Bushcraft skills are needed for survival in the wilderness. It involves creating something you can use to make your outdoor experience comfortable. Bushcraft skills include building a temporary shelter, lighting a fire, collecting drinking water, preparing food, and reacting to different emergency situations.
Anyone who wishes to spend a night in the backcountry must have basic bushcraft skills and should be equipped with the best bushcraft knife.
A bushcraft knife is the smallest and most portable cutting tool. It is very convenient to bring into the wilderness. It can be used for protection, for the building of a temporary shelter and for the preparation of animals for food as well as for making makeshift tools.
A good bushcraft knife has multiple functions. Arming yourself with information about bushcraft knives will help you in choosing the right multifunctional knife.
Parts of A Knife
Being able to identify the parts of a knife can aid you in your search for one. Bushcraft knives are composed of two main parts: the blade and the handle. Blades are mostly made of steel. The cutting edge of the blade is known as the bevel. Opposite the bevel is the spine of the knife.
How far the knife is buried in the handle is referred to as the tang. The handle is the part of the knife you grip or hold in your hand. The choil is the small flat piece of blade where it meets the handle. The butt end of the knife is referred to simply as the butt or the pommel.
Materials Used for Making Knives
The advancement of technology and the greater demand for convenience and efficiency has pushed manufacturers to make durable, safe and portable multifunctional bushcraft knives. The material used for the blade is steel.
Steel is an alloy of iron and carbon where the carbon content is relatively low. Knife blades are made from different types of low carbon steel. The common ones are carbon steel, stainless steel and laminates.
- Stainless Steel: as the name suggests, stainless steel is an alloy that is durable and resistant to rust. This resistance was achieved by the addition of chromium to the steel alloy. Although the presence of chromium decreases the chances of corrosion of the knife blade, it also decreases the strength of the knife. Stainless steel blades are soft and quick to dull.
Stainless steel knives are ideal for use in areas with high humidity or areas near the beach. Their resistance to rust makes them last longer in these regions. Proper care and maintenance should still be observe because prolong exposure to water could still corrode the blade.
- Carbon Steel: this is the most commonly used alloy in making knives. Compared to stainless steel, carbon steel is easier to process and is more readily available. Carbon steel knives are strong and they do not dull quickly, they can also be sharpened to your liking.
They double as a flint in case one is not around. One drawback is that it is very prone to rusting. Proper maintenance such as the application of oil must be conducted daily when exposure to humidity is unavoidable.
- Laminated steel: Steel laminates are a combination of stainless steel and carbon steel wherein carbon steel is sandwiched between two layers of stainless steel. This steel is more expensive compared to either the carbon or stainless steel.
However, laminated steel employs the strength and resiliency of carbon steel and the rust resistant qualities of stainless steel for a high-performing blade.
The strength of knife blades can be measured by using the Rockwell hardness scale. The Rockwell scale designates the letter C as its unit for testing the quality of knives. The higher the RC scale, the harder is the knife.
Standard RC scale for knives is between 56 and 64. A knife with a low RC scale is flexible but dulls easily while a knife with higher RC scale will keep its edge or sharpness longer but it is more prone to breakage.
Handles and their materials should also be looked at when purchasing a knife. The form or the design of a handle plays an important role since it should provide maximum comfort. A good handle should be able to retain a good grip in wet or dry conditions.
Bushcrafting knives should have no upper guard for greater freedom of movement when whittling or carving wood. The handle can be made of two types of materials: natural materials and synthetic materials.
- Synthetic Materials: rubber, nylon, Kraton, Micarta and plastic. The durability of synthetic materials can be attributed to their inability to absorb water or moisture. Synthetic handles do not soften, rot or change shape; however, some of them (nylon and plastic) cannot tolerate heat and would melt when exposed to high temperatures. Micarta handles are the most durable, they do not absorb moisture and they are heat resistant.
Another type of synthetic material is a paracord wrapped around the handle. These are beautiful and they come in different colours and designs but they are difficult to clean due to their fibrous nature.
- Natural Materials: Wood handles are quite famous and are even manufactured in big bulks. Wood handles are quite comfortable and durable. Space for the tang can be carved in the wood and then the pieces are glued together. Other materials such as leather and ivory are stacked together to form a handle. Natural materials require oiling and polishing to prevent warping and to protect against moisture.
