How To Choose a Hiking Knife: The Quick and Dirty Guide

Hiking Knife

With June being men’s health month, I thought we’d highlight hitting the trails for some exercise with this hiking knife guide.

If you’re not a gym guy or someone who likes logging miles on asphalt for cardio, hiking is a great hobby and an awesome way to get some exercise. You can stretch your muscles, get your blood pumping, and enjoy the awe-inspiring beauty of nature (proven to be good for your mental health, by the way). Bringing along the right gear, like a trusty hiking knife, will help you enjoy hiking safely.

But how do you choose a hiking knife? What should you look for? Which are the best models? This isn’t a knife review, but short-and-sweet guide will explain how to choose a hiking knife and even offer some options worth checking out.

various objects for expedition with retro cameras on desk

How to Choose a Hiking Knife: What to Consider

When you’re hitting the trail, being prepared can be the difference between a good time and a disaster, and all experienced hikers know the importance of a good knife. Here are a few things you should think about when looking for a hiking knife.

Weight

Hiking can get pretty strenuous, and when you’re carrying a lot of unnecessary weight, it can be downright grueling. The point is to have a good time and get some exercise, not kill yourself by humping around a huge knife. Look for something lightweight and easy to pack. You’ll forget about it until you need it.

Folding vs. Fixed Blade

One of the most important considerations to process in that noggin of yours is whether you want a folding hiking knife or a fixed blade. Both have their pros and cons:

  • Folding knives are easy to carry, as they’ll collapse down and clip to a pants or short pocket with ease. They’re not as sturdy as a fixed-blade, but they’re great for ensuring you’ve got something in an emergency.
  • Fixed-blade knives are durable, tough, and strong. In a real trail-side pinch, you can’t beat the reliability and sturdiness of a fixed-blade. The issue is these knives can be large and cumbersome, meaning you’re likely to pack one in your bag instead of keeping it where you can reach it easily. 

Price Point

Shit happens in the woods. You fall, drop things, forget things… You know the deal. You don’t want to carry something in the woods that costs an arm and a leg, because there’s a real chance it might not come back with you.

My suggestion is to spend no more than $50 on any knife you bring to the trail. For most guys, this is less than a couple of hours of overtime, so it’s not going to kill them like it would if they left grandpa’s Buck on a rock when they stopped to dig a cathole (“cathole” sometimes confuses people… look it up, you’ll understand what I mean).

One-Handedness

I try not to be an alarmist or over-prepared nut, but when things go wrong in the woods or on the trail, they often go very wrong. For that reason, there are plenty of scenarios where you might not have both hands available to open and close a knife. Your knife must be one-hand-friendly for those scenarios.

Fixed-blade knives are always one-hand-friendly, as long as they’re in a position that both hands can reach. On the other hand (pun intended), some folders can be a nightmare to open and close with one hand. My suggestion is to look for an assisted opener or a knife with a flipper or thumb stud that you can open and close with one hand impaired.

Blade Type

In a pinch, any blade will do, but there are a few types of blades that are best for hiking knives. The classic drop-point is my favorite, as I find it’s the easiest to work with and most comfortable to manipulate. The tanto is also great, and it’s useful for piercing things and the blades are usually super durable. The clip-point blade is also an all-around helpful blade shape. Finally, a serrated blade (though I typically loathe them) can be helpful on the trail for cutting tough materials.

Three of the Best Hiking Knives

I wanted to make this guide short and sweet, so I’ll offer three of the best hiking knives you can go with. I chose a folder, a fixed blade, and a bonus that doesn’t quite fit the mold, but it’s worth considering anyway. By the way, I won’t make a dime off of any of these product links — I don’t have to tell you that, but I thought you might want to know.

The Folding Hiking Knife: Kershaw Brawler

Okay, I’m partial here, but to be honest, the self-instated $50 price limit was the determining factor in choosing the Kershaw Brawler. Until recently, the Brawler was my go-to hiking knife for years (until I received a much more expensive piece to review for Nothing But Knives). This folder is assisted, and it springs open so well. And, it’s dirt cheap, so if I lose it, it’s easy to replace. I would say that the tanto blade isn’t ideal, but it’s plenty good enough for hitting the trails quickly. 

The Fixed-Blade Hiking Knife: MoraKniv Companion Spark

The Companion came as a suggestion to me by @toilandrecoil, and I have to admit, I think it’s a great choice. I took it a step further and selected the MoraKniv Companion Spark, just because if a knife has to have something shoved in its handle, it might as well be a fire starter. As far as a fixed-blade knife goes, this one’s not terribly heavy, and the price point is spot on.

The Not-So Knife’ish Hiking Knife: Silky F180

This one’s more saw than knife, but its easily-folded nature and functionality earned a place on this list. Silky’s legendary in the folding cutting tool space, and the F180 is large enough to get the job done but small enough to come along for the ride. If you’re hitting the trails for a multi-day hike, you really should throw a Silky in your bag. Consider it a bonus piece, however, as you’ll still want a functional blade with you at all times.

Final Thoughts

‘Told you I’d keep it quick and dirty. Choosing a hiking knife doesn’t have to be rocket science so don’t let it stop you from getting out and getting some exercise. But, if you’re hung up on which knife to choose, the Brawler or Companion Spark will do the trick. For longer hikes, through the Silky in your pack as well. You’ll be glad you did.

Hiking Knife FAQs

What’s the best knife for hiking?

In my opinion, the Morakniv Companion Spark is the way to go. This knife is small and light enough to go on any hiking trip, but also features a fire starter if things go south. Otherwise, you can’t go wrong with the Kershaw Brawler as a pocket folder.

Should you carry a knife when hiking?

Absolutely. You really should carry a knife at all times, but especially when you’re hiking. When you’re out in the woods, you’re a guest in a world that doesn’t want you there. Having a knife by your side is important in the case of an emergency.

What should I look for in a hiking knife?

The most important things to look for in a hiking knife are an affordable price point, one-handed opening, and a reasonable weight that won’t drag you down.


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