Best Knife for Backpacking
The Spyderco Delica 4″
Most people wouldn’t be surprised that the Spyderco Delica 4 is the best backpacking knife. You mention Spyderco to any knife collector, and you can watch their eyes light up. The Delica 4 has all the best qualities – it’s lightweight, has a textured handle for superior grip, is made with a strong, high-quality blade, and features a reliable locking mechanism. Throw in excellent customer service from the company, and it’s hard to find a reason not to get the Delica 4.
There is no doubt about the quality of the Delica 4, and the best example of it is the blade. It’s a full flat-ground blade made of VG-10 Japanese steel. This steel has a high carbon content, so it’s harder and more durable than other types of blade material. It has a thin, highly refined cutting edge that will let you slice through just about anything. Best of all, it’s easy to sharpen this material so you’ll continue to have a high-performance blade for the long run.
How to select the best knife for your backpacking needs
Every good backpacker knows it’s essential to have a knife in the field. Chances are that you’ll have to use it more than once before it’s all over. There are many reasons you’ll need a knife – fishing, making repairs, cutting rope, food preparation, dressing game, first aid, making kindling, or starting a fire. You should make sure you get a good, high-quality knife that will be practical in many different situations.
Getting the right knife is also important for safety reasons. If you try to use a knife for a task it isn’t designed for; you could end up cutting yourself. The last thing you want to deal with is bleeding out from a cut in the middle of the woods.
In this guide, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about backpacking knives. We’ve curated a list of seven of the best, including the overall best, the Spyderco Delica 4. Anyone of these high-quality knives will be an excellent backpacking knife to have in a variety of situations.
New Knife needed for your backpacking trips?
In this guide we’ll cover the following topics:
- What features to look for in a backpacking knife
- Reviews of the best knives for your backpacking trip
- Our #1 pick to the best blade for you backpacking trip
Selecting a Backpacking Knife
Before you run out and choose a backpacking knife based on price, you should consider how the knives are made. You have many choices to make, with the first and the most important one being the type of knife you want. After that, you have to decide on which blade is suitable and the type of lock you’re comfortable with. Once you’ve made these choices, it makes it exponentially easier to find a backpacking knife that suits you.
Types of Backpacking Knives
Pocket (or Folding) Knives
Pocket knives are small, compact, folding knives that are safe to carry in your pocket (hence the name). The sharp edges of the knife are covered and protected when it folds. These are great for many cutting and piercing tasks, but they aren’t as durable, stable, or as strong as a fixed-blade knife.
Fixed Blade Knives
Fixed blade knives don’t fold, so you’ll need a sheath to carry them safely. These knives are more robust, but they’re bigger and heavier, so they’ll take up more room in your gear. You’ll need to be cautious with these – they tend to be sharper than any of the other knife types.
Keychain knives are essentially small pocketknives that attach to your keychain. These knives are only suitable for the most basic cutting of small items. They’re better as a backup or emergency knife.
Multi-tool knives, also called Swiss Army knives, are perfect for the serious hiker and camper. Besides the knife, it will have various tool attachments like an awl, Phillips screwdriver, tweezers, wire cutters, scissors, and more. These tools can vary widely in size, but most of them are compact and lightweight. They fold up like pocketknives and offer about the same level of performance as pocketknives.
This doesn’t mean that a multi-tool isn’t good for ultralight backpacking – just don’t expect them to perform like a fixed-blade knife for heavier tasks.
Types of Knife Blades
The blade of a knife helps to determine what it’s best suited for. If you want a good, all-around blade that is useful in a variety of situations, aim for a drop point blade. It has a rounded edge and a thick point. The other edge “drops” towards the point.
A clip point blade has a curved edge on the top that comes to a precise point. It’s an excellent blade for piercing and detailed cutting work. However, it’s not as strong as drop point blades so that it won’t hold up for heavy-duty knife work as well.
A needlepoint or spear-tip blade is a double-edged blade that is shaped like a spear. It’s sharp, precise, and great for throwing. It’s an excellent choice for survivalist campers and hunters.
A folding knife has a lock that will prevent them from accidentally folding onto your fingers. If you find a pocket knife without a lock (rare), keep looking. Here are the most common lock types you’ll come across for pocketknives.
