When you are considering what type of knife will be the best survival knife for you to buy, there are some key factors to consider:
There are basically three types of “survival knives”, each has its own place and purpose:
- Fixed Blade Survival Knives
- Folding Survival Knives
- Multi-tool knives
Fixed Blade Survival Knives
Hands down the best survival knife in an outdoors or wilderness survival scenario. These knives are are designed to take abuse. Fixed blade knives are invaluable tools in the outdoors for tasks related to fire building, shelter building, hunting, and prying. It will often be used to split wood, and chop branches, but that doesnt neccessarily mean it has to be a huge knife or a machete… a 4 to 6 inch blade is adequate for most tasks.
Here are some of our favorite, reasonably priced, quality fixed blade survival knives:
1. Tops Dawn Warrior – One of the best knives
The Tops Dawn Warrior is one of the best survival knives available, and our favorite survival knife from Tops Knives. The TOPS team is comprised of experts from the fields of Law enforcement, Special Forces, Martial artists and outdoors educators. Their knives are seeing action with soldiers in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other tough environments around the world.
The blade of the Dawn Warrior is 5 1/2 inches long, 3/16 thick and made from 1095 carbon steel. As with a lot of their knives, Tops coats the blade with “Black Traction coating”, a baked on epoxy material. An optional camo finish is available for the blade at a cost of $30.
The handle is black linen Micarta, and is available standard (shown) or with Tops “Rocky Mountain Tread” pattern, which is a series of grooves carved into the handle. The full tang steel provides a good size lanyard hole at the butt of the knife. There is a hole in the top of the blade just forward of the thumb guard to faciliate lashing to a spear.
While some Tops Knives appear to be more imaginative than functional in design, they got it right with this one. The TOPS Dawn Warrior is tough, close to perfect in balance, feel, and size, it has everything a good fixed blade survival knife should have.
The pricing would be the only area where some might question purchasing this knife versus other comparable knifes, at $179.00 msrp it is not cheap. But, for the price you get a custom molded Kydex sheath, free lifetime sharpening, and lifetime warranty for the original purchaser (keep your proof of puchase).
In the unlikely event you damage the blade on your Dawn Warrior, Tops will refinish the blade for a minimal charge. The Kydex sheath comes with a 1 year warranty. Real world pricing is in the $140-$150 range.
Other Fixed Blade Knives to consider
- USMC Ka-bar
- SOG Seal Pup
- Kershaw Roughneck
- Benchmade CSK
- Gerber LMF II
- Ontario TAK 1
- Ontario ASEK
As with everything else, not all survival knives are created equal. There are a lot of cheap so-called survival knives with the built in compass and hollow handle that should be avoided. A good quality fixed blade survival knife will have full tang construction – meaning the steel of the blade extends all the way through the handle. It should have a comfortable non-slip handle, and a preferably a lanyard hole.
We dont think any single knife can truly be THE “Best Survival Knife”, so just remember, quality counts here. Consider your needs carefully. Also, if you are headed outdoors, you really should have a folding knife for the smaller cutting chores in addition to your fixed blade knife.
Fixed blade Bargains
Here are some great cheap survival knife choices for those of us putting a survival kit together on a budget: Some good quality survival knives that wont break the bank:
- Magnum Elk Hunter
- Colt Tactical Fighter
- Condor Rodan
- Boker Vox Rold
- Buck Packlite Skinner
- Kershaw Echo
Folding Survival Knives
While not as durable as fixed blade knives, a folding knife may be the best survival knife option for you. Folding knifes are more compact, lighter, and easier to carry than fixed blade knives. Again, a good quality knife is important, but you dont need to spend hundreds of dollars. While a fixed blade knife is probably overkill in a car survival kit for example, a good folding knife is well suited.
A quality folding knife will lock solidly into position when opened, and not loosen after continued use. It should have a feature that allows you to open it with one hand, in case of injury or entrapment, and again a lanyard hole is a handy feature.
Here are some of our favorite folding survival knives:
1. Benchmade Griptillian – The Iconic Knives
The Benchmade company is an icon in the cutting tool industry. The Benchmade Griptilian series of knives are part of Benchmade’s “Blue Class”. They are designed and built for the individual who appreciates the difference a high quality cutting tool can make. Ask any cop what brand of knife he’s carrying, odds are it’ll be a benchmade.
There is a wide selection of colors, styles and blades available for the griptilian. Most models come with a 154CM stainless steel blade which offers great corrosion resistance and good toughness. The 552 and 558 RSK models designed by Doug Ritter come with S30V steel and a modified blade shape.
The exlusive “AXIS” ™ locking mechanism is standard on all models. It locks the knife blade firmly in position after it is opened with an easy flick of the thumb. The thumb studs/holes and the locking mechanism are both completely ambidextrous. Blade length varies from 2.91 to 3.45 inches depending on model. The grip textured handle and finger guard provide a secure comfortable feel.
All models come with a reversible clip, and lanyard hole. For around a hundred bucks, you’ll have a hard time finding a better folding survival knife, or for that matter an every day carry knife, than the benchmade griptilian.
Other Folding Knives to consider:
- Ka-Bar Mule
- Ontario XM
- Kershaw Boa
- Cold Steel Recon 1
- SOG Vulcan
- Swiss Army Trekker
- SOG Tomcat
- SOG Twitch II
Multi-tools are a great way of carrying a mini tool set on your belt. Though not entirely the best survival knife in a wilderness environment, they are a very handy item in a more urban setting… and a great tool to have in your car survival kit .
Leatherman is widely regarded by most multi-tool fans, as well as Gerber, Sog, and Victorinox. There are plenty of cheaper multi-tools on the market also, but one good twist with the pliers on a cheap multi-tool, and you’ll see why they say “You get what you pay for”.
Here are our favorite multi-tools:
- SOG Power Lock with V-cutter
- Leatherman Wave
So which is the best survival knife for you?
Well, as you can see, there is a place for all of them, and your choice will depend largely on your intentions. Chances are if you are an avid outdoorsman, you already have your favorite knives and tools in their place, and wouldn’t part with them for anything.
If you are looking for a knife to add to a survival kit, or general emergency preparedness, anything on this page will be a great choice, and will serve you well when you call on it.
Carry a pocket knife
One other thing: You dont normally associate an everyday carry pocket knife with “Survival”, but sometimes, the best survival knife is whatever you have available to you. There are endless stories of people who have saved their life or the life of someone else with nothing more than a simple pocket knife.
If you work outdoors everyday, a small pocketknife with a clip on the inside of your front pocket or on your belt will soon become very useful to you. It will be just like putting on your watch, or picking up your wallet in the morning.
If you work indoors, you can still find a good lightweight pocketknife that wont feel bulky in your pocket. If you dont want to carry a pocket knife, there are plenty of small knifes that you can put on your keyring.
The Leatherman Micra makes a great keyring and packs a lot of function into a small form. The important thing is that it’s there when you need it. If you dont want to carry a knife on your person, keep one in the glove box of your vehicle.
In addition to knives, there are also a lot of useful tools employed in the outdoors that take a lot of the work out of certain tasks, one such tool is a good Machete. Below are some of the Machetes we’ve reviewed:
- Marbles Machete
- Cold Steel Machete
- Gerber Gator Machete
- Ontario Machete