What is the Best Survival Knife in 2021?


Every avid outdoors person knows the benefit of having a quality survival knife. However, even if you are new to camping or roaming through the woods (or only do so occasionally), having one on hand can be extremely beneficial. With uses ranging from pulling out splinters to making fires to self-defense, finding the best survival knife is something every person should consider.

In terms of the best survival knife for you, the most important characteristic to look out for is functionality over flashiness. This includes choosing a blade that is not too big or too small with a fixed handle and a pointed tip. Using these basic criteria, you will be able to narrow down a long list of survival knives.

There are many other features and characteristics to look out for that, in addition to regularly safely using your survival knife, will ensure that you enjoy and get the most use out of your knife for many years. Take a look below to learn how to best pick and utilize your survival knife.

 

Top Survival Knives

Preview Title Features More Details
Unlimited Wares HK-1036 Fixed Blade Tactical Combat Knife • Weighs less than a pound
• Comfortable grip
• Comes with a sheath
KA1245-BRK Black Tanto Knife • Full tang
• Extra durable
• Easy to sharpen
Buck Knives 119 Special Fixed Blade Knife • High carbon steel
• Easy to store
• Great for detailed work
Wild Turkey Handmade Biker Tooth-Pick Folding Knife • Surgical steel blade
• Easily stored
• Great back-up to use in a pinch
Kershaw Secret Agent Concealable Boot Knife • Extra durable steel
• Rubber handle, easy to hold
• Comes with a clip
Verifygear 17 in 1 Professional Survival Kit Knife • 16 other tools besides a knife
• Folds up into a small package
• Includes compass, pen, rope, water bottle, and more
EDMRIK Combat Knife • Stainless steel
• Perfect for self-defense
• Nylon sheath slows down dulling
Fixed Blade 16.5″ Full Tang Rambo Knife • Stainless steel blade
• Full tang with wooden handle
• Perfect for both collectors and survivalists

Uses for Different Survival Knives

The wide variety of uses a good survival knife has is what makes them so appealing. A person who regularly uses them constantly finds new ways they come in handy, but for those of us who may not be as familiar, here are several ways they can assist you in your outdoor adventures:

  1. As a food processor – A good survival knife is capable of skinning an animal you have hunted, but also able to slice any wild herbs or other vegetables you may find, ensuring that you are well fed.
  2. As a weapon – Let’s face it, the woods are full of adventure, and that includes both finding food – a survival knife with a good, pointed tip can spear a fish – and as self-defense. Most animals do not go searching out confrontations with humans, but just in case, a survival knife is there to help you protect yourself.
  3. First aid – A survival knife can be used to cut up bandages, sterilize wounds, make splints to help stabilize broken bones, and the tip can be used to pull out splinters.
  4. Cutting wood – A good survival knife can cut small trees and branches to make things such as (as mentioned above) splints, stakes for a shelter, larger pieces of wood for the shelter itself, or small shavings that are the most helpful when trying to light a fire.
  5. Lighting fires – A survival knife can be used in conjunction with a faro rod to shoot sparks into kindling to help light a fire. You can find additional methods for fire lighting in my article on how to start a fire without matches.
  6. Fixing clothing – The sharp tip can make small adjustments to clothing or other equipment that can make them easier to carry or use.
  7. Making other tools – One of the main tools you can make with your survival knife is also important for starting a fire: the fire bow and drill. Additionally, maybe you did not have space in your bag to carry some things; a survival knife can help carve out eating utensils or even a spear for hunting.
  8. As a hammer – The end of a survival knife is an effective hammer for driving in stakes for shelter or against another sharp object to help open cans of food.
  9. As a signal – If you are lost in the woods or are traveling with friends and have gotten separated, then a knife reflected in the sun can send a signal, indicating your location.

Keep in mind that using your survival knife effectively is a skill like any other, so make sure you practice with it regularly.

 

Types of Survival Knives

Now that we know all the benefits and uses of a survival knife, the next task is deciding which survival knife to buy. This can be a bit of a daunting task at first because there are many different kinds with different advantages. The following list mentions each type of survival knife and its pros and cons to help you choose the knife that works best for you.

 

Boot Knife

Boot knives are smaller than the average survival knife with a fixed, double-edged blade.

