Have you ever found yourself in a survival situation, where having a survival knife would be beneficial? If so, having any type of knife would likely be beneficial; but understanding the characteristics that make up the best survival knife would be beneficial as you put together the ultimate survival kit and tackle your outdoor adventures.
Since you’re taking the opportunity to plan ahead (great job!), you’ll definitely want to purchase the best survival knife for your needs. To help you make the best decision possible, we have created an interactive survival knife buying guide (Consumer Reports style)!
Everyone has their own personal opinions, including us, on what makes a quality survival knife. I get questions all the time about the best combat knifes, best tactical knives, best hunting knives or the best outdoor knives. At the end of the day, our goal is to make sure that you purchase the best survival knife for your needs, so we provide all the information that you need to make a good decision.
Comprehensive Best Survival Knife Buying Guide
Within the buying guide, we’ve included the following information about the knives that we’ve reviewed:
- Knife photos
- Brand name and knife type/model
- Overall length of the knife
- Length of the blade in inches
- Overall weight
- Material (i.e., metal type)
- Pricing (by range)
- Consumer opinion (ratings/reviews, up to 5 stars).
Quick note regarding the included pricing information, the Best Survival Knife Buying Guide is setup as follows for your convenience: less than $40 = $; between $40 to $100 = $$; between $100 to $200 = $$$, $200 or more = $$$$.
If you can’t find what you’re looking for in the knife guide, we have added a search box to the bottom of the page that includes even more survival knives. Nearly all of the knives that are included have fixed blades, a feature of many popular survival knives. Although, if you’re looking for the best folding survival knife, then there are a few good folding knives included also.
Survival Knifes 101: Finding the Best Survival Knife
Generally speaking, survival knives are utilized outdoors, in the wilderness, for survival related purposes. For instance, a survival related purpose is often defined an emergency situation, where an individual has lost their primary gear.
Depending on the call of duty, it’s not uncommon for branches of the United States Military to provide soldiers with survival equipment – including survival knives.
The best survival knives are great for multitasking. They are often used for cutting wood, skinning animals, and trapping. Most outdoor enthusiasts – including sports enthusiasts, hunters, fisherman, hikers, campers use outdoor knives.
Let’s Find the Best Knives For Your Survival Needs
Although the old saying about “the best survival knife is the one that you have on you when you need it most” is as true as ever, you should know how to choose the best survival knife. In this section, we’ll focus on finding the best fixed blade survival knife.
It’s a no-brainer that the best survival knife is a fixed blade. No matter how high quality a folding survival knife is, it will likely end up failing on you when under heavy stress. And this may end in losing your most important survival tool and even worse, you might get cut pretty badly.
By design, a folding survival knife is much more fragile than a fixed blade survival knife and in a real life survival situation, you don’t want to take chances, you must go for the best option available on the market and the best bang for your buck. A good knife is the one tool which can make a world of difference in a hairy situation.
Reviews of the Top 5 Best Fixed Blade Survival Knives
1. KA-BAR Full Size US Marine Corps Fighting Knife
Ka-Bar is a heavy name in the knife industry, with decades of experience. Their knives have seen action in all fields of battle, they have a great history and a proven record. Some say you don’t need another brand when you have Ka-Bar and I think they may be right, because these knives last forever and don’t cost you an arm and a leg. They are made of 1095 Chrome-Vanadium steel, a mix between carbon and stainless steel which is very tough and durable. There are many variants of the knife, I would go for the 7 inch blade with the Kraton G handle and Kydex sheath; it may cost you a few extra dollars but they’re the best.
2. KA-BAR Becker BK2 Campanion Fixed Blade Knife
This is one of the best fixed blade survival knives in the world, it could withstand an alien invasion and a nuclear attack in the same time. The Becker BK2 is the definition of rugged, tough as a coffin nail and it also features a beautifully designed Kydex sheath, maybe the best in the industry.
3. Gerber 22-01626 LMF II Green Infantry Knife and Nylon Sheath
Gerber sometimes makes a really cool knife, like this one, which was produced in the USA, made in Portland, Oregon. The blade is made of high quality 12c27 stainless steel that requires zero maintenance and the LMF II has seen action, being used heavily by the military where it became a legend in its own time, thanks to its excellent design and build quality.
