Before You Chose A Knife:
- The 3 Best Survival Knives And Runners-Up
- 11 Features Your Survival Knife Should Have [MUST READ]
- 3 Warning Signs That Your Survival Knife Sucks
The Ultimate Guide To Survival Knives
What's the difference between a survivor and his dead comrade?
At the beginning of the 20th century a guy called Marble, of all names, came up with the idea of a knife uniquely suited to survive life-or-death situations:
Smaller than a machete, but still big enough to chop down entire trees, sturdy, practical and a dangerous weapon on it's own, a good survival knife will keep you alive when things turn ugly.
A survival knife is easy to carry, lightweight and replaces many bigger, bulkier tools like an axe, drill, shovel or a saw:
It's the most convenient, multi-purpose survival tool you can buy for money.
Today you'll learn:
- What makes a great survival knife (and what not).
- How to choose the right knife for your specific needs.
- Which survival knives – from the thousands or so you can buy online – are actually reliable in a life threatening situation.
Read on this page:
- The 3 Best Survival Knives And Runners-Up
- 11 MUST-Have Survival Knife Features [MUST READ]
- 3 Warning Signs That Your Survival Knife Sucks
- 5 Must-Have Survival Knife Accessories
- 10 Reasons To Buy The BEST Survival Knife You Can Afford
- Popular Survival Knives That Didn't Make The List
- FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions
That's a LOT of information to take in.
To choose a good survival knife is complicated. If you're in a hurry bookmark this page for future reference and jump straight to my reviews of the three best survival knives below.
The 3 Best Survival Knives And Runners-Up
An amazing survival knife will cost you an astonishing amount of money and I understand that not everyone can shell out $250 for a knife without getting in trouble with the wife.
That's why I will review three very different knives in this article:
The best survival knife money can buy, an affordable and good – but not perfect – contender for the serious survivalist and the cheapest knife you can get away with.
The Ultimate Survival Knife: Fallkniven A1
If you consider your survival a priority – and you should – there's no better investment than a Fallkniven A1. Made in Sweden there is a reason reviewers on Amazon say things like:
"If I could, I'd give this knife 6 stars. […] I've been into blades for a long time and I've never held a finer knife in my hand."
Yes this survival knife is expensive at $190.24 for the steel colored and $220.19 for the black colored blade but it's oh so worth it:
The Fallkniven's blade is made from Japanese VG-10 steel – the “G” stands for “gold quality”.
While essentially a stainless steel blade the VG-10 formula contains a large amount of carbon to combine the benefits of stainless and carbon steel into one blade.
The Fallkniven A1 is ridiculously sharp, keeps its edge for a long time and is easy to sharpen and maintain.
Many of the worlds most popular (and expensive!) survival and chef knives are made from VG-10 and you can't go wrong with it.
With a blade length of 6 1/3 inches (16.1 cm) the Fallkniven A1 has just the right length for a survival knife.
From all the knives I've tested for this article the Fallkniven A1 simply exceeds all expectations, which makes it the best survival knife you can buy for money as of now.
Fixed blade, check. Full tang, check. Flat top, check. Handle – oh my God awesome – check. Flat end, check. Lanyard hole, check. Drop point, check.
I could go on but I think you get my point.
The only negative thing about the Fallkniven A1 is that there is no real choil and no jimping.
Also, the sheath that comes with the knife sucks. It's made from either Zytel (which is some kind of nylon) or leather and you'll be better off to buy a custom made sheath for your shiny new knife.
No knife is truly perfect but the Fallkniven A1 comes pretty damn close.
What you should know about the Fallkniven A1:
- Superior VG-10 steel blade combines features of stainless and carbon steel.
- Great knife that has all the must-have survival features.
- Amazing handle with great grip made from textured hard rubber.
- At $190 a bargain compared to what it has to offer.
- The sheath that comes with the purchase sucks.
- Fallkniven A1's black colored brother blade is ~$30 more expensive and covered with an inferior coating. Make sure you buy the steel colored version.
What I think:
If you're serious about outdoor sports, prepping or survival then you have to have a Fallkniven A1.
It's expensive but the manufacturer recently dropped the price by almost 40% – down from $320 to $190. Compared to what it has to offer the Fallkniven A1 is a real bargain.
Outstanding strength, clever engineering and it's sheer utility make the Fallkniven A1 the best survival knife known to mankind and a great birthday or Christmas present for any survival enthusiast.
