Best Camping Knives for Kids: This Dad’s Guide

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Looking for the best camping knives that are user-friendly? For those wanting to get their family into nature for a hands-on experience, you'll want to consider a knife as part of a growing outdoor education.

When it comes to getting outdoors as a family, there are a few approaches. There's driving through and looking at it as you pass, the occasional stop at a roadside view point, the day hike, and the full-on camping trip. A knife comes in handy for any style of nature exploration, but it's especially handy at the campsite!

Why You Need a Knife For Camping

Nate day showing olin day how to use a fixed blade knife while camping

A camping trip is an awesome and amazing way to bring your family closer together by ridding yourself of most of the distractions of the modern world. You might not even realize it, but just the daily conveniences of the home can allow you to take for granted – in a lot of little ways – the joy and benefit of family time.

Ideally, a child primarily learns the ways of the world through their parents. This is especially important when it comes to learning the value of the things they use and the time they spend on things. Learning the value of a simple tool is one of the first outdoor lessons you should teach a young child, and that's why you might want to start with one of the best camping knives around.

How to Start Your Kids Outdoors

Olin day and elich day learning to white water raft with america s rafting company

The first step is letting your kids actually wander around and hike in the outdoors (supervised, of course) without electronic stimulation. Then their minds will start to take in everything their five senses can tell them. The smell of the plants, the sound of the water, the feel of a cool breeze that they hadn't noticed before. The sight of an imposing mountain and the taste of a wild berry can spark their imaginations!

I had the wonderful experience of spending time with the boys whitewater rafting in Hell's Canyon with America's Rafting Co on a three day camping trip as part of our breakaway from Southern California. I highly recommend it, but if that's “not your jam” (as Chelsea would say), a simple camping trip to your local state or national park is also a great start. That's the perfect place to enrich your child's outdoor experience.

Responsibility Builds Trust

Nate day showing elich day one of the best camping knives

A HUGE part of why you should consider giving your child a knife is that it helps build a sense of trust, ownership, and responsibility in their minds.

I recommend this once your child can:

  • Speak in full sentences
  • Clearly communicate and understand you
  • Wrap their fingers around the handle completely
  • Hold onto the knife when you give it a firm and solid tug. Use a wood stick or spoon to test this. DO NOT GRAB A KNIFE BLADE.

Trusting them with a knife demonstrates that you are offering an opportunity to be responsible. This instills a mutual sense of trust. Second, it gives them something to have for themselves. They can care for it, and learn how to look after their own things. Finally, you get a chance to teach them a stronger sense of responsibility as they learn to handle something that is (literally) razor sharp. As always, I recommend “responsible” adult supervision and guidance during this process.

How to Choose a High Quality Knife

Elich day thinks the gerber stongarm is one of the best camping knives for kids

Don't be fooled by the allure of the outdoorsman store's display of the “survival knife.” There's a lot of flashy and excessive stuff out there! I believe in looking for something that is pragmatic and high quality. Another thing to consider is choosing a fixed blade knife over a pocket knife or multi tools.

A multi tool or folding knife has a lot of moving parts that can be initially difficult or confusing for younger children. They leave lots of room for unnecessary injury, especially if not secured completely. Another issue that I personally have noticed is that it's strangely hard for kids to manipulate a pocket clip. Either it's too difficult, too coarse, or too tight to clip into their pocket. Sometimes they miss entirely and lose their new knife on the ground!

The Best Camping Knives are Simple

Gerber strongarm best camping knives

My absolute favorite when it comes to the best camping knives is the Gerber Strongarm. This carbon steel knife won't fold onto anyone's finger. It has an easy to clean ceramic coating on the blade, a fantastically diverse nylon sheath, and a diamond textured rubber handle that provides a confident grip even when wet.

No More Leather Sheath

Intoducing the best camping knives for kids

Gone are the days of the leather sheath with the single function belt loop. Nowadays, good knives are coupled with a nylon sheath. The best knives come with multifunction strap systems. The Gerber Strongarm comes with a MOLLE compatible multi-mount sheath system, which means there are a lot of options for everyday carry while camping.

Depending on the age of your child, this means it can be mounted vertically (old school) or horizontally on their belts. It can also be strapped to the side of a hiking bag with the MOLLE attachments. Another good upgrade from the old leather days is the hard sheath, which prevents the knife from eventually poking through. Finally, aside from its fantastic built in friction grip, it also has a button strap to secure the handle and keep the knife in the sheath (unlike an open sheath like on the Morakniv companion).

Proper Knife Grip

Knife safety with the best camping knives by gerber

As I mentioned before, your child should be able to wrap their fingers around the handle of the knife completely. Be sure to teach them from the beginning to always maintain a firm grip when handling or even holding the knife. This type of grip is known as a “positive” grip. It ensures they will not accidentally drop the knife, and are consciously aware of where it's pointing.

This is exactly why the best camping knives have a nice rubberized grip. Another good idea – which Gerber does well – is opting for a knife with a straight carbon steel blade. Avoid anything with crazy or decorative curves and partial serration, as you want to keep things simple when learning.

How to Start Using a Fixed Blade Knife

Elich day cutting a stick with the best camping knives

After you teach the correct way to hold the knife, it's time to move to the first set of projects. This will teach them the importance of safety considerations while they work with the knife. Start with something really simple (and fun!) like sharpening the end of small sticks.

This is a cool camp project, as there are usually tons of sticks laying about and it doesn't require a lot of strength or skill. The most important rules for kids to practice are:

  1. Always face the blade AWAY from themselves
  2. NEVER pull the knife toward themselves
  3. Move slowly
  4. Keep a safe distance from anyone that might be near, so there are no accidents
Teach them confidence with the best camping knives gerber strongarm

As your child gets better and better with their new knife, they will build confidence, both in themselves and in you. After awhile, you can start working on more challenging skills. Some great camping knife skills include feathering a stick for a fire, whittling a sword, and learning to split wood for kindling.

If you are not yet comfortable with these techniques, start by practicing at home. There are a number of videos on YouTube that demonstrate these skills. Being at home gives you comfort and space to take a quick break in case things get frustrating. Remember, there is no rush! Being patient, both as a parent and as a knife user, helps keep everyone that much more safe.

Start Them Young

When to get the best camping knives for kids

For a great starting point, don't forget to make sure your child can firmly secure a knife in their hand and can listen and communicate well with you. If they are nervous, give them space, encouraging guidance, and time. Also, realize not every child is ready for a knife just because they can hold it in their hand. You should always assess their maturity.

Even with one of the best camping knives EVER, expect that cuts may happen. Keep a first aid kit handy. As long as your kids are being safe, injuries will be minimal. Even those will provide opportunities to learn important lessons. We are always hoping to improve the experiences our children have, build their confidence, and expand their understanding of life.

Would you consider giving your child a knife while camping?


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