Four years ago, while looking for a new general purpose camping and food prep knife to take along on paddle trips and car camping weekends, I came across the the Gerber Big Rock Camp Knife. I like knives with wide blades and ergonomic handles and the Big Rock fit the bill perfectly. But what really caught my eye about this knife was the price.
The Gerber Big Rock Camp Knife may have been designed with the budget camper or hunter in mind, but in the hand it feels like a much more expensive knife. While the materials and workmanship of the knife are not top shelf, they are a fantastic blend of quality and value.
When I purchased the knife back in 2015, it was around $30. It’s gone up a little since then (Click here to check the current price on Amazon.com), but overall it still seems like fantastic bargain.
So, four years later, how is my Gerber Big Rock holding up and what did I use it for?
To be clear, I am no knife expert and this review is not about abusing gear to the breaking point to determine how it will hold up in an some imaginary zombie apocalypse survival fantasy. Although I have savaged more than a few sirloin steaks with my Gerber Big Rock over the years and once even used it to cut up a beer can to make a reflector for a candle to add ambience to a bottle of wine on the beach.
What I’m getting at is that this knife has been very well used, but not abused, and the best survival tip I could ever give anyone is to learn how to take good care of your gear.
A Great Knife for Food Prep in Camp
So, I’ve used the knife for what I bought it for: general campsite duties and camp cooking, and it has been excellent for both. But it has really shined for food preparation.
The Gerber Big Rock feels awesome in your hand. It has some heft, but thanks to the full tang construction and a well-designed, ergonomic handle, you feel very connected to it and that is translated into blade control. There is something special about cutting up vegetables with a well-balanced knife, and I feel this every time I pull the Big Rock out of its sheath.
The 4.5 inch drop point blade is great for chopping and peeling, but has a tip that is fine enough for dicing and mincing duties. Also, if you turn that wide, flat blade sideways, it makes a great garlic press. Basically the blade is a great design for a camping situation where one knife has to cover all the various kitchen duties and do them well.
Whenever I start comparing a camp knife to a chef knife (which I’m full on doing here) I need to remember that while both knives are designed for cutting up vegetables, my camp knife must do this on the hull of an aluminum canoe and then be used to baton some kindling for the fire or cut up a beer can to make a candle lantern.
The Big Rock is definitely a camping knife, however more than a few times I have reached for it to cut up veggies at home when it was in the drying rack in the kitchen after being washed after a trip. I honestly like using this knife much better than my crappy “chef knives” at home, even though they are task specific and have a finer blades.
My version of the Gerber Big Rock has a serrated section in the blade and there used to be a version available without the serrations (now discontinued). Because this is a camp knife, I purposely chose the version with serrations on the blade and have been pleased that they don’t take too much away from the finer cutting edge toward the point – you still have plenty of fine blade for cooking duties. I’ll talk more about serrations below, but if I had been buying this knife (or any knife) solely for cooking, I would be okay with a non-serrated version.
Processing Kindling with the Gerber Big Rock
Because I’ve lived in the southeast U.S. (Florida and Georgia), fires are generally for cooking, light, and camp ambience, so processing tons of kindling to keep alive at night in the snow has not been a something I’ve put the Big Rock through. Here, we either keep the fires low and slow burning, or crank up a full-blown bonfire where we process whole trees and old wood furniture with axes and chainsaws. Yeehaw!
My feeling, however, is that the Big Rock would be up to the task of serious winter firewood batonning and, honestly, I would rather baton the crap out of a cheap, capable knife then beat up a super expensive knife. Would I trust it in a winter survival situation? Absolutely, but this is my version of a survival situation, so take that with a grain of salt.
That being said, I have used it on quite a lot of smaller kindling and it has held up great thanks to its full tang design and the thick backbone of the blade. I also rarely carry a lighter and have always gotten by fine with just a fire steel. One of the main reason I chose the Big Rock with serrations is that a serrated edge is exceptionally good for feathering kindling to make tinder.
If you are not familiar with feathering wood, it is simply using a knife blade to shave small curls of wood into a stick to produce tinder with more surface area to take a spark better. A serrated edge produces curls with a more varied array of thicknesses making for much better tinder than you can create with a flat blade.
Other Campsite Knife Stuff
One of the main reasons I bought the Big Rock was that I wanted a heavier duty camp knife for sea kayak trips and canoe camping. If you have spent any amount of time around boats, then you have undoubtedly run into the situation where you needed to cut some rope or webbing and couldn’t find a blade up to the task. Non serrated blades are useless on some types of cordage, so this is one place where serrations can be life saver. Every good boat knife should have them. I do keep a blunt-tipped, partially-serrated dive knife on my PFD, so the Big Rock has never been considered a survival knife, but rather a camp knife around water that could act as a backup should I need it.
Another great feature of the Gerber Big Rock is the stout lanyard hole which runs through the knife tang and sticks out the butt end of the handle. Because I’m always needing a hammer or small pry bar, this part of the knife gets a lot of use and abuse. Thankfully, there is a lot of metal there, so there is very little damage from the many things I’ve banged, bent, and battered with it.
Why yes, I have opened quite a few beer bottles with it. How did you guess?
A Closer Look at the Gerber Big Rock
Again, I’m no knife aficionado. I just need something affordable to cut, chop, pry, feather wood, and open beers with, but for the sake of this review, I’ll go ahead and make some half-assed comments about the Big Rock’s construction and design.
From what I understand about knife blades, they generally fall into two categories: High Carbon Steel and Stainless. High carbon steel knives generally hold an edge better, are stronger, and cut more precisely than stainless knives.
