improved dramatically over the years, they still aren’t up to par with the other two.
3.Stick – tang knives
This type of Tang is mostly encountered in Scandinavian bushcraft knives and makes them extremely strong and balanced, thus making them a considerable replacement to the full – tang ones. They give off a different feel and are often used for tasks that need a stronger blade, like cleaning small game.
The part of the tool that is most important to the ergonomic level of the bushcraft knife. Everyone has a different taste in tool handles, some like longer and thicker, while others prefer slim and short, or even curved and straight.
While your preferences will bias your selection, every task has a specific type of handle that will make your life a lot easier. I’m personally a fan of the curved ridge design because I spend a considerable amount of time in wood carving and crafting. A straight handle will be uncomfortable after prolonged use.
But for example, for preparing food, you will need a long and light bushcraft knife, while for fire-starting, you will need one with a healthy spine and a shorter blade for split kindling. The best bushcraft knife handle is the most comfortable one, but you should consider choosing the most competent for the job you’ll be doing the most.
Most bushcraft knives rely on a durable, coated, and polished wood handle. Still, some elements are even more reliable because the organic nature of the wood makes it absorb moisture, thus rotting it over time, and that’s why the synthetic ones have an advantage. At the top, the overall best handle materials are G10 and Micarta, both synthetic.
A phenolic resin impregnated paper or cotton fabric, layered and cured under high heat and pressure. The nature of its creation process, give it an infinite number of possible patterns and colors, hence taking the lead in the design department over the G10.
G10 is a high-pressure fiberglass laminate. It is created by stacking multiple layers of glass cloth, soaking them in epoxy resin, and compressing the resulting material under heat until the epoxy cures.
G10 is very similar to Micarta, but the base material is glass cloth, thus making it more robust and more durable than Micarta while sacrificing the looks.
The blade is, in fact, the core ingredient to a good bushcraft knife. While the handle is just as important, in the wilderness, a right blade with a subpar handle will get you a long way, while in the opposite case, your comfortable grip wouldn’t help much if your blade is dull and fragile. So let’s look at some of the essential characteristics of a bushcraft knife’s edge.
I’m pretty sure everyone, just like me, would like to carry a massive weapon just like a hero from an adventure movie, but let’s be honest – you don’t need it, and a knife the size of your arm isn’t a bushcraft knife anymore, is it? If you think you’ll encounter something that the average bushcraft knife can’t handle, maybe you need to consider something like a tomahawk or a machete. You shouldn’t try to make your knife something, which it isn’t – if you need something bigger, carry it alongside with you other tools. I use a 4.5-inch blade, so a bushcraft knife in the range of 3 to 6 inches is large enough for any task, but at the same time small enough to be nimble light.
The Shape and Design
Most people that aren’t well enough versed in the art of bushcraft may envision a large, big knife with a curved belly that usually butchers use, but in fact, a well-rounded bushcraft knife should have a long flat blade, in the center of the handle, that ends with a tip. The tip shouldn’t be excessively narrow and sharp, nor dull and rounded. While a curved blade is perfect for slashing and cutting, the flat edge gives you something the curved one doesn’t – versatility. With it, you can baton, chop and push cut, and because of its size, you shouldn’t come across something you cant cut or slash.
The Geometry and Grind
The geometry of the blade consists of its grind and primary bevel and secondary if there is one. The grind is this area of the module, which is from the spine to the cutting edge or second bevel. The primary setup is the grind to thin from the spine down until the corner of the second bevel. The extreme angles are made for specific tasks, so for an all-rounded knife. The best grinds for a bushcraft knife are:
- Convex and Chisel, which are only primary bevel
- Scandi, which is traditionally only central but is often found with secondary, just like Flat Grinds, which almost always have hie a secondary bevel
While these aren’t all the types of grinds, they are perfect for the multifunctional purpose of the bushcraft knife.
The Cutting Edge
The cutting edge is the main feature of your knife, the reason why it’s so versatile, and a thing you should thoughtfully consider.