The sheath protects the knife and the bearer. Sheaths are also made from a variety of materials. Like handle and blades the sheath that comes with your knife should be suited to the weather and climatic conditions of your location.
Staying in a humid area, one must purchase synthetic materials that cannot be permeated by moisture.
The design of a knife’s bevel is called the knife grind. The shape and form of the blade affects its cutting ability. The grind of a knife determines its best use. It can tell so much about a knife. Four types of grinds are used in commonly manufactured knives: convex grind, sabre grind, scandi grind and hollow grind.
- The Convex Grind: has a rounded blade that ends in a very sharp point. This grind has a strong edge because the knife has more metal on its edge. It is more commonly used in axes and tomahawks than in knives. The convex grind is challenging to sharpen. Sandpaper and mouse pads are used to maintain the curved shape.
- The Sabre Grind: has a primary bevel and a secondary bevel that is actually the blade of the knife. The most commonly manufactured knives have this bevel. Sharpening this knife is relatively easy. It is done by holding the knife at an angle similar to the angle of the blade edge as it is pushed against the whetstone. The only challenge when sharpening this knife is finding the right angle to maximize the capacity of the blade.
- The Scandi Grind: easiest to sharpen. It is so called because of its popularity in Scandinavian communities. It is also referred to as the wedge grind because of its unique shape. The knife consists of only one bevel. Sharpening this knife is relatively easy, you just lay it flat against a whetstone.
- The Hollow Grind: least commonly-used grind. The upper portion of the blade is concave, resulting in less metal on the blade. Knives with this grind are very light and thin thus they are also weaker. Sharpening of this knife is similar to sabre.
Blades can be fixed or folded. Fixed blades are best used as bushcraft knives. Unlike folding knives, the fixed blade knives are sturdier and less prone to breakage. Fixed blades can also be use even after the handle has been damaged.
There are two types of knife edges: the straight edge and the serrated edge. Straight edged knives are highly recommended for bushcrafting because they are more accurate when performing tasks and they are easier to sharpen. There are also bushcraft knives that have both the straight edge and the serrated edge.
The tang is the steel portion that is buried inside the handle. The handle is screwed or glued to the tang. The length and the type of the tang determine the durability and strength of the knife. Like grinds, there are also many different types of tangs but 5 of them are commonly used for bushcraft knives: Full Tang, Skeletonised Tang, Partial Tang, Narrow Tang and Stick Tang.
- Full tang: this is the most durable type. The width of a full tang knife is similar to that of the blade all throughout the length of the knife. The full tang knife is also heavy as compared knives of the same length but with different tangs.
- Skeletonised tang: is a little bit like the full tang but some portions found beneath the handle have been cut to produce a much lighter knife.
- Partial tang: is used in commonly-produced bushcraft knives. They can be depended upon for most bushcraft works.
- Narrowing tang: is so named because it slowly narrows or decreases in size as it approaches the butt of the knife.
- Stick tang: is a thinner piece of steel, it is uniform in size and reaches the butt of the handle.
Recommended Bushcraft Knives
Choosing a bushcraft knife becomes difficult because of the almost limitless choices available. Here are some options for you to choose from.
Spyderco Bushcraft G-10 Plain-edged Knife
- Overall length: 8.75 inches
- Blade length: Four inches
- Blade material: O-1 steel blade
- Blade thickness: 0.14 inches
- Weight: 7.75 0z
- Handle material: G10
Description: High functionality and amazing strength is the cornerstone of Spyderco knives. The blade is made of high carbon steel thus it can keep its razor sharp edge. Equipped with a thumbhole, the Spyderco bushcraft knife is very comfortable to grip.
This knife has a full tang construction thus it can take a beating in the field. It has been tested on tough jobs like whittling and splitting woods. The Spyderco bushcraft knife is easy to sharpen. Its great versatility makes it ideal to bring for camping, hunting and bushcraft.
Morakniv Bushcraft Carbon Black Tactical Knife
- Overall length: 9 inches
- Blade length: 4.3 inches
- Blade material: High carbon steel
- Blade thickness: 3.2 mm
- Weight: 5.75 oz
- Handle material: rubber
Description: The Morakniv Bushcraft Carbon Knife is one of the most robust knives. It has a thick carbon blade that has been treated with tungsten DLC coating that protects against rust and corrosion.