There are 76 Fallkniven A1 reviews on Amazon with an average rating of 4.9 out of 5 stars. There's also the ~$30 more expensive Fallkniven A1 with a black blade coating which is not really worth the extra charge.
Runner Up: ESEE 6
While the Fallkniven A1 screams superb engineering the ESEE 6's creators can only be described as true knife lovers.
This knife just feels right.
It's the ONLY knife on this list that checks all the must-have's and nice-to-have's from my feature list. Bonus points here to the ESEE 6 for having proper jimping – a tiny feature that can come in really handy.
With a 6 1/2 inch (16.5 cm) long blade made from 1095 carbon steel the ESEE 6 would clearly deserve the best survival knife spot were the Fallkniven A1 not just a tiny bit more amazing.
I personally prefer the Fallkniven because of the VG-10 steel, the texture of the handle and because I like how it looks but you should think long and hard before you discard the ESEE 6.
It's a great survival knife and costs only $124.55 – way less than the Fallkniven A1.
If you don't want to compromise on your knife's features but are not yet ready to shed out the $200 for a Fallkniven then go for the ESEE 6. You won't regret it, promise.
The Middle Class: Buck 119 Special
Not sure if you want to become a professional survivalist yet?
I've got good news for you: There are great survival knives in any price range.
Take Buck's 119 Special for example:
This knife doesn't get recommended very often because it looks more like a combat knife than a survival knife. But it works charmingly well for both causes.
The major advantage of the 119 Special is that you get a real survival knife with a full tang, 6 inch (15.24 cm) drop point blade with a flat top and rear end for the paltry sum of $46.08 or $63.71 if you want your knife to come with a cocobola dymondwood handle and a brass pommel.
I am not sure why a cocobola dymondwood handle would be better than any other handle but it clearly scores extra points for being a tongue breaker, looking good and being comfortable to hold.
The Buck 119 Special lacks some of the more intricate survival knife features:
There is no lanyard hole and no good grip in front of the finger guard.
It's a very plain knife, which is good because you don't have any rubbish that takes away from the knife's main purpose: To help you survive and to never break under stress.
For $46 you'll have to make some compromises though:
The Special 119 is made from 420HC (HC stands for High Carbon) stainless steel which is pretty good, but not top of the line.
The knife comes with a fancy leather sheath and a fuller – casually called a blood gutter – that gives it a rather savage appearance.
Fuller's actually have nothing to do with blood though.
According to Wikipedia: "A fuller is often used to lighten the blade [and] a fullered blade can be 20% to 35% lighter than a non-fullered blade without any sacrifice of strength or blade integrity".
You can definitely scare the shit out of your neighbors kids with this knife, how cool is that?
What you should know about the Buck 119 Special:
- Plain but good: Has all you really need but non of the fancy, useless stuff.
- Looks awesome, doubles as a combat knife.
- Affordable yet still sturdy and robust.
- Buck Forever Warranty and made in the USA.
- No lanyard hole, you have to be careful not to lose your knife.
- Made from good – but not excellent – stainless steel.
What I think:
Buck Knives' 119 Special just works. It's affordable and does it's job perfectly well.
The blade is made to last a lifetime and if you don't lose it (no lanyard hole!) you'll still be happily batoning wood 20 years from now.
If you're into no-nonsense outdoor survival you won't regret buying the Special 119.
Runner Up: SOG Specialty SE38-N
This knife is beautiful!
Advertised as “virtually unbreakable” it comes with a 6 inch (15.24 cm) full tang blade made from AUS-8 steel, which is about as good as Buck Knives 119 Special's HC420.
There is a lanyard hole, jimping and a pretty – but still functional – reinforced nylon handle.
The downside of the SOG Specialty SE38-N is that at $95.50 it's too expensive to be affordable yet not amazing enough to compete with the best knives from this list like the Fallkniven A1.
That makes it a bit of an ugly duckling that doesn't fit in anywhere.
If you're serious about outdoor sports and survival you should invest $30 more and get an ESEE-6 and if you don't want to spend that much money you'll probably be better of with a Buck Special 119.
One reason to buy the SOG's SE38-N is that you'll get the looks of a professional survival knife for just about $100.
The whole “ready for combat” look the Special 119 delivers is not everyone's taste.
In comparison the SE38-N's black blade looks somehow more mature and ready to handle the heavy burdens of daily survival.
The Cheapest Survival Knife: Morakniv Companion
Cheap and survival are two things that don't belong together:
A knife that breaks in an emergency might as well be the last knife you ever buy.
