Best Bushcraft Knives of 2020

Best Bushcraft Knives of 2020

The word bushcraft describes the skills associated with wilderness and back country living. These skills have been important to explorers and professional outdoorsmen over the centuries and are still essential in outdoor professions today. 

 

Bushcraft though is also practiced recreationally nowadays thanks to its popularisation by celebrity survival experts and now bushcraft is as much recreation as it is an applied skill. 

 

Whatever your reason for practicing bushcraft, as an essential part of your profession, or as a recreational activity a good knife is going to be one of the most important tools you own. 

12 Best Bushcraft Knives of 2020:

1. KA-BAR Becker BK2

KABAR is popular knife brand that offers more than 100 high-quality knives – tactical and utility – including knives for hunting, sporting, and military. KA-BAR Becker BK2 has earned the reputation of being a budget king for the heavy-task camping chores. The durable 1095 cro-van steel blade with the drop point blade shape and a versatile 20-degree blade angle offers a perfect companion for splitting kindling, skinning game, or chopping onions for the campfire grill.

The BK-2 has a spacious zytel handle over it’s full steel tang. This handle design is basic and it’s perfect for a workhorse knife like this. The handle material is lightweight but yet tough. So, if you’re looking for a budget-friendly bushcraft knife then KA-BAR is your best bet. 

PROS

  • Budget-friendly
  • Jack of all-trades.
  • Small & Lightweight.
  • Suitable for performing heavy-weight tasks.

CONS

  • Horrible sheath

2. Morakniv Bushcraft Knife

Mora knives have become inseparable from the word bushcraft and are the first choice of many outdoorsmen. This model is specifically designed with bushcrafting in mind and features an ergonomic handle and an excellent blade of Swedish carbon steel. A particular benefit of most of the Mora range is their relatively thin blades which make them great for slicing wood as well as performing cooking tasks around the campfire. 

Many people start their bushcrafting with a Mora knife and the only real criticism that can be made of them is their rat-tail tang, but this shouldn’t be considered to be a major disadvantage. They are still incredibly robust and despite having used Moras myself an awful lot and seem them used for probably thousands of hours by me but by students, I teach bushcraft and survival skills to I’ve only seen two break; one because a log fell on the handle and cracked it and another when it was struck on the butt end and driven into a knotted log like a chisel. 

PROS

  • Affordable (around $50).
  • Very comfortable handle.
  • Thin blade for slicing and precision carving.

CONS

  • Rattail tang.

3. Condor Terrasaur Fixed Blade Knife

For a long time the Mora line of bushcraft knives didn’t have a lot of competition but the Terrasaur by condor provides that now. At a very similar price point this knife offers a Scandinavian grind like the Mora bushcraft but instead of Swedish steel it features a blade of American 1095 high carbon steel.

The exposed butt can also be a useful feature and demonstrates that while the tang might not be full width it does go the full length of the handle, unlike the Mora equivalent. This blade is a great affordable option for anyone starting out with bushcraft and would equally perform excellently for more experienced practitioners as well. 

PROS

  • Full-length tang.
  • Scandinavian grind for wood carving.
  • Tang fully enclosed by the width of the handle making it suitable for use in cold weather.

CONS

4. Morakniv Companion Knife

When you first start practicing bushcraft skills you will of course need a knife, but to rush in and buy a really expensive knife might be a mistake. The Mora companion is an incredibly high-value knife, available in both carbon and stainless steel, useful in case you need a knife which is easier to maintain around saltwater environments. 

It does have a rat tail tang and a basic handle but the razor-sharp Scandinavian ground blade is perfect for bushcraft. 

PROS

  • Stainless steel option.
  • Scandinavian grind.
  • Best for beginners.

CONS

  • Rattail tang.

5. Fallkniven F1 Knife

Fallkniven produces some of the best knives in the world, in fact the F1 has been the official survival knife of pilots in the Swedish Airforce since 1995. It features a very well executed convex grind providing a razor-sharp edge as well as incredible strength. The full-length tang is securely encased in a thermorun handle providing a secure grip and protection from the cold. 

The Fallkniven could be criticized for being a little costly but the basic model is no more expensive than the TOPS BOB. Its short length does make it very controllable and a great option for most survival and bushcraft tasks but the short length does make a little more difficult to use for batoning. 

