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Survival Knives: The Best Survival Knife for You!

Survival knives, without question, are the most important tool in your survival kit. Quality survival knives are truly the backbone of any and all survival kits. Arguably, more emphasis is placed on survival knives than any other piece of survival gear for this very reason.

The reason survival knives are so critical for survival is a quality edged tool can be used for almost any task in the experienced hands of someone who knows how to truly get the most out of their survival knives. Survival knives are actually far more versatile than most people understand. Your knife can be used to help you create tinder, process firewood, start your fire, create shelter, make traps, procure and process food, cook, fashion containers, can be used as a signaling device, to modify and repair gear, and so much more!

Just out of curiosity… have you noticed that we keep saying “knives” plural as opposed to “knife” singular? There is a reason for this. You see, these edged tools are so key to your kit that ideally you should have several blades in your kit. Why? Well think about it… What happens when your primary blade gets lost or damaged? Then what? This is why it is absolutely critical to have a backup option for any and all key components in your gear lineup, but  this is particularly true when it comes to knife. It is imperative that you have at least one back up blade in your kit.

Best Survival Knife? One Solid Contender: Survival Knives - Light My Fire Mora Fire Knife (survive knife)

Pictured above is the Light My Fire/Mora collaboration called the Light My Fire FireKnife, making quick work of processing kindling and tinder ready for a spark. The Fire Knife possesses the quality, performance and value that Mora knives are famous for with the addition of an integrated ferro rod built right into the handle. It's a very innovative knife at a great price!

Which Knife is Right for Me?

If you are new to edged tools, the options available to you can be overwhelming and confusing. This is especially true in the beginning, but don’t worry… it will get easier.

So how do you know which of the many blades available is the right one for you? Well when it comes to your knife, it is important to remember this old saying:

“The best knife is the one you have with you.”

So remember, almost any knife in your possession is better than not having one with you at all.

Your first choice in a knife may not ultimately be your favorite or the very best knife for you… and that’s OK. You have to start somewhere. The more knives you use and gain experience with, you will learn more about which styles and features in knives work best for you. Regardless of what knife you have with you in a desperate situation, just having that knife with you will absolutely be better than having no knife at all.

That being said… if you are going to choose a knife, why not make that knife a reliable, quality knife that you can depend on to perform well for you when you need it most? Let’s take a closer look at how to choose such a knife.

  Equip2Survive.com Dirty Dozen Survival Topics
Quality in a Survival Knife
Survival Knives Assortment
Shown above is just a handful of examples of terrific outdoor and bushcraft blades. From right to left, shown above is a Bark River Bravo 2 in it's factory sheath, a Bark River Bravo 1 in a hand-made custom sheath, The Helle Temagami carbon with a standard sheath, a Kellam Puukko in a standard sheath, and finally a stainless Mora Companion in factory sheath. Across the top above the Kellam sits a Victorinox Cadet folder with black alox scales.

When it comes to a knife, “quality” is a surprisingly relative term that means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. To some, a quality knife is one that can take all kinds of completely absurd abuse and still come out with merely a scratch.  There are actually YouTube “knife reviews” that demonstrate some of the most popular blades being beaten to death with sledge hammers on cinder blocks and steel chains and then evaluated based on how well they survive the violent bludgeoning. While arguably a bit entertaining… these “reviews” are completely ridiculous and in no way informative in any meaningful way. You are never going to subject your knife to that kind of asinine abuse.

To many others a quality knife is handmade by a master craftsman of the finest materials and incredible attention was given to all kinds of decorative detail. While most of us can appreciate

the impressive beauty and craftsmanship of these knives, these types of knives are far from "work horses". In fact… they are often so beautiful and expensive that they will probably never actually be used. These are collector’s items, not "hard use" blades. A true outdoor use knife is solid, no frills, practical, everyday workhorse that gets the job done. Knives that fit this description are the real deal. We are looking for edged tools that are well made and of quality materials, are durable, dependable, perform a variety of reasonable and realistic tasks well, maintain easily, can be depended on to serve them faithfully in the field for years to come. So what kinds of specific qualities are we looking for in our ultimate knife? Let’s take a closer look!
Styles and Features to Look For in a Survival Knife

We could overwhelm you or bore you to death with all sorts of granular detail about the merits and failings of various types of knife steels and their hardnesses, the entire steel making process, etc. but that is not our goal for this page. This page is intended to be more of an introduction to high-level and "need to know" information that you can use to choose a great knife today. If you are interested in far more in-depth information about such topics, that is terrific! This page, however, is intended to be more of an introduction to the basic key qualities of such blades to help you know enough to make an educated choice when selecting a knife.

