Everyone wants to have the iconic “Rambo” blade because it’s super sexy, extremely purposeful and super light which makes it the best knife to carry in the woods right? Now hear me out…wrong. I’m not saying it’s not a cool knife, but when you start to think about absolute survival in a critical situation, you need to have something that works for YOU, not just something that’s big, sharp, serrated, and heavy. Imagine buying one of those iconic weight loss devices, like the shake weight. It’s perfect for just a few uses, but it’s not going to strengthen your legs. Let’s be honest, the shake weight is pointless but your survival is not! There are a few things that get us all excited, and one of those things is jumping head first into the wilderness with a red bandanna tied around your head, your war paint on, and a perfect survival knife to go along with your shake weight you packed. Just remember, ounces = pounds. Exploring the outside and getting into nature is incredible, but always expect the unexpected and be prepared for the rare moments where you find yourself in situation where all you can think is “I wish I bought that perfect survival knife from BladesWork last week”. Knives are some of the most useful TOOLS, that’s right a knife is a tool, in a survival situation. But what makes the perfect survival knife for you? Type of steel, handle material, edge retention and blade shape, size and weight, and overall the most important in every knife you buy is the purpose. Just remember this, “One knives can not do it all, select based on purpose and use, then buy a few more”
Before you buy a survival knife, or any knife in general, you need to ask yourself a few questions:
- What is your intended use for the knife?
- What are your material preferences?
All knives have different purposes. You would never take a chef knife camping to chop down down a tree would you? I bet Gordon Ramsey would, and he would dice that tree up blindfolded and into four perfect sections. Think about your intended use for the knife first. Are you chopping small trees? Going to make a survival shelter with your survival knife? Are you wanting to bring it to cut up your food only? If that’s the case, you’re probably an RV person. Just order delivery. But really, what’s your use? In a survival situation, I can promise you that a survival knife is going to be your best friend. Some knives are used for chopping, some are used for cleaning a fresh kill, some are used with ONLY THE SPINE TO START A FIRE. Seriously, stop using the blade part to strike the flint to start your fire…turn the blade around and use the spine. Others, like machetes, are used to clear a path in the jungles of Okinawa or the Amazon. One thing is for certain though, you’ll have better success with a fixed blade knife and more reliability with a fixed blade rather than a folding knife if your survival depends on it. Folding knives have a lot more mechanics that can go wrong and break. What you want is something reliable that will save you when you need it most. How you plan to use your knife is the single most important part of selecting that perfect survival knife.
Most people don’t know the difference in steel besides stainless being popular to the every day and since it won’t corrode it’s better. Right? Not necessarily. There are hundreds of different steels out there to select for your survival knife but what do you need? It goes back to the purpose of the survival knife and the intended use. Are you going to be chopping a lot? You’ll need something that will withstand thousands of hits, don’t use that chef knife. Are you going to be cutting rope or need something that holds a nice sharp edge for the longest time? Each steel has different properties. There is something called the Rockwell Hardness Scale that can help you too. If you look at the specs of a survival knife, or any knife, you’ll see “Hardness: 58-60RC” for example. For chopping, you want something softer so it will stay intact a lot longer. A survival knife is good between 54-58RC. Still tough, but very durable! Survival knives may dull more quickly than your regular, everyday pocket knife, but it needs to be able to survive the abuse rather than hold a razor sharp edge. Now comes the age old question: Stainless, High Carbon, or Damascus?
Each has it’s purpose. Stainless steel will not corrode as easily and will be without a patina (rust) for a longer period of time. Just remember, it’s called stain-LESS. It won’t always look so nice. High Carbon steel is incredible. It’s my go-to for everything, but will rust if not properly oiled or with a protective covering like cerekote. Then Damascus, you want to be as sexy as possible in the woods when you chop down that tree, perfect for that glorious instagram shot for that survival knife moment. Damascus is pattern welded steel, folded and twisted and turned into different patterns. Don’t hate on me, but it’s not needed for your survival. I love the stuff, but if you’re on a budget stick with the mono steel. Your choice, but steel selection needs to be strong, good hardness, quality steel and easy to maintain in the wilderness.
Handle material is the second most important aspect of a survival knife. You need something that is comfortable in your hand, durable to the elements, and easy to maintain. Hand fit is the single most important aspect, if it doesn’t feel good and comfortable in your hand then don’t get it. A few popular materials for survival knife handle are: G10, Micarta, Resin, and Wood. G10 is a plastic, good feel, durable, but don’t handle wet conditions well. Same with micarta and wood. A great handle selection for wet conditions is SureTouch G10 and Rubber layered. Perfect for wet conditions, comfortable, and does not slip in hand. Select the materials that work for you, feel comfortable, and will survive in your elements.
You wouldn’t try to chop a tree or a log with a razor blade would you? With a survival knife, it’s no different than before. Kitchen knives are sharpened between 15-17 degrees on the edge, which gives it the perfect, razor sharp edge for slicing and dicing effortlessly. A survival knife can be anywhere between 22.5-30 degrees for optimal edge retention and sharpness. Do you want a Tanto style blade? Drop point? In a survival situation, you don’t know what you’re up against so selecting an all-around survival knife with the shape it’s intended for in use is critical. Remember our conversation about hardness? That also plays into edge retention (sharpness and how long it can hold an edge). The higher the hardness is, the longer the edge will last, but the greater chance if chips or breaks. What grind should you be looking for? Full bevel? Half bevel? Well, what are you using it for? Half bevel has more weight behind it, full bevel is smooth slicing. What about thickness? Our favorite is 3/16 thick steel with a half bevel and a 22.5 degree edge. Perfect all-around survival knife.
SIZE & WEIGHT
Leads us to last but not least, the size and weight of the survival knife. I said a quote above, “ounces = pounds”. Coming from a military background, hiking for hours over terrain you want light and capable and carry a lot of water. A survival knife is no different. What is the purpose? A survival knife can be heavy and hard to use. Pick one that feels good in the hand and that you can use for hours on end. The size of the survival knife drastically influences what you are able to do with the survival knife, the performance or it, and the ability to carry it. The thickness of the steel, the different grinds, and the handle material all play into how heavy this survival knife is going to be. Whatever you chose, make sure you can carry it and it fits on your gear comfortably and you don’t waste a lot of energy while using it.
You can never be prepared enough for a survival situation but having a survival knife is one of the first steps you should take to prepare. Being well equipped with something as durable as a custom survival knife could save your life one day. Choosing and building a survival knife and survival kit is a big, big deal. It could mean the difference between life and death. Choose wisely. Never go based solely on looks, and get something that is comfortable and reliable. I hope this article helped you in your decision, so head on over to the store and check out our selection! Thanks for reading!