GIFT GUIDE Great Knives for the Great Outdoors


It’s hard to believe that the holidays are almost upon us again, and for many of us that means reacquainting ourselves with lighter and more comfortable wallets. It’s especially tough with people who are hard to find a gift for, and unfortunately I seem to fit under that category. Due to my love affair with anything sharp and shiny, apparently everyone in my life has to gift me a knife before the year is out. Not that I don’t appreciate the thought, but knives generally come in three varieties: the good, the bad, and something just above wrapping duct tape around a pointy rock chip. As a consequence, I now have truckload of skeletonized, tactical/operator flippers that I keep around as paperweights.
Buying a knife takes a bit of research, which takes time, and which everyone informs me is money. So this year, I’ll try to save the outdoorsman or woman in your life a little bit of money by showcasing a few quality knives that are well worth the price tag. Keep in mind that a lot of good knives didn’t make this list, and these are the ones I’ve handled personally and would trust to recommend. Included are specifications and a range of prices, including the MSRP and usual street price. If you prefer a long-winded explanation of why I like these knives, I have also included links to the full reviews.
The Silver Stag Deep Valley Bowie Knife.
The Silver Stag Deep Valley Bowie Knife. Image by Daniel Xu.

Silver Stag Deep Valley Bowie Knife ($115-140)

I’m not big on stag-handle knives, but this rendition of a bowie classic in D2 steel and deer antler worked hard to change my mind. The Deep Valley is arguably the most beautiful knife I’ve had my hands on this year, and photos hardly do it much justice. Just like in most aspects of life, beauty in the knife world doesn’t necessary equate with performance. But I cannot argue with performance. The Deep Valley is a solid knife with impressive toughness (a square 60 on the Rockwell scale) and edge retention. See a full review here.

  • Blade length: 6 inches
  • Total length: 11.5 inches
  • Blade material: D2 Steel
  • Handle material: antler

Buck/Hood Thug Survival Knife ($140-200)

The Thug is the Beast to the Deep Valley’s Beauty. This is not a knife you’ll be using to cut artisan cheese, this is a knife that you bring when you need seven inches of mean and uncompromising steel. The Thug is a part of the increasingly hard to find Ron Hood series by Buck, which is a line of hard-use and durable tools named in tribute to the late survival expert Ron Hood. What I am most impressed by is the quality of the Thug’s 5160 spring steel, which is immaculate. This is probably my favorite knife of 2013 and it shows in my review, where I sound like a stuttering, novice car salesman. You can read a review here.

  • Blade length: 7 inches
  • Total length: 13 inches
  • Blade material: 5160 spring steel
  • Handle material: Linen Micarta

CRKT Carajas. Image courtesy CRKT.
CRKT Carajas. Image courtesy CRKT.

Columbia River Knife and Tool Carajas ($57-90)

Designed by Brazilian knife maker Flavio Ikoma, this elegant folding knife is a strong temptation for me to replace my EDC knife, which coincidentally is also a CRKT folder. It’s a bit on the pricier end, but it shows in its construction. Featuring black G10 scales and the smooth-as-silk IKBS pivot system, the Carajas is an unobtrusive tool that can always be kept near to hand. It also comes in a version with Veff serrations, but I prefer plain edge. Look for my review soon.

  • Blade length: 3.12 inches
  • Total length: 7.38 inches
  • Blade material: 12c27 Sandvik Steel
  • Handle material: G10

SOG Voodoo Hawk Tomahawk/Camp Axe ($50-75)

A good summary for the Voodoo would be this: it can do anything an axe of its size could do, and you can throw it with a reasonable chance of it sticking in something. Yet again I have included another of SOG’s tomahawks in a gift list, which is no surprise since I consider SOG’s freethrowers to be among the best production tomahawks out there. It’s a bit of a shame that these tools are considered a niche market, but tomahawks are incredibly useful for a number of campsite chores. That is doubly true with a cutting edge the size of the Voodoo Hawk’s, which is significantly larger than most of its kin. You can read a full review here.

  • Blade length: 3.5″ x .26″
  • Total length: 12.56 inches
  • Blade material: 3CR13 Steel
  • Handle material: glass-filled nylon

The Schrade Fixed Blade SCHF12 and SCHF15 Tanto  knives.
The Schrade Fixed Blade SCHF12 and SCHF15 Tanto knives. Image by Daniel Xu.

Schrade Fixed Blade SCHF12 and SCHF15 Tanto Knives ($30-66)

Okay, so I cheated a bit here, but I’ve decided to combine these two Schrade knives into one spot. The SCHF12 and SCHF15 are inexpensive fixed blades that will save you bit of cash without skimping on quality. For the most part, these are pragmatic workhorse knives with little room for looks. They make up for it with thick blades and surprising durability. The Schrade knives are great generalists and sport better-than-average edge retention. Read the full review here.

  • Blade length: 4.9 inches
  • Total length: 9.9 inches
  • Blade material: 8Cr13MoV steel
  • Handle material: G10


  • Blade length: 3.4 inches
  • Total length: 7.9 inches
  • Blade material: 8Cr13MoV steel
  • Handle material: Scalloped G10

Morakniv Bushcraft ($40-50)

Lately Mora knives have been the talk of the industry. Quality Swedish craftsmanship paired with superb materials and design produces a well-deserved reputation for excellence. Mora’s low prices are also hard to match, especially in light of their stellar knives. I had been hankering to try one of these Swedish beauties since I first heard about them, but I’ve never managed to get my hands on one despite their easy availability. Finally, I had the opportunity to test out Mora’s new bushcraft knife, and I can confirm that every good thing said about Mora knives is well-deserved. There are no thrills here, just a knife that’s probably worth more than its weight in gold. I will have a review up as soon as possible, but you can check out the specs below:

  • Blade length: 4.3 inches
  • Total length: 9.1 inches
  • Blade material: 12c27 Sandvik Steel
  • Handle material: high-friction rubber

SOG HuntsPoint Skinning Knife in S30V and rosewood. Image courtesy SOG.
SOG HuntsPoint Skinning Knife in S30V and rosewood. Image courtesy SOG.

SOG HuntsPoint Series ($70-140)

An excellent line of hunting knives that I feel deserve a little more love. These skinning and boning knives come in either rosewood or glass-reinforced nylon varieties, as well as AUS-8 or S30V Stainless Steel. To be sure, these hunting knives are a departure from SOG’s tactical tradition, but there were no balls dropped here. As I’ve often noted, a well-made knife requires little description beyond “sharp” and “durable,” and nothing emphasizes that philosophy better the HuntsPoint line. These flat ground blades boast a keen edge and are unlikely to ask for another sharpening in the field. Look for a review on these in the future.

  • Blade length range: around 3.6 inches
  • Total length range: around 8.2 inches
  • Blade material: AUS-8 or S30V Stainless Steel
  • Handle material: rosewood or glass-reinforced nylon