A Complete Guide On Selecting The Perfect Survival Knife

Survival Knives on a Tree Branch

Survival knives are cool. There is no doubt about it, and you might have seen plenty of survival shows on either National Geographic or the Discovery Channel where experienced and highly trained survivalists use a dual purpose wilderness survival knife.

Well, as a matter of fact, apart from looking and feeling cool, survival knives can be your only ticket out of a thick situation. These knives are specially designed to help you forage for food, cut and hammer wood, lay snare traps for small animals and can also serve as a fire starter.

multiple survival knifes stuck in log

Nobody can overemphasize the importance of a survival knife. If you are going out on an adventure, for example, on a hiking trip or exploring the great outdoors, it is imperative you keep a quality survival knife with you at all times.

These knives can also help you defend yourself against animal attack and you can also use them to gut the fish you catch. The uses of a survival knife are virtually endless. This guide is all about providing you accurate information on how to select the best survival knife and the features you should look for in a professional wilderness survival knife.

​Best Fixed Survival Knives

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​Best Folding Survival Knives

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Utilizing A Survival Knife

But what exactly is a survival knife? Is it different than a tactical knife? Well, yes. A knife like this is designed to be used in several situations. You can use it to defend yourself as well as perform several survival tasks with it. These types of knives are especially used in emergency scenarios. Plenty of top rated and quality knives built for survival are fitted with several functions and features.

For instance, you can use the knife as a fire starter if your actual fire starter is broken or if you manage to somehow lose it. Many other knives come fitted with screwdrivers, which are fitted at the base of the knife. You can use it to assemble your tent and whatnot. The fact of the matter is these knives are multi-purpose.

survival knife displayed on a log

Mentioned below are some other important uses of the Schrade extreme survival knife:

  • You can use the knife for cutting, gutting and slicing
  • You can use the knife to dig and make a snare trap
  • ​You can use to effectively split wood
  • ​It comes in handy in terms of defending yourself – against man and animal
  • ​You can use the knife as a cooking utensil
  • ​The survival knife can be used as a first aid apparatus
  • ​You can build a fire with it
  • ​You can use it to hunt for small prey
  • ​Building a shelter with your knife is also an option
  • It is easy to pry things open with these knives
  • ​You can use the knife as a reflector – revealing your position
  • You can convert the knife into a shift hammer

However, when you talk about the ultimate survival knife, it is important to understand that most professional and experienced survivalists recommend you get a smaller, full tang survival knife. Bigger knives aren't practical.

You can’t use bigger knives to perform intricate survival tasks, like setting up traps, building fires or splitting small pieces of wood. However, big knives come in handy if you are chopping firewood or a large prey like deer. On top of that, bigger blades are heavy, so carrying one can really take a toll on you.

gerber survival knife sheet

So, forget that and opt for a simple, powerful and highly practical survival knife that has a quality build and design. Remember when you are out camping and the situation gets a bit dicey, the style of your blade will not help you with anything.

The functionality of your knife is what is going to help you survive all the way to civilization. It is imperative you select a knife that gives you an edge and offers a wide range of critical functionalities and features.

According to research undertaken by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), there were a total of 91 emergencies declared in the country back in 2010. The times have drastically changed and you need to be prepared for any type of emergency, both outdoor and urban.

In 1953, the total number of emergencies declared in the US stood at 13. So, yeah, you have to expect the unexpected in these times. This is all the more reason you need to equip yourself with a proper survival knife that can help you beat the odds.

Sure, there has been much technological advancement through the years with more on the horizon. However, there are still millions of people who have to face disasters and bear the terrible consequences of those disasters.

There are situations where people have no idea what to do and end up failing to survive. Disasters strike without warning, whether you are driving your family to the theme park or if you are out camping. You never know what is going to happen.

Most of the times, the best weapons needed to survive is your knowledge and the information you have about your surroundings. In light of this, you have to make a list of adequate resources and supplies, all of which are going to help you combat the elements and give you an edge in your surroundings.

survival knife displayed on a rock

On top of that, it is possible that you go completely off the grid, which means no access to technology for miles and miles. This is where you have to rely on your knowledge, your wits and your survival knife. There is nothing more important than to keep a couple of survival knives stocked in a knife kit in your car, your home and in your survival gear. A wilderness survival knife is perhaps the most critical tool you can invest in.

