by Ted Karr
We have researched and tested to find the best hunting knives for you!
Knives are one of the most enjoyable items to add to your hunting arsenal. Like handguns, you just can’t own enough. As soon as you purchase one, you spot another that you want. I have at least twenty knives. And I have some great knives that I use for hunting.
We posted this review to provide our opinion and advice as to the best knife to carry for big game hunting. We wanted to identify for everyone the Top ShelfTM knife on the market for big game hunting. If you purchase the Top Shelf knife for hunting, we are confident you will be pleased. Doing so will not satisfy that desire for another hunting knife, but you will be well served on your hunt. In fact, all of the knives in this review deserve consideration by every hunter. We recommend all of them and they all fall into different categories. So, if you are tired of hunting for the best backcountry hunting knife and you would prefer to focus on hunting game, keep reading.
Most knives are capable of multitasking. In other words, you can often use a hunting knife for gutting a fish. However, some knives are definitely better for hunting, especially when it comes to dressing out an elk and some are better for fishing, especially when it comes to filleting a fish. This review focuses on knives used for big game hunts. We will provide a separate review for the best knife to use for cleaning and filleting a steelhead or salmon.
Back to hunting. There are a couple factors that really influence which knife to carry and use. If you are hunting out of an RV or camp trailer or even from a base camp, it might be feasible to carry multiple knives since you are not carrying your tent, sleeping bag, and other extended backcountry stay items. However, if you are packing in for more than a night, you are probably only going to carry one knife, and perhaps a small emergency backup. So, the biggest factor in selecting a knife for hunting big game is whether or not weight is an issue. When I hunt elk out of a base camp I am able to hunt using a day pack. That affords me the option to carry a serrated Cutco knife, a Gerber skinning knife, and sometimes a Freeman Outdoor Gear hunting knife. However, as I put together a gear plan for a 10-12 day elk backpacking hunt in Wyoming I recognize that every ounce counts and I may want a lightweight knife. So, I set out to research which knife will best serve my adventure…here it goes!
Best knife for Back-Country Hunting
- Havalon Piranta Edge: Top Shelf Replaceable Blade Knife (best value)
- Kershaw: Top Shelf Fixed Smooth Blade Knife (coolest)
- Tyto 1.1: Top Shelf Lightest Knife Option on Our List (lightest)
- Cutco Gut Hook Serrated: Top Shelf Fixed Serrated Blade
Havalon Piranta Edge: The best budget replaceable blade knife
Why you should buy this: You want a super sharp and ultra-light knife with a replaceable blade that can fold for safety.
Havalon Piranta Edge
The Havalon Piranta Edge is a great value and a great option for backcountry hunting.
Who is this knife for: The hunter who wants an affordable, yet proven replaceable blade knife for backcountry hunts.
Cost: $44.99 MSRP
Why we picked the Havalon Piranta Edge knife:
There are a number of replaceable blade knives on the market that could fit into this category. However, the Havalon Piranta Edge was our budget pick because this knife is getting great reviews by those that purchase it and it checks all the boxes: it only weighs 1.52 ounces, it folds for easy and safe keeping, and the replaceable blade feature means you will not have to spend time sharpening your knife in the field. At $44.99 it is difficult to argue with this choice. This is Havalon’s best-selling knife. The overall length is 7 1/4 “ and the back is open for easy cleaning. The handle is plastic. This Havalon comes with 12 additional stainless steel #60A blades, a removable holster clip and a nylon holster.
Benchmade 15200 Altitude: Top Shelf Smooth Blade
Why you should choose the Benchmade 15200 Altitude: You want a high quality, fixed blade knife that is tough yet ultralight, and can be sharpened in the field.
Benchmade released this beautifully shaped knife in 2018 and the hunting community loves it. At 1.67 ounces, it is incredible light for a fixed blade knife. The orange handle and blade make it easy to spot if you set it aside while field dressing an elk. The blade design on this knife makes it a great all around knife for gutting, quarter and even skinning.
The real downside of this knife is that you are likely going to need to sharpen it at least once while you field dress your bear or elk and the handle is not the most comfortable. If you use a para-cord handle for comfort, be prepared to clean it after you field dress an animal. However, this knife is a great option for the backcountry hunter who wants to keep weight to a minimum but does not want to use a replaceable blade knife. Also, you can have the blade of this knife laser engraved, which is a really cool feature for a tool that will undoubtable also become a collectible one of these days.
