Camp Tramp from Swamp Rat Knifeworks

A shot of a used Camp Tramp and a Howling Rat, both extensively used :

camp tramp and
	howling rat

The review consists of :

UPDATE : the Camp Tramp is an evolution of the Basic, both have been discontinued.


The Camp Tramp is a 7 1/2" bowie style blade, made by stock removal out of 1/4" thick SR101 ("enhanced" 52100), with a synthetic grip of "Resiprene C". The blade is differentially hardened to enhance the durability and flexibility with a spring tempered spine. The primary grind is high sabre flat and tapers to a light convex edge which is difficult to distinguish from flat by eye.

The edge is about 0.058" thick and ground at slightly below 16 degrees per side for the main body of the blade and swelled to 18 degrees per side in the tip. The knife weighs 390 g and balances about 2.2 centimeters in front of the handle, a decent blade heavy heft. It has a hard black crinkle "rough" coating to enhance the corrosion resistance of the flats.

Stock testing

With the initial edge, the Camp Tramp could shave but scratched a little, it could slice newsprint but had little ability for push cuts. Push cutting light thread required 207 (22) grams, and to slice 1/4" poly under a 1000 gram load was 0.6 (1) centimeters of blade was required near the base of the blade. The knife was significantly reduced in sharpness through the tip, under magnification a slight roll was present.

Push cutting 3/8" hemp the Camp Tramp required between 31-33 lbs and a two inch draw needed only 24-26 lbs, showing significant aggression.

Pointing sections of basswood dowel the Camp Tramp performed well and was able to rough off the necessary wood and make a one inch point in only 8 (1) slices.

The Camp Tramp chopped at about 55 (4) % of the Tramontina bolo on small wood, scrap as well as felled wood (2-3" pine and spruce mainly). The Tramontina bolo is in the same class as the Gransfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet. The Camp Trap was more fluid in the wood than the Bolo but this could not overcome the time or effort disadvantage of the lower penetration.

The point on the Camp Trap while quite robust given its geometry (point is about 1.5 inch long and has a taper of 4.6 +/- 0.3 degrees) has very solid penetration due to the military or penetrator tip. This is essentially small sharpened section of the spine only a quarter inch or so long. On a hard stab it would go through one phonebook and into a second one for a total depth of 910 (10) pages.

The point was very robust due to the cross section and strength of the steel and the Camp Tramp could very aggressive dig/pry in woods and could make a hole through a 2x4's with 28 stabs in about three minutes.


Using the Camp Tramp trimming fats and cutting up meats it did well as those kinds of tasks are just determined by the sharpness, similar for soft fruits and vegetables. It is however awkward for many of the precision tasks such as peeling potatoes because of the blade width and weight, and the blade thickness can induce fracture on thin slices through stiffer vegetables. The raw cutting ability is however solid for a blade of its class, it can cut a medium sized carrot with 5-7 lbs while a Japanese style utility knife, at the extreme end of kitchen cutlery in regards to cutting ability, does it in 2.5 - 3 lbs.


Using the Camp Tramp and Mora 2000 for rough wood carving, the Mora 2000 is significantly ahead. Using both to whittle down the end of a stick to make a comfortable handle for a baton the Mora 2000 is finished more than twice as fast as the Camp Tramp. However, the Camp Tramp is far more effective chopping off the waste wood, and it can chop the handle to shape and then finish carve it faster than the Mora 2000 can just cut off waste wood. The difference is also many to one in favor of the Camp Tramp cutting small sticks, gathering limbs and prying apart and splitting deadwoods. The Mora 2000 tends to stand out for tasks which are mainly precision cutting such as food preperation and light carving, shaping a spoon and similar. The edge angle is significantly more acute so the cutting ability is higher as seen on the basswood cutting with both, however the true advantage is usually the lower weight and thus greater ease of use for such tasks.

The Camp Tramp and Becker CU/7 from Camillus had very similar performance carving light woods and worked equally well cutting light vegetation. The Camp Tramp is more blade forward which tended to increase fatigue on really light machete type work on grasses compared to the CU/7, however the index finger cutout on the blade allows a far forward grip to achieve a neutral balance. They both had similar point penetration abilities, and easily work well to break apart logs for tinder (or food if you are so inclined), and pry apart stumps for pitchwood. The tip on the CU/7 did flex more in the harder work but always returned to true. Both blades also readily split wood with a baton, the "Resiprene C" grip of the Camp Tramp was much more comfortable during the heavier impacts. The Camp Tramp was also a much more powerful chopper, by about two to one which was readily obvious while limbing, felling or bucking wood to length.

