Are knives with blades longer than 4" useless?


July 10, 2008, 11:26 AM
Coolness factor aside, are blades longer than about 4" very useful for camping, hiking, and wood craft? I just got back from about a week camping and hiking in Yellowstone back country, and my big knife never left my sheath. For small jobs, my pocket knife or small fixed blade (blade about 3") did everything I needed, and for woodcutting I used a small saw or hatchet.

What do you do with a blade >4" while camping and hiking?

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July 10, 2008, 11:33 AM
The mountain men carried a 6" Green river knife for skinning and last ditch defense. I suspect that hasn't changed for most hunters today.

July 10, 2008, 11:54 AM
Most larger knives for use in the field are typically called "Camp knives" nowadays and are meant for use in and around camp for the larger chores which may come up. This distinguises them from smaller sheath knives carried on the body as well as from other large "fighter" blades which are carried for other purposes.

I think that there is a place for Camp knives and similar "survival" knives which are useful for processing large amounts of wood/brush in a short amount of time such as in emergency fire & shelter preparations.

Lastly, very large knives such as machetes and kukhris have uses depending on where you are at.

July 10, 2008, 11:56 AM
Useless? No.

Necessary? No.

For hunting and camping, I like a 5" fixed blade and use it for pretty much everything. However, I'd be fine using a 3" folder almost all of the time. Frankly, a 3.5" fixed blade and a small hatchet would be just about perfect for everything in the field.

What I find is that using a "big" knife for "small" chores takes a little different technique. Just like using a "small" knife for "big"chores makes you use a different approach.

July 10, 2008, 12:31 PM
Useless? No

Useful? Not usually if you're also carrying a 3-4" fixed blade knife.

The Tourist
July 10, 2008, 12:39 PM
You have to ask yourself how the knife is to be used.

I'm a big ugly biker, but for the most part, an urban citizen. I can get along very nicely with a 1.5 inch Graham Stubby. I often use it in restaurants when given a poor quality steak knife.

If I was going Sturgis, I would carry a Buck 110 on a belt sheath. One tool and you could use it for everything.

If I was camping in a tent (and I never will again) I might carry a few things. One, would be an axe. I think it's more useful if you can conveniently carry it. If you're hiking, that's different.

In a campfire knife, I'd look more to a Buck 102 or 105, although many people use the 119 and get along quite well.

That all ends when Graham Brothers Knives releases their folder. When that happens, all other knives will look like flint arrowheads. I'm counting the days.

July 10, 2008, 12:40 PM
I think the case for the big knife is best made when you have only one knife, or when your other knives are small indeed.

When I go out to the field, I bring along a variety of edged tools and choose what fits best for the job at hand. An axe, hatchet or small saw is just the thing for managing the firewood but I don't keep any of those in my pocket or on my hip.

I keep a couple of slip joints in my pocket (a Case medium stockman or a Case peanut along with a Great Eastern Cutlery scout #73) and a RAT 7 on my hip. Should I look up and find myself alone and unsure of where I am or how to get back to where I know where things are, I would rather have a big knife with me than just a small, or no knife, and all my other tools back at camp. Granted I could survive with just the Case peanut, but it would be a lot easier with the RAT 7 along.

When I'm not in the woods, I carry a slipjoint or two and a Benchmade 730 or 710, but that's another story.

Carl Levitian
July 10, 2008, 01:15 PM
Not totaly useless.

I carried a big blade when I was a young buck full of vinigar, but in reality, never used it for anything I couldn't do with a smaller lighter blade. I eventually settled on a Buck 102 woodsman for almost all of my woods knife chores. Since I always had a sak on me, it was all the knife I needed. To this day, after a bit more than 50 years of backpacking, canoe and motorcycle camping, and traveling all over, I don't feel the need for a big knife. But I'm on my second buck Woodsman.