 

Survival Knives - Helle Temagami

The Helle Temagami is a fantastic quality Norwegian hand-made knife perfect for bushcrafters and wilderness survival enthusiasts. It's one of our favorite blades! With it's full tang and thick spine, it can handle demanding camp tasks. Yet with it's scandi grind and comfortable grip, it is even more at home with precise cuts and more intricate jobs. Feather sticks are a breeze with this knife!

 

 

That being said, here is a very basic list of qualities to look for in a knife that you will want to learn more about, research further and consider more carefully before committing to a particular knife:

Fixed Blade vs. Folding
In short, most knife aficionados consider the full tang fixed blade knives to be the "bread and butter" of outrood use blades. Fixed blades should be your first choice in choosing your primary knife. Fixed blades are stronger, have no moving parts (therefore offer less opportunity to break) and can handle tougher jobs better than their folding counterparts.

Quality folding knives do, however, make excellent backup and every day carry knives because they are so compact and are easy to slip into a pocket and have with you at all times. Remember… "the best knife is the one you have with you". Having a compact knife that is compact and convenient to carry with you at all times is better than no knife at all. Quality folding knives absolutely have their rightful place in the world of survival knives, just be aware of their limitations when choosing to include one in your kit. Again... fixed blades are typically a much better choice for a primary blade, but folders can make a terrific backup knife for lighter tasks.

Survival Knives - Victorinox Cadet with Alox Scales

The Victorinox Cadet with alox scales is one of the most popular folding knives for EDC or kit secondary knives. Nearly all Outdoors men and women know Victorinox ("Swiss Army") blades well, but their "alox" line of blades are a bit less well-known. The alox line by Victorinox are built with the same construction as the rest of their blades except the more familiar plastic scales (which tend to crack, break and melt) have been replaced with a sturdier set of metalic scales. The best visual indication of an alox Victorinox is the cross-hatch texture Victorinox puts on their alox scales.

 

Construction
In terms of choosing a terrific survival knife, “construction” is another critical factor to consider when choosing your blades, but this is another potentially in-depth topic that we are not going to go into great detail on this page. That being said, one of the most important components of a survival knife in terms of construction that you should really factor into any knife you consider should be the tang of the knife. The tang of the knife simply refers to the metal portion of the knife blade that is embedded in the handle of the knife. A “full tang”, or a tang that is exposed on the top, butt and underside of the handle is preferred for overall strength.

Steels

Knife steels is another topic that can get pretty complex and granular very quickly, but again we are going to keep it pretty basic here. Your two main choices are going to be carbon steel and stainless steel. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. Carbon steel can take more abuse and is easier to sharpen in the field while stainless steel is more rust resistant and more rigid, yet more difficult to sharpen in the field.

 

Survival Knives - Kellam Puukko

The Kellam Puukko is a beautiful traditional Finnish blade. Puukkos were traditionally considered more of an every day knife used for all sorts of daily tasks, but they have become popular with many bushcrafters and outdoor enthusiasts. They are used for all sorts of outdoor activities including hunting, fishing, carving and leatherworking.



Grinds
Grind options for blades are nearly as varied as steel types, but two of the most popular grinds for survival and bushcraft blades are the “scandi” grind and the convex grind.  Grind preference has a lot to do with how one uses their knife. Bushcrafters who enjoy doing more intricate and controlled cuts often prefer a scandi grind while others who do a lot of battoning of firewood and more chopping tasks enjoy the convex grind. Once you become proficient at sharpening, you can choose to change the grind on your knife if you want, but typically it's better to simply choose a knife with the preferred grind on it already so that you don't have to remove a lot of metal from your tool changing the grind. Many outdoorsmen and women carry a knife with each grind so they can utilize the benefits of both.

Handle Materials
There are lots of handle material options in blades as well. Plastic and wood are common handle materials, but Micarta and G10 are also popular handle materials in outdoor edged tools.

 

Survival Knives - Ritter RSK Mk5

The CRKT Ritter RSK Mk5 is an ultra compact blade that is not ideal to carry as a primary blade, but some may opt to choose it as a secondary or backup blade as opposed to a folding knife like a Victorinox or other. This tiny knife, even sheathed, is compact enough to fit inside an empty Altoids tin! It is also commonly used as a neck knife (a knife that hangs from a lanyard around one's neck). It's incredibly compact size makes it an unusual choice for a survival knife, but because of it's unique qualities it remains a popular knife.




Blades on a Budget!

One of the biggest determining factors in choosing a knife is personal budget, and understandably so. The variety of blades available to consumers is astounding, and they also come in quite a wide range in price. The good news is… you can easily find quality blades to fit almost any budget.

Many popular outdoor use and bushcraft blades can be upwards of $300, and these tools are absolutely incredible in terms of quality, performance, and durability. If you can afford to invest in a really nice knife, it is a terrific investment that will serve you well for years to come. That being said, there are many wonderful edged tools on the market for less than $150. There are even great survival blades for less than $100. Still not good enough for you? No problem. You can even get a pretty nice knife for less than $50. In fact, believe it or not, you can actually get a decent outdoor use or bushcraft knife for less than $20!

