A common question asked by survivalists is, “What is the best survival knife on the market?”.
Let me start by saying that this is a nearly impossible question to answer. Not only are there thousands of knives available on the market – all with there own pros and cons – there are also thousands of survivalists out there, each with their own preferences, strategies, goals and personal survival skills.
So, what’s the best knife available for you? The knife that is best suited to you.
Of course, there are knives out there that you should definitely avoid buying. Unfortunately, there are many of these cheap, low-quality knives available both online and in-store.
That means it’s very important to do your research and choose the right knife for you and your unique situation.
And the best place to start is right here, with this guide to choosing the best knife for wilderness survival.
This guide will cover the following:
- The top six survival knife features your knife should have
- Detailed reviews
- How is a survival knife designed
- Knife comparison chart
But before reading further, check out this comparison guide to get an idea of what type of knife suits you.
Survival Knife Comparison Chart
The Top Six Survival Knife Features Your Knife Should Have
To start with – before we get into how a survival knife is designed – here is a run-through of the top features a survival knife should have:
Like they say- size matters!
But this doesn’t mean that bigger is better. In fact, in a survival situation, I would recommend a mid-sized knife.
If your knife is too large you won’t be able to use it for detailed or precise work, like carving.
But if your knife is too small, important survival tasks such as splitting and chopping wood will become nearly impossible.
So you want to compromise and find a knife both small enough for precision cutting and large enough for those heavier jobs.
The tang is the part of the blade that is wrapped inside a knife’s handle.
A full tang profile means that the tang runs the entire length of the handle.
A partial tang runs only part way down the handle.
A full tang knife is made to be stronger and able to stand up to way more force than a partial tang knife.
A partial tang knife will eventually develop unwanted play in the handle after constant use.
Another key advantage of a full tang knife is that if the handle does come off, you can easily wrap some material, such as survival paracord, around the handle and keep using the knife. This is way too dangerous to do with a partial tang blade, as there is a high risk of the blade slipping and injuring you.
This is a very important point to keep in mind. You do not want a fold-away, switch or flip blade in a survival situation.
A fixed blade knife is the only type of blade you want on a survival knife.
And the reason is simple – the less moving parts your knife has, the more sturdy and durable it is.
This ensures your knife will last and won’t let you down when put to the test.
A strong, well-built knife is essential when performing survival tasks such as batoning.
Try batoning with a folding knife (even a high-quality one) and see how long it lasts. My bet is not even 10 minutes.
Of course, folding blades are great and serve their own purpose (I highly recommend carrying one in your kit as well) but they are not suited to a survival situation. Continuous use of a folding knife can seriously weaken the pivot point of the knife and if this breaks, the knife is virtually useless.
For any serious survival situation, you need a fixed blade. After all, your life may depend on it.
Correct Knife Tip
While there is a wealth of cool looking, alternatively-designed blades and inlays out there (and they do look awesome), these knives are better suited for a display case rather than in your hand in a survival situation.
You want a design and shape that will function the best when your life depends on it.
For this reason, you can’t go past and spear point or drop point.
Not only do these styles of blade allow for best penetration when it comes to self defense, they are also capable of performing fine point knife work as well.
So drop the style factor and stick with the practical. If SHTF no one’s gonna care what your blade looks like, just that it works!
A single-edged knife has just one side of the blade that is sharpened while double-edged knives, have both sides sharpened.
The sharp side is used for cutting, slicing, carving, etc.
But in a survival situation, the flat side is just as important as the sharp side.
For example, when batoning, you need a flat edge to strike down on. Striking down on a sharp edge is both dangerous and removes much of the power of the strike.
A flat edge also helps when doing tasks that require detail and control. You want to be able to move your thumb along the blade to help with control while doing fine work and there is no way you could do this with a double-edged blade.
And lastly, a flat edge is much better at getting a spark off flint to start your fire.
A Flat Butt
Having a flat butt handle on your knife is very important and comes in handy as a makeshift hammer for lighter tasks.
Use your knife for tasks like hammering-in tent pegs or use it as a punch by driving it into an object using a heavy item like a lump of wood or rock as a makeshift hammer.
You can’t do this consistently and accurately with a rounded butt. It needs to be flat.
Detailed Survival Knife Reviews
Now you have an understanding of what makes a good survival knife, it’s time to think about what knife is best for you.
To help you decide, watch these detailed reviews of some of the best knives out there on the market today.
ESEE Desert Tan Izula II
Schrade SCHF52M Frontier
Ka-Bar Becker BK2
Click here for today’s price
Gerber LMF II Infantry
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Click here for today’s price
Fallkniven FN78 F1
Click here for today’s price
Ontario Black Bird SK-5
Click here for today’s price
How Is A Survival Knife Designed?
While the detailed reviews and knife comparison chart found in this article might be enough information for some, there are others of you who, I’m sure, want to know more.
