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How to sharpen a knife in the field

During a hike in the mountains or a camping trip in the woods you often don’t carry around an entire collection of Japanese sharpening stones. Too heavy, too much fuss. For that reason we would love to tell you how, with minimal means and clever solutions, you can sharpen your knives on the road.

Why would you sharpen your knives on the road?

Let’s start with the observation that a sharp knife is safer than a blunt knife. With a blunt knife you start using more pressure which could quickly lead to accidents. You, of course, won’t use your knife as intensively during your day trip in the mountains that sharpening will immediately be necessary. You could, however, accidentally hit a rock and want to restore the edge of the knife. Will your trip last a little longer than one day? That is when it might be interesting to sharpen your knife on the road. When you gut more than one deer or any other game you might have shot we recommend you treat your knife to some tlc after all that contact with the bones.

What do you use to sharpen your knives on the road?

You can divide the different sharpening methods in roughly two categories: guided and free. With a guided sharpening option the sharpening angle is always fixed. Sometimes adjustable, but when you choose a 20 degree angle you can assume that you will always use the same angle. That is great because if offers you security, but sometimes it forces you to use a sharpening angle for certain knives that don’t even have that angle yet.

Free sharpening options are the individual sharpening stones or sharpening steels. With these sharpening options you choose the sharpening angle you need. As a result you have more freedom when it comes to the angles you use. This often also enables you to pay a little more attention to a specific part of the edge.

As with all normal sharpening methods every outdoor sharpening option has its pros and cons. Some knives are simply a lot more difficult to sharpen on the road than others. Modern types of super steel with fancy alloy elements are already challenging when you sharpen them at home, so you can imagine what it might be like when you sharpen them in the field with limited means. It is a key aspect you definitely need to think about before you purchase a luxurious outdoor knife and take it with you to the Alps for a two-week hiking trip.

Sharpening your knife with a free sharpening angle

When you want to be the one to choose the sharpening angle you often end up with sharpening stones or sharpening steels. It is important to know that some sharpening stones need water to prevent excessive wear and tear. They all take a little getting used to before you end up with the desired results. We have listed some of our favourite outdoor sharpening stones.

Fallkniven Diamond Ceramic Whetstone DC4

The Fällkniven DC4 is by far the most popular option when it comes to sharpening on the road. And for good reason! It is compact, offers you two grain sizes and can easy handle hard types of steel. The diamond side will quickly sharpen the edge and the ceramic side can be used to hone the edge. The Fällkniven DC4 does however appreciate a couple drops of water while being used.

Skerper Pocket Stone SO003

The Skerper Pocket Stone can be compared to the above-mentioned DC4. This sharpening stone has one side with diamond particles for the coarse sharpening tasks such as sharpening damaged blades and an extra-fine ceramic side to refine an edge and make sure it stays in great shape. The main difference with the DC4 is the width of the stone and the grain size of the ceramic side. The Skerper Pocket Stone is a little broader to make sure you can easily hold the stone as you sharpen your knives. In addition, the ceramic side is a lot finer for even sharper results. This stone does not need water and will easily fit inside your pocket or backpack!

Skerper Arkansas Pocket Stone NAPO10, Hard Arkansas

The Skerper Arkansas Pocket sharpening stone is a hard natural sharpening stone with a grain size of about 1000. These stones, however, are also available in many other grain sizes. As a result you will be able to bring with you a wide range of grain sizes with these relatively compact stones. They work with both water and oil and come in leather storage case.

DMT Diafold two-sided sharpening stone, FWFC

The DMT Diafold is also a great solution if you want to sharpen your knife on the road. Two sides with diamond, and also available in different combinations of grain sizes. Because you sharpen with diamond the hard types of steel are actually no match for the stones. To protect the stone it is great that the handle folds around the stone like a type of butterfly knife.

