A good survival knife is indispensable, and The Adrenalist is here to make sure you have the best one by your side.
Survival knives are your best friend in any number of basic survival situations. It’s something that you’ll want to have whether you’re going on a backpacking trip or a weekend excursion. A knife is your most basic tool. In many cases, it’s the tool you use to make the rest of your tools. Do you need to make an arrow, snare or shelter? Then you need a knife. Need to skin game or cut rope? Then you need a knife.
Check out this guide to prepare for your next adventure with key standards to look for in your knife, and the 5 best survival knives available today.
Your survival knife is the one tool that’s the basis for putting the rest of your tools to use. You want to make sure it’s up to the highest standards and meets the task at hand. We want you to do more than just grab the prettiest one, though. Here, The Adrenalist will help you understand what makes a knife great. Here are a few tips on what to look for in the best survival knives.
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Fixed Blade Vs Folding Blade
There’s a saying that, “the best knife is the one in your pocket.” In other words, make due with what you have and count on your skills. If you can plan a little ahead, however, you probably don’t want to depend on just any knife in your pocket, especially if its just a standard folding blade knife. Folding blade knives are fine back in civilization where you can always get a new one, but in the wilderness, they have a major weakness: they’re weak. The fold means that the handle isn’t attached strongly to the blade and if you’re really going at something hard there’s a good chance it’ll break.
For sturdiness you really want to have a fixed blade knife in a sheath. There’s more to it than that, though. Knives have what’s called a “tang,” the metal part that continues past the blade and into the handle. What you’re looking for in a survival knife is a full tang, which means that the metal from your blade extends all the way through to the bottom of the handle. This design makes for a nice, solid blade. Anything less than this is likely to break on you during a hectic emergency situation.
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Speaking of handles, you want to make sure that they have a few important features. Firstly, it should be comfortable and feel natural in your hand. You also want a good grip, so it won’t slip. What you do want to slip, however, is the finger guard. It’s not a sword, so the finger guard doesn’t have to be huge, but it’s a nice safety feature. A bulge at the end is also good for keeping that solid grip you need.
Photo Credit: Mike Petrucci / Flickr.com
This knife is for survival, which means it has to be adaptable and work in many different situations. It needs to be big enough to get the job done, but not so bulky that it’s a burden to carry. Most importantly, it needs to be sturdy.
Make sure it’s thick, up to about a fourth of an inch, as this sturdiness is especially important if you find yourself prying or digging with your knife. You’re going to be chopping, hacking and, of course, cutting with this thing, so it needs to stand up to the challenge. Not to mention, when chopping through larger pieces of wood and using a baton to drive the knife, it’s going to take a pounding, so you need that thickness.
Just as important as the sturdiness is its ability to keep a sharp edge. It is, after all, a knife. It’s meant to cut. You don’t want a survival knife that is too hard, though. This makes it brittle and harder for you to put a sharp edge on in the field. You need to be able to sharpen your knife to a shaving edge in an Alaskan tundra or backcountry wilderness.
Finally, make sure the length of the blade is correct for your adventures. You don’t want something too heavy or impractically large. You want a knife that you can use to perform detailed work like skinning an animal. Most people recommend something between 4 and 7 inches.
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Stainless Steel Vs Carbon Steel
If you’re going to be working around salt water, then it’s important to have a stainless steel knife, as carbon will rust very quickly. Stainless steel, however, is harder to sharpen and also harder to make a spark with if you’re trying to light a fire. There are all kinds of alloys and coatings out there, but a good quality carbon-steel (for non-saltwater environments) will get you far.
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This is largely a matter of taste. A serrated section will hold its sharpness when the rest of the blade is dull, but it’s hard to sharpen once dull. It’s good for certain cutting tasks, but other people find it superfluous. This really comes down to what you prefer.
Best Survival Knives
Now that you’ve been overwhelmed with all that information,, here are a few choice picks of the best survival knives. Most of these are no frills because, remember, we’re going for function over fashion.
KA-BAR Fighting/Utility Knife
This survival knife was first used by the marines during WWII and has been one of the most popular knives around since then. It’s long at 7 inches, but it’s simple, straightforward and has all you’ll need in a survival knife. If it’s good enough for the USMC, it’s more than good enough for you.
The knife got its name from a letter sent to the manufacture by a trapper who claimed to have used it to kill a bear. The only thing that could be made out from his shoddy handwriting was, “K a bar,” hence KA-BAR. We’ll never know for sure if this guy’s story was true, but check out this article if you want to learn how to survive a bear attack.
Cold Steel SRK (Survival Rescue Knife)
The Cold Steel SRK is another simple, reliable survival knife. This is a bit shorter, coming in at 6 inches, with a super-hard stainless steel blade, that keeps its edge well, and a comfortable kraton handle. This knife is used by Navy SEALS during their training, so you know it’s reliable. If it can cut through a cow bone, you probably have nothing to worry about.
Buck 119 Special
The Buck 119 Special is a beautiful, affordable knife that’s has become a survival gear essential amongst adventurers. It is yet another stainless steel blade with no nonsense in between. This Buck blade has a long legacy of almost 50 years, and for good reason. It’s trusted by adventurers looking for a utilitarian, durable knife with a thick cross-section. The Buck 119 has developed such a stellar reputations because it’s known to never fail, no matter how long the owner has used it.
Tom Brown Tracker
The Tom Brown Tracker is pretty different from the best survival knives listed above. Specially designed by Tom Brown, the survival expert, it’s shorter than the others, coming in at only 4.5 inches, with a much broader blade. It also has a serrated edge on the back, perfect for using as a saw.
While some survivalists don’t appreciate this knife’s unorthodox design, it is noted fondly for having a ridged thumb rest, finger notches, versatility, sharpness, and deft chopping and carving blade to slice through wood.
SOG SEAL Team Knife
This knife was truly designed with survival in mind. Another military knife also used by the Navy SEALS, the super-hard knife is resistant to corrosion, heat and anything else you can think of. 7 inches long and serrated, this survival knife is just about as useful as they come.
SOG Seal has supreme balance with a firm non-slip grip. This blade is sharp enough to shave the hairs on your arm, and can be used in tactical defense in wild. This knife is large, but it has the versatility to cut through things like tires, leather, thick ropes, and virtually anything else you might encounter in survival situations.