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7 Important Reasons Why You Always Need a Knive When Hiking

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When it comes to hiking, it’s easy to get caught up in planning for the essentials like proper footwear, clothing, food, and hydration. However, one item that should not be overlooked is a good knife. Whether you’re planning an introductory day hike or a multi-day backpacking trip, a knife is an essential tool to have on hand. 

A knife is one of the essential tools to include in your hiking gear. It can prepare food, find food and water, create tools, build shelters, assist in first aid, and help you escape tricky situations. Your hiking knife should be a robust bushcraft knife up to the task.

A knife is not only a helpful tool on a hike but can be potentially life-saving if an emergency arises on the trail. We will explore why a knife is essential in hiking and should be a must-have item in every hiker’s backpack.

Why You Should Carry A Knife On A Hike
Why You Should Carry A Knife On A Hike

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Why You Should Carry A Knife On A Hike

A knife is applicable on a hike and an essential part of your hiking gear. A knife should be seen as crucial as your backpack, first aid kit, or any other gear you include in your hiking equipment.

Not only can it help you prepare food and handle unexpected situations, but it can also be a crucial component for your survival if you find yourself in a challenging situation. 

A Knife Can Be Used For Cutting and Preparing Food On A Hike

As a hiker, I know how important it is to properly fuel my body throughout the time spent on the trail. A good knife is essential for cutting and preparing food, which is critical for maintaining proper nutrition and avoiding hunger-induced fatigue. 

When planning meals for a hiking trip, it’s essential to consider the types of food you’ll be bringing along and how they will be prepared. 

With a reliable knife, you can chop up fruits and vegetables, slice bread and cheese, and even fillet fish or cut up meat for cooking

The knife you include for your hiking trip must be sharp and robust. A dull or ineffective knife can make meal prep a frustrating and time-consuming task, reducing the overall enjoyment of the journey. 

A knife can also be a backup tool for other culinary utensils that you may forget to pack, break, or become damaged on the trail. 

  • Open cans. How will you open your cans if you take canned food on your hike and your can opener breaks or forget to pack one? A sturdy bushcraft knife can help you access the can’s contents.
  • Open food packaging. A knife can be used to slice open freeze-dried food packaging, 
  • Used as a spoon. A knife can be used as a spoon to stir food in a pot on the campfire.
  • Grind herbs or coffee beans. Your knife handle can grind peppercorns, other spices, and coffee beans!

In my opinion, a knife is a crucial piece of your hiking gear and should be one of the first items you consider when planning your hike!

TIP: There are at least 18 parts in your average pocket knife. Do you know all of them? Check out the explanation of all pocket knife parts in the article below:
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A Knife Can Help In Emergency Situations On A Hike

While we never want to imagine being in an emergency while hiking, the reality is that unexpected challenges can arise anytime. 

Hiking in the wilderness requires preparing for the unexpected, and a good knife can be a lifesaver in such situations. 

Many emergencies can arise on a hike where a knife is indispensable. Some of these situations which we should prepare for include the following. 

TIP: Find out my TOP 3 picks of pocket knives if you are interested in buying a pocket knife (Amazon link):

A Knife Can Free You From A Dangerous Situation

Clothing, webbing, backpack straps, and ropes are all potential dangers in some situations that can cause you to become caught up in a dangerous situation.

A knife can be used to cut through ropes or fabric to free yourself or others from dangerous situations. An example can be if you are caught up in a flash flood and a backpack strap hooks on debris in the river, pinning you in place. A knife can cut the strap and free you from a dangerous situation.

It’s also worth mentioning that a knife can be used as a signaling device if you become lost or stranded. By reflecting sunlight off the blade or making noise by tapping on it, you can alert search and rescue teams to your location. 

TIP: A Swiss Army Knife is an iconic pocket knife and one of the predecessors to the modern pocket multitool. Check out the ultimate buyer’s guide in the article below:
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A Knife Can Help With Building A Shelter

A good hiking knife can be an indispensable tool for building a shelter when you’re out in the wilderness. When faced with harsh weather conditions, a sturdy and reliable shelter can distinguish survival from disaster. 

A knife can cut branches and foliage to build a lean-to, a simple shelter of two uprights and a horizontal branch

Alternatively, it can be used to fashion more intricate shelters, such as a teepee, which requires more precise cuts and a bit of creativity. With a good knife, you can carve stakes for tent poles and cut the rope to secure them in place.

