What Makes a Good Survival Knife: How to Choose the Right One

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If you’re an avid outdoorsman, hunter, hiker, or outdoor adventurer, you should be carrying a survival knife with you at all times. It needs to be one that is tough, yet at the same time comfortable, since you’re going to be holding it for long periods of time.

A good survival knife has to be rugged enough to withstand the heavey use and hold up well in the elements. It also needs to have a comfortable handle and a correct type of blade for your situatio.

Why Carry a Survival Knife

An obvious reason is for safety when out in the wilderness. There are many dangers when surviving in with wilderness, one such danger being wild animals. You want to be able to defend yourself if the need arises. A survival knife is a great option because many people don’t like handling guns. However, even if you do carry a gun when outdoors, it is still a good idea to carry a survival knife because a gun has a limited supply of ammo. If you were to get lost in the wilderness, you wouldn’t want to have to rely on just the two clips you’re caring under your shirt. Especially in a true life or death survival situation, you’re going to want a tool that will last. If you were to just rely on a gun, you would have to start thinking about conserving ammo.

Different Kinds of Survival Knives

A survival knife is also a tool, not just a weapon. You can use your knife to cut down small trees, use it as an axe, dig up roots to eat, and much more.

Machete Survival Knife

First off, there is never one best survival knife. You’re going to need to identify what kind of situation you’re possibly going to be in. If you’re going to be in a jungle situation, you probably going to want to go with a machete-type of a knife.

Mora (Small Sheath Knife) Survival Knife

If you’re going to be in a desert area, then you might just want to go with a mora knife. A mora knife is usally a small, fixed blade knife that fits into a sheath. They can also come with or without a finger guard.

Boot Survival Knife

A boot survival knife is a knife that is small enough to fit in your boot. These knives are often made into a dagger style as these knives are usually carried for self-defense. A boot knife can also be carried elsewhere, such as on a belt or under a shirt. These style of knives are usually last resort knives and are not meant to be your primary survival knife.

Combat Survival Knife

A combat survival knife is designed for fighting and battle field situations. It’s equipped with a lot of features including a pointed blade for stabbing, and a finger guard to prevent your hand from sliding onto the blade in a knife fight. A combat knife is an integral part of every soldier’s everyday gear. A soldier will use a combat knife both as a weapon and a tool.

Survival Knife

This is what I call the Common Survival Knife. If you’re an avid outdoorsman or spend a lot of your time in the wilderness, then this is a knife you need to carry with you at all times. A survival knife should have a blade about 4″-7″ inches long. If the blade is too short, you become limited in what you can do with it. On the other hand, if the blade is too long, it will be harder to do smaller things with the knife, such as whittling a trigger for an animal trap.

There are many more kinds of survival knives on the market with many very different looks and sizes. A lot of your really good high-end survival knives are not going to be flashy. They’re going to be designed to get the job done, not attract attention.

A Fixed Blade Knife vs A Foldable Knife

A true survival knife should be a fixed blade. There are two primary reasons why a foldable survival knife isn’t a good choice. First, a foldable knife can pose a big safety risk to you if you’re in a life or death survival situation. The last thing you want to happen when using a foldable knife in the wilderness is to have the lock mechanism break. This can be deadly in a survival situation because now you’re going to have to focus on surviving with the added complications of an injury.

The second reason is a foldable knife has to fold on a hinge. This gives the knife a weak point, which is very bad to have on a survival knife. You need to have a survival knife that will be able to withstand everything you throw at it. In a survival situation, you’re going to be using your knife as a shovel, prybar, ax, and whittling knife.

How to Use a Survival Knife

In a survival situation, you’re going to be using your knife for far more than just cutting things. Here are 6 ways to use a survival knife that you may not have thought of.

DISCLAIMER: Rogue Survival does not suggest trying anything on the following list unless you know EXACTLY what your doing.

1. First Aid

In an extreme survival situation where you get seriously injured and you are unable to stop the bleeding through elevating the wound or sewing it shut, you can use your survival knife to cauterize your wound. Although this would be an extremely rare situation, it is still helpful to be able to perform this first aid technique in an emergency. A survival knife will also help you to cut various items into temporary bandages.

