Camping Knife vs. Survival Knife: What’s the Difference?

Discussions about gear make up an inordinate amount of conversations revolving around prepping.

Yes, yes, we all need to be buffing are skills, but the idea of taking off into the wild blue yonder when we need to bug out with inadequate or inferior equipment seems to keep people awake at night more than anything else.

various knives
various knives

Almost nowhere is this phenomenon more visible than the discussion of knives. Specifically, knives for survival.

You’ll regularly see two kinds of knives pop up on survival checklists: the camping knife, or camp knife, and the survival knife.

Is there a difference between these two knives, and if there is why should you pick one over the other?

Yes, there’s a difference between camp knives and survival knives. A camping knife is a smaller version of a bushcraft knife, which is a durable, stout blade designed for handling the processing of wood and other rigorous wilderness chores.

The term survival knife is usually synonymous with bushcraft knife, but some knife fans make the distinction that a survival knife comes with a survival kit, typically stowing within the handle or on the sheath of the knife.

At any rate, for the purposes of our discussion a camp knife is a smaller version of a survival knife.

Keep your jokes to yourself, but size sometimes matters in a survival situation. Say that three times fast! Below you’ll find a few considerations to help you make a smart choice on the matter.

Anatomy of a Camp Knife

As I mentioned above, a camp knife is usually a smaller version of a bushcraft knife. These knives are stoutly built, rugged, durable, and able to take abuse that would send lesser knives packing.

As a general rule a camp knife is certainly a fixed blade with an edge that is conservatively ground, intended to extend the longevity of the working edge versus enabling hair popping sharpness which is entirely unnecessary for the common problems it is expected to deal with.

Camp knives will have blades that are thick with squared-off spines to make them a little easier to baton into wood for splitting and notching.

The tips are typically spear or drop point, sometimes sheepsfoot or a hybrid thereof, and once again this makes them useful for variety of chores like digging, scraping, even drilling, things that are considered extremely abusive to typical knives.

This enables them to do their work with less risk of breaking a tip.

The handles of camp knives are as a rule fairly pedestrian, lacking majorly aggressive texturing or other features which are apt to cause blisters when they’re in the hand doing work for a long time.

Security is usually afforded by a finger choil or ramp near the spine of the blade to prevent the hand from slipping over the edge during work.

Anatomy of a Survival Knife

A survival knife will have pretty much all the features of the camp knife above, only on a larger scale. As mentioned, a survival knife and bushcraft knife are really one in the same.

Even though there are a few features you can expect to find on some survival knives that you wouldn’t find on a camp knife.

One such feature is extremely heavy serrations, sometimes proper saw teeth.

These are usually found on the rearmost portion of the edge, and occasionally even on the spine of the blade. every once in a blue moon you’ll find a fully serrated spine enables you to flip the knife over in hand and use it like a small hand saw.

This may have some utility for sawing through branches and small saplings while saving the edge for more delicate work.

Even rarer than the above-mentioned model are survival knives with a fully serrated blade. These knives are a pretty bad idea.

They have all the bad attributes of a knife and none of the good attributes of a saw, being unergonomic and difficult to use for any length of time.

Survival knives with saw teeth on the spine of the blade may be worthwhile if you don’t mind giving up easy battoning in the bargain.

What about the Survival Kit? It’s a Survival Knife!

Some survival knives are multi-purpose items, with some being entire all-in-one survival kits! Confusing, right?

stainless steel survival knife with built in compass and fishing kit
stainless steel survival knife with built in compass and fishing kit

I’ll offer only this one piece of advice: do not purchase a survival knife that has the round, hollow handle or has a cap which unscrews (or worse, the entire handle unscrews) to allow access to a compartment for storing of survival supplies.

These knives are almost invariably weak unless made by companies with fanatical devotion to good design and quality control.

There’s a Big Difference

The difference between survival and camp knives is mostly one of size. Camp knives are the smaller of the two, but both are oriented for the kind of outdoor survival chores that you will need to accomplish on extended forays and stays in the wild.

camping versus survival knife Pinterest image

2 thoughts on “Camping Knife vs. Survival Knife: What’s the Difference?”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *