How to Choose the Right Survival Knife

Updated on October 20, 2016
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A wilderness survival enthusiast, I enjoy practicing my skills and writing about my experiences and sharing my knowledge.

Not All Knives Are Created Equal

In a survival situation, your most valuable resource will be your knife.

For this reason, a good knife is of vital importance to increase your chances of survival. It can mean the difference between making it out alive or dying from exposure or hunger.

To be considered a survival knife, it should be capable of serving a variety of tasks. Some of which include:

  • Aid in building shelter
  • Processing game and cleaning fish
  • Food preparation
  • Processing firewood
  • Improvised weapon(fixed to a sapling to form a spear)
  • Building trap components
  • Making tools

So what makes for a proper survival knife that you would trust your life to? There is no one knife that suits every situation, but there are a few critical features that must be included for it to be considered a survival knife:

1. Fixed Blade With Full Tang Made of High-Carbon Steel

The knife must be a fixed-blade design. A fixed-blade knife is far more durable than a folding knife. While a quality folding knife is great in your every-day-carry kits, it will not stand up to challenges a survival situation may present.

A hinge or joint of any kind presents a weakness in your most important survival item. Minimize the risk of losing your key survival resource by choosing a knife that stands up to the pounding, chopping, prying, and cutting demands that will be presented in a survival situation.

Not only should your knife have a fixed blade, but it should also be full tang. “Full tang” means the blade and handle are constructed from a single piece of solid steal.

High-carbon steel ensures a long lasting cutting edge and provides a redundant method for generating sparks to ignite a fire.

2. Size

Sorry fellas, size DOES matter. But where it relates to your survival knife, bigger is not always better. Too big a blade and you sacrifice the ability to effectively use it for detailed tasks such as carving precision trap components or dressing smaller game.

While at the same time, a small blade does not meet the more rugged demands of tasks like harvesting saplings to build camp.

An ideal size for a good survival knife should be around 9-11 inches overall length.

3. Straight Edge With Flat Spine

When it comes to the actual style or cut of the blade, there are many different options. But for a quality survival knife, a straight edge is preferred for the following reasons:

  • Straight edge blades are better when batoning and carving
  • Straight edge blades can more easily be sharpened than serrated blades
  • Straight edge blades are more versatile

The spine should be milled flat, and at a 90 degree angle to the cheeck of the blade. This allows for creating sparks by either stroking a ferrocerium rod or striking the spine of the blade with a piece of flint or quartz when making fire.

It also makes it easy to strip the inner bark off sticks for making medicine or fire tinder, and in a pinch you can use it to scrape a hide for processing fur and leather.


There are hundreds of survival knives that meet these survival features.

Use the three criteria above as a benchmark for choosing your survival knife. Beyond this, everything else comes down to personal preference.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


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