The term “bushcraft” has been trending lately. It’s been applied to a wide variety of activities, from a daylong hike through a mountainous trail to a weekend camping trip by the lake. But others say it should be applied only to more hardcore pursuits, such as a serious trial-by-fire solo expedition into the backwoods where you emerge a different person. So, what is it truly?

Bushcraft is about conquering the wilderness and one’s darkest fears. Yes, it’s a movement of applying skills, knowledge, and physical endurance in the great outdoors — but it’s more than that. It’s a mindset that requires the development of both a survival skillset and a determined spirit to be able to overcome rising odds. In the physical world, bushcraft is a combination of skills and the right gear to help you not only survive, but thrive in the wilderness. The term bushcraft was coined in part by Leslie James Hiddins, a retired major from Down Under who was the main author of the Australian Army’s survival manual. He became well known for touring the Outback in search of “bush tucker” (AKA food commonly found or made by aboriginals) and even hosted his own TV series called The Bush Tucker Man. No surprise, he was sometimes seen on camera employing a blade.

Knives are popular among outdoorsmen for many useful reasons, but knowing when to use what kind is key. A machete isn’t very good at skinning a deer, while a skinning knife shouldn’t be used to blaze an Amazonian trail. A bushcraft knife is more utilitarian, simple, and to the point (pun intended). With a full-tang blade, it doesn’t have the typical accessories you’d associate with those cheap Rambo-style knives found on QVC, nor does it use those accessories to shill itself. Bushcraft knives are to wilderness survival like Jeeps are to desert trails: essential, nearly indestructible, and worth every penny.

Selecting the right one depends on personal taste, financial wherewithal, and likelihood of using it as it was intended to be used: as an all-purpose knife for hunting, food prep, cutting/chopping, self-defense, and shelter building. Keeping one nearby in your go-bag or in your general camping gear will ensure that when you need a knife that performs what you want, when you want it, you won’t be disappointed.

But buying a quality bushcraft knife, like the ones on these pages, isn’t something to be considered lightly. Where do you see yourself in the next few years? Stuck in a cubicle with five sick days and no vacation? You can pick up a $20 pocketknife at Target, and you’ll probably use it only to open bills and junk mail a few times a month. Or are you trekking into the backwoods of the unknown to seek adventure, glory, and the reaffirmation that you’re still a man looming atop the food chain? Then you may want a proper knife. Consider the blades in the following pages; no doubt one of them will fulfill your bushcraft needs.

Bushcraft Blades

  • 12 Survivors Hunter Knife

    Make & Model - 12 Survivors Hunter Knife
    Overall Length - 10.2 inches
    Blade Length - 6.5 inches
    Blade Width - 1.75 inches
    Blade Thickness - 0.25 inch
    Handle Thickness - 1 inch
    Handle Material - Paracord-wrapped tang
    Weight - 10 ounces
    Blade Material - 420J2 stainless steel
    MSRP - $144
    URL - http://www.12survivors.com
    Notes - It looks the part of a real bushcraft knife from tip to pommel, as each part of this knife was designed to work in harmony to produce a tool whose sum is greater than the whole. In lieu of grip scales, the tang is wrapped in paracord, which can be used to create a spear by tying it on a stick. The serrations on the spine are useful for light sawing, while the drop-point blade is thick and heavy. The notch just north of the bolster is a mystery, though. It's not comfortable enough to be a finger groove nor is it shaped right to be a bottle opener — we tested that hypothesis. After a couple hours of use under our belt, we figured out what it's for: an uncomfortable place to put your finger when using the blade horizontally.
    The sheath is nylon and double stitched for sturdiness. It comes with a loop for your belt and an additional hook-and-loop strap to mount this knife on your pack's shoulder harness or most anywhere else. On the front is a small empty pouch that would best accommodate a sharpening stone or perhaps a ferro rod, but the buckle used to secure it is comically large.

    The 12 Survivor Hunter Knife looks the part of a real bushcraft knife from tip to pommel, and each part of this knife was designed to work in harmony to produce a tool whose sum is greater than the whole.

  • Böker Plus Bushcraft

    Make & Model - Böker Plus Bushcraft
    Overall Length - 8.63 inches
    Blade Length - 4 inches
    Blade Width - 0.94 inches
    Blade Thickness - 0.13 inches
    Handle Thickness - 0.81 inches
    Handle Material - Micarta
    Weight - 7.2 ounces
    Blade Material - 440C stainless steel
    MSRP - $80
    URL - http://www.boker.de/us/
    Notes - Böker has been producing knives in its German plant since 1869, but traces its origins as a tool-maker to the 17th century and as a sword-maker since 1839. Through wars and corporate buyouts, Böker USA has been carrying on the tradition of fine knives since 1986.
    The Bushcraft model comes from Böker's Plus line. Reminiscent of a beefed-up steak knife, it's elegant and refined — like a fine wine that's appreciated only by those who know what they have. The thick Micarta handle fits snugly in your hand, making it easily maneuverable and well balanced, even between just two fingers. The blade is made of 440C stainless steel (similar in quality to the ubiquitous Buck Model 110 pocketknife), which is resistant to corrosion and virtually stain-proof.
    There's nothing fancy to see here besides the hole for a lanyard. The knife fits deep in its leather sheath, and the ring fits neatly on a belt. If only as an afterthought to better address the Bushcraft theme, Böker added a fire-starter kit with a compass on the end, but it in no way can attach to the sheath and must be carried elsewhere.