- A liner lock is the most popular lock type you’ll find on a pocketknife. Folding knives with this type of lock have an outer frame as well as an inner frame in the handle. The internal frame has narrow metal “cut out” that is bent inward. When you open the pocketknife all the way, the cutout slides right under the blade, locking it into place. In order to fold the knife down, you must manually slide the cutout to the side.
- Frame locks are like liner locks, except they don’t have a liner. The outer frame of the handle contains the cutout, and you must manually move the frame to unlock the blade.
- Back locks are named this because the lock is on the back of the handle. It has a spring that clicks the lock in place when you open it. Simply press on it when you’re ready to close the knife. These types of locks can cause a knife to open slower, but this is only important if you just like being able to open your knife fast.
- There is a mid-lock that is like the back lock, but it’s located in the back, middle part of the handle rather than the bottom or the whole handle.
What to Look for in a Good Knife for Your Backpacking Trip
Once you’ve made selections about the build of the knife, you’ll need to consider other features and qualities. These features and qualities make a difference in the performance of the knife. These choices will also further refine the uses of the knife.
The functionality of a knife depends on your personal needs. Think about what you’ll do with the knife. Folding knives are good for basic cutting tasks – slicing fruit, cutting rope (thin rope), opening packages, whittling, etc. A pocket knife has it’s limitations though, as the hinge generally isn’t as strong as a knife blade with full tang and will be more limited in what you can use them for.
If you’re going full Bear Grylls, and are going to be hunting down a wild boar, you’ll need to go with the more solid option – a fixed blade knife.
Lastly, multi-tool knives provide you with the most functionality, which can be great if you enjoy ultralight backpacking and want to have “one tool” to do it all. However, generally, these we find are generally not as sturdy or as capable as an actual knife.
Weight and Storage
If you prefer something lightweight, your best choice will be pocket knives. Not only are they lightweight, but they’re compact and inconspicuous. Multi-tools vary widely when it comes to weight. A lot of it has to do with how many functions it offers and what its made of. Fixed-blade knives are going to be the heaviest option, although, for most of them, the weight is manageable. For these knives, consider the weight of the knife plus the sheath. (If you want something a little bit heavier in your hand then consider reading our guide to the Best Camping Knife).
The quality of a knife will depend on the blade material that’s used plus the way it’s manufactured. High-quality blades will be made from stainless steel or carbon steel which will have significantly better edge retention over cheaper materials.
Handles materials vary, but your best bet is to go with a material that isn’t susceptible to water damage or, more specifically, corrosion resistance. Also, make sure and look for signs of misaligned joints, material degradation, or wobbly blades. These are indicators of low-quality knives.
The Best Knives for Backpacking Trips Reviewed
Spyderco Delica 4
- Reliable High Performance - The Delica 4 family includes a full range of handle colors, blade grinds, and edge configurations, as well as a blunted training version and a model with the Emerson Opening.
- Superior Blade Steel - The VG-10 blade has a flat saber-ground grind with a stronger tip and larger 13mm opening hole.
- Ultra-Lightweight - Inside the handle are dual skeletonized stainless steel liners which strengthen the knife without additional weight and double as an anchor for external and internal components to attach through generating more sturdiness.
- Ergonomic - Added to the blade's spine is slip resistant jimping. Phosphor bronze washers smooth out the open/close action and the clip is upgraded to a four-way tip-up, tip-down, left-or right-handed clip.
- A Secure Grip - Molded onto the FRN Handle's surface is Bi-Directional Texturing for slip-free tactile traction. It provides resistance to slipping in the hand.
Knife enthusiasts all over the world are familiar with Spyderco knives. Spyderco offers a level of quality that gives them cutting edge competition against competitors. The Delica 4 is a humble example of that. It’s strong, high-quality, durable, lightweight, and practical. It’s everything you’d want in an ultralight backpacking knife.
The handle of the knife is one of the most exciting parts. It’s a fiberglass nylon handle with an exclusive Bi-Directional Texturing™ for better handling. It has a stainless-steel liner, which serves as an anchor point for the other features. The blade material is VG-10 stainless steel, with a drop-point blade that is flat saber-ground and features a 13mm opening hole. It’s designed for left or right-hand use.