4. Cold Steel SRK Kraton Handle Concealex Sheath (Survival Rescue Knife)
I have a soft spot for Cold Steel, I love their designs and their marketing campaigns, which are sometimes gross and sometimes terrifying. Thing is, some of the best fixed blades out there are made by Cold Steel and for the price tag, this knife is a great option, both in terms of design and workmanship. The thick blade with a drop-point design is made of AUS8 stainless steel and features an ergonomic Kraton handle. This is their best survival knife for the money, no doubt about it.
5. Buck 119BR Special Fixed Blade Knife
This brand and especially this knife model have a very solid reputation, some people even compare it to Ka-Bar and for good reason. The Buck 119 Special is an excellent survival knife, built as a tank, sharp as a razor, made of 420HC stainless steel and comes with a life time guarantee if the blade breaks or fails. The only weak point is the leather sheath, which is not the best option in a survival knife, especially in wet environments.
The Concept of the Best Survival Knife
The idea behind the best survival knife concept came from the Fairbairn-Sykes fighting knife from the World War 2 era, a knife that was used by the Air force.
The Fairbairn-Sykes was used intensively for a multitude of tasks, besides fighting, like camping, utility and different chores. This knife was in the shape and form of a dagger, with a double edged blade, a design that modern survival knives no longer use.
Basically, a contemporary survival knife is an upgraded hunting knife, capable of taking more abuse and also more versatile. The double edge design was dropped, and also its main function changed, from a fighting knife to a multi-purpose tool.
The best survival knife must be able to perform in a multitude of tasks, including self defense, so one must choose carefully. But, stay away from those “gimmicks”, featuring fishing hooks or a first aid kit, fitted inside a hollow handle; a good survival knife is build to last you a lifetime.
The design of a good knife is always the residue of its main function, so you must know what you’re looking for in a survival knife, before buying it. The best survival knife must be a hunting knife, good for dressing game, a camping knife for outdoors chores like wood chopping, a rescue knife to be used in case of emergencies, and also an all-rounder tool.
Now, let’s have a more detailed look:
The Hunting Knife is used to skin and prep game, so your knife must have a grippy handle, even if you have blood all over it. A slippery handle would get you wounded and it’s hard to get medical attention in the wild. To prevent your hand from sliding off the handle and onto the knife’s blade, a hand guard is an excellent feature to have.
The blade should feature a groove, in order to allow the blood to flow when you’re cutting the game, on the sides of the knife, keeping it away from your hands. Since your knife will be often soiled with blood and guts, you should go for a stainless steel blade, resistant to corrosion and avoid carbon steel ones. A pure SS steel will dull fast so you must choose an alloy, like a high-carbon stainless steel.
The camping knife is an utility knife basically, and it will be used for all the chores imaginable, from food prepping to digging and chopping wood. The blade thickness is very important for such a knife, a fat blade gives it resistance to wear and tear and overall strength. The blade should have a thick spine and the steel must not be brittle, else it may fail you when batoning with your knife.
Another good feature in a camping knife is a solid pommel, extended from the tang, as it protects the handle from deteriorating when you’re hammering and can be used for various tasks, like smashing garlic for example.
A rescue knife will be used for cutting harness from persons trapped inside a car/plane/you name it after an accident and also for other things, like cutting open a fuselage. Portability is important in such cases; hence you must choose carefully the size, weight and bulkiness of your knife. A big, heavy knife is hard to carry around, becoming a liability instead of an asset.
The utility knife is the all-rounder kind of blade, to be used for anything from opening a tin box to cutting zip-ties.
All these mentioned above are qualities to look for in the best survival knife. Ideally, a good survival knife must be able to perform well in all departments, but depending on your use of the knife, you might not need them all.
Now, let’s take a look at the main features to look for in the best survival knife :
- The Tang, as you can see from the pictures, the tang is that part of the blade which extends into the handle. The best survival knife must be a full tang design; this makes a sturdy knife, capable to take any amount of abuse, if used correctly.