I do love folding saws though, including the ones from Gerber Fiskars with the sliding blades, and Opinel. Right tool for the right job. A few onces of folding saw will go through a thick limb way faster and safer than a big knife, and if its a real cold day and one is chopping with the big knife and hits a knot, you're gonna break that knife. Sooner or later. If that big knife is the only cutting tool you have, why risk it?

Even the old mountain men and the long rifles before them, while they had a long Green River butcher knife they also had a 'hawk for the chopping.

Right tool for the job.

July 10, 2008, 03:38 PM
similar thoughts, have a beautiful 5 inch bowie made by EDGE, STAMPED SOLIGEN STEEL , bought it in 1964 . took it to the Nam with me where it saw a lot of use. since then it goes hunting but doesnt get used as much as my 3 and 4 inch fixed and folder.
and lately my edc has been a MooreMaker 3 inch folder

July 10, 2008, 07:46 PM
Yes. Send your overlong and useless blades to me. PM for address. :D

In all seriousness, I have used knives up to 19.5" OAL. I like a small, medium, and large blade. In a pinch, just the medium, or just the large and small blades would work. Hatchet can substitute for large blade, depending on preference.


Eleven Mike
July 10, 2008, 08:22 PM
Machetes seem to be de rigueur for jungle areas.

If you take a survival course at Boulder Outdoor Survival School in Utah, you will learn of the fame of the four-inch Frost's Mora. If you take the winter course that they offer in some frozen portion of Idaho, you will hear the praises of the "camp knife." That means a big, heavy knife, in case you didn't know.

I don't know why that is.

July 10, 2008, 08:49 PM
Mostly useless.

How the steroidal machete gained any appeal outside of the jungle is a mystery that a book could be written about.

Doesn't work well as a knife.
Can't beat the production of a decent axe.
Is next to useless on frozen wood and/or knotty stuff of any diameter.
Not as safe as a saw or in most cases as light.
A fire hardened stick is a more versatile "weapon."
A decent four-six inch knife can produce poles for shelters or firewood nearly as fast using proper techniques.

I guess I just don't get putting that many eggs (dollars) into such a limited basket.

A real machete is a cheap stamped out piece of spring steel.

Eleven Mike
July 10, 2008, 09:00 PM
I don't know what the deal is with machetes, either. I still have a couple of machetes and two kukris, though. :)

Dave P
July 10, 2008, 09:02 PM
Yes. Send them to me.

July 10, 2008, 09:12 PM
Hey! Quit using the same prop as me!

Something about a 44 Mag that makes it great with a knife! :)

I hope all these Fighters and Super Camps aren't useless - I sure am making a lot of them! :)

Fred Fuller
July 10, 2008, 10:01 PM
Big ol' guns, big ol' knives. Sorta reminds me of a movie line from long ago...

"Those horses can't get away from Little Blackie. They're loaded down with fat men and iron." - :D


July 10, 2008, 10:06 PM
I use my kurkri from time to time, but it become more a garden knife for keeping the vines and saplings under control, some light cutting when I am too lazy to walk back for an axe or saw and occasionally for a bit of bushcraft. It makes a sharpened pole effortlessly, make a little wood furniture and so on. It is smaller and more handy than the machette, can handle tougher wood with the right stroke and nigh indestructable.

However for most things I find a smaller knife more handy and rely on my Buck hunter or in a more urban location my Gerber 600 multitool has been more useful than anything else.

Dave P
July 10, 2008, 10:22 PM
Hey -- It was my idea!! One of these days Don, we'll get together and you can show me some knife making tips -- got my eye on a big baldor motor ...


July 10, 2008, 10:34 PM
About the only thing I use a big blade for is picking it up and looking at it. If I want to chop, I'll use an axe. If I want to saw, I'll use a saw. etc...

Okay, now what are they really used for? Mostly chopping. In a survival situation, it is a one blade for all purposes. For defensive purposes, they give you a longer reach (like a sword). I find a large blade cumbersome for hunting chores and almost dangerous if you're gutting a deer. I use smaller blades for almost everything. I do keep a 12 " machete in my truck for chopping should the need arise. I consider a blade "large" if it is over 6" in length in case you wondered.

