Why Hunter’s Knife Sets Are Overrated: Less Is More

May 23, 2023

Instead of a full hunter’s knife set, 3 high-quality blades lie on an animal skin in preparation for a hunt.

Maybe you’re a lifelong hunter, or maybe you’ve only hunted a few times over the past couple years. Either way, you’re no stranger to a hunter’s knife set.

These sets are usually packaged in cheap, plastic carrying cases and feature several tools, like a filet knife, bone saw, cutting board, pair of game shears, etc.

Here’s the truth — a hunter’s knife set isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. In this post, we’ll explain why cheap, bulky knife sets are so problematic and offer some high-quality, space-efficient alternatives.

The Problem With a Hunter’s Knife Set

What’s the problem with a hunter’s knife set? Well, there are many.

Poor Quality

The average hunter’s knife set retails for under $100. That may sound tempting from your wallet’s perspective, but the low cost means these knives aren’t made with high-quality materials. Often, the blades are made of cheap, flimsy steel, and the handles are made of plastic.

Because hunter’s knife sets are manufactured with low-quality materials, they often don’t last longer than one hunting season. You end up having to replace them year after year, so the cost of replacement knives — both the monetary cost and the time it takes to find a new set — add up over time.

Ultimately, it would’ve been more cost-efficient to buy individual, high-quality tools.

Plus, if you’re out in the field and find yourself in a life-or-death situation (ever heard of Murphy’s law?), a sturdy, reliable blade will help you out much more than a flimsy one.

Redundant Tools

When it comes to hunting gear, less is usually more.

Imagine a culinary knife set. These sets often come with many knives, but you probably only use three to four regularly. You could skip buying the entire set and purchase those three or four knives individually (like the bread, paring, and chef’s knives).

The same goes for hunting knives. You could carry an entire hunter’s knife set, which might include up to 10 knives and a couple unnecessary tools, but chances are you’re only going to use two to three blades (like a drop point and skinner) during your hunt.

Heavy and Bulky

A hunter’s knife set can include as many as 12 tools, adding significant weight to your hunting pack. If that weren’t enough, the knives usually come packaged in a cumbersome plastic container, which is a hassle to store and carry.

Purchasing your most frequently used knives individually is much easier on your pack — especially if you’re an ultralight packer who counts every ounce.

Infographic: Why Hunter’s Knife Sets Are Overrated: Less Is More

What Knives Do You Actually Need for Hunting?

Tired of carrying around a heavy, bulky, poor-quality hunter’s knife set? So were we. Thankfully, you can replace your entire hunter’s knife set with only three blades.

Drop Point Knife

A drop point blade is the Swiss Army knife of hunting knives. It has a sturdy handle and a versatile blade that can gut, skin, cape, and debone just about any animal.

Case in point: Montana Knife Company’s Blackfoot blade is light enough for a deer hunt but large enough to field dress a moose. It’s sharp and versatile, and it successfully toes the line between lightness and toughness. If you can only bring one knife on your hunt, take the Blackfoot.

Unlike the cheap knives in a hunter’s knife set, this blade is made from 52100 high-carbon ball-bearing steel. The durable G10 handle won’t absorb blood and stands up against moisture, temperature, and abuse. 

Skinning Knife

A skinning knife (or skinner knife) is a heavy-duty blade with a large, sturdy handle that can be used to separate the skin from animals with thicker hides — moose, elk, etc.

MKC’s Stonewall Skinner is a specialty knife designed for skinning, but it can also handle any need a hunter encounters in the field, from cutting meat to chopping wood. Though it’s a bigger and longer knife than the Blackfoot, it’s light enough to carry without being cumbersome.

Like the Blackfoot, the Stonewall is crafted from sturdy 52100 high-carbon ball-bearing steel, and the handle is made with blood-, moisture-, and temperature-resistant G10.

Ultralight Knife

An ultralight knife is just that — a knife designed to be as physically light as possible. If you’re trying to keep your pack light, or if you’re looking for a knife for everyday carry, an ultralight knife is a great option.

Like the Blackfoot, MKC’s ultralight Speedgoat can cape, gut, debone, and skin a deer or elk, but it’s light, thin, and easy to carry.

The handle is wrapped in seven feet of versatile paracord, which does more than just keep the blade lightweight. You can use the paracord to tie down a tent, hang meat in a tree, replace a broken bootlace, or for many other situations. The sky’s the limit.

Plus, unlike other ultralight knives without a cord, wrap, or handle scales, the paracord on the Speedgoat ensures the knife doesn’t wear out your hand after hours of use.

Quote: Why Hunter’s Knife Sets Are Overrated: Less Is More

Final Thoughts on Hunter’s Knife Sets

Despite what manufacturers want you to believe, you don’t need a hunter’s knife set to enjoy a successful hunt. You only need two or three high-quality knives.

So, before your next outing, consider investing in a top-quality drop-point knife, skinning knife, and ultralight knife that’ll outlive you.


by Josh Smith, Master Bladesmith and Founder of Montana Knife Company

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