A Knife Is Useful For First Aid

Never underestimate the wilderness; injuries can happen unexpectedly, and having the right tools readily available can be a lifesaver. 

A good bushcraft or survival knife can be a helpful tool for handling injuries and making bandages and other first-aid equipment in the event of an emergency

With a sharp and sturdy blade, a knife can cut through clothing to expose the wound or remove debris from the affected area. 

It can also be used to cut cloth or other materials to create a bandage or a makeshift tourniquet. Use your bushcraft knife to craft a splint from nearby materials such as sticks or branches if a broken bone or sprain occurs.

A knife is not a replacement for a good first-aid kit, but it can complement your first-aid kit by doing the rough work. 

TIP: Opinel knives have become an iconic pocket knife, almost as well known as the Swiss Army Knife. Find out the main reasons why these knives are so popular in the article below:
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A Knife Is Helpful In A Survival Situation On A Hike

Should you find yourself in a survival situation, a good hiking knife can be a precious tool for finding food and water and starting a fire. 

  • Making traps. A knife can cut through rigid materials, such as bark and sticks, to make traps and snares for catching game for food. 
  • Fishing for food. A bushcraft knife can be used to fashion fishing hooks or spears for catching fish or other aquatic life.
  • Gathering food. A knife can dig for edible roots and tubers to make a meal.
  • Locating water. Use your knife to dig in dry river beds to locate water. 
  • Making a fire. Fire-making tools such as feather sticks for tinder, bow and drill fire starters, and other bushcraft tools can be created from natural materials using a good survival knife.
  • A signaling device. A knife can signal rescuers if the blade is shiny, or you can use the knife to mark the trail you have followed so rescuers can find you.

All these functions for a knife on a hiking trail require that you have a good knife, know how to use it, and have practiced survival skills using your hiking knife.

A Knife Is Good For Protection On A Hike

There’s always a chance of encountering dangerous animals or other hazards on the hiking trail that may threaten your safety. 

In these situations, a good hiking knife can be a helpful tool for protection. A knife can fend off animals, such as snakes or coyotes, or defend against other threats in the wilderness.

It’s important to note that a knife should only be used for protection as a last resort and that caution and proper safety measures should always be taken to avoid dangerous situations in the first place.

TIP: Some knives experience difficulties opening and closing, either when they are new or used over time. Check out the step-by-step guide on fixing this issue in the article below:
How To Fix Guide: Open & Close A Pocket (Swiss Army) Knife

How To Choose A Knife For Hiking

How To Choose A Knife For Hiking
How To Choose A Knife For Hiking

When choosing a knife for hiking, there are several factors to consider to find a knife that meets your needs and fits your preferences. The following are some of the best features to look for in a hiking knife:

  • Blade Material. Look for a blade made from durable materials such as high-carbon or stainless steel, which can hold a sharp edge and withstand heavy use. My preference is for a high-carbon steel blade for bushcraft work.
  • Blade Length. Choose a blade length suitable for your needs and preferences but not so long that it becomes unwieldy or difficult to carry. A blade length of 4 to 5 inches, or 10cm to 12.5cm, is a good standard for a bushcraft knife.
  • Handle Material. Look for a handle made from a material that is durable and comfortable, such as wood, rubber, or synthetic materials.
  • Handle Grip. Choose a handle with a secure grip to prevent slipping, even in wet or slippery conditions.
  • Weight. Choose a knife that is lightweight and easy to carry for extended periods.
  • Price. While investing in a high-quality knife is essential, finding one that fits your budget is also essential.

Ultimately, the best hiking knife for you will depend on your individual needs and preferences. Consider the tasks you will need the knife for, the environments you will be in, and your own personal preferences to find a knife that is a good fit for you.

TIP: Find out my TOP 3 picks of pocket knives if you are interested in buying a pocket knife (Amazon link):


Many people overlook the importance of a good knife when planning their hiking gear, but it should be one of the first tools to consider for your hike. 

Take the time to select a quality, robust bushcraft knife on your next hike. You will find a thousand uses for your knife, and it could save your life!

TIP: You may have your pocket knife with you at all times, but you may not have sharpening tools with you at all times to keep your knife sharp. Check out the best options below:
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