Advantages Disadvantages
  • Its smaller size means it’s easier to attach. It can be placed in your boot, strapped onto your belt, or worn as a necklace.
  • It is good for precise work, such as unscrewing things or fixing clothing.
  • Its double-edge makes it harder to chop through wood or to hold comfortably.
  • Its smaller size makes it more difficult to perform the more intense tasks of chopping and hammering.

The boot knife is not meant to be your main survival knife but is a great back-up and can come through in a pinch.

 

Buck Survival Knife

The buck survival knife is just that – a survival knife. It works for a variety of situations, from camping to walking down the street alone

Advantages Disadvantages
  • It can chop wood.
  • It can be used to hammer stakes into the ground.
  • Are a big help with making fires
  • It can be used as protection during a mugging or other physical assault.
  • It comes in a variety of styles.
  • Not ideal for hunting

The buck knife is a great knife choice for novices and experienced outdoorsmen alike. Its uses are wide and varied and applicable to life, in general, to help you feel safer and more prepared.

 

Combat Survival Knife

Combat survival knives are those used by soldiers both on the battlefield and in every-day life situations.

Advantages Disadvantages
  • It can be used in self-defense.
  • It can be used as a tool in survival situations such as chopping wood, starting fires, hammering, etc.
  • Good for hunting
  • Large size may make it difficult to handle without a lot of practice
  • They are not full tang, meaning there are weak spots and the potential to break.
  • Not ideal for more precise and detailed tasks

Combat knives can take some getting used to, but they can be a great tool in a true survival situation out in the wilderness.

 

Folding Knife

Folding knives are those knives that fold back into themselves. Though they are not generally recommended over fixed blade survival knives because they break more easily and may fold in when in use, they have definite advantages, including:

  • Easier storage and easier to carry around – Folding knives can fit into a pocket.
  • Comes with its own sheath – With a fixed blade knife, you may have to purchase a sheath separately and factor in where you can put it on you when in use and where to store it when not in use. A folding blade already comes with its own protective cover.
  • Low-cost – Folding knives are relatively inexpensive, so if you need a knife immediately but cannot afford a fixed blade knife, a folding knife is a good option.

 

Military Knife

Military knives are also (obviously) used by the military as a last resort in combat, but mainly for survival in the wilderness.

Advantages Disadvantages
  • Good for survival
  • Useful in cutting rope and helping prepare food
  • Last resort weapon in combat or self-defense
  • Their large size (usually around 14 inches) may be hard for some people to handle.
  • Not as easy to hunt with

A military knife is a good option for someone with military experience or an experienced wilderness camper. It has many uses and can come in handy in a pinch for self-defense, but it will likely take more time to wield it properly.

 

Rambo Survival Knife

The Rambo survival knife, named for the movies in which it first appeared, is a large survival knife with the appearance of a machete.

If you are looking to expand your knife collection or add a knife for decoration, the Rambo survival knife is a great option. However, while it looks very cool, such a large knife (more than a foot and weighing more than 2 pounds) is not ideal for high-stress survival situations.

 

Survival Knife Kit with Sheath

The survival knife kit with a sheath is more of a tool kit than anything else. In addition to the knife, many of them come with compasses, sharpening tools, and fishhooks.

This knife kit is a fantastic option for true wilderness roughing it, as you do not have to rely solely on your knife to make everything else. However, it is not as reliable and may break easier than some of the other knives – especially full tang knives.

 

Tactical Knife

The tactical knife is another knife that is often part of a soldier’s kit – used in both combat and wilderness survival.

Advantages Disadvantages
  • A high-quality tactical knife will last a long time.
  • A variety of options for the type of blade you want, including serrated, double edge, and straight edge; this allows you to choose the knife that works best for you and the situations you are in most often.
  • You need to be more careful when picking it out; whether it lasts or not depends on what you are using it for.
  • Because the materials are so high quality, they will be more expensive.

 

Tanto Knife

Tanto knives were made in Japan, became highly popular in the 80s, and have maintained that popularity since then. Tanto knives are made with cold steel, which is a highly durable and strong kind of steel. In addition to being made from cold steel, the tanto knife has a reinforced end, making it incredibly strong and very difficult to break.

