How To Choose A Quality Knife For Survival Situations - Survivalist Hacks

How To Choose A Quality Knife For Survival Situations

By Matt

Choosing A Survival Knife

It’s been said many times “The most important survival knife, is the one you have with you at the time of need”

That being said, there will be some that fit the bill a lot better than others.

How Do You Choose The Ultimate Survival Knife?

Well if you’re a gear junkie and have cash to spare, you could end up spending a few hundred dollars or more.These quality blades should and do last a lifetime, often being passed down to family members when the time comes.

Most of us, though, may stick with a good quality knife from one of the mainstream quality brands.

These can cost a fair bit also, so it’s wise to know what you are looking for, before you part with your hard earned cash.

First and foremost, though, you have to remember that the purpose of a survival knife is to aid survival. It’s a tool

There are many knives that will skin and butcher deer better or chop wood better, but a survival knife has to be able to do all of this and more, a jack of all trades so to speak!
It’s no good buying something that will bust at the first bit of stress and leave you in a worse state from when you started.

There has been a surge in manufacturing survival knives ever since Rambo – John J – hit the scene.  Well before that though, the military depended on good solid knives to assist downed aircrew and soldiers, to make it back home.

Unfortunately, we have also seen the flooding of a once quality market with shit from places like China.

They’re dressed up to look good, (In some peoples opinion – not mine) but sometimes,  just not up to the demands that may come in any SHTF and survival scenario.

Trust me when I say you don’t want to be up against it, with a broken bit of tin, when you need a knife the most.

What Do I Look For In A Quality Survival Knife?

I think it will be easier to start with what you don’t want.

A narrow tang stuffed up a bone handle is sure to fail when you need it.

Stick vs FullMaybe they are ok for pottering around the kitchen or garden at home, but it won’t be up to the task of chopping, splitting small logs or other possible ”routine” survival tasks.

Size matters, but you don’t want something that needs a scabbard like a sword and “The Rock” to carry it for you.

You will also need to be able to do the more intricate survival stuff with it like shaving kindling, making traps and snares as well as the more robust tasks like chopping and splitting trees.

So if you need a machete, get a machete!

Folders – lock knives and multi tools, yeah great for EDC and a weekend camp. Keeping one in your pocket is certainly a good idea. But they ain’t a survival knife.

Whilst you may be able to shave kindling and gut fish, they are generally just not up to the more rough stuff like digging holes and chopping stuff up. I think best to stick with a fixed blade.

Hollow Handles And Stick On Bits – Don’t go for gimmicky stuff like embedded compasses on the handle or hollow tubes in the handles that have fish hooks and so called survival bits in.

You’d be better of with a decent compass than a 10 cent special and hollow handles seriously compromise the strength of a good knife, often breaking up when you get down to some serious chopping.

  • What you do need is a well manufactured, full tang knife that won’t break in the middle when it gets a serious workout.
  • A thick, fixed blade, that’s small enough to do intricate camp work as well as the more heavy stuff you may need to do when you are up against it.
  • The ideal size is open to debate but most decent knives fall into the blade size of 4 – 6 inches. You may prefer something more, that’s ok. Anything bigger and they get a bit more difficult to handle.

Rambo syndrome will not save you here.


Most knives are made from one of two types of steel, stainless or carbon steel. They both have advantages and letdowns, so lets summarize here.

Stainless steel – Doesn’t rust, which is great, but unfortunately the metal can be brittle and it can be more difficult to keep a good edge.

There are many different grades of stainless steel that relate to the hardness or the corrosion resistance.

Buy a quality knife from a quality manufacturer and this has been sorted for you. I’m not a metallurgist!

Carbon Steel – Holds a great edge but can be prone to rust if not looked after regularly. Certainly anything used near the ocean should be stainless or you will be forever cleaning off rust.

Blade Shape

The best shape in my view for a survival knife is a drop pointed blade. As, I feel, its got the best strength, and is better suited to this sort of work.
Tanto Blade

Other styles like tanto, spear and a clip point may weaken the area near to the point, when used for prizing and levering.

Serrated edges are difficult to sharpen in the field and are best left to gimmicky fashion blades that you hang as wall decorations, rather than serious survival tools.


Sheaths – How You Carry Your Blade

You will have to consider how you would like to carry your knife and whether its important to attach it to other kit or have it on a belt by your side.

You may need lower attachment points to be able to tie it to a pack or to stop it flapping about when on a belt.

Most sheaths are made of leather or kydex.

It’s a matter of preference but you may want to consider that leather is supple and very hard wearing whilst kydex is hard and can be brittle. Kydex can also be noisy.

There are a number of quality manufacturers that make some pretty cool stuff in both. Its gotta look cool!

But most importantly it needs to hold the knife safely so it won’t fall out and get lost.

A strap across the handle will do this, unfortunately clips and spring holders lose their effectiveness over time, so beware of gimmicky “tactical” stuff.

Warning – Beware Of Cheap Fake Crappy Knock-Offs

Sad to say but its inevitable that there will be cheap knockoffs of some of the more popular knives.

You used to be able to tell just by looking and the obvious cheapo price, but now unfortunately, its not until you get them in your hands, or you use them and they break that you can see the obvious inferior workmanship.

So that “hand made great price deal” may be more of a risk than you think, so buyer beware and buy from decent dealers with a good reputation.

Keep Safe!


PS. Top 10 branded Survival Knives in no particular order?

  • Kbar
  • Ontario
  • Tops
  • Esee
  • BG Gerber
  • Les Stroud Camilus
  • Boker
  • Busse
  • Chris Reeves,
  • CRKT

Just a list, but what’s yours? Comment below please!