Knives played a key part in our survival and success as human beings. Bladed tools and weapons gave a whole new set of abilities to our ancestors. How we use knives today may put the knife into a modern setting but many of the basic purposes are still the same – hunting, self-defense, and practical everyday needs. 

To know what type of knife you need, an understanding of the basics is the place to start. What exactly is a field knife? Who needs one, and what can it do? breaks down this common type of knife for lovers of the outdoors. We even include some of our favorite fixed blade offerings from the Vault. 

Definition of a Field Knife

At its core, a field knife can be best described as a robust fixed blade built for general outdoor tasks. To serve its duty in the field – whether it’s camping, gearing up for a hunt, backpacking, or general survival – a field knife must be a reliable, all-purpose tool. 

Because it will be expected to stand up to hard use like potentially harvesting and splitting small kindling, setting camp, chopping, and slicing, the field knife is usually built with a full tang and sturdy construction. There are, of course, exceptions to every rule, and some sturdy folders or replaceable blade knives can serve as reliable field knives, too. 

Though there are other variables, the most common blade lengths for a field knife fall in the realm of 5 to 7 inches. Field knives are small enough to be carried on a belt or stowed in a pack, yet of sufficient size to be a workhorse. Field knives come in many different types of blade designs, though some of the most common include clip or drop points. A field knife, in general, uses a hulkier, wider blade than a tactical or fighting knife. Whether right or wrong, field knives are often called upon to fulfill tasks many consider outside the realm of a knife. 

When Are Field Knives Used?

Pounding in a tent stake without a hammer? Grab the field knife. Slicing up kindling? Setting a snare? Preparing survival food? Rough butchering some game? Grab a field knife. 

While hunters will often carry a sport-specific blade for game butchery, many who venture into the backcountry also pack a more traditional field knife that will take the brunt of the work. Many of us have called upon our field knives to chop kindling, prep food, dig holes, slice rope, make fire, pry open packages, hammer stakes, and go beyond what most ordinary folks would consider the role of a knife. 

Field knives are working knives and often protect the owner in an unplanned emergency. That’s the beauty of the field knife design, which is less a “type” of knife and more a reference to what it can do. They come in all sorts of sizes and shapes. The following are some of our favorites. 

Kershaw Camp knife on a log
Knives like this Kershaw Camp knife push the size limits of a traditional field knife but can certainly get the job done out in the field. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/

Ka-Bar Becker Crewman

With a tagline like “work for a living,” the Becker Crewman is literally the epitome of a do-all field knife. There’s a 5.5-inch clip-point blade with a flat grind. It’s fitted with an Ultramid handle. The full-tang, fixed-blade Crewman uses a blacked-out finish. The knife is made in the USA and includes a MOLLE-compatible polyester sheath. 

Ka-Bar Snody Big Boss

The Snody Big Boss is relatively compact yet plenty capable as a field knife. (Photo: Ka-Bar)

Though this knife wears Ka-Bar branding, it is a beefy Mike Snody-designed fixed blade through and through. It even boasts the custom designer’s name. While the Snody Boss would also serve as a solid field knife, the Big Boss is 2 inches larger with a 4.5-inch blade that will dominate all-purpose use. Each of these American-made blades ship with two sets of handles and a semi-custom leather sheath. 


Ka-Bar Bowie

The bowie design of this fixed-blade knife is one of America’s most recognizable, having earned its keep as a fighting knife and excelled further for field survival. The Ka-Bar Bowie uses a classic stacked leather handle, brass guard, aluminum buttcap, and comes with the company’s traditional leather sheath. The blade is 6.9 inches of stainless steel with a hollow grind that is ready for business. Bowies, including this classic Ka-Bar, are meaty, tough, utilitarian knives that are ideal field and camp blades. The Ka-Bar Bowie’s classic appearance and history are icing on the field knife cake. 

Glock Field Knife

Glock field knife on a military uniform
The Glock Field Knife has served the Austrian military for years. (Photo: Chris Eger/

The Glock name is certainly best associated with semi-automatic pistols, but Glock's Field Knives represent durable and affordable tools in their own right. These sawback fixed-blade knives are built for survival. They boast a 6.5-inch high-carbon steel blade with saw kerf spine. Handles can be had in several colors and are made of high-strength polymer. The true Glock Field Knife has been issued to the Austrian armed forces for years. 


Case Astronaut

Case Astronaut knife
The Case Astronaut field knife even traveled to the moon. (Photo: Case)

Case’s Astronaut stretches the size limits of what would be considered a field “knife,” but because of its do-all history and potential as a pure workhorse, the Astronaut makes our list. The original Case Astronaut M-1 traveled to the moon and back nine times as part of a survival pack onboard the NASA spacecraft. Today’s reproductions use an 11.75-inch stainless blade with a sawtooth spine. The white synthetic handle is reminiscent of the original, and it’s clear that this piece can chop, cut, and saw like a champ. 


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