Most cheap survival knives are rubbish, with one single exception: The Morakniv Companion Heavy Duty.
This robust knife from Sweden costs only $18.88 and you'll get a sturdy 4.1 inch (10.4 cm) long, 1/8 inch (3.2 mm) thick carbon steel blade with 3/4 tang, drop point, flat top, flat rear and an extra large plastic handle.
It's not a fancy knife and you certainly won't impress your friends with it. But it works surprisingly well out there in the real world.
There is no lanyard hole – actually there are none of the more fancy features. The blade is a bit short and the tang extends only three quarters into the handle.
But what do you expect for less than $20?
The sheath that ships with the Morakniv Companion is utter garbage. You'll have to invest in a better sheath or just clip the knife to your belt.
If you can live with your friends making jokes behind your back about “Cheap Charlie” then buy a Morakniv Companion.
The Morakniv has all the really important survival knife features and if you can't pay your rent and have to live in the National Park with nothing but your Morakniv Companion, well, you'll survive.
What you should know about the Morakniv Companion HD:
- It's cheaper than a family meal at McDonalds.
- A 3/4 tang and a drop point edge are amazing value for such a cheap knife.
- The Morakniv Companion Heavy Duty performs well in all outdoor and survival situations.
- With 4.1 inch (10.4 cm) the blade is a bit too short.
- No fancy features like a lanyard hole or a choil.
- The handle is made from cheap plastic.
- Throw away the sheath that comes with the knife – it's garbage.
What I think:
When you're flat out broke and need a survival knife buy this one.
Any other knife in this price range will be utter garbage. If possible save some money until you can buy a better survival knife.
There are 1009 Morakniv Companion Heavy Duty reviews on Amazon with an average rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars.
Runner Up: Gerber 31 Bear Grylls Ultimate Knife
I didn't expect too much from a knife that's named after a fake survival TV show but the Bear Grylls Ultimate is a surprisingly worthy survival knife and costs only $29.91.
If you don't have much money but want your knife to look like you know what you're actually doing then you won't regret buying the Bear Grylls Ultimate.
It's a pretty standard survival knife with high carbon stainless steel, drop point and even an emergency survival whistle attached to the back of the lanyard.
The Bear Grylls Ultimate comes with an OK sheath, a fire starter, a diamond knife sharpener and an entertaining survival guide, which is pretty nice if you don't already own any of the stuff or want to build a price-conscious bug out bag.
If you've seen Grylls' – or any other – survival TV show and you want to see what all the fuzz is about without spending a lot of money on gear then you can't go wrong with the Bear Grylls Ultimate.
One thing to watch out for: There are about half a dozen variations of this knife.
Make sure that you buy the fixed blade, fine edge (not serrated edge) one if you don't follow the links from this article. There's also a slightly improved version of this knife for almost twice the price ($60.23) called Bear Grylls Ultimate Pro.
11 Features Your Survival Knife MUST Have
A good survival knife is VERY different from any other knife type.
When you fight for survival against nature, function is way more important than style.
Knife strength, utility and reliability are what sets apart the survivor from the dead guy buried in the mud.
What makes a survival knife durable and useful?
Is it the beer opener, the hollow handle that hides your emergency food ration of gummi bears, or something entirely different?
Read on to find out.
#1 Fixed Blade
Anyone that mentions survival and folding blade in the same sentence should be shot dead.
Folding blades have, by definition, only a partial tang and are much weaker than fixed blade knives.
They have thinner blades and their hinges create weak spots that wait to break by the first time you try to really use your knife.
The folding mechanism can easily get jammed by dirt or rust and is a pain in the ass to keep clean and maintain properly.
Contrary, fixed blade knives can't accidentally “fold back” on you and make a bloody mess out of your hand or your fingers.
My first survival knife had a folding blade and boy do I regret that purchase:
I only used the knife to cut fruits but after a few weeks the folding mechanism started to come loose and I had to screw it tight every single time I wanted to use it.
If you want to own a real survival knife and not an expensive toy that will break the first time you chop some wood, a fixed blade is the way to go.
Folding knives are made to stab people in the grocery store. Not for survival.
Why choose a fixed blade:
- Stronger blade, harder to break.
- Less maintenance.
- Less chance to injure yourself.
- Can be used for heavy-duty work (batoning, digging…) where a folding blade would break.
There are really no downsides to a fixed blade survival knife. Only morons run around with folding blade “survival knives”.
