Spoiler Alert: Conquerwild named the Benchmade – North Folk 15031 as the best backpacking knife overall!!
Venturing out into the wilderness can be an unpredictable experience. That’s why it’s always a good idea to keep a handy backpacking knife with you while you’re on the go.
These small yet versatile tools can be true lifesavers in more ways than one. Though in my opinion, not every product out there is worth your money. I’ve set out to find the best backpacking knife for campers, hikers and outdoor adventurers. Here are my reviews of the best products I could find:
What We’ll Be Reviewing:
- Smith & Wesson SWA24S Extreme Ops Folding Knife
- Gerber Paraframe I Knife
- Benchmade – North Folk 15031
- Gerber STL 2.0 Pocket Knife
- Tops Brothers Of Bushcraft Survival Knife
Smith & Wesson SWA24S Extreme Ops Folding Knife – Most Affordable Backpacking Knife
The name Smith & Wesson is no stranger to many people, as they’re a super prominent force in the gun market. Not many people know that they’re also great at making affordable hiking knives. This tactical folding knife is just about the most cost efficient product that you can find anywhere with this level of quality.
This product doesn’t discriminate between righties and lefties, as it comes with ambidextrous thumb knobs. This means it’s super easy to open the blade on the go. With its serrated, stainless steel blade, the SWA24S has no trouble cutting through almost anything.
Even with this thing’s super lightweight and compact design, it’s ultra durable and has a sturdy feel to it. It also includes a nice, stable pocket clip for easy transportation.
Many people would be concerned about buying something this low in price, though Smith & Wesson certainly doesn’t disappoint here.
- Most affordable knife on this list!
- 3.1 inch black oxide, high carbon, stainless steel blade is super durable and rust/corrosion resistant.
- Textured, aluminum handle with nice finger divots makes for a comfortable grip.
- Comes with an effective inner lock.
- Extremely lightweight at 2.4 ounces.
- Not the most multi-functional.
- Some customers have complained that the blade doesn’t open quickly.
Gerber Paraframe I Knife – Best Value Backpacking Knife / Best Looking Backpacking Knife
Here, we have another example of a simple, affordable knife that’s super efficient and reliable. This Gerber knife has a fierce-looking, open frame. If you’re looking for a tough, eye-catching aesthetic, the Paraframe is a great choice.
Weighing only 2.6 ounces, this contraption is just barely heavier than the Smith & Wesson. When this trekking knife is closed, it’s only 4.11 inches long. It’ll latch comfortably onto your waistline with the help of its pocket clip.
When this knife is open, it stays open, thanks to its sturdy frame lock. At the same time, its simple design makes it easy to close.
I really appreciate the Gerber Paraframe I for its awesome look and for its impressive value. Whether you’re using it for backpacking or normal day-to-day tasks, this knife’s got you covered.
- Carbon, stainless steel blade is coated with titanium nitrate, making it corrosion resistant and super sharp right out of the box.
- Great value for the low price.
- Open frame makes it super easy to clean, even when the blade is closed.
- 7.01 inches long (when opened) with a 3.01 inch blade.
- Super lightweight.
- Ultra thin and small enough to fit into your pocket.
- Due to the knife’s open frame, it may be easier to cut yourself when closing it (when done incorrectly).
- Some customers claim that the jimping (or thumb openers) are a bit too bulky and sharp.
Benchmade – North Folk 15031 – Best Backpacking Knife Overall
If you’re looking to go with something that’s of undeniable quality, then consider Benchmade’s North Folk 15031 knife. Although it may be pricier than some of the other products, this knife is incredibly functional and efficient… Not to mention, its rugged aesthetic is pretty awesome-looking.
With a handle made of stabilized wood, this knife is super easy to work with. The prominent finger wells make for a very comfortable fit in most backpackers’ hands. You can also opt for the slightly pricier version of this knife with a G10 (fiberglass laminate) handle. This edition is temperature resistant, so it’s great for ventures out into extreme environments.
The 15031 is a knife which you can expect to be extremely sharp as soon as you take it out of the box. Some Amazon customers have even gone as far as to say you can shave with it on your first use (I wouldn’t recommend that).
Weighing only 3.41 ounces, this knife is also ultra lightweight. Combine this with the reversible pocket clip and the ability to open/close the blade with one hand, and you get a super convenient, lightweight knife.
- Strong, ambidextrous AXIS lock.
- Rust resistant.
- Can open and close the blade seamlessly with one hand.
- Super portable with a lightweight, slender compact design.
- Also includes a lanyard/keychain hole.
- Blade has small, serrated sections.
- A bit expensive.
