Modern-Day Camp Knives (PART 1)

Tradition meets new design in the modern-style camp knife.

Day Camp Knives

Left to right: SOG Jungle Primitive, Outcast, Bushmaster, Browning competition, RTAKII, Steel Eagle, Ka-Bar Bowie and Wilson Model 26

The mention of camp knives conjures images of large work-tested blades used for everything under the sun, from camp chores, hunting and combat. Today’s modern camp knives share some of the same features as their predecessors, they are large, and built tank-tough but, after that, they part ways. No longer are camp knives only large blades with wood handles. Today’s breed uses modern steels and relies heavily on synthetic handle materials for durability. Attention is also given to more efficient blade geometry, making them cutting machines. What follows is a closer look at some the better ones I’ve used.

 

Kershaw’s Outcast: The Outcast is a flat-ground recurve bolo design with forward weight positioning for ease of chopping. The slender, contoured textured Santoprene handle allows one to fully grasp the outcast for hard use while the slight curved angle of the handle aids in that extra wrist snap to your swing. Controlling the large blade for more detailed work is done through the combination of the large index finger groove and thumb ramp with the recurve section of the blade which acting as a pocket for subtle cuts or aids in accomplishing heavier cuts. A Teflon coating protects the D2 blade from rusting and helps prevent binding on the blades surface. The Outcast comes with a Kydex sheath and quick-release belt loop. Given the large size of the blade and the tendency of Kydex sheaths to be large, the sheath on the outcast is sizable. The combination of a curved handle design and a recurved blade really lends toward its chopping ability with solid control.

Day Camp Knife

A recurve blade on the Outcast forms a sweet spot at the widest point of the blade. A high flat grind makes for an effective slicing edge, while a sturdy tip allows for some hard use without breakage.

 

SOG’s Fusion Jungle Primitive sports a Kraton handle with large, integral guard and knurled butt. SOG uses a hollow grind to achieve a fine cutting edge on the Jungle. At the base SOG uses serrations making the Jungle a combination edge. Weight is not a problem with the Jungle since it is a light blade and still gets some good penetration on a swing due to the fine edge. To carry the Jungle SOG uses a nylon sheath complete with tool pocket. As one of the lowest-priced knives in the group, for the money, the Jungle provides you with an economical camp knife. Though, personally, I would prefer a solid razor edge on this model.

Knife test

A sweet spot can be found at the widest point of SOG’s Jungle primitive hollow-ground blade just a couple of inches back from the tip.

 

The Bushmaster from Knives of Alaska is the smallest knife in the group—not by length, but by profile. Measuring 1 1/8-inch wide the flat ground drop point pattern blade is the trimmest. Narrow profiles such as the one on the Bushmaster allow the blade an easier time when penetrating and make for nimble edge control as well as packing some chopping punch. A sharp angle change where the handle transitions to the blade forms a nice wrist-snap advantage. With a fully contoured four-finger Suregrip rubberized handle, you get a solid purchase even when your hand is wet or cold.

I did find the knife to be a little light for having a weightier brush. Carrying the Bushmaster takes a different twist with its unique cross-draw chest harness. It took some time to figure the harness out, but once it was on, I found it a comfortable way to carry the large blade with great accessibility.

    The Bushmaster’s angled handle allows for a wrist-snap advantage on your swing.

The Bushmaster’s angled handle allows for a wrist-snap advantage on your swing.

 

Steel Eagle from TOPS is a formidable name for a formidable blade, actually called the Steel Eagle 111A. It is a solid piece of hardware. Using an American tanto-designed tip with saber grind, TOPS gives the Eagle an aggressive tip, great for penetrating various materials, such as hide. The Eagle is a full-tang design with 1/4-inch-thick steel, and is the largest of the bunch. The overall weight of the Eagle helps you pack a punch with your swing, but can tire the unprepared arm out. Black-linen micarta scales are used for the generously sized handle, which is great for the large-handed person. Tops uses its black traction coating to protect the carbon steel from the elements. The Eagle is one serious piece of equipment, and when you let loose on something with it, everyone around you will know. The Steel Eagle comes with a nylon sheath equipped with insert and tool pouch.

    Tops Steel Eagles’ long blade leads to a sharp and effective Americanized tanto-style tip.

Tops Steel Eagles’ long blade leads to a sharp and effective Americanized tanto-style tip.

 

Stay tuned for the final five modern-day camp knives we take a look at!

 

By Abe Elias