Whether splitting logs or whittling by the fire, we’ve found the best bushcraft knives for every budget and use.
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.
The Best Bushcraft Knives of 2021
Best Overall Bushcraft Knife: LT Wright GNS
The LT Wright GNS ($195) can be summed up in one word: comfort. It’s comfortable to hold, to wear, and even to look at. But most importantly, it’s comfortable to use.
I mean that in two ways, starting with the full Micarta handle. This knife settles into the palm almost organically, making it a natural extension of your hand. Then, moving forward, users are treated to 4.25 inches of U.S.-made, handcrafted O1 tool steel. This uncoated blade features a 90-degree spine, perfect for scraping bark or striking a ferro rod. Between the full-tang construction and the high material quality, this is a knife you can be comfortable pairing with kindling prep, carving, firestarting, and even food chores.
Buyers even have a choice of grinds: saber for an all-around cutting edge or Scandi if you’re looking for something a little more wood-focused. If you already have a sheath you like, the knife can be ordered on its own. But then you’d be missing out on their excellent leather sheath, featuring a dangler configuration and ferro rod-holder. Or you can upgrade to a premium DXW sheath if you’re looking for something a bit more modern. Both options are available in Natural or Black coloration, as well as left- or right-side carry directions.
If you couldn’t tell by the glowing description, this is my primary bushcraft knife. I highly recommend the LT Wright GNS and would not hesitate to take it into any forest, any time.
- Handmade craftsmanship
- Versatile blade
- O1 can rust or discolor
- Jealous friends
Best Budget Bushcraft Knife: Morakniv Companion
The Morakniv Companion is a legendary knife — and for good reason. Usually referred to simply as “Moras,” the entry-level Companions have earned a reputation for comfort, toughness, and capability. The 4.1-inch drop-point blade is available in either 12C27 stainless steel or a high-carbon variation.
With either choice, users will be treated to a grippy rubber handle and a precision Scandi grind. And while the rounded blade spine won’t help you when scraping a ferro rod, it makes for a nice landing place for your thumb.
The Companion comes in many colors, from black to green to high-viz. The matching sheath is made of hardened plastic, featuring a belt clip and a thumb-ramp for easy draws. It rides low on the belt and is generally unobtrusive.
Unlike most of the other knives on this list, Mora eschews the traditional full-tang design and goes with a partial, or “rat,” tang. While this makes it less likely to survive long-term abuse, it’s nothing that casual users are likely to notice. And at $20, this is far from a dealbreaker. Buy one, buy two, buy a dozen for your friends. Moras for everybody!
- Steel: Sandvik 12C27 stainless
- Excellent construction
- Color options
- Handle comfort
- No squared spine
- Basic plastic sheath
Best Bushcraft Folder: Cold Steel Finn Wolf
Look, I don’t think you’ll find many ardent bushcrafters who’d advocate for a pocket knife as your sole tool in the field. But if we’re looking at secondaries, you’d ideally want something on the budget end of the spectrum. Thankfully, the Cold Steel Finn Wolf ($65) punches above its weight class.
Here’s what you get for your money: 3.5 inches of Japanese AUS 8A steel, ground to a hair-splitting Scandi edge and flanked by a rugged Griv-Ex handle with a stainless pocket clip. The blade swings on a combination of Teflon and phosphor-bronze washers, making for a generally simple deploy.
The linchpin here is Cold Steel’s vaunted Tri-Ad lock. Once this system snaps into place, it’s about as close to a fixed blade as a folder can get. All this strength can make it a bit stiff to unlock, but it wears in over time. Bottom line: The Finn Wolf is thoughtfully made, reliably built, and great in the pocket. It also happens to be the best deal in bushcraft pocket knives. If you’re packing light on your next hike, it may be all the knife you need.
- Strong lock
- Stainless steel
- Comes very sharp
- Rough plastic edges
- Stiff disengagement
Best Tactical Bushcraft Knife: TOPS B.O.B. Fieldcraft
Wait, what? Is tactical bushcraft really a thing? Maybe not, but it’s an excuse to squeeze the TOPS Brothers of Bushcraft knife into this list! According to the maker’s website, “The Fieldcraft was designed by The Brothers of Bushcraft, a coalition of men across North America focusing on sharing wilderness living skills of all categories.”
This collaboration resulted in a stunning 4.5-inch blade, forged in the U.S. from 1095 high-carbon steel. Its spine is a sturdy three-sixteenths of an inch thick, sloping down into a modified Scandi grind. The Micarta-clad full tang adds another 5.5 inches, bringing the overall length to an even 10.
