Our Search For The Best Camping Chef Knife

Here are a Few Great Camp Cooking Knives that have their Place at the Campfire

Good food needs good tools, even if it isn’t in the kitchen. The older we get the more we find we need good food on our camping trips, so we put together this list of our favorite outdoor-friendly knives to cook with.

Most of these knives we used with a single cast iron pan, grill, and a stump. Sometimes there was a cutting board when we had room to pack it along, but we also went out for some side-by-side testing for the initial round of picks, and that involved a picnic table by necessity.

That means that each of the knives on here have been used beyond the bounds of what a regular kitchen knife is used for, which brings us to the crux of the matter: what makes a knife a camping chef knife?

Our Criteria for a Good Camping Chef Knife

Campfire Cooking Knife
The Off-Grid Grizzly checks all the boxed for a good camping chef knife.

We see it as any knife you’re brave or dumb enough to take on a camp site. I know people who take full on custom chef knives to the campsite (they just use a knife roll), but even they usually do that because that knife is tougher than the other stuff in their collection.

So for the sake of semantics, let’s just call it a knife that emphasizes food preparation, with a nod to toughness, and is easy to carry or transport. So sheaths were a big deal for us in this category. If a big thin knife had a kydex sheath we could either strap to the belt or run paracord through, it had a greenlight to chop up onions in the woods.

Easy Packing

Messermeister Camp Cooking Kit
The Messermeister folding chef knife ships with a carry case and a cutting board.

It either needs to be able to pack up cleanly in a bag or on our belt. Ideally it can do both. Anything that comes in its own belt sheath is a plus, but it’s good enough if it can be tucked into a backpack or box without taking up much space.

Knuckle Clearance

Just like in the kitchen, we need some room for our hands at the campground. There are usually ways around needing that clearance when you’re cutting something on a stump, but it helps a lot when the blade shape gives us a lot of room to work.

Durability and Versatility

Pot Hook On The Condor Bushslicer Camp Cooking Tool
The Condo Bushslicer has a blade notch for lifting hot pans off the grill.

In practice this usually means toughness over hardness. Not because these knives should be able to chop and baton (although some of our picks can), but because when we use a knife for cooking outdoors we tend to use the one knife for food prep and cooking and usually a little extra. A lot of the time we can’t count on having much empty table space for extra knives and tools lying around, so one knife might need to be the fork, spoon, and spatula.

As a result a lot of our picks tended to be knives made of steel that’s tough and easy to fix up and reprofile.

Thin Edge

A thin edge is a little hard to find in the outdoor knife world, but we weren’t exactly looking for 12-degree Japanese angles. Sometimes a thin edge means a gradual slope from the secondary bevel, and sometimes it means a highly acute microbevel. We just like the knife to cut food cleanly. And if it can’t do that, it should be easy to grind it down so that it can be made to cut food cleanly (see durability and versatility above).

Here Are Our Top Picks FOr The Best Camping Chef Knives

Off-Grid Grizzly
CJRB Silax
Messermeister Adventure Chef Folding Knife
Condor Bush Slicer
Civivi Kepler
OKC Camp Plus Kitchen Folders

Off Grid Grizzly

The Off-Grid Grizzly camping chef knife next to a campfire with a grill just before dinner.
Overall Length:12.75”
Blade Length:6.125”
Blade Steel:AUS-8
Blade Shape:Reverse tanto
Blade Grind:Flat
Handle Length:4.75”
Handle Material:G-10
Weight:11.1 oz (12.9 w/ sheath)
Sheath:Kydex
Made in:Taiwan
Designer:Cary Orefice
Slicing A Tomato At A Campfire
The Off-Grid Grizzly slices like a high end santoku knife

The Grizzly cuts so much smoother than it looks like it should, but that’s par for the course with Off-Grid Knives. Those people know blade geometry. So when I say that they made the Grizzly with food prep in mind, it shouldn’t be surprising that it cuts as well as any high end santoku I’ve ever used.

Top that off with the meaty handle with a bit of thumb ramp consideration at the top, and you have something that genuinely feels like a respectable kitchen knife.

