An outdoorsman without a blade is as incomplete as a bicyclist without a bike. Blades are among the oldest tools in human history, dating back at least over 3 million years. But the blade you pick to take with you on your next outing is really up to your personal preference and particular needs.
So, in the name of keeping this list of blades accessible to a wide variety of outdoorsmen – from the minimalist and budget-conscious to the tactically inclined – we’ve selected a variety of knives that meet the needs of multiple lifestyles.
Classic: Ka-Bar Becker Kephart
It seems fitting to start with a knife that, while the most expensive one on this list, is also the most custom-built knife for the outdoorsman with the pedigree to prove it. Ka-Bar’s Becker Kephart is aesthetically simple with a humble, classic look and smooth walnut handle. Named after Horace Kephart (1862- 1931), a famed travel writer and outdoorsman who designed the blade, the Becker Kephart is based on a near-pristine example of his original design.
This utilitarian knife is an all-day cutter that almost hides just how much thought went into the design, from the tapered full tang to the flat and rounded handle. It’s a blade that feels alive in your hand and just wants to get to work. The handle is perfect for indexing the blade and preventing hotspots. Ka-Bar’s Kephart is likely as close as anyone has gotten to truly remaking this beloved knife.
Heavy Duty: Kershaw Camp 10
We’ve been using and abusing the Kershaw Camp 10 for months now. The recurved 10-inch blade offers a sharp and durable edge of 65Mn carbon tool steel. From beating back brush and processing wood to repeated whacks on hard bone, the Kershaw Camp is a budget-friendly chopper that is fit for hard use.
This is by no means a small knife. In fact, it’s tempting to move it more in the category of compact machete. Still, it is handy enough to easily pack on a hunt or long hike, and it will tackle nearly all your camp needs in the field. It cuts the difference between an axe and a field knife to simplify your outdoor kit with one versatile tool.
Budget: Cold Steel Bushman
On to the most budget-friendly blade to make our list. This is a bare-bones affair, in more ways than one. The Cold Steel Bushman is made from one solid piece of 2.5mm thick SK5 high-carbon steel and ground to a fine edge. There are no frills to this blade, which lacks any additional grip material beyond the metal itself.
The blade is curved, making it fit for skinning game, and it’s sufficiently long at 7 inches to hack through most camp chores. As an aside, the hollow handle can be fitted onto a shaft to fashion a makeshift spear in a survival situation as well. If you’re looking for an affordable option that also has a flair of rustic minimalism, the Cold Steel Bushman is a bargain buy.
Minimalist: CRKT S.P.E.W.
Moving from the most budget-friendly knife on the list to the smallest one, Columbia River Knife & Tool is known for making utilitarian blades at affordable prices. One of our favorites is the small, concealable CRKT S.P.E.W. This Wharncliffe-style blade resembles a mini broke-back seax. The long straight edge is an aggressive cutter and the extreme point easily pierces. The knife hosts G10 handle scales and comes with a hard nylon sheath that provides positive retention.
This blade style lends itself to precise cutting and deep piercing, but it’s not the best fit for things like skinning game. At only 3 inches long, the straight blade is easy to sharpen but minimal in size. That might be perfect for those who choose to go light, and you can opt for the even smaller CKRT Minimalist if you’d prefer a curved blade design.
Tactical: USMC Ka-Bar
Likely the most recognizable blade in the world, Ka-Bar’s USMC Fighting Knife rounds out this list as our classic tactical blade. Originally issued to America’s fighting forces in World War II, this knife has become synonymous with the name Ka-Bar. It was designed as a do-all blade that could cut, stab, dig, hammer, and generally solve the kinds of problems brute force and a good blade solve best.
The Ka-Bar line is filled with great options, including many highly affordable blades that will more than get the job done. But no knife collection is really complete without this classic piece. More than that, it’s a working blade that can take a beating. However, we would caution against using it for excessive batoning, as the original design does boast a strong full-length tang that is never-the-less a narrower profile than the blade to accommodate the leather washers for the grip. Still, if used right, this knife will easily last a lifetime.
Didn’t see what you were looking for? Well, there’s an exceptional number of knives, both fixed and folding blades, that can meet nearly any budget and purpose for the outdoorsman in your life. Frankly, we find the search for our next knife to be half the fun. So, if you feel so inclined, be sure to explore our large selection of knives and tools until you find the one that fits you just right.