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Here at AppliedSurvival.com, we believe that the best bushcraft knife should be a knife that can do almost anything to make life in the wilderness sustainable and assist you in the event of an emergency.
Some will argue that there’s a difference between a survival knife and a bushcraft knife.
One is to get “out” of the wilderness, and one is for living “in” the wilderness.
A bushcraft knife has a blade between four and six inches, and a survival knife has a blade of at least seven inches…
But, as with everything in survival preparedness, you don’t know when you’re going to need to survive.
And the best survival knife is the knife that you have with you in an emergency.
The knife you carried into the wilderness with you to bushcraft will need to help you survive if that situation arises.
“One knife can’t do everything,” they say. So, you have to carry both a bushcraft and a survival knife?
If you only have one knife and needed to survive, you would find a way to make it work.
You don’t need an expensive knife. You need a knife that works best to do the job you intend it to do.
But if something goes awry, you will also want it to be able to stand up to doing other jobs as well.
So we’ve organized a list of knives that serve a primary bushcraft function but that will also stand up in a knife fight with a grizzly and get you back home.
If you want to read a review of each of these knives and why we chose them, you can read on.
If it interests you to know the details of what goes into how we determine what makes a knife the best bushcraft knife, you can jump to the info section below using the table of contents.
Our Choices Of The Top Bushcraft Knives
Best Traditional Bushcraft Knife
If you’re a veteran in the knife world, then you will be no stranger to the Morakniv brand.
They’ve produced top-quality knives since 1891 and continue to be a leading knife manufacturer.
This Morakniv Carbon Steel Knife is the definition of a traditional bushcraft knife with a ⅛” (3.2mm) thick 90-degree ground unpolished spine and 4.3″ (232mm) long Scandi grind blade.
It’s the perfect size for almost any bushcraft job.
The high friction rubber grip handle is around 5″ and fits perfectly in your hand even with a glove on.
The total weight is just under half a pound, making it a nimble knife for carving, feathering, dressing, and cooking.
But you may find it lacks in girth for chopping and batoning.
Not to say it can’t be done.
The Morakniv Carbon Steel Black Knife comes with an anti-corrosive black coating to keep the carbon steel protected even in wet conditions.
They use an HRC 56-58 steel to help it hold up when chopping and batoning despite its smaller size.
Included in the package are a polymer sheath and integrated fire starter, and a diamond knife sharpener.
Best Bushcraft Knife For Batoning
Benchmade Bushcrafter 162 Fixed Blade Bushcraft Knife, Green and Red G10 Handle with Leather Sheath and D-Ring, Made in the USA
When you find yourself in the field without a hatchet or an axe, and you need to process larger pieces of wood into kindling, then you’ll want a knife that will be able to hold up to a good batoning.
Yes, we know it’s better to have an axe, but we’re not always going to be carrying all the tools we need to set up camp in an emergency.
Now, as you know, you don’t really need to beat the hell out of your knife when batoning.
But, the knife should be able to hold up, getting a good whack to get through twisted grains and knots when you find them.
Thus, having a knife with a fixed, thick full-tang blade is essential when choosing a bushcraft knife intended for batoning.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better knife made for the job than the Benchmade 162 fixed blade bushcraft knife.
Benchmade is not as old as the Morakniv company, but they still have made quality knives for over 30 years.
Their 162 model comes with a 4.4″ (11.18cm) long and ⅙” (4.17mm) thick blade and a 5″ extra-durable fiberglass handle.
The blade steel is forged from a solid piece of 58-60 HRC steel that will hold up under whatever punishment you put it through.
It weighs in at just under half a pound, but that’s due to the light-weight fiberglass handle. This means that the bulk of the weight comes from the extra thick steel blade.
While the package does come with a sheath, it does not come with a fire starter.
However, Benchmade’s lifetime sharpening service and warranty will more than makeup for it.
If you ever find yourself with a dull blade after all that batoning, then just send it to Benchmade, and they will return the blade to its original factory sharpness and ship it back to you at no additional cost.
Best Bushcraft Knife For Chopping
ESEE-6 Fixed Blade Knife, 3D Contoured Handle, 1095 Carbon Steel, Ambidextrous Polymer Sheath, Made in USA
We are not here to argue that a knife is better for chopping than an axe.
