If you’ve ever been backpacking, you probably know that all of the equipment you carry needs to be in top shape. Considering the limited resources and tools you have, you will need to rely on them to get the most out of the expedition.
One aspect that people seem to neglect occasionally is the knife. I’m not referring to people forgetting to bring it; I’m talking about having a dull knife. Considering that you’d be using them for anything from cutting to carving, having a sharp knife is essential.
Some people risk and sharpen the knife at home, while others don’t take any chances and take a sharpener with them. Considering that they are a small item that, in most cases, will fit in your pocket, it’s not a bad idea to have it on hand.
With that said, if you’re the type of person that wants to have a sharpener close by, here are my top 10 picks.
Top 10 Knife Sharpeners for Backpacking
1. SHARPAL 101N 6-In-1 Pocket Knife Sharpener
As you can guess from the name, the SHARPAL 101N is like a Swiss army knife in sharpening tools. You have two v-shaped slots, one of which is a tungsten carbide blade for sharpening, and the second one is a creaming blade for polishing.
You also have a diamond rod which will be handy for sharpening gut and fish hooks. In addition to that, the tool also features a firestarter and an emergency whistle capable of producing up to 110dB.
- Compact and light
- 6 tools in 1
- Soft rubber grip
- Sharpers are tested 10,000 times
- Not ideal for smaller blades
- Firestarter can be finicky
2. Work Sharp Guided Field Sharpener – Gray
Unlike the previous product, the Work Sharp Guided Field Sharpener has only one feature – to sharpen. There are 4 different sections, including coarse and fine diamond, ceramic hone, and a leather strop.
They enable you to sharpen and polish anything from knives, various camping tools to serrated knives and fish hooks. Considering the wide range of tools you can sharpen, you have 20 and 25-degree sharpening angles available.
- 4 sharpening areas
- Wide range of tools that can be sharpened
- 20- and 25-degree angles are available
- 5 grit stages
- Not ideal for holding
- Sharpening larger knives can be a struggle
3. Spyderco Tri-Angle Sharpmaker with Safety Rods
The Spyderco Tri-Angle sharpener has a slightly misleading title. Even though it says tri-angle, it’s two angles only – 30 and 40 degrees. The base is made from durable ABS plastic which is also used to store the sharpening stones.
There are also safe joints made from aluminum that are designed to protect your hand during sharpening. Thanks to the two angels, this tool can be used for sharpening knives, scissors, and more.
- A wide range of applications
- Durable base made from ABS plastic
- Stones can be stored in the base
- Aluminum protector
- DVD with instructions
- Not the most compact tool
- A bit expensive
4. Smith’s Abrasives PP1 Hunting Knife Sharpeners
Next up is the Smith’s Abrasives PP1, a compact sharpener designed to be flexible so that you can sharpen lots of blades. There are two sharpening slots, one of which has carbide blades for sharpening, and the second one has ceramic blades for edge finishing.
In addition to that, the tool also has a foldable diamond-coated rod that can be used for sharpening serrated blades and the standard ones.
- Very compact
- Flexible application
- Foldable diamond rod
- Two fixed sharpening blades
- It can be a bit difficult to hold
- You need to be careful when sharpening thinner blades
5. AccuSharp Knife & Tool Sharpener
The AccuSharp is the kind of tool that aims to bring sharpening properties in an easy-to-use package. It’s designed as a handle, meaning that you’ll need to hold it and slide it over the blade you want it sharpened.
The diamond-honed tungsten carbide sharpener will ensure that the blade is sharp in a few seconds. Thanks to the design, this tool will also work on serrated blades. On the bottom of the handle, there’s a full-length guard to avoid cutting your fingers.
- Easy to handle
- Works with a wide variety of blades
- Sharpening blades can be replaced
- Full-length guard to protect your fingers
- One fixed angle
- Some people report damaged blades
6. Smith’s 50264 Adjustable Manual Knife Sharpener
Another Smith’s knife sharpener on today’s list is the 50264. The thing that makes this one stand out from the crowd is the option to adjust the angle manually. You have the flexibility to choose between 14 and 28 degrees of angle per side. Two of the slots are adjustable, one is coarse, and the other one is fine. The third in the middle is for sharpening serrated blades. On the bottom, the tool has rubber feet and a comfortable to hold rubber handle.
