Camping vs Survival Knives – What is the Difference?

If you’ve been around prepping for any length of time, there’s little doubt you’ve been sucked into a big conversation about gear. One of my most favorite conversations that preppers have is about knives.

Knives are invaluable to preppers, being tools that we take everywhere, do everything with and never go without. Particular knives that come up in the discussion of outdoor activity are camping knives and survival knives. They’re discussed frequently in the same context and it seems like they’re interchangeable.

But are they? Is there any difference between these two prepper favorites, camping and survival knives?

Yes, there is. A survival knife is a larger, stout knife that is designed to survive the rigors processing wood and a host of heavy duty tasks. A camp knife is a smaller type of survival knife designed to do the same things while serving as more of a general utility blade.

You could definitely depend on both in a survival situation. Your choice will likely boil down to if you want something that’s a little easier to carry, or something that is a little more capable. The former will be smaller and lighter. The latter will be larger and heavier.

Survival Knife Features

Survival knives are, as a rule, strongly built, fixed blade knives with thick blades and durable edges it will really allow you to use them as a tool: splitting, pounding, scraping, notching, drilling and more.

These knives are not designed to stay razor sharp, but sharp enough for the task at hand and for a long time and serve as a sort of multi-tool while you’re out in the woods.

Their thick blades will be host to conservatively ground edges for maximum durability and longevity. It is the rare survival knife that can make shaving sharp, but what edge it does take will last for a very long time and through quite a few logs and branches before you need to re sharpen it.

Even their tips are built for durability, designed with geometry that will let you dig, pick, pry and scrape without fear of breaking it.

The handle of a survival knife will rarely be particularly aggressive, instead being a sort of pedestrian, middle-of-the-road design that affords a decent grip while preventing blisters during heavy work sessions.

A secure hold is most often accomplished by ergonomic designs like palm swells and shallow finger choils, and small guards and ramps are also common features. Think twice before buying any survival knife that has a heavily, aggressively textured handle.

One feature you’ll sometimes find on survival knives or heavy-duty serrations for sawing through wood. Commonly taking the form of single or double row saw teeth, these will be located either near the base of the edge closest to the handle or on the spine of the knife.

This is a useful feature for cutting through branches and even young trees while saving your edge for more dedicated work. Do take care though: it’s easy to go overboard here, and every once in a while you’ll see survival knives with fully serrated spines or, bizarrely, even fully serrated edges.

Remember! You’re buying a survival knife, not a survival saw! Both are useful, but if you want a saw, get a saw!

Camp Knife Features

You can think of a camp knife as sort of a smaller brother to a survival knife. It has most of the features above, only on a smaller scale. It also lacks a couple of features that you’ll regularly see on a survival knife, most often the pronounced saw teeth serrations.

What the camp knife loses in extra features it makes up for in handiness. a camp knife is as a rule significantly smaller and lighter than a survival knife while being capable of many of the same tasks, if only on a correspondingly smaller scale.

A camp knife is much lighter and more nimble in the hand, and less fatiguing to use. This also makes them handy for such common tasks as cutting and eating food, or self-defense. In a pinch, you might also lash a camp knife to a branch or pole to make a spear.


Camping and survival knives are not synonymous in name, but are mostly synonymous in function, the difference between the two being one of size more than anything else. Hopefully, you can make a case for taking both a camp knife and a survival life.

Remember, two is one and one is none in a survival situation! You’ll find that one knife will cover situations that the other cannot, or can only handle clumsily.

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