Best Backpacking Knife of 2021 (Guide & Reviews)

by Julien Heron
Last Updated: February 8, 2021
Close-up on intermediate climber tying her shoelace

Whether you like to take short weekend camping trips or long treks out in the wilderness, having the best backpacking knife in your gear is essential to ensure you’re prepared for any situation while out on the road. Whether you need to cut ropes, skin game, or cut down some brush that’s in your way, a durable, quality backpacking knife is an invaluable piece for any outdoor enthusiast’s tool kit.

For a comprehensive guide to choosing the best backpacking knife, plus the top 5 knives for any outdoor adventurer, keep scrolling.

Let’s get things underway!

The top 5 backpacking knife we recommend for 2021:

Key Considerations

In order to pick the best backpacking knife for your outdoor needs, there are some key considerations to take into account. Let’s take a closer look.

What Type of Terrain Will You Be Dealing With?

The kind of terrain and weather conditions you will be hiking in should be a major determinant of the best backpacking knife you select for your journey. For example, if you’re going to be backpacking in warm conditions where you won’t need to light a fire at the campsite, you don’t need to worry about picking a knife tough enough to handle firewood.

Likewise, if you’re going to be backpacking and camping in damp or humid conditions, you will probably want to purchase the best knife for backpacking that features water-resistant properties, manufactured from durable material like stainless steel. In short, consider the types of terrain you usually backpack and hike in, and pick a knife that is suitable to withstand those kinds of conditions.

Longevity of Use

It’s also important to consider how long you want your knife to last when picking the best backpacking knife to meet your needs. Do you want to make an investment in a high-quality knife to last you for many treks, or would you prefer a more cost-effective option that you’ll need to replace more often? The choice is ultimately up to you.

Most knives are built to last more than other types of gear pieces, but those of a cheaper quality won’t last as long. If you have larger gaps between your outdoor treks and don’t mind the annoyance of replacing a cheaper option now and then, a less expensive option may be right for you.

On the other hand, if you are a frequent backpacker and need a sturdy option to serve you well on the road, it’s better to make a quality knife investment now that could last you for thousands of miles of trails ahead.

Consider Your Usage Needs

Of course, your usage needs are going to be a significant factor in the best backpacking knife you choose. Do you want a knife on hand for things like preparing food and cutting ropes? Or do you have other usage needs in mind like cutting through firewood or administering first aid in the event of an emergency?

Consider your usage needs and the frequency with which you intend to use your knife before making your final selection. That way, you will ensure you pick a knife with the features and level of durability that you require for your trips.

Consider the Knife’s Weight

Weight is always a critical element to take into account when hunting for the best backpacking knife. You don’t want to pick a knife that takes up too much room in your gear or pocket, as this will prove an unnecessary distraction on the road and could simply be downright uncomfortable.

Some of the best knife for backpacking products weigh a mere 0.8 ounces, while others can go as high as 23 ounces or more.

If you need a knife for tougher work that can hold up well in rough conditions, you’re probably looking at a product that’s going to a weigh a bit more in your gear. Most of the time though, a knife that weighs around 2 ounces or a little bit less will serve your needs well.

How to Select the Best Backpacking Knife

Here’s what you need to know to select the best backpacking knife for your upcoming outdoor adventure.

Folding vs. Fixed Style

The first thing you need to do to select the best backpacking knife for your needs is to decide whether you want a folding knife or a knife with a fixed blade. For basic backpacking and tasks at your campsite, a simple folding knife will do the trick. That said, a fixed blade is a safer and more durable option, making it a worthy consideration for novices and pros alike.

For instance, you won’t be in danger of snapping the knife shut on your fingers with a fixed blade. While some folding blades feature a lock mechanism, which is a must if you choose this variety, that feature is not always foolproof. If the lock fails, you could be severely cut.

Fixed blades are also the blade of choice if you need to do tougher work on the campsite, such as processing wood for your campfire or doing food preparation. Fixed blades are easier to clean than folding ones as well. Also, because fixed blades don’t contain any moving parts, they are more durable than folding knives.

The main benefit of a folding knife is that it doesn’t require a sheath, so it offers more compact storage options than the fixed variety. You can secure a folding knife just about anywhere, and it functions as a multitool so you’ll enjoy plenty of flexible usage options.

Manufacturing Material

The material the best backpacking knife is manufactured from is another point you ought to consider when picking the right one for you. Most knives are manufactured from stainless steel, designed with varying degrees of carbon. The presence of more or less carbon will determine how well the blade wards off rust.

