If you decided to talk to outdoor enthusiasts about the perfect survival knife, you’d hear a lot of different suggestions. Some would start chirping about Mora knives, while others would point out how Ka-Bar knives are the best on the market.
While choosing the perfect survival knife depends on our preferences, that doesn’t mean there are no guidelines that can help you distinguish a high-quality survival knife from a cheap alternative.
In this article, we will try to explain which knife features you should look for and what kind of design is a must for your future survival knife.
Here are some things you should keep an eye on:
The first thing you should consider when choosing a survival knife is its purpose – do you plan on using the knife for hunting, combat, survival, bushcraft, or some other tasks?
If you plan on camping, you might want to choose a smaller knife. Pocket knives are also a great choice for everyday tasks because they’re very compact and light, but they can easily break if you try to use them for some tougher tasks.
On the other hand, larger knives are better for bushcraft and survival purposes because they can handle tasks like splitting wood or chopping. They are also much less likely to break if they have a full tang, which is something we’ll get to in a minute.
Not all survival knives work the same in different environments, climates, and vegetation.
If you’re headed to a place with a low temperature, your knife should be big and robust, because you’ll be dealing with a lot of industrial tasks such as batoning, splitting, and cutting wood. A fully overmolded rubberized handle is a must in the wintertime because other materials get really cold.
Surviving in environments with tropical rainforests means you’ll need to cut through vegetation when bushwhacking. Humidity can also pose a problem because it’s not very blade-friendly, so choosing the right material that you can easily maintain should be your priority.
Size and Weight
The size of the survival knife is also very important. Remember – a smaller knife can’t do what a larger knife can, but that doesn’t mean bigger is always better.
If you have a robust knife, you won’t be able to do some delicate tasks like dressing small game or carving precision snare sets. But, as smaller knives don’t perform well with more rugged tasks such as batoning or chopping, you’re better off with bigger knives that are between 9 and 11 inches long.
Again, you can choose a smaller knife if you don’t plan on doing these kinds of tasks.
The weight of the survival knife is also important. Naturally, larger knives tend to be heavier, but that’s not always the case. Keep in mind that a knife that is too light won’t be able to handle some rougher tasks that involve chopping, for instance. But, if your knife is too heavy, you’ll probably get sick of it in time and won’t want to carry it on your belt.
Most people don’t even think about the knife’s color when buying it because they don’t think it’s important. But what are you going to do when you drop your camo knife in the rainforest?
Black and brown knives can easily be misplaced or forgotten on the ground, which is why you’re better off choosing a knife that has a bright-colored handle.
There are a couple of things you should watch out for when it comes to handles.
First things first, you should avoid hollow handles at all costs. These knives have no tang, which means they can easily break. They are not only useless when it comes to rougher tasks, but you can also hurt yourself in the process. Aim for a full tang instead, or at least a partial tang (a rat tail), because these knives are much better.
The material of the handle is also important because you want to be able to get a good grip on it. A knife that easily slips out of your hand is not a safe option. Some knives can also cause blisters, which can be really uncomfortable. For that reason, choose a knife with a handle made out of modern synthetic nylon or rubber.
The shape of the handle is also important. Seek out ergonomic shapes instead of picking something too round or square-like.
The Material of the Blade
A high-quality survival knife is usually made out of either carbon steel or stainless steel. Though stainless steel is virtually indestructible, many people say that these blades lose an edge faster than carbon and are more difficult to sharpen. Carbon steel blades, on the other hand, are more durable in terms of holding the edge, but they tend to rust more quickly.
Which one you choose is a personal preference, but you should also consider the environmental conditions of your surroundings. For instance, if you’re headed off to a humid area, you’re probably better off with a stainless-steel blade.
Now, these knives typically aren’t cheap, so if you find a suspiciously affordable survival knife claiming it’s made out of stainless or carbon steel, something’s not right and you should probably skip it.
Sharp and Pointed Tip
This may seem logical, but there are survival knives with rounded, angled, hooked, or straight-cut flat tips. These aren’t good choices. There is a reason why survival knives have sharp and pointed tips.
A survival knife is basically a tool that should help you in self-defense against another human being or an animal. Hunting is also difficult to do if your knife has a flat tip or if it’s angled or hooked. A pointed tip can be used for many different activities, including prying and picking, cleaning or dressing fish, drilling, notching, and processing pine nuts or walnuts.
While knives with thinner blades are also lighter, you don’t want to pick a knife that will easily break. In fact, a survival knife should not bend at all. That’s because these knives should be suitable for all sorts of tasks, not just the gentle ones. Batoning wood, for instance, can’t be done with a thin blade.
We advise you to look for a thickness between 0.17 and 0.25 inches.
The pommel of the knife is the bottom part of the handle. It’s frequently used for light-duty pounding and hammering, but you can also use it for some other tasks. For instance, you could chip out ice fishing holes by pounding the pommel with a heavy rock to drive the tip of the blade into the ice.
For that reason, it’s important to check if your pommel is designed for tasks like these if you plan on using your survival knife for any kind of pounding or hammering.
Level of Skills and Other Gear
While larger survival knives are ideal, if you’re not skilled enough to use them, they won’t do you any good. Be honest with yourself here. You’re not sure if you can split wood, baton, build a shelter, or cut through strong materials? Then opt for a smaller knife that you’ll actually be able to use for other activities.
Another thing you should think about when purchasing a knife is other equipment you’ll be carrying with you. If you’re bringing an axe or a saw, you don’t need a survival knife for splitting wood or batoning. In this case, you’ll be better off with a smaller knife because it’s also lighter.
Choosing the perfect survival knife isn’t easy, but the time you spend on research and testing will definitely pay off. When you find the right one, it will serve you for a lifetime and make it worth your while.
Tomas is a digital marketing specialist and a freelance blogger. His work is focusing on new web tech trends and digital voice distribution across different channels.