Having a knife on hand at all times has never been easier than with a quality folder.
Folding knives are there for you, waiting for use in your pocket, any time of the day. In bushcraft, there are times that you’ll find yourself needing a knife in the middle of a hike or in the middle of the night.
The backcountry will push you and all of your tools to the limit, testing you with all kinds of weather and terrain.
To pass that test, the knife you choose to carry with you needs to be the best bushcraft folder out there. The best knife can be the difference between life and death when you go up against Mother Nature, so we’re here to help you stay alive.
Are Folders/ Lock Knives Good for Bushcraft?
A lot of bushcraft enthusiasts may tell you that a folder or a locking knife isn’t the best for bushcraft. When you step back and look at the wide array of uses that you will use a knife for out there, the truth is that you need multiple knives for bushcraft.
So, while a folder is a great every day carry (EDC) for your expedition, I recommend also carrying a fixed blade for more rugged uses like batoning and chopping wood, for example, the Morakniv Garberg or Kansbol. This way, one of your knives takes a beating, while the other is easily accessible in your pocket for when you need a sharp blade in good condition.
Yes, folder and lock knives are great for bushcraft. They can be used for a vast number of uses while you are out there. At times you will need the smaller blade than you find on most fixed blade knives, and the task will call for a folder.
Either way, I don’t think there’s any way you can go wrong by bringing a folder along with you on every bushcraft expedition.
Best Bushcraft Folders
Spyderco Para 3 Folding Knife
- Handle material: G-10 Scales
- Blade material: CPM S30V Stainless Steel
- Blade length: 2.95 inches
Spyderco has been around for a long time making high-quality blades for EDC as well as bushcraft. Their blades are some of the best-selling blades out there, and it’s for a good reason. They use the best materials available and put a huge amount of precision and quality into their products for every knife that comes out of their warehouse.
The Spyderco Para 3 Folding Knife is a smaller and more compact version of Spyderco’s Para Military 2 knife. The blade on this is just under 3 inches with a full-flat grind that gives the knife strength, point utility, and low-friction cutting. This gives you great performance with finer tasks. The textured index-finger choil and thumb ramp give you even more control with small tasks.
The blade also features the trademark Round Hole, which is a round hole in the blade, that Spyderco features on most of their knives. This makes one-handed opening incredibly easy to do with the flick of your thumb.
The open-backed construction of the handle helps make this knife even more lightweight than it already was. This design helps slim down the handle while still giving the necessary support for Spyderco’s Compression Lock. The handle is lined with G-10 scales that give you a huge level of grip as well as comfort. The whole knife was made to be used with one hand.
Gerber Paraframe 1 Serrated Knife
- Handle material: 314-grade Stainless Steel
- Blade material: Stainless Steel
- Blade length: 3 inches
A high-quality knife that costs only a fraction of what most other folders run for sounds like an impossibility. Gerber came through and produced the Gerber Paraframe 1 Serrated Knife for those looking to get the best pocketknife for bushcraft while on a budget. This lightweight and easy-to-carry design has a place in any go-bag, and for a good reason.
The Paraframe 1 uses high-grade stainless steel to form its partially serrated blade but also uses 314-grade stainless steel to form the handle. The handle uses a hollow design that protects the blade well but doesn’t add to the weight of the knife. The handle also has a pocket clip that is easy to get on and off the side of your belt.
The blade is a partially serrated style that locks with a frame-lock mechanism. It opens easily with one hand, and the same goes for closing it. The partially serrated style is great for when you want one knife that can also saw through a rope in an emergency situation, or if you’ve been lucky enough to treat yourself to a deer steak for dinner.
Overall, this knife is a great budget find. It works well and is built to last a long time, but they barely charge you anything for it. The only drawback is that the closing mechanism comes rather tight and some people prefer to loosen it for an easier close. Other than that, there’s no reason to not check this knife out.
Spyderco Delica 4
- Handle material: FRN (fiberglass reinforced nylon)
- Blade material: VG-10 Steel
- Blade length: 2.875 inches
The Delica series from Spyderco was a breakthrough model that brought lightweight knives that were affordable for everyone. They’ve been developing this model since 1990, continuously improving it as they could. This knife is guaranteed to have years and years of research put into its build, and it shows in its performance.
The handle uses FRN (Fiberglass Reinforced Nylon) that is wildly durable and gives a great amount of traction with its Bi-Directional Texturing. Stainless steel liners inside the handle add to the overall strength of the knife.
