Best Survival Knives: Confidently Explore the Great Outdoors
Be prepared in the wilderness with these high-quality survival knives
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Whether you’re an avid hiker or just camping for the weekend, a survival knife can be extremely helpful. Its sharp blade can cut up kindling, slice through rope, and start a fire. They are compact enough to store away, and their versatility makes them capable of cutting basically anything you’ll need to enjoy the great outdoors. Here are the best survival knives to consider for your next adventure.
A lightweight and compact 9-inch long full tang survival knife developed out of carbon stainless steel.
The handle is wrapped in thick rubber for greater grip strength. It features a blood groove, a dual-edge, a protective handguard, and weighs nearly 8 ounces.
It’s designed more for stabbing and isn’t the best for cutting. The handle is thin and small, and putting it in the sheath can be difficult due to its double-sided blade.
This 13.5-inch long fixed-blade knife has an 8.5-inch long and 5.5-mm thick blade. The spear point blade has a blood groove for strength and edge retention.
It’s a full tang knife designed to resist corrosion. It includes a comfortable green rubber-wrapped handle with a textured grip, a brown leather sheath, and it weighs 0.8 pounds.
It is on the larger side for survival knives and may take some getting used to. It’s also heavy and cumbersome, and keeping it in the sheath may be a hassle on a hike.
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Benefits of the Best Survival Knives
- First aid tool. The best survival knife can be used to remove thorns and splinters from wounds or to cut bandages. In case of a car accident, you can use it to cut seat belts or break windows to free yourself. You can also heat the blade in fire and cauterize wounds if a first aid kit is missing.
- Preparing food. You can use the knife to disembowel game you caught, to peel and slice fruits, or to cut cheese and bread. When you don’t have eating utensils, it can serve as a knife, spoon, or fork. You can also use the survival knife to open bottles of wine or cans of food.
- Self-defense. When you’re in the wild, defending yourself can determine whether you survive or not. A survival knife can help protect you against animals and humans. It can slow down or fend off an attacker. Even if you don’t use it, having it ensures you are prepared.
Types of Survival Knives
This knife became popular in the 1980s when it was released by Cold Steel. It’s similar to a samurai sword and its other name is the Japanese Short Sword. It’s a traditional Japanese knife that was designed to penetrate armor. To withstand frequent use, it has a plastic handle and an incredibly strong blade. The knife’s tip is chisel-like and very difficult to damage. It is perfect for scraping or prying.
This is a tactical pocket knife meant to be hidden in a boot. It can also be concealed under pant legs, slid into a belt, or worn on the neck. It is five inches long and has a double-edged blade. But due to its small size, it may not be the ideal survival knife. However, its accessibility makes it a reliable backup knife that can be used quickly for self-defense, hunting, survival, or other tasks.
This type of knife is ideal for combat. Military personnel use it after running out of bullets. It is specifically designed to be useful in numerous situations, which is why it’s loved by the military. It’s a valuable weapon that can save lives in difficult situations and is extremely durable. The blade is about eight inches long and the handle is textured to offer a good grip.
Pete Gerber established Gerber Legendary Blades in 1939. The American company produces knives and other multipurpose tools. Its headquarters are in Oregon. The company partnered with Dave Murphy in 1939, becoming the first knife manufacturer to team up with a custom knifemaker. Gerber knives are the best survival knives and designed to meet unique needs such as self-defense. Next time you’re out camping, carry the Gerber Folding Knife.
Jeff Randall and Mike Perrin launched ESEE Knives in 1997. Their aim was to revolutionize things in the knife industry. They formed Randall's Adventure Training to educate people on wilderness survival, land navigation, and wilderness medical techniques. ESEE Knives’ first knife was the RTAK produced by the Wicked Knife Company. ESEE’s philosophy is to create gear that has been tested in the real world, such as the ESEE Zancudo Framelock Green Knife.
A family business, Fällkniven AB manufactures knives and knife-related equipment. It was founded by Peter Hjortberger in 1984 and is located in Boden, Sweden. In 1987, it began producing its own knives. The company is best known for equipping the Swedish military with outdoor and military knives. Its knives are tested at Lulea University of Technology to ensure they are functional, strong, and durable. Try out one of its best products, the Fallkniven Diamond-Ceramic Whetstone Sharpener.
Kershaw Knives is a company that invents and manufactures a variety of knives for hunting, camping, and fishing. Established in 1974 by Pete Kershaw, the company is now part of Kai USA with headquarters in Oregon. Kai USA also owns Shun brands (a kitchen knife brand) and Zero Tolerance (a knife brand). For your next outdoor adventure, get the Kershaw Blur Everyday Pocket Knife.