So now we are going to talk about the specifics that go into the design of a high-quality survival knife such as steel differences, grinds, tangs and coatings.
More specifically, let’s talk about:
- – Blade design and length
- – Blade steel and grind
- – Fixed vs folding
- – Blade coating
- – Tang construction
- – Handle material
- – Grip Technique
In a survival situation, there is a high probability that you will need to use every inch of your blade – from the tip to the belly. So choosing the right blade design is an essential part of selecting the correct knife.
The four main tips you will find on the market are:
- – drop point
- – spear point
- – tonto point
- – clip point
As discussed earlier, I highly recommend that you choose a knife with either a spear or drop point but it’s good to have a basic understanding of all blade shapes.
A spear or drop point aligns the tip of the blade closer to the centerline of the knife, giving these knives greater control, while also lowering the tip weight, which helps move the balance point of the knife towards the hilt. This provides better tip control when using the knife.
While these tips are recommended in most survival situations, it’s important to understand the design and use of other blades as well.
You will probably use these blades a lot less frequently, but they come in handy in specialty situations.
Watch this video to get a rundown of the main blade designs.
Blade length will determine how practical a knife is for specific tasks. Bigger blades such as machetes are great for chopping and slashing, while intricate, precise craft work is better done with a smaller carving blade.
You want to be able to use your knife for all types of tasks, so a mid-sized blade is probably your best option.
The two main types of steel used for survival knives are high carbon steel and stainless steel. However, check out this list to see a full range of steel options.
In basic terms, high carbon steels are usually tougher compared to stainless steels. This makes them stronger and therefore more resistant to breaking. The downside is that they are more likely to corrode.
It’s easier to sharpen a high carbon blade but the knife will become blunt quicker.
To further understand the differences between steel blades, watch this video and learn to think like a pro.
Knives come in a few different grind options, each one with positives and negatives when it comes to performance.
When it comes to survival knives, there are two popular blade grinds to choose from – saber and flat.
The saber grind has a thicker edge that’s more difficult to sharpen to a fine point but will last longer between sharpening. It’s made with a short primary bevel that runs from the cutting edge to the back of the blade.
To understand a flat grind, you first need to understand what a hollow grind is, as a flat grind is a mixture of a saber grind and a hollow grind.
A hollow grind is ground in a way that creates a concave edge from the blade edge to the cutting point. This thinner edge is more susceptible to damage and chips but gives a sharper blade.
A flat grind, therefore, has a finer edge than a saber grind but is stronger and will last longer than a hollow grind.
It can be a little confusing at first but to clear things up, watch these videos to help get your mind around the basics of knife grinds.
Fixed vs Folding
You definitely want a fixed blade knife in a survival situation.
But because they are larger and harder to conceal, they are harder to carry around discreetly.
This being the case, I recommend carrying a folding knife for your everyday needs, as these blades work fine for small tasks outside of a survival situation.
But in a survival situation, you should have a knife that is more durable and won’t fall apart under hard use.
So make sure your primary knife is a fixed blade knife.
I’m no expert on blade coating and the details behind it are complex.
Nevertheless, it’s an interesting subject. I recommend you watch this video explaining the details behind six different blade coatings. The coatings are put through a series of tests to find out which coating comes out on top.
As discussed earlier in the article, you should only consider a full tang knife as your survival blade. So, there really is no need to talk about that again.
But, if you want more information about partial tangs, check out the video below for your introduction to different designs, such as the narrow, hidden and rat tail tangs.
Selecting the correct handle material for your knife is vital, as your grip on the knife will greatly affect its effectiveness.
A good knife grip should be tough enough to withstand everyday use, while still feeling comfortable while being held.
Some of the more popular knife handles are wood, Zytel, Micarta, Krayton or Hypalon.
There are plenty of other types of handles available. Just make sure you choose a grip that doesn’t absorb moisture, as this can cause rot in your handle.
Watch this video for a good introduction to knife handles.
Last but not least, let’s talk a little about knife grip techniques. Choosing the correct knife is extremely important but it’s vital that you learn how to use it correctly and safely.
After all, a tool is only as good as the person who holds it.
So check out this video and learn some basic grip techniques that you can start practicing today.
Last Thoughts Before Making That Purchase
By now, you should have a good idea of what to look for when buying a great survival knife.
Remember to consider all shapes, sizes and designs but ultimately you need a knife that is best suited to you and your needs.
You should consider buying a few knives of different designs, as it’s a good idea to have several knives available for alternative tasks.
Keep a high-quality survival knife in your bug out bag but don’t forget you should also place one in your vehicle, your get home bag, survival pack and first aid kit.
Most (if not all) survival experts I know own a multitude of survival knives, each one with its own unique purpose.
To get a better idea of the range of knives you should own, check out this video of a survival expert sharing his collection with you.