In a survival situation, specifically outside in the outdoors, an effective fixed-blade survival knife is the most essential instrument you can have. A high quality fixed-blade knife is critical to help with making shelters, acquiring firewood, slicing rope of some sort, splitting wooden material, cracking open cans, skinning animals and many other things. Determining the best knife would mean knowing precisely what to take into consideration. This is where our definitive survival knife buyers guide will help you.
When it comes to survival knives functionality always trumps beauty and sometimes less is more when it comes to them. Contrary to popular belief all of those cool knives you see in action films are usually very inconvenient in a real survival situation. Simplicity is the key and your only priority should be the knife’s performance and features. Luckily for you this guide will teach you everything you need to know to make an informed decision on which knife to purchase for your survival kit.
What Size Should A Survival Knife Be?
The size of your knife is very important, your knife can be both too big and too small for certain tasks. A blade that is too small for example would be much less effective for batoning or chopping wood which would impede your ability to make shelters among other things. A blade that is too big though will also be ineffective when you are trying to carve something with precision (for example a snare set) and it would also make it harder for tasks like dressing small game. We highly recommend your survival knife to be between 9 and 10 inches in length including the handle and the blade itself. This size knife is big enough for the heavier duty tasks whilst still be small enough to perform smaller tasks with efficiency. Some people say you should have two knives, one big and one small for separate tasks but we view this as a waste of time. As long as you follow this guide you will only need the one.
Fixed-Blade Knife or Folding Knife?
Whilst folding knives have their uses I personally much prefer a fixed blade knife for a variety of reasons. Fixed blade knives have the advantage of being more durable due to the fact that there are no joints like there are in folding knives, a joint is always going to be the main source of weakness in a folding knife due to the cutting, chopping and pounding that your knife will need to endure so going with fixed blade will eliminate that weakness instantly. Folding knives look cool and whilst I am sure you can get decent knives with the ability to fold it is much easier to focus on getting the best fixed blade knife possible.
Always Pick A Full Tang Knife
Full tang basically means that both the handle and the blade have been creating using one continuous piece of metal and this is crucial because it will make your knife much more durable than knives that are designed using other tang styles. By having the blade and the handle as one big unit you ensure that your knife won’t break at the first sign of duress. Partial tang blades often loosen at the handle over time due to the demanding tasks survivalists use them for and the looser they get the more difficult and potentially dangerous they can be to use, full tang blades do not suffer from this problem and there are literally no benefits to choosing a knife that is not full tang. If you are having trouble identifying whether a knife is full tang or not then a general rule of thumb is to look for the metal tang in-between the knife’s handle. Check the picture below for clarification, please note however that not all full tang knives will necessarily expose the tang on their blades like the ones below.
Your Knife Must Have A Sharp and Pointed Tip
Whilst this probably comes across as quite an obvious characteristic for a survival knife more and more knives are coming out that are rounded or angled and these are not as useful as a standard survival knife with a sharp pointed tip. Without a sharp pointed tip you lessen your ability to hunt and fight off predators which in a survival situation is a big problem for you. Also if you have a knife that allows you to remove the scales with an allen wrench you can attach your full tang blade onto a pole and use your knife as a makeshift spear to help you stab things in hard to reach places. You will find a sharp pointed tip blade is also useful for many other smaller tasks.
Knife Should Be Single-Edged and Possess A Flat Ground Spine
Your own survival knife possess a double-edged dagger style and design knife blade. A double-edged knife blade is absolutely not needed for the of (or even all) survival purposes. As a matter of fact, it may be a weakness. This is why I like to recommend a single-edged knife blade, however I have a preference for the reverse side (the spine) of my survival knife to possess a flat 90 degree grind. A flat ground spine is good for hitting a fire-starting ferro-rod. Curved and also beveled spines render this just about impossible. Also these curved and beveled spines make it pretty much impossible to use your survival knife for batoning pieces of wood etc and this is an essential function that you need your survival knife to have. I personally also like to use the back of the knife as an area to rest my thumb so I can apply more leverage and control over the blade when I need to and with a double edged blade this is very dangerous.
The type of steel your knife is made of is very important as not all of the steel is created equally. The quality of your steel plays a big part in determining how strong, tough and durable your knife is. It also effects how easy it is to sharpen and how long it will retain it’s sharp edge. The vast majority of knives are either made from carbon steel or stainless steel. In general stainless steel is more resistant to rust but also more brittle, less durable and harder to sharpen whereas carbon steel blades tend to be tougher, easier to sharpen but also more prone to rust if they are not maintained properly. However a lot of these differences disappear when you spend more on a knife with a higher quality of manufacture. Choosing the correct steel type for you is a very important piece of criteria for your survival knife.
A Sturdy Pommel/Butt
The pommel or butt of a knife is the very bottom of a knives handle and believe it or not this is a very important part of choosing a survival knife. The pommel of a knife can also be used for various things like hammering in stakes for your shelter or hammering your knife into a piece of wood. Having a sturdy pommel adds to the amount of things you can use your knife for and when you are trying to survive out in the wild the more versatile you are the more likely you will survive.