Top EDC Knives for Canoe Camping at Boundary Waters

My best EDC knife for Boundary Waters canoe camping was bought without any prior online resarch. We were driving up to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area for an early spring semi-cold trip and I wanted to have a folder for fishing mainly. I had a Swiss Army knife along, and maybe a leatherman, although I loved those, I walked into a Walmart and purchased a $20 knife on the spot.

It was a SOG with a lock back and a deep carry clip and, unfortunately, I do not have it anymore, so fortunately(?), I am on the search for a new folder.

What I loved about that knife:

  • The thing cost about $20 so I was not worried about losing it. A quick buy, an easy use.
  • The lock back mechanism was weird. I liked it. I guess I like weird things.
  • The blade was a few inches (2-3) and made it great for pocket carry. I think 4 inches starts to get noticeable in the pocket.
  • The deep carry clip was a revelation. I put that into the waistband of my swim shorts and could move around completely with it digging into my skin. When I needed it, though, still super easy to get.

System Summary for Canoe Camping

Instead of a 4-6 inch knife, I would rather carry a small blade, plus a hatchet or a saw. Sometimes all three.

The mistake people say that with a 4-6 inch knife you can "do it all".

Well, horses for courses. I like a small EDC knife that maximizes unobtrusiveness, and just has a blade. That is all I really want.

Then I bring another tool for processing wood that is actually a wood processing tool.

Why a folder vs fixed blade knife for canoe camping EDC?

Compared to a fixed blade...well a folder is so damn convenient. On a canoe trip, when fishing brings all types of small cutting tasks (cutting line, tying off line, gutting fish). More little tasks than when you go backpacking on trail, but make no mistake, these are small tasks suiting a small blade, so really, quick deployment does not matter as much, having a rugged full tang does not matter as much.

What does matter is unobtrusiveness. You are going to leave that in your bag once it gets cumbersome.


For me, the main criteria of an EDC knife is unobtrusiveness when not deployed. The minimum requirement is a cutting blade. The third is deployment. The folder simply maximizes these criteria.


The main aspect to consider to be unobtrusive is not the style of the knife itself, but the retention system.

When I have a clip, I can clip it to my shorts, pants, whatever I am wearing, and have it be out of the way.

No worries about the knife poking me. Then fold it and put it away. Retention is integrated to the knife making a small overall package.

Compare a carry clip to a scabbard or a sheath. A clip is just less material. No getting around it.

You cannot have a clip fixed blade knife. That thing would be stabbing you all the time.

Overall size

Consider that overall size is also decreased. A 2-3 inch knife blade on a 3-4 inch handle is about ideal. For a similarly spec\'d fixed blade, you would be looking at 5-7 inches compared to a 3-4 inch folder.

The folding mechanism nearly halves the overall size and vastly increases backpacking utility for size.

For an EDC tool, the folder best balances unobtrusiveness, deployment, and cutting ability.

General system

I should make a full post of this one, but my general use is as follows:

  • EDC blade - minimum requirement is that it has a blade, then I balance unobtrusiveness and deployability, with a strong bias towards unobtrusiveness.
  • Wood processing tools - full size axe, hatchet, wood saw. These all have a place, but I would rather carry a small folder and a hatchet than one large knife. That is my personal choice.

Why carry two items instead of one?

Well a hatchet could be a poor replacement for a knfie and a knife could be a poor replacement for a hatchet, so you already have some redundacy built in. If you have a great knife, and then you lose're stuck. Additionally, a small knife is a better EDC than a large fixed blade, and a hatchet is better for processing wood than a large fixed blade. So in the event you have all your tools, you will be using tools better suited to the job.

Cons of using a large knife for EDC?

Because when I am canoeing, and fishing along the way, and just need to cut fishing line or gut a fish, it is a lot easier to move around the canoe with a small knife clipped into the waistband of my swim shorts, than to have a large knife in a scabbard dangling all around. If I jump in the water, for a swim, the little knife comes with me. With a large fixed blade in a scabbard, who knows what would happen.

When it finally comes time to process wood, then I am all packed out anyway, and I can take a hatchet or saw out of my backpack. There is no need to quickly and conveniently deploy something like that.

Specific models

  • kabar dozier lockback - evidently there are other options besides the thumbstud? seems like a great, cheap, folder that would fit perfectly for EDC. what is the blade shape? could you get a deep carry clip? that would make it perfect for me.
  • mora knife - fixed blade and I waffle back and forth on whether I want this knife. So many good reviews, but some of the reviews from people who seem to actually use knives hard say no. If it was a hunting knife for butchering, yes, but not an EDC.
  • leatherman micra - surprisingly yes for some cases. pretty much all, on-trail backpacking you could likely get away with this as your only blade, but redundancy asks for having two blades.
  • spyderco sage - more money, but could be cool
  • ontario rat - these knives seem like a better choice if you want a folder. they seem to fit the same price/value bracket as a mora knife, but being a folder, i would prefer it for an EDC. My one thing is that it might be too large.
  • chris reeves small sebenza - too high a cost for me, but looks cool for a daily EDC
  • that one SOG knife that i lent to a friend, but never got back - of course that would be perfect, but if it was not recurve and instead a sheepsfoot cut.

Perfect knife

  • an easy to sharpen shape
  • 2-3 inch blade with a 3-4 inch handle
  • folder
  • deep carry clip
  • ~$20-$25 - this is actually a feature because then i am not worried about it
  • decent construction - not the $5 knives you get at a hardware store, but something that i could push on for making shavings

Of course, the ones above all could fit the criteria, so go ahead, get a knife, and just stop rehearsing, rehashing, researching, and instead plan and actual trip, exercise, go on a walk. Action over inaction, experiences over stuff. Have fun.