If you’re in a rush, then save some time and grab the Gerber Bear Grylls Ultimate Pro, as it’s the best all-around knife out here.
There’s no doubt about it – going camping is a blast.
That being said, you must have the right tools for the job in your backpack if you want to get the best experience out of your trips.
One of the most versatile tools in your toolkit is your trusty knife. It can be used to eat, make tinder for the fire, dig holes, or even help you in a self-defense situation.
So today, I’ll go through five stellar options for the best backpacking knife.
Table of Contents
Best Backpacking Knife: Our Top 5 Picks
- Gerber Bear Grylls Ultimate Pro (Best Knife Overall)
- Spyderco Tenacious (Best Premium Backpacking Knife)
- Victorinox Huntsman (Best Swiss Army Knife For Backpackers)
- ESEE Izula-II (Best Small Backpacking Knife)
- Spyderco Honeybee (Best For Ultralight Backpackers)
Gerber Bear Grylls Ultimate Pro
The Ultimate Pro from Gerber’s Bear Grylls line is one of my all-time favorite knives for a few reasons. First of all, it’s made out of 9CR19MoV steel, which ensures extensive durability. The Ultimate Pro is an excellent daily driver because of this strength, and because everything in this knife is high-quality.
First, its sheath is almost as dependable as the knife itself since it’s made out of mildew-resistant, military-grade nylon. On top of that, the sheath includes a pull-through carbide sharpener to keep that edge shaving-ready whenever you need it.
Finally, the knife has a built-in firestarter rod kept in a watertight holder. This means that you can start a fire everywhere, even if your trip turned a little damp. All in all, these perks make this knife a great offering because of its quality, sharpness, and top-of-the-line ergonomics.
- Durable 9CR19MoV stainless steel construction
- Mildew-resistant sheath
- Pull-through carbide sharpener in sheath
- Comes with a bonus firestarter and Bear Grylls “Priorities of Survival” Pocket Guide
- Comfortable ergonomics fit for the Bear himself
- This model is not serrated, so opt for the standard (non-Pro) version if you want more of a steak knife.
Best for: Campers looking for a reliable knife that can handle most situations well
The blade itself is impressive with a flat leaf-shaped blade made out of 8Cr13Mov stainless steel. This construction provides a formidable combination of durability and razor-sharp cutting.
Don’t get me wrong, that high performance doesn’t mean their knives are uncomfortable. The G-10 handle on this model is the pinnacle of grip, and it’s about as non-slip as a knife can get.
While this brand is on the pricier end of the spectrum, the value is still well worth it. Flicking the knife open is so easy that it almost becomes a fidget toy (at least for those who aren’t anxious around blades). Lastly, these knives come sharp out of the box, which saves you some time so you can get outdoors ASAP.
- The high-grip handle prevents any slippage
- Super durable 8Cr13Mov stainless steel lasts decades
- Flat leaf-shaped provides top-notch cutting
- Easy-flick action for quick access
- Arrives sharpened, to save time
- Slightly pricey, but worth the cost, in my opinion
Best for: Experienced campers who want high performance but don’t mind the high price
Any camper, hiker, or even a young man can tell you that having a Victorinox Swiss Army knife is almost a rite of passage in this world. It’s not a matter of “if” you should buy one, but “when.” Since they invented the Swiss Army knife in 1897, they’ve been steadily expanding to today, where the whole world knows this little red tool.
If you’re ready to graduate to the Swiss Army, the Huntsman is an incredibly popular candidate that I highly recommend. Considering it packs 14 tools beyond the knife itself, it’s about as compact as possible. The outer shell is exceptionally resistant to damage — be it scratches, cracks, or dents from drops. Despite its slim profile, which is no easy task to pull off.
This knife’s quality, workmanship, and durability will always be up to par since every knife is made in Switzerland to this day. Obviously, the Swiss Army Knife’s price will be slightly higher than other standalone knives, so weigh that tradeoff.
- Compact 15-tool format
- Durable-yet-sleek shell
- Swiss-quality blade
- Reputable workmanship
- Made in Switzerland
- Price is higher due to the extra tools that you may or may not need
Best for: Outdoorsmen with highly variable needs and don’t mind paying more for additional tools
While ESEE may not be as much of a household name as some of the previous brands on this list, the Izula-II is a really impressive knife. The first thing that stood out to me is the handle since the scaled design lets you put a lot of force behind your chops & slices. You know what I mean, sometimes you’re cutting, and your knife slips through your hand. Whether it’s due to sweat or fatigue, no one likes losing their grip, so pick up the Izula-II if that’s you.
Regarding other features, this knife has a carabiner hole that makes it easy to attach this knife to your pack. While this may be subjective, I’m a big fan of the design as well. It has that camo hue to it, and the little ant logo on the blade serves as a reminder that strength beats size.
- Full-size handle scales provide superior grip
- Carabiner hole allows you to carry the knife on anything
- Creative design
- Less brand recognition
- 2.63″ blade length may be too small for some
Best for: Outdoorsmen who emphasize design and ergonomics over affordability or blade size
The Honeybee model comes with a 1.6″ blade, treading the line between knife and scalpel. I’ll admit – this small size might be too small for a large portion of backpackers. You won’t be able to chop wood (as if it were a hatchet), but at the end of the day, it’s still good at what it does.
