The Best Camping Knife

Gerber Bear Grylls Ultimate Serrated Knife

Our Top Pick for 2016: Gerber Bear Grylls Ultimate Serrated Knife
Read our full review.

See it on Amazon for $24.64*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.
Too expensive? See our budget pick.

A great knife is an essential tool when camping or backpacking. You want to choose a camping knife that is durable and reliable, but you should also consider how you will use it. Other considerations should include the climate in which it will be used, the knife’s comfort when in use and the ease with which the knife can be packed or carried. Therefore, no particular knife is ideal for all people or all situations. The following knives, however, are all excellent choices for the widest range of uses and conditions.

Table of contents

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Sturdy, Lightweight All-purpose Utility Knife
Molded Rubber Grip
Purpose Built Survival Gear
Easy-to-sharpen 1095 Cro-van Steel
Knurled Striking Surface Butt Cap
Partially Serrated Blade
Durable Glass-fiber-filled Nylon Handle
Saw Ground Back Blade
Detachable Magnetic LED Flashlight
7-inch Blade Length
Integrated Fire Starter
Glass Breaker
Weighs 0.75 Pounds
Emergency Micro Lanyard Whistle
Bottle Opener

*Price at time of publishing and may not reflect current pricing.

#1 Gold pick (Winner): Gerber Bear Grylls Ultimate Serrated Knife

Gerber Bear Grylls Ultimate Serrated Knife Gold Pick

View it on Amazon for $24.64*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-gold-winnerGerber has been producing high-quality knives since 1939. [1] The company has a reputation for producing durable knives that are comfortable in the hand, and many Gerber knives are highly valued by collectors. Bear Grylls, a former member of the British Special Forces, is well-known as an adventurer, survivalist, television personality and author. [2] You would expect a collaboration between Gerber and Grylls to produce an excellent knife, and the Ultimate Serrated Knife meets those expectations.

A great knife needs a quality blade. Gerber produces this knife with high-carbon, high-grade stainless steel. The 4.8-inch blade has a drop-point profile and is serrated on approximately half its length. The blade is extremely sharp and will hold its edge very well. [3]

No matter how great a blade might be, however, you must be able to use the knife effectively, Grylls and Gerber made sure that you could wield this blade with ease. The ergonomic handle has a textured rubber grip that minimizes slippage while maximizing comfort. The butt cap is stainless steel and texturized for pounding, hammering or even cracking nuts. Should you need to convert your knife to a fishing spear, there are two holes in the handle to make it simple to lash the knife securely to a stick or pole. [3]

The sheath is made from military-grade nylon, so it will resist mildew and mold. The retainer strap closes with self-sealing hook and loop tape for a secure hold while still making it easy to unsheathe the blade. Loops are provided for belt carry, or you can use them to secure the knife to a strap on your backpack. [3]

Gerber includes several extras with this knife. A fire starter stows away in a waterproof compartment in the sheath. To generate sparks, you can strike it against the notch built into the top edge of the knife. A sharpener is attached to the sheath, allowing you to make sure that your edge is sharp at all times. An emergency whistle is attached to the lanyard should you need to attract attention. The knife also comes with Grylls’ pocket survival guide that offers essential information on surviving in the wild. Weighing less than one pound with the sheath and accessories and with an overall length of approximately 10 inches, the Bear Grylls knife from Gerber will not weigh you down or take up an excessive amount of space. [3, 4]

As good as this Gerber knife is, however, not every buyer considers it as an example of perfection. It has an overall rating of 4.6 stars on Amazon, with 68 percent of the reviewers awarding the highest rating possible of five stars. The major complaint was that the butt cap tended to come off easily when used for hammering and pounding. However, several reviewers reported that Gerber advised that the knife was modified in early 2011 to correct the flaw, and many of the negative reviews may be based on the earlier version of the knife. Other reasons noted for giving the knife less than the highest rating were varied.

