A good hunting knife is one of your most important pieces of equipment you’ll own as a hunter. While it does the dirty deed of dressing your kill, a knife has a lot of other uses during the hunt – and can even be used to save your life should something go wrong. A knife will cut the kindling to build your fire and chop food for your camp meals, or you can just whittle with it if you get bored waiting for the wildlife.
Before you settle on the best hunting knife for you, ask yourself what you plan to do with it. Will it only be used for field dressing? Do you want one that can be used every day, not just during hunting season? How often do you see yourself sharpening your knife? Some steels require more frequent sharpening, so if you hate sharpening, you’ll end up with a dull, worthless knife.
Choosing the right knife is a long-term investment; a quality knife can last a lifetime. The wrong one will just be another piece of junk in your gear closet.
Best Hunting Knife
Something every hunter needs in their backpack is a good fixed-blade knife. Fixed blade knives are, overall, the best type of knife for hunting. No moving parts to malfunction, no crevices for blood and debris to get trapped in – its simplicity is its greatest strength. Just be sure to give it a good once over with a sharpener before each outing.
Who says you need to spend a lot of money to get a great piece of equipment? Swedish knife maker Morakniv has been selling high quality knives for decades, and any search for a good hunting or backpacking knife will inevitably lead straight to them.
The Craftline is the company’s most basic knife. Its synthetic handle is not as attractive as a beautifully crafted wood or bone one, but the lack of microscopic cracks for anything to get caught in makes it more sterile.
Too many hunters think they need a massive knife to clean their kill, but nothing could be further from the truth. A larger knife is harder to control and will almost certainly lead to more mistakes. The blade on the Craftline is relatively compact at 3.6 inches, still plenty long enough for dressing your kill. There’s no gut hook , so it’s great for learning how to clean without one.
Kershaw Diskin Hunter
At 4.6 inches, the Diskin is a full inch longer than the Morakniv. While this makes it slightly less maneuverable and harder for inexperienced hands to wield, it does improve its usefulness as a survival knife (longer, heavier blades are better for cutting branches for firewood, though this one is a little too narrow for more rigorous survival activities.
It’s more on the expensive side, but not outrageously so. The fiberglass handle has a great texture that will prevent it from slipping out of your hands, even if you’re using it for high-pressure activities like chopping.
The steel in this blade is top-notch; it’s razor-sharp right out of the box and will hold an edge for a comparatively long time. If you’re someone who doesn’t enjoy sharpening, this would be a great choice.
As with some of the other knives on this list, one drawback is that the Kershaw Diskin’s sheath is of very low quality compared to the blade. The materials just don’t stand up to much punishment, so you’ll need to buy an aftermarket sheath eventually.
Best Folding Hunting Knife
A folding knife is the ideal choice for an everyday carry (EDC). They’re compact enough that they can go on your belt or in your pocket without making you feel like an explorer outfitted for a jungle expedition. While a folding knife does have the disadvantage of being a weaker survival knife, due to their reduced durability and moving parts, the best knife is the one you have with you. A folding knife is a great choice for someone wanting a knife that can be carried outside of hunting season.
Gerber is a leader in the field for one reason – they make incredibly durable knives that are relatively inexpensive. The Moment is no exception, and won’t set you back a lot. With a 3-inch drop point blade, it’s an excellent choice for anyone looking for a great hunting knife that they can use for a variety of other tasks.
The handle on this knife is made of a non-slip rubber compound and is ergonomically designed to fit in your hands, even with gloves on. It’s almost impossible for this blade to slip once you have it in your grip – a very desirable quality when medical attention is hours away.
The blade can be ordered with or without a gut hook, but with a folding knife, you should probably go without. While you’re safe from the blade when it’s in the folded position, the gut hook protrudes out the back and could poke you when you reach to grab it.