What we find is that we’re not always carrying our axe, and if we’re stuck with just a knife, we will want it to be able to do the job.
When you take the ESEE-6 in your hand, you can’t help but picture yourself as Arnold hacking his way through the jungle in Predator.
Or Crocodile Dundee with his famous line, “That’s a knife…”
The ESEE-6 is a knife.
When we’re chopping, we’re looking for a blade that’s longer to give us the momentum we need to be effective.
The force comes at the end of the wrist action and snaps like a whip. Thus, the longer the blade, the better the chopping action.
Now obviously, we don’t want a blade that’s too long, or we’ll just be carrying a machete or a kukri.
But the 6.5″ long blade on this ESEE-6 is just right for the job. Although with the 4.7mm blade thickness, it will do for just about any heavy-duty job.
The handle comes in at a length of 5.25,” and its 3D grip fits like a glove in your hand. It feels like it’s an extension of your arm.
ESEE uses 1095 steel to manufacture their blades, which is an ideal hardness to hold up under heavy use.
But best of all is if you ever do end up breaking it, ESEE’s lifetime warranty will take care of getting you a replacement wherever in the world you may be.
Best EDC Bushcraft Knife
If you’ve ever walked out the door with a fixed blade strapped to your belt, you may feel as if everyone is staring at you.
The problem is that fixed blade knives are just not acceptable attire in most everyday social spaces.
Thus for the outdoorsman who wants a knife that is as strong, sharp, and useful as a Mora or Helle but doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb, this Cold Steel is your knife.
The blade is shorter at 3 ½” and the handle at just over 4″. While it’s not the biggest and baddest knife around, it is a strong knife that will fit in your pocket.
They put a flip stud on the blade, indicating that you can open it with one hand, but that’s not the case.
This heavy-duty folding knife will require two hands to open. And as hard as it is to open, it is just as hard to close.
One would think this is a bad thing. But we find it reassuring that we can trust that this folding knife will stay open under stress.
Cold Steel offers a limited warranty, and if you’re not keen on sharpening your own knives, they will do it for you if you send it to them with a $5 check.
Best Budget Bushcraft Knife
What can you say about a bushcraft knife that costs a fraction of what the name brands will set you back?
If you’re shopping on a budget, you can’t do much better than the Condor Bushlore Camp Knife.
There are no frills, no-nonsense.
Just a fixed blade full tang knife with a flat 90-degree spine that’s thick enough to take a beating.
There are no cute powder coats or 3D printed pieces.
Just good old fashion 1075 high carbon steel blade with a satin blasted finish and a polished walnut wood handle.
Can it baton? Yes.
Can it chop? Yup.
Can it feather? You bet.
Its blade is 4 ¼” long and ⅛” thick. It’s got a nice, big 5″ handle and weighs just under half a pound, which makes it strong and light enough to take with you just about anywhere.
Keep it oiled to prevent it from rusting, and you can store and carry it in its leather sheath.
Why A Bushcraft Knife May Be Right For You
If you’re going into the wilderness, there are many tools you can bring with you. But we hope that you at least bring a good knife.
Now there are many names for the knife, bushcraft, woodsman, survival, etc.
But they’re all going to do the same tasks.
They’re going to help you chop and baton big pieces of wood into little pieces of wood to make kindling for a fire.
Carving other small pieces into utensils.
They’ll help you start the fire with a Ferro rod.
They’ll work to skin carcasses and prepare meat to cook.
They may even help you defend yourself against an enemy, both human or animal.
Now, there will be some who argue that one knife can’t do it all. And they would be right.
But the knife I take with me better be pretty darn good at doing most of it.
I don’t see the practicality of bringing an arsenal of knives with you on foot for an eight-day hike into the mountains.
Yes, you will surely bring other tools, hopefully, an axe or hatchet, and a saw.
But I’m not going to weigh myself down by bringing six different knives designed for specific tasks.
I want one knife that is agile enough to make fine, smooth cuts when skinning a rabbit, yet hard enough to stand up to a good whack when batoning down some firewood into kindling.
Now, you may do one job more than another. For example, you may never baton kindling because you think doing that with a knife is stupid.
