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Published Aug. 31, 2021

Replaceable blade knives have become a point of pride for elite backcountry hunters, but they’re also gaining popularity with workaday outdoorsmen and women. And for a good reason. These knives allow you to run a scalpel-sharp blade without constantly messing around with a sharpener. They utilize a thin, stainless-steel blade that attaches to a handle. When the blade gets dull, you simply swap it out for a new one. While the concept for all replaceable blade knives is the same, the designs vary widely. The knives feature handle styles, attachment systems, and blade shapes that are optimized for different scenarios, including quartering game on mountain hunts, skinning and caping animals at camp, butchering hindquarters in the garage, or trimming meat in the kitchen.

The real benefit of all the knives in our roundup is their extreme sharpness. It’s hard to overstate how important it is to have a sharp blade when working on game. These knives have evolved from the scalpels surgeons use, and the replaceable blades taxidermists rely on. They are built to make clean, precise cuts. So, whether you are a backcountry elk hunter or a front-country deer hunter one of these knives is going to be perfect for you. In fact, you might want to pick up multiple models.

Best Replaceable Blade Knife Overall: Tyto 1.1

Key Features

  • Weight: 1.5 ounces (including knife, blade, sheath)
  • Cerakoted handle
  • Overall length: 7.5 inches
  • Made in the USA

Why it Made the Cut

If a surgeon’s scalpel and a classic hunting knife had a love child, it would look just like the Tyto 1.1. The knife design is minimalism at its finest, but it’s combined with smart features that make the Tyto 1.1 useful in the real world. Plus, it’s made in America.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Ultra-light
  • Easy to clean
  • Design creates precise cutting

Cons

  • Blades didn’t fit perfectly to the handle

Product Description

The handle is laser cut from stainless steel and the version I tested was Cerakoted. The design of the blade makes it super light, but it also makes it easy to clean because there’s no place for blood or grime to get caught (assuming you don’t wrap the handle in paracord). The knife comes with ten size 60 stainless-steel replacement blades. The Kydex sheath holds the knife with perfect snugness, so the knife won’t jiggle free in your pack. Tyto also makes a storage roll for packing knives and spare blades.

Final Thoughts

This knife was designed for backcountry hunters, but it’s plenty useful for any hunting applications. It’s so light and thin that at first it feels a little unfamiliar in your had. I found myself placing my index finger on the top of the handle (where there are nice little grippy grooves) instead of placing my thumb there. For extra-precise work, like caping, you could hold this knife like a pencil, allowing your wrist to do the work of making fine, exact cuts. After about five minutes of cutting, I got used to the Tyto’s minimalist ergonomics.

The only thing I didn’t love about the Tyto 1.1 is that the blades didn’t fit to the handle perfectly. The back of the blade lifted ever so slightly off the handle, but that didn’t make a difference while cutting. I was able to exchange blades without using a tool. But I did this in the comfort of my kitchen. I’m not sure I’d want to use my fingers to swap blades on the top of a frigid mountain in the dark. That said, Havalon’s plastic blade gripper made swapping blades on the Tyto a breeze (read more about that below). 

Best Folding, Scalpel-Style: Havalon Piranta Original

Key Features

  • Stainless steel handle with G10 inlays
  • Solid frame-lock construction
  • Overall length: 6.75 in.

Why It Made the Cut

This is the knife that started the replaceable blade popularity trend. It’s the O.G. replaceable blade hunting knife and it still works just as well today as it does when it was introduced.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • It’s a time-tested system
  • Sturdy comfortable handle
  • Ideal size for most hunting applications

Cons

  • Requires a tool for swapping blades
  • You’ll snap blades if you’re not careful

Product Description

This knife model has skinned and quartered countless big game animals from Alaska to Arizona. It has a simple folding design that features a frame-lock that secures the blade in the open position. It comes with 12 extra stainless steel #60A 2-3/4″ blades, but it can also run #60XT blades. The Havalon also comes with a removable holster clip and a nylon holster to hold the knife and extra blades. Havalon also makes a little orange, plastic blade gripper, which you use to leverage the blade off the knife and slide on a new one. If you try to use your fingers the blade swapping process feels like it just might land you in the emergency room. But with the blade gripper, it’s incredibly simple — and painless. If you’re not feeling the plastic blade gripper, you can simply use pliers.

