TIPS FOR CHOOSING THE BEST WILDERNESS SURVIVAL KNIFE

Survival KnifeThis article is a guide to choosing a good survival knife. It will not recommend any brands or models in particular, but rather cover the different variables that make a good or bad survival knife, so that you can go out into the world with the information you need to select your own.

Let’s begin!

THE BLADE

First things first- the blade. What are we looking for in a knife blade?

The blade should be around 6-9”. This is long enough for most things that require blunt strength (cutting twigs and branches or firewood, etc) while small enough for finesse (fashioning wood fishing hooks, etc).

The blade should be fixed to the handle. It should not be any kind of folding or jointed knife.

The blade should have a sharp point, nothing rounded, hooked or flat. This will allow you to stab, making it easier to cut through things like animal hides. These knives can also be tied to the end of a staff and used as a spear.

The blade should be around ¼” thick, thick enough to withstand some wood chopping.

The blade should be thick at the spine, with a razor sharp straight blade. Serrated edges have their uses, but a straight blade has a wider range of uses and can be sharpened using simply a stone. A straight blade that is partially serrated is a good compromise, giving you the most flexibility (see picture above).

Single edge blades are best, giving you a flat side for hammering and striking.

There are two good types of blade materials: carbon and stainless steel.

Carbon blades will stay sharp longer, but rust easier. Some good carbon steels are A2, D2, 1095, 5160.

Stainless steel blades are more rust resistant, but lose their edge quicker. Some good stainless steels are CPM 154, S60V, S90V, BG-42.

THE HANDLE

Now, the handle. Let’s get a handle on what makes a good handle.

The handle should be 4-6” long. There should be a protruding end just below the blade, to stop your hand from sliding up onto the blade and getting cut.

The handle should have a non-slip grip, again to avoid sliding up.

The handle should have a solid pommel (the end of the handle), so you can use it for things like hammering.

You want a full tang, not a narrow tang (the tang is the piece of metal that runs through the handle). This way, if the handle breaks you can wrap a cord around the tang and still use it.

Avoid any added gimmicks, such as hollow handles for storage, compasses, etc. Features are often added to low-quality knives as selling features. You want a good survival knife, not a mediocre knife with accessories.

THE SHEATH

The knife should have sheath to hold it in. It should have a crossover strap to hold the handle in so that it doesn’t fall out. The sheath should be able to be connected to your leg or a backpack, so it should come with both lower and upper attachments. Make sure it is comfortable and easy to carry!

 

Good luck and stay prepared!

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Comments

  1. Very nice. I picked up an OKC Range Night Stalker 6 a while back and it seems to meet everything you are talking about pretty nicely. Makes me happy I got it.

    http://www.chestnutridgeknifeshop.com/catalog/product_info.php?cPath=67&products_id=528&osCsid=dfcb2a812deddc5cf26f2055b3ca55e0

  2. What a lame article.

    • :(

      • Well, it is a pretty basic article. I would imagine that it was written for someone who has never really seen a knife outside of their kitchen. Surely RamboMoe wouldn’t compose a basic article such as this for ex-military or highly experienced bushcraft types. However I think for someone who is just getting into prepping like myself, even though I have already done some research beyond this particular article, would find it at least semi-valuable because there are some very important considerations that are touched on. If that general knowledge isn’t provided, you have folks working that much harder to figure it out in an attempt to discover what works and what doesn’t.

        Good follow up would be an in-depth look at what differentiates survival knives. Why is a full tang superior to a tapered or partial tang? What kind of grind on the edge makes a survival knife better than another of similar make? What is the difference between a military issue knife (Kabar for example) versus ‘civilian’ knives.

        In my super-limited experience, I think that a wilderness knife is much different than a ‘survival’ knife. I would think that a wilderness knife would be something that would allow you to perform certain tasks around camp – - process firewood, carve bowls and utensils, and general tasks that one would encounter with high frequency.

        For instance, a 6″ blade would be awfully long to handle much of the smaller work needed to be accomplished on a more routine basis. A survival knife on the other hand should be a large, multi-task tool that allows you to do all of the things outside of what you mention in the article, save making a spear out of it; however I think a kabar for instance would be way too much knife for most tasks, and the large blade and handle then become obstacles that you have to deal with. I couldn’t imagine choking up on the blade pictured above to do any detail carving work such as making wooden fish hooks like you mention. I do however see that being feasible with a smaller, less heavy blade.

        So perhaps a couple of solid, more advanced knife articles would be useful as a follow on to this introductory guide?

        • Very good comment!

          Yes it’s the first article on the subject, so it’s meant to be a general introduction. I like to start general and then get more specific.

  3. I had a kabar issued to me but now prefer the glock combat knife with saw on back. I have cut down a sizeable tree with it, is balanced for throwing and can be used as a spear.

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