Okay. To each their own.
Or maybe you’re a gourmet outdoor cook, and you want a durable knife that’s also a little more delicate that won’t mash your food into a pulp.
You may be a hunter and need a good blade to field dress a deer.
But if you get stuck out in the woods and can’t make it back to camp where you left your axe and saw, then hopefully, your skinning knife will help you make camp.
Are you not going to use it just because its name is different?
Your skinning knife is now a bushcraft knife.
What To Look For In The Best Bushcraft Knife
Finding the best bushcraft knife for you is like finding a pair of great fitting boots.
When you hold it in your hand, you just know it’s right for you.
Now the online shopping world makes that experience a little difficult.
So we’ve put together a list of criteria that we look for in most bushcraft knives that we feel make it better than others.
There are fixed blades and folding blades.
We’re going to focus primarily on the criteria for fixed blade knives, but you could apply most of the criteria to a folding knife as well.
First and foremost is the tang.
If you’re not familiar with knives, the tang refers to the knife’s construction in relation to the handle.
If it’s a full tang, that means the knife’s blade extends into the handle’s full length for maximum durability and strength.
A partial tang means that the knife’s blade is fixed into a fraction of the handle. They are typically lighter but less durable and can break easier under heavy use.
Obviously, as we’re looking for the most durable knife, we’re going to want a full tang so that it will hold up under a beating.
Next, we want to look at the length of the blade.
The optimal range for a bushcraft knife’s blade is between four and six inches.
We prefer the blade to be at the longer end of the range. A longer blade is less nimble, but it will be better suited for heavier tasks and striking in combat.
If you need to do a nimble job, you can always choke up on the blade for more fine work.
We also want to make sure the material used to forge the blade is of the highest caliber steel.
The 1095 Cro-Van steel sharpens easily and holds the edge nicely.
There are carbon steel bushcraft knives that stay sharper longer but are more difficult to sharpen when dull.
And all knives will eventually dull.
Carbon steel is also more prone to corrode than a stainless or a coated steel blade.
You may opt for a coated blade if you don’t want to risk someone seeing the light reflect off your blade or if you’re going to be in exceptionally humid or environments in which an uncoated blade may be more prone to corrode.
The spine angle should be 90 degrees for the best sparking if using a Ferro rod to start your fires.
And a bushcraft knife spine’s thickness should ideally be at least 3.2mm thick.
A thicker blade will weigh more, but you will want something you can use that will be strong enough to pry and pull without fear of snapping.
There are various types of blade grind shapes that you will consider before deciding which is right for you.
First is the straighter edge with a more angled or curved tip known as the “Scandi” grind. It also has a less gradual grade to the edge going from zero to about 22 degrees in a very short distance, thus creating more of a wedge shape.
This could be better suited for batoning and chopping as the blade has a greater overall thickness.
Then there are blades with a more convex shape. A convex blade has a more gradual grade to the edge going to 0 from about a 15-degree angle.
This creates a thinner blade that could be more prone to break if you’re too hard on it but will be better suited for more delicate jobs like butchering or field dressing.
There’s been so much debate about which is one better that someone came up with the bright idea to make a hybrid now known as the “Scandi-vex” blade. I’ll let you figure out what that could be.
In my opinion, there’s not a real noticeable difference aside from comfort concerning how you use the knife.
So you may want to get all three types and try them out. See which blade shape works best for you and send the others back. Or don’t…
Now that we got the blade details out of the way, we can talk about the second most important part of the knife: the handle.
You may notice some more modern bushcraft knives out there where they forgot to put a handle and use just the blade’s tang as the handle.
That could be fun until you’re stuck in the snow.
We prefer the handle to have a nice wood or polymer grip to ensure you don’t get frostbite while using your knife.
There are various types of wood used to make handles. There’s no real benefit in getting one type of wood over another more than aesthetic value. However, you will need to maintain the wood, so it doesn’t rot or crack over time.
The most popular woods are curly birch or olive wood. We’ve even seen some wood handles built from the tree’s root supposedly stronger than the wood you would use from the traditional part of the tree.
Then there are the more modern polymer grips with a well-textured grip, and won’t be damaged by impact or water.
