You might be asking yourself, “What the heck is bushcraft, and why do I need a separate knife for it?” Well, let’s check with an expert. In his classic book “Bushcraft 101,” David Canterbury states, “Bushcraft is a term for wilderness skills and is the practice of surviving and thriving in the natural world.” So, bushcraft knives are the same as survival knives?
Well, not really. The terms are often lumped together in the outdoors, but there’s a big difference between the two. Just ask anyone who’s tried to split logs with a carving knife or whittle with a machete.
Whereas survival knives are heftier and generally designed for life-and-death situations, bushcraft knives are meant for carving, kindling a fire, and performing everyday chores in the woods. Fear not — we’ll have a separate list for the best survival knives, coming soon.
But for now, we’ve spent months researching and testing the best bushcraft knives for you to take on your next outdoor adventure.
Scroll through to see all of our recommended buys or jump to the category you’re looking for. Also, be sure to check out our handy comparison chart, buyer’s guide, or FAQ sections at the bottom of this article.
- Best Overall Bushcraft Knife: LT Wright GNS Saber
- Best Budget Bushcraft Knife: Morakniv Companion
- Best Bushcraft Folder: Cold Steel Finn Wolf
- Best Tactical Bushcraft Knife: TOPS B.O.B. Fieldcraft
- Best Bushcraft-and-Survival Knife Combo: KA-BAR Becker BK2 Campanion
- Best Convex Grind Bushcraft Knife: Fallkniven F1
- Best Bushcraft Warranty: ESEE Camp Lore RB3
- Best Wooden-Handled Bushcraft Knife: Helle Temagami
- Best MOLLE/Versatile-Carry Bushcraft Knife: Gerber Principle
- Best Bushcraft Knife Under $100: Mora Bushcraft Black With Firestarter
The Best Bushcraft Knives of 2023
- Handmade craftsmanship
- Versatile blade
- O1 can rust or discolor
- Jealous friends
- Excellent construction
- Color options
- Handle comfort
- No squared spine
- Basic plastic sheath
- Strong lock
- Stainless steel
- Comes very sharp
- Rough plastic edges
- Stiff disengagement
- Wealth of features
- Sturdy design
- Tactical styling not for everyone
- Fully coated blade
- Not the best for detail work
- Carving prowess
- Handle comfort
- Sterling reputation
- Harder to sharpen
- Middling sheath
- Bulletproof warranty
- Handle comfort
- Tough construction
- Blade may be short for some users
- Beautiful design
- Unique handles
- Proven makers
- Wood handles can be less durable
- Rigid warranty
- Wealth of carry options
- Versatile blade
- Small for extended use
- Handle comfort
- Proven reputation
- Included accessories
- Black coating not for everyone
Bushcraft Knives Comparison Chart
|Bushcraft Knife||Price||Steel||Weight||Total Length|
|LT Wright GNS Saber||$218||O1 tool steel||N/A||9.5 in.|
|Morakniv Companion||$20||Sandvik 12C27 stainless||3.9 oz.||8.5 in.|
|Cold Steel Finn Wolf||$65||AUS 8A||3.4 oz.||7.8 in.|
|TOPS B.O.B. Fieldcraft||$145||1095 high-carbon steel||10.5 oz.||9.75 in.|
|KA-BAR Becker BK2 Campanion||$112||1095 Cro-Van||15.9 oz.||10.75 in.|
|Fallkniven F1||$150||Laminated VG-10||5.2 oz.||8.3 in.|
|ESEE Camp Lore RB3||$119||1095 high-carbon steel||6 oz.||8.1 in.|
|Helle Temagami||$189||Triple-laminated stainless steel||5.5 oz.||9.05 in.|
|Gerber Principle||$68||420HC stainless||3.7 oz.||7.5 in.|
|Mora Bushcraft Black With Firestarter||$80||1095||5.4 oz.||9.25 in.|
Why You Should Trust Us
The GearJunkie team consists of avid outdoorsmen with keen eyes for what makes the best tool for the backcountry. A good bushcraft knife needs to be reliable, packable, and durable, and our team of testers would confidently recommend any knife in this guide for a demanding wilderness excursion. Each product in this review has been put through real-world tests on adventures in the mountains, and pitted against the elements.
We scoured the web, scoped retail shelves, and chatted with our survivalist friends to narrow in on the best bushcraft knives for every use and budget. Weeks of carving up feather sticks, hacking at branches, and skinning our dinner brought us to the list you see above. If you gotta survive in the woods, these knives are essentials!
Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose a Bushcraft Knife
How does a bushcraft knife differ from a survival knife? We’ve touched on it elsewhere, but let’s dig in a bit further. While there’s a great deal of crossover, survival-style tasks generally lean into heavy-duty territory: thick spines and tough edges for hacking, prying, and breaching.
Bushcraft style is more “let’s carve some sticks, split some small logs, and start a fire.” In short, it’s using your knife to craft and kindle the natural resources around you. Survival is less about relaxed fun in nature and more about getting out alive.
Beyond carving and scraping, most bushcraft knives can tackle a wide variety of tasks. They can be used in food prep, yard work, and even dressing game. Worried about dulling your blade? Fear not! The straight-V of a true Scandi edge serves as a natural sharpening guide, making them easy to bring back to life.