The blade is constructed from high-quality VG-10 steel that is flat saber-ground to a perfect edge. The blade still features Spyderco’s Round Hole, but this one is a bit bigger for easier opening. The blade has slip-resistant jimping to increase the traction you get while handling the knife as well.
This knife is the tried and true method of an EDC. It’s been improved repeatedly, and that’s not found very often in the knife world.
Gerber Swagger Drop Point Knife
- Handle material: G-10 Stainless Steel
- Blade material: Machined Stainless Steel
- Blade length: 3.25 inches
Gerber really takes the market when you’re considering budget-friendly folders that still have a lot of quality behind them. The Swagger Drop Point Knife is another great example of this. This knife is made to be in your pocket all the time, ready for simple tasks that require a blade.
The blade on the Swagger is partially serrated, machined out of stainless steel for durability and strength. The blade is a little over 3 inches long, making the total length of the knife to be about 7 inches. It weighs 4.4 ounces, which is perfect for when you want something that feels solid in your hand but not weighing your pocket down and making you buy another belt.
A handle is made to match the blade perfectly. It is made from G-10 stainless steel and gives you a firm and comfortable grip while using the knife. The handle overall isn’t much to write home about, but it does the job.
The blade has been known to dull rather quickly when you’re really using it. This means you’ll need the sharpener with you at all times if you’re headed out into the bush. The blade locks with a frame-lock that can be a bit awkward to close and puts your fingers at risk. It’s a great knife, but you will see the areas where quality has run just a bit short.
Benchmade Mini Presidio 2
- Handle material: CF-Elite
- Blade material: CPM-S30V stainless steel
- Blade length: 3.20 inches
Benchmade has been going about the knife-making industry for years. They’ve found their way to perfect, and in my opinion, make some of the best knives available today. The 575-1 Mini Presidio II is one of their knives that has been developed over the ages, being redesigned to perfection. This is what they’ve landed on.
The 575 is a beast of a knife, without the huge weight and size of other folders that can take a beating. In my opinion, this is the prime choice as the best folding knife for bushcraft. The handle is made from Benchmade’s CF-Elite material that is designed to give optimal durability and strength but stay lightweight.
The drop-point style blade makes this the perfect EDC or even as a tactical carry. Since the blade is CPM-S30V stainless, it can stand up against rust for years on end while holding a great edge. Even when the edge starts to go, Benchmade covers you with LifeSharp service that will bring it right back to where it started.
One thing I love about Benchmade is the ability to customize their knives. If there is something that you don’t love about the Mini Presidio 2, you can go on their site and adjust just about every feature on the knife. They also come with a lifetime limited warranty that stays with you until the end of your life, or if you lose the knife.
Cold Steel Finn Wolf Folding Knife
- Handle material: OD Green Griv-Ex
- Blade material: Japanese AUS 8A Stainless
- Blade length: 3.5 inches
The Cold Steel Finn Wolf is an impressive knife that brings a load of different features along with it. First, Cold Steel uses Japanese steel in the build of their blade, which has been tested through the years by Japanese swordmasters. The blade uses a Scandi Grind that makes it incredibly easy to maintain with its zero-ground edge.
The blade is locked in place with the Tri-Ad lock that adds additional security with the blade locked in place. It’s made to withstand any level of shock, so you can feel safe hacking away with this blade. The blade comes with a perfectly sharpened edge and will hold that for a long time to come.
The Griv-Ex handle gives an aggressive grip, but is a bit sharp around the edges. This can be fixed pretty easily, but I would like to get a knife that feels comfortable from the get-go.
This knife comes from years of design in the Puuko style. This knife was then brought as a redesign of the Puuko to make it a lightweight and folding knife for EDC. A high-quality knife that is ready for all aspects of life is what came out.
Ontario Rat 1 Knife
- Handle material: Nylon
- Blade material: AUS8 Stainless Steel
- Blade length: 3.5 inches
Not a knife made for rats. Rather, this knife was made in collaboration with Jeff Randall from Randall’s Adventure Training, where it got its name. This knife was built to be burly while on a budget. The Ontario Knife Company has been in the cutlery industry for longer than most other knife producers out there, so they know exactly what they’re doing.
The AUS8 blade has a full flat grind that comes with a reversible thumb stud for easy opening. This steel is made to hold an edge, and an insanely sharp one, for a long time with a lot of use. You can get this blade with a satin or black finish, and a plain or partially serrated edge. You get a lot of options with this knife, which is always a plus.
The nylon handle has some texture to it to make the grip ergonomic, but it’s not the best-designed handle on the market. You can adjust the pocket clip to any way you want it, which is also a great customizable feature.