Final Thoughts

The Havalon Piranta Original was popular enough that some folks call all replaceable blade knives of this style a “Havalon” similar to how “Kleenex” has become synonymous with “tissue.” Some hunters have moved away from the Original Havalon because the tool required to change blades and the fact that the thin blades often snap, at least when you apply sideways pressure to them. But in the right hands, the original Piranta is an incredibly precise, effective tool. I like the original over the newer Prinata Edge because of the Original’s steel handle and frame-lock design. The new Piranta has a plastic handle and liner-lock design, instead.

Most Durable Replaceable Blade Knife: Outdoor Edge RazorPro

Key Features

  • Black-oxide coated blade holder
  • 7Cr17 Stainless
  • Gutting blade
  • Overall length: 8 in.

Why it Made the Cut

Years ago I was hastily working on an elk that my buddy had shot. I put too much pressure on my replaceable blade knife and snapped the blade, sending a broken shard of stainless steel flying past my buddy’s face, nearly sticking him in the eye. That kind of whoopsie doesn’t happen with RazorPro design.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Long, sturdy blade holder prevents blades from snapping
  • Swapping blades is fast, safe, and requires no tools
  • Feels like a traditional knife in your hand

Cons

  • Blood, fat, and hair can gather on the blade holder and inside the handle
  • Slightly heavier (8 ounces) for backcountry hunts

Product Description

The blade length on the RazorPro is 3.5 inches, which is about perfect for all big-game work, and the handle is rubberized. It utilizes stainless steel liners to lock the blade in place. Swapping blades requires no tools, and it also won’t require stitches. Simply open the knife, press the blade at the front of the handle, slide the blade off, and slide on a new one. It comes with a nylon sheath and six Japanese 420J2 stainless blades. It also comes with a nifty gutting blade, if you’re into that kind of a thing.

Final Thoughts

This is the replaceable blade knife for people who really just want a regular knife with a razor-sharp blade.

Most Versatile Replaceable Blade System: Havalon Talon Hunt

Key Features

  • Gut hook, fillet, and serrated blades
  • Quick change, tool-free system
  • Roll pack for knife storage

Why it Made the Cut

This is more of a kit than a single knife. With one handle you can run a variety of different blade styles, which is super convenient when you’re boning out quarters and then butchering. You can also add a variety of extra fillet blades for filleting fish.

Pros and Cons

  • Blades are organized and safe in the rollout carrier
  • Tons of versatility in one kit
  • Fast and easy blade exchange

Cons

  • Standard drop-point blade without serrations or gut hook is not included
  • Handle feels a little cheap, plasticky

Product Description

Havalon basically took a knife handle, made a simple and useful attachment system, and then made a wide variety of blade styles and designs to pair with it. There are three options you can choose from: Fish, Hunt, or Hip Holster Set. The Talon Fish comes with more fillet blades and the Hip Holster comes simply with a “Bushcraft blade” and a gut hook blade (though the bushcraft blade is not sturdy enough to tackle serious bushcraft work). No matter which options you pick, you can swap in blades from the other sets. You can see the full set of Talon blades here. The Fish and Hunt options come with a useful nylon roll pack to store the handle and blades. The hip holster is available separately.

Final Thoughts

This is a handy kit that can handle any job sufficiently, but no job perfectly. The fillet blades for example are not precise as those as you’d see on a high-end fillet knife. The drop-point blades are nicely designed, but the system doesn’t feel as sturdy in your hand as a full-tang drop-point hunting knife does. That said, the kit is affordable, and with the wide variety of blades available, it’s a great value for any wild game butcher.