• Reviewer AM515 reported that the fire starter rod was short and attached to the sheath in such a way as to make it difficult to grip securely. The same reviewer stated that the serrations did not hold their edge for more than a few minutes of use.
• Cooltrip71 admitted that the knife was not cleaned for several hours after it was used, but did not feel that it should have shown signs of rust on the blade in that brief a period.
• Clark listed multiple reasons for awarding a one-star rating. These included a bent tip on the blade, rust despite his having cleaned and dried it thoroughly after use, a broken retainer soon after purchase and heavy wear to the serrations after what he considered light use.
• G.M.D. said that in less than four months, the knife and butt cap were severely rusted and the blade lost its edge quickly.
• Saroja S. said the sheath broke the first time her husband tried to insert the knife.
• MyTwoBears reported that the only thing that worked as it should was the whistle.
• David awarded five stars, commenting that it was a great knife considering the economical price.
• Another five-star rating came from Rarfocals, who reported using the knife extensively for over a year without any failures.
• Although S.C. Sr. gave the knife five stars, he noted that you could not sharpen the serrations with the enclosed sharpener and felt that they would be difficult to sharpen when the time came.
• Martin A. awarded five stars and commented that it was the best knife he had seen for the price.

#2 Silver pick (Runner-up): Ka-Bar Becker BK7

Ka-Bar Becker BK7

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2016-silver-winnerKa-Bar has an illustrious history that dates to the late 1800s. [5] In 1942, the company began supplying combat knives to the U.S. Marine Corps. [6] The knife quickly became a favorite of members of other branches of the service, and today, you can find people in the Coast Guard, Army and Navy who carry a Ka-Bar knife. Ka-Bar knives are also popular with collectors and fixed-blade enthusiasts in many different countries.

As the name implies, the Ka-Bar Becker Combat Utility BK7 has a 7-inch blade and is an all-purpose knife with full-tang construction. It has an overall length of 12.75 inches and weighs approximately 0.85 pound. The blade features a clip-point profile and a flat grind with an edge angle of 20 degrees. The blade is made from 1095 Cro-Van steel, so it will take and retain an edge well, and the protective coating offers much better rust-resistance than an untreated carbon blade. According to Ka-Bar, the blade has a thickness of 0.188 inches and a hardness of 56 to 58 on the Rockwell scale. The handle is made from a glass-fiber and nylon for strength and durability. A polyester sheath is included. Ka-Bar states that the sheath is sourced from China, but the knife itself is made in America. [7, 8]

Of the 425 purchasers who reviewed the knife on Amazon, only three gave it one star. It was given the highest rating of five stars by 81 percent of the reviewers with an overall score of 4.8 stars. The three reviewers awarding just one star voiced the following complaints:

• One stated that it was “awkward”
• One reported that the handle was slippery and the grind was poorly aligned
• The third was disappointed that the blade was not thicker

Although few reviewers awarded lower ratings, several mentioned that the quality of the sheath was lacking. For example, darthmikey gave the knife five stars but stated that the knife was “very loose” in the sheath, Adam reported that the retaining strap was attached improperly and would not reach far enough to secure the knife, betterbuybk gave the knife five stars but said the sheath was “oversized and flimsy” and Qui-Gone posted that the sheath was his only complaint, but he awarded five stars as he said that the knife more than compensated for it.

Here are some additional samples of reviews posted by purchasers.

• Peter H. called the BK7 the best Becker knife among the several Beckers that he owns
• Glenn J. S. stated that the BK7 would be “great choice” if someone could have just one knife
• Anonymous gave the knife 5 stars, stating that he would give the sheath 4 stars and the blade quality 10 if the scale did not have a maximum of five
• Jack M. called the BK7 “awesome”
• Les C. R. stated that the BK7 was a knife that Jim Bowie would love and rated it at five stars
• Echo2 was one of the reviewers who lowered the rating to four stars because of the sheath, stating that if not for the sheath, he would have given it five stars
• Several reviewers awarding five stars felt the handle was a bit slick, but had found ways to compensate, such as adding grip tape, roughing up the handle with a file or adding rubber O-rings.
• Many reviewers praised the balance and heft of the BK7.
• Most reviewers considered the knife to be well worth the price, but a few reviewers felt that there were knives as good for a little less money.

#3 Bronze pick (3rd place): Chaos Ready 5 in 1 Survival Knife

Chaos Ready 5 in 1 Survival Knife

View it on Amazon for $49.99*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-bronze-awardThe Chaos Ready 5 in 1 Survival Knife is a multipurpose tool with a folding blade to fit easily in your pocket or bag. The name is a bit inaccurate as Chaos Ready has recently added a sixth tool to the list. The six tools incorporated in the design are:

• Folding knife
• Detachable LED flashlight
• Glass breaker
• Seat belt cutter
• Fire starter
• Bottle opener

The knife has a partially serrated blade with a drop point. It is made from 440 stainless steel for edge retention and rust resistance. The knife features a thumb stud for quick-assist opening, making it easy and fast to open the blade with one hand. A pocket clip helps ensure that your knife is secure and protects you from accidental loss.