- 2.97 inch blade is somewhat short… Though some may see this as a pro.
Gerber STL 2.0 Pocket Knife – Most Lightweight Backpacking Knife
If you’re looking for a knife that’s so tiny and portable that you forget you’re carrying it, go with the Gerber STL 2.0 Pocket Knife. The STL stands for “strong, thin, light” and this product certainly makes great use of that acronym.
The small blade on this thing makes it great for carving with precision. Also, the ultra slim design means that it’ll always be a comfortable fit in your pocket. Most importantly, the Gerber STL weighs only 1 ounce! It’s the most lightweight product on this list.
With the ability to open with just one hand, this knife is great for quick, on-the-go cutting. From carving sticks to slicing through wrappers to opening letters, the Gerber 2.0 is able to be super effective while remaining very simplistic.
For those who are looking for a massive blade that’s meant for heavy duty chopping, then this is probably not the best choice for you. However, if you just want a handy tool that’s ultra convenient, this ultralight pocket knife is of incredible value.
- Very affordable, especially for the quality.
- Sturdy frame lock.
- Practically weightless at 1 ounce.
- 5.1 inches long when opened and 3 inches when closed.
- Features a lanyard/keychain hole.
- Slim, 2.1 inch, stainless steel blade is super sharp right out of the box.
- Doesn’t come with a clip. You’ll need to use a lanyard/keychain or carry it in your pocket.
- Small and less functional than the larger knives on this list.
- Closing the blade is a bit tough.
Tops Brothers Of Bushcraft Survival Knife – Best Heavy Duty Backpacking Knife
The Tops B.O.B. is the only knife I’ve included on this list with a fixed blade. This means that it’s not retractable and does not have any sort of blade lock. This also means that it’s the largest knife on this list. From the tip of the blade to the butt of the handle, this thing is a full 10 inches long!
Instead of a retractable blade that collapses into the handle, this knife comes with a stylish sheath. This brownish cover fits perfectly over this razor sharp blade and will prevent you from slicing anything that isn‘t supposed to be sliced.
The coyote tan finish on the blade is a really nice, visually pleasing touch. It’s certainly got a good amount of weight to it as well. Overall, it screams “survivalist.” This is definitely not the tool you want carry along in your pocket for convenience. However, its strong, durable blade makes up for the lack of portability.
If the previous knives were too miniscule for your needs, then the TOPS B.O.B. is probably a better choice for you. This would be the knife to go with if you ever found yourself stranded in the wilderness.
- Largest (high carbon steel) blade on the list at 4.5 inches.
- Sheath comes with a sturdy belt clip that pivots in any direction.
- Versatile, all-purpose knife.
- Customers have reported that it’s “shaving sharp” right out of the box.
- 5.5 inch handle provides ample room for gripping.
- Least portable and heaviest knife on the list.
- Can’t open/close the fixed blade.
- Not for beginners.
Why Do You Need A Backpacking Knife?
So what’s the true purpose of owning one of these tools? Let’s start off by saying- not every hiker or camper needs a knife for backpacking. If you’re taking a short, leisurely trek through the woods or camping in your backyard, the backpacking knife is not a necessity (though at the same time, we never know what any expedition into nature is going to bring us).
For anyone who is a consistent hiker or an avid camper, the backpacking knife is a must-have. These handy tools can be helpful in dozens of different ways.
If you’re collecting firewood, you can use this knife to split medium sized logs, chop sticks, or to carve out wet patches.
You can use your knife to open food packages, cut through ropes and wires, sharpen wood, prepare meals and so many other things.
In some rare situations, carrying a backpacking knife can even save your life. Keep this tool with you for self defense when you feel that your life is in danger.
Regardless of what your intentions are, carrying a backpacking knife with you during your treks will help you to feel more safe and secure.
How To Find The Best Backpacking Knife
For someone who has never owned a hiking knife before, choosing which one to buy can be a bit daunting. There are tons of factors to consider, both subjective and objective. Here are some of the subjective elements that separate the great backpacking knives from the not-so-great ones:
It’s All In The Blade
The first and most blatant aspect to examine in a knife is its blade. There are tons of different products out there; therefore, there are many variations of blades.
My 2 major go-to materials for knife blades are stainless steel and carbon steel. These are both durable, efficient materials that will stay strong for long periods of time.
Carbon steel has the potential to be super sharp. It’s also very tough. Its only downfall is that it’s susceptible to rust, corrosion and discoloration. This makes it less suitable for wet weather conditions.
Stainless steel will never rust or corrode, but it’s not as easy to sharpen as carbon steel. You won’t quite reach that same level of sharpness that you do with carbon.