This is a great knife overall and you don’t have to pay a lot for it. If you’ve never heard of Ontario Knife Company before, do some digging and you’ll be surprised at how much experience they have. It’s a reputable knife and you’ll be able to trust it to withstand a lot of use in the field.
Ka-Bar Mule Folder
- Handle material: Zytel
- Blade material: AUS 8A Stainless Steel
- Blade length: 3.875 inches
I bought this knife when I was eighteen years old and looking for the best pocketknife for bushcraft. That said, this knife in my pocket made my pants start to fall down. This knife weighs in at a massive .45 pounds of pure brute force and steel. While it wasn’t the best to have in my pocket, I loved having this knife for extreme uses.
The Mule Folder was designed to be an alternative to the classic Ka-Bar fixed blade. They put a lot of work into this knife to make it durable enough for batoning and chopping wood. It has enough heft to get you exactly there.
The AUS 8A stainless steel is just a beautiful steel that is made to take and hold an edge for a long time. That’s incredibly helpful when you’re beating the crap out of this knife in the bush. Whether you’re right or left-handed, the double stud feature on the blade makes one-handed opening a breeze.
The handle has rubber inserts that give you a great grip on the knife when you’re going to town on a log. The grip is comfortable and great for heavy use. If you’re looking for a folder that can put up with anything, the Mule is your choice.
Spyderco Shaman Folding Knife
- Handle material: G-10
- Blade material: CPM S30V
- Blade length: 3.58 inches
Another Spyderco blade comes up on our list for the best folder for bushcraft. This one, the Shaman, focuses a little less on the lightweight aspect that our previous Spyderco knives have featured. The Shaman is made to be a bit larger and more capable of heavy-duty tasks.
The CPM S30V stainless steel blade has a full-flat grind that gives you a fluid cut and a strong edge for a long time. On the 3.58-inch blade, you get the signature Round Hole from Spyderco that helps you open the knife easily with a single hand.
G-10 scales line the handle that houses the beautiful blade. The handle itself is incredibly ergonomic and easy to maneuver even with some smaller tasks. The knife uses a Compression Lock mechanism to secure the blade when you have it open and in use.
You can get the Shaman with a fully-serrated blade or the PlainEdge blade. It’s great to have the option between different blade styles, and personally, I always choose the plain edge. I just find it to have more utility, plus I carry a small saw with me at all times.
Cold Steel SR1
- Handle material: G-10
- Blade material: CPM-S35VN
- Blade length: 4 inches
The Cold Steel SRK (survival rescue knife) has been widely used in the military for over 25 years. It’s still the standard issue of the Navy Seals during BUDS training, and this knife was made to be just like the SRK, but a folder. This is a blade that’s made to do some serious work.
The CPM-S35VN powdered steel is incredibly heavy-duty and will perform well in the harshest environments you can find. That means bringing it into the rugged rainforests or the driest deserts out there. It’s in the most extreme places that you need the most extreme knife.
The G-10 handle pairs nicely with the blade to give you a good grip on this beast of a knife. It’s contoured to fit the shape of your hand with comfort and reliable grip. The handle utilizes the Tri-Ad locking mechanism to ensure that your knife stays open when you want it open.
This is an incredible survival rescue blade that comes from a well-loved design of a fixed blade. This is the best knife to take into any crazy environment and you’ll never have to worry about the integrity of the blade.
How to Choose the Best Folding Knife for Bushcraft
Getting into the world of knives can be tricky with all the terms and different styles of metals used. It’s hard to understand at first, but once you get a grip on the overall terminology and find your preferences, knives will stand out to you with certain features they have to offer.
Here we’ll go over some quick terms that will help you understand different features of blades and handles to get the feel for the basics. Use these terms as a base to get out there and find the best bushcraft folder for you.
The different locking mechanisms used in folding knives are important because they are what keep your knife open when you’re using it. If you want to use your knife through some brutal processes, it will need to be a reliable lock.
There are a couple of different locking mechanisms favored by knife makers. There are positives and drawbacks to each style, but in the end, it is a personal preference.
The Tri-Ad lock is explicitly found on Cold Steel knives designed by Andrew Demko. This is a variation on the old school lockback style that had a few flaws. The Tri-Ad lock is released with a pressure bar on the spine of the handle, and you’ll hear and feel a distinctive click when it gets into place.
This is a locking mechanism well-loved by most because it feels sturdy and stable. In a way, it almost feels like using a fixed blade knife.
