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Best Bushcraft Knives of 2017: Buyer’s Guide

 

Adventurers, hunters and adrenaline junkies spend a lot of time in the wilderness. Without a proper survival knife or a bushcraft knife, it can become extremely difficult for these individuals to perform regular wilderness chores such as cutting tree limbs, carving wood, digging and skinning the hunted animals or game. The best bushcraft knife is one that is versatile and lightweight by nature, these prove to be the best tools to have in case of an outdoor situation for chores as well as unexpected emergency needs.

Bushcrafting is defined and practiced differently by many people all across the world. Many modern bushcrafters have taken advantage of the latest gear innovations and carry tons of kit items – while those who practice more traditional methods, tend to carry very little in terms of gear.

The cutting edge of a typical bushcraft knife should be about four inches. If you have a larger hand then you might prefer to use a longer blade. However, it is not recommended to go beyond five inches in case of bushcraft knife blades. It is best to opt for stainless steel bushcraft knives because these do not oxidize on being exposed to moisture. Another great pick would be the carbon steel one which has the ability to retain a keener edge and is easier to sharpen as well!

Some of the top brands offering the best bushcraft knife models would be Condor Tool and Knife, Morakniv, Randall, Becker, Chris Reeve, etc. Currently two of the best bushcraft knives available in the market, in terms of popularity, are the Condor Tool and Knife Bushlore Drop Point Blade and the Morakniv Companion Fixed Blade Outdoor Knife with Carbon Steel Blade.

The one rule that nearly everyone agrees on, is that your cutting tool is the most important investment you should make.  So I bring you…the best bushcraft knives of 2017.  This list contains a quality aselection of cutting tools to fit any budget.

What makes a good bushcraft knife?

Again, there are various schools of thought on this subject.  Blade material and length, edge grinds and profiles, scale material, weight – they’re all over the board.  Here are some of the “rules” that I believe should be followed when choosing a cutting tool for bushcraft.  This is the criteria I used to put together my list of the best bushcraft knives…

It must be a fixed blade knife

Folding knives should not be considered for a primary bushcraft knife, in my opinion.  Your knife should be considered a tool.  It’s going to be put in situations where it’s going to get abused…thoroughly abused in some cases. You may have to baton the hell out of it to process some firewood, or to split down the center of some hardwood for a camp project – a folding knife isn’t designed for that kind of punishment.

If you’re in the market for a folding knife for EDC, check out my Ultimate Guide to Cheap Folders article.

It should (almost) always have a full tang

The best bushcraft knives should have a full tang construction…but there are exceptions, in my opinion.  Mora knives are absolutely some of the best bushcraft knives ever tested – and up until last week, they’ve all been partial tang construction.  There are also a few contenders that are “covered tang”, which means the scales are wrapped around (or pressed over) the otherwise “full” tang of the knife itself.  Below is an image highlighting a few of the common construction methods.

The blade length should be over 4 inches

Blade length really comes down to personal preference.  If you’re only going to carry one cutting tool, I would personally suggest a blade length of 5-6 inches.  Again, this is assuming you’re not carrying an axe, saw, or even a larger knife – I carry a Mora in my pack and an ESEE on my belt (not counting my EDC folder).

The “blade length debate” really comes down to functionality.  When you’re practicing bushcraft, you come upon a variety of tasks from fine carving trap triggers to processing firewood, so you need something to cover the most bases.

The steel should be tough and easy to maintain

If you’ve read any of my previous articles where I’ve mention cutting tools, you know that I’m a fan of high carbon steel when it comes to a fixed blade.  They’re easy to sharpen in the field, they hold a great edge, and they work better when it comes to fire starting…whether that’s from flint or a ferro rod.  The only “downside” is that they rust. When it comes to fire starting with a ferro rod, stainless DOES WORK…regardless of the opinions to the contrary. Here’s a YouTube video from Mike at School of Self Reliance highlighting that fact.  This is a great channel, BTW.

So if you’re a stainless steel guy (or gal), then you can most certainly get by with fire starting in the bush.  Just be sure to research the particular steel before you purchase, and choose a material that fits your needs.  You want something tough and easy to maintain in the field. As you will see below, the Fallkniven A1 is one of the best bushcraft knives I’ve ever had the pleasure of owning…and it happens to be stainless steel.