Their pointed ends are great for various situations, including stabbing (for self-defense), cutting up food, and fine detailed work.

Because of its high-quality steel and build, tanto knives tend to be more expensive and may not be the right choice if you are just learning how to use a survival knife properly.

 

How to Select the Very Best Survival Knife

While the right survival knife may vary from person to person, there are certain criteria to keep in mind if you want the very best survival knife.

If you are planning to use your survival knife often or expect a lot from it, make sure to include the following in your expectations when you are shopping:

  • Make sure it is the right size – If your knife is too long, it can be hard to hold, use effectively, or store with ease. If it is too short, it may not be able to perform adequately. One recommendation is for the knife to be 9-11 inches in total, with the blade itself being 5 inches.
  • A fixed blade – As mentioned above, a fixed blade does not fold into itself. This type of knife does not have the weak points of screws where the knife has the potential to break.
  • A full tang – Again, a full tang knife is one in which the blade and handle are all made from the same piece of metal. This means that there are no weak or bendy spots where the knife has the potential to break, adding additional strength that even a fixed blade knife with a handle made from different material does not have.
  • A solid and flat pommel – This can be used for hammering and pounding things.
  • A single-edged blade – Singled-edged blades are safer as there are fewer places which you can cut yourself, and if you do slip, there is more room for error. They are also much more efficient with tasks such as helping start campfires.
  • A sharp tip – A sharp tip is always preferable for a survival knife as it is more effective in self-defense situations if you are fighting off a wild animal. It can also be used to screw and unscrew things and remove splinters.

 

Recommended Survival Knives

Many of the knives listed above can be found on Amazon at reasonable prices.

 

Unlimited Wares HK-1036 Fixed Blade Tactical Combat Knife

This knife is made by Unlimited Wares and includes a fixed stainless-steel blade with a rubber handle for a comfortable grip. At less than a pound, it is easy to wield and won’t weigh you down. It also comes with a sheath and can be comfortably stored in your pocket.

Click here to read more reviews and compare prices.

 

KA1245-BRK Black Tanto Knife

Made by Ka-Bar, this knife straddles the line of full tang, making it extra durable and strong. Sharp and solid, it can easily penetrate tough material, has a comfortable handle, is easy to sharpen, and does not become slippery in rainy weather.

 

Click here to read more reviews and compare prices.

 

Buck Knives 119 Special Fixed Blade Knife

This knife is made with high carbon steel making it durable and strong. Its pointed edge is good for piercing and detailed work. This buck knife is a comfortable, easy to store (and carry) size at 10.5 inches total and around 8 ounces. The knife comes with its own leather sheath and has a comfortable grip that makes it easy to use.

Click here to read more reviews and compare prices.

 

Wild Turkey Handmade Biker Tooth-Pick Folding Knife

This folding survival knife made by Wild Turkey Handmade is small, easy to store, and comes in various colors and shades. With a three-inch surgical steel blade and a comfortable grip, this knife is a great back-up to use in a pinch.

Click here to read more reviews and compare prices.

 

Kershaw Secret Agent Concealable Boot Knife

Made by Kershaw Secret Agent, this boot knife weighs in at around 5 ounces and is five inches long. With steel that is made extra durable and is a strong substitute for carbon and nickel, it is useful for many activities. The rubber handle is easy to hold and makes using it much easier. It comes with a clip that is easy to strap to a boot, your pocket, or wherever is convenient.

Click here to read more reviews and compare prices.

 

Verifygear 17 in 1 Professional Survival Knife Kit

This survival knife kit made by Verifygear includes 16 other tools besides a knife, including a compass, a flashlight, a pen, rope, and a water bottle. This kit is light and folds up into a small package making it easy to carry and store, and has everything you need for a successful and safe camping trip.

Click here to read more reviews and compare prices.

 

 

EDMRIK Combat Knife

This knife made by EDMRIK is a large knife with a sharp blade made from stainless steel. With a nylon sheath to slow down dulling, this knife also works in a large variety of situations, from camping activities and cutting through the underbrush to self-defense.

Click here to read more reviews and compare prices.

 

Fixed Blade 16.5″ Full Tang Rambo Knife

If you are looking for a cool knife, look no further. A total of 16.5 inches with a stainless-steel blade that goes through the wooden handle (making it full tang), this gorgeous knife is a great addition to the collection of any avid knife collector.