The Delica 4 weighs 2.5 ounces. The blade length measures 2.8 inches, and the handle measures 4.25 inches.
- Slip-resistant jimping on blade spine.
- 4-way clip.
- Knife is bolted together.
- Available in eight colors.
- Tip of blade is not reinforced.
- It’s expensive (you get what you pay for).
Bottom Line: This knife is a perfect size, weight, and quality for any backpacker from beginners to hardcore hikers.
Esee Knives Izula II Fixed Blade Knife
The Izula II is neck and neck with the Spyderco for the overall best title. What makes the Izula II the best value knife is that it has a lifetime warranty. Since customer service is here in the U.S.A., you don’t have to jump through hoops to use the warranty. That by itself is enough to make us want to spend our hard-earned dollars on this knife.
The Izula II has a drop-point blade made of carbon steel, with a blade length of 2.63″. While this is a very strong, durable material, it’s prone to rust, so you’ll need to keep it lubricated and cleaned. You should also use a dry film rust inhibitor. The removable handle is made of canvas micarta, which gives you a solid grip when using the knife. It’s well-balanced and comfortable to hold.
- Made in the U.S.A.
- Has a lifetime warranty.
- Bolted handle comes apart for easy cleaning.
- Comes with injection-molded sheath.
- Blade is prone to rust.
- Sheath has lower quality than the knife.
Bottom Line: With reliable quality and a lifetime guarantee, you can be sure that this knife will handle anything you need.
Spyderco Honeybee Folding Knife
Best Ultralight Backpacking Knife
- BUG KNIVES - Spyderco's micro-sized slipjoints are fully functional, impressively sharp folding knives that are very much at home on a keychain.
- Dependable - Each Bug Knife comes with a steel handle and are the perfect palette for engraving or other embellishment
- Superior Blade Steel - The flat ground blade is 3Cr13 stainless steel with a PlainEdge Blade
- Multipurpose - The Honeybee's handle offers a flat surface for a small amount of engraving or embellishment and can be customized for use as jewelry or a gift item.
- Easy To Carry - Positioned on the end of the handle is a lanyard hole large enough to thread with a chain and be worn around the neck or slipped onto a key chain.
Spyderco has such a fantastic line of knives that we’ve included the Honeybee folding knife in the list. The name gives you the impression that it’s small but packs a sting. This is very accurate. It’s compact with a total length of fewer than four inches and lightweight at only .56 ounces. However, it features a steel alloy blade and stainless-steel handle that offers outstanding performance for a pocketknife.
The blade is a flat ground, plain edge blade with a blade length of 1.6″. It’s a 3Cr stainless steel blade. This grade of stainless steel is sturdy and durable, but it’s not fully corrosion-resistant, so it is susceptible to some rusting. While this is a slight hiccup, it attributes to the low cost of the knife. If you take care of it, you won’t have to worry about rusting.
- Very affordable price tag.
- Full flat grind reduces drag when cutting.
- Makes a great keychain knife.
- Short blade length
- No locking mechanism.
Bottom Line: Known as a Spyderco Bug, this small “slip it” knife outputs an enormous performance despite its small size.
Opinel No. 8 Pocket Knife
Largest Handle Option
- This essential tool is unchanged since 1890 and is a must have for outdoorsmen and handymen alike
- The Stainless Virobloc safety ring has two sections, one fixed and one sliding for secure locking
- Opinel's carbon steel is extremely hard, thereby guaranteeing excellent cutting quality
- Handle is made from hard, durable Beechwood from France
- Opinel products are guaranteed under normal use and exchanged in case of manufacturing defects
The Opinel No. 8 pocketknife has an exciting and unique look for a pocketknife. It almost looks like an elegant kitchen knife with its large wooden handle. The handle is made from French Beechwood, a hard, weighty wood with bold color and luxurious properties. The No. 8 wooden handle measures 4.3 inches, a great size that allows you to have a good grip on the knife.
The blade of the Opinel knives is made of carbon steel, with a blade length of 3.5 inches. The blade is a Yatagan style blade, inspired by the Turkish saber. This is essentially a blade with a curved edge consisting of a toe (the point) that is slightly pointed up. The locking mechanism is also unique. It’s called a Vibrobloc Safety ring. You simply twist it to lock and then rotate it back to unlock. This locking mechanism works when the blade is up or down.