The Gerber Big Rock is a stainless knife, but that is a good thing and kudos to Gerber for getting this right. The blade of a stainless knife may not be as sharp as that of a high carbon steel knife, but it also resists rust and corrosion better and is less likely to contaminate food. Good qualities in an outdoor cooking knife.
Stainless knives are also tougher in the sense that they are less likely to chip. They may lose their edge easier, but they also sharpen easier. Generally speaking, stainless knives are made for general duty abuse, high carbon steel knives are made for precision cutting. General duty abuse describes my typical camp situation perfectly.
As mentioned above, I always go for drop point knives with wide blades since they are better for cooking, yet can still perform other functions well. If cooking were not the main purpose and I was still looking for a blade style for general camp duties, I would still choose a simple drop point. I really don’t see myself getting into many combat situations in the state parks I go to, so I don’t need a stabby tip and blood gutters. (Although there was that one time I got stuck in among a bunch of RVs while tent camping in Florida…. freaking generators.)
As mentioned above, I love the Big Rock’s ergonomic handle. You get a solid grip on the knife due to a nice, oversized groove for your index finger and a pronounced quillion (the part that protects your index finger from slipping down the blade).
The thumb grip built into the tang on the top of the handle also inspires a confident grip and good cutting feel since your thumb is pressed against the knife steel. I have gotten a small blister on my thumb from a long session of cooking and firewood processing, but it was a small price to pay for a knife with such good feel.
I have an average-sized hand and the Gerber Big Rock is a joy to hold, but I can’t say that this handle would fit every hand. The handle has a very thin profile, which may make it work for smaller hands. The Big Rock is a pretty big knife with a broad grip, but I think Gerber did a great job in making it adaptable to different hand sizes.
Gerber calls the handle material “glass-filled nylon with SoftGrip overmold”. I have no idea what the hell that means, but if feels solid with a rubbery texture and has some nice raised lines to aid with grip and shock absorption.
It is held on by two torx screws and looks to be easily removable if either needed to replace it or wanted to make your own handle. The handle follows the profile of the tang, so you could probably even go without a handle if you were so inclined.
The knife doesn’t come with a lanyard, but it does have a beefy lanyard hole suitable for 550 paracord. I’ve ended up replacing every factory supplied lanyard on practically any product I’ve ever bought, so I would rather have it not come with one. In the photos on this page you can see the paracord lanyard I made for it. I used reflective paracord to make it easier to find at night.
The Gerber Big Rock Camp Knife Factory Specs
- Overall length: 9.5″
- Blade length: 4.5″
- Weight: 6.4 oz.
- Blade style: drop point
- Blade material: 440A stainless steel
If you are buying a budget knife, you should expect the sheath to suck. And I’m not just talking about quality, but also design, function, and materials.
The reason for this I think is expectation. Most people can agree on what is expected of a camp knife, but will argue for hours on end about the merits and atrocities of the various cheap knife sheaths they’ve encountered.
It’s understandable. You may need that sheath to work with a certain belt, fit into a specific pocket, clip to a certain part of your pack, hold the knife at a certain angle, have the perfect-sized auxiliary pocket for your pez dispenser, etc, etc, etc.
If a sheath’s only purpose was to keep you from getting cut, they would all be pretty decent. But that is not the case and the Gerber Big Rock sheath blows just like you would expect it to.
Modifications I made on the sheath
The handle of the knife is not held down against the top of the sheath very well and it was driving me crazy the few times I wore it on a belt. It was also really annoying if the knife was in a sea kayak hatch with a bunch of other loose items. It was always getting snagged on things, So, I simply sewed on a loop of heavy duty, double-sided Velcro and boom! No more snagging!
I also noticed that there was a small space in between the plastic liner that holds the knife blade, and the outer nylon covering. This was just big enough to hold a small fire steel which I attached to the belt loop. It tucks away nicely and it makes for a great emergency backup to the larger fire steel that I carry.
So, now I actually like the Big Rock sheath. It’s got some rust on the snap from many beach camping trips, but it is holding up well otherwise. It also keeps me from cutting myself and now holds my knife securely, so maybe it doesn’t suck so bad.
Conclusion about the Gerber Big Rock Camp Knife
This website is all about affordable adventure and quality gear that fits that lifestyle and budget. The Gerber Big Rock fits this paradigm to a tee.
It’s not a collector’s knife or something for the mantelpiece, but I could see a haggard old man in the back of an RV in Florida, passing down a badly-scratched and battered Big Rock that had been sharpened a bazillion times to his grandson or granddaughter.
“I got it off of one of those tent hippies that I ran over back in ’18,” he would say to the youngster while reaching for the remote to turn up the TV to drown out the noise of the generator.
The Gerber Big Rock Camp Knife may be all about function and utility, but it exudes the well thought out form and design of a much more expensive knife.
After four years of slicing vegetables, being dropped in the sand, and opening beer bottles, my big Rock is holding up great. There are no signs of rust and only a few small nicks in the blade which I could probably work out if I was more skilled with a sharpening stone.
Overall, the Gerber Big Rock is a great knife for the money and I would absolutely buy another one.
If you are buying your first knife for outdoor adventures, I do want to make one last comment about the Big Rock – it’s heavy. I don’t mean that it is heavy compared to similar knives, just that this style of knife is heavy. I rarely take it with me for backpacking, however I find it perfect for car camping or paddle trips.
If you are looking for a ultra lightweight knife for backpacking and adventure picnicking, the Gerber Myth Pocket Folder is a better choice. While only weighing 2.7 oz (the Big Rock weighs close to 8 oz with the sheath), it still offers a wide blade and comfortable handle despite it’s small size. This is a folding knife rather than a fixed blade knife, so I don’t expect it to have anywhere near the strength of the Big Rock, but for an ultralight knife, it has been a great choice as well.