How You Should Choose The Best Survival Knife For Your Survival Kit

BlizeTec Survival Knife on a Rock

A survival knife might be the most important tool you can have in your survival kit. There is so much that these tools can do, it could make your life a lot easier.

Sure, if you were without a knife, you could fashion one out of a piece of bone or some rock, but they can’t hold a candle to the strength of a steel blade.

Survival Knife Displayed on a Wooden Log

Now, with that said, we have to point out that any old knife simply will not do. You have to know exactly what to look for when you’re hoping to find a good survival knife.

We hope that as you continue reading this article, you’ll understand the importance of having the best survival knife that your money can buy, but also the sort of uses for the knife.

What Can The Ultimate Survival Knife Do?

You might be of the mindset that you are never going to be in a situation where you’re going to need a survival knife. Well, you’d be wrong. A wilderness survival knife isn’t just for cutting things, these tools are incredibly versatile and can perform a bunch of tasks that are critical for your survival.

Cutting a Branch with a Survival Knife

As Mark Beresford from the UrbanHikr.com points out, these blades can:

  • Make tools
  • Create weapons and traps to hunt food
  • ​Get your game ready to be cooked
  • ​Create sparks by hitting a rock with the blade
  • ​Cut branches to build a shelter
  • ​Self-defense against animals or attackers
  • ​Preparing firewood
  • Cutting open food containers, parachute cording, duct tape, blister packs and more.

As useful as these knives can be, we have to press upon you that not all survival knives are created equal. If you are looking for the ultimate survival knife, keep reading.

Things to Avoid When Choosing a Survival Knife

There are a lot of attributes that you should take into consideration when choosing a wilderness survival knife.

Different Survival Knives Stuck on a Log

Tactical Intelligence provides us with a list of some crucial elements you need to stay away from when selecting a good blade.

  • Narrow Tang – The tang of a knife is what you get when you take the handle off of the blade. It is that metal part that extends from the base of your blade into the handle. Most kitchen knives have a narrow tang, which isn’t suitable for a survival situation where you are going to be doing some rough things, such as cutting wood. If you were to use a kitchen knife to do that, it would probably break.
  • Folding Knives – We do recommend that you keep a folding survival knife on your person for small activities, you don’t want this to be your only knife. Even if your folder claims to be an all-around multi-purpose tool, you shouldn’t rely on it as being your only survival knife.
  • Large knives – Hollywood would like you to believe that the only way you could hope to survive an emergency situation is with a large knife, like a machete. Though a machete is a great thing to have, it isn’t easy to carry. Instead of them, you’ll want something that is compact and easy to carry. The smaller knives are easier to use to get a fire started, making the necessary tools to hunt or trap, and cutting rope for setting up camp.
  • Hollow-handled knives – A hollow handed knife claims to be a survival knife, but they aren’t very useful in a survival situation where you have to do heavy work like cutting wood or gutting an animal.
BlizeTec Survival Folding Knife Design

What To Look For in a Survival Knife

There are three main components that you need to consider when looking for your knife:

  • Full Tang – a full tang is an important attribute to your knife. It has to have a full tang so that the handle of the knife is the actual tang. They will be wrapped with some kind of material which makes it comfortable to use and carry. Also, because the blade and handle are one piece, there is less of a chance of the knife breaking.
  • Fixed Blade – As we mentioned, there are plenty of folding survival knives available on the market that can work in a pinch, but they aren’t anywhere nearly as effective as a fixed blade knife. Not only are these stronger and more reliable, but you also have less of a chance folding and possibly cutting you.
  • Reasonably Sized – A fixed blade shouldn’t be too large or too small. Ideally, your blade should be between 5 to 8 inches, but depending on the tasks you plan on doing, you might want something slightly thicker and larger.
BlizeTec Survival Fixed Blade Knife Package

The Components of The Ultimate Survival Knife

A survival knife that you purchase should have those three components mentioned above, but there are few other factors that you’ll want to consider as well.

1. Handle

The handle of a survival knife can be made of a variety of materials. Some are made of durable rubber, some with a polymer, others with a leather wrapping. You want to look for a knife that doesn’t have a compartment where you can store things because:

  • If there is a storage slot in the handle, chances are the knife will not have a full tang.
  • If you are storing something in the knife, then if the knife is lost, so is that item.

Survival Cache also advises against using a knife that has a compass in the handle. You may think it is a smart idea to combine two important survival tools into one unit. However, by including a compass in the handle, you could compromise the grip, and that could be dangerous.

