How To Choose A Survival Knife

Knowing what to look for when choosing a survival knife is just as important as having a survival knife. Ask yourself “what tasks do I want my knife to help me accomplish”? Once you consider the tasks you want to accomplish, choosing the best knife becomes much more likely.

Choose a high quality survival knife, otherwise it could quickly become unusable. A dependable  knife is crucial if you plan on spending time outdoors. When choosing a knife, here are important thoughts to keep in mind:

Fixed Blade Knife
Fixed Blade KnifeThe strongest knife is a fixed bade knife. It can serve you in many different situations and is ideal for carving, cutting, skinning, chopping, and many other outdoor tasks.

Some of the cheaper knives are weak where the blade meets the handle. A higher quality knife is durable, lasts much longer, and is therefore more reliable which makes you better equipped to successfully handle your wilderness challenges.

When you are selecting your fixed blade knife, you should question the tang of the knife. The tang is the area of the blade that recedes into the handle. It should extend three quarters to all the way (full tang) into the knife handle. This way, your knife will be less likely to break if the tang is long and strong. If the handle grips should break when you are in the wilderness, the tang can be wrapped with cord, a strap, or cloth.

Examine the knife’ handle when you are selecting a survival knife. You should never choose a hollow handle, because these are more likely to break. Your best bet is a solid handle that has a grooved surface and is contoured to fit your hand.

Folding Pocket Knife
Folding Pocket KnifeA high quality folding pocket knife is important to have in  addition to a fixed blade knife. Though a folding pocket knife should not by any means take the place of a fixed blade knife, the many intricate tools on a pocket knife can be helpful in many situations. Since folding pocket knives offer many blade and tool combinations, choose a high quality folding pocket knife with your survival tasks in mind.


Types of Blade Points

When thinking about the tasks you want to accomplish, consider the knife blade point which will help you the most. Within the survival community, these knife blade points are very popular:

Clip Point
Clip Point KnifeThe clip point is the traditional hunters knife blade design because of its sharp narrow controllable point which makes it good for piercing. It is also handy for self defense. Disadvantage: Point is narrow and weaker than some of the other knife point designs.

Drop Point
The back unsharpened edge of a drop point knife blade runs from the handle to the tip of the knife blade in a slow curved manner, creating a lowered point. This lowered point provides more strength to the tip. While the tip on a drop point knife is not as sharp as the tip on a clip point knife, it is thicker and stronger. Because of its stronger tip strength, it holds up to heavy use and is popular on survival, bushcraft, and camping knives. Disadvantage: Its relatively broad tip makes it less suitable for piercing compared to the clip point blade.

Tanto Point
Tanto Point KnifeThe tanto blade has a high point with a flat grind, giving it an extremely strong point. Notice the front edge of the tanto knife meets the back unsharpened edge at an angle, rather than a curve. A tanto blade knife does not have a belly, which is sacrificed in exchange for a stronger tip, so it is not useful as a general utility knife. However, its extremely strong point allows it to be used in tough situations where piercing hard materials is needed. When you need a knife that excels at piercing strong materials, a tanto blade is what you’re looking for.


Sheepsfoot Point
Sheepsfoot KnifeA sheepsfoot blade has a straight front edge and a dull back spine that curves down to meet the straight edge. The main use of a sheepsfoot knife is for cutting and slicing where a point is not wanted or needed. It is often used for food preparation. Because the back spine is not sharpened, you can hold it with your fingers, providing a high degree of control. Disadvantage: No point exists.



Dagger / Needle Point
Dagger KnifeIts very thin double-edged sharp point is designed for thrusting and stabbing. The two sharp edges reduce the profile and let the knife cut in on both sides. Daggers are often used for self defense in close combat situations. The very thin sharp point provides the ultimate in piercing soft targets. Disadvantages: Weak point that can break on hard targets and no cutting edge (“belly”) for slicing.



Spear Point
Spear Point KnifeA spear point knife blade has a point that is in line with the center of the blade. They can be single or double edged, but the tip is only sharp if both edges are sharpened. A spear point provides a very strong tip which is why it is often used in throwing knives. Disadvantage: Small cutting edge (“belly”) for slicing.

Trailing Point
Trailing Point KnifeA trailing point knife is a lightweight knife that has a back edge that curves upward, giving it a large curved cutting area (“belly”) for slicing or skinning. They are most common on skinning and fillet knives. Disadvantage: Weak Point.



Gut Hook Point
Gut Hook KnifeA gut hook knife has a special type of blade where the spine has a sharpened semi-circle ground into it. They are often used by hunters for field dressing. The “hook” in the spine is placed in a small cut in the the underside of the animal and pulled like a zipper. The small hook opens the abdomen of the animal without slicing into the muscle. Its large belly is perfect for slicing and skinning. Disadvantage: Difficult to sharpen the “hook” in the spine.

Caring for Your Knife

In order for your knife to be most useful, you should care for it and keep it in prime condition. This means that you should keep it clean, and sharpen it regularly. A knife that is made from high-carbon, spring tempered steel will require less sharpening than knives made from other materials. You can use a light oil or petroleum jelly to help prevent rust from forming on the knife blade.

Bottom Line

Choosing a knife to fit the job is critical. A high-quality wilderness survival knife is something that no outdoor adventurer should be without. Its versatility and usefulness has the potential to rescue you from many threatening situations.

The length of a knife which is comfortable to handle is also important for personal safety and the safety of others. Longer knives can be more difficult to handle in a safe manner, so choose a knife size you can handle safely.

The tasks you want to accomplish should be the first consideration when choosing a survival knife. The tasks may be wilderness survival (bushcraft), hunting, fishing, self defense, and food preparation. The thought process is the same. Think of a knife as a “blade tool” to help you to achieve your goals. Choosing a survival knife to match your goals will help you achieve them in the safest manner possible. Select the knife to meet the tasks. You may find you want more than one knife in order to accomplish more than one task.


Continue learning the basic survival skills needed to keep you alive before venturing out into the wilderness: starting a fire for cooking and heating, building a shelter, rope and knot skills, hunting, trapping, snaring, fishing, gutting and preparing fish, butchering and preparing game, cooking methods, preserving methods, using knives and axes, obtaining water for drinking, washing and sanitation, water filters, water purification, water storage, and first aid skills for both natural remedies and emergencies. Start with the skills you feel you will need the most. The skills you need may depend on your living environment weather it be city, suburbs, or country. Some skills are important for all three environments, like knife skills.

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