You may prefer this style if you know you will be in a particularly harsh and wet environment.
They also tend to be less expensive than the wood handle knives, and this may be ideal if you tend to lose or break your knife in the field.
Although if you’re prone to losing your knife, then you should probably work on that.
The design of the handle should form to your hand. Thus, the length may vary, but it should be large enough that you can comfortably grip it even when wearing a glove–at least five inches long should be sufficient.
The grip or palm swell should be oval in the cross-section, not square or round.
The butt of the handle should be beveled to not fracture if you need to hammer with it.
Some handles will provide a lanyard hole for transport or to wrap around the wrist to avoid losing it in precarious situations where the knife may slip from your hand, i.e., if you’re trying to cut yourself loose from a capsized kayak.
If you’re doing a lot of push cutting with your knife, then maybe having a thumb grip on the spine will serve well.
Because we’re looking for an all-around knife, we would like to see some sort of handguard to keep your hand from running over the blade if you have to stab someone or something.
This is not a standard feature on a bushcraft knife, but there are some with at least a wider thickness at the handle’s head to keep it in your hand.
Now that we’ve addressed what we’re looking for in both ends of the knife, we want the weight of the two combined to be heavy enough to hold up under pressure but not so heavy that we avoid even taking it with us on a hike.
Of course, how heavy the knife feels will be subjective. We won’t provide a specific weight. If you’re a 200lb tree, then heavy to you will be different than a 100lb person.
One thing you will want to pay attention to when choosing the knife is the sheath that comes with it.
There are two main types of sheathes, either leather or polymer plastic.
Like handle choice, the sheath you choose should depend on the environment in which you intend to use the knife.
Again, if you’re going to be in a particular wet environment, you may prefer the polymer sheath to prevent the leather from rotting.
The sheath should hold your knife until you’re ready to take it out. Sheathes can wear down and lose their ability to hold the knife. Thus, having a strap that keeps the blade secure is ideal.
Or at least a “click lock” that keeps the blade secure until you apply the force to pull it from the sheath over that lip.
As most of us use our bushcraft knives to process wood for kindling, the next step is to actually light the fire.
Yes, most will have a lighter to do the job, and most will not want to scratch their new knives using a Ferro rod, but in the event of an emergency, you should at least have a Ferro starter with you.
Now, many bushcraft knife sellers will include a Ferro rod and holder included with the knife sheath.
They may even give you a DC4 sharpening stone and a place to hold it in the sheath.
The sheath and the rod and the sharpening stone should not trick you into getting a cheap knife, but if the best knife you choose comes with these perks, then heck, why not.
The final part of the sheath we look at is the belt loop. You can have a vertical or horizontal design or both. You can mount the blade to your belt in whichever way is more comfortable for you as you hike.
If you’re a righty or a lefty should also be considered when choosing the sheath. There aren’t many sheaths designed for left-handed soldiers, so you may have to get one separately.
And the final factor we look at when deciding on which bushcraft knife is the best is, of course, the price.
A good knife doesn’t have to cost an arm and leg. Though it should be able to remove one.
There are good knives that warrant the cost, but you can do very well on a budget.
How Do You Use A Bushcraft Knife
Originally the bushcraft knife was not designed to baton or chop.
Early settlers and frontier men carried hatchets and saws for that type of work.
These techniques were developed as survival skills when stuck in the wilderness with nothing more than a knife.
If you had an axe or a saw, you would obviously want to use one of those to get the work done.
But if you find that you were ill-prepared for the situation, and you got just a knife, well, then we hope you at least got a knife that can take some abuse to keep you alive.
We’re not going to go into the details of how to use your bushcraft knife here, but you can check out some of these videos on some of the basic techniques on how to use your knife if you’re new to bushcraft.
How To Maintain Your Bushcraft Knife
Sharpening Your Knife Blade
No matter the blade material you choose, all blades will eventually need to be sharpened, no matter the quality.
Thus you will need to get a sharpening stone.
A honing rod is not designed to “sharpen” a knife. It will help return the edge if the teeth are out of alignment.
But if you’ve lost the blade’s edge, you will need to use a stone to shape it back.
Look at the edge and inspect where there are any imperfections or rounding.