High-grade knives designed for survival have successfully cut their way into the lives of many people who love to go out for an adventure. You have to understand that man has depended on knives and blades since time immemorial. The early people used knives to hunt for large and small prey, gut their game, and build fires to stay warm and cook food. This is the reason why these blades are called survival knives.

But it is safe to say that you have to select one the suits your requirements. Not all survival blades are designed the same. There are countless types of knives available in the market, but you need the best one.

This is why we are going to explain what exactly to look for in a top rated, quality survival knife that you can bet your life on in the wild. In light of this, mentioned below are some of the most useful features in the ultimate survival knife you should look for:

Top Survival Functions And Features In A Fixed Blade Survival Knife

Here is a detailed list of features that you must consider when you are out shopping for a quality knife:

The Knife Should Have A Pointed Tip

The survival knife you choose must have a sharp, pointed tip. Well, this goes without saying, but it is worth mentioning because survival blades come in various shapes and sizes. While some have hooked tips, other knives have rounded and angled tips.

Some blades even have cut flaps. So, the options are quite extensive. But you are looking for a knife that is practical and suits all survival requirements. And when it comes to that, there is nothing better than a good old fashioned survival knife with sharp and pointed tip.

Why? Well, the reason is simple. A knife with a pointed tip can be used for several purposes. You can effectively hunt and kill small prey instantly. Moreover, you can also use it to fend off animal attacks. You never know what might be lurking in the forest you are camped out in.

Survival Knife With a Pointed Tip

Plus, a pointed-tip makes for a powerful stab. Animals have thick coats, which can be a bit of a hassle to penetrate, but not with a survival knife that has a sharp tip. Furthermore, a knife with pointed tip can be effectively used as a long-weapon.

How? Well, you can create a make-shift spear with it. All you have to do is find a strong, sturdy and narrow tree branch, use cordage to fit the knife on the top of the branch and voila, you have a spear. You can use you spear to catch fish or lung it at small, nearby prey striking them down at once.

Moreover, if you look at survival knife reviews, you will notice how a majority of people praise a pointed-tip knife. The Air Force survival knife also has a pointed-tip, which adds to the functionality and practicality of the tool. You can use this practicality to your advantage and survive.

Mentioned below are some important activities you can undertake using top survival knives:

  • Effective and efficient prying and picking
  • Small animal dressing and skinning
  • ​Cleaning your game becomes less time consuming
  • ​You can use it to drill holes or for notching
  • ​Best for getting rid of splinters
  • You can clean and eat different type of fruits – for example, acorns

Always Opt For A Full Tang Blade

This is perhaps the most important feature in a survival knife. Apart from several functionalities and options, your survival blade should also have a full tang blade. You must be wondering what the phrase full tang means, well, it is nothing fancy.

Full Tang Knife on a Rock

A full tang blade is simple a knife that is made using one single steel blade from top to bottom. A half tang is where the bottom of the knife does not have a blade and is somewhat hollow. A singular piece of metal in a knife is considered full-tang. If the handle of the blade and the blade itself are made from two separate materials, that knife is not full-tang.

It has to be one continuous piece of metal. On top of that, you have to also consider the type of handle your knife is built with. The handle of your knife should be comfortable and should provide you a firm, clean grip. All survival knives come with different type of grips.

Some handles have a scaly-grip for added firmness and handling. A knife with a full-tang blade is far more versatile compared to a rat tail blade or a blade with a half-tang. Now, you must be wondering why it isn't a good idea to use knives that have half or partial tangs.

Well, that is primarily because of the fact that with increased usage, the handle of the blade starts becoming loose or it breaks. If it breaks, you will not be able to use to and instead safely store the knife. If the handle becomes loose, you will have to be extremely careful so the knife doesn’t fling out of your hand and hurt somebody.

A full tang knife, on the other hand, does not have these problems. That is because with a singular blade the handle is firmly attached on the lower blade providing you with better handling.

Measuring Length of a Full Tang Survival Knife

Even if the scales on the handle manage to get a bit damaged or start to come off, you can easily replace the handle and will not have to buy a new knife. The knife, even in that condition, will remain fully functional.

A great tip for ensuring the handle of your full tang survival knife remains intact is to use cordage. Cordage is a wonderful survival resource that you can use to build shelter as well. It is essentially a strong wire that you can use to firmly grip your knife.

