If you’re completely new to any sort of outdoors activity whether that be camping or hiking or doing more Bush crafty stuff. One thing that you’re gonna want to consider is how to choose your first knife.
Today we’re gonna be talking about some of the most basic things you should consider when you’re looking at a knife.
1. Blade thickness
The first thing we’re gonna talk about is blade thickness. You’ll find knives that have really thick blades that can range from about an eighth of an inch to a quarter of an inch and then you’ll find knives with skinnier blades which is usually like a tenth of an inch or smaller especially when you get into pocket knives.
Now with a thick blade what you’ll get is basically durability and a lot of functionalities. So basically you’ll have a blade that will let you chop things apart. You can also split wood really easily
And in the case of a knife that has a quarter an inch blade you can pry things open with a knife. With a thick blade you’ll still be able to do carving and some feather sticking but you’re not gonna get as much of a fine control over that if you’re trying to carve something or crap some sort of like trap or bushcraft device.
Doing sort of fine slicing is gonna be tougher to do. It’s also a little more finicky when you’re doing like food prep and stuff like that with the thinner blade.
You’ve sort of got a trade-off you’ve got less durability. Thus it’s not always as good for those sorts of chopping things.
I mean sometimes with a thin blade, you don’t even have enough weight to give a good chopping motion and it can also be tough to split wood not only because it’s not as strong of a blade but also because when you’re splitting wood a thin blade like that might just get stuck in it instead of splitting the wood apart.
But on the other hand, you’ll have a knife that can do a lot of good fine carving works. Another thing to consider is that a thinner blade will also mean a lighter knife. Therefore if you’re more like someone who wants to go camping or hiking that might be more suited for you.
Whereas if you’re trying to do a more heavy bushcraft stuff, you might prefer a bigger knife.
2. Length and profile
Going along with that is the length and profile of the blade.
A lot of survival knives can be five to six inches long. There’s actually a reason for that.
It’s not just that it looks cooler but also that if you have a longer blade you’ll have an easier time batani. Because when you’re chopping it through wood, some of the blade will be sticking out of the wood so that you can actually hit it with a baton.
However again with a longer blade, it can be sort of unwieldy when you’re trying to do some of the finer carving.
so a lot of times you’ll find bushcraft knives that are only maybe 4 or 3 and 3/4 inch long. That’s perfectly valid as for blade profile. Sometimes you’ll have knives that have sort of a wider point versus ones that have a thinner point.
This sort of more narrow point can actually be useful when you’re trying to carve out little divots. For example to make like a pot hang or to make a board for when you’re doing friction fires.
However with a thinner blade profile also comes more weakness and more likely and as for the tip to break off.
3. Knife tang
So next we’re gonna talk about tang and this is probably something that a lot of people who are into the outdoors especially bush crafters have lengthy discussions about.
So the most fundamental categories I can come up with are basically a full tang knife and a partial tang.
A full tang basically means that the metal of the blade runs all the way through the length of the handle. A lot of times like with this virtus knife you’ll actually see the metal with the scales of the handle on the outside of it but sometimes a full tang can also be embedded within the handle.
In general a full tang is what almost everybody recommends you look into. It’s gonna be more durable. it’s gonna be better for heavier work.
if you’re batani, it’ll be a more reliable tang to have because you don’t have to worry about your blade falling out of your handle or the knife falling apart.
Below is one example of a full tang knives.
If you’re interested in this knife, click here for more details.
There are knives with rat tangs or stick tangs which are basically tangs where the metal of the blade doesn’t go all the way through the handle . And with the stick Tang sometimes that means that it’s a really thin sort of shape.
People generally like to avoid these because they aren’t that strong but I think a lot of times people can also exaggerate how much of a problem it is to have a partial tang.
More our knives have this partial tang and they’re completely reliable. People have never really had any problems with these falling apart.
I’ve seen videos where people are doing really intense stress tests that would never really even happen in a normal scenario and the knife holds up.
And another thing with these partial tangs is again it does give you a lighter knife.
Next one of the biggest considerations is the actual grind of the knife .
4. Knife Grind
So basically what is the edge of the knife look like and I’m basically just gonna boil us down into three categories.
4.1 Scandinavian grind
A lot of people opt for a Scandinavian grind for the first knife because it really is much easier to sharpen and that’s because the Scandinavian grind basically has a single bevel forming the edge.
And what that means is that the beveled part of the knife is very thick and so when you sharpen, it it’s very easy to find where that edges put it up against a sharpening stone and sharpen it without having to be super finicky or super precise with your movements.
Along with being really easy to sharpen, it’s also easy to get a very razor sharp edge on these sorts of knives because with that Scandinavian grind what that means is that the knife has a more acute angle.
But again with the acuteness of the angle comes a sort of lacking and durability. Sometimes with these knives, it’s a little easier to roll your edge to dull it or to even get chips in it but again it’s easier to sharpen so at least maintaining.
4.2 Hollow or flat grind
It isn’t so bad now the hollow or flat grind. I feel like these are some of the most common edges. You’ll find on a lot of outdoors knives or just knives in general.
