Whether you like to be prepared or planning a camping trip, a survival knife is a crucial tool to have. You can use it for several purposes (mentioned below), and its compact, pocket-sized structure makes it easy to carry with you anywhere you go.
One thing you will notice in the survival knives is that they all have fixed blades. The reason behind this is that a fixed-blade knife (non-foldable) doesn’t have any moving parts and is less likely to break under extreme abuse.
If you want the best quality survival knife that can help you survive in tough situations, you are in the right place. We will take you through a guide discussing all the benefits, uses, and features to look for in a survival knife before buying it. So, let’s get started.
Functions/Uses of a Survival Knife
A survival knife is indeed a man’s best friend in the wilderness and tough situations. It offers hundreds of survival-related functions. But for starters, below is a list of some of its uses:
- Prying Tool
- Fire Making
- First Aid Tool
- Shelter Building
- Make-Shift Screwdriver
- Food Prep
- Hunting Weapon
When Would You Need a Survival Knife?
Going into the wilderness can be the best escape for a man from all the hustle and bustle of city life. However, going out there alone or with a group requires some preparation, which includes packing essentials. You want to go as light as possible, depending on your experience and wits of survival.
A quality knife will help you not only survive in the great outdoors but also help you achieve a wide range of essential tasks. This type of knife is typically more robust and larger than a standard pocket knife. They have a sturdy and sharp blade that can cut through almost anything that gets in your way.
Following are the top two scenarios that you must have a survival knife on you.
If you are planning a hunting trip with your buddies, you will surely appreciate the versatility of a survival knife. You might already know that it is one of the sturdiest and durable types of knives around. And you can count on it as a means of survival in the places that are full of danger. A survival knife offers plenty of dexterity. It makes an excellent choice for skinning game and preparing your hunted animal for cooking.
Since survival knives are designed to serve several functions, they also make an excellent choice as a tool for camping trips. Its sharp and robust blade makes cutting through branches and small logs a breeze. This also means that you can set up your campfire way more conveniently than ever. In addition to that, you will be able to create a shelter from scratch using a survival knife, and of course, by utilizing other skills.
Features You Want To Look For In a Survival Knife
- Fixed Blade, Not Folding
As already mentioned in the beginning, you want to look for a survival knife with a fixed blade, not folding. Why? Because a folding knife might be perfect for everyday carry, but when it comes to reliability, especially during survival, you want a fixed blade. The weakness of the folding knife lies in its joint or pivot. You want a knife that can endure when it comes to rough abuse.
In a survival knife, you want all the functionalities, such as chopping, prying, thrusting, pounding, and rigorous cutting. Therefore, for survival, folding knives just don’t go well with all that abuse.
Yes, you might be thinking that many folding knives are advertised as survival knives, so why aren’t they good? Well, some high-quality folders can be pretty solid, but they may never take a beating like a sturdy fixed blade. Another top reason not to opt for a folding blade is the speed of deployment. In an emergency situation, you want a knife that is ready to go the minute you take it out of its sheath.
When it comes to speed, safety, and durability, you can never go wrong with a survival knife with a fixed blade.
- Full Tang
You can compromise on almost everything, but your safety and health. You want a knife that is pretty solid in every way. Therefore, you should opt for a survival knife with a full tang. Full tang means that the blade of the knife fully extends from the tip to the very end of the handle. Full tang knives provide enhanced strength and control that you will need badly in survival situations.
Other types of tangs, such as partial, tampered, etc. are too flimsy in situations where you require to force the blade against a hard object or use your knife as a prying tool. Full tang is much more effective when it comes to digging and prying.
- High Carbon Steel Blade
Construction of the knife plays a vital role in its performance, and there is a wide variety of steels on the market today that are used for making knives. However, when it comes to your survival knife, you don’t want to go for a cheap $10 knife with soft steel that won’t even hold its edge after some rough use.
You should go for a survival knife that is made of quality steel alloy. For every day carry knives, you are good to go with stainless steel. But for a survival knife, we recommend one made of carbon steel over stainless steel. Why? Because high carbon (HC) steel is tougher than average stainless steel and is able to hold up to the abuse more. All you have to do is take good care of your knives or else they will rust and stain.
Recommended types are 1095, AUS–8, 440C, and 420HC stainless steel. All these alloys are of great quality, and they all differ from one another in terms of functionalities. If you have a higher budget, you can opt for a knife made of higher-end steel, such as S30V. It will hold its edge longer than most of the blades made of other materials.
- Blade Length
Bigger isn’t always better when it comes to the survival game. For example, it gets quite challenging to carve precision snaresor dress small game with a blade that is too long. On the other hand, you won’t be able to use a short blade effectively for chopping or batoning. Therefore, you want a blade that has just the right length for a survival knife. It should be long enough so you can easily do what you need to do, but not so long that it creates inconvenience for you.
Most survival knives in the market fall in the range of 6 to 12 inches. However, anything bigger than 10 or 11 inches might become too long to be useful in various emergency situations. Therefore, a blade between 4 and 7 inches, with a total length of around 10 or 11 inches strikes a perfect balance. However, all this comes down to your personal preference as well. If you are comfortable carrying a slightly longer knife, then you should get one. In essence, it will also come handy in several emergency situations.
- Blade Thickness
When choosing the right survival knife for hunting or camping, you might be worried about keeping your overall load low. After all, you don’t want to carry any extra weight than required. Hence, you might be tempted to go for a knife with a thin blade to cut down on the heavier objects.
