Generally speaking, a hunter should have two knives — one for camp chores, such as cutting rope, whittling a wiener stick, or cutting up vegetables. The second knife is for use after the animal after it is down.
The general-duty camp knife should be a very convenient multi-tool as made by Gerber, Leatherman, SOG, or any of the genuine Swiss Army knives.
Avoid buying inexpensive copies; they look good, but will let you down when you need them, and may result in injuries; cheap knives will not hold an edge, and injuries are more common with dull knives.
Any good-quality folding knife will work, but the various blades and tools including pliers, screwdrivers, awl, can-opener, saw, file, serrated blade, and scissors, are great to have all in one implement. This tool should be carried on a belt to keep handy, and the heavy nylon or leather sheath should have a secure fastener to keep the tool from falling out and being lost.
The skinning and field-dressing knife should be high-quality and razor-sharp. It will therefore be more expensive so it should be carried in a pack, survival kit, or meat-care bag so it won’t get lost or used for general chores. This knife can be the non-folding “hunting-knife” type, or the more convenient folding type, usually with just one blade.
It is critical that a folding blade have a lock to hold it open because closing while under pressure can result in serious injury to your fingers or hand. Some of these folders have a pin or shaped-hole near the rear of the blade to allow one-handed opening. There are a number of gimmicks to attract the buyer, rather than increase the usefulness of the knife, so buy something simple but high-quality.
Blade-shape is an important consideration; a blade designed for skinning is shaped differently than a blade for butchering — compromised blade-shapes are the usual result.
In factory-built knives, names such as ‘Buck’, ‘Gerber’, ‘Kershaw’ and ‘Schrade’ produce knives at various prices, and the higher-end models are usually better quality.
If you can afford it, a hand-made high quality knife from one of our local knife-makers is a life-time investment. These knives hold an edge very well and the knife-makers, being local, can be contacted for advice to help you make a choice. Usually the knives can be returned to the maker for professional sharpening.
Whatever you choose for a camp knife and meat knife, they need to be kept razor sharp for performance and safety; there are numerous sharpening tools and systems available any place you can buy knives. By using a suitable sharpening tool, a nicked or dull blade can be touched-up in the field, and put back into service in minutes.