The great outdoors can be a harsh and unforgiving place. It doesn’t matter if you’re a casual weekend backpacker or a hardened survivalist of Ramboesque skill and experience. A good bushcraft knife is something everyone should have.
Bushcraft is essentially the art of surviving and thriving in the natural environment. A master of bushcraft might stride confidently into the wilderness with little more than their hard-earned survival skills and a few basic tools. A compass. A hatchet. A fire starter. Definitely a knife.
A bushcraft knife is meant to do virtually any task in the outdoors. From skinning a deer or cleaning a fish to chopping up firewood and fashioning a shelter, a bushcraft knife should be sharp, durable and above all, versatile. We took a long, hard look at some of the most popular bushcraft knives of 2020, and found a few that stood well above the crowd.
1. Morakniv Bushcraft Carbon Steel Survival Knife
A Scandinavian company best known for making knives for the Swedish military, Marakniv has earned a reputation for quality.
The Morakniv Bushcraft Carbon Steel Survival Knife is a great all-around bushcraft knife that’s affordable enough for a beginner but high enough quality to appeal to a seasoned outdoorsman.
The grip is high-friction rubber, and the 4.3-inch carbon steel blade has an anti-corrosive black coating to keep it free of blemishes after years of hard use. The blade is also relatively thin (1/8-inch) and razor sharp, with a Scandi grind edge that bites into the surface and stays sharp.
The accompanying black plastic sheath has an integrated diamond sharpener, as well as a Morakniv Fire Starter that locks securely onto the sheath.
The fire starter is one of the features that really makes this knife stand out, transforming it from an ordinary bushcraft knife—albeit an exceptionally high quality one—into a multi-purpose survival tool.
Simply drag the knife spine across the fire starter to create sparks. It works even when wet, so it’s perfect for getting tinder to light in a survival situation. Just don’t use it to light your barbecue grill. You won’t look as cool as you think.
2. Spyderco Proficient Fixed Blade Knife
This is the bushcraft knife you buy when you never want to have to buy another knife as long as you live. Founded in 1976, Spyderco originally made its name selling innovative and brilliantly designed folding knives, and the company’s ventures into bushcraft territory have yielded similarly exceptional results.
The Spyderco Proficient Fixed Blade Knife is a prime example. It was designed by wilderness expert Chris Claycomb to excel in every category, from edge retention and cutting performance to durability and corrosion resistance. This knife is almost impossible to find fault with.
The Spyderco Proficient isn’t the knife for budget shoppers, but keep in mind that this knife could outlive your grandchildren, provided both you and them take good care of it. Spyderco doesn’t make cheap knives, and they definitely don’t make low-quality ones.
The handle is strong, lightweight carbon fiber, and its contours rest in the hand comfortably. The 4-inch blade has a full-flat grind that allows for low-friction cutting, and is made from incredibly strong vanadium-rich CPM S90V particle-metallurgy stainless steel.
3. Schrade SCHF36 Frontier 10.4in Stainless Steel Full Tang Fixed Blade Knife
Serious outdoorsy types might immediately write this knife off because of its low price tag. There’s no way a quality bushcraft knife could cost that little, right?
The Schrade SCHF36 Frontier Fixed Blade Knife might challenge that notion. Granted, if you’re a hardened survival expert with a lifetime of rugged outdoorsmanship under your belt, you’re probably not even looking at knives under $30.
But if you’re a relative newbie on the hunt for your first entry-level bushcraft knife, this one more than lives up to expectations. It might even surprise you.
The Schrade SCHF36 Frontier Fixed Blade Knife has a 5-inch blade made of 1095 Powder Coated High Carbon Steel, which gives it solid durability and the ability to be honed to a keen edge. The blade is just shy of 1/4 inch thick, which is pretty heavy-duty for a bushcraft knife.
The handle is textured TPE (thermoplastic elastomer) with jimping for extra grip. The polyester sheath includes a sharpening stone and a Ferro rod for fire starting. Overall, this is a great knife to take camping or hunting, and it truly is of exceptional quality, especially considering the low price point.
4. KA-BAR Becker BK2 Campanion Fixed Blade Knife
When you need a knife that will work in any situation, the KA-BAR Becker BK2 Campanion Fixed Blade Knife is an able companion in the field. It’s a heavy-duty knife with a full tang blade, and tips the scales at 16 ounces—a full pound—so it feels solid and substantial in your hand.
The 5.25-inch blade is black-coated high carbon steel, with a drop-point profile and full flat grind. The handle is made of Grivory, a semi-crystaline thermoplastic that provides excellent grip.
The word on the street about the KA-BAR Becker BK2 Campanion is that it’s a knife that’s effective at many tasks but doesn’t excel at any one. In a way that’s true, but it’s hard to see that as a strike against it.
A good bushcraft knife needs to be adaptable to any situation and perform any task. Versatility is a virtue, not a hindrance. From carving and skinning to batoning firewood, this is a knife that reliably does what’s asked of it.
The only true downside of this knife is that the sheath that comes with it doesn’t quite match the quality of the knife itself.