- Variable angle
- Separate section for sharpening serrated blades
- Comfortable to hold
- It can work with a wide range of blades
- Not the most compact option
- It takes some getting used to
7. Double-Sided Diafold Sharpener Fine / Coarse
DMT’s double-sided blade sharpener is another excellent option for keeping the blades sharp during a backpacking trip. The tool has two different sides: to sharpen the blades, while the other is for fine-tuning and polishing.
Two transparent plastic covers fold, meaning that it won’t be taking up too much space. Since there aren’t any V-shaped slots, you can sharpen pretty much anything with a blade.
- Two sharpening stones
- Flexible usage
- Fairly compact
- Plastic covers to protect the stones
- Holding it can be a struggle
- Take a lot of practice to get the angle right
8. Genuine Arkansas Hard (Fine) Pocket Knife Sharpening Stone
Even though it’s a sharpener, it’s unlike most of the products I’ve outlined today. This is a sharpening stone with a pouch, and that’s as much as there is the say. It’s a fine grit stone, so you’ll need some patience if you want to sharpen more dull blades.
The pouch is made from leather, and you’d be using it to store the stone when you’re not using it. That way, you’ll avoid damaging it.
- Wide range of blades you can use
- Light and compact
- Leather pouch to protect the stone
- Excellent for smaller blades
- No grip or handle
- It can be problematic for larger blades
9. AccuSharp Professional Knife & Tool Sharpener
You may remember the name and think that I’m mentioning the same model twice. Technically I am, but this is the pro version of the AccuSharp I mentioned before with a few upgrades. You still get the exact diamond-honed tungsten carbide that can sharpen anything from a knife to axes.
The finger guard is still here, but the casing is made from a more durable material. Like its brother, you also can sharpen serrated blades.
- Comfortable to hold
- Durable design
- Finger guard
- It can sharpen a wide range of blades
- Only one sharpening angle is available
- No option to sharpen hooks
10. Spyderco 303MF 1″ by 5″ DoubleStuff Sharpening Stone
Last but not least is the Spyderco 303MF, a very similar product to one I’ve already talked about. Essentially, you are getting two sharpening stones bonded together, and you get medium and fine grits in one package. One side is for sharpening, and the other is for fine-tuning.
The product comes in a leather pouch that should prevent it from getting damaged. Even though you can sharpen practically anything, serrated blades may be an issue.
- Flexible sharpening options
- Compact and lightweight
- Leather pouch for storing
- Not ideal for larger blades
- Holding it while sharpening may be a struggle
How to Sharpen a Knife Without a Sharpener
If you look this up on the internet, you’ll find many ways to sharpen a knife without a sharpener. The problem with most of them is that you’d be using items in your household and not in your backpack. During a backpacking trip, it’s not easy to have loads of items with you, so you’ll have to rely on what you can find in the wilderness. The most common item that will be available in abundance is rocks.
To sharpen your knife, it is essential to find a smooth and flat-ish rock. Wash the stone before use, not only to remove any dirt but also to add some moisture. In essence, the procedure is very similar to how you’d sharpen a knife with a dedicated sharpening rock.
Place the blade at about 10 degrees angle and position the knife so that it faces away from you. With a single stroke, push the knife away from you, ensuring that the blade gets fully sharpened from one side. Flip the knife on the other side and repeat the same motion.
You may need to do the process several times if the blade is very dull. One thing that it’s crucial is to sharpen both sides equally, so once you sharpen one side, repeat the process for the second side.
Another item that some people tend to carry with them on a backpacking expedition is a coffee mug. The procedure is the same, and you’d be using the bottom part of the mug to sharpen the knife.
Can you Carry a Knife in National Parks?
Backpacking is a serious activity that requires a lot of planning. The first step is to decide on the location, in which case you’ll need to be careful what you bring. National parks are protected by law, and rangers are there so that visitors uphold them. A common question people ask is if it’s legal to carry a knife in national parks, and the answer isn’t a straightforward one.
National Park services says that under 18 U.S. Code § 930, knives are considered weapons and aren’t allowed in national parks. The same goes for pocket knives if they are longer than 2.5 inches, wider than ½ inches, have a fixed or locking blade, or have a molded handle.