To get the best of both worlds, you can find blades that are made of high carbon stainless steel. These knives are sometimes deemed to be “semi-stainless.” This means that your blade will stay sharp longer, but it won’t be prone to rust or corrosion.
Get A Good Grip
What’s a good blade without a good handle to compliment it? When using any knife, it’s absolutely vital that you have a good grip on it. The last thing you want is for your hand to slip while you’re slicing an apple or something miniscule. Things could get… messy.
First of all, find a knife with a handle that’s long enough for your hand. I recommend measuring the width of your hand, from one side of your palm to the other, and then comparing it to the grip length. If your hand is bigger than the knife’s handle, then it’s probably not the right choice for you.
It’s also great when a knife’s grip has finger divots, so that it fits to your hand like a glove. If you’re using a handle that’s uncomfortable, you’re going to tire out the muscles in your hand.
As far as materials go, I find stainless steel to be the most effective for handles. This is because of its weather resistant, long-lasting nature.
Materials like aluminum and titanium are also great because they’re really strong. Micarta is another commonly used material that’s both tough and light.
If you’re nervous about keeping a firm grip, then consider buying something with a wooden handle. While these aren’t the most long lasting type of handle (unless it‘s stabilized wood, which means it’s been injected with resin), they usually make for a super secure grip.
Think Compact And Portable
As with any piece of backpacking equipment, you want your knife to be as easy to carry as possible. This means finding a product that’s lightweight.
Most of the products from my backpacking knife reviews weigh less than 4 ounces, which is super convenient when it comes to long distance treks.
Also consider whether each knife will be able to fit in your pocket. The slimmer the knife’s frame is, the better. If it can’t fit into your pocket, then be sure it has some sort of clip so that you can fasten it to your waistline. You can also opt for something with a loop hole for lanyards or keychains. This will allow you to have easy access to the knife while you’re on the go.
Folding Vs. Fixed Blades
When it comes to the style of your knife, you‘re going to have to choose between a folding blade (in which the blade collapses into the handle) or a fixed blade (in which the blade stays in one position). These two variations of knife are very different from each other.
In general, I prefer folding backpacking knives, as they tend to be smaller, safer and quicker. With these knives, you must always be sure that it has an effective lock (AXIS locks are GREAT). This will keep the blade from opening or closing when you don’t want it to.
If your knife has a fixed blade, be sure that it comes with a sheath (blade cover) so that you don’t run the risk of cutting yourself when you go to grab it.
What Are Your Limitations?
Now that we’ve gone over the main elements of the best backpacking knives, it’s time to think about requirements that are specific to you. Everyone has different preferences and circumstances. We must always take that into consideration before making a purchase.
Are You Experienced With Knives?
Obviously, not every person who wants to buy a backpacking knife is going to have the same amount of experience. Everyone needs to start somewhere. If you’re purchasing your first ever knife, it’s important to know where your limitations lie.
Don’t ever forget that a knife is a tool. It shouldn’t be used at all if it’s going to be mishandled. All knives are dangerous when you don’t know how to use them properly.
Always operate with extreme caution and don’t buy a knife that is larger or more complex than you can handle.
I find that the Gerber STL 2.0 pocket knife is the best for beginners.
How Much Functionality Do You Need?
At the end of the day, your purchase will completely depend on what your intentions are as a backpacker. How complex of a tool do you need?
For those who just want a backpacking knife as a crutch or an added safety measure, I would get something small and simple (like the Gerber STL 2.0).
If you’re embarking on a week-long expedition into the wild backcountry by yourself, then consider investing in a survival-type knife (like the Tops B.O.B).
If you don’t plan on backpacking at all and just want one of these neat gadgets for opening your mail (or even just to look cool), then you should definitely buy something like the Smith & Wesson Extreme Ops Folding Knife. This is about as inexpensive as you should go.
If none of the knives on this list provide the amount of functionality that you need, then maybe you need something like a multitool.
When it comes to choosing the best hiking knife, try your best to pick something that fits you. A good knife is like a good sidekick- you should be able to count on it to save the day.
There are lots of great products on the market and I’ve listed my personal favorites… However, there‘s one that stands out as being the best overall.
Our Top Pick Is…
When it comes down to it, this knife is the baddest of the bunch. It’s got everything any backpacker could ask for in an ultralight backpacking knife.
It can be operated with one hand. It’s got a compact, slim design. It’s got a precise, rust-resistant blade and more. What more could you ask for in a knife for backpacking?
If you don’t feel like you need such a high quality knife and want to save a bit of money, I think the Gerber Paraframe I Knife is your best bet.