#2 Full Tang
There are full tang and partial tang knives:
In a full tang survival knife the blade's metal extends all the way through the handle. While a partial tang blade is wedged only halfway (or less) in between the handle.
If you can see the metal of the blade protrude out of your knife's rear end it's a full tang knife.
Partial tang knives are much weaker and easily break or snap when you use your knife sideways or as leverage.
A full tang knife has superior strength and prevents the handle from breaking apart when you hammer your knife's rear end or pry something loose.
Full tang knives are more expensive because they contain larger amounts of steel.
The investment is worth it though because with a partial tang knife the question is not if you knife will break apart but when.
Why choose a full tang knife:
- Sturdier knife, harder to break.
- Can be used to pry open or leverage things without breaking the handle apart.
- The solid strike surface in the knife's rear makes it possible to use it like a chisel.
If you decide to go with a partial tang knife better buy them in bulk because they will break apart.
#3 Blade Length (4 To 6 Inches)
How long your blade should be depends on what you plan to do with it:
A small knife is less versatile. A too large knife becomes a hassle to carry around and work with.
Survival knives have evolved from even bigger blades like bowie knives and machetes for a good reason:
The larger your knife the easier you can perform heavy-duty actions like cutting wood, clearing bush, digging or beheading your neighbor.
If you're in the jungle you'll need a huge knife to cut bush, clear obstacles and fight off giant snakes.
But since most of us live in more temperate regions a slightly smaller knife is better suited for wilderness survival.
The best survival knife length lies somewhere between 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm) which is large enough to fell a tree but still small enough to do precision work like wood carvings, tool making or skin game.
Why choose a 4 to 6 inch long knife blade:
- A larger knife is more durable.
- Best balance between bulkiness and versatility.
- 4 to 6 inch knives are suited for heavy-duty and precision work.
It's important to customize your survival knife to your specific needs and location. A hunter might prefer a smaller knife to skin game while you want a bigger blade to build shelter or brave a dense forest.
Important: The 4 to 6 inches refers to the length of the knife's blade (that is the part without the handle).
#4 Carbon Steel
Unless you're rich and can afford a titanium blade your knife will be made from steel.
There are two types of steel used to make survival knives:
Stainless steel, which is forgiving, rarely rusts or corrodes, keeps it's edge for a long time but is a pain in the ass to sharpen.
Carbon steel, which is has a very sharp edge, is easy to sharpen and to keep sharp, but rusts and corrodes fast when mistreated.
If you need a survival knife for a three day camping trip I'd say go with a stainless steel knife and throw it away afterwards.
But if you want to keep your knife (and keep it sharp) for a lifetime choose a carbon steel knife and add some blade oil and a good knife sharpener to your purchase.
You'll notice the difference after one or two weeks of heavy use:
Your carbon steel knife cuts through wood like butter (and if it gets dull you only need two minutes to sharpen it) while your stainless blade starts to feel like a spoon.
Why choose a carbon steel survival knife:
- Your knife will have a sharper edge.
- Less time spent on maintenance if you want your blade's edge super sharp.
When your life is at stake you don't want to end up with a dull blade.
Imagine you had a car accident and need to cut the seat belt of your 3 year old loose fast or the car will explode and kill you both.
Suddenly a really sharp knife makes a HECK of a difference.
#5 Flat Top & Thick Blade
Knives have either a flat top (usually called a single or fine edge) or a double edge like a sword or a dagger.
Doubles edges are great if you intend to cut someone's guts open (including your own).
Single edge knives on the other side are safer and more convenient for precision work because you can grip the top of your knife with your fingers or strike it with your palm.
Good survival knives have outstanding thick blades:
Thicker blades increase the strength and durability of your knife.
That's a good thing because you don't want to break your knife in a life threatening situation and have to make do without one.
How thick is thick enough?
It really depends on the material used and the anatomy of the knife. There is no "that many inches" measure for how thick your blade should be.
Instead look at your knife: Does it look fat (good) or thin and frail (bad)?
Why choose a flat top knife with a thick blade:
- A flat top makes your knife safer to use and more versatile for precision work.
- The thicker your blade the stronger and more durable your knife will be.
Doubles edges are only good for combat. If you don't want to kill (or get killed) go with a flat top instead.
And don't look for beauty here: A good survival knife looks and feels more like a hammer than a scalpel. The thicker the blade the better.
#6 A Great Handle
Nothing is worse than a handle that gives you bloody blisters hours before your work is done, or your shelter built.
