Fixed vs. Folding Knife: What Is Better for Camping?

A fixed knife for camping

The debate on the choice between a fixed and a folding knife is common among outdoor enthusiasts. However, everyone agrees that a good knife is a must-have. I will add and say that a knife is only good if it can serve its purpose, right? Being an avid camper myself, I’m always looking for ways to help fellow campers make their adventures as eventful as possible.

Fixed vs. folding knife: What is better for camping?

A fixed knife is stronger, tougher, and easier to use for outdoor activities, and it is, therefore, better suited for camping, compared to a folding knife. Further, a fixed knife is easier to clean and maintain, because there are no folding parts. 

A folding knife, on the other hand, is easier and safer to carry around. Unfortunately, the joint and the smaller blade size limits its use for certain campsite activities. That said, with a folding knife, it is often necessary to carry another stronger knife. With a fixed knife, you are covered.

I have compiled everything you need to know about choosing the best knife for camping. Even better, I have described both the fixed and the folding knives in detail to give you a peek at how I came to the conclusion above.

Why Do You Need a Camping Knife?

A knife for camping

What are some of the basic tasks and activities you will engage in when camping? Preparing the camping site, setting up the tent, cooking, opening packages… the list is long. Try doing some of them without a good knife and it will kill your camping adventure before it even starts. 

Why? One of the most important assets for camping is a reliable knife. I have compiled a list of camping activities that will give you a pretty good idea of why a reliable camping knife is a must-have.

Food Preparation

Knife and a folk for camping

What will you eat at the camp? Whether it is fruits, vegetables, meat, or other food, you will require a sharp knife for peeling, chopping, or slicing.

You can also use it to open food containers or to apply spreads like jam, margarine, or butter. A medium-sized knife, whether fixed or folding is suitable for the job.

Making a Fire

Making fire with a camping knife

Did you know that you can light a fire using a knife? While starting a fire is not one of the basic functions of a camping knife, a knife made of a steel blade might come in handy if you find yourself without a camping lighter or matches.

As long as you have wood, tinder (material that will instantly ignite), and flint, you can use a knife to light a fire. With a knife, you can split firewood into smaller pieces for easier lighting. Do you have tinder? If not, just use your knife to scrape dry wood to make some.

Preparing the Campsite

A fixed knife

This may entail activities such as cutting ropes, opening packages, repairing equipment, tightening a loose screw (if you don’t have a screwdriver), and sharpening wooden pegs among others.

Processing Game Meat

A wild rabbit

Does your camping including hunting for game meat? Well, you must be prepared to do some skinning, filleting, gutting, or boning. And you will definitely need a knife that’s sharp and easy to manipulate.

Personal Protection

A folding knife

When camping and especially in the backcountry, having a knife that you can pull out in self-defense can give you some peace of mind. While it is important to ensure that you are camping in a safe environment, you never know when you might encounter an aggressive animal.

Other Activities

Splitting firewood with a knife

Depending on how you have planned your camping trip, there is no limitation to what your camping knife can help you achieve:

Shaping wood to make hunting snares or traps, removing a sliver of wood from your finger, sharpening sticks to roast marshmallows, and digging a hole to relieve yourself when camping in the wild are just a few random instances a camping knife can do for you.

How to Choose a Camping Knife: Features to Look For

Fixed vs Folding Knife: What Is Better for Camping?

Before you walk into a hardware store to buy a camping knife, you need to know how to choose the best one. And after going through why a knife is handy when camping, you must have an idea of what you are looking for in a knife.

So, what makes a good camping knife? A good camping knife should be made from a material that is resistant to rust and corrosion. It should also be easy to sharpen and should retain sharpness for a long time. Your knife also needs to be durable meaning, apart from the metal, the handle should be made to last. And lastly, it should be easy to carry and fit with the rest of your camping gear.

Before we look at the specific features, here is a short guide to purchasing a camping knife:

Features to Consider in a Camping Knife

A small knife and a big knife
  • Length:

Camping calls for a knife that is easy to use both in the outdoors and inside your tent. On a lighter note, a samurai sword or the kind ‘Rambo’ uses will do you no good when camping. An ideal knife for camping has a blade of around 4 – 5 inches. 