The fact is a moderate sized (hand sized) pocket knife will handle 90% of what you use a knife for. A 3-4" fixed blade will handle most chores as well. Just depends on what you like. I carry both in the field. Sometimes even carry a large bladed knife, but rarely use it.

That does not mean I dislike large blades. I buy those too.

July 10, 2008, 10:37 PM
I like kukuris/kukris/kukhris because they have the chopping ability of a small ax, but can also cut lighter brush well.

Brian Dale
July 10, 2008, 10:41 PM
How the steroidal machete gained any appeal outside of the jungle is a mystery that a book could be written about.Yard work: burdock, horse weed, nettles, goldenrod, thistles...

Apart from that, I think that you're right; a lot of us just decided when we were boys to Be Prepared in case we ever went to the jungle.

For chopping burdock and thistles, I like my parang better, anyway. Faster than a gas-powered weed whacker. ;)

July 10, 2008, 10:55 PM
I find machetes quite useful for summer walks in the woods where you have to walk through high weeds, briars, or scrubby timber with lots of limbs down low. I'm not anti-large bladed knives. I just don't use them often.

Opening a letter with a machete is an art form.

the lone gunman
July 10, 2008, 11:00 PM
get a Buck 119 and be done with it.

Eleven Mike
July 10, 2008, 11:09 PM
Those never appealed to me too much. Blade tip seems really fragile, but a lot of people like them that way. Handle seems a little slippy, too, just from the looks of it. And the double guard will annoy some folks. And then there's the seven inches of blade.

July 10, 2008, 11:17 PM
Having lived with people who really have to choose only one knife and use it for everything due to poverty, I can tell you that they pick big ones.

Kind of funny watching someone cleaning his fingernails with a machete, but not nearly as funny as it would be watching someone clear a garden plot with a pocket knife.

July 11, 2008, 12:56 AM
To the guys who like large blades and posted photos of them, I really don't see any signs that the blades have ever been used. No scratches, no tarnish, grips still perfect.

Do you actually use them or are they just cool toys? If you do use them, what are they made out of that allows them to look completely new?

Why would someone camping or hiking want a knife with a 6 inch blade on it? What would he use it for? For small jobs, you need the control of a smaller blade, and for big jobs wouldnt you be better off with an axe or saw or machete?

July 11, 2008, 01:03 AM
I have a machete or three. All but one are made of softer steel. I've chopped wood with them, but it's more work than doing that same job with a good hatchet or camp axe.

One of them is a shorter, much heavier Ontario survival machete . . .
. . . which is better for chopping and prying and hammering, but sux for smaller camp work.

I also have a few Bowies.

One of them is a "traditional" Bowie with the large brass guard and a large, heavy, thick, wide, clip-point blade. I haven't found anything that it does well.
One of them is a "historically correct" Bowie that looks like an oversized chef's knife. It does kitchen stuff, like carving, chopping, slicing (prep work, basically), and will even cut bread (it has a good edge), but the smaller the work, the clumsier it is. And it's heavy, too heavy to be any fun.
Finally, I have an Ontario (that name again) Survival Bowie that's slimmer and lighter and thinner, and actually usable in a wider range of scenarios but, in the end, it's still too big for comfortable routine use.

So I have some exposure to machetes and bowies.

I really wanted to like them. I wanted them to be useful for routine tasks.


Maybe if I were eight feet tall.

After trying and testing dozens of different sizes and patterns I find myself with certain observations:

Much in the same way that no one wrench or screwdriver is going to be right for every job, no one knife is going to be right for every job.
A very large knife is more clumsy than useful.
A tiny knife will do a lot of work, but not all the work you'll have will suit a tiny knife.
A medium knife, having a blade somewhere between 3 and 5 inches long, with a good point and a good edge, made of tough steel, having a good grind and a fine, sharp edge, will cover a surprisingly broad range of tasks and be useful for all manner of small and large jobs.
It's good to have another tool to use for all the things that would normally damage a knife (chopping, prying, etc.) and that tool might well be a hatchet or the like.

