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Monday, November 8, 2021

What’s the Difference Between Camping and Survival Knives?

Probably the most commonly used tool that any prepper, anywhere, will utilize when in the field is their trusty knife. Whether out on the hiking trail, camping or in the middle of a serious, no-joke SHTF situation the knife is one of mankind’s best, not to mention oldest, tools.

But what kind of knife is best for the average prepper? Should you invest in a camping or a survival knife? Does it make any difference?


What’s the difference between camping and survival knives? Broadly, a survival knife has much in common with a proper bushcraft knife, meaning a knife that is heavy duty, overbuilt, and designed to handle the worst abuse, typically involving working on wood. A camp knife is a smaller type of bushcrafting knife, one capable of many of the same tasks, just not as large, and optimized more for general-purpose applications.

You would probably be okay in most situations with either one of these knives, but as always we are here to help you figure out which one of these tools is perfect for you. Keep reading to brush up on additional considerations for choosing between a camping and a survival knife.

Typical Elements of a Survival Knife

In general, any survival knife is going to be a heavy duty, beefy tool.

A survival knife should have a thick blade, optimized for maintaining its edge no matter what kind of cutting task it is subjected to. The spine should be broad and flat, perfect for batoning through stubborn wood.

These are knives that are intended for the most abusive tasks one might subject them to in a survival situation. They are typically not designed to maintain a hair-popping edge; they are designed to stay sharp enough for the job at hand for a long time.

The point of a survival knife is also purpose driven, though they come in many different styles. A survival knife might have a delicate point that allows it to function well for precise tasks like skinning, notching and drilling or it might have a strong but less agile point that is perfect for scraping, etching and other utility tasks.

These are knives that can chop, baton, pound, dig, scrape and pry without fear that you were going to ruin them.

Survival knives might come with or without serrations on the edge but if they are included these serrations are usually optimized for getting through materials typically associated with the business of survival. Think rope, cord, webbing, and other extremely tough, fibrous material.

Survival knives also periodically feature serrations on the spine of the blade or even full-blown saw teeth, though either, when found on the spine, will lessen its utility for batoning.

The handle of a survival knife is also purpose driven. Usually, the handle of a survival knife will feature mild ergonomic sculpting, enough to lock the knife into the hand without reliance on any aggressive, sharp textures that will certainly result in painful welts and blisters after an evening of processing wood.

Modern survival knives usually feature one or more deep finger coils and a jimped thumb ramp to allow for various grips depending upon the task at hand and also to keep the hand from sliding over the blade during the gnarliest jobs.

Typical Elements of a Camping Knife

You won’t go far wrong if you think of a camping knife as simply a smaller version of the survival knife you read about above.

That being said, in general a camping knife will not be built to the same mega-duty degree as a legitimate survival knife. One feature you probably will not see at all is substantial serrations, and definitely not proper saw teeth.

But, the slighter build of the camping knife is a strength all its own. It is lighter, handier and less bulky. You are far less likely to leave a camping knife behind, as opposed to a proper survival knife.

There is very little you won’t be able to take care of on the trail or around camp with your camp knife. A good camping knife, properly built and designed, will still be able to baton wood, notch branches and all that other good survival stuff.

The lighter, leaner build of the camp knife also makes them far more suitable for more utilitarian tasks. Cooking, self-defense, whittling and more are all in the camp knife’s “wheelhouse”.


Survival knives and camping knives are not identical, but they are intended to take care of many of the same tasks. Generally, you are not wrong to think of a camping knife as simply a smaller version of a survival knife.

The survival knife will typically be overbuilt, much larger, and somewhat heavier compared to its smaller cousin, but both can do the job in a variety of outdoor scenarios, whether recreational pursuits or legitimate SHTF scenarios.

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