Adding that to the knife handle will make it a good batoning tool as well. In partial or half-tang knives, you will never be able to hammer wood or split tree limbs. It is pretty simple to indentify a full-tang blade: just look for a single piece of metal that goes straight down, and is firmly placed between the handle.

Measure The Thickness Of Your Survival Knife With A Compass

When you are out looking for a survival knife, it is important to select one that has the proper thickness ratio. The ideal thickness of a quality Schrade extreme survival knife should be between 0.17 and 0.25 inches. Another thing you have to consider when going out for a camping trip is how much weight you have to carry.

Thicker and bigger blades can add to the load you have to carry. Carrying a blade that is heavy and thick will tire you easily. This is why it is so important to consider the weight and size of the blade.

Thickness of Survival Knives

But, at the same time, you must ensure the knife you select has all the necessary features that will help you survive in the wild. Remember that you will not only be using to hunt for food and but you will also be using it to build shelter and traps.

So, the thickness of the blade should be perfect. A survival knife with a powerful blade is what you need. You need something that you will be to effectively use after skinning a bird or gutting a fish.

Plus, it is essential that the blade does not end up bending if you apply to much force. A thin, kitchen knife for example, will easily bend if you use it to pry or dig holes. With that said, the thickness of the blade shouldn’t also be over the top, making tasks like gutting an animal hard.

Always Go For A Fixed Survival Blade

When you talk about precision knife handling even in tense situations, it is important to opt for a fixed blade rather than a folding knife. The best folding survival knife has its advantages, but they are no way near as practical as a full tang, fixed survival blade. A folding knife can come in handy for emergency situations in an urban environment.

For example, if you are being mugged or you are trapped inside your car, you can use a folding knife to escape both these situations. But it would be an injustice to compare the precision of a fixed blade survival knife to that of a folding knife.

survival knife with a fixed blade

For any type of survival, there is nothing better than a 6-inch to 9-inch fixed blade survival knife. Plus, folding knives don’t have a strong joint, which means you cannot use it as a baton as it will break easily. Plus, if the joint breaks, the knife will be difficult to store safely. As a matter of fact, survival knives with joints are a big no-no in a survival situation.

So, never compromise on the quality and effectiveness of a fixed blade knife. A fixed blade survival knife is specially manufactured to be utilized for a plethora of survival tasks. Some of these important tasks include pounding on wood or small prey, effective wood or wire cutting and thrusting.

Your Knife Should Be Single-Edged And Must Have A Flat Spine

It is better to shop for a Gerber survival knife that does not have a double-edged blade. This is a pretty important point to understand. Blades that are designed with a double-edge can be counter-productive, especially when it comes to an emergency situation. And in some cases, these knives can end up causing trouble and being a big disadvantage.

These blades are neither practical nor functional. According to many experienced, skilled and professional survivalists, the best survival knife with a single-edge blade is perfect for lighting a fire in a dire situation as it doesn’t take any time.

single edge flat spine survival knife

You can use the knife to create a fire using a ferro blade if you don’t have a fire starter. Knives with beveled or rounded spines cannot be effectively used to light fires. Plus, you will never be able to use a double-edge blade as a baton. This is because the hard wood you use it to hammer the knife into wood or something else will end up sticking inside the edge.

A sharpened edge serves little purpose and can end up injuring you if you aren't careful with it. Moreover, you have to rest your thumb on the edge of the knife in order to dig holes or make an emergency shelter. With a double-edged blade, you might cut yourself if you aren't careful.

The Durability Of Your Knife’s Pommel

The pommel is the bottom of the survival knife. You must ensure it is firm and strong. The main reason why the pommel of your knife should be strong is the fact you will be using it as a hammer to perform a number of tasks. A poorly designed pommel will break easily, rendering your wilderness survival knife useless.

On top of that, if the bottom of the knife breaks, there is little you will be able to do to repair it. You might have to use cordage to repair it, but that won’t last long and the wires might easily come off. When you talk about surviving, you cannot rely on weak gear.

The Length Of The Blade

If you are thinking whether or not the size of the knife matters, the answer is yes, it does indeed matter. When you talk about a survival knife, you have to understand that bigger is not always better, especially in emergency situations.

Why? Well, the simple fact of the matter is, bigger blades will give you a hard time in terms of precision based handling. You will not be able to use a bigger blade in tight situations. For instance, a big knife is not designed to help you build snare traps and dressing small prey.

