You never know when a good knife is going to come in handy. Whether you’re trimming kindling for a campfire or fending off an angry cougar, a small blade can be a lifesaving tool. Note—we don't recommend it as the first line of defense against mountain lions. If you’re hitting the trail and only have room for one knife, these are your seven best options.
CRKT RSK Mk6 ($50)
This small fixed-blade knife is the one you want for serious camping. At 2.2 ounces, it’s lightweight, and the three-inch blade works well for whittling branches. The best perk? The handle comes with an emergency paracord rope—useful if you need to rig a makeshift shelter. The RSK, which stands for Ritter Survival Knife, is named after survivalist Doug Ritter.
Gerber Bear Grylls Survival AO Folding Knife ($36)
This camping knife has a locking mechanism to ensure the blade doesn’t flip open unexpectedly. Bright orange, the Survival AO isn’t easy to misplace. And while it’s a bit heavier—3.3 ounces—than a few of the other models we tested, it’s still easy to slip into your pack.
SOG Pentagon Elite I ($161.50)
The four-inch blade on this military-grade folding knife has a serrated base for cutting meat and slicing through nylon cords. The “shark” tip point is, as the name suggests, exceptionally sharp. The 4.4-ounce knife is also surprisingly well balanced, and it has a reversible belt clip to keep the blade secure on your waist.
Taylor Brands Schrade Extreme Survival Full Tang ($53)
Small, portable, lightweight knives are great, but sometimes you want something a bit burlier. This 14-ounce fixed-blade knife is the one you want for collecting firewood—or defending yourself from those fierce cougars. The five-inch blade is attached to a serrated grip that feels secure and well balanced.
Benchmade 531 Axis ($155)
This is the lightest knife we tested. At just 2.1 ounces, the new 531 Axis has about a three-inch blade and feels well balanced in your palm. Like the SOG Pentagon Elite I, the belt clip is reversible depending on whether you’re left- or right-handed. The thumb-stud slider provides a quick release to open the blade.
Victorinox Swiss Army Orange Hunter XT ($60)
The new Swiss Army Orange Hunter XT pocketknife is ideal for everyday camping and hiking trips. There’s a knife blade, bone saw, gut hook, screwdriver, and a reamer strong enough to bore through a seat belt. A lanyard attached to a key ring lets you easily hang the Hunter XT from a backpack or belt, and its no-slip grip makes for confident cutting.
Leatherman Crater C33LX ($34)
The 2.36-ounce Leatherman Crater C33LX has a smooth-action quick release to help in any situation—from cutting food to trimming kindling. There’s a carabiner, which doubles as a bottle opener, that attaches to your belt or backpack. The two-inch blade is partially serrated.