Best Bushcraft Knives of 2017

Prices on Amazon often vary from day to day, so I won’t be listing specific prices in the post.  I will place them in order from least expensive ($30 range) to most expensive ($200 range), so there is a cutting tool for EVERY budget. I’ve included an image and specs for each knife, and you can click the image or the links below them to check current prices.  I’ll also link to a separate, more detailed review post for each knife.

Condor Bushlore

condor ctk232

If you’re looking for a good bushcraft knife on a budget, the Bushlore just might be the right choice for you.  It’s not perfect out of the box, and I elaborate on that in the review.  It’s a solid foundation for those who want a rugged cutting tool to add to their kit.

The full Condor Bushlore review can be seen here.

Condor Kephart

Condor Kephart Survival Knife

The Kephart has some similarities to the Condor Bushlore, but the blade is a little more narrow with a different profile.  It also shares the same factory grind issues with the Bushlore, and will probably need some work out of the box.  Overall, it’s really a personal preference in regards to the blade profile and the handle shape.

The full Condor Kephart review can be seen here.

Condor Nessmuk

Condor Nessmuk

The third offering (of 4) from Condor in our list is the Nessmuk.  Couple the build quality with the sheath that the offer and it’s a no-brainer.  So if you do a lot of hunting and/or fishing, or you’re looking for a nostalgia piece of kit – I would highly recommend adding a Nessmuk to your collection.

The full Condor Nessmuk review can be seen here.

Condor Bushcraft Basic

Condor Bushcraft Basic

The last Condor on our list is the Bushcraft Basic.  At first look, it could very well be confused for a steak knife – but it’s much more than that!  I’m not that crazy about the handle profile out of the box, but it is very easily remedied.  All-in-all, it’s a very solid contender in the list.

The full Condor Bushcraft Basic review can be seen here.

Schrade SCHF51M

Schrade SCHF51M full tang knife

The Schrade SCHF51M is an absolute monster of a knife for the money. The 1/4″ 1095 blade is a hell of a chopper and tough enough to do anything you want to do – and the finger choil allows you to choke up and do some fine carving work.

The full Schrade SCHF51 review can be seen here.

Mora Bushcraft Black

Mora Bushcraft Black Review 2

This list wouldn’t be great without the addition of a Mora. I’ve mentioned Mora knives in several of my articles and I highly recommend that ANY bushcrafter should own (at least) one. They’re just a damn tough knife for the money and they can do it all. They’re truly one of the best bushcraft knives ever made.

The full Mora Bushcraft Black review can be seen here.

Ontario TAK1

Quick Company History

The Ontario Knife Company was formed by three gentleman in Ontario County, New York in 1889. Their early production knives were manufactured with a water-run grindstone, loaded up in a pushcart and sold throughout the neighboring countryside. In 1902, the company moved to it’s current location in Franklinville. The company went through a few changes over the years, but they always remained in Ontario County. In 1923, production of the famous Old Hickory line would begin, which would put Ontario on the map.

Specs and Review Link

Blade Length: 4 5/8″
Blade Thickness: .19″
Overall Length: 10″
Blade Material: 1095 High Carbon Steel
Blade Finish: Zinc Phosphate
Handle: Micarta
Sheath: Nylon MOLLE Compatible
Weight: 10 oz

The Ontario TAK1 is a member of the RAT series that was designed by Jeff Randal and Mike Perrin from ESEE Knives. These guys live for bushcrafting and self-reliance, and their school is one of the most prominent in the country. The TAK1 is a proven performer with it’s full-tang 1095 High Carbon Steel construction, Micatra handles, and MOLLE compatible sheath. It’s a great choice for any bushcrafter.

The full Ontario TAK1 review can be seen here.

Ka-Bar Becker BK2

Quick Company History

The history of Ka-Bar knives is believed to have started in 1897, when a group of 38 individuals formed a limited partnership known as the Tidioute Cutlery Company. The company was acquired shortly after, in 1902, by Wallace R. Brown and was incorporated into the Union Razor Company. The iconic Ka-Bar name that everyone recognizes came after the company submitted their Ka-Bar branded knife to the U.S. Marine Corps in 1942. The USMC promptly accepted a revised version, and the Ka-Bar became their standard issued combat/utility knife. After the success of the Ka-Bar line, the company changed the name of their corporation to Ka-Bar Cutlery, Inc.

Specs and Review Link

Blade Length: 5.25″
Blade Thickness: .25″
Overall Length: 10.5″
Blade Material: 1095 Cro-Van High Carbon Steel
Blade Finish: Black Epoxy
Handle: Zytel
Sheath: Glass-filled Nylon
Weight: 16 oz

The Becker BK2 is an iconic knife – designed by an iconic woodsman, and built by an iconic company. Ethan Becker, the designer, bases his models purely on functionality in the outdoors…hell, he practically lives outside. The BK2 is a work-horse, plain and simple. It can take abuse, day in and day out and never let you down. I believe the BK2 (or any Becker) is a must-have, in my opinion.

The full Becker BK2 review can be seen here.

Camillus Bushcrafter

Quick Company History

In 1897, the Camillus Cutlery Company was formed as a collaboration between Adolph Kastor and Charles Sherwood in New York. By 1910, they had expanded so much that they were manufacturing over 1,000,000 knives per year and had over 200 employees. During World War 2, Camillus started producing numerous items for the military – including fixed blade fighting knives, machetes, and folding utility knives for electricians and signalmen. They continued this theme through the Vietnam war, as well. In 2007, due to increased pressure from overseas competition, Camillus filed bankruptcy. In 2009, they were acquired by Acme United Corporation. Armed with a new vision, they expanded production to various tactical-style folders and bushcraft tools.

Specs and Review Link

Blade Length: 4″
Blade Thickness: 1/8″
Overall Length: 8.5″
Blade Material: 1095 High Carbon Steel
Blade Finish: Flint Grey
Handle: Micarta
Sheath: Leather
Weight: 6.3 oz

This knife has a lot of great things going for it. It’s made from high quality materials, has a solid construction, a beautiful leather sheath, and it’s manufactured in the USA. It also carries a full lifetime warranty, straight from the company. The blade length is a little on the short side for a 1-tool option, but if you’re looking for a fine blade for smaller tasks – the Camillus Bushcrafter would be a great choice.

The full Camillus Bushcrafter review can be seen here.

Ontario Rat-5

The Ontario RAT-5 is a member of the RAT series that was designed by Jeff Randal and Mike Perrin from ESEE Knives. These knives are designed and built to be used in the field…period. The RAT series is used and carried by outdoorsmen worldwide. It’s also very popular among military personnel, including U.S. Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. These things are extensively tested and used because they work.

Specs and Review Link

Blade Length: 5.25″
Blade Thickness: .19″
Overall Length: 10.5″
Blade Material: 1095 High Carbon Steel
Blade Finish: Black Powder Coat
Handle: Canvas Micarta
Sheath: Nylon MOLLE Compatible
Weight: 11.5 oz

Although the RAT-5 is popular in the tactical and military scene, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a serious bushcraft blade. This thing has the strength, design, and all of the features that the best bushcraft knives on the market offer. Full-tang construction, an awesome 1095 High Carbon Steel blade, durable Micarta handles, and a pretty decent price tag – add all that up and this thing is hard to beat.

The full Ontario RAT 5 review can be seen here.

TOPS Fieldcraft BOB

Quick Company History

TOPS Knives was founded in 1998. They set out with a mission to create the highest-quality knives around. They classify their knives as “tools designed and built using the extensive knowledge and real life experiences of many Operators with backgrounds in Military, Law Enforcement, outdoor professions, and Martial Arts”. They have worked with designers with backgrounds ranging from Navy Seals, Airborne Rangers, Martial Arts instructors, survival experts, SWAT Team members, and Native American weapons experts. The best part of all – TOPS fixed blades are manufactured and hand-finished right here in the USA, at their facility in the heart of the Rocky Mountains.