The B.O.B. Fieldcraft ($145) ships with a hardened Kydex sheath, sporting a steel belt clip. It also features an attachment point for a ferro rod, which comes included in the package. And see that bit of steel peeking out from the back of the handle? It’s specifically designed as a striker for the ferro rod, allowing users to scrape sparks without exposing the blade.
And if one ignition method isn’t enough, TOPS has included a bow drill divot on the handle. Other thoughtful details include finger scallops for added comfort with skinning or carving grips, as well as thumb ridges along the spine. Heck, there’s even a sharpening choil!
While the B.O.B. may not have the agile carving prowess of a Mora or L.T. Wright, its incredible feature set and solid build earn it a place in the “best bushcraft knife” discussion.
- Steel: 1095 high-carbon steel
- Wealth of features
- Sturdy design
- Tactical styling not for everyone
Best Bushcraft-and-Survival Knife Combo: Ka-Bar Becker BK2 Campanion
We’ll cover survival knives in another list, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t include a nod toward Ka-Bar’s legendary Becker BK2 ($133).
Designed by Ethan Becker and built in Olean, N.Y., the BK2 Campanion is 10.75 inches of straight-up damage. Its flat-ground 1095 blade is coated in a protective black finish, measuring 5.25 inches long and a beefy quarter-inch thick. The contoured Zytel handle scales are likewise blacked out, as is the molded nylon sheath.
According to Ka-Bar, “The Campanion works just as happily splitting out kindling as it does prying apart joints and skinning game, not to mention chopping onions for the campfire chili!” This is true, but the operative word there is “chopping.” The BK2 will have no problem reducing your veggies into chunks, but if you’re looking for thin slices of onions and tomatoes, you’re going to have a hard time. It’s simply not in the nature of this particular beast.
The BK2 generally excels at tasks that take advantage of its full one-pound heft, like batoning and chopping. It’s a big, heavy bruiser of a knife that can, in a pinch, tackle your more refined outdoor chores. Expect to see the Campanion again on our list of best survival knives.
- Fully coated blade
- Not the best for detail work
Best Convex Grind Bushcraft Knife: Fallkniven F1
For years, the Fallkniven F1 ($202) was seen as the premium pick among bushcraft knives. And though the price for some handmade blades has gone up, Fallkniven’s factory efficiency now makes the F1 something of a bargain.
The black Thermorun handle swells to fit the palm, and the Zytel sheath is serviceable, if a little basic. But the F1’s selling point has always been that gorgeous 3.75-inch blade. It’s a full-tang sandwich, comprising a VG-10 core between two slabs of 420 stainless steel. These two make a great combo, pairing the edge retention of VG-10 with the toughness of the 420.
The convex grind adds to the uniqueness, offering a different experience from your typical Scandi or saber. Its bevel curves down toward the edge, almost like an axe. This generally translates into long edge retention and a more all-around efficiency than a standard angular grind. Sharpening these can be a bit of a different experience, but the performance upgrade can’t be denied.
Bottom line: If you’re looking for something with the pedigree of a Mora but with an upgrade in materials, construction, and price point, you’re going to love Fallkniven.
- Carving prowess
- Handle comfort
- Sterling reputation
- Harder to sharpen
- Middling sheath
Best Bushcraft Warranty: ESEE Camp Lore RB3
Few brands in the knife world enjoy the same reputation as ESEE. For years, it has been among the gold standards for American-made survival knives. But with the release of the RB3 ($191), the company added a proper bushcraft blade to its repertoire.
The spec sheet reads like a bushcrafter’s checklist. Scandi grind? Got it. Carbon steel? You bet. Add in a sharp 90-degree spine and dress it up with a black oxide finish, and you’ve got one serious outdoor tool. It even has a sharpening choil!
All the features in the world won’t matter if the knife is uncomfortable to use. Some other blades in ESEE’s line have similar features, but they can be a bit narrow in the hand. (Looking at you, PR4). Thankfully, designer Rueben Bolieu has you covered.
“We went with a really simple handle design,” he said. “It was real important to get something that was gonna accommodate all different size hands, especially when you’re wearing a work glove or a winter glove.”
Buyers are covered with an unconditional, fully transferable lifetime warranty. Snap the blade batoning through a tree? Dig the pieces out of the trunk, mail them to ESEE, and they’ll send you a replacement. The RB3 is a great tool in the field, elevated by the peace of mind forged by your purchase.
