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The Only Five Knives I Bring to Go Camping (or Hiking or Backpacking)

Photo: John Titchen/Getty Images

I’ve been a dedicated hiker, camper, and mountaineer for a decade now, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned from all my years of outings, it’s that you have to have a good knife. Really, I should say knives because I never venture into the wilderness without at least two blades on me. That’s because you should not only have a backup but also because different knives serve different functions. These camping knives should have you covered no matter the nature of the adventure ahead. (And for the record, yes, I really do own this many camping knives.)

If there’s only one thing you’re going to remember about the Coast DX318, let it be this: It’s one damn sharp knife. Mine arrived with the finest edge I’ve ever seen on a fresh-from-the-factory blade, and that goes for the straight and serrated portions of the knife. And it has held its sharpness well, even after heavy use on several camping trips. I’ve used mine to slice everything from tomatoes to steak to kindling, and it’s been like the proverbial hot knife through butter every time. Also note that the knife uses dual locking mechanisms, so there’s next to zero risk of its folding shut by accident.

This Swedish beauty is a full tang knife, meaning one piece of metal forms the blade and runs the entire length of the grip. That provides balance and increases the blade’s strength. The edge itself can also be ground to razor sharpness that it holds well, even when you’re shaving kindling or slicing through rope. That thick spine is squared off, making it perfect for use with a fire starter or for tapping at with a mallet or log when using the Garberg to split wood. Long story short, while this knife looks lovely and all, it’s a rugged workhorse of a tool that you can treat as roughly as you want.

I’ve had my Victorinox Swiss Army Fieldmaster Pocket Knife for more than 20 years, and the thing works as well today as it did the day I first popped it open. As do its saw, scissors, bottle opener, can opener, Phillips screwdriver, other blade, awl, parcel carrier, tweezers, and toothpick. Having used many multifunction pocketknives over the years, the Fieldmaster is the one to which I always return: Every tool contained in this compact knife is useful, unlike many such pocketknives that are packed with superfluous inclusions. (Who needs a mini–magnifying glass?) You can use it to saw through smaller branches for making a fire, or to prep your meals, or to open cans and bottles, and so much more. I never don’t have this.

To be fair, this one really isn’t a camping knife per say, but it’s a bladed tool that you should seriously consider adding to your kit. The 12-inch blade and one-pound weight of the Sogfari Kukri make it perfect for chopping through smaller branches, while the huge saw blade built into the back of the machete can make short work of larger timber. You can use this hefty tool to split smaller logs, so when you have a Sogfari on hand, you can leave the hatchet and handsaw back home. Also, on the outside chance that anyone or anything means you harm out there, you’ll be happy to have this beast in easy reach.

When I was younger and a good deal less experienced at the wilderness, I had one of those kitschy “survival knives” that have an entire kit built into the handle — it had matches, some fishing tackle, a sewing kit, and so forth. Most such products are actually pretty wretched knives, but the Gerber Bear Grylls Ultimate knife — yes, that Bear Grylls — is a great knife first and foremost, with a semi-serrated blade and deep tang set into a textured, ergonomic rubber grip. There is a fire striker built into the sheath as well as a sharpening stone that helps you maintain the edge. And as having a sharp knife and the ability to make fire are just about the two most critical factors in survival, this knife really could help you (or me) in a wilderness emergency situation. It also has a signaling whistle on a lanyard, which is just icing on the cake.

[Editor’s note: While this older model is no longer available, the latest version of this knife — the Gerber Gear Ultimate Survival Knife — has all of the same features, including a partially serrated blade and a built-in fire striker and sharpening stone, and is available from $46.]

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The Only 5 Knives I Bring to Go Camping