Basically what that means is that it has a bevel going towards the edge and then a secondary bevel forming the actual edge.
And because of that the actual cutting edge of the knife is a very thin portion of the full width of the blade because of this sharpening these sorts of knives can be pretty difficult.
You’ll put it up against the stone and it’s really tough to feel out exactly where the edge is and sometimes the secondary bevel is either flat or convex.
Actually if it’s convex or in other words rounded towards an edge it can actually be easier to sharpen because you can sort of be more imprecise and still get a sharp edge.
But if that secondary bevel is completely flat then finding exactly how you should angle the blade on a sharpening stone can be difficult.
The upside of this sort of edge is that it is a lot more resilient and this allows you to have sort of a pretty good sharp edge but also one that will maintain its sharpness
4.3 Convex or full convex grind
Lastly is a convex or full convex grind and basically this means that from the spine of the blade to the edge.
There’s sort of a gradual curve and this curve can usually sometimes occur like halfway or a third of the way down the blade but this is also the sort of edge you’ll find on axes.
So it sort of applies to these tools as well. Basically what a convex edge gives you is a really strong durable edge. It’s really hard to bust up that edge and this sort of convex grind is great for like splitting wood.It’s great for heavier duty work.
The downside is that it can be a little harder to get like a very razor sharp edge which you know it is an important thing to have when you’re doing some more fine detailed carving and when you’re trying to create feather sticks.
It’s actually you know people might have different opinions on this but I think a full convex edge is actually pretty easy to sharpen because all you have to do is put it on the stone or put it on sandpaper or a strop and sort of just you know work it towards the edge back and forth.
You’re rocking the blade back and forth just working into that convex edge and it’s really not too hard to sharpen. You don’t have to be super precise
Now up next is the steel and I’m not really gonna get into any of the details of like what types of steel are better.
If you’re really looking for the most fundamental theme for your first knife, the two categories to consider are stainless steel versus carbon steel
And a lot of what you’re gonna go with in terms of steel is gonna really boil down to how are you using your knife and where are using it. If you’re generally camping and muggier sort of swampy areas with lots of water.
A stainless steel knife is gonna be great to have because it’s not gonna rust or oxidize just sitting out there and if you drop it in the water you don’t have to worry about drying it off really quick to get any rust off.
Some people also say stainless steel holds its edge better. Although this is kind of disputed but I will say compared to carbon steel it usually is a little softer but it is harder to sharpen.
A lot of people prefer a carbon steel because it’s easier to sharpen but it can also be a harder steel. Having a softer steel isn’t something to laugh at though because a softer steel means a more flexible blade so you’ll have a blade that is less likely to snap or be brittle but again a stainless steel blade it’s good if you’re wanting less maintenance in your knife.
You know you don’t have to always be sharpening it. You don’t have to oil it up necessarily. So why do so many people prefer carbon steel well ?
Again it’s easier to sharpen and you get a harder steel from it and while this does require more maintenance it is really nice to be able to sharpen it easily because I mean sometimes you’re doing tests out there like baton Ian or like processing firewood or building things and it’s nice to be able to hone your edge just on the go with a piece of leather with a leather belt.
There’s also the idea that carbon steel throws a better spark and I don’t think this is actually true if you’re using a Ferro rod.
What really matters is having a square edge on your knife whether that’s your blade or the spine blade and it also matters that your knife Steel is harder than the Ferro rod which it almost always is because what’s creating the sparks is your knife scraping little bits of the rod off.
People probably have this conception because carbon steel can be harder than stainless steel so that is still probably something to consider on some level.
Finally a lot of times carbon steel knives will be laminated and all that really means is that you’ll have a harder steel on the inside surrounded by a softer steel.
5. How Much Should Your First Knife Cost ?
One of the biggest considerations is gonna be price point for your first knife
I will say that price it does tend to make a difference if you’re paying in the 50 40 30 range, you can have a full tang. They will be sturdy and good for heavier duty work but you can find really great reliable knives like Mora knives . The price is anywhere from like the 8 to 15 dollar range . They are cheap but they’re also really reliable.
Now I will also say that getting knives that are in sort of a hundred dollar range that still is an improvement on quality a lot of times. With these knives these are like handmade knives or knives that really can maintain an edge keep their sharpness for a long time even after some really robust work.
Knives that have good quality steel that won’t break so you’re getting what you pay for up to a certain extent.
Passed about like the $200 range I feel like you’re basically paying for the artistic quality of a blade. For your first knife it’s generally a good idea to get more of a lower price knife.
It takes a bit to learn how to use a knife but also how to maintain a knife. If you’re getting a cheaper knife, you can at least practice on it and learn to get good at it and then you can buy a higher quality or price your knife once you’re actually good at doing that.
All in all a lot of this really comes down to what you think you’re gonna be using your knife for. Anyway if you’re just starting out with outdoors activities I hope this article has been helpful for you.
And if you’re someone who has been outdoors before and you already own knives I would love to hear what sort of knife you have and why you liked it in the comments and if you are new to my website be sure to check out some of other articles.