Editors’ Choice: Best Knives & Multi-Tools for Overlanding

Photo By: Benchmade

There are so many important things you need to bring with you on an overland trip that you might overlook one of the smallest – but most often used – tools for a successful adventure: a knife. The uses for a good knife are literally endless and a high-quality blade can make your camp life just a bit easier.

A knife or multi-tool can be used in all kinds of situations, from cutting paracord to tie off a tarp, to prepping veggies for dinner, to shaving down a stick for kindling, to filleting a rainbow trout that you caught in a mountain lake, to fighting off Sasquatch. I’d venture to say that a good knife is one of the items that you can’t live without in the backcountry.

Steel Quality

I could write a whole post on the types of steel used in Every Day Carry (EDC) knives. Basically, your new knife is only as good as the steel in the blade. Inferior steel can break, crack, chip, and it won’t hold an edge very well. Not only is it annoying to break a knife, but it is also dangerous.

When you’re doing your research, look for the hardness and durability of the steel in your knife. If the steel is too soft, your blade will bend. If it is too hard, it will break or chip. A mixture of hardness and softness is ideal here.

The second thing to look for is corrosion resistance. If your new knife corrodes easily, it is probably not made from stainless steel. Non-stainless knives need more TLC to keep rust at bay. For an EDC blade, you’ll probably want to stay away from non-stainless knives.

Lastly, find out about edge retention and sharpening. You’ll want a knife that sharpens easily and holds an edge well. Dull knives do way more damage if you were to actually cut yourself. A dull knife also increases the amount of pressure you need to exert to cut objects.

Knife Pricing

Prices for knives range with quality, and you can expect to spend anywhere from $20.00 to well over $800.00 depending on build quality, materials, and craftsmanship. How much you spend is entirely up to you, but you often get what you pay for when it comes to knives – meaning that the more you spend usually translates to higher quality. 

But how do you choose a good knife from the myriad of choices available in the marketplace? For those who need a bit of a primer on knives, there are three distinct styles;

Fixed-Blade Knives

A fixed-blade knife (like the ESEE-3 pictured above) does not slide or fold and is primarily stored in a sheath. These knives tend to be stronger because of the lack of moving parts as well as the tang – the extension of the blade into the handle of the knife. Here are a few of my favorite fixed blades for backcountry excursions.

Benchmade Saddle Mountain Fixed-Blade Knife

Close up of the Benchmade Saddle Mountain fixed blade knife and sheath.
Image by Benchmade

Benchmade’s Saddle Mountain 4.2-inch fixed-blade knife is perfect for a variety of situations you will find yourself in outdoors. The strategically placed jimping (notches on the top of the knife for thumb control) and ergonomic shape will make the last cut feel just as effortless as the first. This knife comes with a nylon sheath and will be very useful in your overland travels.

MSRP: $215.00

Snow Peak Cutting Board and Knife Set

People using the Snow Peak Cutting Board and Knife Set to chop vegetables in the outdoors.
Image by Snow Peak

I love cooking in the backcountry, and I will not go anywhere without the Snow Peak Cutting Board and Knife Set. The stainless steel chef knife has a carbon handle to ensure a tight grip with chopping. The blade rarely needs sharpening and makes meal prep a breeze. I’ve had my Snow Peak Large Knife set for a decade, and I literally use it on every trip I’ve been on in that timeframe.

MSRP: $39.95

Read More: How To Sharpen a Knife

Folding-Blade Knives

Benchmade Bugout knife sitting on desktop
Photo by Anthony Sicola

A folding-blade knife, like the Benchmade Bugout above, is where the blade is attached to the handle of the knife through a pivot point that allows the blade to be folded into the handle for storage. When extended, a folding-blade knife is locked into place by a few different mechanisms, including lock-back, bolt-lock, and liner-lock. The knife above is a bolt-lock mechanism. Below I’ve included some of my top picks for adventure worthy folding knives.

Benchmade Bugout DP

Close up of a man holding a Benchmade Bugout DP knife.
Image by Benchmade

The Bugout DP is perfect for nearly every scenario you’ll find yourself while traveling overland. The 3.24-inch steel blade with nylon handle makes quick work of anything you cut, and the knife is super-lightweight (1.85-ounces) in your hand. I carry mine with me every time I’m out on the trails.

MSRP: $150.00

Gerber Fastball Folder

Close up of a man holding a Gerber Gear Fastball Folder knife.
Image by Gerber Gear

The lightweight, American-made Fastball Folder is a light EDC knife with an intuitive finger flipper opening, a fine knife blade, and an aircraft-grade aluminum handle. My Fastball goes with me almost everywhere and is a perfect little knife for a variety of uses.

MSRP: $140.00

Read More: How-To Choose an Overland First Aid Kit (or Build Your Own)

Multi-Tools

Multi-Tools often contain a knife blade and many other useful tools all in one package – like the Leatherman Sidekick above – including; pliers, wire cutters, screwdrivers, bottle openers, can opener, saw, file, just to name a few. There are great options for a traditional multi-tool that includes pliers, or you can select a smaller tool that stills packs in plenty of functionality.

Leatherman Sidekick Multitool

Using a Leatherman multitool to remove a hot lid from a cookstove in the backcountry.
Image by Leatherman

This handy pocket-sized tool has all the features you need to get your project done at a fraction of the cost. The handy, outside-accessible blades mean you can open the knife with just one hand, and rounded handles make getting a grip around their spring-action jaws easy and very comfortable. Stainless steel and backed by a 25-year warranty; first choice, or handy second backup, you can’t beat the value of the Sidekick. Sheath and carabiner included.

MSRP: $69.95

Gerber Gear Prybrid X Multi-Tool

Opening a bottle with a Gerber Gear Prybrid X multitool.
Image by Gerber Gear

As the name suggests, the Prybrid X is a hybrid tool, blending the best of a replaceable hobby blade knife and a compact multi-tool. This tool is meant to be carried in a pocket or on a keychain. It offers immediate access to the eight tools: a standard #11 blade​, pry bar​, wire stripper​, nail puller​, flathead driver med / small​, bottle opener​, and 550 cord wrap) it houses. With a convenient dual-ended design, the Prybrid X is the only tool you’ll need for quick tasks at the job site. ​While it isn’t the best cutting tool, it is handy and deserves a spot on this list.

MSRP: $22.95

The best way to know what knife is right for you is to get out there and use one. You’ll know pretty quickly what works for you and what doesn’t. Many companies like Benchmade and Gerber who will customize knives to work for you, not against you.

Whatever knife you end up using, take care of it, and it will last you for decades.


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