A liner lock essentially uses one of the metal liners on the inside of the handle to stop the blade from closing. The liner pops over when your blade reaches the stopping pin and then is simply moved back over with your thumb to close the knife. This is a simple locking mechanism that works decently well.
A frame lock is basically the same as a liner lock, but it uses the entire frame of the knife to lock the blade in place. This gives you a lot more strength and stability in the locking mechanism.
A compression lock comes from Spyderco originally and is an inverted form of a typical liner lock. The compression lock lets you get your fingers out of the way when closing the knife. The release mechanism is on the spine of the handle, so you never have to worry about cutting your fingers while closing the blade.
Choosing the right blade size for your knife comes down very much so to personal preference. The smaller blades out there are great for intricate uses like carving any more tools. Larger blades tend to also be thicker and put up with more abuse when using them for things like batoning wood.
The average blade size for a good bushcraft folder is going to be around 3 inches. This size is versatile and gives you enough space to baton, but you can still maneuver the knife blade easily.
It’s up to you if you want to go with one of the larger, 4-inch blades on the list. I tend to reserve the longer blades for my fixed blade knives and use folders to stay small.
There are two main types of steel used in knife blades. They both have their advantages but also have some disadvantages. Steel in itself is just a mixture of iron and carbon. The amount of carbon used is what tends to make up the difference in these blades.
High Carbon Steel
Higher carbon increases the hardness of your steel. That means it can take a beating really well, but there are also some drawbacks. It is much more prone to chipping and breaking because it is just more brittle. The high carbon blades also need a lot more love and maintenance, otherwise, you will see them rust. Simple oil will take care of that though.
Stainless steel is made by adding chromium into the mixture of other metal alloys. This gives a good shine to the metal as well as adding a great amount of rust-resistance and general tarnishes.
Stainless is a lot harder to sharpen than high carbon blades and is much more prone to deformation. It’s also important to remember that no steel is rustproof. You still need to care for your stainless steel blades if you want them to last.
Blades all use a different grind method to give them different edges over the competition. Everyone, again, has a preference on the type of grind used in the design. So, it will be up to you to decide what is best for your use.
A flat grind is the most simple out of all the different grinds but comes in three different varieties. A flat grind is exactly how you would envision the blade of a knife. It comes down at a V to the point, what changes is where that angle starts.
A full flat grind starts at the edge and tapers all the way to the spine. This is used most commonly in chef’s knives. It’s wildly sharp, but not super durable.
A high flat grind leaves a small portion of the blade at the same thickness before reaching the spine. This isn’t very common, but is better for a bushcraft knife than a full flat grind.
The final flat grind is the Scandinavian Grind. Commonly referred to as a Scandi Grind or a V grind, the grind starts a lot closer to the edge of the blade. Both the Scandi and the high flat grinds are much easier to sharpen in the field. They also excel in whittling because you can see down the bevel to where the blade meets the wood.
A convex grind is the opposite of the hollow grind. The round-curved bevel bows outwards before coming into the edge of the knife. While this grind is incredibly sharp and holds an edge impressively well, it’s also very difficult to sharpen. This is a much more specialized edge that would require a lot of training to properly sharpen.
Hollow grinds are incredibly popular inside of the hunting community. The grind is concave, meaning it curves inwards on its way down to the point. It’s not a super durable grind and your blade will dull rather quickly.
A chisel grind has one completely flat side, and one side that tapers down to an edge. They are mainly used on chisels (shocking), but can be found on a few different folders. It’s incredibly sharp but needs a lot of maintenance over time.
Knife handles have a lot of different features to them that are often overlooked. You’ll need to take a lot of things into consideration, starting with your hand size.
If you have a much larger hand, you need a knife handle with a larger diameter. This gives you a much better and more comfortable grip. The scales on the handle should help to fit your palm to the knife much easier, but not all handles have scales on them.
A longer handle will be much better for hard use. This is much more preferred in bushcraft because you’ll be putting your knife to a lot of heavy-duty tasks. Having a solid grip is inherent to safety while using the knife for anything, especially batoning and splitting wood.
I recommend getting the physical feel of a lot of different handle shapes. We all have different hands and need to specialize the handle to our own hands. Trying out a bunch before deciding is the best way to go.
The best bushcraft folder requires a lot of thought and research before taking it out into the field. The best is different for everyone, but it’s out there somewhere.
Having a folder on you is going to end up being a potentially life-saving move, and I couldn’t encourage you more to get one for your gear setup. While folders are great EDC knives, some are also built to stand up to rough use in a serious bushcraft scenario. They’ll be your best friend and most commonly used tool, without a doubt.