How To Sharpen A Knife While Camping

A quality camping knife isn’t just nice to have. It’s a key tool for any camper or backpacker as a means for both protection and on-the-go utility. Whether you’re looking to slice up vegetables and meat for cooking or cut up kindling and wood for a starlight campfire, a sharp camping knife is the right way to go.

However, even the best blades dull down with repeated use and time between sharpening. And when you’re in the middle of a camping trip with your knife-sharpening guy safely snoozing hundreds or thousands of miles away, you’re gonna have to figure out your way to get your camping knife back into working order. 

Lucky for you, there are several mobile options for camping knife sharpening (and stropping) for you to consider. Some can be found with a little bit of pre-planning and shopping. Others can be found by simply surveying your surroundings in the wilderness. Yet, all of the following options have one key thing in common — they will restore your camping blade to optimal sharpness when you need it most. 

using a camping knife to cut fishing line

6 Ways To Sharpen Your Knife During A Camping Trip 

  1. Purchase A Strop (Or Use Your Belt)

If your camping knife blade hasn’t been chipped, dulled down, or blunted to the point of uselessness, a knife strop or makeshift alternative can help you align your knife edge for proper use.

You can grab a blade strop from most online marketplaces and camping stores. Or, you can use any nylon or leather belt (or strap) as a makeshift strop to realign your knife’s edge.

Using the spine of your knife, pull the knife against the strop, belt, or strap while it’s pulled as tight as possible. Don’t use the edge and cut into the material. Rather, you should simply rotate your knife directly on its spine as you reach one edge of the strop — repeating the process back and forth until the edge is back in line.

Stropping your camping knife is a good alternative to outright sharpening. However, a dull or blunted blade is going to need a bit more work for you to use properly. 

  1. Invest In A Pocket Knife Sharpener

Knife sharpening technology has improved by leaps and bounds in recent years. There is a litany of whetstones and pocket blade sharpeners out there that take up limited space in your camping backpack or bag of choice. These are perfect for sharpening a pocket knife for camping.

There are pull-through knife sharpeners that are both portable and super simple to slide your blade through. There are also pocket rods and pocket diamond plates that are built to attach to your keychain or slide easily into an accessory pocket. Or, you can always use a whetstone made of carborundum or Arkansas stones to get your edge back.

For all of these knife-sharpening options, all you have to do is angle your blade on the sharpener at the exact angle of the current bevel. Use exacting pressure in a shaving motion, as if you’re trying to slice off a thin part of the sharpener itself. 

Be sure to sharpen your blade evenly. If you need to, you can wet a whetstone or water-resistant sharpener for better results. 

  1. Grab Some Sandpaper And Go

If you can find a strong stick and have some wet/dry sandpaper on hand, you can easily put together a competent camping knife sharpener for use in the Great Outdoors!

Layer the sandpaper around the stick in a horizontal fashion, taping it up to affix it securely. From there, just place the sanding stick in a stable spot and use it similarly as you’d use a whetstone. 

And if you don’t have any sandpaper but you do have a first-aid kit in your possession, an emery board can be used in a pinch!

  1. Find A Stone That Rocks Your Blade Into Shape

Are you camping in an area next to a river or stream? If so, you’re sleeping next to thousands of potential knife sharpeners!

If not, any solid rock with a flat edge can be used as a whetstone. And if you can’t find a rock with a flat edge, find two rocks of similar composition and rub them together to flatten and smooth them out.

Everything from sandstone to concrete can be used as a knife sharpener, as long as there is one relatively flat side and won’t chip up your camping blade. Rocks that are softer than your camping blade aren’t going to work, though, so be sure to find a stone that can handle your edge without exploding into dust. 

  1. Harder Than Steel? It Can Work For You!

From glass to the bottom of ceramic mugs and plates, there are plenty of knife sharpener substitutes to put into practice when push comes to shove. 

For example, you can use the top of a car window as a makeshift whetstone — rubbing your blade over it to sharpen it evenly. Or, you can use the bottom of a ceramic mug in a similar way to restore your blade’s efficacy.

Heck, you can strop your camping knife on the spine of another knife to realign your edge — provided that the current edge is salvageable and doesn’t need a straightforward sharpening. 

If there aren’t rocks in your camping area that can work as a sharpener, there’s bound to be something else out there that can!

  1. Paracord + Mud = A Handy Sharpening Trick

For those intelligent campers that carry paracord with them wherever they go, you’ve got a knife-stopping option just hanging out in your pack!

Using several feet of paracord, tie one end to a tree and create a loop on the other end. Layer some mud in an even fashion on the middle of the cord.

Grab the loop at the end of the paracord and pull it tight like you would with a strop. You can then use the muddy part of the paracord like you would a normal blade strop. 

Whatever knife-sharpening option you decide to use, just know that you never have to go without an edge for too long. With a little bit of gumption and some patience, you can make a dull knife sharp again whether you’re in the woods, on the slopes, or hanging out on the trails somewhere. 


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