Made from high carbon steel, the knife sharpens easily and is very tough. Scandi grind allows the knife to bite into the surface without getting stuck. High friction rubber grip gives a feeling of control in both wet and dry instances. This comes with a plastic sheath and a belt loop. Like all Mora knives, the bushcraft carbon knife is durable and stable. The tip can double as a drill or a can opener.
Helle Temagami Carbon Knife
- Overall length: 8 inches
- Blade length: 3.5 inches
- Blade material: Laminated stainless steel blade
- Blade thickness: 3:0 mm
- Weight: 3 oz
- Handle material: Curly Birch
Description: The Helle Temagami Knife has been crafted and hand honed for incredible sharpness and durability. The knife has a sleek design. Its blade is made of three layer stainless steel laminates for strength and toughness.
Described as the beauty and brawn of knives, the Helle Temagami is versatile and can cover almost any task in the wilderness. The handle is curly birch and it has a finger guard that helps prevent accidents. It comes with a pouch sheath to help keep the knife in place when it is not in use.
F1 Survival w/ Leather Sheath
- Overall length: 8.3 inches
- Blade length: 3.8 inches
- Blade material: Laminated steel
- Blade thickness: 4.5 mm
- Weight: 6 oz
- Handle material: Thermorun
Description: The F1 survival knife is one of the highly competitive knives being made. Laminated VG10 steel blade gives this knife impeccable strength. The knife has a plain edge, a flat grind, and a drop point and razor sharpness. It is portable, though and suited to almost any task.
ESEE -3 G10 Blades & Micarta Handles
- Overall length: 9.0 inches
- Blade length: 4.5 inches
- Blade material: Carbon steel
- Blade thickness: 3/16 inches
- Weight: 7.4 oz
- Handle material: G10
Description: The ESEE 3 is a military grade knife. The 1095 carbon steel makes the knife rugged and tough. Equipped with a Micarta handle, this knife has become a favourite for bushcraft. All this comes with a sharpened glass breaker pommel and a high quality sheath.
Ka-Bar Becker BK2 Campanion Fixed Blade Knife
- Overall length: 10 5/8 inches
- Blade length: 5.25 inches
- Blade material: 1095 carbon steel
- Blade thickness: 0.25 mm
- Weight: 1 lb
- Handle material: Ultramid
Description: The Ka-Bar Becker BK2 Companion is a knife best suited for hard-core survivalist. It is considered the heavy weight of the group at one full pound. Made from 1085 carbon steel, the knife is strong and durable.
This full tang, plain edge knife is mounted in a black Grivory handle that provides additional balance. This knife is versatile, it can split wood, skin game, prepare fire logs and even chop some fruits and vegetables.
Condor Tool and Knife Bushlore 4.375-Inch Drop Point Blade
- Overall length: 9 5/16 inches
- Blade length: 4 5/16 inches
- Blade material: 1075 carbon steel
- Blade thickness: 1/8 inches
- Weight: 0.80 oz
- Handle material: Micarta
Description: The Condor tool and Knife Bushlore is a full tang, 1075 carbon knife. Its blade is razor sharp and thick. Equipped with a Micarta handle the knife can be gripped easily even when wet.
The convex grind provides the knife with more edge strength, sharpness retention and cutting efficiency. Blasted satin finish makes the knife more appealing.
Benchmade Bushcrafter Knife
- Overall length: 9.15 inches
- Blade length: 4.40 inches
- Blade material: SV30 Stainless steel
- Blade thickness: 0.164 inches
- Weight: 0.7.72 oz
- Handle material: G10
Description: The Benchmade Bushcrafter knife is a fixed blade knife made of SV30 stainless steel. It is solid, well-balanced and made of premium quality steel.
The durable G10 handle is hand blended and contoured. It comes with a vulcanized spacer held together by titanium tubing. This knife is handy and reliable to bring with you on your adventures!
The Ideal Bushcraft Knife
A great bushcraft knife should be multifunctional and portable at the same time. In addition to that, it must also be suitable to the weather and climatic conditions of your hiking or camping area.
Determine the specifications that you want in your knife: would you prefer a straight edged knife or a serrated knife? Would a stainless steel knife or carbon steel knife be more economical? Do you need a portable folding blade or a durable fixed blade?
Once you have identified the characteristics that you desire for your knife, compare prices online. With proper maintenance and correct usage, a simple, cheap knife would last just as long as an expensive one. Have more than one option, and compare your selected pieces, then decide on a knife that best fits the qualities of the perfect bushcraft knife.