    The Böker Plus Bushcraft comes from Böker's Plus line. Reminiscent of a beefed-up steak knife, it's elegant and refined - like a fine wine that's appreciated only by those who know what they have.

  • Cold Steel Trail Master

    Make & Model - Cold Steel Trail Master
    Overall Length - 14.5 inches
    Blade Length - 9.5 inches
    Blade Width - 1.63 inches
    Blade Thickness - 0.31 inch
    Handle Thickness - 0.75 inch
    Handle Material - Kray-Ex
    Weight - 1 pound
    Blade Material - O1 carbon steel
    MSRP - $250
    URL - http://www.coldsteel.com
    Notes - With a broad clip blade jutting out 9.5 inches past the brass-plated guard like a 1970s Cadillac, this is one impressive piece of steel. It features no special additions, no ferro sticks, no compass in the handle, and no fancy colors or blade etchings. It's a knife made for those who want to cut something big from a distance and not worry about damaging the blade or the handle. This knife is so tough it can be used to pound a nail into a chunk of wood…with the blade face.
    The sheath can be positioned on either side of the body. It's plastic, but with holes for paracord wrapping and a drain hole in the bottom. The Trail Master is for people who want to get things done with a heavy-duty, sharp instrument. James Bowie would be proud of this knife.

    With a broad clip blade jutting out 9.5 inches past the brass-plated guard like a 1970s Cadillac, the Cold Steel Trail Master is one impressive piece of steel.

  • ESEE Knives ESEE-6

    Make & Model - ESEE Knives ESEE-6
    Overall Length - 11.75 inches
    Blade Length - 6.5 inches
    Blade Width - 1.56 inches
    Blade Thickness - 0.19 inch
    Handle Thickness - 0.69 inch
    Handle Material - Micarta
    Weight - 12 ounces
    MSRP - $216
    URL - http://www.eseeknives.com
    Notes - Jeff Randall and Mike Perrin designed this knife not via a committee or with profit solely in mind, but because their experience and practical application of knives in the real world showed them what a knife should do.
    Similar in length to many military models, the 6.5-inch drop-point blade is a larger knife, but still compact enough to be an everyday-carry (EDC) tool. The beveled edges on the Micarta handle provide a comfortable grip without feeling clunky, and the finger groove is deep and well defined. The exposed tang past the rounded pommel, with a hole to fit a lanyard, can double as a hammer. On the business end, the full flat grind creates a laser-like edge and a sharp, narrow point. The jimping on the spine allows for the thumb to help steady the knife during fine cutting or rapid slicing.

    The ESEE-6 knife was designed by Jeff Randall and Mike Perrin designed this knife because their experience and practical application of knives in the real world showed them what a knife should do.

  • Tops Knives Fieldcraft by BOB

    Make & Model - TOPS Knives Fieldcraft by BOB
    Overall Length - 10 inches
    Blade Length - 4.5 inches
    Blade Width - 1.25 inches
    Blade Thickness - 0.19 inch
    Handle Thickness - 0.63 inch
    Handle Material - Micarta
    Weight - 9.73 ounces
    Blade Material - 1095 carbon steel
    MSRP - $170
    URL - http://www.topsknives.com
    Notes - The Fieldcraft was designed by The Brothers of Bushcraft, a group of outdoorsmen from all over North America whose combined knowledge help people survive in all ranges of climate. The knife is 10 inches long overall with a 4.5-inch blade, making it compact and relatively light.
    The blade features a pointed tip and a modified Scandinavian grind — effective for carving, skinning, and batoning wood. The finger guard adds leverage while protecting your index finger. The handle is made of Micarta (a composite of linen, canvas, paper, fiberglass, and carbon fiber), producing a very strong resin. It has scalloped thumb ramps on the handles for close-quarters use, and there is a bow-saw divot to make this knife part of your fire-starting equipment (see page 66 to learn how to start a fire without matches).
    The tang extends past the pommel to accept hammer blows (or give them) without damaging the Micarta. Plus, there's a specially designed scraper on which to strike the included ferro rods safely in the sheath (to avoid damaging the blade or yourself).

    The TOPS Knives Fieldcraft was designed by the The Brothers of Bushcraft, a group of outdoorsmen from all over North America whose combined knowledge help ppeople survive in all ranges of climate.


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