2. Harvesting Food

When surviving in the wilderness, your survival knife can be used as a shovel to dig up edible roots to eat. Your knife can also be used to kill wild animals and to skin them to reveal the edible meat.

3. A Survival Knife Becoming an Ax

In a true survival situation, you’re not going to have a ton of tools on hand. With a survival knife, you can use it in place of an ax to cut firewood or small trees to make a shelter.

4. Using a Survival Knife as a Hammer

The blunt side of a survival knife can be used as a hammer for a ton of various tasks. When setting a trap to catch wild animals for food, you can use your survival knife to hammer trap spikes into the ground.

5. Using a Survival Knife to Craft Other Tools

One of the main reasons why a survival knife is so versatile is because it can be used to craft other tools. If you have some string on you, perhaps your shoelace, you can make a bow with some arrows. Or, if you absolutely have no string on you, you can use your knife to make a spear. Even better yet, you can attach your knife to the end of a long stick and have a truly deadly weapon.

6. Self Defense

If you’re having to survive in the wilderness, a survival knife will be your best friend. Wild animals such as cougars, bears, and alligator are only a few that are known to attack humans. A survival knife may be the deciding on whether you live or die if attacked.

An Expensive Survival Knife vs A Cheap Pocket Knife

When buying a survival knife, it’s very important that you choose one made out of premium materials. It’s a good idea that you save up and invest some money into your survival knife because it could be what keeps you alive one day.

What to Look for When Choosing a Survival Knife

When looking to purchase a survival knife, keep in mind the following:

  1. Handle Material
  2. Blade Material
  3. Knife Weight
  4. Blade Thickness
  5. The Tang

The Handle

Cheap survival knives most often come with cheap plastic handles or aluminum handles. Although aluminum handles are light and durable, they are very susceptible to dings and can get really hot or cold, depending on the elements. More expensive knives come with higher quality materials in the handles such as carbon fiber or G-10 material. For more info on G-10 material, read this post. Although carbon fiber and G-10 are extremely strong materials, they are susceptible to chipping if hit with really hard force. The problem with wooden handles is that the knife, if wet, will be heavier since the wood in the handle absorbed water.

The recommended material for a survival knife is carbon fiber or G-10.

Blade Material

The blade of your survival knife is literally the most important part of the knife. To start with, you don’t want your blade to be made out of some super hard steel. For other knives, such as a pocket knife, for example, you’re going to want a hard blade that can keep an edge. When choosing a survival knife, you need a blade that is relatively softer than other blades. The reason for this is because when in a survival situation, you probably won’t have a sharpening kit with you. This means that you’ll have to use something like a river rock in order to sharpen your knife. If the blade of your knife is made out of really hard steel, it’ll be really difficult to sharpen your knife in a survival situation. Softer steel will give your blade more flexibility, making it less prone to snap if exposed to extreme pressure or force.

The recommended steel for a survival knife blade is 1095 or 5160 steel.

Knife Weight

When deciding on a survival knife, you’re going to want to choose a knife that falls into the sweet spot when it comes to weight. If your knife is too light, you won’t be able to use to chop things if needed. On the other hand, if the knife is too heavy, it’s going to be a frustration for you in the field. A survival knife needs to be heavy enough to use as an ax yet light enough to use somewhat like a normal pocket knife.

The recommended weight for a survival knife is 12oz – 16oz.

Blade Thickness

Blade thickness is also a very important factor when choosing a survival knife. Too thin a blade and it could snap when trying to dig, etc. To thick a blade and now you’re adding extra weight that isn’t needed.

The recommended thickness for a survival knife blade is 3/16″ – 1/4″.

The Tang

The tang of your survival knife is extremely important. If you’re unsure on what a tang is, it’s basically the blade of the knife extended into the handle. This makes the knife a lot more stronger and if the handle were to break, you can still use your knife because of the steel underneath.

It is recommended that a survival knife has an exposed tang.

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