The Three-Knife Survival System: Camp Knives

med_1392051658-AG_RusselThis is part 3 of a 3 part survival knife series.  Be sure to check out the other articles in this series here and here.

As you may recall, I mentioned in one of our previous articles that as an experienced wilderness survivalist, I have come to the conclusion that there is simply no such thing as a single, do-all, survival knife! Therefore, instead of carrying a single survival knife, I now carry a three-knife system consisting of a heavy duty chopping tool, a somewhat smaller fixed blade camp knife, and a significantly smaller bushcraft knife. Therefore, in this article I will provide a more in depth look at camp knives since they are an essential part of my system.

Although the definition of a “camp knife” varies widely, as a general rule, they are large, heavy duty, knives with blade lengths between 6 and 10 inches in length and are designed for a wide variety of purposes such as chopping, splitting, cutting, and slicing. However, they differ from a heavy duty chopping tool in that, while they will chop down small saplings as well as performing some of the other jobs I normally use my heavy duty chopping tool for, they are not designed in such a way that they can replace a hatchet. But, as a general rule, they are often too large to perform the small jobs for which I use my bushcraft knife and thus, camp knives fill a niche in between those two types of knives. Thus, if I were to be limited to carrying only one survival knife, I would choose a camp knife.

Therefore, my personal favorite is an A.G. Russell Camp Knife that has an eight inch, drop point, recurved, blade design made from 5/16 inch AUS-8 with a Rockwell Hardness of 57-59 and a hollow saber grind. Also, it features a full tang with Micarta and Ebony wood handle slabs and the handle is both very large so that it completely fills my hand and is designed in such a way that it is well suited for chopping as well as cutting, carving, and slicing. Thus, due to its excellent design, it is capable of performing most any task that my heavy duty chopping too or my utility knife is capable of. Therefore, it serves as my general purpose knife and is the knife that I use most often. However, despite its recurved blade, it does not chop nearly as well as my Kershaw Camp 10 and it does not perform such jobs as cutting notches for traps and snares, sharpening stakes, skinning game animals, and butchering fish nearly as well as my A.G. Russell Laplander bushcraft knife which has a 3 7/8 inch blade does.

However, because A.G. Russell knives are considered custom knives and, because Russell only commissions a limited number of any knife he designs, his Camp Knife is somewhat hard to come by on the used knife market and thus, some other knives that are more readily available for this purpose are the Fallkniven Thor and Odin bowies, the Cold Steel Tail Master and Recon Scout bowies, the Cold Steel Survival Rescue Knife (SRK), the Bark River Knives Hudson Bay Camp Knife and the Bravo II, the Browning Stowaway, the Randal’s Adventure Training ESSE-6, the Entrek 18 Bravo, the TOPS knives Tex Creek XL, and the KA-BAR Becker Combat Bowie.

Furthermore, because a camp knife is meant to handle a wide variety of jobs, high carbon tool steels such as O1, A2, and D2 are probably a better choice than stainless steel because they are generally tougher, take a better edge, and are easier to sharpen. But, both 440C and AUS-8 are stainless steels that were specifically designed for making industrial cutting blades and thus, they are among the best stainless steels available for making large, heavy duty, camp knives. However, high carbon tool steels are FAR more prone to corrosion and thus, a significant amount of care is required to keep them corrosion free and thus, I happen to have a distinct preference for 440C and AUS-8 over high carbon tool steels for making camp knives. In addition, because a camp knife must be able to handle a wide variety of jobs, it must feature heavy duty construction and thus, it should have a heavy blade made from a minimum of 3/16 inch steel (1/4 or 5/16 inch is better), have a full tang, and have handle scales that are made from a nearly indestructible material such as linen or canvas Micarta, Glass Reinforced Nylon (GRN), or Krayton and, it must be accompanied by a heavy duty sheath. Furthermore, it must be have a blade design that is capable of performing such jobs a chopping, splitting, cutting, slicing, carving, skinning, and butchering and thus, Straight Backs and Clip Points tend to be better choices than Drop Points or Trailing Points.

However, because a Camp Knife is a very personal tool, different people will likely have very different opinions of what is best suited for their individual purposes and thus, the knives listed above are only suggestions meant to provide you with the gist of what a camp knife should look like. But, regardless of which brand and model you choose, it should be a heavy duty knife with a blade design that will perform a wide variety of tasks. In fact, one of the best ways to choose a camp knife is to imagine that your camp knife will be the only knife you carry and then imagine all of the jobs that you will likely need it to perform and then choose accordingly.

Written by,

Bill Bernhardt

Outdoor Professional

PS: Preppers can get everything they need for when TSHTF right here.

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