  • Material:

Go for stainless steel. It’s lightweight, firm, resistant to rusting, and the best part, it holds an edge- that’s to say, it stays sharp for a long time. If you want an even harder blade, purchase a carbon steel knife. It will retail the edge longer, but it may rust faster if not well maintained. 

  • Weight:

Weight might not seem like a big deal when choosing a knife, but for camping, you have to mind the weight of your backpack and other gear. A knife of medium weight, 100g (3.5oz) to 150g (5.6oz), can do most tasks. On the other hand, if you are planning to cut branches to make firewood a lot, extra weight and thickness are advisable. 

  • Blade Design: 

This refers to how the blade looks. Some knives are serrated (sawlike edges) as an added feature. Such knives are handy for cutting rope and sawing wood. However, they come at an extra cost compared to the straight edge knives.

Tip: While a serrated knife makes you look cool, it’s harder to sharpen and not so practical when camping. From my experience, there is nothing a serrated blade will do that a properly sharpened straight blade won’t do. 

  • Handle Design:

You need a knife with a strong handle for camping. A weak handle may crack or shatter, making it difficult to hold and to use properly. The choice of material is a matter of personal choice. The handle can be made of wood, plastic, rubber, or metal.  

Notably, one made of wood that has been stabilized and treated in resin is light, strong, and can withstand harsh outdoor environments. This is a  fancy way of saying that it won’t be damaged by water, sun, or snow.

Other Considerations When Purchasing a Camping Knife

Camping knife

Manufacturers try to compete against each other, and in the process, you will find knives with all kinds of extra features. Some of these features can be useful to a camper, while others are just meant to make your knife look cool.

  • Choil:

This is a tiny cutout or notch on the sharp edge of the knife near the handle. It helps you know where the sharpening reaches. During camping, this notch can be used in two ways: to sharpen other knives and to light a fire by producing sparks with firesteel or ferro rod.

  • Tang:

This is the portion of the blade that forms part of the handle. Full tang blades run the entire length of the knife; from the tip of the knife to the bottom end of the handle. These are more durable and strong, hence the best for camping. 

  • Tanto vs. Drop Point Blades: 

Before we get to a fixed vs. folding knife for camping, you first have to decide on the best shape of a blade for outdoor use. The choice is usually between Tanto and Drop point blades

Tanto refers to a blade that looks like a chisel point. The spine (the unsharpened edge) slopes from the handle to the tip. Its sharp edge is flat sloping into a point at the tip. As such, it forms an extremely strong tip that’s perfect for stabbing into rough and hard materials.

Drop point blade is the popular type of knife with a belly and a sharp edge that slopes from the handle to the tip. This design makes it good for almost anything including slicing, stabbing, and chopping. Simply put, this is an all-purpose blade and is without a doubt the best knife for camping.

Fixed vs. Folding Knife: What Is Better for Camping?

Folding knife

Now that you have a basic understanding of what to expect in a knife, how do you decide on whether to use a fixed or folding knife for camping? Like I already said earlier, the fixed blade knife is better suited for camping. 

To take you through how I arrived at this conclusion, I have given a thorough description of each type. I have also given a summary of the pros and cons of each type to help you see the difference at a glance.

Let’s dive in.

Fixed Blade

Fixed knife

As the name suggests, the blade of this knife is permanently fixed to the handle. There are no movable parts between the handle and the blade and so the blade stays in the open position.

The lack of joints makes the knife stronger and tougher for certain outdoor activities such as batoning wood, striking firesteel, and opening metal cans. This also means that it is easy to clean as there are no hinges or openings where dirt can hide.

Unfortunately, being an open knife means you cannot carry it in your pocket. Also, you may not carry it openly. With the varying laws that regulate the carrying of knives, you are more likely to carry a folding knife rather than a fixed one publicly. 

Fixed knives come with blades that are usually twice or more the size of folding knives making them heavier to carry around. On the other hand, their heaviness is an advantage in activities such as chopping wood and hammering with the handle.

Lastly, if you find yourself in an emergency situation, like self-defense, you will have a faster response with a fixed knife.