Simplicity is key when choosing a blade shape for your bushcraft knife. Wild grinds, recurves, or serrations will only hinder its usefulness as a tool. Most all-purpose knives will feature a blade with a length between 3.5 and 4.5 inches. This is a general rule, though your hand size and grip will play a role. Whatever size you’re after, you should gravitate toward something with a nice mix of straight edges and a gentle belly, curving up toward the tip.
And while we’re here, let’s talk about tips. Clip points, drop points, and spear points are relatively common, but you won’t see many trailing, tanto, or sheepsfoot models.
Speaking on knives, in his 1988 classic “Bushcraft,” legendary woodsman Mors Kochanski said, “All general-use knives should have the blade tip close to the profile center-line of the handle.” This allows users to more easily control the blade’s point during drilling or detail work. This approach also brings added durability to the knife, as the tip is less thin than a Bowie design.
Let’s hear from Kochanski again, straight from his Knifecraft chapter: “The blade should be of a good quality carbon steel … Carbon, unlike stainless steel, can be used as the striker in the flint and steel method of fire-lighting. Inexpensive stainless steels have a bad reputation with respect to producing a keen edge let alone holding it. The Mora stainless steels, however, are every bit as good as their carbon steels.”
This is a hotly debated topic in the bushcraft community. The traditional argument calls for high-carbon steel, for several logical reasons. These steels are usually softer, making them less likely to shatter under heavy use. They’re also easier to sharpen in the field and can take on a wicked edge. On the downside, they can be prone to rust if not properly cared for. And, while they may take a great edge, they may not hold it for as long as a harder stainless steel blade.
Stainless, on the other hand, is great for beginners. It’s well-suited for wet tasks and food prep, but it should still be wiped down after use. Metallurgy has advanced quite a bit since 1988, so there are plenty of brands making excellent bushcraft knives in stainless steel.
Depending on your variety of stainless, the knife will generally stay sharp for a longer period of time. But once it dulls, sharpening may be a bit more of a challenge. Stainless is also not as well-suited for firestarting, as carbon steel reacts well with a ferro rod. In the end, it comes down to how you plan to use the knife.
As with any tool that spends hours in your hand, comfort is at a premium with bushcraft knives. The classic design calls for a basic oval shape, often referred to as a “broomstick” handle. While these are both comfortable and proven, some of the more modern designs feature a more sculpted approach.
Morakniv, for instance, adds contours for the palm and a subtle finger guard. I generally prefer the latter approach, but only when it’s employed sparingly. If your “bushcraft” knife has a busy handle with cutouts for each finger, you’re going to have a bad time.
What about materials? A G10 or hard plastic handle will suffice, but a Micarta handle or other natural material usually offers superior comfort on a fixed-blade knife.
Bushcraft is the practice of using a few basic tools to transform the natural resources of the forest into the things one needs to survive. Things like carving, building shelters, starting fires, and laying snares and traps all fall under the umbrella of bushcraft. This is generally seen as more of a hobby for outdoors enthusiasts. This is different from the concept of survival, which has to do almost exclusively with life-and-death situations.
Bushcraft knives are medium-size fixed-blade knives, mostly utilizing carbon or high-quality stainless steels. Their hallmarks include comfortable grips, sharpened spines for scrapping a ferro rod or other firestarter, and edges suitable for carving and splitting natural materials such as wood.
Most bushcraft knives are meant to be carried on a belt with a formed sheath in either plastic or leather. While some can be used for high-stress work, most bushcraft knives fall into a medium-duty role.
Traditionally, bushcraft knives are made out of carbon steel. While it can rust if not properly cared for, carbon is relatively tough and easy to resharpen with only the most basic of tools. Modern stainless steels have gained some ground, however, with several companies making excellent bushcraft knives with added rust resistance.
Whether carbon or stainless, the best steels for bushcraft knives tend to be slightly softer versions. These hold an edge for a reasonable length of time when dealing with natural materials such as wood. When they do begin to go dull, the edge can be brought back using a leather belt, a sharpening stone, or even a flat rock.
Plus, softer steels are less likely to shatter. You can resharpen an edge that’s chipped or rolled, but not one that’s broken to pieces.
While some would argue that edge retention or a precision Scandi grind is the most important feature of a bushcraft knife, I’d put handle comfort at the top of the pile. Having a blade that’ll split wood and featherstick a whole tree is great, but it’s going to be a miserable experience if the knife doesn’t fit in your hand. Micarta, rubber, and non-rigid handles with a gentle palm swell usually offer a more ergonomic grip.
And here’s a point that may be counterintuitive: You don’t necessarily want to spend a ton of money. Bushcraft knives are tools, meant to be used for a specific application. All of the knives on this list retail below $200 and many are under $100. This is great news for folks who suffer from buyer’s anxiety. If you’re worried about damaging your investment, opt for one of the cheaper models. There are plenty of great options to choose from.
On a related note, consider the maker’s warranty. Companies like ESEE boast an unconditional lifetime warranty on all their bushcraft knives. Fallkniven, KA-BAR, Mora, and many of the others listed here have excellent coverage as well.
Once you’ve pondered the above points, edge type and blade material come to a matter of personal preference. And for that, there’s really no wrong answer.
The best bushcraft knife is the one that covers all your needs. Do you enjoy building shelters? Then maybe you want something a little tougher. Or, if carving feathersticks and starting campfires is the highlight of your day, then maybe something with a comfortable grip and high-carbon blade would fit the bill. The list we’ve assembled above should help you choose the bushcraft knife that’s right for you.