The thing that differentiates one cutting edge from another is its angle. As the angle increases, the blade gets duller, but it also gets stronger and more durable, perfect for more substantial work like woodcarving and batoning. At the opposite end, the smaller the angle is, the sharper is the blade, therefore making it ideal for food prep and slicing. On the other hand, the narrower edge is more fragile, thus making it not suitable for heavy-duty work.
So you should consider the tasks you want to perform with your bushcraft knife and choose an excellent cutting edge angle for you. I’m usually carrying an ax with me for more demanding work, so I prefer a sharper blade with a narrower angle.
You should know that the cutting edge angle is the combined angle of both cutting ones. For example, if you have a 24 degree one, the two sides have a cutting angle of 12 degrees.
But another thing you should consider is sharpening the knife. After prolonged use, you’ll eventually need to sharpen it, and a knife with only a primary bevel and a smaller angle will be more comfortable to grind. A secondary bevel one will need more skill to keep the blade at the optimal angle to sharpen it correctly.
The thing about your bushcraft knife’s material is that there isn’t a perfect be-all and end-all one, but the best materials on the market right now stainless steel or carbon steel alloys that they are the right choice. Countless other articles list a dozen of arguments that try to convince you why specific material is more durable or heat resistant than the other. I can tell you that the two primary alloys have only one significant difference – the carbon steel is more rust prominent, but stronger, while stainless steel has more chromium, to make it rust stain resistant.
Some people say, the new to the market super steels are the right choice, but that isn’t 100 percent true. While they are even more resistant to rust, corrosion and wear, they aren’t as hard as carbon steel, nor durable enough. Another caveat is that the tip breaks off easily in sharpening with just an ordinary stone, and you need to carry an additional diamond grindstone.
In the end, there isn’t a steel alloy that does everything – some are good in some areas while being bad at others. So as a newbie in the field of bushcraft, the best way to determine what material suits you best is as simple as pie – experiment. If you don’t get out in the field, you can’t get a good enough feel for the alloy that you want in your knife. So I’m going to recommend a couple of alloys and leave the end choice for you.
- Carbon Steel Alloys – 1095, 1080, CPM D2, A2, O1
- Stainless Steel Alloys – CPM 3v, CPM S35V, 440c, VG 10
Don’t forget one crucial thing – you’re searching for a bushcraft knife, not a saw, not a can opener. The versatility of the knife comes from the fact that you carry a single blade that does pretty much everything you want. For example, as I mentioned above, if you have a saw blade on the spine of your bushcraft knife, not only does this make it less rigid, but also more dangerous.
If you’re doing a push stroke, the saw can bind, thus slicing your palm in half, and that is very dangerous if you are miles away from the nearest town, and you don’t have a proper first aid kit. So to wrap up, if you need a saw for more significant trees, for your shelter, there are perfectly good foldable saws out there in the market, so if you think you need one, don’t combine it with your blade – two blades don’t equal to twice the tool.
In the end, all of the qualities mentioned above and characteristics could be combined in millions of different ways – from a carbon composite or a plastic handle and a carbon steel blade to a stick-tang blade with a narrower cutting angle. If you imagine a combination, it probably exists. But now, I’m going to show you my list of the best bushcraft knives and objective reasons why I’ve ranked them that way, and when you’ve got enough experience, you’ll be able to find the best bushcraft knife for you.
Now, to give you all context, every one of the abovementioned blades is the right choice. But, I’ve been using one blade for the last three years, and that is Ka-Bar Becker Unisex Outdoor Knife available in Nero – One Size. This knife truly embodies the spirit of bushcraft – a blade that does everything you need and helps you overcome anything.
The knife has a significant and robust drop point blade so that it can do demanding heavy-duty tasks like batoning and chopping, as well as some more delicate work. While it doesn’t have a stainless steel blade with a dazzling satin finish, its carbon steel one has a black powder coating that, with care, can wield the same results. It has a full tang which is, in my opinion, it is even better than some scandi ones.
Suffice it to say this knife is the overall best option out there and should be in every bushcraft enthusiast.