Like a lot of chefs, since the day I walked into a kitchen, I had a passion for knives. Theyre’s a lot to be attracted to: they’re shiny, expensive, and some are about the closest you’ll get to being able to lug a sword around and not look like a psychopath.
When I started hunting mushrooms, I got overly excited about getting to explore new knives, those made, and that could be used specifically for mushroom hunting. It was like giving a new drug to an addict. The question always lingered though: which knife is the best?
At first, I had some pretty hilarious ideas about what made a good mushroom hunting knife. I spent hours online reading reviews, measuring and comparing, and obsessing over silly things that looked more like Rennaissance festival regalia than something I could actually use to skillfully harvest food. Pretty funny when you consider one of the most famous mushrooms hunters in the U.S. brings plastic picnic knives on planes when he goes on out of state forays.
Ten years after embarassing myself, I have some really solid advice for anyone that’s looking for the best type of knives for carrying outside, and harvesting mushrooms. Let’s just say it was a lot less complicated than my juvenile, and kitchen-addled brain thought.
First, here’s a couple broad points about mushroom hunting knives, as I see it.
The Best Mushroom Knife is Small, Compact, and Lightweight
This is the biggest thing to consider. You’re hunting mushrooms, not 1000lb antler-toting animals in the Mountains, and the knife should reflect that. At first, for me, still buzzing off a record year where I cut 50lbs of chicken of the woods mushrooms off of one tree and about the same weight of hen of the woods, I bought a handsome skinning blade from Puma.
After getting made fun of at a foray by older hunters, and a couple awkward looks at gas stations with a 6 inch pewter board handle prodruding from my belt while hunting a candy bar, I learned. Moral of the story: less is more, now, I’ve downgraded my collection to only the smallest knives, unless I have an actual deer to skin, which only happens in the fall.
Fixed Blade or Folder?
At first, with my kitchen experience, I thought only fixed-blades would do. Again, remember you’re hunting stationary mushrooms, not defending yourself from a lion attack while tracking wildebeast in the Serenghetti. That being said, I do like both fixed and folders for carrying in the field, but I keep them small, compact, and concealable.
My Favorite Mushroom Knives
In no particular order, here’s my top 6
Opinel Mushroom Knife 30$ Weight: 50 g
There is no blade more widely known for mushroom hunting than the opinel. They’re also likely the most lightweight knives in this post, and one of them is an actual design made especially for picking mushrooms, with it’s curved blade and brush on the opposite end. At the reasonable price of around 30$, every mushroom hunter should have one of these. Don’t be fooled by look-alikes either, there are a lot of similar-looking, and cheaper brands out there, but they are often too heavy and awkward, with thick blades that are hard to sharpen.
Classic Carbon Steel Blade 10$ Weight: 50 g
The other opinel style is the still feather-light, classic carbon steel. New to carbon steel. knives? Just know this: it will get a patina, needs regular cleaning and attention to ward off rust, but it will hold an edge better than any stainless steel knife you’ve used, and the edge is easy to put back on since the steel is soft. That being said, you might want to get a wetstone if you buy a carbon steel blade. I’ve had mine for 10 years and it’s still a razor, not to mention it’s cheaper than buying a hamburger.
Buck 102 60-125$ Weight: 70 g
One of the most famous American Knife makers. The 102 is often given to children, but don’t let the size fool you, it’s slightly longer than the others in this post, with the fixed blade, but that means it will take one hell of a beating, year after year. The stainless steel blade can get a bit dull with a lot of use and no TLC, but with proper, care these are fantastic. One of my favorite features is the drop point and the tip of the blade-great for getting in little holes of a tree, wedging out a resistant fungus, or just clipping easy shrooms all day long. After you’re done cutting shrooms, you could easily use it to skin a whole deer. This is a multi-talented blade, just pull your shirt over it when you go into civilization.
Japanese Higonokami 10-80$ Weight: 30 g
This is definitely the honorable mention knife for this post. Not only are Higas small, and ultra-light, razor sharp and easy to sharpen as they’re carbon steel, they flip open lightning fast after breaking in like a switch blade. The only catch, is that means there is no safety. Even so, I’ve owned a couple of these and have never kept them anywhere but my pocket, and I’ve never cut myself. I’ve found that I like to keep them in the thin coin pocket of a pair of jeans, which holds the knife straight up and down, with just ebough clearance for me to be able to grab it easily from the pocket. Note the rust on mine, once again, carbon steel is wicked sharp, but needs regular attention.
Anza 50-75$ Weight 93 g
Hands-down, the strongest, abuse-loving knife here, and seemingly indestructable. The secret, is that the knives are all carved out of steel files, that is, steel that’s used to cut through other steel. You’ll feel the extra weight in this, and the slightly thicker blade can be overkill for small, casual mushrooming as “flexible” doesn’t translate to above benefits, but the small knife model here is not bad, especially if you want something to double as a camp knife. Heck, with a hammer, you could use an Anza to cut down small trees, they’re ungodly strong.
Helle Algonquin 150$ Weight: 60 g
The ritzy one. Small enough to be a gift for a 12-year old, but ideal for small tasks, especially delicate mushrooming. To sweeten the deal, it’s light as air, at 60 grams, it’s nearly as light as the 10$ Opinel, just with a sexy, minimalist nordic handle and mirror-finished blade. Last, but not least, is the carry method. In the United States it’s not really a thing, but apparently in Europe, especially in Scandinavia it’s common to carry small knives in a sheath around your neck. It might sound wierd but it’s actually a really great way to carry hiking. It tucks into a shirt quickly if I see civilians, and is all-around a luxury to use. The only tradeoff, if you could call it that, is that it shouldn’t be abused like the Buck or Anza, but sometimes it ok to have nice things.