- The Handle of the best survival knife must be ergonomically designed, grippy and made of a very resistant material, which absorbs shocks and vibrations yet doesn’t deteriorate in any climate imaginable. The best ones are made of Kraton, G10 and Mycarta. The metal ones are excellent also, if they are textured/rubberized for good grip.
- The Pommel adds extra stability to the best survival knife, besides allowing you using it as a hammer, it adds weight and balance to your blade.
- The Steel should be of high quality, ideally a stainless steel alloy, which has the hardness of a carbon steel and the rust-resistance of a SS. The best variety of steel is high carbon stainless steel, like VG10, but these knives will cost you extra.
- Blade Thickness is a factor, as I told you before, you should go for a “fat” blade, thinner blades will fail when pushed hard.
- Blood Groove will allow the blood to escape when prepping/dressing game, hence making your work easier.
- The Weight must be reasonable if you plan to carry your knife on your person 24/7, a good survival knife should not weigh more than 1.5 pounds. Obviously, it depends on your personal preference and on your physical size.
- The Knife’s Size is essential, you should stay away from huge survival knives, a 5 inches blade length is more than sufficient for any task imaginable, from self defense to chopping wood. A large knife is hard to carry around and weighs more, also it can’t be used for detailed work.
- The Tip in the best survival knife must be sharp and pointy, the best design when it comes to self defense tasks or removing splinters and so on.
- The Guard is also recommended in the best survival knife for safety reasons already mentioned above.
- The Sheath is as important as the blade itself in the best survival knife, the best ones are made of nylon with Kydex insertions. This type of composite material is very resistant to wear and tear and perfect for any climate.
Now, let me enlighten you on the most important features the best survival knife must have:
1. I must emphasize again, the best survival knife is a fixed blade, with a full tang. You don’t want your essential tool for survival to be made of 2 separate pieces of metal, held together by a hinge, regardless what marketing says. As a general rule, folding survival knives have shorter, thinner blades, they have a much higher chance to break under pressure and they don’t last as long as a fixed blade survival. It’s important to note that a fixed survival blade which doesn’t feature a full tang may also fail under stress from the same reason as a folder : the blade and the handle are not made from the same piece of metal.
2.The best fixed blade survival knife must feature a pommel on the butt end of the handle, this gives it tremendous strength when hammered.
3. An ergonomic, grippy handle is another must have in a good knife. The handle doesn’t have to be beautifully designed, it just have to be comfortable, to follow the size and shape of your hand and to provide you with good grip in any situation. Also, it must have a lanyard hole, for keeping the knife secured on your person.
4. You need a thick, solid blade with good heat treatment. That means that an adequate blade on a survival knife looks really fat when compared to a regular knife. This feature gives it strength and resistance to wear and tear. The proper heat treatment is essential for maximum strength, so you should buy your knife from a reputable company (ex. Amazon.com).
5. High Quality steel in the blade is also a key part when it comes to choosing the best fixed blade survival knife. There are many types of steels out there but the best steel for a survival knife is high carbon stainless steel, if you can afford the price tag.
6. Size matters in a survival knife. As a general rule, bigger is not necessarily better. If you choose a huge knife, it may become a burden when you’ll have to do detailed work, like dressing small game or carving when precision is required. Obviously, a small blade is inferior when it comes to using it for hard tasks like batoning and chopping. The ideal overall size for the best fixed blade survival knife is anywhere between 9-11 inches.
7. A sharp pointed tip is another must have, stay away from angled, hooked or rounded tips. The sharp pointed tip is essential for self defense and it doesn’t impair your ability to stab, thrust through thick fur or clothing. It’s also excellent for splinters, drilling, detailed picking and things like that.
8. A single blade with a flat ground spine is the best pick on a survival knife, stay away from double-edged types or rounded/beveled spines, those make some tasks like splitting firewood more difficult.
In conclusion, if you’re looking for the best survival knife, you should take into account all these features I mentioned above; I know, it’s not an easy task , but it’s not impossible. Also, go for a high quality blade that you can trust it with your life, stay away from cheap imitations. However, if you’re looking for discount survival knives, please check out the discount knives available directly below this article.