And even the best survival knife is worthless if your grip slips and you accidentally stab yourself in the liver.
The knife's handle has to fit tightly into your hand. Your grip should be firm but not strained.
Everyone has different hands both in size and shape and the only way to know if a knife's handle is right for you is to try and feel it.
Your handle must have great grip, without ripping your skin apart. The handle's texture should feel comfortable and even soft on your skin.
There's no best material for a knife handle.
But hard rubber with dents and notches is often superior to a metal or wood handle because you'll slip less often on a textured surface and rubber can absorb shocks better than other materials.
Look for finger grooves or a slightly bent handle but make sure the overall form of the handle is straight so you can use it to baton wood.
If your handle is a bit slippery you can wrap it tightly in cord to improve your grip and carry around some additional cord for fishing, sewing or snare traps.
What to look for in a great handle:
- Needs to fit tightly into your hand. Not too big or too small.
- Best material is textured rubber. Shouldn't grate on your skin.
- Must have dents and notches for better grip.
If you've screamed "Yes!" for every feature listed above you've got yourself a decent survival knife.
Small things can have a big impact under the right circumstances.
That's why I would like to show you five more gimmicks that knife newbies and veterans alike often forget about, but which will make your knife truly awesome.
If your knife misses any of the features below you'll still be happy with it most of the time.
But you might find yourself in a situation where you wish that you'd chosen your knife more careful, lose your knife or even be unable to do certain things because it would harm your knife.
So what's the difference between a good and a perfect survival knife?
#7 Flat End
Make sure the rear end of your survival knife is flat and provides a solid striking surface.
A rectangular or square hard rubber or metal end of at least half an inch (1.27 cm) in length and width works well.
When you use your knife for batoning (wood cutting) or as leverage to pry something open you'll often have to hammer on your knife's rear end with a heavy object like a stone or a piece of wood.
If your knife's solid metal tang protrudes from the end of the knife that's perfect because you can hammer directly on the metal of your blade.
Contrary, if your knife ends in a fragile plastic part or a pointed form, the force applied through the strike might destroy your handle.
#8 Lanyard Hole
Don't know what a "lanyard hole" is? Don't worry, you're not alone.
A lanyard hole is simply a small hole or opening at the back of your knife's handle that you can stick cord through like you would stick a thread trough the eye of a needle.
It sucks, but if you're like me, you only got two arms:
When you work with your fingers and your knife simultaneously you'll often have to put your knife away for a moment.
Now you don't want to throw your knife on the ground, where it's easily lost and stained, or put the dull side of the blade into your mouth, which is a recipe for injury and disaster (remember the Joker from the Batman movies?).
A lanyard hole solves this problem.
You can wrap the cord around your arm like a wristband, put it on your belt strap or wear your knife like a necklace.
Say no to lost knives and yes to more convenience when you work in tight or uncomfortable spaces!
A lanyard hole is the most underrated feature of any survival knife.
If your knife doesn't have a lanyard hole you can buy a sheath with one (which kind of defeats it's whole purpose).
Or you could make your own lanyard hole:
Most knives won't mind if you drill a small hole through the handle as long as you make sure it goes straight through the handle AND the blade and seal off the open surface with glue.
#9 Drop Point
On a drop point survival knife the thick back of the knife's blade continues up to the point of the blade.
This greatly increases the structural strength of your blades point (the part you use to stab people).
Why would you care?
Only with a drop point blade can you drill holes into hard materials like wood, plastic, or even metal and tighten or loosen screws without risking to break your blade.
A clip point blade, the opposite of a drop point, will easily snap and lose it's tip when you try to drill or pry something open with your blades point.
#10 The Right Sheath
You can't always carry your knife in your hands and therefor you need a sheath.
The best sheaths are made from a material called Kydex.
Leather sheaths will make your knife rust faster and nylon just plain out sucks.
Make sure your sheath comes with a belt loop so you can carry it on your hip.
It's important that the sheath strap goes vertical over the read end of your knife and not horizontal along the handle or your knife will slip out at an inopportune moment (and go right through your foot).
Bonus points if the sheath has an additional lanyard hole.
#11 Choils And Jimping
Two more words you've never heard before, yay!
Any decent survival knife comes with a finger guard. A finger guard is a barrier in between the handle and the knife's blade so that when your grip slips you won't slice your palm open.
Most survival knives are rather large though and for fine work like wood carving or skinning small game you will have to hold your knife with your fingers resting on it's blade.
