In the world of knives, there is a seemingly endless variety of configurations. Some knives have very specific tasks in mind and exceed within those narrow jobs. However, there are still other knives that are simply too important to be limited to one purpose. Among the multi-taskers of the knife market, there are few categories of knives that are expected to perform more tasks than a bushcraft knife.
Bushcraft knives are the ultimate general-purpose utility knife to keep by your side in a wilderness or survival situation. Whether you’re cutting rope, sawing branches, or prepping a meal, a proper knife can be the difference between getting the job done and coming up short.
Yet, finding the best bushcraft knife is not always an obvious task. Here is what you need to know.
Last update on 2020-09-23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
- 1 Best Bushcraft Knife Reviews
- 2 KA-BAR Becker BK2 Campanion Fixed Blade Knife
- 3 Benchmade – Bushcrafter 162 Fixed Outdoor Survival Knife
- 4 Morakniv Bushcraft Carbon Steel Survival Knife with Fire Starter and Sheath
- 5 Schrade SCHF9 12.1in
- 6 Schrade SCHF36 Frontier 10.4in
- 7 How to Choose the Best Bushcraft Knives
- 8 Conclusion
Best Bushcraft Knife Reviews
KA-BAR is an old name in the knife world, so I had high expectations when I began reviewing their new Becker BK2. Although this is an excellent knife for many applications, there were a few drawbacks that make my recommendation come with a few caveats. That said, let’s start with the positives. The Becker BK2 uses a full-tang construction with 1095 Cro-Van carbon steel. As with every other aspect of a knife, the choice of steel becomes a point of compromise. Of course, you want a blade that can maintain a sharp edge for a sufficient length of time. However, the multi-faceted life of any bushcraft blade means that it will undoubtedly face some abuse, including sawing and prying.
Many manufacturers fail to account for this and use a steel alloy that is too hardened, making the knife brittle. Here, the use of a 1095 alloy was an excellent choice. In my testing, the knife held an excellent edge but was also flexible enough that I was never concerned about breaking the blade or chipping the surface. From a material perspective, it was hard to not like this knife. However, the form factor is a different matter.
For a bushcraft blade, the width of the BK2’s blade is extremely wide. While this lends it strength, it also makes it more awkward for precision work. Further, the handle itself is smooth nylon and lacks a textured surface or finger indentations. The smooth handle made this knife somewhat difficult to use confidently in damp conditions. That said, many of the friends who I lent this knife to enjoyed it immensely. Given their reviews, I think it is best to classify this knife as extremely well made, but an acquired taste.
- 1095 Steel
- Holds an excellent edge
- Well weighted
- Awkward ergonomics
- Smooth handle
Avid outdoorsmen often view their knives from a different perspective than other individuals. Some knife owners view a knife as merely another tool. In contrast, more committed users consider a knife a life-long companion. Anyone who chooses the Benchmade Bushcrafter 162 unquestionably falls into the latter category.
Having handled hundreds if not thousands of knives over the years, it is not a stretch to say this is one of the most attractive utility knives I have encountered. The blade steel of the 162 is CPM-S30V Stainless, one of the highest quality alloys you can use for a utility blade. The bevel of this knife is elegant with a usefully thin profile that does an excellent job of balancing agility with strength. The laser-etched insignia is a nice touch, as well.
The handle here is a unique solution, but very functional. Rather than the traditional extruded plastic, Benchmade used a vacuum-injected glass fiber composite. It is smooth enough that it doesn’t abrade your hand, but has enough texture to provide grip. Further, the coloring is impregnated in the material itself, so scratches will be invisible. The handle is dyed a very attractive blue, almost akin to the color of blued steel. The tang, a full-length arrangement, is exposed through the center relief of the handle. It is a beautiful design, but also very functional.
Finally, Benchmade did not skimp on the sheath like so many other brands. In the utility knife world, you get used to seeing boring plastic holders that are functional enough but uninspiring. Benchmade bucked this trend and included a beautiful hand-stiched leather pouch. It’s a return to an older philosophy of craftsmanship that is nice to see.
Overall, the market for this knife is simple. If you’re willing to spend a little more to have a knife that can be on your hip for decades, this is an excellent choice.
- Beautiful finish
- Leather sheath
- Novel handle design
- Handle recesses can get dirty
Any bushcraft knife is inherently a multi-tasker. Yet, it is possible to take that spirit of versatility too far. While the best bushcraft knives will certainly be useful for multiple tasks, that does not mean that they must be a replacement for a swiss army knife. The Morakniv takes an interesting approach to a bushcraft knife that leaves me somewhat perplexed.
The knife itself is a fairly standard affair. It’s a full tang design made with HRC 56-58 steel. While this is a high-quality alloy, my experience has indicated that it can be somewhat soft for utility work. That said, it can take a wicked edge, so if you don’t mind frequent sharpening there are worse things. The edge is another unique aspect of this blade. It uses a “Scandi” grind that has a much more aggressive approach angle than a traditional edge. Much like the steel itself, this grind makes the knife vary sharp but prone to dulling quickly.
The handle is nice, with a textured injection plastic finish. It’s fairly standard for a knife in this price range, but it works well. My main complaint about this knife is the sheath, which is also the selling point of this model. The sheath attempts to blur the lines between holster and multi-tool. The sheath inexplicably has a built-in fire starter. Although I’m a large advocate of carrying a fire striker, I am not sure I agree that it needs to add bulk to my knife sheath.
Overall, this is a fairly well-made knife for the price. However, given the steep competition, it simply isn’t one of the best bushcraft knife designs.