For example, on the lower price point of quality knives, one of the most popular knives on the market today is the Swiss made Mora. In fact, many wilderness survival and bushcraft experts still use Mora's today! Mora knives are widely considered the best value (most bang for your buck) in survival and bushcraft knives because they are well designed and decent quality knives that perform quite well, especially considering many popular Mora knife models can typically be found for under $20.00!

 

Survival Knives - Stainless Mora Companion

Mora (the Mora Companion is shown above) is one of the most popular wilderness and bushcraft blades on the market, primarily because of its price point. But don't let it's small price tag fool you! There are a lot of garbage blades out there for $30 or less, but the Mora is not one of them. This is a terrific starter knife and affordable enough to stick in every survival kit, bug out bag, vehicle kit and EDC you own. While there are absolutely much better blades on the market than the Mora, Mora is easily the best value available.

 

 

So... if you can get a decent knife for under $20, why would anyone ever spend more than that? Great question... but we do have a really good answer for you: When it comes to blades, quality is relative. As is nearly always the case, you do get what you pay for with outdoor and bushcraft blades (although the $20 Mora is truly a great knife for the money!). When you invest more in a knife, you typically get much more. Better quality materials, better design, better performance, features, comfort, warranty, nicer sheath (don't forget importance of a quality knife sheath to help you protect your investment and keep it handy!)... everything. Your primary blade is going to be your best friend in a wilderness situation, emergency or not. Isn't it a good idea to invest wisely in a tool that you may depend on to save your life? We certainly think so.

It’s 100% up to you how much you want to invest in the quality of your knife, and we highly recommend investing in the best knife you can afford... but that being said, isn't it really nice to know that none of us has to “break the bank” to acquire a decent quality knife?

 

Survival Knives - Bark River Bravo 1

Bark River makes one heck of a knife. Shown above is the Bark River Bravo-1, one of our very favorite blades (just a preference). The Bravo-1 is a beast and comes in both carbon and stainless blades. It comes with a convex grind built to handle more demanding tasks. Bark River knives are on the more expensive side, but you get what you pay for in their blades. They are extremely popular with wilderness survival and bushcraft enthusiasts.



Some Final Advice for Choosing a Proper Knife

If you are just starting out choosing your first blade for outdoor use (or you simply want to upgrade your current blade), don’t put to much pressure on yourself to choose the "perfect" knife. At the moment, there is probably no such thing. Until you have some real experience using different types of blades, you simply don’t know enough about which ones work best for you yet... and that’s OK.

If you are interested in a particular style or brand of knife, get to know that knife before committing to it. If possible, go to a store that sells various blades and try them out handling various brands, sizes, styles, etc. You won't be able to actually use the knife in the store, but you will at least know how the grip of the knife feels in your hand, which is actually more important than you might think. Handle and hold as many knives as you can to help you narrow down your selection. Get more familiar with what does and doesn't work for you.

Do plenty of research. There is so much terrific information about survival knives on the internet today. Get on some of the terrific blade forums out there to see what some of the more knowledgeable survival blade connoisseurs out there say about that knife. Watch blade review videos on YouTube about those tools. Even look for bad reviews to discover any flaws or shortcomings in the tool and evaluate if those shortcomings are going to be an issue to you or not. Pay particular attention to reviews that demonstrate how well the knife performs the tasks you intend to use it for.

 

Survival Knives - Les Stroud Helle Temagami

The Helle Temagami is the signature knife of Les Stroud and is a terrific blade with a scandi grind carbon blade with burled wood handle. The Temagami is a terrific bladethat is tough enough for common camp tasks but also serves well as a more detailed carver with it's scandi grind. The Temagami is a wonderful choice for a versatile and quality bushcraft or wilderness blade.

 


The best and only real way to truly know which outdoor blades are best for you is to try as many as you can. One way to do this is to simply take the plunge and purchase the tool you are interested and try it out for yourself... but if you are a little more “budget minded”, there is another option: Try out a friend’s blade instea!. If you are camping, bushcrafting or just spending some quality time with friends in the woods, ask your friends what blades are their favorites and, even more importantly… why those blades are their favorites. Ask them if they'd mind of you held their knife and maybe even tried it out. (Warning: some folks are very protective of their blades as they are very personal to them or they take meticulous care of them. Keep that in mind and understand that requesting to try their knife could potentially be a bugaboo.) This way you can get a terrific feel for different styles, sizes, etc. and determine what works best for you before you commit to one of your own!

Choosing a reliable knife is very subjective and personal. Always listen and be open to why others like or dislike certain blades and keep learning about the pros and cons of various types of outdoor blades, but never anyone tell you which knife is best for you. Only you can determine that.

 

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