That's where a choil and jimping comes in really handy.
Choils are dull bulges in between your knife's finger guard and the blade that allow you to hold your knife at it's center and prevent your fingers from slipping into your knife's edge. It's like a second finger guard half an inch (one or two centimeters) closer to your knife's edge.
Jimping refers to small dots or indentations on the flat top of your blade so you can grip your knife closer to it's point without slipping.
These are really useful when your knife is slippery from blood while you work on small game and a definitive must-have feature for every good hunting knife.
3 Warning Signs That Your Survival Knife Sucks
If you're no survival veteran it can be easy to fall for the hogwash ads from the knife manufacturers.
You want to be cool and prepared for whatever comes your way. You've seen Bear Grylls on TV and want to be just like him.
I get it… but not all survival knife features are actually useful in an emergency.
Some even reduce your knife's strength and durability which is a no-go for any real survival situation.
If you see a knife with any of the three features from below don't just walk away.
Run and never look back because you do not want to bet your life on shitty manufacturing and false advertising.
#1 Cheap Compass
If there's a cheap compass attached to the rear of your knife you know it's a toy not a real knife.
First you don't want to run around with your knife unsheathed while you search for directions.
Second these compasses are cheap China garbage and you could have a far superior model hanging from your hip belt for less than $10.
The biggest problem with a compass survival knife though is that they are usually fixed to your knife's butt and once you try to smash the rear of your knife with a piece of wood or a stone – to build a survival shelter or cut firewood for example – you're guaranteed to smash your compass into pieces.
#2 Hollow Handle
To buy a survival knife with a hollow handle is an outright life-threatening choice.
By definition a hollow handle survival knife can't have a full tang.
That combined with the absence of a solid core inside the handle makes for a knife that is about as strong as a piece of paper.
As a result your knife will gladly break the very first time you subject it to heavy use.
The tiny additional storage space is simply not worth the huge reduction in knife strength and durability.
Worse, when you break, lose or drop your knife into water, you can say goodbye to whatever you've stored inside the handle.
Many amateurs put matches in their hollow handle and once you lose your knife you'll have lost your primary fire starter AND your backup. How stupid is that?!
#3 Serrated Blade
There's a big debate if survival knives should have serrated blades or not.
I'd advise you to buy one without serration and go for a straight blade instead.
Surprisingly any real outdoor veteran will tell you that the straight edge of your blade will cut rope, wood and even metal just as well as a serrated blade, which makes them kind of pointless.
The real problem though is that serrated blades are almost impossible to sharpen without special tools and you'll end up with half of your knife being dull and unusable.
Now, if you really want to survive in the wilderness you'll avoid these three features like the plague.
That said if you just care about looking like Rambo, then, well, go for it ;-)…
5 Must-Have Survival Knife Accessories
Can you survive with nothing but a knife?
Yes, you can, but it's far easier and more comfortable to bring some other stuff along.
Underwear is great for example and, of course, tools to make and maintain your knife what it is: The ultimate survival tool.
#1 Knife Sharpener
A dull knife is about as useful as firetruck without water.
The best survival knife blades are made from high carbon steel that goes dull relatively quick.
Add heavy outdoor use and you'll have to sharpen your knife every couple of days to keep it in excellent condition.
And while knife sharpening is a survival skill all on it's own you're off to a good start if you buy and carry around a good knife sharpening stone.
Your knife's sheath protects your knife from the elements, makes it easy to use, access and, most importantly, prevents injuries.
Buckle your leather sheath on your belt and you'll notice the sheath broke when you feel a jolt of pain and see your knife sticking out from your thigh or your feet.
The best sheaths are custom made from Kydex (which is a "thermoplastic acrylic-polyvinyl chloride" – whatever, right?).
Avoid leather or nylon sheaths when possible.
Don't want to spend much on your sheath? At least make sure the blade is tightly secured and check if the blade can in any way pierce the sheath.
If not, you're good. For now.
#3 Belt Clip
Your survival knife will be much more useful if you don't have to get it out of your backpack every time you want to use it.
Invest in a sturdy belt clip to fasten your knife sheath to your belt, trouser waistband or pocket.
#4 Lanyard Cord / Paracord
A knife with a lanyard hole is a blessing:
It's much easier to work with in tight or moving spaces and it'll greatly reduce the chance that you'll lose your precious knife.
If you want to use your lanyard hole you need a lanyard cord.