Some users have complained that this knife loses its edge too quickly (the steel isn’t of the same quality as some of the other knives on this list), which can be frustrating. However, knowing that should incentivize you to sharpen it more often, and a little of extra practice with that is never a bad thing. Like the Diskin, the accompanying sheath is not of the same quality as the knife, and many users have reported that it fell apart within weeks. You can use the money you saved by choosing an affordable knife to buy an aftermarket sheath later.
Victorinox Swiss Army Hunter Pro
If the lower-quality steel in the Gerber was a deal breaker for you, the Victorinox Hunter Pro might be more to your liking. It’s also a lot bigger than most folding knifes, with a five-inch blade.
Much like the Gerber, the Hunter Pro has a rock-solid grippy handle, making it an excellent choice for both the precision cuts of a field dressing and the more forceful activities of a survival knife.
While folding knives usually don’t make great survival knives, the Hunter Pro is an exception. The thick, full tang blade is durable enough and strong enough to be used for chopping small branches. The trade-off is that this kind of construction makes it heavier and less desirable as an EDC, so it’s worth considering how you see yourself using it.
Probably the biggest downside to this knife, besides being a bit too bulky for everyday carry, is the price. It costs more for a reason, you get what you pay for and this knife's extreme durability helps justify the higher price tag.
Best Hunting Knife Sharpener
The best knife sharpener is the one you know how to use. If you’re new to the practice, a high-end whetstone won’t do you any good (unless you’re the type of person who wants to spend hours practicing until you get it right). Amateurs should pick up something less expensive, because any sharpener is better than no sharpener at all. Those with more experience can choose something more technical, knowing that, with proper care, it will serve them for years to come.
Smith's PP1 Pocket Pal Multifunction Sharpener
Nothing is worse than arriving to a hunt and pulling a dull knife out of your backpack. Yeah, you should have sharpened it before you left the house, but we all forget sometimes. In this situation, the Pocket Pal is a great piece of gear to have at your disposal. It’s compact and lightweight, and it’ll give your blade a little extra edge with a few quick passes.
It has a set of carbide stones to give your knife a rough edge and another set of ceramic ones to give it a final polish. There’s also a diamond rod to sharpen serrations and gut hooks. The pre-set sharpening angles make it really easy to use if you don’t have much experience sharpening.
Will your knife be as sharp as if you’d used a whetstone? No, but it will get it sharp enough to be safe and efficient in the field. The carbide and ceramic blades are reversible and replaceable, giving a long life to this little device. With such a low price you can’t really go wrong with it, and even experienced sharpeners might want to keep one in their backpack – just in case.
Shun 300/1000 Combination Whetstone
On the other hand, this sharpener is for the knife enthusiasts – the ones who enjoy the smell of a good honing oil and think nothing of spending a Friday evening with their beloved whetstone. The Shun has 300- and 1,000-grit ceramic sides that will give a fantastic edge to any blade. Admittedly, this probably isn’t fine enough give a mirror finish (6000-grit). However, it’s enough to turn any of the knives listed above into a very functional cutting tool. But the 300-grit side can take off a lot of material, so be careful, and only use this side for knives that have gone really dull.
As with all good things, the Shun doesn’t come cheap, priced above the others. You’ll never need to buy another one though, so consider it a lifetime investment.
What’s Right for Me
Only you can answer that question, but hopefully these hunting knife reviews have helped you consider what qualities you need in a hunting knife. A fixed-blade knife is great for survival situations and for those who want a dedicated hunting knife; their durability is unmatched. Folding knives are an excellent choice for everyday carry, but they’re also less durable and the folding mechanism can be a point of failure.
All knives will need some sharpening, but different types of steel require it more or less often. The choices for sharpeners range from simple pass-throughs that can be used on the trail to expensive whetstones that require skill and practice. The best knife, and the best knife sharpener, will be the one that most closely matches your needs and preferences. A good knife doesn’t even need to cost that much, certainly not compared to some of your other hunting gear, it just needs to be the right one for you. It's like picking your hunting weapon, you might prefer a hunting bow over a hunting crossbow and the same goes for picking the right crossbow scopes.