Best Ultralight Knives for Hiking & Backpacking

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Pocket knives sure do come in handy in several situations of different circumstances. Whether it is that you need to open a package, pop a beer bottle open, or cut a rope, there is no doubt that a pocket knife serves well there. And because there are practically endless uses to a pocket knife, we’ve picked and reviewed the 8 best backpacking knives for you so that you can find the knife that fits you and your sticky situation.

Best Backpacking Knife: 8 Ultralight Knives for Hiking & Backpacking

Quick Summary: Best Backpacking Knifes

  • Victorinox Swiss Army Huntsman Pocket Knife
  • Opinel Stainless Steel Folding Knife
  • OFF-GRID KNIVES – All-Day Nano – Compact & Light
  • Spyderco Dragonfly 2 Lightweight Knife
  • Kershaw Leek Pocket Knife
  • Ka-Bar BK14 Becker Knife
Victorinox Swiss Army Multi-Tool
BEST BACKPACKING KNIFE

Length Closed: 3.6 in (9cm), Weight: 3.4 oz (96g)
Off-Grid All-Day Nano Camping Flipper
BEST QUICK DRAW KNIFE

Length Closed: 3.6 in, Open Length: 6.4″, Weight: 3.3 oz (86g)
Opinel Stainless Steel Folding Knife
MOST STYLISH

Length Closed: 3.6 in, Weight: 2.8 oz (80g)
Gerber Suspension Multi-Plier
BEST MUTI TOOL

Closed Length: 4 in (10cm), Weight: 9.6 oz (272g)
Spyderco Dragonfly Plain Edge Knife
BEST LIGHWEIGHT KNIFE

Length: 3.3 in (8.3cm), Length Open: 5.6 in (14cm), Weight: 1.1 oz (31g)
Ka-Bar BK14 Becker Knife
BEST FIXED BLADE KNIFE

Length: 10 in (25.4cm), Weight: 2.4 oz (68 g)
Kershaw Leek Knife
Length Closed: 4 in (10cm), Length Open: 7 in (18cm), Weight: 3 oz (85g)
Buck Knives 0722 Spitfire
Length Closed: 4 1/4″ (10.8 cm), Weight: 3.2 oz (91 g)

What is it that makes a good backpacking knife?

Evidently, a backpacking knife needs to meet some criteria in the functional department to be well-qualified as a good pocket knife; here are a few things you should be on the lookout for:

Blade Strength and Sharpness

If there was one thing that distinguishes a good knife from a useless knife, it would be the blade. Steel is the most commonly used metal for knives’ blades due to its versatility and sharpness. Other metals can be used to enhance the steel and make it stronger or more rust-resistant.

The blade’s finish also plays a big role in the overall strength and durability of the blade. For instance, the steel blade can be blasted, polished, sanded, or coated to add to its strength and aesthetic.

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Depending on how you think you’ll mostly be using your knife, you should be more attentive to how strong your knife’s blade is and how well it will hold up to its function. As someone looking for a backpacking knife, the stronger and sharper the blade, obviously the more use you can get out of it.

Durability

A strong blade that is only initially strong is only a blade that will cause disappointment and eventually be rendered useless. Now, all blades have a certain life span that after, they will need sharpening, but strong blades generally last longer before you will need to intervene.

Eventually, a good strong blade should offer sharpness and edge retention; the longer it retains its sharp edge and integrity, the better quality it is. However, this is also dependent on how and how often you use your knife.

Related: Best Foldable Backpacks for Hiking and Travel

In terms of durability, the blade is not the only matter of concern. The frame, handle, or grip of your pocket knife should also offer long-term durability. A lot of knife grips are now being made out of ABS plastic which has proven to hold up pretty well to heavy-duty use.

Deployment, Safety, and Ease of Use

The term deployment refers to the action of pulling or pushing the blade out of its frame so that it can be duly used. Most backpacking knives include a flipper lever or a dual thumb stud that allows you to flip your knife open one-handedly.

Other knives, like the multi-tool knives mentioned below, need two hands to be opened, however, these types of knives do not need a quick open feature since they are used for more functional purposes rather than emergencies, like the other one-blade knives.

Related: Best Small Lightweight Sling Backpacks for Hiking

A great deal of safety is also included in these knives in the form of safety locks. These locks keep the blade closed when stowed away and keeps them firmly open during use to avoid any mishaps while the blade is out.

What are some things you should consider before purchasing a backpacking knife?