- Beechwood handle is sturdy and durable.
- Knife is available in smaller and larger sizes.
- Very affordable.
- Wood is slippery when wet.
- Locking mechanism can sometimes get stuck.
Bottom Line: If you favor elegance as well as functionality, the Opinel No. 8 pocketknife is an excellent choice because it looks good and works great.
Victorinox Climber Swiss Army Knife
Most Versatile Option
- Compact multitool is ideal for rugged outdoorsy types, with essential implements that maximize usefulness while keeping bulk to a minimum
- Large and small blades, corkscrew, and cap lifter with screwdriver and wire stripper
- Reamer, key ring inox, tweezers, toothpick, scissors, and multi-purpose hook/parcel carrier
- Measures one by 0.7 by 3.6 inches (W x H x D) with three-ounce weight and polished cellidor handle
- Includes limited lifetime manufacturer's warranty
It’s only natural that a swiss army knife be labeled as the most versatile, but, of course, the Victorinox certainly earned it. Victorinox is the original manufacturer of the swiss army knife. The quality of their products is in a class of its own, which is why Victorinox can offer a lifetime warranty. The swiss army knife provides you with thirteen different functions. The manufacturer says fourteen, but they include the keyring.
The tool has a large and small knife, a corkscrew, a reamer, tweezers, a toothpick, scissors, and a multipurpose hook. The can opener has a built-in small flat head screwdriver. The bottle opener has a built-in large flat head screwdriver as well as a wire stripper. Both screwdrivers can also be used with Phillips head screws.
The tools are made of stainless steel, and the handle is made of polished cellidor. It’s a robust but compact kit with a slim profile. It measures 3.58″ x 0.7″ and weighs 2.9 ounces.
- Comes in eight colors.
- Has a limited lifetime warranty.
- Tools open and close very easily.
- Knives are small and will only work for basic cutting.
Bottom Line: You can never go wrong with a swiss army knife.
Gerber Paraframe Mini Pocket Knife
- QUALITY CRAFTED: Features a plain edge blade, clip point blade, nail nick, pocket clip, and a frame lock handle design
- SURVIVAL GEAR AND EQUIPMENT: Made from stainless steel that will stand the test of time, a lightweight pocket knife that can conveniently travel with you
- SLIM DESIGN: Easily accessible and fits compactly in a pocket or on a belt clip
- CAMPING ACCESSORIES: Great for any hunter, tradesman, and the everyday carry consumer; Perfect addition to camping essentials, toolbox, work wear, and fishing and hiking gear
- CONVENIENT SIZE: 2.2" blade length, 5.25" overall length; 1.6 oz weight; Backed by the Gerber Guarantee, a limited lifetime warranty
Every list needs a good budget option, and the Gerber Paraframe Folding Knife is the best one that we found. Despite being so inexpensive, this knife is a superb product. The handle is made of stainless steel and features an open-air design. The clip point blade is made of high-carbon stainless steel for great edge retention and has a blade length of 2.22″. It’s strong and has a frame lock, but it’s also lightweight and compact, making it great for ultralight backpacking.
There is a slight design flaw, but it’s only a flaw if it’s uncomfortable for you. With the open-air design, the handle is significantly lightweight. In fact, the whole knife only weighs 1.4 ounces. While lightweight and compact are good for ultralight backpacking, some users may feel the handle is too lightweight. This means that the blade may feel unbalanced in your hand, which could cause problems with certain types of cutting.
Besides that hiccup, this is a great knife. Gerber even offers a limited lifetime warranty on the knife.
- Easy to handle.
- Lifetime limited warranty.
- Great first-time pocketknife for kids.
- Doesn’t feel balanced.
- Prone to rusting.
Bottom Line: If you need a money-saving knife that doesn’t sacrifice quality, the Gerber Paraframe Mini pocketknife is the best choice.
Whether you are into ultralight backpacking and want a lightweight pocket clip knife, or you’re backpacking involves living off the land more and you want a heavier duty knife. We hope the information here has proven useful to you for your next backpacking trip.
Last update on 2023-09-21 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API