Titanium is another manufacturing material commonly found in backpacking knives because it is also corrosion resistant. Most blades aren’t made from titanium alone, but some use titanium alloys or carbide as a coating for the metal. The biggest pro that titanium has going for it is that it is way lighter than stainless steel.

Titanium is not as durable as stainless steel though, nor does it hold up well against tough tasks like processing wood. Activities, like slicing rope or preparing food, are the types of appropriate usage you can expect from a titanium knife.

Review of the Top 5 Best Backpacking Knives

Check out the top 5 best backpacking knives, including both the folded and fixed variety. Keep reading to the end to discover which one we picked as the winner out of the top 5!

Kershaw Brawler (1990) Folding Pocket Knife

Kershaw Brawler 1990 Folding Pocket Knife on white background
Kershaw Brawler 1990 Folding Pocket Knife
A sleek and durable hunting knife with a sharp edge
The Kershaw Brawler 1990 Folding Pocket Knife is a high-performance steel with an attractive blade coating, and it has a secure locking system with a fast deployment capability.
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  • Lightweight and compact option
  • Easily clipped to either your right or left side
  • Just 4 inches in length when folded
  • Designed from quality stainless steel
  • Resists corrosion well
  • Not durable enough for heavy blade work
  • Oxide coating tends to come off with extended use

Our first pick for the best backpacking knife is this folding blade ideal for a wide range of backpacking and camping activities. We like how compact it is while also being very light to carry, so you won’t notice much of a difference weight-wise whether you store it in your gear or your pocket. We noticed the pointed edge which is strong and sharp enough for tasks like cutting ropes and preparing food.

The blade is of a moderate length and extends just beyond 4 inches total when you fold it. We liked that the knife comes with a clip so you can affix it to your trousers on either the right or left side as you prefer. The blade itself is designed from quality grade stainless steel with durable edges, a black oxide coating, and rust-resistant properties. The handle also includes a liner lock for optimal user safety.
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Kershaw Cryo Folding Knife

Kershaw Cryo Folding Knife on white background
Kershaw Cryo Folding Knife
A 2.75-inch steel blade with an open construction handle
The Kershaw Cryo Folding Knife allows you to carry it tip up or tip down, and the open aluminum construction resists rust and corrosion while being easy to clean.
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  • Super compact option
  • Short but sharp blade
  • Easy opening mechanism
  • Good gripping features
  • Not as light as some other options
  • The blade tends to wear out faster than some with prolonged use

If you liked our last selection for the best backpacking knife but would prefer an option with a slightly shorter folded length, then the Kershaw Cryo Folding Knife might be just what you’re looking for. Similarly to the Kershaw Brawler, the knife sports a user-friendly opening device that allows you to fold out the blade with one hand. The Cryo model is decidedly shorter than the Brawler, extending just 2.75 inches.

For basic backpacking and campsite needs while out on the trail, the Kershaw Cryo is a worthy contender for any outdoor enthusiast. One feature we really liked was the handle jumping, which offers excellent traction and quality grip if you are going to be doing more heavy cutting tasks. The stainless steel material isn’t the strongest we’ve found, but it gets the job done for all your basic trail needs.
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SE KHK6320 Outdoor Tanto Knife with Firestarter

SE KHK6320 Outdoor Tanto Knife with Firestarter on white background
SE KHK6320 Outdoor Tanto Knife with Firestarter
A knife with a cord-wrapped handle and a tanto blade
The SE KHK6320 Outdoor Tanto Knife with Firestarter is stainless steel for durability with a thick cord wrapped handle and a nylon sheath that doubles as a fire starter.
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  • Great for survival and wilderness backpacking
  • Durable 3-inch blade
  • An extra sharp point that works well for heavy cutting tasks
  • Black stainless steel blade
  • Back part of the knife works like a saw
  • The nylon sheath is not as strong as it could be
  • It may take a while to saw larger logs with this blade

If you’re not sure if the folding knife style is for you, you might love the fixed design of our next best backpacking knife pick. The SE KHK6320 Outdoor Tanto Knife is the ultimate survival and wilderness backpacking knife, with a durable 3-inch blade and a full length of 7 inches. The blade sports an extra sharp point that you can use for tougher tasks like cutting through brush and wood or preparing your food at the campsite.

