Table of Contents
- 1 What Is a Survival Knife?
- 2 The Difficult Choice: Fixed or Folding?
- 3 What to Look for in a Wilderness Survival Knife
- 4 Our Nominations to the Title of the Best Survival Knife
- 5 The Full Tang Survival Knife
- 6 Bear Grylls Survival Knife
- 7 Ontario Air Force Survival Knife
- 8 Rambo Survival Knife
- 9 Military Survival Knife
- 10 Winding Up the Survival Knife Madness
An appropriate tool for dealing with a rough environment is necessary. Find out which are the best survival knife and what makes them rate well. Not all such knives are made equal, which is why one needs to get acquainted to the different features and designs.
What Is a Survival Knife?
(Image courtesy: Conny G )
In a life and death situation, an ordinary knife just won’t do. The fact that survival knives exist – in so many shapes and of so many brands – shows that people have gotten to place great importance on a specially built tool to help them cut, chop, pierce, split in a wide array of situations in order to keep going and even to preserve their life. A real survival knife will be a trusted tool when you get injured on a trip, when hunting, when lost in the forest, when trying to make your way in or out of a place, when building things or making tools out of materials found in your environment. Many have made it out alive of such situations simply thanks to good survival knives. Also, these are ideal when camping, hiking or just carrying out outdoor activities. You can clear branches with these, build a shelter, prepare food, start a fire or dig a pit.
Survival knives typically measure from 4 to 8 inches in length. The blade is either straight or serrated. This aspect may be debatable to some, but we say that serrated blades can be quite the trouble since you can’t sharpen them. Also, these items can have rather intriguing shapes compared to usual knives, in order to ensure perfect grip and handling. Additionally, the handle may incorporate various insertions and features for enhanced functionality.
The Difficult Choice: Fixed or Folding?
Before jumping to the actual list of what appear to be the best survival knife at the moment, you may want to know what is our pick when it comes to the main feature of the knife body design – should it be folding or fixed? Weighing the pros and cons, it quickly becomes obvious that, when circumstances get rough, you’d better go for a fixed blade. A knife designed as a single solid piece is easy to handle and quick especially. In survival matters, speed simply gets vital at times. You may not have that extra moment to unfold your knife and make sure it’s fixed in place so you can use it properly without slipping away. Fixed-blade knives do not provide unpleasant surprises – only if you don’t know how to store them safely. When the blade is well anchored to the handle, not only that it won’t miss the target, but you will be able to accomplish a lot more. We are talking here about a range of more difficult tasks. If you go for a folding one and the jobs are too rough for it, it may just fail due to lateral stress and fold back. Also, fixed-blade knifes tend to fail if they are of ordinary make. People who advocate against these have usually picked weak ones. Note that a fixed blade, even if it’s larger, it is still highly practical.
To have a better view of this matter, you will have to compare the tasks at hand with the pros and cons of each of the two types. We will sum it up accordingly:
Pick a folding blade
- if you are aiming for concealability,
- if you want it to be easy to carry around (at all times),
- when you mostly deal with mundane tasks,
- when you don’t need a bigger blade.
Pick a fixed blade
- if speed is essential,
- if you need a stronger blade that works well in conditions of great pressure,
- if you are dealing with more difficult tasks,
- if you tend to face high-stress situations,
- if you want an easy-to-clean knife,
- when you will be chopping things.
Our conclusion is: a fixed-blade knife is the best survival knife when you cannot afford any failure. If you need to hide it perfectly though or don’t have much room for it, then you may go for a folding blade, which also has the benefit of not hindering your moves.
Some knife models will hold up better than others will. The following is a rundown of the top knives for wilderness use and the best hunting knife types. You can take this guide as a survival knife review to prepare you for an important purchase.
Clicking on the product details will get you to Amazon Product Page. Rating and Price are taken from Amazon.com and may vary with time. The tables have shortened for better user experience. By Clicking on the “Next” button in the bottom right of the Table you can see more products enlisted. This is applicable to all the Tables in this article.
|Image||Total length (Inches)||Blade Length (inches)||Rating||Price($)|
|Buck 65 Hood Punk||11||5.62||4.9||98.12|
|ESEE-6 Plain Black||11.75||6.5||5||146.69|
|Ka-Bar Becker BK2 Companion||10.5||5.5||4.6||69.9|
|Tom Brown Tracker #2||9.5||3.5||4.9||190.84|
|Gerber Brown LMF II Infantry||10.6||4.8||4.7||71.82|
|Spyderco Bushcraft G-10||8.75||3.9||4.5||184.46|
|SOG SE38-N Force||11.5||6||4.8||99.84|
What to Look for in a Wilderness Survival Knife
To complete your outdoor gear with the best survival knife to suit your needs, you will have to pay attention to a series of features and factors.