Now that we’ve established what a good backpacking knife is made out of and what it includes, you can now consider the following aspects per your own personal use.

Size and Compactness

Most backpacking knives are compact enough to be slid right into your pocket – hence the term ‘pocket knife’ – however blade sizes differ. A longer blade would be more versatile in terms of strength while a shorter, perhaps also pointier blade would serve better in terms of carving and detailed works.

Many knives now also come with a ring that allows you to attach the knife to your keychain, belt, or fishing vest making even handier.

Blade Type

Not to be confused with the shape of the blade where that varies between about 16 main shapes, the type of blade on your knife is different. The two main blade types are a plain edged blade and a serrated blade.

Some hikers prefer a serrated blade to plain one because of how much faster a serrated blade can cut through objects. Also to be noted that serrated blades retain their sharpness longer than plain plains can. Generally, however, a lot of people opt for a plain edged blade because of the cleaner cut a plain edge gives in addition to the fact that it’s a lot easier to sharpen than a serrated edge.

Function and Multi-purposing

This is what it all boils down to; your personal use. In order for a knife to be of optimum function, it has to fulfill the exact need it was purchased to fulfill. That can only be possible if you’re vigilant in laying out your needs and priorities.

Someone that is going for a solo hike for example, somewhere remote, would definitely need to consider the safety factor not just with the knives mechanism but with its strength. They would need the strongest blade and the fastest flip.

Someone else that may need a knife for a fishing trip, for example, would not necessarily need a quick flip knife as much as they would need a sharp knife that can be hooked t their fishing vest through an attached ring.

Another person may need a multifunctional knife that serves more purposes than simply cutting or tearing. They may need a multi-tool backpacking knife that includes a small screwdriver to fix loose screws somewhere.

The point is, the clearer your needs are the better you are at picking the best-suited knife for you.

Best Backpacking Knifes

Victorinox Swiss Army Huntsman Pocket Knife (Red)

01. Victorinox Swiss Army Multi-Tool

Length Closed: 3.6 in (9cm)
Weight: 3.4 oz (96g)
Price: Check the latest price here

This Swiss-made pocket knife is compact at the length of 3.6” when closed. It features stainless steel construction and Victorinox’s traditional ABS red plastic casing.

It includes 15 tools in one knife, including a small blade, a large blade, a can opener, tweezers and a set of screwdrivers amongst other things. This makes it a perfect fit for both, household tasks and outdoor adventures.

Pros

  • It includes 15 different tools suitable for different uses
  • All tools pack neatly into a compact design
  • Victorinox offers a lifetime guarantee on their product

Cons

  • Knives and tools cannot be flip-opened; instead, you’ll need to use both hands to unfold the knife

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OFF-GRID KNIVES - (OG-808S) All-Day Nano - Compact & Light EDC Pocket Flipper Knife - Frame Lock, Semi-Serrated Japanese AUS8 Blade, G10 Grip, Dual Position Clip - Perfect Fishing Tool

02. Off-Grid All-Day Nano Camping Flipper

Length: 3.6 in
Open Length: 6.4″
Weight: 3.3 oz (86g)
Price: Check the latest price here

This EDC pocket knife features a semi-serrated steel blade and a textured handle for better grip. It’s pretty compact at a length of only 6.4” when open.

With great strength comes great responsibility and with this knife, safety is well-addressed. The handle features a rock-solid frame lock that keeps the blade firmly in place during use. You can flip the blade open single-handedly with the superfast quick-draw feature by simply pressing on the flip lever.

Pros

  • AUS8 steel used to make the blades provides extra strength, sharpness, and edge retainment
  • The blade is semi-serrated meaning that you get the benefits of both, serrated and plain blades in one
  • Includes a clip on the back of the grip to attach onto virtually any item of clothing

Cons

  • Due to the small size of this exceptionally strong knife blade, it is recommended that it’s used only by professionals for safety purposes

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Opinel No6 Bubinga Handle Stainless Steel Folding Locking Pocket Knife, 7 Centimeter Blade

03. Opinel Stainless Steel Folding Knife

Length Closed: 3.6 in
Weight: 2.8 oz (80g)
Price: Check the latest price here

The classic design of this Opinel knife is a slight modification on the original knife made in 1890 made with hard and durable beech wood for the handle and modified Sandvik 12C27 stainless steel. The knife comes with a high-quality fabric cover to store it in and minimize damage to and because of the knife.