2. Blade Material

There are two types of steel that are ideal for the blade of your survival knife: stainless steel or carbon steel. While we can’t tell you which is the better choice, we can tell you the characteristics of both materials.

Difference Between Carbon and Stainless Steel Survival Knives

Stainless Steel​

Stainless steel has a big advantage because they aren’t going to corrode over time. They tend to be used for smaller knives, and they tend to be relatively inexpensive.

They can definitely take a beating. Unfortunately, the edge of the blade won’t stay very shape very long. When choosing a stainless blade, Tactical Intelligence recommends:

  • S60V
  • BG-42
  • ​S90V
  • ​CPM S30V
  • CPM 154

Carbon Steel​

Carbon steel is strong and will hold an edge longer, but it will rust faster. Quality carbon blades that are perfect for survival knives are:

  • D2
  • A2
  • ​O1
  • ​Carbon V
  • CPM 154

3. Blade Design

It depends on which survival expert you ask on which blade design is the best. A straight blade is good for cutting wood, and it can make sharpening a blade much easier—all you need is a smooth stone if you don’t have a whetstone. If you have a serrated blade, you’ll need a special sharpener to keep your blade strong and sharp.

4. Blade Geometry

The way your knife is shaped is going to determine how functional it is. A knife that works in the kitchen for slicing and dicing is going to be useless in the wilderness. So with that line of thinking, the point of your knife should be conducive to survival (a drop point or a clip point) rather than a knife that is better suited for fighting or stabbing (spear point or tanto point).

Different Blade Points for Survival Knives

Tactical Intelligence has an illustration that shows you exactly what each tip looks like. The blade with a clip point has a concave curve called a clip point. These knives are strong, but they can break the spine if you’re pounding it into wood. Because of that little drawback, a drop point is a great knife because it can handle a variety of tasks with no problem.

5. Blade Length

Most survival knives will fall in the 6 to 12-inch range. If you have a blade that is shorter than that, then your tool won’t be big enough to do the things that you’ll have to do in a survival situation.

However, if you go toward the higher end of that spectrum, it could become cumbersome and awkward to use. As we said, you may want to stick to a blade that is between 5 and 8 inches in length.

6. Blade Thickness

Okay, it’s easy to understand how the blade length and design can be a factor in why you should choose one knife over another. However, the thickness? Well, that is something that unless you are a knife expert, it may not seem like a big deal.

Generally, a good survival knife will be between 3/16 – 4/16 of an inch thick. A knife at this thickness is going to be very solid and can stand up to any abuse you put it through while chopping wood and prying open cans. Avoid any blade that has even the slightest bit of flex, as it could break if too much pressure has been applied.

7. The Handle

Wide Open Spaces points out that when you’re choosing a knife, you want to make sure it is a full tang, but also pay attention to the grip of the handle. There are a plethora of different grip options available, such as wood, paracord grip, synthetic, or a metal grip.

Different Survival Knives Displayed on a Table

Each of these grips has their own unique traits that work (and do not work), so choosing which kind of handle is best will ultimately be your choice of which feels best in your hand.

8. The Pommel

A pommel isn’t just a term you hear when crafting weapons in role-playing video games, they are real and it is what the butt of your knife is called. A lot of people don’t pay much attention to this, but they should, as it is considered to be the most important thing to have in your survival knife.

You want to choose a knife that has a hard pommel that can handle any sort of blunt force. For example, if you’re going to use the knife to split a log or maybe a coconut, you’ll want to stab the tip of your knife into the object and then use a rock or something equally as hard to hit the pommel. By doing this, you’ll be able to split the object.

9. The Sheath

You aren’t going to be carrying your knife all willy-nilly in your survival gear because you could get cut or the exposed blade could damage something important like your tarp or even your food supply. You want to keep the blade sheathed. So that means you should focus on these three things when choosing a sheath for your knife (if the sheath isn’t already included):

  • Lower Attachment - This is some sort of hole or an attachment piece at the tip end of the sheath which is used for securing the knife to your leg, whether on a belt or the strap of your backpack.
  • Belt or Lanyard Attachment - Does your sheath come with a belt loop? Will the knife handle itself have an opening for a lanyard?
  • Strap - How will the sheath close around the knife? Ideally, you should choose crossover strap right where the handle meets the sheath is best.
Two Survival Knives Stuck into a Log

Conclusion

When it comes time to choose the right survival knife, there is a lot to consider. You want to choose a knife that is strong, will perform well no matter the task, feels comfortable to work with and to hold, and is going to be able to perform multiple functions.

When you take into consideration these factors, only then can you choose the best survival knife to suit your needs out in the wilderness.

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