In case you haven’t heard the term before, “bushcrafting” refers to the art of surviving in the wild. A great bushcrafter knows how to work with nature, build themselves a fire and shelter, hunt and skin game, catch fish, and navigate through the wilderness with ease.
Of course, to be able to do all of those things, even the best bushcrafter needs to have the right tools. So what is a bushcraft knife? It is designed to do the job of several tools in one. It can help you to set up your campsite, set traps, and prepare your food.
What Is a Bushcraft Knife?
Bushcraft knives are designed to be light and easy to carry, razor-sharp, and comfortable to hold and use. With that said, there is no single, perfect bushcraft knife. The best knife for you depends on your preferences and priorities.
Bushcraft knives come in many shapes and sizes, but there are a few features that they all have in common. Let’s talk about them in more detail.
What Do Bushcraft Knives Look Like?
All bushcraft knives are relatively small. The total length of the knife may range from eight to 12 inches, but generally not much longer. The blades are typically about five inches long or shorter. The compact size of the knife makes it easy to sheath and carry in a pocket or pack, or to keep clipped to your belt.
Additionally, all bushcraft knives are fixed, not folding. A knife that can be folded back into its hilt is more accurately described as a pocket knife, and not a bushcraft knife. As far as the specific design of the blade and handle, it can vary depending on the knife. Blades can have different grinds or primary bevels that will affect the way they cut.
One of the more common blade designs is a Scandinavian (or “scandi”) grind, which means that the blade is ground to a thin angle along the cutting edge. This type of grind helps the blade to bite through hard surfaces easily and prevent slipping.
Handle design will affect the way you grip and use the knife. The hilt, or bottom side of the handle, adjacent to the blade, may have a groove for your finger. This can be great for more precise carving and whittling, utilizing the tip of the blade. To know what kind of handle you are most comfortable with, the best thing you can do is try out a few options and get a feel for what sits best in your hand.
What Are They Made Of?
Not all bushcraft knives will be made with the same materials. The material of the blade will affect the knife’s durability and performance, and the material of the handle can affect its weight and appearance.
There are tons of different types of steel that your knife blade can be crafted from. Stainless steel is one of the most popular and most affordable types. Carbon steel of multiple grades is also commonly used.
Between the two, stainless steel is a little softer and will lose its edge faster. However, it is also more naturally corrosion resistant. Carbon steel is inclined to stay sharp longer but may develop rust spots if it is not carefully stored. For the best performance, you should look for one that has a corrosion-resistant finish or coating.
Unlike blade materials, you have a little more flexibility with the material of your knife handle. It won’t affect the performance of the knife too much. A lot of people prefer hardwoods, such as walnut, because they give the knife a more authentic look and feel, and they are comfortable to hold. However, there is something to be said for a durable plastic or synthetic material, which will be much lighter and durable for long-term and outdoor use.
As far as sheath materials, leather is generally standard. Like with wood handles, though, leather is a little more prone to wear and tear than plastic or synthetic materials. Sometimes, it is worth it to sacrifice the rugged, authentic appearance for a more practical material.
Features to Look For
Bushcraft knives are designed to be simple. If you want a lot of special features and built-in tools, you are probably looking for a pocket knife or Swiss Army knife. For what a bushcraft knife is used for, a simple blade, handle, and sheath design is all you need.
With that said, you will find some knives out there that come with a few integrated tools. A fire starter, which is a small, built-in piece of flint or other material that you can strike against the spine of your blade to create sparks, can be really helpful for a serious survivalist.
A sharpener, belt attachment, or another minor, lightweight attachment on the sheath may also help you to make the most of your knife, without weighing it down.
One key phrase you will want to look out for when shopping for a bushcraft knife is “full tang”. If it is a full tang knife, that means the blade runs all the way down through the core of the handle. Full tang knives are tougher and more reliable. This makes them perfect for serious use. There is no reason to waste your time on anything that is not a full tang.
We don’t recommend choosing a bushcraft knife that has a double-sided blade or a serrated back. While those knives may look cool, for practical uses, they end up being inconvenient and even dangerous.
Bushcraft knives are incredibly useful, versatile little tools. They can help an outdoorsman (or woman) with any task and are easy to have on hand in case of an emergency situation.
When looking for one, keep an eye out for a simple, sturdy, and effective model. Remember that carbon steel blades will stay sharp longer but are also more prone to rust and corrosion than stainless steel. The best handle and blade design depend on what you are most comfortable with. We recommend trying out a few different types before you settle on the one for you.
Now that you have a better idea of what is a bushcraft knife, you are ready to get out there and start your next adventure. Good luck!