5. Schrade SCHF9 12.1in High Carbon Steel Fixed Blade Knife
The Schrade SCHF9 12.1in High Carbon Steel Fixed Blade Knife is far and away one of the best bushcraft knives you can get for under $50. It has a few features one seldom sees in this price range (a 1095 high carbon steel blade, for one) and holds up well against many of its more highly-priced counterparts.
The blade comes plenty sharp, but it’s also easy to hone it to an even better edge. The knife comes with a good-not-great sheath, so that’s one area where you might want to upgrade. The sheath’s detachable pouch is handy though, making it easy to carry a fire starter, lighter or a few other small tools.
This is a heavy-duty knife. The Schrade SCHF9 tips the scales at 15.7 ounces and sports a 6.4-inch blade. It has confidence-inspiring heft, and the spine of the blade is thick enough to handle high-impact tasks like batoning wood without any danger of damaging the blade.
It’s a little bulky for finesse work like fileting fish or fine carving, but this is a solid jack-of-all-trades knife. It’s also a great value, so if you’re looking for a starter knife, or a knife that you can essentially beat the heck out of without worry, the Schrade SCHF9 is your huckleberry.
6. ESEE PR4 Fixed Blade Survival Knife
This is one of those knives that’s made to be functional, not pretty. But that’s okay. You don’t get a bushcraft knife so you can admire it, you get one so you can put it to good use.
The ESEE PR4 Fixed Blade Survival Knife is a one of those tools you’ll never run out of uses for. The 4-inch blade is a slim 1/8-inch thick and sharp enough to shave with. It comes with a fine high saber grind edge and a 90-degree spine, perfect for striking a Ferro rod to make a spark if you need to get a fire going. It’s a full tang blade that extends the length of its removable sculptured Micarta handle.
The blade is high carbon 1095 steel with a black oxide finish. It’s made for hard use, but be cautioned that the metal will rust and stain if you don’t clean and care for it properly. The ESEE PR4 comes with a rugged tan leather sheath that fits it snugly.
This is a fairly lightweight knife at 6.3 ounces, which makes it a great option for hikers and backpackers who need a knife that can take on any situation.
7. TOPS Knives BOB Brothers of Bushcraft Fieldcraft Knife
At the end of the day, a knife is a tool. TOPS Knives BOB Brothers of Bushcraft Fieldcraft Knife is a tool that’s made to be of use in any wilderness situation.
The folks behind its design are a coalition of North American survival experts known as the Brothers of Bushcraft. They know a thing or two about life in the bush.
The knife has a 4.5-inch drop point blade made of 1095 high carbon steel, with a 25-degree modified Scandinavian grind. That gives it an ultra-sharp, slightly convex edge. The Micarta handle gives you solid grip in all conditions.
The TOPS Knives BOB Brothers of Bushcraft Fieldcraft Knife has some solid heft to it, weighing just a hair over 12 ounces. It comes in a snug Kydex sheath with a separate compartment for a fire striker.
There’s a hole in the base of the knife handle that’s perfect for attaching a lanyard or Ferro rod if you so choose. This is a really excellent middle-of-the-road bushcraft knife, neither to big nor too small, affordably priced but not cheap.
Overall it’s is a great all-around knife that performs a spectrum of tasks well, from preparing dinner at your campsite to cutting branches for a shelter.
Bushcraft Knife FAQs
What is a bushcraft knife?
A bushcraft knife is a knife that is designed to aid in general wilderness tasks, from cleaning game animals and shaving tinder to carving wooden tools and batoning firewood.
Bushcraft knives are generally fixed-blade knives with a blade between 4 and 5 inches in length. Unlike many other knife styles that are specialized to be used for a specific purpose, bushcraft knives are intended to be versatile, and equally suited for a wide range of outdoor tasks.
Is a KA-BAR a good bushcraft knife?
KA-BAR is a good knife company that makes a variety of different knife styles, some of which are better suited to bushcraft than others.
The original KA-BAR knives were intended to be fighting knives (they were adopted by the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II) but KA-BAR has introduced several models, such as the KA-BAR Becker BK2 Campanion Fixed Blade Knife, which are versatile and well suited to bushcraft use.
Which steel is best for a bushcraft knife?
Either stainless steel or carbon steel can be used for the blade of a bushcraft knife, thought carbon steel is widely preferred. Steel is an alloy of iron with a small amount of carbon—in a sense, all steel is carbon steel—but when we refer to carbon steel, we’re talking about steel that has a higher-than-usual proportion of carbon in it.
This makes the steel harder, which is an advantage in bushcraft knives because they are often subjected to heavy wear and tear. Stainless steel is steel made with chromium, which makes it resistant to rust and tarnishing, but lacks the strength of carbon steel and is more difficult to keep sharp.
Is a bowie knife a good survival knife?
The Bowie Knife has been a popular knife style since the early 19th century. It can be an excellent survival knife, and is popular among hunters for butchering and skinning animals, though its original intended use was as a fighting knife for self-defense.
Bowie knives are quite a bit larger and heavier than a typical bushcraft knife, with a blade anywhere from 5 to 12 inches long.