The Ka-Bar knife has such a rich history we sometimes forget that its manufacturer bears the same name. While Ka-Bar Knives, Inc. now makes a variety of knives, it’s most popular for the Ka-Bar Knife. The company was launched in 1897 and was known as the Tidioute Cutlery Company back then. It’s now located in Olean, New York. Its renowned knife, the Ka-Bar Fighting Knife, is still its most popular product to date.
Best Survival Knife Pricing
- Under $50: The majority of these knives are folding pocket knives with basic features. Some are half tang and most don’t come with a sheath.
- Over $50: These are multipurpose survival knives that are strong, durable, and well-designed. They feature a full tang and fixed blades. Many are sold with a sheath. Knives in this category are made by top brands like Kershaw, ESEE, Ka-Bar, Gerber, Bushcraft, Condor, Morakniv, and Micarta. Some are made of high carbon steel while others are made of Cro-Van steel.
A survival knife’s blade length ranges between 4 and 8 inches. A knife with a small blade is lighter and easier to carry. It’s ideal for tasks that require precision—like dressing wild game or carving. However, it can’t be used for chopping or batoning. A knife with a bigger blade is suitable for hammering or cutting tree limbs. But it’s heavier and difficult to carry. The best survival knife should have an overall length between 9-11 inches.
A knife’s tang is the unexposed, unsharpened part of the blade that extends to the handle. The tang can be full or partial, such as push tang, half tang, or rat-tail tang. A knife with a full tang has a blade material that extends down the handle. It is sturdy, safer to use, and doesn’t loosen over time. A knife with a half tang may loosen when you’re chopping, prying, or batoning. It is dangerous and difficult to use.
A survival knife’s tip can be sharp, rounded, angled, or hooked. A sharp-tipped survival knife is multifunctional and can be used for hunting, self-defense, picking locks, preparing food, or prying open jammed doors. A rounded tip carves well because it makes very precise cuts. It can also thresh bark to start fires. A bigger, angled tip is more durable and can pierce through thicker materials. A hooked tip is ideal for dressing, skinning, and slicing game.
Survival knife blades can either have a drop point or a clip point design. A drop point blade is thicker, especially at the tip, and can handle different tasks like carving, cutting, and skinning. A clip point blade has a traditional design and is ideal for piercing and stabbing (self-defense). It can be a useful fighting knife for battling an animal like a bear.
- Blade Mobility. The mobility of a survival knife’s blade influences its flexibility. A knife can either have a fixed or a folding blade. Fixed blades are preferable because they are resilient, durable, and reliable in survival situations. However, they are bulkier and harder to carry. Folding blades are less resistant to impact and can’t be used for demanding tasks. But they are ideal for carving, more compact, and portable.
- Type of Pommel. The pommel is the bottom of a knife’s handle, commonly known as the butt. It is the most significant part of a knife’s handle because a well-designed one has more uses. You can choose between a flat, rounded, and hooked pommel. A sturdy pommel is better for light pounding or hammering, inserting shelter stakes, ice fishing, making repairs, and self-defense.
- Edge of the Blade. A single-edged knife offers more control. You can rest your thumb on the flat side as you carry out tedious tasks like carving. It's safer and can help build a shelter, cut and split, or baton wood. It can also start a fire by striking a Ferro rod. A double-edged knife is ideal for stabbing and self-defense. However, there’s a higher probability of hurting yourself due to perspiration.
Best Survival Knife Reviews & Recommendations 2020
- Make sure the blade is properly secured to the sheath before setting off on an adventure. Double-check the buckles and straps to ensure they are tight.
- To make sure your knife does not rust, do not leave it in water or outside in the elements. Make sure to wipe away water with a cloth before putting it back in the sheath.
- If you need to cut the rope, twine, or string more effectively, get a survival knife that includes a serrated edge for better cuts and slices.
- Always cut away from your body when using a survival knife, or any type of knife, to avoid slicing or harming yourself. Always use extreme caution to keep yourself safe.
Q: What is the tang on the knife?
A: The tang is the part of the blade that extends into the handle of the knife. Knives with a full tang are considered more durable and stronger.
Q: How do I properly care for a survival knife?
A: Make sure your knife is sharp by using a sharpening tool or whetstone. Both feature two sides: a rough side and a fine grit side. Some survival knives may also come with a stone of their own.
Q: What types of blades do survival knives have?
A: You can find survival knives with either stainless steel or carbon material blades. Stainless steel is more common, is generally tougher, and is less prone to rusting and chipping. Carbon blades are harder, but not as tough, but are typically easier to sharpen.
Our top pick, the ESSE Fixed Blade Survival Knife is made out of tough and sturdy carbon steel for improved power and force.
Or there’s the budget-friendly Smith & Wesson High Carbon Fixed Blade Survival Knife, which looks more rugged and comes equipped with a strong blade, blood groove, a dual-edge, and a protective handguard.