Simply put, a bigger knife does not have the kind of precision a smaller blade does when it comes to performing survival tasks. On the flipside, a bigger, full tang blade can help you accomplish other tasks. For example, you will be able to baton your small prey with the butt of the knife or it dull edge. You will also be able to slice and cut bigger pieces of wood to build a big fire. Plus, you can use a big blade as a spear.

measuring the length of a survival knife

All you have to do is attach the blade on a strong, straight branch and you can use it to spear fish dead in the water. Smaller blades can be used a baton if they have a full tang. You need a strong knife because you will be using it as a hammer. Batoning involves using a heavy object to ram against the bottom of the knife to break tree branches or split tree limbs.

Survival knives come in different shapes, sizes and designs. You have the option selecting knife sizes ranging from 6 inches to 12 inches. However, keep in mind that you aren't going out there to kill a bear. You need to consider the handling of the knife, quick accessibility and its functionality.

This is especially true when you are stranded in a forest, you are hungry and don’t have any shelter. So, survival knives that are bigger than 10 inches are a no no. Sure, you can buy one for other uses, but you cannot depend on it.

You can only depend on a small survival knife to perform important, life saving activities. A large survival knife does not have the right features, but can come in handy to kill prey and cut big pieces of wood. But big blades are heavy. Plus, bigger knives are a bit of a nuisance to store and maintain.

Go For A Survival Blade That Is Made From Carbon Steel

If you do a simple search online, you will find numerous types of steels that different brands use for making survival knives. However, it is important to understand you need the best one. The most durable and long-lasting that many professional survival experts recommend is carbon steel. That is primarily because carbon steel can take a lot of abuse and still function good as new.

survival knife made of carbon steel

Although stainless steel is low maintenance, carbon steel blades need to be properly maintained and stored. Moreover, carbon steel blades can rust if you don’t take care of them or store them in a place where there is a lot of moisture or sunlight.

A majority of brands use 1095 (carbon steel type) to create durable and powerful blades. The 1095 has become a popular choice amongst the buyers as well. On top of that, the 1095 is also an easy-to-sharpen steel type as well.

Things To Avoid When Shopping For A Survival Knife

Don’t Buy A Narrow-Tang Knife

A survival knife should be durable, long-lasting and effective. Plus, it must also have all the necessary features you require to survive in case of an emergency. If you opt for a knife with a narrow-tang, you will significantly reduce your capacity to perform important survival tasks, such as hammering, splitting and chopping wood. Narrow-tang blades are just good for normal, everyday kitchen use.

Two Survival Knives with Different Tang

This is why chefs all around the world use them. You can effectively cut vegetables and thin slices of meat with it. But if you talk about using it in the wild, to build a shelter or to create snare trap for small prey, this type of knife will not provide you with an advantage and will become counter-productive. Plus, if you use a narrow-tang knife as a hammer, you will break the pommel of the knife in no time, rendering the knife utterly useless.

Folding Knives Are For Urban Use And Survival

Folding knives are easy to hide and pose no storage problems. They are effective as a self-defense weapon as well. The fact that you can use it immediately is what gives them the edge. However, when you talk about surviving in the wild, they don’t come in relatively handy. And that is primarily because folding knives have a joint. You can’t use them as a baton or apply to much force on the handle as it will break easily.

Thicker And Bigger Survival Knives

Long, thick blades are heavy and are good for heavy-duty use, such as hammering big tree limbs and trunks or for gutting large prey. However, when it comes to delicate and intricate survival tasks, such as building traps of shelter, lighting a fire or cleaning meat, these knives don’t come in handy at all.

Big And Thick Knife Stuck in a Log

Big knives are also a bit tough to handle, as you will require a strong forearm to make powerful jabs and stabs. The bigger the blade, the heavier it is to carry and the more difficult it is to control.

Avoid Buying A Survival Knife With A Hollow Handle

In emergency situations, you need to rely on practical and useful equipment. A survival knife that is designed with a weak or hollow handle can be a liability in a dire situation. Hollow blades have partial or half-tangs, which means you cannot use these knives as batons. Furthermore, these hollow handles knives are more susceptible to break.

Bottom Line

So, there you have it, a full guide on what to look for in a survival knife. Look for these qualities and avoid the aforementioned factors when shopping for a quality blade. Every household should have a survival knife.

Black Survival Knife and Its Sheet

They come in considerably handy and at times when you least expect to use them. Man has depended on effective and dual-purposed blades for centuries now and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

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