Grind it down using the rougher grit side of the stone.
Polish it with the lighter grit side.
Then strop it to razor sharpness.
What we often overlook is also maintaining the knife spine.
If you do a lot of batoning or Ferro rod striking, then making sure the spine has a 90-degree flat surface is critical.
You can check out some techniques on how to maintain your knife spine in this video.
Maintaining Wood Handles and Leather Sheaths
If you go with the more classic wood handles and leather sheaths, you will need to regularly maintain them.
You can check out the tutorial above on how to maintain them with some straightforward steps.
You will essentially need to get some linseed or hemp oil and wrap the handle using a soaked oilcloth or paper towel.
Leave it in the sun for about an hour to warm the wood and absorb the oil.
You will also want to wax the handle to protect it from moisture.
You can use a sheath cream to soak into the leather and keep it from rotting and cracking.
Finally, you will want to oil the blade as well to keep it from rusting.
Yes, even if you have a “stainless steel” blade.
More Questions About Bushcraft Knives
Which Is The Best Blade Shape For Bushcraft?
As we mentioned before, there are various shapes in which you can find a bushcraft knife: the Scandi, Convex, and now the “Scandi-Vex,” or a puukko.
The Scandi has a straighter shape with a rounded point. The edge of the blade is more wedge-shaped with a 22-degree grade. We feel it’s better for wood processing.
The Convex blade shape has a more gradual 15-degree grade to the blade edge. This makes it a little thinner overall and may be less durable under heavier demands, making it more ideal for skinning and butchering, and prepping food for the camp.
The “Scandi-vex” is a hybrid of the two, having a more gradual grade to the edge. These are typically custom and not common.
And the puukko is like a Scandi, but more rounded than angular. It’s not as gradual a grade to the edge as a convex knife.
Which shape is better for you will depend on how you intend to use it more often.
What Is The Best Bushcraft Knife Steel?
The best steel for a bushcraft knife will hold its edge and be easy to sharpen when you lose the edge.
Naturally, there is a conflict as steel that holds its edge longer is typically harder to sharpen.
So we like to find a balance between the two.
We feel the 1095 Cro-Van steel is ideal, or any steel similar to it.
How Thick Should A Bushcraft Knife Be?
A bushcraft knife should be between 3mm and 5mm thick.
You need a blade that’s got enough bulk to process wood yet delicate enough to process meat and other food without mashing it into a pulp.
Are There Bushcraft Cooking Knives?
Most bushcraft knives, in general, will do all right preparing most of your food.
If you’re trying to thinly slice a tomato, then you may be disappointed.
But as long as you keep it razor-sharp, as with any knife, it will do its job without disappointment.
If you’re a particular bushcraft chef, then you’ll probably want a knife with a thinner, convex blade compared to the thicker Scandi grinds.
You’ll find that it’s not too different from a butcher knife you see in the kitchen.
Depending on where you live, there may be a fixed blade maximum length legal limit.
Check your state laws to see if it applies to you.
You should also think about what other tools you can carry with you to assist your knife.
You will also want to have a proper knife sharpening kit.
You may not take it with you on your hike into the wilderness but can keep it at home base to ensure all of your knives are well maintained before you leave.
You can then use your portable knife sharpeners for honing in the field.
Well, there you have it, folks—our rundown of the best bushcraft knives currently on the market.
You’ll find that they’re all great knives in their own way, and they are all relatively affordable.
Remember, the most important thing you want to keep in mind when choosing a knife is that it’s full tang, with a blade that’s at least 4″ long and 3mm thick, and a solid handle that’s at least 5″ in length with a good palm swell that will fit comfortably in your hand even if you have a glove on.
If you’re still not decided on which is the best bushcraft knife for you, we can tell you our go-to choice would, of course, be the Morakniv Carbon Steel Black.
It’s an original that has stood the test of time.
You can always get more knives in the future as you use this knife and see what you like about it and what you don’t.
But for anyone just getting into bushcraft, then the Morakniv Carbon Steel Black is the best traditional bushcraft knife both a beginner and a veteran would be proud to carry.
If you have a particular experience with any of the knives on the list you would like to share, please leave your comments below.
We always appreciate any value you can help add to the community.
Until next time.