Finding the best survival knife for your specific needs means considering a number of factors to identify the perfect knife for every eventuality. From handle material to blade grind and tang construction, our guide to the best survival knives will walk you through our selection of the top survival knives for every requirement.
The best survival knife is one that won’t let you down when you need it most.
Survival knives need to be resilient, durable and practical enough to deal with any situation that arises, expected or otherwise.
When we talk about survival knives we’re generally not talking about pocket knives or ‘Swiss Army’ style knives – although these are also invaluable pieces of equipment in a wide range of scenarios and in a true survival situation, any knife is ultimately better than no knife.
A survival knife in the context we’ll be discussing in this guide refers to either a fixed or folding blade knife which can be called upon in a wilderness or urban survival situation and that is designed with the build quality and stamina required to handle any problem thrown its way.
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About This Guide
Survival knives come in a wide variety of styles and finishes and while some are perfectly suited to a particular task, often, the knife you choose will be based on your own personal preferences and requirements, whether that’s a decision based on form, functionality or a combination of the two.
In this guide, we’ll walk you through the best survival knives on the market today, explaining the individual features and most important specs of each to give you the ultimate overview of the top survival knives out there and to allow you to make an informed decision and find the right blade for the job.
What is a Survival Knife?
As you’d expect from the name, a survival knife is a resilient and versatile knife designed to assist you in a wide variety of survival situations in even the most adverse of conditions.
Whether you need to hunt and prepare food, start a fire or carve wood and build a shelter, a survival knife is an invaluable piece of equipment if you find yourself in a wilderness environment where having access to the right tools can make the difference between life and death.
Survival knives are an essential addition to your inventory whether you’re hiking, camping, hunting, or preparing a comprehensive survival kit or bug out bag.
Given the fact that the range of potential uses is so wide, the best survival knives need to be able to adapt to multiple scenarios at a moment’s notice.
How to Choose the Best Survival Knife
There are a lot of things to take into account when choosing the best survival knife and whether you’re looking to find a knife to fill a certain role or simply want the best survival knife for coping with anything, it’s important to know the key features and characteristics that make up the top blades in order to make an informed decision when picking a knife that will serve you for years to come.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Survival Knife
Survival knives can vary in so many ways that it’s important to pin down the key considerations and nuances between different types and models when choosing a knife that fits the bill.
The following points are the key things to think about when assessing the suitability of a survival knife for your needs.
Fixed or Folding Blade?
Generally speaking, there are two types of survival knife at the most basic level; fixed blade knives and those with a folding blade. you’re probably going to want to opt for a fixed blade with a full tang (meaning the blade runs through the length of the handle) if you’re looking for the most durable survival knife.
If you need a knife that won’t let you down, then you’re probably going to want to opt for a fixed blade with a full tang (meaning the blade runs through the length of the handle). This is usually the option favored by those looking for the most durable survival knife.
There is also the option of going for what’s known as a ‘partial-tang’ fixed blade. In this case, the blade itself does not run the length of the handle, making it more prone to breaking under extreme stress although the price range for these blades is often lower than their full-tang counterparts.
The alternative to a fixed blade survival knife is to go for one with a folding blade. The advantage in this case, is that your knife will be easier to store and stow when not in use, however, this convenience comes at the cost of structural strength.
As with partial tang knives, the joint of a folding blade represents an inherent point of vulnerability if the knife is required for heavy-duty tasks placing the blade under serious stress so this needs to be factored in when assessing the suitability for your requirements.
If you’re new to the world of survival knives, it’s easy to think that all blades basically do the same job and that the specifics aren’t particularly important.
In actual fact though, all blades are not created equal and in a true survival situation, the number of potential scenarios in which you may find yourself needing to use your knife will quickly highlight that your tool may need to do much more than you’d initially anticipated.
From piercing and cutting to chopping, shaping, and sharpening, the range of uses for your knife means that the type of blade you settle on when finding the best survival knife can prove of critical importance to accomplishing the task in the most efficient way possible.
With this in mind, the types of blade available are wide-ranging and include (among others) drop points, spear points, clip points and sheepsfoot blades. Each blade type specializes in a certain job and will serve you particularly well if it’s designed for what you need.
Drop Point Blades
Particularly well suited as a tactical knife or survival knife, the drop point blade is commonly used in hunting knives given its versatility and practicality as a cutting knife.
With a convex, sloping spine and a lowered point, drop point blades are designed for controlled and precision cutting tasks.
An inherent strength in the tip makes drop point blades a good fit as a survival knife where strength and durability are both crucial.
If you’re looking for a survival knife that excels at piercing rather than cutting however, a drop point isn’t the best tool for the job and you’ll be better off with an option such as a spear point blade (see below).
Spear Point Blades
Characterized by a symmetrical shape and a tip that’s aligned with the center of the blade, spear point blades are designed for piercing rather than cutting or detail work.
Given the primary use and likely stresses acting upon this type of design, spear point blades are generally very strong and are often engineered for long-life.
The most important thing to remember with spear point blades is that they’re not built for cutting and slicing tasks, so if you’re looking for the best survival knife for this kind of work you’ll want to consider an alternative.
This type of blade is popular with both military and law-enforcement personnel due to its versatility and durability when used in action.
Tanto blades are particularly popular as they are able to pierce and slice with equal effectiveness.
Perfectly suited to survival situations, one of the key hallmarks of this kind of blade is the sharp, angular point.
Clip Point Blades
The name of this style is derived from the visual appearance of the front of the blade which is designed to deliver clean cutting precision.
Similar to the drop point blade, clip points are a good choice if you’re looking for a tactical knife for cutting.
A thinner and sharper tip to this blade makes clip point blades much better suited to stabbing than a drop point but this also makes them less durable than other types of blade and more prone to breaking.
Built for slicing and cutting, the sheepsfoot blade features a long and flat edge which makes it perfect for cutting through things like rope.
Sheepsfoot blades are favored by emergency responders and in professions where the ability to slice through tough objects of varying thicknesses is an essential part of the job.
This kind of blade features a false point meaning it won’t accidentally puncture or pierce whatever you’re cutting.