Easiest Blade-Swapping System: Gerber Vital Pocket Folder

Key Features

  • Split Sec Tech blade exchange system
  • Comfortable rubber grip
  • Separate blade holder
  • Overall length: 6.9 inches

Why it Made the Cut

Gerber designed a simple and ingenious system for slipping off a used blade and fixing a new blade to the handle. Press a tab above the blade and pull it forward. It comes right off. Slide a new blade on and you’re back to cutting.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Fast and easy blade exchange
  • Sturdy lock-back design
  • Limited lifetime warranty

Cons

  • Blade release system obscures part of blade
  • Blade release system catches blood and grime

Product Description

This is a light pocked folder with a solid lock-back design and a comfortable and highly visibly orange rubber grip. The blades attach to the knife through Gerber’s patented Split Sec Tech system which is safe and simple to use and requires no tools. The knife includes a #60 industry-standard attached razor blade and six #60 replaceable razor blades. Replacement blades are available in a 12-pack plastic holder which holds blades safely and then dispenses them when you press and slide a tab. You can store used blades in the waste compartment of this clever little holder. 

Final Thoughts

This knife and system was clearly designed by hunters. The knife, when paired with the replacement blade kit is all you’d ever need for processing big game in the backcountry or front country. There are trade-offs though. The blade holder obscures a good portion of the blade. You can still with the full blade, but not as effectively as if the blade was fully exposed. Plus, this system takes a little more effort to clean as blood and guts work into all the crevices around the blade holder and handle.

Evaluating Replaceable Blade Knives

Over the years, I’ve used every one of these knives to skin deer, quarter elk, butcher hindquarters, or trim silver skin off backstraps. Each knife in my list has a different design, which makes each ideal for slightly different applications. I evaluated all replaceable blade knives, however, based on my opinion in how the knife performed in the following categories:

  • Blade exchange (How difficult — or dangerous — is it to swap blades?)
  • Handle design (Does it catch blood and grime? Is it easy to clean?)
  • Ergonomics (Does it feel comfortable in my hand?)
  • Blade storage (Are spare blades stored safely?)
  • Durability (How easily do the blades snap?)
  • Value (Do you get what you pay for?)

Why not evaluate knife sharpness? In almost any knife test I’d evaluate sharpness, however the blades in this review are relatively similar, some are even exchangeable across knives. All the blades came out of their packages shaving sharp, and I’ve got a hairless forearm to prove it.

Things to Consider Before Buying a Replaceable Blade Knife

Every replaceable blade knife makes compromises on certain design features. If you’re a backcountry hunter, every ounce counts, and you should go with one of the ultra-light models. If weight isn’t a big deal, choose one of the heavier models with thicker, more durable blades. Next, look at yourself in the mirror and be honest: How organized are you? Is your headlamp always running out of batteries? Is your backpack a jumbled mess of random gear? If so, go with an option that requires no tools for blade exchange and stores extra blades in the sheath. You don’t want to get halfway through quartering an animal only to find out you have no way to swap out a dull blade. If you’re the super-organized type, you’ll find a smart way to store your knife, a tool like the Havalon blade gripper, and some extra blades in your pack without issue.

FAQs

Let’s cut the B.S. around replaceable blade knives.

Q: Do replaceable blade knives work?

These knives work wonderfully, if you use them correctly. Any replaceable blade knife is going to be less durable than durable than a standard knife. Replaceable blade knives excel in sharpness, and if you’re pressing so hard that you’re consistently breaking blades, you’re doing something wrong.

Q: What’s the best replaceable blade knife?

That all depends on what you want to use it for. For simplicity, I like the Tyto 1.1. For classic features and performance, I like the Havalon Piranta. For durability, I like the Outdoor Edge RazorPro.

Q: What’s the sharpest knife?

Replaceable blades are thin, stainless-steel, and come out of the package shaving sharp. As far as hunting knives go, a brand-new replaceable blade is as sharp as they come. However, these blades can dull quickly, which is why you’ll need to swap them out or sharpen them regularly.

Outdoor Life Values

Outdoor Life editors don’t just enjoy hunting and fishing as hobbies—the pursuit of these passions make us who we are. Our writers are diehard outdoorsmen and women, too. For more than a century, OL has been evaluating the latest and greatest outdoor gear and providing our readers with no-B.S. reviews. We test products in the field under real-world conditions. We write about the pros and cons of every product we review so that you know exactly what you’re getting if you decide to purchase the gear we cover. Only the best hunting, fishing, backpacking, camping, and survival gear will make the cut in our reviews and roundups. If we’re covering it, you know it’s legit.

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