Slicing Meat WIth The Off Grid Campfire Chef Knife

It’s held back a little by the AUS-8 steel, but in terms of camping this is actually more of a benefit. It’s a soft steel that takes a great edge and has good corrosion resistance. It just feels a little outdated at this point is all. But of everything we tested for this article, the Grizzly consistently stood out as one of the best in terms of comfort and cutting ability.

It’s worth noting that even though it comes in a Kydex sheath, that sheath doesn’t come with any kind of belt loop, and that’s largely because the designer didn’t want to give the impression that this knife was made for long hikes and hacking up trees. The edge cuts so well because it’s very thin, so bear in mind that the edge should stay within the range of food preparation.

The spine and handle could probably take a bit of hammering abuse, though.

CJRB Silax

The CJRB Silax fixed blade knife next to a campfire that will be used to cook food the knife prepared.
The CJRB Silax is a good option if you need a campact camping chef knife.
Overall Length:9.75”
Blade Length:5.25”
Blade Steel:AR-RPM9
Blade Shape:Modified wharncliffe
Blade Grind:Flat
Handle Length:4.5”
Handle Material:G-10
Weight:4.9 oz
Sheath:Kydex
Made in:China
Designer:Dylan Mallery
This image shows the CJRB Silax slicing mushrooms at a campsite to show it's food prep ability.
The CJRB Silax is a versatile fixed blade that works well for food prep or other camping related tasks.

While it isn’t chef knife size, the Silax is one of the few knives on here that I’d use in my kitchen day-to-day. It’s very lightweight and has good balance while having a great edge with manageable steel.

What makes this a good camping chef knife is that the steel is tough, but has good edge stability, so there’s a certain ease in maintenance that is especially useful on a long camping trip.

But I love this knife as a whole. Not just for food prep. I love the blade shape because it creates such a strong tip that can get an enormous amount of work done despite the relatively small size of the knife as a whole. In kitchen knife terms this is more of a utility knife than a chef knife, but the edge is so well done and the handle is so comfortable that I’m more likely to pick this up over the majority of the other picks on this article.

Messermeister Adventure Chef Folding Knife

The Messermeister Adventure Chef Knife in the open position next to a campfire.
The Messemeister Adventure Chef Knife is folds for easy packing.
Overall Length:13.5”
Blade Length:6.0”
Blade Steel:1.4116
Blade Shape:Western chef
Blade Grind:Flat
Handle Length:7.25”
Handle Material:Maple wood or linen Micarta
Weight:7.6 oz
Sheath:None, but comes in zipper pouch
Made in:China
Designer:Adam Glick

It’s odd that the only knife on this list (for now) that highlights itself specifically as a chef knife is actually my least favorite to cook with, but the concept is solid.

The handle is clunky, the blade isn’t all that sharp, and I don’t know who thought it was a good idea to put a liner lock on an 8 inch folding knife, but it makes for a pretty janky experience.

The Messermeister Adventure chef knife chopping green onions on the folding cutting board that is part of the kit.

With all that said, the zipper pouch and little folding cutting board that comes inside have been used extensively by us (you can see the cutting board in a lot of the pictures in this article). The whole thing easily fits inside boxes and backpacks without creating much bulk, so this is a pretty low investment option in terms of weight and space.

The knife itself really doesn’t need much modification to become something genuinely good. Some of those modifications (sharpening and stropping) can be done easily enough by the end user. But with a better handle and a better lock, I’d probably keep this in my regular camping kit.

As it is, I like the idea enough to take it out every now and then, and it’s the only pick here that has something like a western chef knife shape.

Condor Bush Slicer

Off Grid Camping Food Prep Knife
Overall Length:11.75”
Blade Length:6.5”
Blade Steel:1075
Blade Shape:Standard
Blade Grind:Convex
Handle Length:6.5”
Handle Material:Micarta
Weight:10.98 oz
Sheath:Kydex w/ leather strap
Made in:El Salvador
Designer:Julio Diez
Slicing Meat WIth The COndor Bushslicer
The Bushslicer is incredibly tough and versatile. It can chop, baton, throw spark and slice food.