Pros of a Fixed Knife

  • The designs are simple and basic
  • It is stronger and tougher
  • Easier to use
  • Easier to clean and maintain
  • Less likely to break – no moving parts
  • Longer blade length 
  • When in danger, the response is faster 

Cons of a Fixed Knife

  • May not be allowed in public places
  • Takes up more packing space
  • Not easy to conceal 
  • Heavier to carry around

Folding Knife

Folding knife for camping

The blade of a folding knife folds back into the handle at a joint between the blade and the handle. As such, it has a locking feature that keeps it from accidentally opening when you are not using or folding back when you are using it. 

Folding conceals the blade and also makes the knife smaller. Thus, it not only fits in your pocket but you can put it there without worrying about being injured.

Is it legal to carry a folding knife? Most laws that regulate the carrying of knives allow knives with blades 3 inches and shorter. This favors the folding knife more than the fixed one.

Having a joint weakens the folding knife and limits its use for hard outdoor tasks such as batoning, levering, and wood chopping. Why? Exerting too much pressure may break the joint, rendering the knife useless. Further, the movable parts make it harder to keep clean.

Some folding knives come with more than one blade of different designs. You can switch the blades that serve different purposes.

Pros of a Folding Knife

  • Easier to conceal/hide
  • Takes less packing space
  • Safer to carry around
  • Some have more than one blade
  • Some have more features

Cons of a Folding Knife

  • Not suitable for difficult tasks 
  • Breaks easier compared to a fixed knife
  • Smaller blade
  • Harder to keep clean

Cool Facts About Knives

Fixed knife
Photo by  Har Gobind Singh Khalsa

Did you know that the use of knives as weapons, eating utensils, and tools dates back to prehistoric times? Ever since humans learned to make tools, knives have become a great part of humanity. It is, therefore, normal that knives have been involved in some very interesting activities over the years. 

I have collected some cool facts about knives that you will be happy to learn about. 

  1. If you want a truly sharp knife for camping, you might want to try a fixed knife made from obsidian. This is a natural glass, formed from volcanic action. It is sharper than steel and was actually first used during the Stone Age – over 10,000 years ago! 
  1. In the book, ‘The Wilderness Hunter’ by the 26th US President Teddy Roosevelt, an army general is said to have killed over 80 bears armed with a single knife. 
  1. What if you could wear your fixed blade knife in your sock? Well, you would have to be in the UK and the knife has to be a Sgian Dubh, a Scottish ceremonial knife. It gets even more interesting; the knife is worn as part of a full Scottish dress – the one that comes with a kilt.
  1. In America, it’s illegal to use switchblades, a type of folding knife, unless you are an amputee. This change in the law began in 2011 when Paul Dumas Jr., a one-armed man, asked the US state of Maine to allow people like him to carry a switchblade for protection.
  1. King Tutankhamun, an ancient Egyptian pharaoh, was buried with a fixed knife inside his burial chamber. What’s interesting is that the blade was made from a meteorite.
  1. The most expensive knife is known as the ‘Gem of The Orient’. It’s worth over $2 million and is decorated with jewels: 153 emeralds and 5 diamonds. 
  1. In medieval Europe, knights who had been wounded and near death were killed using a special knife. It was known as misericorde, a Latin name meaning “mercy”.
  1. Knives traditionally used by Native Americans were made from interesting materials: Think of blades made of bones, stone, or antlers connected to wooden blades using animal sinews.
  1. Ever wondered why a small folding knife is referred to as a penknife? Apparently, it was named so because it was used to sharpen a quill pen to make it write better.
  1. A kitchen knife, 3 glasses of hard liquor, a pair of scissors, and clothes. These are the tools that a Mexican woman Ines Perez used to perform a C-section on herself back in 2000. Both she and her baby boy survived.
  2. According to Wikipedia, there are over 60 types of knives.

Final Words

A fixed knife is better for camping than a folding knife. While both knives are great tools for the outdoors, a fixed knife’s strength and ease of use make it suitable for practically all your camping tasks. 

In conclusion, the knife you choose for camping will be determined by what you prefer and what you are going to do with it among other factors. It is common to carry more than one knife to serve different purposes but when it comes down to that one knife that does it all, the fixed knife is recommended for camping.

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