Skerper Basic sharpening pen with a diamond steel, SO001

The Skerper Basic Sharpening pen is a super compact diamond sharpening steel. It has a flat side, a round part and a part that is slightly tapered for different types of serrations. A budget-friendly solution that hardly takes up any room and weighs next to nothing.

Sharpening solutions with a fixed angle

When you use a fixed angle sharpening will be a little easier. You can also quickly do it in between tasks. The end result might differ per solution. In addition, it might occur that a specific type of knife cannot properly be sharpened with the solution.

Lansky BladeMedic

The Lansky Blade Medic is a very popular option for anyone who, with limited means and effort, wants to sharpen his knives. It sharpens your knives with a 22 degree angle and also offers you the option to sharpen your serrated knives. The sharpening result of the two sharpening phases definitely help you out when the need is high and you are on the road. Like a real Medic.

Lansky Quadsharp sharpener for on the road QSHARP

The Lansky Quadsharp is practical when you quickly want to sharpen different knives. While the Blade Medic uses a 22 degree angle the Quadsharp uses angles of 17, 20, 25 and 30 degrees. It does, however, offer you one sharpening phase, the result is as such a little less refined.

Hybrid option: free sharpening with a guided angle

Looking for a little assistance when finding the right angle, to be able to sharpen freely afterwards? If you do a sharpening stone with angle guides might be the right option for you. After all, you will have the assistance you need to find the right angle while at the same time you are starting to take your first steps towards free sharpening. The best of both worlds.

Work Sharp Guided Field Sharpener

The Work Sharp Guided Field Sharpener is an all-in-one solution that enables you to sharpen from coarse to fine and to strop. The holder has been enhanced with beveled edges with a 20 degree angle. As a reference point you can put your knife against it to move the edge over the stone. As a result you will, with every movement, be assisted and corrected to maintain the right angle. Good to know: it sharpens with both diamond and ceramics and can therefore also handle hard types of steel. As a finishing touch you can strop the knife, with the same guided angles and your knife will be razor-sharp in no time!

Work Sharp Guided Pack Sharpener pocket sharpening system, WSGPS

The Work Sharp Guided Pack Sharpener is a slightly dressed-down and more compact version of the Guided Field Sharpener. A small diamond sharpening stone and a ceramic sharpening steel, again with the guided angles. Practical about the Pack Sharpener is that with diamond you use a 20 degree angle, to subsequently sharpen a micro-bevel on ceramics. That is a type of subtle refinement at the end of the edge that makes it stronger and helps it retain its sharpness.

KME sharpening system

Previously not an option when spending time on the road: a sharpening system. Sharpening systems hold the knife and often maintain the right sharpening angle up to a couple degrees. Sharpening at a fixed angle had never been this easy. And, with a KME sharpening system it is now also possible to be 'this accurate' when spending time on the road. Granted, it will not fit in your pocket, but thanks to the included bag you can safely store the system in your backpack.

Strop ‘till you drop!

When we were discussing the Work Sharp Guided Field Sharpener it already came up: stropping. You might have seen it before at a barber shop. When your barber runs his razor alongside a leather belt to sharpen it a little. The same works for your knives! Stropping is ideal when you want to polish the edge for a little additional sharpness after sharpening your knife. But also for daily maintenance it is incredibly practical! Even better: when you properly strop your knives in time you can often postpone sharpening for a long time!

Skerper Pocket Strop

Skerper Pocket Strop STP002, stropping paddle

The Skerper Pocket Strop is by far the most popular strop in our range. It is compact enough to fit inside your backpack, while it also large enough to be frequently used at home. You decide which stropping compound or diamond paste you go with and strop each of your knives until they are razor-sharp.

Brommeland Gunleather Pocket strop, pre-loaded 6-2PKT-PL

The Brommeland Gunleather Pocket Strop is a fine, compact strop with a polycarbonate core. As a result it is well equipped to handle the elements and won’t bend during changes in temperature. Because the strop has already been enhanced with a compound you can immediately start stropping!