Steel: 1095 high-carbon steel
- Bulletproof warranty
- Handle comfort
- Tough construction
- Blade may be short for some users
Best Wooden-Handled Bushcraft Knife: Helle Temagami
You know who Les Stroud is, right? TV’s “Survivorman”? Well, he’s a pretty cool dude, and he made a knife that’s just as neat. Manufactured in Norway by Helle, the Temagami ($189) is definitely an attractive piece. The handles are carved from curly birch, providing a warmer feel than plastic or other synthetics. Plus, the use of natural materials ensures that no two knives will have exactly the same pattern.
The 4.3-inch blade is crafted from triple-laminated stainless steel. Essentially, this means you’ve got two outer layers of rust-resistant stainless steel wrapped around a high-carbon core. This helps prevent discoloration while maintaining an easy-to-sharpen, durable Scandi edge.
But let’s talk about durability for a minute. While the Temagami does boast a partial-full tang, this isn’t what I’d consider a heavy-duty blade. Those birch scales are gorgeous, but if you’re into batoning large logs, wood handles have been known to crack out of sympathy. Helle’s warranty also forbids this sort of abuse.
This isn’t to say the Temagami isn’t capable. For carving, scraping, and food and fire prep, this is a lovingly designed, beautifully functional tool. Would you use your favorite camping pants to wipe off your grill? Probably not. But you’d better believe you’ll dry your palms on them. Treat this knife the same way, and you’ll get along great.
- Steel: Triple-laminated stainless steel
- Beautiful design
- Unique handles
- Proven makers
- Wood handles can be less durable
- Rigid warranty
Best MOLLE/Versatile-Carry Bushcraft Knife: Gerber Principle
If you’re looking for a modern, minimalist take on the classic bushcraft knife, look no further than the Gerber Principle ($60). This scaled-down knife features a 3.1-inch blade, ground down to what the maker calls a “zero-degree Scandinavian grind.”
The 420HC full-tang blade is clad in two rubber over-mold grips, with three holes spaced evenly along the handle. These are advertised as “lashing points,” but I see them as a smart means of weight reduction. The Principle tips the scales at just 3.7 ounces, making it among the lightest knives on this list.
But the selling point here is the Principle’s wealth of carry options. Its triple-mounting sheath can be used in drop-leg or scout carry configurations, or users can take advantage of the MOLLE attachments. So it’ll fit on pretty much any belt or pack in your collection. The blade shape is versatile too. Its balance of flat to belly is suited for a variety of camp tasks, from food prep to woodwork.
There are a few issues, however. While the Principle is eminently carry-able, it’s also relatively small. Users with large hands may want to try before they buy. And if you’re looking for a tool to use for hours on end, something a little larger would be ideal. But as a medium-duty or backup knife, the Principle is perfectly at home in the woods.
- Wealth of carry options
- Versatile blade
Best Bushcraft Knife Under $100: Mora Bushcraft Black With Firestarter
If you’re looking for a complete package at a reasonable price, it’s hard to beat the Mora Bushcraft Black ($99). While the knife itself can be had for less, the added firestarter, sheath, and sharpening stone make this an incredible value.
The Bushcraft Black was long held as the paragon of Mora’s line. Its 4.3-inch carbon steel blade falls within the ideal range for most outdoorsy types, and the anti-corrosive black coating helps keep rust at bay. Scandi grind, squared spine, comfortable handle — the gang’s all here.
While some would argue that the Bushcraft Black has been eclipsed by the newer Mora Garberg, I tend to disagree. The Garberg’s blade is very nice, but the hard plastic grip becomes difficult to hold after only a short period of time.
The high-friction rubber on the Black is closer to what you’d find on the brand’s Companion line, which is more “comfy couch” and less “waiting room chair” for your fingers. If you can stomach the black-on-black aesthetic, this is a stellar deal for a complete bushcraft knife.
- Handle comfort
- Proven reputation
- Included accessories
- Black coating not for everyone
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, with 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.
What Is Bushcraft?
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.
What Constitutes a Bushcraft Knife?
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.
Which Steel Is Best for a Knife?
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.
What Should I Look for in a Bushcraft Knife?
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.
What Is the Best Bushcraft Knife?
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.
Have a favorite bushcraft knife? Let us know in the comments, and we’ll check it out for future updates to this article.