Camping Knife 101 - Advice for Newbies

Hi All,

I've started going camping a bit with some mates, and am in need of a general purpose camping knife; cutting through small branches, cutting cord, a bit of food, splitting (not cutting) larger branches/logs…really anything while camping!

I have some idea of a good steel/design for cooking knives, but I'm not sure what is generally considered the best design/steel/etc. for a good (but not just the most expensive) camping knife.

Any suggestions, or advice would be super appreciated! Even just a "look at steel X like knife Y" would be great.

REALLY appreciate all the amazing info below people. Clear and concise!


  • +2

    I personally use leatherman waves at work. Perhaps you could look at the more outdoorsy one

    • Ah I hadn't thought of a Leatherman, cheers! The combo of straight+serrated blade and the all important bottle opener is probably a winner actually. Combined with the suggestion of a hatchet below.

  • +8

    Despite Youtube, knives really aren't the ideal tool for cutting branches or splitting wood. Get a quality hatchet or small axe for that stuff. The rest can be handled by any decent knife. Car camping I'd typically take a small axe, folding saw, belt knife for general stuff then typical kitchen prep knife and cutlery. Hiking I'd take a smaller folding saw, pocket knife and a light kitchen knife.

    How much do you want to spend?

    • +4

      Agree 100% with the hatchet, and the idea of the right tool for the job.
      If you get a folding knife, get one with a locking blade.
      I personally find a fixed knife on a belt or something more trouble than it is worth, and you can get folding knives with a thumb stud for one hand opening.

      I prefer a partially serrated blade for general use - much better to cut a rope etc. but obviously not skinning an animal.
      My most used tool at camping is a bottle opener, followed by a leather man skeletool.

    • Yeah I think you got it spot on. We only really go by car, so brining along a small hatchet would be a clear winner.

      Hadn't thought too much about price, $100 or so. Probably a bit closer to $200 with a knife+hatchet.

      • At that budget I'd say one of the Fiskars hatchets from Bunnings BUT don't dismiss a saw instead. I use the saw a lot more than my axe. It's far more energy efficient and safer. A $20 bow saw will get you a lot more wood faster. While on the topic it's also worth mentioning you're not supposed to gather wood in national parks etc and most camp grounds that do allow it have been stripped of anything useful plus we're coming into fire ban season.

        As for knives it's much harder to recommend something as there's so many options. Obviously there's the classic Victorinox Swiss army knife, Leatherman as has been mentioned or you could look at something from Spyderco but probably getting out of your bidget. Fixed knives the cheap Morakniv have good reputation otherwise keeping it under $100 you're probably looking at whatever Gerber fits the price

    • Loppers are night and day more efficient than a non powered saw for car camping.

      • Never tried it but you'd be limited to only using small branches and I imagine end up spending more time feeding the fire compared to being able to use logs.

        • If it is to big for loppers you would be better off with a small axe. Sawing takes forever.

          • @This Guy: Sounds like you need to try a quality saw. As long as the piece is small enough to fit the saw blade sawing is faster, safer and more efficient. Axe is arguably more fun but most people don't know how to use them safely. For really large pieces then axe can be the better tool which is why I carry both but the saw gets 90% of the use.

            • @apsilon: I guess I haven't. I am probably not sawing properly either.

              If it's too big for loppers I use a power tool.

              That said, I want to know how you use loppers that makes sawing safer…

              • +1

                @This Guy:

                That said, I want to know how you use loppers that makes sawing safer…

                I meant safer than an axe.

          • @This Guy: chopping dry, hard timber with an axe isn't fun. If you're just splitting it's fine, but that wouldn't usually be the case while camping. A decent quality, sharp saw is good, but either way you don't want to be cutting through thick timber without a chainsaw.

            • @wombat81: Probably shouldn't be burning hard timber you find in a forest as animals will often use them as they hollow.

              I can see we won't see eye to eye on this topic so you do you.

              • @This Guy: Not sure why your getting so defensive. Most hardwood that you'd be utilizing for fire wood while camping wouldn't be big enough to be hollow. You're not going to hack through foot thick logs…

  • You're gonna be bloody cold using a knife for firewood lol. Dead gum is extremely hard. Early Europeans hated it! Go to Bunnings and buy a bush saw and an axe.

    • Haha yeah I didn't think of that. I think the call for a hatchet is probably a good way to go. Typically we go in a car, so we take some hardwood for the fire, but scavenge up kindling and mid-sized stuff. If we're doing longer camps or further away, will probably throw a saw in the back too now that you mention it!

  • +2

    I'd call myself a fairly seasoned camper. I carry a Leatherman Wave+ and I have a decent quality hatchet/tomahawk in my kit. Unless you're pig hunting or something, there isn't much need for a larger knife. If you go fishing a proper filleting knife is far more useful. If you want something for food prep a proper kitchen knife is best. The smaller serrated Victorinox steak/parring knives are pretty versatile too. We have a few of them in the kit.

    I wouldn't bother with a larger knife. Plus you can't really walk around in public with it. You can get away with a Leatherman much more easily. If you want something bigger than a Wave, look at the Surge. If you want something cheaper, look at the Wingman.

    • Oh yeah I think I may have sounded more keen than I intended! Hunting really isn't my thing; closest would be a big lamb shoulder from the butcher!

      I think I'm pretty convinced on a Leatherman. Likely the skeletool/wingman, combined with a decent hatchet. We do fish a bit, so we have a knife kit for that; basically filleting+general use…but the general use one is getting a bit smashed up, so looked to replace it.

  • Sounds like OP has been watching Rambo.

  • Chat to this guy… He should be able to help you out!

  • +4

    Yeah don't get sucked in to watching US based YouTube videos on multitools and camp knives. Most of their wood is soft like butter. Most aussie wood is hard hard hard. You want a proper tool (axe/saw) to deal with it.

    I have a skeletool and like it for domestic duties but work out what you want. I would never contemplate using a multitool for wood gathering in Oz. I have a pack axe which is basically a hatchet/tomahawk with a longer handle. Light and capable. Maybe look into that.

    • Haha yeah I think it has consistent theme from pretty much everyone; get a hatchet (or bigger)!

  • +1

    In terms of folding saw, I got myself a silky gomboy and have been happy with it

  • I have this one which has been used a lot when we are camping. I also have a chainsaw for larger logs that we need for fires.

    • That thing would be great in a zombie apocalypse. Seems pretty extreme for camping, though. I have a small 36v Makita electric chainsaw which I take on bigger trips for cutting logs. It's great. Can recharge the batteries using the inverter too.

  • Fold up hand saw from Bunnings will be way better than a knife.

  • OP get a leatherman! It'll last you for life and worth every penny.

    • Or if you don't want to spend the big bucks these are great as well:

    • Yeah good point. Leathermans lifetime warranty is great. My son broke the screwdriver on my Wingman a few years ago. Sent it away for repair and they sent a band new one back, no questions asked, no cost.

  • i dont do camping much… but had a look at a gerber machete. damn they look good.. a bit over kill to take fishing though.