- The Length. We recommend models that are around 6 inches in length, but this may go up to 9 or 10 inches. Don’t go under 6 though, because the knife will no longer be suitable to a number of tasks. If you go beyond 10, it could be too heavy and especially difficult to carry around.
- The Material. Stainless steel and carbon steel are the main materials for knives made for the wilderness. Stainless steel does not get corroded and thus does not rust or oxidize. Besides, it is very hard to destruct. It has a downside, however: it tends to lose the edge rather fast. If you want it to stay in shape for longer, go for a carbon steel blade. Be careful with the humidity though, because this one can develop rust.
- The Handle. The material of the handle is very important because you need a good grip. Hard rubber is common, but also polymer. You may be tempted to buy a model with hollow handle, to store small items in it or to accommodate a compass, but this ends up compromising the grip. Also, be mindful about one more aspect: the tang has to be incorporated into the handle. Actually, it has to extend to cover its entire length, which is called a full tang. The longer the tang, the harder it will be for the knife to break.
- Blade Thickness. You don’t just need a good blade, you also need one that will handle as many jobs as possible. Look for a thickness that is no less than 3/16 and no more than 4/16. It has to be thick enough to chop wood and definitely sturdy. Bending is in no way desirable.
- The Sheath. You may overlook it, but the sheath determines much of the survival knife functionality. You will carry this tool easily if you choose a sheath that has a hole at its end, so you can strap the knife to a leg. Crossover straps also work well, because they ensure easy sliding.
Our Nominations to the Title of the Best Survival Knife
Given short reviews of each of the 4 top survival knives of 2017
Looking for a knife that just not only help you survive, but thrive in the wilderness? Fallkniven A1 survival knife is for you. This high end option will cost you around $200. Many survivalists consider Fallkniven A1 as the ultimate knife built specifically as a survival blade. Fallkniven is a Swedish based manufacturer of military and outdoor knives and A1 is one of the best product they ever launched. With a blade length of 6.38 inches and 0.24 inches thick it wouldn’t be a big deal to split some logs or clear overgrowth fast. This 11.3 inch tool is so sharp right out of the box you should take extra care with first few uses. This full tang knife weighing at 12 ounces can handle any extreme situation. Based on its size, durability, and quality of construction this knife comes up as our first nomination for the best survival knife.
ESEE is well known for its quality knives. ESEE-6 plain is not an exception. Priced at $140 with an overall length of 11.75 inches and a blade length of 6.5 inches the ESEE-6 is one of the top survival knives. The blade has a thickness of 0.188 inches and made of 1095 Carbon Steel. Need to chop branches or clear camp area?consider it done. Weighing solid at 11.8 ounces you can feel comfortable that it can dominate any survival situation that might come your way. Taking in account of quality of blade, size, price, and the brand name ESEE-6 is one of the best survival knives that anyone would love to have in their outdoor trips.
Ka-Bar Becker 2 is a popular survival knife out there in the market. With more than 750 reviews on Amazon alone makes it not only well-tried, but also well reviewed by knife enthusiasts. Priced at only $70 with a blade length of 5.5 inches and overall length of 10.5 inches this knife can handle any survival situation out there. From chopping, cutting to skinning fresh meat and potatoes the Ka-Bar Becker is perfect for your outdoor adventures. Made from durable 10950 crovan steel guarantees it won’t rust over or loose its edge as time passes. No wonder why Ka-Bar Becker BK2 comes with a limited life time warranty and found a place in our nomination to the Best Survival Knife of 2017
Mora companion is an ultra cheap yet a great survival knife anyone would love to have it in their collection. Priced around just $13 Mora companion is an entry point survival knife. It is small with 8.86 inches overall and a blade length of 3.97 inches. The blade is made of Carbon Steel hardened to an RC of 59-60 and has a thickness of 0.125″. Although smaller, Mora MG can handle batoning woods or other kinds of lighter activities. It comes with one year manufacture warranty as well. If we consider the quality and performance alone Mora companion wouldn’t have found its place in top survival knife list. We wanted to feature an entry point cheap survival knife that our readers may start with.