PROS

  • Convex grind.
  • Handle designed for cold weather use.
  • High-quality Japanese VG10 stainless steel (in the basic model).

CONS

  • short blade.

6. TOPS BOB

TOPS are a very well known maker of knives for the outdoors and for military applications. Their BOB model is a collaboration between them and the ‘Brothers of Bushcraft’ a group of North American woodsmen. The knife they designed has all the features you’d need in a bushcraft knife, plus a few extras. It features a differentially heat-treated blade with a softer spine, but hard edge, for extra durability and because this makes the spine too soft to strike a firesteel it features a scraper on the exposed butt. 

It also features a divot in the handle for use as a bearing block for friction fire lighting. The point though is a little reminiscent of larger Scandinavian ‘leuku’ knives which do make a little less precise for fine craftwork. 

PROS

  • Bow Drill Divot
  • 1095 carbon steel
  • Strong differentially heat-treated blade
  • ‘Scandi-vex’ edge, proprietary to TOPS this grind combines the Scandinavian grind with a slight micro bevel at the edge to provide extra strength.

CONS

  • Tricky to use butt end-fire steel scraper.

7. Morakniv Garberg Full Tang Knife

It’s difficult to imagine what a ‘professional’ bushcrafter is, and while there are some professions that still use bushcraft skills; trappers for example, they use specific knives for the tasks of their profession. Someone who teaches bushcraft skills could be considered a professional bushcrafter though and if you are going to teach others it makes sense to be using similar equipment. If your students see you using a multi-hundred dollar custom knife while they are using Mora companions they will always wonder, if they are struggling to master a skill, if it’s the knife that makes the difference. 

If you use a Mora just like they do, that won’t be a question. This knife gives you a slightly stouter blade than the other Mora’s with a full-length tang and while it lacks the precise point of some of the other models it is still great for carving. Using this knife like a pro will give you slightly enhanced performance and functionality over the lighter weight Moras but still maintains your credibility. 

PROS

  • Full tang.
  • Scandinavian grind.
  • Multiple sheath options.
  • Choice of carbon or stainless steel.

CONS

  • Less precise point for carving.

8. Hultafors 380270 OK4 Outdoor Knife

The affordability of the Mora Companion is hard to beat but there are a few other options and Hultafors offers a few. Hultafors are another Swedish knifemaker and they produce a range of knives suitable for bushcraft including this particular model aimed specifically at outdoor tasks. As well as a stout blade it features some useful markings on the blade for taking measurements while doing craft tasks or tracking. 

It is a very credible alternative to the Mora companion but the black blade coating, which might seem like a good idea but as it extends onto the bevels of the knife this will soon be removed by sharpening so don’t expect your knife to stay the uniform black it starts off as for long. 

PROS

  • Price (<$20)
  • Simple design.
  • Scandinavian grind for woodworking.

CONS

  • Black blade coating on bevels.

9. Cold Steel FinnWolf Knife

Folding knives are not normally recommended for bushcraft due to the weak point created by the folding mechanism. However if you wanted to carry a more specialist fixed blade, perhaps something specifically for skinning and preparing game, or perhaps you need to carry a machete in a jungle or swamp environment and don’t want the weight and hassle of another fixed blade then this folder by cold steel will give you a lot of the functionality you need. 

It features a Scandinavian grind, a very strong locking mechanism and it won’t let you down, it’s a great backup to have or a great companion for a larger knife. 

PROS

  • Small size.
  • Lightweight.
  • Scandinavian grind for woodworking, but also for ease of sharpening, something not always easy on folding knives.

CONS

  • Folding mechanism.

10. Casstrom CI10829 Woodsman Knife

Traditional is a strange word to use when it comes to bushcraft, while the skills are certainly old the modern knives associated with bushcraft are very different to the stone tools our ancestors would have used and even from the tools used a couple of centuries, and even just a few decades ago by frontiersman and outdoorsmen. Nowadays bushcraft knives tend to have thicker blades than might have been typical on the frontier when thin ‘butcher’ blades were often pressed to almost every task.