We are impressed by the quality of the black stainless steel blade, plus the included magnesium alloy firestarter to help you get a cozy fire up and running at the campsite. The nylon sheath that safeguards the knife is not as strong as some, but the handle is designed with a cord wrap that offers an excellent grip.

One other cool feature we noticed about the SE KHK6320 is that the back portion of the knife functions as a saw, so you can slice through logs if you need to. We loved how affordable this knife was while still offering fantastic longevity of use, making it a quality investment piece for any backpacker.
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Rogue River Tactical Knives Silver 6-in-1 Multitool

Rogue River Tactical Knives Silver 6-in-1 Multitool on white background
Rogue River Tactical Knives Silver 6-in-1 Multitool
A durable tactile knife with six tools in one
The Rogue River Tactical Knives Silver 6-in-1 Multi-Tool has a fire starter, glass breaker, bottle opener, flashlight, belt cutter, and knife all rolled into one compact design.
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  • Flexible usage options
  • Fantastic for backpacking in tough conditions
  • Magnesium fire starter
  • LED flashlight and belt cutter
  • Definitely a bulkier option than some
  • The LED light can wear out quickly

The Rogue River Tactical Survival Knife is a 6-in-1 multitool that makes a valuable addition to any wilderness backpacker’s kit. The knife features a single blade, with a combination edge that slices through logs in no time flat while still being steady enough to use for tasks like chopping up food for dinnertime.

We were impressed with its featured belt cutter for slicing through cords and an LED flashlight to illuminate your path when you’re still trekking after the sun goes down. Plus, the fire starter designed from magnesium will ensure you can stay nice and warm wherever you choose to set up camp.

Even if you haven’t tried your hand yet at survivalist backpacking, the multipurpose use of this tactical knife makes it a great choice for both heavy and light cutting tasks.
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Gerber Bear Grylls Ultimate Pro Knife, Fine Edge

Gerber Bear Grylls Ultimate Pro Knife Fine Edge on white background
Gerber Bear Grylls Ultimate Pro Knife Fine Edge
A full tang stainless steel knife that fits into your pocket
The Gerber Bear Grylls Ultimate Pro Knife Fine Edge is a military-grade knife that comes with a sharp edge and a mildew-resistant nylon sheath.
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  • 4.8-inch blade
  • Ideal for very heavy tasks and lighter cutting too<
  • Fine edge with a blade sharpener
  • Quality nylon sheath
  • Waterproof design
  • Pricier selection
  • Could be tough to remove from the sheath at first

Our final pick for the best backpacking knife is the classic Gerber Bear Grylls Ultimate Pro Knife. It is durable enough to withstand rough trekking conditions but flexible enough to use for lighter tasks too. The blade extends to an impressive 4.8 inches with a very fine edge that will serve you well for just about any task that you need to get done while out on the trail.

The sheath durability is excellent, designed from military-grade nylon and sporting a blade sharpener to keep your knife in top condition at all times. We were really impressed by the fire starter with a waterproof casing, so you won’t have to worry about the knife letting you down if you encounter damp or humid conditions.

The knife also comes equipped with a lanyard and emergency whistle, so if you find yourself in an unexpected situation you can signal your trekking companions for assistance. The only real downside here is that the Gerber Bear Grylls Ultimate Pro Knife is on the pricier side. That said, the quality and durability of this knife could be well worth the investment if you want a knife to serve you well for many trails ahead.
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The Winner

Whether you like the flexible design of a folding knife or prefer the durability of a fixed knife, there are options on our list to fit any backpacker’s preference. However, one stood out above the rest in terms of durability, flexible usage, and cutting options—the Gerber Bear Grylls Ultimate Pro Knife. We loved the 4.8-inch blade length with a lack of moving parts for user safety and easy cleaning.

We were also impressed by the blade’s fine edge and military-grade nylon sheath to protect you from the blade when you’re not using it. A waterproof fire starter is a valuable tool if you’re going to be running into damp weather conditions, plus the whistle is a great bonus touch if you encounter any unexpected emergencies while on the trail.

The quality and flexible usage of the Gerber Bear Grylls Ultimate Pro Knife make it an exceptional investment for aspiring and proficient backpackers alike.

Julien Heron
I’m passionate about all things outdoors, bridging the gap between generations and sharing my passion for hiking and camping. My goal is to spread the endless benefits of being outside, always striving for better performance, new challenges, and ways to explore responsibly.
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