We would like to discuss some more categories/ brands of knives that many people want to know more about
The Full Tang Survival Knife
The Full Tang survival knife is one solid piece of metal from one end to the other. Some enthusiasts even go as far as calling these the strongest knives on the planet. The 6mm blade models represent a popular choice. Experts say that the full tang blade is definitely superior to the partial tang blade. It has fewer chances to break and can take more pressure. The edge can take a lot of pressure, as it is of high quality. Many such knives available on the market are the work of custom knife designers. To get a real sharp edge, a durable make and ideal length consider the following models:
- The first 3 models we’ve reviewed in the Top 4 survival knives section
- United Cutlery GH5027 Hibben Legacy Combat Fighter – has a stainless steel blade pointed like a spear, a length of 5 7/8 inches and a comfortable grip with a thumb rest. The handle is made out of black wood and the tang covers its whole length.
- Timber Rattler Colorado Hunter Damascus Knife – made of Damascus steel, also full tang, with a drop-point blade of 6 ¾ inches. The handle is covered in leather and features a brass guard.
Bear Grylls Survival Knife
This reliable outdoors knife features a fine edge blade, an anti-slip grip, ergonomic design, stainless steel pommel and an amazing sheath. This latter part includes a built-in diamond sharpener tool, a fire starter, a guidebook for survival and more. Another interesting feature is the emergency whistle connected to the handle, which helps one send off signals when lost. The pommel is shaped in such way so you can hammer nails with it and tent stakes, but also to crack nuts. The newer models have a much more resistant pommel than the previous ones. Concerning the blade, there is one side to it that’s just perfect for scraping various materials. The stainless steel used here is not only durable, bit also resistant to corrosion. In spite of it being so sturdy, it is easy to carry around and it is rather light. The sheath is made of nylon and it keeps moisture away.
|Image||Overall Knife Length (Inches)||Blade Length (inches)||Price ($)||Rating|
|Gerber 31-001901 Ultimate Pro||10||4.8||71||4.6|
| Gerber 31-001063||10||4.8||37.72||4.4|
One of the finest examples on the market today is the Gerber Bear Grylls Ultimate Knife. It has two holes in its handle, making it possible to transform it into a spear by connecting it to a stick. The textured end of the handle can be used as a hammer. Its sturdy, fixed mid-size blade will also help you light a fire by generating sparks through hitting the magnesium rod. The blade is made of top quality carbon, thus able to hold its edge for a longer while. Close to the handle, you can see serrations, which can cut not only through rope, but also through wood, wire and even metal sheet. Together with the sheath, it weights 1 pound.
This knife is excellent in harsh conditions and also comes with an emergency whistle. It is waterproof and this certainly enhances its durability.
Ontario Air Force Survival Knife
An outdoors enthusiast will find Ontario Knives to be rather short, but so reliable and robust. The Air Force Survival knife is a classic. The US Armed Forces use it and this fact alone shows that such knife is made to handle all tasks and all the survivors’ needs, up to self defense. One of the best parts about it is that it’s maintenance free. The steel it is made of is a top choice. To prevent rusting during storage, the blade steel was treated with zinc phosphate. It is a 1095 carbon steel blade and the knife has no other rusting parts, features a steel cap, saw teeth and a blade of 5 inches. Its handle has stacked leather on it, making it super comfortable. The sheath has a built-in sharpener which will prove to be very efficient, as the blade will be in need of sharpening at times. Also, here is a tip for sealing the knife entirely: soak the handle and the tang, as well as a portion of the blade in hot beeswax. This will prevent water from entering the different spaces.