- Very aggressive edge
- Nicely finished
- Bulky sheath
- Quick to dull
Although extremely high-end knives are a pleasure to own and use, not everyone has the budget to drop multiple hundreds on a single tool. Further, the inherent abuse that a utility knife will endure means that many shoppers logically steer towards less expensive models to lessen the blow if it ever gets damaged or lost. For anyone looking for the best bushcraft knife for the money, Schrade should be a consistent go-to.
Using the SCHF9, you will quickly wonder how they were able to engineer such a competent and well-designed knife for this price. This full-tang design uses 1095 steel. 1095 is a favorite alloy for utility work as it constitutes an almost perfect blend between durability and edge retention. Thus, I was happy to see it here. The shape of the SCHF9’s blade is unique as well. The trailing edge of the edge incorporates a scalloped recess akin to a Kukri or Dao blade. This allows the edge to gain purchase on slicker items, lending confidence when cutting.
The handle is also confidence-inspiring. Although it is a fairly standard injection molded piece, the shape of the finger grips is some of the most ergonomic I’ve encountered. Further, the texture is extremely unique. It may look like a paisley pattern lifted from a hippy’s shirt, but it is extremely effective as shedding water and providing grip.
Overall, this is a beautiful knife for the price. Unless you are willing to spend three or four times more than the cost of this model, you’re unlikely to find a better fixed blade bushcraft knife.
- Incredible value
- 1095 Steel
- Excellent handle design
- Slightly front heavy
The SCHF36 is the slightly smaller stablemate to the SCHF9, above. Thus, all of the positives that drew me to that knife also apply to the SCHF36. There are a few subtle differences, however, that may make this a preferable option for some. The most notable difference is the appearance. Although still 1095 steel, this knife has been treated with a more stealth-influenced black powder-coated finish. It’s a sleek touch that some may find appealing.
The other distinction is the incorporation of a pronounced finger choil. This divot is designed to allow you greater control and protection for detailed carving or slicing. Many outdoorsmen greatly prefer a knife with a choil. I find the grip design of the Schrade knives to be so excellent that a finger choil is slightly redundant, but it is still a nice bonus.
In short, if you like the SCHF9, you will like the SCHF36. They are both stunning values and the best option is a matter of preference.
- Finger choil
- Same great quality as the SCHF9
- Coating can make sharpening tricky
How to Choose the Best Bushcraft Knives
There are a lot of variables that can make a bush knife great or terrible. It’s important to know what factors are key to choosing the right blade, and which are less crucial.
Here’s how to spot top bushcraft knives.
Among the huge list of variables that differentiate knives, none is more important than making sure you choose a full tang blade. Less reputable knife companies will often sell knives that are partial- or no-tang, meaning the blade steel does not extend into the handle itself.
This makes the point between the blade and the handle highly susceptible to fatigue or fracturing. If you focus on no other aspects, make sure to find a full tang bushcraft knife.
Choose the Right Alloy
Beyond the construction of the blade, the alloy is also very important. Bush knives have to be flexible but also maintain a sharp edge.
This poses somewhat of a challenge for manufacturers when choosing the proper carbon content for the blade steel. 1095 stainless is often considered the gold standard in this context. However, many companies use proprietary names in referring to their alloys. The specifics aren’t crucial to know, but a good bush knife will have a blade with a degree of flex.
Grip Is Key
When looking for a knife, don’t overlook the grip. It can be easy to get caught up on the blade and alloys, but even the best blade is worthless without a proper handle. Preference will largely dictate which handle design works best for you.
However, always look for a textured surface for grip in damp conditions. Further, look at the forward edge of the grip. Given the high-impact use of a hunting knife, having a degree of finger protection is a good decision.
The Sheath Makes a Difference
Finally, the sheath can be the difference between a knife being a pleasure to use and a burden. Less expensive knives often use a hard plastic sheath. While this protects the blade adequately, these hard sheaths are often bulky and awkward to carry. Ballistic nylon sheaths are an excellent compromise for a moderately priced knife.
They protect the blade but do not obstruct access to other items on your person. The primary consideration here is to realize that a sheath is typically custom-tailored to a specific knife. Therefore, when selecting a knife, it is important to make sure that you like the entire package.
Choosing a knife can be a matter of strong personal preference. Yet, there are still factors that differentiate the strong from the weak. Regardless of where you stand on the details of the “proper” blade, no one will disagree that proper bushcraft knives will have full-tang construction, be made of a proper alloy, and have an easily grippable handle. Beyond these factors, choosing the best bush knife for this roundup was not an easy task. For a premium product, the Benchmade was an unquestionably beautiful tool.
But it must be acknowledged that such a knife is not within the reach of everyone. To that end, the Schrade SCHF9 is the best bushcraft knife of this roundup. It is a beautifully designed and manufactured piece that punches well above its price point in almost every regard.
- DIMENSIONS: 12.1 inch (30.7 cm) overall length with a blade length of 6.4 inches (16.3 cm) and a weight of 15.7 ounces
- DURABLE: Blade is made of reliable 1095 High Carbon Steel with a black, ring textured thermoplastic elastomer handle
- DEPENDABLE: Quick and easy access with the convenient ballistic belt sheath with removable storage pouch making it ideal for everyday carry
- SECURE: Have confidence that the blade will not slip with the security of the front quillon, thumb jimping and finger choil
- BE PREPARED: Knife features a full tang design and a lanyard hole
Last update on 2020-09-23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API