Like all Opinel knives, it includes the trademark Virobloc safety ring also made out of stainless steel and includes two sections; one moving and one fixed. In addition to the ability to lock the blade in an open position to ensure safety during use, you can also now lock the blade in a closed position to ensure safety during transportation and carrying.

Pros

  • The knife has a classical aesthetic that never gets old
  • 95% of the wood used for the handle comes from sustainably managed forests
  • The blade is made out of modified steel that includes a percentage of chromium aiding it in resisting corrosion

Cons

  • The wooden handle makes this knife subject to water damage when soaked in water for long intervals

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Gerber Suspension Multi-Plier [22-01471]

04. Gerber Suspension Multi-Plier

Closed Length: 4 in (10cm)
Weight: 9.6 oz (272g)
Price: Check the latest price here

Gerber is known for high-quality products and this knife doesn’t fail to deliver. The durable stainless steel construction has a sleek butterfly design that unfolds several tools including a serrated blade as well as a plain blade for multiple uses.

It can also be deployed quickly using the lock release button on the case; simply slide the button to unfold the structure and gain access to all available tools. Even though this knife seems like it’s a lot to handle, it is very compact and lightweight. It also comes with a nylon cover for easier carrying.

Pros

  • You can add more tools onto this knife using Gerber’s add-on toolkit
  • It includes 12 different tools suitable for different uses
  • Functional yet sleek unfoldable design

Cons

  • The unfolding system may seem a little complicated for some people

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Spyderco Dragonfly2 FRN C28PBK2 Folding Knife Black

05. Spyderco Dragonfly Plain Edge Knife

Length: 3.3 in (8.3cm)
Length Open: 5.6 in (14cm)
Weight: 1.1 oz (31g)
Price: Check the latest price here

This lightweight and highly compact pocket knife from Spyderco features a densely strong flat ground blade. It definitely matches the blades strength with that of the handle where the handle is made out of reinforced fiberglass. The blade also features a Lanyard hole and a Boye dent.

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And like most knives on the list, it also features a locking mechanism that keeps the blade in place when open to keep the user safe from mishaps.

Pros

  • Extremely compact at only 3.3” long when closed
  • Bi-direction textured pattern provided a better grip over the handle
  • The handle is reinforced with fiberglass for extra durability

Cons

  • Compared to the other knives on the list, this one is quite pricey

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Kershaw Leek Pocket Knife (1660) 3-In. Sandvik 14C28N Blade and Stainless Steel Handle, Best Buy from Outdoor Gear Lab Includes Frame Lock, SpeedSafe Assisted Opening and Reversible Pocketclip, 3 oz.

06. Kershaw Leek Outdoor Knife

Length Closed: 4 in (10cm)
Length Open: 7 in (18cm)
Weight: 3 oz (85g)
Price: Check the latest price here

This knife is very straightforward with its Sandvik steel blade and steel handle. The whole knife is resistant to corrosion and has a high-tech finish giving it a smooth and non-reflective surface. The blade is specially made to retain its pointy edge for longer and heavier use.

It features a SafeSpeed assisted opening system that helps you open the blade with minimum effort with a simple pullback flipper using only one hand. It also features a frame lock when the blade is open and a tip lock for when the blade is closed.

Pros

  • The blade features a slim tip that makes it perfect for piercing and detail-work
  • The handle also being made out of stainless steel makes it strong and rust resistant
  • Has a scratch-resistant frame

Cons

  • Although the handle is one of the strongest on the list, it may pose an uncomfortable grip for some users

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Ka-Bar BK14 Becker Knife and Tool Eskabar Knife

Ka-Bar BK14 Becker Knife

Length: 10 in (25.4cm)
Weight: 2.4 oz (68 g)
Price: Check the latest price here

Ka-Bar’s BK14 is one made for heavy-duty use. It’s made out of Cro-Van steel and comes covered in a powder coating for protection that can be scraped off if needed. Be careful though not to dull the blade when scraping the cover off, you may need to sharpen it again after scraping.

Pros

  • Highly durable and made for heavy-duty use
  • Can be as sharp as a razor in its best, sharpened state

Cons

  • This knife is not foldable

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Wrap up

Personally, I believe the Victorinox Swiss Army Knife is perfectly suited for someone looking for a multi-functional pocket knife that serves different uses. However, for someone more concerned with strength and blade integrity, I would definitely recommend the Off-Grid All-Day Nano blade because of its edge – quite literally.

Learn more about backpacking and hiking

If you found this review informative and useful, you might want to check the rest of our article related to backpacking and hiking.

Happy trails!

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