The “slicer” in the name of this knife is misleading. It’s more of a bush chopper. Slicing can get tricky with it, especially where food is concerned, but there’s so much edge to work with that you can get the job done one way or the other.

The real benefit here is that the Bush Slicer is the only knife you need to take. You can chop wood and start the fire that you’re going to cook on, and while the food might not always look pretty or delicate if cut with this knife, it will be cut and the benefit of having a chopping edge on a tall blade that can double as a spatula makes actually cooking on the pan pretty nice.

The Condor Bushslicer cutting a bell pepper to show how ell it performs at campsite food prep.

It’s also nice that I never feel particularly concerned about damaging the edge even when I’m stirring food on a cast iron pan because 1075 steel is pretty easy to work with, and there is an enormous amount of it here in a convex grind. In a worst case scenario I can just reprofile the blade, but until then there’s something to be said for managing your entire campsite, from tent stakes to beef steaks, with a hefty cleaver.

If you want to learn more about the Bushslicer, check out our in-depth review.

Civivi Kepler

The Civivi Kepler has a clever shape that makes it a good option for camping food prep.
Overall Length:10.0”
Blade Length:4.5”
Blade Steel:9Cr18MoV
Blade Shape:Wharncliffe
Blade Grind:Compound flat
Handle Length:5.5”
Handle Material:G-10
Weight:7.7 oz (11.25 oz w/ sheath)
Sheath:Kydex
Made in:China
Designer:Maciej Torbe
The Civivi Kepler outdoors on a piece of driftwood.

The shape is mostly what makes me like the Kepler for food prep. There’s a lot of knuckle clearance, and you can get a fairly comfortable pinch grip on this. Also the cleaver shape provides some of the same strong-point benefits as the Silax and the Grizzly.

The Civivi Kepler slicing onions to show it's food preparation capabilities.

Except that the edge grind is much wider. This was not designed for food prep after all. In that sense it falls more in line with the Bush Slicer, but it has the benefit of stainless steel. The blade is impressively durable and a mean chopper, but it takes some stropping to get this into any kind of satisfying food-cutting shape.

Even then the angle of the grind is so wide that it has a habit of making your cut turn on larger, harder foods like onions and apples. But so long as you’re content with a rustic spread, the Kepler can take you pretty easily from a pile of meat and vegetables to a halfway respectable sandwich melt.

I wrote an in-depth of this review of the Civivi Kepler if you want to learn a bit more about this knife.

OKC Camp Plus Kitchen Folders

OKC Camp Plus Kitchen Folders
Overall Length:9.51”
Blade Length:4.25”
Blade Steel:Stainless
Blade Grind:Chef (Hollow) Santoku (Flat) Bread (Flat)
Handle Length:5.5”
Handle Material:GFN
Made in:China
Weight:3.6oz

This is the design Messermseister needed for their Adventure Chef knife: a smaller backlock folder with a reasonably sized handle that manages to fit the blade without creating too much complication with the grip. They’re not exactly optimized for knuckle clearance, but they’re still enormously usable knives for the price.

Ontario’s trio of Camp Plus kitchen folders hits a lot of other points right for fireside camping. The blades are thin, but they’re made with a soft steel that doesn’t feel like much of a risk around rough terrain; each knife is very lightweight and pretty comfortable considering the material and purpose they’re working with; and all three knives together end up being cheaper than every other knife on this article right now (with the exception of the Old Hickory butcher knife, which is also happens to be made by Ontario).

None of these knives are going to be winning performance awards, although they do cut pretty well out of the box and that nameless stainless steel can take a pretty mean edge. But Ontario Knife Co. excels at making these absurdly tough, cost effective designs that somehow end up getting used twice as much as anything else I own.


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Andrew has been a commercial writer for about a decade. He escaped from a life of writing mundane product descriptions by running away to the woods and teaching himself how to bake and chop stuff up in the kitchen. He has a background in landscaping, Filipino martial arts, and drinking whiskey.

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