Today’s Tip: Survival Knives
Every good outdoorsman or woman should always carry a knife of some kind, you never know when you might need one. I always carry a folding knife in my pocket for various day-to-day chores, and some days I never use it at all, but I know it’s there when I need it. When heading out into the back country for whatever outdoor pursuits you enjoy, that situation always calls for a good survival knife. There are as many survival knives out there as there are opinions about them. I offer several different knives on my site, and I have others which I have not added yet. I would highly recommend any of the knives on my site, and here are my opinions about survival knives.
I prefer a strong, fixed blade knife with a full-tang that goes the length of the handle. I have knives of this type in many lengths, and I waver back and forth on what I think the ideal length is. Sometimes I think a 10 – 12″ overall length is good when I think about having to make a shelter, cut wood, or other heavy tasks. Other times I think an 8 – 9″ knife can handle any task if used properly. A lot depends on your skill level and your comfort level.
Whichever I use, I also have a medium length folder in my pocket or in my pack for finer chores, like making snares or whittling fish hooks. I don’t believe there is one best solution, in fact there are almost too many to choose from. But as I said, I would recommend anything you see on my website. Just remember that your knife is your most important survival tool, so be sure to choose one of high quality.
For handle material, as mentioned above, get a full-tang blade. An exception to this rule would be an antler-handled knife with an internal tang that still goes the length of the handle and is screwed into a butt cap. But if the handle material breaks on one of these knives, you are in a worse position than you would be with a full-tang blade. If the handle material breaks on a full-tang blade, you can wrap it with para cord or some other material and still use it effectively.
Do not get a hollow-handled knife with a compass in the end of it, unless it is of extremely high quality, like about $700 worth of quality. I do have access to a few of these extremely expensive knives for sale, but I don’t even advertise them because I doubt I would ever sell one except to maybe a mercenary.
I prefer hardwood handles, rubberized handles, or plastic resin handles of differing consistency. The key is that your hand is comfortable holding the knife while you are performing strenuous chores, and that you can grip the handles well. Keep in mind that at times you may need to hold your knife upside down, such as when striking a flint to make a fire. Some handle material can be slippery when wet, such as polished bone or horn, so be careful with those.
I prefer knives with a pommel guard, or at the very least a finger guard on the cutting side of the blade. The full pommel guard allows you to use your thumb for leverage when needed, but there are many knives with only the finger guard that I think work great. Whenever my son gets a new knife with a full pommel guard, he cuts off the top part of it, leaving only the finger guard, that’s just his preference.
For blade material, there are two basic types; carbon steel and stainless steel. You can find knives of both types with varying degrees of carbon in the steel, with the higher level of carbon steel, the harder the blade will be. Harder blades are more brittle, but I’ve only broken one knife in my life time, and that was from throwing it at a tree when I was a kid.
Both carbon and stainless steel blades have their advantages and disadvantages, and of course the blade material can be a big factor in the price of the knife. I have a huge collection of knives, and the ones that cost the most rarely get used, if ever. I think I draw the line at about $300, but most knives I use cost $150 or much less. You can find a good quality knife for a reasonable price, and one that you won’t worry about tearing it up when you have to.
One characteristic to note is that the harder the blade material, the longer it will hold an edge, but at the same it will be harder to sharpen. When you are in a survival situation, you may have to sharpen your knife on a sand stone found in a stream, in which case a softer blade will be much easier to sharpen.
As I said earlier, there are many opinions about which knife is the best knife, and some people are unbelievably stubborn about their opinions. I prefer to be flexible; I believe there are so many options to choose from, and that if you choose wisely, the knife will work for you. While I do have my favorites, some of which are in the Knives section of this site, and some I have made myself, I can never decide which one knife is my absolute favorite. It really comes down to your skills in the end.