This isn’t a good idea at all, and that too for a number of reasons. You don’t only need a good blade, but the one that is also versatile enough to be useful for as many jobs as possible. You will be using it for both skinning a rabbit and batoning wood. That’s where the extra thickness will come in handy.
You don’t want your blade bending every time you strike it on wood to cut it open. The sweet spot lies between 0.17 and 0.25 inches. A blade with this thickness will be more versatile and help you carry out several tasks.
- A Robust, Synthetic Handle
The blade isn’t the only part of the survival knife that needs attention when choosing the right one. Don’t forget that you might have to hold and use your survival knife in inclement weather, more often than not. The handle, along with the blade and pommel, will also take a bit of a beating when you’re using your knife for prying objects loose or batoning wood.
The most important things to look for in your survival knife’s handle is durability, grip, and strength.
Don’t fell for hollow, cheap plastic or metal handles – they might look attractive but won’t be much practical in the field. The handles that are made of metal conduct heat and get ice coldin the winter wilderness, hence provide a lousy grip.
The best materials to look for are modern synthetics, such as:
- Kraton (a synthetic rubber polymer)
- GRN/FRN (glass/fiber reinforced nylon with brands like Zytel or Valox)
- Dense rubber
All these materials are near indestructible. Besides the material, look for texturing and scales as well for a comfortable grip.
- Sharp Pointed Tip
You will find survival knives having various tips, including angled, rounded, hooked, or straight cut flat ones. However, you should only opt for the one with a sharp-pointed tip. It is much more effective in thrusting or stabbing than most other types of tips.
- Solid Pommel
The pommel is the bottom part of the knife’s handle, which is also known as the butt. This part is used for light-duty pounding and hammering. You can also use it to drive in shelter stakes. There are various types of pommels. Some are rounded or have a hooked shape, which is not ideal for hammering. Go for the knife that has a sturdy pommel. It will surely add to your list of capabilities.
The sheath is as important to your knife as clothes to your body. A lot of people might tend to neglect considering the sheath, but it is essential to opt for the right one. Most survival knives come with a sheath for protection and easy carrying of the knife. The ideal sheath must have a belt loop and holes at the end so you can attach with your belt or to the leg.
Our Top Picks for Survival Knives
Fallkniven is considered one of the top brands when talking about survival knives. The company has been creating amazing products for outdoorsmen since 1984. If you are looking for a high-quality and durable survival knife, you can rely on this fixed blade knife by Fallkniven.
- Full tang blade, made of VG10 steel.
- The handle offers a smooth and natural grip.
- Finger guard
- Comes with a leather sheath
- Lightweight design
- Rust and abrasion-resistant
- Blade length: 160 mm
Boasting a black blade and matching handle, this survival knife by Gerber certainly looks the part. Equipped with a full tang blade, you will find this knife extremely helpful when exploring the wilderness or doing camping. If you want a knife with overall good looks that provides quality performance as well as comfortable grip, you can count on this one.
- Full tang blade made of 420HC stainless steel
- Drop point tip with a serrated edge
- Comes with a heavy-duty sheath and a fully adjustable leg strap
- Textured handle for enhanced grip and comfort
- Retains its edge remarkably well
- Blade length: 4.75 inches
If you are a true survivalist looking for a companion who you can count on in emergency situations, you will love having the Gerber LMF II survival knife on you throughout your hunting or camping journey. It has been designed to be a military-grade survival knife. Featuring a combination edge, this knife is an ideal choice for a wide range of tasks.
- The blade is made of 420HC stainless steel
- Has a serrated edge that makes it easy to perform various tasks, including chopping, slicing, digging, and prying.
- Has a nylon handle, which is set with a double finger guard.
- Has a textured rubber grip that is virtually indestructible.
- Comes with a nylon sheath and two adjustable leg straps.
- Overall Length: 10.59 inches
If you want to carry out various tasks, such as gathering wood, hunting, etc. then you should consider getting this straight-edged knife by Ontario Knife. It is the ultimate choice of pilots who are carrying it for generations for survival in various environments. Originally designed to be used by the Air Force, this knife comes in handy in an emergency situation.
- GSA compliant
- Long textured, leather handle that makes your grip more comfortable
- Sharp enough to cut aluminum
- Its blade is made of 1095 carbon steel, having a thickness of 0.1875mm
- Has sawteeth on the spine
- Comes with a sharpening stone and brown leather sheath
- Overall length: 9.5 inches
Want a survival knife that is tough and durable as well as versatile? You can consider getting your hands on this fixed-blade knife by Schrade. The material it is made of, high carbon steel is known for being much more durable than traditional stainless steel. Hence, it is convenient to hone and holds its edge for a long time. With its specially shaped blade, this knife will take your survival game to the next level.
- Deeply curved near the tip to help with chopping
- Ergonomic handle – equipped with Thermo Plastic Elastomer scales for extra comfort and stability.
- Blade made of 1095 High Carbon Steel
- Comes with a ballistic belt sheath
- Full tang design
- Overall length: 12 inches
A survival knife is a man’s best friend when it comes to survival in the wilderness. However, it is not a magic wand that has saving powers. The real power lies in the hands of the one who wields it. You should practice more in your home, and master the skills of using a survival knife rather than doing so in the field when your life might be at stake. Choose yours wisely.