By Aden Tate
Arguably, one of the most important pieces of survival gear that you will carry with you back out into the woods, whether you are hunting, fly fishing, camping, backpacking, or whatever, is going to be your knife. To willingly go out into the woods for an extended period of time without one is to flaunt one’s naivety. An all-purpose knife can very easily be the difference between life and death.
How Many Survival Knives Do You Need?
Trying to figure out how many knives you need is not like trying to figure out how much ammo you need. One good knife should do the trick, and that’s what we’re going for here with the “all-purpose” angle.. Of course, people collect knives for hobby, so “need” may be relative. And knives are like tools, no one knife is going to serve every purpose… but for our purposes, we are looking primarily at overall survival.
So, let’s take a look at the cream of the crop. What are the top 13 best knives? Well, here they are in no particular order.
Cold Steel is easily my favorite knife manufacturer on the planet. The stuff they make is strong as all get outs, comes razor sharp, is reasonably priced, and just looks freakin’ cool. I’ve kept a pretty close eye on their products for close to 20 years now, and they do not disappoint.
This is your bread and butter Cold Steel knife. It has their patented Kray-Ex coating – a wonderfully tacky grip that helps to ensure that your knife stays in your hand, full tang construction, and a SK5 high carbon tool steel clip point blade. The overall length is 9.5”, giving this blade enough of an edge to allow you to do serious work. Weighs 5.1 ounces. The blade is 5” long, so you won’t be able to conceal carry this in a lot of states, but it would make a wonderful partner for a trip into the bush.
Leatherneck Fixed Blade
An awesome rendition of the KA-BAR. This is a tanto version of a US military classic and has a reinforced tip. I’m personally a sucker for tanto style blades, making this one of my favorites from this list. This knife is made of D2 tool steel with a non-reflective black powder coat finish – meaning it won’t broadcast where you’re at if you need to use it in the shadows. With a 7” blade, and overall knife length of a foot, this one is a whopper, but it’s one heck of a blade for the price.
At the upper end of the price range for this list is the Cold Steel SRK. With SRK standing for Survival Rescue Knife, this one gives you a whole lot of knife. The blade is 6” long, meaning this one is also longer than a lot of the other knives on this list, and the steel is VG-10 San Mai steel. It’s full-tang – as all survival knives should be – and has Kray-Ex coating around the handle to keep your hand from slipping. The Secure-Ex sheath will keep the knife stowed safely until you need to use it as well.
Once again, a tanto style blade that automatically brings out my bias. If you too like such a blade taper, Cold Steel makes the best tanto blades out there bar-none. This one is incredibly affordable. A full tang knife with finger guard and lanyard hole, this one is 9.8” overall and weighs in at 4.4 oz. The blade is 5.5” AUS-8A stainless steel, meaning that you can take this one out with you into the woods for a long time with all kinds of weather and you don’t have to worry about the thing rusting. There’s a Secure-Ex polymer sheath that comes with it as well. My Cold Steel blades that utilize such have been going strong for well over a decade with daily use and little problems.
SOG is another great well-known knife manufacturer that spits out quality blades at a very reasonable price. They tend to have a more military/tactical bend to the products that they create, and when we’re talking about survival knives, that may be just what you’re looking for.
M37 Seal Pup
This is an absolutely wicked looking knife, that will serve its purpose for you well. It’s a 4.75” AUS-8 stainless steel clip point blade with serration along the proximal handle edge. The finger grooves and finger guard will further ensure that the knife stays in your hand during use, with minimal fear of slippage. If you have ever spent much time in the woods miles away from civilization, you know how nice such a handle can be. I like the extra security of knowing I can use my knife in the pouring rain without having to worry about a slippery handle. The only con about this knife is the sheath, which is a ballistic nylon. Not my first choice for such, but a great knife at a great price, nonetheless.
With a 3.8” 7Cr17MoV clip point blade, this knife is legal to conceal carry in many states throughout the US, meaning that you’re more likely to have this blade on you when you need it. If you’re looking for a fixed blade knife to keep on your person at all times, this one may be worth looking into. Overall, the knife is 8.6” long and weighs 4 oz. The molded plastic sheath that it comes with also includes a cord-cutting groove, making it so that you don’t even need to pull the blade out should you be working with paracord on a shelter or such.