The flashlight detaches to make it easier to handle, such as when using it to check under your hood or search through your bag. As an LED light, it provides excellent illumination in a small package. The enclosed batteries have been tested to provide more than 30 hours of use before they need to be changed. You will need to remove the tab around the battery compartment before using the flashlight. The flashlight can also double as a magnet should you find yourself in need of one. Furthermore, since the flashlight is magnetic, you can attach it metal objects, such as some car parts or camping gear, for a hands-free light.

The glass breaker is incorporated into the bottom of the knife. The seat belt cutter is near the glass breaker. These two tools can be used for rescue purposes as well as survival tools.

A magnesium-alloy fire starter allows you to generate sparks quickly. This means that you can easily start a fire for warmth, signaling, cooking or light.

The bottle cap opener is located on the reverse side of the blade. In addition to removing bottle caps, it can be used — in some situations — for light prying, stripping wires or as a screwdriver.

Chaos Ready offers an unlimited lifetime warranty. This is somewhat unusual for a multipurpose tool that is as economically priced as this one is.

Although the company does not specify the blade length, reviewers on both the company’s website and Amazon have stated that the blade is just under four inches long. This places the knife within acceptable parameters for jurisdictions that limit everyday carry to a 4-inch blade. [9, 10]

Reviews on Amazon have been mostly positive, with 75 percent awarding the highest possible rating of five stars and 19 percent rating the item at four stars. No reviewer gave it one star, the lowest rating. Overall, the rating is 4.7 stars. Following are some sample comments made by reviewers.

• Amanda S. assigned five stars, stating that it is a “beast of a knife” and that the flashlight is very bright.
• Mike in CA gave it five stars and reported that he had the flashlight on for 60 hours and it was still going strong.
• Another reviewer giving it five stars, ShanesMommy, posted that she had purchased it as a gift, but after receiving it, she decided to keep it for herself.
• Although Frank S. awarded five stars, he felt that the magnet on the flashlight was a bit weak.
• J.C. was one of two reviewers who rated it at two stars. He commented that the flashlight was not “glued in place” upon receipt and that the battery was dead. Chaos Ready posted a response that the flashlight was magnetic and was never glued, explained that there was a protective tab that needed to be removed and asked him to contact them so they could arrange a full refund.

#4 Budget pick (Best cheap): TAC Force TF-705 Series

TAC Force TF-705 Series

View it on Amazon for $6.84*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-cheap-budget-pickIf you want a good knife at a budget price, you might want to consider the TAC Force TF-705 Series. Tac Force is a brand of Master Cutlery, the largest wholesale manufacturer of knives in the United States and a family owned business founded in 1982. The Tac Force line consists of spring assisted-opening folding knives that are carried by numerous first-responders, such as paramedics, firefighters and emergency medical technicians. [11]

The TF-705 features a stainless steel blade that offers excellent resistance to rust and stains. The blade is serrated for approximately half of its length, measuring 3.25 inches in length and 3 mm in thickness. Closed, the knife measures 4.5 inches; when open, it is 8.375 inches long. [11]

The spring assist makes it easy to open the knife with one hand. The blade features a liner lock to hold the blade in place when in the open position. [11] Like most folding knives that lock into position, the liner lock must be released to close the knife.

The TF-705 incorporates additional tools that are often not found on knives in the same price range. There is a screwdriver and bottle opener on the end of the handle as well as a glass breaker that can be used to break a vehicle’s window or windshield in an emergency. A sturdy pocket clip keeps the knife safe and secure. [11]

The knife is ranks high on Amazon’s list of best-sellers. It is ranked first in the category of hunting and fishing tactical knives and sixth for hunting and fishing tactical and personal defense knives. [11]

The TF-705 has also received high ratings from the almost 5,000 people who have posted reviews on Amazon. The knife’s overall rating is 4.5 out of a possible five stars. Approximately 68 percent assigned a five-star rating, 19 percent awarded it four stars and 7 percent gave it three stars. The remaining 6 percent was evenly divided between one and two stars at 3 percent each. Here is what some of the purchasers posted about the knife.