USAF Survival Knife
The USAF knife is part of the Ontario Air Force Survival Knife range but it’s in a category of its own. The standard knife is outstanding through its fixed carbon parkerized blade, riveted leather sheath and a most useful combo edge. It has a 5-inch blade and an overall length of just a bit over 9 inches. It is originally manufactured by Ontario Knife Co. – beware of Chinese copies! The blade benefits of a black zinc phosphate finish. The handle is only 1 inch thick. It features a steel guard and a hexagonal end. Saw teeth are placed on the spine – some are pro, while some are against this. The knife comes with a cord wrapped around the handle and a built-in sharpener stone. You can easily attach it to your survival vest. To count other benefits, this will be easier on your budget, also being a really hardworking tool. The USAF is made in the US.
|Image||Overall Knife Length (Inches)||Blade Length (Inches)||Price($)||Rating|
|Ontario 1400 ASEK||10.25||4.95||79.95||3.5|
The Ontario Spec Plus 2 series has all these features and a very practical design. You will also find models which have handles with grooves. All in all, it is a heavy-duty knife, truly manageable and with appropriate finger guards, excellent for campers and not only.
Rambo Survival Knife
Master Cutlery has produced the entire series and the Rambo knife is known for its hollow handle.
|Image||Overall Knife Length (Inches)||Blade Length (inches)||Price ($)||Rating|
|RAMBO I MC-RBM1SS First Blood Miniature||5.75||4.65||29.51||3|
|RAMBO I MC-RB1 Hunting Knife||14||9||73||3.5|
|RAMBO II MC-RB2 First Blood Part II||15.38||10||80||4.3|
|RAMBO II MC-RBM2SS Miniature||6.25||3.5||26.36||4.5|
|Rambo First Blood Part II||11.5||6||50||5|
|RAMBO III MC-RB3||18||13||89||4.6|
|RAMBO III MC-RBM3SS||7||4.5||21.34||4.7|
Nowadays, each model comes with different features, which makes it hard to decide. If you are looking for a heavy blade, it’s the First Blood series to take a look at. The blade length is of 10 inches, which places these among the longest survival knives that will never let one down. One side of the blade has chainsaw teeth. The guard has 2 screwdrivers: a Philips and a standard one. A black cord wraps around the handle for a perfect grip. Superior craftsmanship is granted through an authenticity certificate that comes with each acquired piece.
Military Survival Knife
The military range of knives is represented by very sharp weapons which also have civilian uses. Some of the best hunting knives are of military type. These come in many styles and with different blades. You will find both fixed and folding knives. Also, you can choose based on price, which ranges from several dollars to hundreds. Military survival knives are often purchased by hunters, outdoors sports enthusiasts and hikers. As a distinct feature, these come with a handle-incorporated compass, fishing tools or a watch. Saw teeth are also an essential part. There’s a real survival kit in there and that’s how many people get convinced to invest in a military-style knife. Many prefer this type because the built is highly durable and it can take them through many tasks. These heavy-duty knives can take a lot of stress and the price usually depends on the additional features and the handle and sheath materials.
Among the top military survival knives there are the following: the SOG Seal Pup Elite with nylon or kydex sheath, the Tsunami, NW Ranger, Agency with leather sheath, Gerber Trident serrated and SOG Aegis plain or serrated. If you budget allows, you can opt for a Dark Operation Interceptor, or a Paul Basal.
|Image||Overall Knife Length (Inches)||Length of Blade (inches)||Price ($)||Rating|
|SOG Seal Pup Elite||9.5||4.85||70||4.5|
|SOG TS02-N Tsunami||10.9||6.5||85||4.5|
|SOG S241-L NW Ranger||9.925||5.2||100||4.5|
|SOG AG02-L Agency||12.68||7.5||125.88||4.3|
|Gerber 06995 Trident||11.22||6.18||164.58||4.6|
|Dark Operations Interceptor 911 E&E||13.625||8.625||206||4.5|
|Dark Operations Paul Basal||12.35||7||173.86||4.8|
Winding Up the Survival Knife Madness
We have described the most popular types of survival knives and searches out there, but these categories often group many knife models from which one can choose. We encourage future survival knife owners to get acquainted to all existing features and styles.
Also, remember you will ultimately have to choose based on your circumstances, because there is no absolutely perfect survival knife that will handle all jobs and conditions. Your environment and especially your activities will dictate which kind is more appropriate in your case. Moreover, pay attention to each type’s own strengths and weaknesses, so that you will know how to maintain it properly: clean it well, keep moisture away etc. If you get the details right, you will be happy with your purchase and you will enjoy your knife for a great deal of time.
Have some questions? Feel free to drop a comment