Who it’s for: The hunter who can afford luxury and quality in an ultra-light knife.
How much it will cost: $230 MSRP
Why we picked the Benchmade Altitude:
It is hard to pass up knives made by Benchmade and this beautiful knife is no exception. It comes with a protective sheath and a limited lifetime warranty. The overall length of the Altitude is 7.38 inches including the blade which is 3.08 inches in length. The stop tabs on the handle are made of Carbon fiber and G10 micro-scales and the blade is made of CPM-290V steel. This knife is ultralight, sharp, and holds an edge. It is also very expensive and I highly recommend adding a paracord to the handle for comfort. Given the popularity of this knife and the number of people commenting on the lack of a handle, I’m guessing Benchmade will start making a simple carbon grip for the Altitude before too long.
Tyto 1.1: Lightest backcountry replaceable blade knife
A super lightweight replaceable blade knife.
Who it’s for: The backcountry hunter who wants just enough knife for the job without sacrificing weight. This knife weighs only 1.5 ounces with the handle, one blade and the sheath. That is ultra-light!
How much it will cost: $79.99 MSRP
Why we picked the Tyto 1.1:
When it comes to backcountry hunting every ounce matters. Every item in your pack must be carefully considered to keep your pack weight down. This knife barely shows up on the scale. It weighs only 1.5 with the handle, one blade and the sheath. The knife itself is only at is less than an ounce! The knife is 7.5 inches long and the handle is made of stainless steel. That means this knife is strong.
Combine all of that with a limited lifetime warranty and you have a good set up with this ultralight option. Because it is a replaceable blade knife, you will not have to take extra time in the field sharpening your knife. Simply replace the blade and keep moving. This knife comes with 10 size 60 replacement blades and a sheath. Also, you can get this knife in orange or zombie green.
Cutco Gut Hook: Top Shelf Fixed Serrated Blade
Why you should select this knife: The Cutco gut hook serrated knife is simply an amazing knife. I have this knife and I have used it to field dress several elk. This is not the lightest knife available, but it is probably the sharpest knife that will hold an edge throughout your hunt. I know several people who also use this knife and they have indicated they have field dressed over 6 elks before it needed to be sharpened. Because of this, the Cutco serrated blade knife is also used by a number of guides for backcountry hunts. There are clearly lighter knife options available for backcountry hunts, but this knife should definitely be on your short-list for consideration if you can spare the extra ounces.
Cutco Gut Hook Serrated
The Cutco gut hook serrated knife is an all-around winner.
Who needs this knife: Any hunter who can afford to add it to his or her knife collection.
Cost: $119 MSRP
Why we picked the Cutco Gut Hook Serrated:
This is not your typical serrated knife. The Cutco Double-D edge is incredibly effective at all aspects of field dressing and it does not dull like most knives. If you only have room for one knife and you don’t want to carry a replaceable blade or sharpener, this is the knife to carry. It can be carried on your belt or it can be tucked into a pocket in your backpack. The handle is very comfortable and the steel blade is very durable. The great thing about this knife if you will not need to sharpen it in the field so you won’t have to carry sharpeners or extra blades like most replaceable blade knives. And, when you return home from you hunt you can send the knife to Cutco to be sharpened at no charge for the life of the knife. Also, in addition to lifetime sharpening, which is offered by most reputable knife makers, Cutco offers a “forever” warranty. There is no better warranty in the world! You can pass this knife down to your kids or grandkids and they can also rely on the Cutco warranty. The only downside to this knife is the size and the weight. The Cutco Gut Hook Serrated knife is just over 9 inches long and weighs 7.5 ounces. While that weight may not seem like much, compare it to the Benchmade Altitude at 1.67 ounces, or the Tyto Ti at 0.8 ounces, also in this review.
Below is a list of other knives you may want to check out. We plan to review these in more detail in the near future.
- Havalon Talon: ultra-light replaceable blade knife with different blade types and easy unclip blade mechanism…can’t wait to see how well it works
- Tyto Ti: made of titanium…this could be the lightest knife on the market for backcountry hunting
- Kestrel mountain scalpel: similar to the Tyto Ti
- Skinning knives, such as the Kestrel Skeleton Skinner