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I'm planning on doing some back country canoe camping this summer. I would like to avoid bringing a hatchet if possible. I also find my folding knifes get full of gunk and I am a little bit afraid I am going to poison myself.

  • What should I look for when buying a fixed blade knife?

  • What materials are the best?

  • What is the ideal length?

  • What kind of sheath should I look for?

I am in Canada so if anyone has any specific recommendations on where to get a good knife that would be helpful too.

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4 Answers 4

A lot of it depends on the purpose of the knife, whether it will be primarily used for hunting, survival, or self-defence.

What should you be looking for? Size, weight, but more importantly feel, how does it hold in your hand with an overhand grip (most common grip), and what about underhand grip (used mostly for picking at ice or stabbing).

Will you be doing any sawing with the knife? If so then you need some form of serration on at least part of the blade. If you do go for a serrated blade then you'll also want a knife with a groove for your forefinger in the handle. You may also consider a hand guard so as to avoid scuffing your knuckles while sawing.

Personally I like a blade that has a notch for cutting rope/wire.

For a sheath, I'd recommend one that closes over the handle (either a velcro or button flap, or a loop that wraps around the handle (not as good, I've lost blades with those). Oh, and don't get a blade that's tactical (black), it'll just make it that much harder to find it when you drop it.

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1  
+1 for non-tactical... you're camping, not joining the SEALs ;) –  Russell Steen May 11 '12 at 3:16

One of the most important aspects in a knife is choosing one that you'll actually carry with you. It's no use if you leave it at camp while hiking because the length is unwieldy for you to bring. In other words, it has to be one that you're comfortable with (weight, handle, size, length, etc). It's really more of a personal decision as the knife I prefer may differ from yours.

For me, I went w/ a AUS8 4.85in blade since it was easy for me to carry without needing a bag. I strongly suggest visiting your local store to handle the knives yourself in order to make a decision.

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You state that you wish to avoid bringing a hatchet. This implies a use on wood.

If you want a small knife to use in this manner, look at these designs.

If you want a big knife that is a functional compromise between a knife and a hatchet look at a kukri.

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I recently broke stupidly my camping knife and had to purchase a new one. I am very satisfied with my purchase, so I'll list my priorities at the time of the purchase.

Functions(sorted by priority, 1 means most important):
1. Table knife, fork, spoon (yup, you can eat soup with a knife ;p)
2. Axe - heavy blade, that can cut down a branch the size of my arm in under 10 minutes
3. Utility knife - cut ropes, shrub, band-aids, carve with it ...
4. Hammer
5. Defense - dogs, people

From those, derive required qualities (also sorted):
1. Cheap - no more than $10 - I don't want to cry every time that I abuse it
2. Sharp steel - I do not dig steels, but on cheap knifes I have basically seen two types of steel - (a)soft shiny smooth not holding edge ever and (b) hard, sharp, fragile susceptible to rust with straight parallel notches(from the grinding wheel). Needless to say, I look for (b).
3. Full-tang
4. Sturdy pommel - for hammering
5. Sold with a sheath - so that it can be carried easily and safely on a belt or in the backpack (or, as my girlfriend discovered - very conveniently tied to the shoulder strap of the backpack).
6. Plain - if I am going to abuse it, I am going to resharpen it often. I hate sharpening serrations.
7. Heavy - for chopping. Furthermore, this makes the knife able to withstand abuse
8. Cool looking (yeah ;P)

Maybe add a picture when I get home.

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