In a pinch any piece of cord works but since your lanyard is the one thing you never, ever want to fail or break you'll better invest in some proper, sturdy lanyards.
The smart survivor uses military grade nylon paracord as a lanyard because it's strong and you can use it for many fun and useful survival tricks.
Make sure you grab one in a bright color like yellow or red. That will make it easier to find your knife if you drop it on the forest floor in between dirt and dark leaves.
#5 Blade Oil And A Cleaning Cloth
To make your knife last for many years, or even decades, wipe it after every use with a wet cloth, then with a dry cloth to remove the moisture and apply some blade oil.
This creates a thin film on the surface of your blade to protect it from corrosion, discoloration and rust.
Japanese Tsubaki Oil is cheap, works well for kitchen knives too and a single bottle lasts for multiple years.
10 Reasons To Buy The BEST Survival Knife You Can Afford
Food, warmth, shelter, even safety:
Your survival knife can supply you with everything you need.
Yes it'd be better if you would bring some other stuff as well but a knife is like the foundation of a house.
If you have one you can survive. But without one you'll struggle for sure.
Just see what you can do with nothing but a knife:
#1 Cut Wood And Make Firewood (e.g. "Batoning")
You can cut down and process an entire tree with nothing but your knife.
Chop off saplings, branches and leaves to make firewood, wooden tools, tent poles or sticks for barbecue.
A survival knife can split logs just as efficient as an axe.
This is called batoning: You use a heavy object (like a stone) to hammer the spine of your knife and cleave the wood.
In theory you could build an entire log cabin with nothing but your knife and a lot of sweat.
#2 Start A Fire
Matches can get wet, your lighter can run out of fuel but a survival knife combined with a fire starter provides an unlimited, unbreakable source of super hot sparks.
This works in any weather. All you need is fuel and dry tinder.
The smart survivor packs some Vaseline soaked cotton balls. They are waterproof and deliver a hot six inch high flame for up to one minute when ignited.
#3 Build Shelter
After you got a fire burning, it's time to build a neat survival shelter.
Without a proper shelter chilly nights or rain can be outright life threatening.
But luckily you only need your knife and some cord or rope to build a comfy refuge:
Cut sturdy branches to use as your shelters backbone.
Next, arrange a net like structure around these branches with smaller sticks or saplings and cover everything with bush and leaves.
And voila… you won't freeze to death tonight!
#4 Hunt, Trap And Fish
It's no fun to brave the wilderness on an empty stomach.
But your knife will help you to get fed:
You can make a wooden spear and try to stab small game or fish in a river, build snare traps from wood and cord or construct a makeshift fishing pole from a branch, some thread and a nail or hook.
While real hunters prefer hunting knives to skin their catch a survival knife works just fine to skin, gut and clean game.
And if you're really hungry you can always look for other survivors and just steal their shit at knife point.
#5 Prepare Food
Ever tried to cook without a knife?
Your survival knife will come in handy to cut meat, foraged vegetables and other ingredients for your stew.
If you're too lazy to cut branches you can use your knife to lift hot objects like the lid of a pot, without burning yourself, or as a heat resistant barbecue stick.
Be careful though when you use your knife as a fork or spoon because nobody likes to find bloody parts of your tongue in their evening meals.
#6 Make Tools
With a knife and enough patience you can create countless tools from stones, wood and cord.
From fishing spears to primitive stone hammers, shovels, a bow, a slingshot, a sled, drying racks, tent poles and makeshift weapons: Your imagination is the limit.
And yes you can carve a dragon figurine for your mom as a souvenir should you ever return to civilization.
In a pinch or when the ground is frozen solid your survival knife doubles as an emergency shovel.
You can dig up worms and other critters for fishing bait or snare traps.
Don't underestimate the value of a deep poop hole so you don't have to stroll trough the smell of your feces all day.
Scoop out a grave for that poor fellow that didn't have a survival knife to keep him alive…
…or find a fresh grave, dig it up and see if you can find anything… useful.
#8 Rescue Someone
If you're not yet tired of your wife and kids a survival knife makes a great rescue tool.
You can cut trough seat belts, or even thin sheets of metal and smash glass windows with the pommel of your knife without injuring yourself.
Or use your knife to build a sled to carry away an incapacitated person or big game you've shot (which counts as rescue for your empty stomach).
#9 Field Medicine
Use your knife to lever a cut open to clean a wound, cut bandages or cauterize a badly bleeding wound with a hot knife blade.
Pull glass shards, splinters or shotgun pellets out of a wound or carve a makeshift crutch to hobble around.