• Zak T. called it the best in his collection, noting that it had a strong spring and was “very sharp.”
• Dgsaxhitman84 awarded the knife five stars and commented that he had not expected to receive such a quality knife for the price. He added that he has purchased three more of these knives and that all of them have been “amazing.”
• Jimmy S. said that it was nicer than most knives costing $50 or more, giving the TF-705 five stars.
• Many reviews included the phrases, “no blade play,” “smooth action,” “holds edge very well” or “amazing construction.”
• Several reviewers awarding just one star complained that the locking mechanism either did not work upon receipt or stopped working within a short time.
• Regardless of the ratings they gave the knife, multiple reviewers commented on the need to have the blade open to use the bottle opener.
• More than one person mentioned that the blade was hard to open if you were left-handed, had small hands or lacked strength in your fingers.
• One customer stated that he would have given the knife five stars, but he dropped the rating to four stars because it was manufactured in China although the company is American.


Pre-purchase considerations

Cost

Although none of the knives on this list are as expensive as many custom knives or famous collectors’ items, there is still quite a range of prices. Only you can decide how much you can afford or are willing to spend on a knife.

Carry Method

If you want a knife that you can carry in your pocket every day, you will want to choose a folding knife. On the other hand, if you plan to use it just on camping trips, you could choose either a fixed blade or a folding knife.

Use

How you plan to use the knife can make a difference. For example, if you are planning to use it to chop firewood, you will need a strong knife with a sharp blade and as much weight to it as you can manage. If you just want to use it to cut rope occasionally, any of the knives on the list will do the job.

Care

Stainless steel resists rust, but still requires periodic cleaning to keep the blade in top condition. A carbon blade can rust quickly, so it will need to be cleaned after every use as soon as possible. Therefore, if you want to perform only minimal maintenance, you will probably be happier with stainless steel.

Comfort

If you tend to use your knife for long periods, you want to make sure that the handle provides a comfortable feel. Even if you only use a knife occasionally, an uncomfortable handle may cause issues with your control of the blade. A comfortable handle will fit your hand “just right” and be neither too large nor too small for you to grip it securely.

Legal Compliance

Cities and states have the right to regulate the type and size of knife that you can carry. Furthermore, there may be certain locations that prohibit all knives, including airports and federal buildings. The length of the blade can also determine whether a knife is legal for you to carry on your person in your state.

Aesthetics

No matter which knife you select, you will find that some people consider it attractive while others consider it unappealing. Some prefer shiny blades with a high polish, for example, and others like the look of black powder coating on the blade.

Additional Considerations

The knives listed offer different features besides just a blade. Consider which additional features you need or could see yourself using. If you cannot imagine yourself ever using a bottle opener, for instance, and you are considering two knives of equal quality, the fact that one of them has a bottle opener does not need to be a deciding factor. If you feel that you might use a fire starter occasionally, you might want to give a little more weight to knives that include one.

Conclusion (Wrapping it up)

There are many excellent knives on the market today, but the four on this list are all considered durable, functional and aesthetically pleasing by the majority of the purchasers. However, you are the only person who knows what you want from a camping knife, so the final decision is up to you. All you really need to do is determine the features you need your knife to have, and then select the knife that best fits your requirements.

Discussion and comments

We want to know what you think. Do you own any of the products we discussed? Which did you buy and how did it work out for you?

Do you know of an even better product?

Comment below and help your fellow consumers make the right choice. Over to you!

Resources

[1] Gerber, History of Gerber, 2016
[2] Bear Grylls – Official Site, 2016
[3] Gerber, Bear Grylls Ultimate Fixed Blade Knife, 2016
[4] Amazon, Gerber Bear Grylls Ultimate Serrated Knife, 2016
[5] Ka-Bar, Our History, 2016
[6] Ka-Bar, Our Most Famous Knife, 2016
[7] Ka-Bar, Becker Combat Utility, 2016
[8] Amazon, Ka-Bar Becker BK7 Combat Utility Fixed Blade Knife (7-Inch), 2016
[9] Amazon, Chaos Ready 5 in 1 Survival Knife
[10] Chaos Ready, Chaos Ready 5-in-1 Survival Knife, 2015
[11] Amazon, TAC Force TF-705 Series Assisted Opening Tactical Folding Knife, 2016

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