Choosing a Good Camping Knife (Fixed Blade)

Rambo style hunting knife
Survival knives are good for survival situations. You need a camping knife.

A good survival knife is a must for survival situations.  But for camping you might need something a little different.  Below are suggestions to help you choose a good, all-around, all-purpose fixed-blade knife for camping.

Why you don’t want a “Rambo” knife:

We’ve all seen them, and cool as they look, a survival knife like that is a foolish buy unless you want to display it in a collectors’ case at home. Knives like that are far too bulky and heavy to use properly for either camping or survival situations because they are simply too difficult to control.

Forget the serrated edge because it does a poor job at best; it uses up too much energy for sawing. You’re better off getting an actual saw for camping or survival situations. Serrated edges are almost impossible to keep sharp out in the wilderness. A smooth blade can be sharpened on a flat rock if you’ve forgotten your sharpening stone.

Remember too that the hollow handle filled with emergency supplies is not the best of ideas. Hollow-handle knives are prone to being weaker than the solid variety and if you lose your knife, you lose all your emergency supplies, too.

The kind of knife to look for:

You need to keep three things in mind: how it’s built, what it’s made of, and size.

1.  How it’s built. Look for a knife with a full tang or narrow tang. A “tang” is the part of blade that extends into and through the grip, or handle. Sometimes the tang forms the handle itself, but most times some sort of grip is added around it for comfort and ease of use. A blade that is separate from the handle is a badly made knife, so if you want quality, one with a tang is the way to go.

2. What it’s made of. The blade should be made of rust-repellent stainless or carbon steel, and have a rating on the Rockwell test scale of 58-62. (What is a Rockwell test scale? See below.) Knives with the higher numbers hold a good sharp edge but are difficult to sharpen when it finally needs it, and knives with the lower numbers sharpen easily but don’t stay sharp as long, especially under demanding use.

3. Size. By size, I don’t just mean blade length, but metal thickness as well. You’ll want one that’s 5/32 or 8/32 in thickness–any thinner than that and the blade becomes too flexible, and any thicker means it will lack the ability for finer work that camping and survival situations call for.

The best blade length is 4″-6″(10-15 cm.); that will do just about everything you need it to do. Anything larger will make it heavier and more awkward to carry around. For 4″ fixed-blade knife reviews, click here.

What is a Rockwell Scale?

The Rockwell scale is a scale that indicates and rates the hardness of materials. It was first used in 1919 and was invented by Stanley P. Rockwell. There are many different Rockwell scales, each one used for different materials. For knife steel, the Rockwell C scale is used. Good quality knives will typically range from 56 to 62 on the Rockwell C scale. Generally the higher the rating the higher the price.

For a more detailed explanation of the Rockwell Scale, click here.

One final suggestion:

You may find yourself using your folding pocket knife as often as your fixed-blade knife.

Carry, in addition to your fixed-blade knife, a good-quality folding pocket knife. You’ll be amazed at how often you pull it out for use when camping. Besides, you never know when a rash of whittling will break out during a trip!


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