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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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?
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.
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.