Your knife is the most basic medical tool you'll carry around.
Survival knives are NOT meant to be used to fight animals or humans. If you try, there's a good chance you'll hurt yourself more than your opponent.
That said if you can't outrun your foe and don't have a gun it just feels better to have some kind of weapon compared to your bare hands.
Now, this list is by no means exhaustive.
You can come up with all kinds of creative uses for your knife. Like signaling or use it as a screw driver or prying tool.
But I think you get the point: A survival knife is damn useful.
Popular Survival Knives That Didn't Make The List
Take one look at Amazon and you'll see that there are more survival knives than people on this planet.
So far I've only reviewed the very best survival knives but you can browse some of the more popular choices below at your own peril.
Ontario 7500 Blackbird SK-5 ($102.99): Very plain but excellent survival knife. Rather expensive no bullshit knife made for the minimalist.
ESEE 4P ($104.56): The small brother of the ESEE 6 with tiny a 4.5 inch (11.43 cm) long blade. Better invest $25 more and buy an ESEE 6.
KA-BAR US Marine Corps Fighting Knife ($71.21): World famous knife design, used by US soldiers and marines all over the world. Makes a great combat knife but a rather lousy survival knife. If you like the looks go with Buck Knives Special 119 instead.
KA-BAR Becker BK2 Campanion ($78.36): Boring, plain, average knife. You can get a better knife for less. Get's my manufacturers idiot award for intentionally misspelling the knife's name. What the fuck is a “Campanion”?
Gerber LMF II ($63.99): If you use this knife, I'll hope you'll die in agony. Mega popular for no other reason than good marketing this knife is an overpriced piece of shit for amateurs. What do you expect from a blade that “converts to a spear” and has a sharpener integrated into it's sheath? Short blade with half of it's length serrated makes this knife essentially useless.
Leatherneck Cold Steel SF ($53.84): Another average knife that convinces more through it's bad ass looks than any real survival features.
Ontario 499 Air Force Survival Knife ($37.97): It's made for Air Force personal for God's sake. Basically a cheaper (but not necessary inferior) version of KA-BAR's US Marine Corpse Fighting Knife with a metal saw on the top of the blade to cut yourself out of a crashed airplane. Do you fly planes or helicopters? If not then don't buy this knife.
Schrade SCHF9 Extreme ($38.84): Hugely popular survival knife made from good steel. Pretty good low price choice that looks stunning. Would have been place three in the cheapest survival knives category.
Gerber 22 Prodigy ($42.02): Short, average knife for it's price range. Would be more useful with a straight edge. Advertised as a “tactical knife”, not sure why you would bother with this.
There we go, you've arrived at the end of this article.
To summarize this whole post in one sentence: No matter if you're from the US, UK or Australia, the best survival knife 2016 is the Fallkniven A1.
If you have any questions, stories or insults you want to share, please leave a comment.
Below you'll find the answers to some questions I get asked regularly. If you have any other questions on your own just shoot me an email and I'll try to help you out.
FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions
Are there survival combat knives for close quarter fighting?
Yes! There are many military survival knives to choose from, most of them pretty good.
When in need of a knife for survival AND combat there is simply no better knife than the KA-BAR US Marine Corps Fighting Knife. If you're not interested in combat there are better choices though.
If you serve in the USAF (United States Air Force) or are a private pilot check out the Ontario 499 Air Force Survival Knife.
It's essentially the same as the KA-BAR except that it has a fully serrated top which is very useful to cut through thin metal sheets and airplane equipment (like seat belts) after a crash.
I like the Rambo movies, would you recommend Rambo's survival knife?
No, his knife is actually utter garbage.
But then it probably doesn't matter if you're fighting with a gun, a knife or a toothpick when you're Rambo.
You can buy a functional replica of the Rambo survival knife from the movies here.
Comes with a compass, a hollow handle filled with matches and Sylvester Stallone's signature.
Great for boasting in front of your friends but do yourself a favor and never try to actually use it in the woods.
Is the Gerber's Bear Grylls knife a good survival knife?
It depends: There are about half a dozen different Bear Grylls knives.
The Gerber 31 Bear Grylls Ultimate Knife is cheap, functional and comes with a free fire starter and knife sharpener.
While certainly not the best survival knife you could do worse, especially on a tight budget. You can read more about the Bear Grylls Ultimate in my review above.
My wife once asked “How many knives do you need?” I answered “I don't understand the question.”