Darren is the Founder of Western Whitetail. Prior to his career in the outdoors, Darren served as an Airman in the US Air Force. As a freelancer, his articles have been published online and featured in magazines such as Western Whitetail, Western Hunter, Quality Whitetails, Cabela’s Outfitter Journal, Fur-Fish-Game, and Rocky Mountain Game & Fish Magazine. Additionally, Darren spent time as the Editor In Chief of Whitetail Journal, Bowhunting World, Predator Xtreme, Archery Business, and Hunting Retailer magazines with Grand View Outdoors. He is a voting member and supporter of the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA). Although he lives in elk and Coues country, Darren enjoys hunting across the country and writing about his experiences.
Whether you hunt whitetail in the Midwest or elk across the Rocky Mountains, you will need a knife to field-dress, skin, or cape, a harvested animal at some point. In fact, every hunter needs a knife. A recent trend in knives is a super-lightweight design. Several manufacturers are making “skeleton” knives that are sub 3.0 oz. with some weighing less than 2.0 oz.
Skelton knives have been around for over 100 years. They were first used in restaurants to cut soft foods. Early skeleton knives had holes in the blade to help shed sticky foods from the blade. Today, most skeleton knives have void spaces in the handle to cut weight.
If you are a backcountry hunter, whether packing in or day-tripping in, every ounce cut is one less that you have to carry with you all day. For this use case, a lightweight skeleton knife is a hot commodity. Still, for the average hunter, these knives perform equally well in all hunting situations.
The following lightweight knife selection includes a few of my favorites. The set provides a wide range of price points with all hunting uses in mind. If nothing else, all of these knives have a cool factor! If you are in the market for a new hunting knife, I encourage you to take a look at the following before making a purchase.
2021 Top Lightweight Knives
|Benchmade||Altitude||CPM-S90V super premium stainless steel (59-61HRC)||7.38 in.||1.67 oz.||$235|
|Argali||Carbon Knife||CPM-S35VN (Stainless)||7.25 in.||1.8 oz.||$199|
|Buck||135 PakLite Caper||CPM-S35VN (Stainless)||6.75 in.||1.1 oz.||$25.99|
|Outdoor Edge||LeDuck||8Cr14 Stainless||6.25 in.||3.0 oz.||$34.95|
|Gerber||Exo-Mod Caper||7Cr Steel||7.33 in.||1.8 oz.||$28|
|Gerber||Exo-Mod Drop Point||7Cr Steel||8.56 in.||2.6 oz.||$33|
|Gerber||Exo-Mod Saw||NA||7.55 in.||2.6 oz.||$31|
Best “One Knife” | Argali Carbon Knife
The Argali Carbon Knife is a great choice for the hardcore Western hunter. Its textured handle provides an excellent grip for use in any hunting situation. Better yet, the handle is removable to shave valuable weight for a day-long or multi-day hunt in the backcountry. (On my scale, the handle-removed knife weighed a mere 1.38 oz.) Above all else, the knife blade is soft enough to take an edge while in the field and hard enough to keep its edge throughout an entire field-dressing session. If you are the type of hunter that likes to keep one knife for any hunting scenario, the Argali Carbon Knife might be the knife for you.
Ultralight and ultra-sharp, the Carbon Knife from Argali is a “one knife” solution for backcountry hunters that want to be able to cut up an entire elk or deer without needing to sharpen their knife. Crafted in the USA from super-premium S35VN stainless steel for superior edge retention, the Carbon Knife is also made with textured G10 removable handles, which gives the knife the feel of full handled blade at the weight of a skeletonized knife, weighing in at a meager 1.8 ounces.
Best Backcountry Knife | Benchmade Altitude
The Benchmade Altitude is one of the most popular lightweight knives on the market. Its minimalist design is perfect for any backcountry hunt. Although it lacks a true handle, it has two perfectly placed carbon fiber “scales” on both its sides that provide an excellent and surprisingly comfortable grip. If you are the type of hunter that weighs your backpack to keep it under a specific weight before heading into the backcountry, this is likely the knife for you.
Designed for backcountry adventure; for the hunter who counts every ounce. The ultimate lightweight hunting knife features the incredible edge performance for CPM-S90V blade steel and unique carbon fiber micro scales for dexterity and control not typically found in skeletonized knives. The Altitude continues to take hunting performance to new heights. Made in USA.
Best Budget Knife | Buck 135 PakLite Caper
The Buck 135 PakLite Caper is another minimalist design. The Caper is made from quality materials and is touted as corrosion resistant. Currently, on sale for under $20 on the Buck Knife website, this knife will keep any budget-minded hunter on track. If you really like a bang for you’re Buck — pun intended — you can get the knife for FREE, as I did when I became a member of the Wild Sheep Foundation. If you think with your wallet, promote conservation by joining or renewing with the Wild Sheep Foundation, and get a quality lightweight hunting knife at the same time.
The 135 PakLite Caper from Buck is a lightweight, sturdy and effective fixed blade knife. It can be carried alone or used to compliment any hunting knife. The skeletal steel frame is heavy-duty, yet lightweight for easy carry. The 420HC stainless steel blade and handle ensure durability and corrosion resistance, while the minimalist design is effective and reliable while in use.
Best Multi-purpose Knife | Outdoor Edge LeDuck
The Outdoor Edge LeDuck — aptly named, as it resembles a duck — is the perfect everyday multi-purpose knife. You can throw it in your truck or your hunting pack, and it will come in handy for almost any purpose. It’s affordable, too. Although it’s small, the rubberized handle is shaped and textured for a comfortable and excellent grip. It comes with both a lanyard and sheath, perfect for attaching to any object and carrying in any hunting — or other — situation. If you like value from multi-use, check out the LeDuck.
FROM OUTDOOR EDGE
This multi-purpose utility knife is perfect for all outdoor uses and as a lightweight backup blade for any survival situation. The 2.5” Blackstone™ coated 8Cr14MoV stainless blade is precisely heat treated and hand finished shaving-sharp for superior edge retention and performance. The distinct duck head handle with TPR coating is extremely comfortable for a secure lock-on grip, even when wet. Features a multi-carry sheath system with a 360 degree rotating clip that attaches to any flotation, fishing, or diving vest, and is compatible with any MOLLE system.
Best Knife Set | Gerber Evo-Mod Series
The Gerber Evo-Mod Series is quite genius! Each product stands on its own as a valuable and lightweight hunting tool. Simply snap the sheaths together — in any combination — and you now have a set of tools available. If you like to have two knives, clip the two capable knives together and go. Need a saw to handle leg removal or skull-capping deep in the backcountry, snap one of the knives — or both — to the saw’s sheath. Even when all three tools are combined, the unit is still relatively small and lightweight for the uses you get from the combination. If you’re the type of hunter that likes to have a skinning knife and a caping knife, and a need for a saw, the Gerber Evo-Mod Series is right up your alley.
Whether hunting, backpacking, camping, or any other outdoor pursuit, having the appropriate tools is critical. The Exo-Mod snap-together sheath system empowers users to carry what they need and nothing more. With a skeletonized full-tang design, each product in the Exo-Mod Series boasts of light weight structure while maintaining durability.
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