 Now though bushcraft knives have become a bit more multipurpose and are typified by the types of knives seen being used by celebrity survival experts such as Ray Mears. If we are to pick a knife of that sort, which displays traditional materials and features the Casstrom Woodsman is a great choice. Bear in mind though modern bushcraft has changed a lot since the mountain men roamed North America so you will certainly do things with this knife that they would never have dreamt of doing with theirs. 

PROS

  • Scandinavian grind.
  • Relatively short length for maximum control.
  • Aesthetically appealing wooden handle and sleek design, with matching leather sheath.

CONS

  • A thick blade, making slicing and camp kitchen tasks more difficult.

11. Spyderco Bushcraft Knife

Spyderco might be better known for their folding knives but a few years ago they also stepped into the bushcraft knife market. This knife features the traditional Spyderco ‘spydie hole’ except on this knife it’s more about form than function. The 01 steel is a common choice for bushcraft knives as it’s easy to sharpen but for a knife of this price you might expect higher-end steel. 

The G10 handle material is a great option as they are completely impervious to moisture and still look great. 

PROS

  • G10 handle.
  • Scandinavian grind.
  • 01 steel for ease of sharpening.

CONS

  • Expensive.

12. Benchmade bushcrafter 162

Like Spyderco, Benchmade is often best known for its folding knives but they also produce this knife for bushcrafters. As might be expected from a high-end knife maker the bushcrafter 162 by Benchmade features a premium CPM-S30V steel. Unlike carbon steels, this S30V is resistant to rust and will be much easier to maintain, although a little harder to sharpen than 01 and other carbon steels it is a great choice for a bushcraft knife if you are working around water or in damp environments a lot. 

When buying a knife you do need to consider the sheath as well, the two come as a package and the sheath is one of the most important safety features. It protects you from your knife while you are carrying it so you need to make sure it’s comfortable to carry as well, this sheath does let the otherwise excellent knife down a little though as it carries a bit high and the handle can dig into your ribs unless you use a dangler on the sheath which allows it to knock against your leg as you walk. Never underestimate the sheath!

PROS

  • G10 handle.
  • Premium CPM-S30V steel.
  • Sabre grind; the only one on this list featuring this style grind, it offers an advantage over the Scandinavian grind in some respects as it does give some additional strength at the edge where a Scandinavian grind can be a little fragile.

CONS

  • Sheath design is weak.

Whichever knife you choose do be aware that all of the knives on this list will serve you incredibly well and have fantastic build quality and functionality. There is a wide range of prices on this list but there will be something to suit every budget and something suitable for everyone from beginners to very experienced bushcrafters.  

What is a Bushcraft Knife?

Well quite simply a bushcraft knife is a tool that has to perform adequately across a range of tasks; these tasks typically include simple woodwork tasks such as whittling pegs for a tarp shelter or carving implements for your camp kitchen. It is also advantageous if your bushcraft knife can be used for cooking tasks to fulfill that requirements I would suggest a relatively thin blade suitable for slicing, rather than the very thick blades more often seen on ‘survival’ knives. 

 

Bushcraft knives differ from ‘survival knives’ in that they are not designed to be a ‘one tool option.’ They don’t have to perform the duties of an axe or machete, as in a bushcraft scenario if you needed one or other of those tools (you are never likely to need both in the same environment, axes are for temperate and northern woodlands while machetes are more appropriate for travel in the jungle) you would simply carry it as well as your knife. 

 

Because your bushcraft knife will always be paired with other appropriate tools for the environment you are traveling in the thickness often built into larger survival knives is not required. This extra thickness would actually be a disadvantage as however sharp those really robust survival knives are, because of the thickness of the blade steel, they sacrifice the precision of a slimmer blade which is not desirable in a bushcraft knife. 

What Makes a Good Bushcraft Knife?

Your bushcraft knife should have a relatively slim blade and be somewhere between about 3.5 and 5 inches long. This gives you enough length for ‘batoning’ through small logs if you really need to while not being so long that you loose control over the tip of the knife. It should also have a blade that comes to a sharp point. That sounds obvious but some style of blades have a rounded point, such as the nessmuk style knife, or angular tanto points. These have very specific roles to fulfill and you should stick to those tasks with those knives. A bushcraft knife needs a point for carving tasks. 