For example, some random medium knives . . .
. . . to name a few.

So, yeah, I'm a fan of "somewhere around four inches" for a general purpose knife.

July 11, 2008, 01:09 AM
If you look at post 20, I'm pretty sure I explained why I like kukuris.

As for work, I've done more work with some of my kuks, but...

Brian Dale
July 11, 2008, 01:42 AM
Do you actually use them or are they just cool toys?

I've answered those questions with regard to my own usage in this thread. ( :)

Since that time, I've used it on brush, as I mentioned earlier in this thread. For saplings, and for tree branches up off the ground, it's a lot easier to use than a hatchet or axe.

July 11, 2008, 02:22 AM
To the guys who like large blades and posted photos of them, I really don't see any signs that the blades have ever been used. No scratches, no tarnish, grips still perfect.

Do you actually use them or are they just cool toys? If you do use them, what are they made out of that allows them to look completely new?

Have to take a photograph of mine. Seen better days generally. There are scratches in the blade that I been cleaning up and the blade is ready for another sharpening. I hacked out a nice bramble patch with it, some sapplings and cleared the early summer garden. It lasted quite well.

My kabar on the other hand has rarely been used and still in as new condition in the box.

July 11, 2008, 09:11 AM
I hacked out a nice bramble patch with it, some sapplings and cleared the early summer garden. It lasted quite well.

Would a machete or axe have worked better?

July 11, 2008, 09:47 AM
I am 6' 7". I am not a small fellow.

My biggest blade is a KaBar Short Heavy Bowie. I think the blade is about 7" long.

I haven't really used it for anything- but not because I don't want to use it. I just haven't been camping since I got it, which is what I got it for.

It has a surprisingly sharp edge.
If I could only take one fixed blade with me anywhere, this would be it.

That said, it's not my favorite fixed blade. My favorite is my Mora Swedish Army Knife, about a 4" blade.

If I'm going to be doing any chopping, I'll probably use a hatchet, or maybe a machete. In fact, if I was allowed two knives in the woods, it would be my Mora and an SAK with a saw.

I also have a GLOCK knife. While it is more of a sharpened piece of metal than a knife, it isn't too huge, due to the fairly slim blade. It's a good stabber, and not unncomfortable to carry.

Note- to anyone considering getting a GLOCK knife, don't. Spend $4 more and get a Buck 119 from Wally World.

I have one Machete- it is a Cold Steel Latin Machete, 18", I believe.
I use it for garden work.

No- seriously. I weed with a machete. I hack at the base of the weeds, from an angle, and it loosens up the weeds, and in some cases, actually removed them.

I have a some back problems, and this more comfortable than kneeling, hunkering, or squatting.

I still threw my back out though- I guess I need a longer machete.

30" blade would be good.

As to folders- in a "tactical" style folder, my favorite size would probably be 3.5" blade, like on my Vex.

But, like on my Al Mar, I have nothing against longer blades, like the 4" on my Al Mar, or on the Buck 110 that I will someday get.

I also have several "tactical" knives with 3" blades, and some shorter. I'm probably going to order a Spyderco Ladybug sometime soon. Small blades have their place.

In the realm of Traditional Knives, I really don't have favorite size. I'll use anything from Peanuts to Trappers, comfortably.

Again, with SAKs- I'll use everything from my Classic to the rather large Helmsman.

I even occasionally pocket carry my Leatherman Kick.

Am I crazy, or what?

Brian Dale
July 11, 2008, 10:24 AM
Would a machete or axe have worked better?You addressed this to Limeyfellow with his khukuri, but in the case of my parang, its heavy blade sweeps through thick stalks and saplings more easily than a machete does. The last time I cleared old blackberry canes with a machete, I had to swing it fairly hard. It's much more effective for those particular tasks than an axe would be. The greater speed of the stroke helps, and there's no need there for the precisely targeted, heavy blow of an axe.

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