If you’re looking for a knife that’s been proven throughout the field over and over again, then you’ll love what KA-BAR produces. They’re about as American of a knife company as it gets, and the stuff that they build clearly is built for heavy work.
Dog’s Head Fighting Knife
It’s seriously hard to defeat the cool factor of a KA-BAR. Used extensively throughout the Marine Corps, this knife is able to take a serious beating and keep on keeping on. The blade is 7”, and overall length is exactly a foot. It’s full tang, meaning you don’t have to worry about the handle cracking away from the blade during heavy use, and the blade is made of 1095 carbon steel. It comes with a brown leather sheath as well, which is a huge plus if you ask me. I’ve always felt that leather sheaths were more comfortable when out and about.
It’s hard to get much cooler than a bowie knife. This one could almost qualify as a short sword. It has a 1095 carbon steel blade, a black powder epoxy finish, a 9.25” clip point blade, and an overall length of 14.75”. If you’re looking for a big ol’ hunkin’ knife that can take care of pretty much anything that you throw at it, you’ll like KA-BAR’s Combat Bowie.
When it comes to finding plenty of the modern take on survival knives, you’ll have a hard time finding a company with a better selection than Gerber. Pretty much everything that they produce just looks like it was designed to be used out in the woods, and they actually contracted with Bear Grylls to create his line of knives, hatchets, and multitools.
LMF II Infantry
Gerber makes some fantastic fixed blade knives, and the LMF II Infantry is no exception to this rule. The blade is partially serrated, and the three holes drilled throughout the knife allow you to easily lash this to a pole to make an improvised spear while out in the wild. The blade length is 5”, and overall length is 10.6”. It’s a full tang, improving the knife strength. It also attaches to a belt or MOLLE vest with the included sheath.
A pretty wicked looking blade, and I like the bulge in the center of the handle. I always feel that I can grip a knife better, and have more control when the handles utilize such a shape. It’d be a good blade to keep at hand in the car, given the glass breaker that’s integrated into the handle. A 5” 420HC stainless steel drop point blade with a black coating and rubber textured handle. Once again, a full tang. The whole package is 9.875” overall, and weighs 7.1oz. The sheath is a mixture of molded plastic and nylon – not my favorite, but still a great blade.
Prodigy Tachide GFN
When I think of the word ‘knife’, this is what comes to mind, this is the stock image that comes to my mind. This one is partially serrated, a feature which helps increase the risk of damage it can cause in a fight, and that I find useful for cutting cord and other objects that can require a bit more “grab”. The blade is a 4.875” 420HC stainless steel spear point. Much like the Strongarm Plain, the Prodigy has a window punch pommel and lanyard hole included in the handle. All in all, it’s 9.75” long, making this one long enough to get some serious work done. I do actually really like the sheath on this one as well. It has MOLLE and PALS capability, meaning that you can easily strap this to your BOB or plate carrier. A great blade at a great price.
If you’re one who enjoys the more classic feel to a survival knife, then you’ll love the Condor Wayfinder. It has beautiful a beautiful stained walnut handle, and it fits perfectly in your hand. Wood often just feels more comfortable in the hand compared to synthetic material as well. I’ve found this to ring true whether one is talking about hand tools or knives. The blade is 5.25” of 1095 high carbon steel with a drop point. All in all, it’s 10.125” overall and weighs 7.27 oz. The sheath on this one matches the character of the knife as well. It’s a very simple, yet classy brown leather that really complements the blade. This is one good looking knife that could very easily become a family heirloom.
While different knives will come with different quality specs and different price points, a good survival knife will be worth its weight in gold should a crisis hit. They can be used in bushcraft, food preparation, self-defense, and so on. While most people will not have to worry about the legality of different knives, it is always advised to check the knife laws in your state before buying anything you might think is questionable. This is also strongly encouraged if you plan to carry your knife concealed.
About the Author:
Aden Tate is the author of The Faithful Prepper.
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