 

The best steel for a knife is a hotly debated topic but it is also one of the things which makes the biggest difference in the price of your knife. I’ll discuss the types of steel of the knives I recommend on an individual basis below but as these are all reputable manufacturers you can be assured that the steels they use are going to be heat treated appropriately and perform well. You may want to consider as you choose your knife though whether a stainless or carbon steel is better for your environment, and whether you want steel with better edge holding capability versus one that is easier to sharpen. 

 

There is also some discussion on the type of ‘grind’ a bushcraft knife should have. The grind of a knife is the shape that forms the sharp edge of your blade. There are a few very special grind styles which are not useful on a bushcraft knife such as chisel grinds which are flat on one side and beveled on the other, like a chisel, this style grind is best left on chisels and certain tools such as side axes. 

 

I would also warn against hollow grinds, these can be exceptionally useful on a skinning or butchery knife but are too fragile for the kind of tasks demanded of a bushcraft knife. Other than that, most bushcraft knives on the market will tend to have convex, flat, sabre or Scandinavian grinds and while each has its merits my favorite are the convex and Scandinavian grinds. 

 

Convex grinds are very strong, can be sharpened very easily and are a great multi-purpose edge, although possibly not ideal when it comes to tasks in the camp kitchen. The Scandinavian grind is the best when it comes to craft tasks and working with wood, although it definitely doesn’t perform as well in the kitchen unless the blade is very thin, and the blade edge can be fragile. 

 

The other two both feature a secondary bevel near the edge to add strength which does reduce their performance when working wood but the flat ground blade, in particular, is excellent in the camp kitchen.  

 

As well as choosing an appropriate grind you will want to make sure that your bushcraft knife doesn’t have a really heavy coating on the blade. Textured coatings are often added to survival knives for a number of reasons. 

 

Often to protect a carbon steel blade from rust, but possibly also to reduce reflection in combat situations. These coatings though do not make it any less necessary to properly care for blades and add a lot of friction when you are performing cutting tasks, the friction that you can do without when performing bushcraft tasks. 

 

If we are going to talk about the shape and grind of your blade it’s worth discussing the handle too. As long as it’s comfortable for you it will ultimately do the trick. It must not produce hot spots as you might have to use it for a long time and you want to avoid discomfort and blisters. 

 

To avoid this discomfort don’t go for a heavily textured handle such as raw antler (if it is shaped and smoothed it will be fine) or heavily textured synthetic handles which are quite popular on survival knives to give a strong positive grip. 

 

The options of wood, micarta, antler, and other materials are down to your personal preference but let me suggest that you should avoid knives with porous handles which will soak up water and juices from preparing game or cooking. You should also consider whether the tang of the knife is a full tang or not. 

 

Many people would suggest that you should only consider ‘full tang’ knives but let me tell you from experience as someone who has traveled A LOT in cold environments. 

 

A full tang knife will make your hand cold very quickly and in fact, in very cold weather it will be dangerous to use without gloves. A full-length tang but one which does not go the full width of the handle is my preference as it means you don’t have to grip the steel of a full-width tang. 

 

There are even some knives with rat tail tangs which perform exceptionally and appear in the recommendations below.  

What to Look For?

To summarise then, your bushcraft knife should;

  • Have a blade between 3.5 and 5 inches in length.
  • Have a grind that suits your preference;
  • Scandinavian grind if you are planning to prioritize woodworking.
  • Flat grind if your need your knife primarily for camp kitchen tasks. 
  • Sabre and convex grinds for the best multipurpose options. 
  • Convex is my favorite (but be aware knives with convex edges can be more expensive). 
  • Have a sharp point.
  • Have a robust tang and handle arrangement. 
  • Have a handle without hot spots. 
  • Have a handle designed for the weather you anticipate.
  • For the comfort of use it should also have a flat spine, no serrations, etc…

It should not;

  • Have a handle that will absorb water or juices from game prep and cooking. 
  • Have an angular ‘tanto’ style point or broad skinning point. 
  • Have a chisel or hollow grind. 
  • Have a heavily textured coating. 

Whichever knife you choose do be aware that all of the knives on this list will serve you incredibly well and have fantastic build quality and functionality. There is a wide range of prices on this list but there will be something to suit every budget and something suitable for everyone from beginners to very experienced bushcrafters.