Fixed or folding, and no, we aren’t talking about chairs. There is a constant debate on whether fixed blade or folding knives is the better choice in the world of knives.
However, much like a good pair of shoes, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to this problem.
Depending on the context, either of these blades could be a viable option for you. For camping or hunting, fixed blades give you unparalleled stability while folding knives give you a compact option for fishing or EDC.
This article covers the differences between a folding and fixed blade knife, when to use them, and a few pros and cons for each model.
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Fixed Blade vs. Folding Knives
Fixed blade knives are made of one solid piece of metal that forms the blade and runs through the handle. This model is less compact than a folder but sturdier and incapable of mechanical failure.
Common types of fixed blade knives include:
- Boot Knife
- Camp Knife
- Gutting Knife
- Skinning Knife
- Drop Point
- Buck Knife
A folding knife hinges so that the blade folds into the handle. Often assisted with a spring, this knife can be more compact but lacks the stability of a fixed blade.
Common types of folding knives include:
- Clip Point
- Swiss Army Knife
- Butterfly Knife
- Assisted Opening Knife
Fixed Blade or Folding Knife for Hunting
A common question among first-time hunters and outdoorsmen is which knife is better for hunting, a folding knife or a fixed blade?
The short answer to this is, why not have both?
I find that the more options you have, the more likely you will come up with the right solution.
Folding knives are easy to conceal and store and take up less space than fixed-blade knives, making them a great option to keep in your pocket or jacket in the woods. They can do all sorts of tasks in the woods, from marking trees, cutting rope, tightening screws, or opening plastic-wrapped hand warmers quietly (I learned this the hard way).
Fixed-blade knives are sturdier, faster to deploy, and usually heavier. These knives are an excellent option for skinning and cleaning animals, self-defense, and use as a camp tool if necessary.
There is a time and place for both knives, but overall I prefer the fixed blade for hunting for several reasons.
Concealing a weapon or tool, such as a knife, when hunting is not as crucial as having quick access to it.
In the woods, if something can go wrong, it probably will, so removing the chance of mechanical failure with a folding knife is a good idea.
Skinning and cleaning an animal with a folding knife is a great way to get blood, guts, and hair in the inner workings of the knife. This can cause a malfunction. Stick with the sturdier fixed blade that you can rinse off after.
In a survival or self-defense situation, I prefer the most rugged and robust tool, usually the fixed blade.
That said, folding knives are great to carry in your hunting pack or pockets, and it’s usually the lighter of the two blades. If you’re looking to shave off ounces in a backcountry hunt with lots of hiking, consider going with the folding blade.
EDC or everyday carry is a phrase we frequently toss around in today’s outdoor and tactical communities. Simply put, it stands for the items you carry on your person throughout everyday life.
A part of people’s EDC is a blade, used as a multi-utility tool or as a line of defense if someone’s life or their loved ones are threatened.
While folding knives tend to be the most popular for EDC, fixed blades have their advantages too.
When it comes to size, folding knives tend to have a smaller footprint, making them ideal for EDC. A fixed-blade knife with the same blade length as a folding knife will be nearly twice the size of a folding knife since it cannot collapse on itself.
Fixed blade knives are already in their position of power when deployed from their sheath. Folding knives require you to remove them from concealment and then deploy the blade. Although there are folding knives with mechanical advantages, such as spring-loaded blades, as a whole, it is much faster to draw a fixed-blade knife.
Many individuals don’t want to sacrifice blade length for concealment. This gives folding knives an edge as you can have a folding and a fixed blade with the same overall length, but the folding knife is half the size when closed.
However, plenty of fixed-blade knives come with sheaths that fit inside the pant or belt line and maintain a remarkable level of concealment for small daggers and drop-point knives.
Probably the most overlooked component of everyday carry when it comes to a blade is the stability of your tool. Folding knives will always be at a disadvantage because the lock could break, the blade could fail to stick in place, or a number of the inner workings could fail.
Fixed-blade knives cannot have a mechanical malfunction as they are one solid piece of metal, usually with a wooden or polymer handle, giving them the advantage.
When it comes to camping, there are several factors to consider when choosing between a fixed blade or a folding knife.
- Are you hiking to your campsite?
- What other tools are you bringing with you?
- Are you planning on overtly carrying your blade or stowing it away?
When backpacking into your campsite, it’s important to remember that ounces equal pounds on the trail or in the backcountry. Because of this, you may want to consider a folding knife, which frequently takes less space and weighs less than its fixed blade cousin.
If you are bringing other tools to the campsite, a folding knife is an excellent option for backpackers or car campers. The multi-utility blade can be stowed away for easy access and used in situations such as cutting rope, trimming bark, or even as a kitchen utensil.
However, if you don’t plan on bringing multiple camp tools, getting a fixed blade or knife may be a good idea. It can double as a small ax, shovel, or can opener for example.
Finally, if you plan on tucking the knife away in your pocket, backpack, or other carry-along, a folding knife is an excellent choice due to its compact size. However, if you plan on carrying overtly throughout the campsite, a folding knife will provide easy access, faster deployment, and a better option for self-defense.
Unlike many other situations where a fixed blade is preferable, a folding knife is the best option for fishing. While this doesn’t completely discount any merits that fixed blades have for fishing, folding knives have several advantages for anglers.
Folding knives often have a clip that helps them retain their position in cargo pockets, pants, or on a belt and are usually lighter than fixed blades. They are often cheaper than fixed-blade knives, and many folding knives have polymer, rubberized, or some textured grip for when things get wet.
For those reasons, folding knives are the better option for angling, in my opinion.
The age-old debate on fixed blades or folding knives hasn’t been solved in decades and won’t be solved anytime soon. While folding knives are often smaller, more compact, easy to store, and lighter, they lack the stability and rapid deployment of fixed-blade knives.
Depending on the situation, a fixed-blade knife may serve you better around the campsite or in a deer stand. In contrast, a folding knife may be the most concealable option for everyday carry and an excellent choice for any angler looking to cut line.
No matter what blade you choose, keep it sharp and oiled. If you take care of your life, it will take care of you. As always, good luck, and stay safe out there.