Specs and Review Link

Blade Length: 4.5″
Blade Thickness: 3/16″
Overall Length: 10″
Blade Material: 1095 High Carbon Steel
Blade Finish: Tumbled Finish
Handle: Canvas Micarta
Sheath: Black Kydex
Weight: 9.6 oz

The TOPS Fieldcraft BOB was designed by the Brothers of Bushcraft, which is a group consisting of some of the greatest modern bushcrafters in North America. Most notable on the list, is Joe Flowers. This guy practically lives in the bush – when he isn’t building the knives that he designs…in the bush. The BOB is just a solid performer – designed by bushcrafters and built for bushcrafters.

The full TOPS Fieldcraft BOB review can be seen here.

TOPS Dragonfly

The TOPS Dragonfly was designed by Caleb Musgrave, who is the founder (and instructor) at Canadian Bushcraft in Ontario. This guy has been bushcrafting since he was born, basically – he lives it. When I say he lives it, I mean he threw together a super light pack, walked 80 kilometers to Haliburton, Ontario and camped in a hammock…for a MONTH!

Specs and Review Link

Blade Length: 4.5″
Blade Thickness: 3/16″
Overall Length: 9.75″
Blade Material: 1095 High Carbon Steel
Blade Finish: Bead Blast Finish
Handle: Black/White Canvas Micarta
Sheath: Black Ballistic Nylon
Weight: 10 oz

The TOPS Dragonfly is a culmination of 7 years worth of research, design, and testing by Mr. Musgrave – so you know it’s a serious cutting tool. The Dragonfly, much like the TOPS Fieldcraft BOB listed above, is the very definition of a high quality bushcraft knife. Top of the line materials, wonderful steel, amazing fit and finish, and an absolute workhorse. It is, without a doubt, one of the best bushcraft knives on the market.

The full TOPS Dragonfly review can be seen here.

ESEE 5

Quick Company History

ESEE Knives was formed in 1997 by Jeff Randall and Mike Perrin – the same gentlemen listed above that run the Randall Adventure Training (RAT) School. ESEE’s designs are based on real world use (and abuse) and tested rigorously in their training programs, both in the United States and the Peruvian Amazon. They’re not only tested by the instructors and students, they’re also evaluated by independent testers all over the world before they’re released. They take great pride in manufacturing high quality cutting tools that can withstand basically anything the user needs it to.

Specs and Review Link

Blade Length: 5.25″
Blade Thickness: 1/4″
Overall Length: 11″
Blade Material: 1095 High Carbon Steel
Blade Finish: Black Powder Coat
Handle: Canvas Micarta
Sheath: Black Kydex
Weight: 16 oz

The ESEE 5 was actually designed as a downed pilot’s survival knife, by Military SERE instructors. If you have done any research however, you’ll find that it’s one of the best bushcraft knives ever made. It features insanely beefy construction, very nice 1095 high carbon steel, durable Micarta scales, and a decent Kydex sheath. It’s perfectly capable of doing anything you need it to do in the bush.

The full ESEE 5 review can be seen here.

Fallkniven A1

Quick Company History

Fallkniven AB was founded in 1984 and is based in Norrbotten, Sweden. Today, the company is recognized as one of Sweden’s foremost knife specialists. Fallkniven uses extremely high quality (and expensive) laminated steel in their knives. They hold claim to having the “strongest, serial manufactured, stainless steel knives in the world”. To prove that fact, they openly supply their knives to Lulea University of Technology for specialized and controlled strength testing. You can find the results and data from the tests here.

 Specs and Review Link

Blade Length: 6.3″
Blade Thickness: 1/4″
Overall Length: 11″
Blade Material: Laminated VG10
Blade Finish: Satin
Handle: Kraton
Sheath: Black Zytel
Weight: 12 oz

The Fallkniven A1 is for the serious knife gurus. The quality of the materials, craftsmanship, and the sleek design makes it a “European sports car” of the knife world. Don’t judge it on it it’s gorgeous looks alone though, this thing flat out performs. The steel is absolutely incredible, and that’s coming from a high carbon guy. Stainless steel has started (and will continue) to stake it’s claim in the bushcrafting world. The only disadvantage to stainless is that you can’t spark flint with most of it. So if that matters to you, then so be it – but the Fallkniven A1 definitely belongs in a best bushcraft knives list.

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