The small size makes this knife a popular choice for skinning small game since it’s easy to wield and cuts through flesh like butter.
This knife’s benefit is that it takes up so little space that you bring it with you anywhere. If you need it, great. If not, you won’t even notice it. I firmly believe, “it’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.”
Its simplistic design also makes maintenance almost non-existent. If you drop it in the dirt, you can just give it a blow, and it’s good as new. It’s also light enough to have on a keychain, and I’ve seen multiple hikers carry it like this — but watch the edge if you do.
- Barely takes up any space
- Suitable for skinning small game
- Low maintenance
- Small size but immense value from Spyderco’s legendary manufacturing
- The blade may be too small for most campers
Best for: Those looking for an EDC knife in their bag
Things to Consider When Buying a Backpacking Knife
All five options that we’ve covered thus far make for great backpacking knives. However, they might be so good that you’re struggling to pick which one is the right product for you. If that’s the case, read on about a few things to think about before making your final decision.
Considering these factors is paramount to avoid buyer’s remorse and ensure you get the perfect option on your first try.
At the end of the day, a knife is meant to cut and chop. If it can’t do those things right, then it’s not doing its job correctly. That’s why material quality is so crucial to the selection process. For instance, the 9CR19MoV steel on the Ultimate Pro is a prime example of durable quality.
It might cost a bit more to get a knife with high-end blade material, but it’ll pay off in the long run since the knife will last you years (or even decades!) rather than months. Think of it as an investment that saves you from having to replace your knife far too often.
That being said, you don’t have to blow all your cash on a custom made blade forged from Damascus steel. Those may look nice, but the higher price isn’t usually worth the tradeoff unless you plan on using your knife every single day.
You could have the sharpest blade on the market, but it won’t do you much good if you never use the knife due to poor ergonomics. Pretty simple – if something feels awkward to hold, you probably won’t use it much. To join the ranks of your EDC stack, your knife must be both easy to wield and ergonomic enough that you don’t find your hand slipping.
If you’re serious about picking the right knife, stop into a brick-and-mortar retailer first so you can see which candidate feels good in your hand. After you choose a winner, head home to buy the knife at the lowest price online. It’s not a bad strategy considering the ergonomics are something you’ll be stuck with for years.
When testing out a knife in-store, try different intensities of grip to see how the ergonomics feel in most situations. Check to see if any parts of the handle dig into your hands or apply excessive pressure on individual fingers. Just make sure when you’re testing out the knife, you don’t swing and hit fellow shoppers.
Your knife’s size is another crucial factor that you should consider before choosing your winner. On the one hand, some prefer to get the most enormous knife out there so they can cut through anything they could possibly need it to. Alternatively, some people want a lighter daily driver knife that won’t swell up their pockets.
While having a large knife has extended uses above smaller blades, you should be careful that it doesn’t get to the point of becoming a burden. If you pick a model that’s too heavy, then you’ll be less inclined to pack it when you’re heading out the door. And how useless is a knife that you leave at home?!
However, make sure you don’t get something too small, either. Just because you want something portable doesn’t mean you can sacrifice functionality. For example, if you choose a small blade, but end up bringing along a multitool as well, maybe you should opt-in for a Swiss Army knife.
Speaking of, it’s essential to consider what objective you want to accomplish and if your knife is versatile enough for that.
One factor for versatility is the design and engineering of the knife itself. For instance, if you pick a knife with a serrated spine, then you’ll be able to use it as a saw (at least with smaller objects). Victorinox knives are versatile, not for their blade design but the multitool format. See how each of those knives are good for different situations?
With a Swiss Army knife, you’re getting a full toolbox in a tiny, light package that you can take anywhere with you. It’s also useful for EDC since you won’t get funny looks or be questioned by store retailers for carrying one. But do you need that? It depends.
In contrast, while there’s nothing immoral with a larger knife, it could make some people uncomfortable to see someone so strapped up. You can’t blame them for being intimidated by a giant machete hanging on your backpack, after all.
So, keep in mind what you want out of your knife before purchasing.
Finally, you have to think about the actual price of the item. While we’re not saying that skimping out is a good idea, you have to remember that your camping pack list includes many more things than just your knife.
So what’s a reasonable price for a knife? Usually, spending more than $100 on a single blade is too much, especially when you have other shopping to do as well. Also, most sub-$100 knives will do the job just as well, especially if your needs aren’t anything outside the typical outdoor activities scope.
No matter the dollar amount, make sure that you’re paying for real value, rather than just shelling out for a premium brand new or cool color scheme.
Also, if you’re looking to buy your primary EDC knife, then you can rationally pay a bit more. But if it’s just a secondary or spare blade, try to keep the cost lower, so you don’t empty out your savings account too quickly.
As you can see, there’s really no shortage of great knife options for you to choose from. Choosing the right one comes down to your specific needs, use case, and budget.
So what’s my top choice? Any pick on this list would be a worthwhile product to invest in, but if you ask me which one tops the rest of the lot, it’s gotta be the Bear Grylls Ultimate Pro. It’s hard to find another knife that does so many things right — from design to ergonomics and, of course, quality.