My take on the “camp knife”

For some people, a “camp knife” is a small Swiss Army Knife. For others, it’s a heavy kukri with a 15” blade. For yet others, it’s a Ka-Bar fighter. Obviously, the type of tasks a person will be doing in the outdoors will (or at least should) determine the type of knife or knives they carry. Having tried out a range of knife types and sizes (everything from a sub-3” puukko to a 14” machete) since I started getting back into camping, bushcraft etc. around 2007, with the goal of actively trying to find my ideal camp knife, this is what I have settled on so far:

This is the Outdoor Knife 145 from Finnish knife maker Lapin Puukko. It has a 5.75”/14.5 cm blade with a convexed Scandi edge. The reason I like this type of knife over other knives for general use is that it is very versatile, without trying to be “one knife for everything”. I have used this type of knife to make shavings for kindling, split small logs for kindling, fell and buck 3”-thick dead saplings and remove their limbs, slash-cut saplings and branches of more than 0.5”/1.25 cm thick, slash-cut weeds and brush, carve sausage-roasting sticks, carve forks, carve a pot hanger, strip bark off sticks, make a walking stick, make a digging stick, pry off pieces of fatwood from a stump, harvest birch bark for projects, rough up birch bark for taking a spark, open food packages, cut cordage, slice tomatoes, bacon, potatoes, carrots and onions (edit: make a snowshoeing pole, make a primitive fishing rig etc.)…you get the idea. If I choke up on the handle, the balance is fantastic and I can do finer work pretty easily. Choking down gives me almost 9″/23 cm of reach from my hand to the tip of the blade. The fact that it can easily handle all the above tasks and more makes it my idea of a “camp knife”. Any work that is either too fine or too demanding for this knife is handled by my SAK and axe.

Sounds like I’m pretty happy with the knife I have, no? In almost every respect, I am. It has occurred to me, though, that the very thin stick/rat-tail tang of this design does place limits on how I can use it. Now I’m not one to abuse tools, but I don’t baby them either. I want to be able to trust my knife when applying more force to it (batoning, prying etc.), and the stick tang limits this (the knife has not shown any signs of failure so far, but I don’t want to push it and end up with a broken knife or injury). To remedy this situation, and the only issue I see with this knife, I have commissioned bladesmith Ilkka Seikku to make a new camp knife for me. I have given him the specifications I have in mind, and he has already started working on the blade. Soon I should have my new camp knife, and you can be sure I’ll tell you guys about it here, so stay tuned. UPDATE: I have received my new camp knife from Ilkka. You can read an overview about it here and see some pics in use here.

Just so you can get an idea of what Ilkka is capable of, here is a leuku he made for me this past summer:

This would be many people’s idea of a camp knife, as it has a 0.2″/5 mm thick blade which is 9″/23 cm in length. I mainly use it for wood processing in the summer and in Lapland and also for clearing.

5 comments on “My take on the “camp knife”

  1. Perkunas says:

    That always wonders me, as here in Finland we dont have anything called as CAMPknife. So i have always been bit of curious, what separates camp knife from some other knife. Is camp knife the knife you stick on the piece of log, when you set up a camp and everyone uses that there 🙂 ?

    I mean, how does it differ from Leuku, or Chopper knife, from puukko or others ?

    This aint meant to be a mean comment,no. I am just curious.

    In any case i think you´ll be receiving a sturdy utility knife from Seikkus shed of steel and noise.

  2. Finnman says:

    I think “camp knife” is something like big knife which is meant to do all the tasks in camp from firewood to food making. I have also had idea and maybe seen it shown as Perkunas said that knife that sits in camp and everybody uses it. But in this case I don´t think that´s meaning.

    I tend to like bigger do-it-all knives aswell, they are just pure fun to use. Sure full tang is much stronger compared to stick tang. And if you feel full tang handle cold you can always wrap some insulation tape around it 😉

    That Ilkka´s forged leuku is magnificent! Drool….

    – Finnman

  3. Well, “camp knife” is kind of a general term itself. I can see how you might think it would be a knife left in camp that everybody uses from the name “camp knife”. But really it’s just a knife that you use to do camp chores, which could be anything from big wood processing to cutting food packages, depending on what a person does in camp. Could be a puukko, could be a leuku, could be an Opinel, could be a kukri.

    Ilkka and I are working on a clever handle solution. The knife will be full tang, but it won’t have exposed metal in the handle… 😀 You’ll have to wait and see!

  4. […] Ilkka Seikku and my main Christmas present. In one of my first blog posts, I described my ideal camp knife and showed the one I was using at the time. My new camp knife is a modified version of […]

  5. […] November of last year, I wrote about my thoughts on the medium camp knife here. In a nutshell, my limited experience over the past 4 years and fuzzy recollections from days gone […]

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