How To Choose A Survival Knife
This is just a rough guide for newcomers to the knife game looking for one knife that does it all but has no idea where to start. I could just reel a list of good survival knives off, but this is more for introducing somebody to the traits they should be looking for in a good survival knife. It’s one thing to have a good knife but a completely different story to know why you have it and how to use it.
I always use cheap knives when I’m out and about. I don’t carry expensive blades as standard, but I never go anywhere that requires me to have a ‘Survival’ knife. As a big user of cheaper knives though I know their limitations but I forgive them that as I don’t need to have anything more than that for what I generally do. If I go somewhere I think I might need to rely on my knife in a potential survival situation then I take something I know will keep me in good standing. The one thing you should always consider before looking to buy a survival knife is cost. Cheap is not good here. Cheap usually means inferior steel and lack of quality that can cause problems when you need it the most. Invest in something that’s good quality from a good name, but I don’t mean something that’s endorsed by somebody like Bear Grylls. Most knives endorsed by a person will be terrible, not all but MOST, in comparison to just a good, regular blade. Just choose the right company like TOPS or ESEE and you shouldn’t be able to go wrong. You can find some true gems out there for less, but generally £150-250 will get you something that should last a lifetime and can be relied upon in any survival situation.
Always look for fixed blade and full tang. Always. These will be stronger and therefore more useful for chopping when, and if, you need to. All folders have a massive flaw and that’s the pivot point, so don’t get one of those. Also, do not buy anything that comes with a fishing kit or any other rubbish jammed into the handle. If the handle is hollow then the knife is weak. These are just more gimmicks like the endorsed blades I mention previously.
Get a blade that is the right size. Don’t get a massive, arm sized, bowie as you only limit yourself with what you can actually do with it. A big knife might help you chop some wood but a smaller knife, with a weight behind it, could do the same job while offering the ability to do finer tasks you might require. You are more likely to lose control of a large blade while cutting into game, which could spoil your meat, or you could just end up injuring yourself performing other tasks.
Get a good, thick spine, without going so far as to carry a hammer. It should be thick enough for you to use it to chop wood but thin enough that the blade has good edge geometry for cutting. Get something with a simple edge, no serrations or fancy bevels. The right sort of grind here could make a huge difference to your survival capabilities. I personally like the Scandinavian grind as its easy to sharpen and offers strong edge reinforcement. You want something that will be easy to maintain, with minimal equipment, and as long as its good steel, from a good brand, it should see you through the hardest of tasks.
Choose the right steel. Usually survival knives are made of high carbon steel. This is a good steel that can be struck (in the right manner) to produce fire. The downside is that high carbon steels rust, so you need to maintain the blade regularly. If you thought you would be somewhere very moist for a long period of time, choose stainless steel, but you should remember that you no longer have the option to make a flint steel with the knife and therefore should find some way to incorporate an alternative into your blade (usually in the sheath). Fire is very important for survival so make sure you have a way to make it with your knife at all times.
Get the right handle. Lots of companies offer paracord wraps and these can be good to an extent. The problem with a paracord handle is that once you use that cord you are left with just the tang of the blade as a handle. This can cause more problems than 5 meters of cordage can justify. You wont have a firm grip anymore and when its wet or in freezing temperatures you might find it altogether useless or dangerous to use. Most people would look for a rubberised grip for security and a lanyard hole never hurts (you can get a good paracord lanyard to cover one more area then).
As for a sheath there are many options out there for a knife beyond what it is supplied with and there’s no ‘best’ material in my opinion. Lots of companies make custom sheaths so if you require something different approach somebody for a better solution. If you require extra pockets on them for items like a sharpener or flint steel or maybe you want to carry the blade horizontally rather than drop down. I personally prefer the horizontal sheaths as I find them less cumbersome and more accessible. Get a sheath that allows for easy access to the blade using only one hand yet has a secure and reliable way of holding the blade in place. The last thing you want is to have one hand holding on for survival, while fumbling around with the other, trying to get at your blade.
Finally always make sure you get to hold the knife before you buy it. Often the internet will tell you the blade has a certain grind and reviews tell you that the handle is great, but until you see it and hold it yourself, you just don’t know. Its great to get an opinion on a knife but don’t take the word of the seller. They are less likely to have used the knife and more likely to just want your hard earned cash. Don’t take the word of youtubers either. They usually get sent knives for free so they can often exaggerate good features and forget to mention bad ones so they get sent more in the future. Just trawl through forums and you should get a good overview of whatever knife you are thinking about getting. The more reviews you find on it the more informed you can be when buying.
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