When weight and space aren’t the biggest concerns, camp knife kits provide extra freedom and utility for on-the-go trail lunches.
I always keep a knife handy in my back pocket. When opening packages, cutting rope, or sharpening my kid’s color pencils, a trusty EDC knife solves the constant demand of daily tasks.
But I cringe at the thought of preparing food with my folding pocket knife. While there’s certainly a balance between weight savings and convenience, I’ve grown to appreciate a good knife set dedicated to meal prep when I’m on the road.
Below are three knife sets my family and I tested while on various road trips, tailgating events, and car camping. Plus, we found a good knife set helps save cash on road trips. Instead of stopping at a restaurant, we pull into a public park, let the kids run around, and have a picnic lunch.
From the trail to the kitchen, these kits offer an organized, portable solution for on-the-go chefs.
Top Choice: Gerber Freescape Camp Kitchen Kit
My favorite kit is Gerber’s simple two-knife pack complete with a nice, hard case. Both knives have fixed blades. The larger sports a 3.8-inch Santoku-inspired shape with a slight rocker for an easy cutting motion against a cutting board. A notch in the top of the handle for the index finger provides excellent grip and allows the blade to cut all the way down without pinching fingers.
Meanwhile, the smaller paring knife has a 3-inch, slightly rockered blade. Both knives offer full-tang construction, textured rubber grips, and 7Cr17MoV stainless steel, which provides fair edge retention and good corrosion resistance.
While the knives are certainly central to the kit, it’s the carrying case that literally brings it all together and helps this kit stand out above the rest. Made of tough polypropylene, the base of the case slides into and locks in place with the top. And cutouts for each knife hold them firmly in place, completely protecting the blades and securing them when curious little hands are nearby. Plus, the designated slots — no sheaths or straps — also make Gerber’s the easiest configuration for retrieving and storing the knives.
And the Gerber Freescape Camp Kitchen Kit includes a few convenient extras. The case comes with a built-in ceramic knife sharpener, the top detaches and doubles as a 10 x 11-inch cutting board, and a built-in storage well holds snacks.
This kit is the priciest of the three, but I think it’s worth it. Plus, you can find it on Amazon now for $38.
Weight: 1.9 pounds
Best in a Kitchen: GSI Santoku Knife Set
This three-knife kit is a little larger than Gerber’s and includes a few extra items like a soap bottle, dishcloth, and sheaths. All the knives have fixed blades but not full tangs. Velcro and elastic straps hold the knives in a soft 12 x 8-inch ballistic nylon case. While secure, this sheath-Velcro-elastic system makes it a bit of a chore to get a knife out or to put it away.
GSI used 5Cr15MoV stainless steel on the knives, relatively soft steel that makes the blades easier to sharpen. That’s good because it doesn’t hold an edge that well. It’s also on the cusp of not qualifying as true stainless steel; it will show some corrosion if not cleaned and dried properly after each use. The knives have rubberized handles and comprise a 4-inch paring knife, a 6-inch Santoku rockered chef’s knife, and a 6-inch serrated bread knife.
The carrying case includes a mesh stash pocket for the soap bottle and dishcloth as well as a sleeve for the 9 x 12-inch foldable cutting board. Be aware that the fold on the cutting board makes use risky anywhere but on a flat, stable surface. As such, I found this kit worked best on a solid surface. Otherwise, I recommend a bigger and thicker cutting board. The ground worked OK in testing, but not on grass or a picnic blanket, where the board can lift from below and bend while cutting.
The soap bottle and dishcloth are nice touches, but if you’re like me, those items are already in a camp supply kit. Nevertheless, as the least expensive kit I reviewed, the GSI Santoku Knife Set is great for anyone not looking to spend a ton on a travel knife set.
Weight: 1.7 pounds
Best for Hiking Picnics: Opinel Nomad Cooking Kit
It comes as no surprise that the most refined knife kit here is the one from France. Opinel has more than 125 years in the knife business and is known for quality cutting utensils. And this kit is no exception, with materials like beachwood handles, beechwood cutting board, and supple, origami-inspired microfiber cloth case.
The Nomad Cooking Kit includes Opinel’s No.12 (4.75-inch blade) serrated folding knife, No.10 (3.95-inch blade) folding knife with integrated corkscrew, and a No. 6 folding peeler. Each knife has Opinel’s Virobloc safety ring to lock the tools open or closed.
All knives in this kit use high-quality 12C27 Sandvik stainless steel that provides an attractive shine, great edge retention, and very good corrosion resistance. You won’t need to sharpen these very often, but when you do, it’s best to give them to a professional with the right (motorized) equipment.
The knives sport a Yatagan shape, inspired by a traditional Turkish saber characterized by a relatively flat edge and gently arced tip to a point. I find this shape encourages users to cut with the tip end of the knife more than the full blade — more so with the flat edge than the serrated edge blade for bread.
Though small, the 4.7 x 7.9-inch beechwood cutting board proved very sturdy. And the microfiber cloth, complete with simple sewn-in elastic loops to hold the blades, does double duty as a napkin and knife roll. With this system, accessing and securing the knives was easy.
Weight: 1 pound