Compared to a longer and slighter blade such as Patrol Machete the Camp Tramp is immediately a very different blade. While both could cut light vegetation with equal ease when sharp the Patrol Machete was much more efficient as it had significantly more reach. On light wood like alders the work still favored the Patrol Machete for similar reasons. However on limbing Camp Tramp worked in the hardest woods without issue but a Patrol Machetes fractured readily as did its replacement on the same work. On lighter wood work like making shavings and kindling in general, the Camp Tramp is much easier to handle. The extra stiffness also makes it a much better splitter and is much more capable of prying apart woods than the Patrol Machete which just bends readily even in soft woods.


With the edge well sharpened the Camp Tramp cut light materials like bubble wrap, plastics, paper and fabrics well. Compared to a Patrol Machete and 52100 MEUK on 1/8 inch cardboard, no significant difference was noted in ease of cutting. However on 1/4 inch cardboard they all wedged significantly due to the thickness, the Patrol Machete was favored simply because it allowed a larger draw. A recently heavily used Swiss Army Rucksack could not cut the cardboard at all because it was significant blunted showing the extreme importance of sharpness on such materials. However with a a few passes on a crock stick the Rucksack cut the cardboard much better than the other knives due to the much thinner profile. Cutting up some rubber tubing of various sizes the Patrol Machete was significantly behind as the curvature interferes with the cutting on a push though it does better on a draw, which is typical of recurves.

The Camp Tramp was also compared to an Opinel and Twistmaster on rolls of cotton fabric. When the rolls were sliced and the two folders had very rough finishs from an 100 grit aluminum oxide belt they could cut the fabric with much less passes than Camp Tramp. However the performance reversed when the material was cut on a push. As the material is so soft the cutting ability is mainly determined by the sharpness and in general there is usually a tradeoff of slicing ability which favors coarse finishes vs push cutting ability which is enhanced as the blade is raised to a high polish.

The Camp Tramp was later subjected to extreme impacts, stabbed into a windshield and the spine used to break the glass free. The initial stab blunted the point but did no significant damage, less than one millimeters of tip was lost due to impaction. The spine was dented in multiple places from the contacts but no significant fracture was induced and the indentation was so shallow it was difficult to measure. The edge was also used to cut significant amount of light sheet metal with no significant damage. However when it was used to chop through some heavy nails (3.5" common) on concrete the edge did visibly chip in the contact areas. The edge was lost to a depth of 0.008", with a semi-circular flake that extended to a max height of 0.03", but it was just cosmetic at that hight not significantly extending into the steel. The nail cutting was intentionally done as a worst case scenario, they are easy to cut using a baton and chiseling through them. That size of a nail can be cut in less than ten hits with no significant damage to the Camp Tramp. In general if the knife was going to be used for this type of cutting on a regular basis it would benefit fro a small secondary edge bevel of around 25 degrees per side.

Edge retention

The Camp Tramp had excellent edge retention chopping woods. During the comparisons against the bolo, after a round of chopping the the Camp Tramp could still shave, needing a little a slice or draw, and could still slice newsprint well however the Bolo would have significant visible edge damage as the steel is much softer.

Ease of sharpening

SR101 sharpens very well, the grindability is high and there is little issue with burrs. It is also fairly tough and hard and thus in general there is little need to move signifiant steel. The only concern which could make sharpening problematic would be if the knife was used around salt water or in other corrosive enviroments as the corrosion resistance is fairly low. The Camp Tramp was left wet and put back in the sheath and overnight it developed multiple visible patches of orange rust along the edge and this greatly increases sharpening time.


The grip is made of "Resiprene C". a dense rubber like material which is more resistant to tearing and wear than Kraton but less than Micarta or G10. It has a very light texture. The grip deals with shock much better than the harder and more dense handle materials like Micarta. Since the grip fully encloses the tang in temperature extremes it doesn't transfer heat readily. The grip is also contoured in all dimensions which increases security and comfort and the rear butt hook is at enough of an angle to drive from but not so sharp it is abrasive. The only weak point is the the front of the grip is rather squarish and meets the blade at a perpendicular and and this reduces ergonomics in a forward grip.


The sheath is Cordura with a Kydex insert. It came with a very tight fit. There is a pouch on the sheath with an elastic tie down. It is all held together with secure and quality stitching. This type of rig over is much more robust in terms of temperature extremes over plan Kydex however leather generally holds up better in terms of abrasion. Care needs to be taken in watching the stitching on Cordura sheaths as it it starts to unravel it should be sealed epoxy, or repair the stitching by hand.


The Camp Tramp sets a high standard for cutting and chopping ability, edge retention, durability, and versatility for class. The only standout negative is the handle is a bit squarish in front which reduces ergonomics in a forward grip.

Comments and references

Comments can be sent to : cliffstamp[REMOVE] or posted to the following thread :

More information can be obtained at the Swamp Rat Knife works website, which also includes a discussion board, and The Swamp. Other recommended reading :

Last updated : Wed Jun 16 23:02:38 NDT 2004
Originally written: Wed Jan 1 10:18:38 NDT 2003