Click here to read more reviews and compare prices.

 

 

Verdict: The Best Survival Knife Is…

While different kinds of survival knives can fit different needs and circumstances, there is one particular knife that for me stands out the most.

Buck Knives 119 Special Fixed Blade Knife with Leather Sheath is probably the ultimate survival knife. It’s durable, reliable and remarkably sharp. This knife is easily wielded, thanks to its balance, comfortable grip and included leader sheath. Moreover, it’s quite affordable and can be added with confidence to your survival gear. This USA product comes with a lifetime warranty, finalizing its status as the best investment in a survival knife.

 

How to Make Your Survival Knife Last

A survival knife can be a useful and effective tool for various situations. Still, it is also important that you take proper care of your knife and avoid using it in activities for which it is not designed.

 

Proper Care

Some of the most important ways you can ensure proper protection of it your survival knife are:

  • Making sure you clean it with warm water and soap after each use.
  • Do not use it for digging unless it is an emergency. Dirt can dull the blade quickly.
  • If it has gotten wet, make sure you dry it, so the blade does not rust. Keep it in a safe, dry place when it is not in use.
  • If you have a fixed handle survival knife, make sure you put it back in its protective cover (sheath) each time you are finished using it. This will protect it from humidity and dirt and other things which will dull the blade.
  • Sharpen it regularly. A blunt knife is much less effective and can cause injuries more easily. More pressure is required during use, leading to the user losing control of the knife.
  • Oil the blade, and if full tang, the whole knife. This can help prevent rusting.
  • Do not put excessive heat on it – such as placing it in a fire.

The following video from OmegaGear provides additional information and demonstration on how to take care of your survival knife:

 

Uses That Are NOT Compatible

Though survival knives have a wide variety of uses, there are some activities they are not designed for that can cause damage. Refrain from doing the following with your knife:

  • Using it to poke holes in things like cans of food – This can damage the tip of the blade or render it blunt and ineffective.
  • Prying things open with the blade – Though some knives can handle this kind of pressure, others are not as durable and will actually break.
  • Unless the knife is full tang steel, do not put oil on the handle – This can make it slippery, which can be very dangerous.

 

Sharpening Your Survival Knife

For your survival knife to be in tip-top shape, it is very important to make sure that it is properly sharpened regularly. Though how you will sharpen your knife may vary depending on what kind of knife you are carrying, there are certain tools you will need regardless.

 

A Sharpening Stone

First, you will need a sharpening stone. Some of the most commonly used ones are:

  • A whetstone – Different whetstones have different roughness levels, from very rough for an extremely dull knife to slightly rough for a knife that just needs a quick sharpening. When you use a whetstone to sharpen your knife, it is important to keep the whetstone wet; otherwise, both the knife and the stone will get damaged.
  • A ceramic sharpener – A ceramic sharpener is usually a device with a hollow section in the metal, containing metal rods coated in a ceramic powder that sharpen a dull blade. When you pull the knife through the hollow repeatedly, it sharpens both sides of the knife simultaneously.
  • A diamond sharpener – A diamond sharpener is a rod that usually comes with kitchen knife sets, though it also can come in stone kits that you can carry with you on camping trips. Rubbing your survival knife along it at the correct angle will sharpen it.

 

Lubricant

A properly maintained sharpening stone needs a lubricant in addition to being regularly washed (or soaked in the case of a whetstone) in water. This keeps damage at bay and cleans out the gunk that the stone may have gotten from sharpening. Mineral oil usually works great, but for a diamond sharpener, dishwashing liquid works just as well.

 

A Sharpening Guide

A sharpening guide is a device that holds your knife steady and has different settings for the correct angle for your specific knife and how it needs to be sharpened. This can be especially beneficial if you are new to knife ownership and sharpening, in general, as you will be less likely to damage your knife and your sharpening stone if you use one.

Note: A sharpening guide will not work on a curved blade knife and can actually damage it.

 

Final Tips: Survival Knife Safety

Finally, when you are using a survival knife, the most important thing to remember is that you safely use it. The following table includes safety measures to keep in mind as a checklist for when you are using your knife:

Do Don’t
  • Cut with the sharp side of the blade facing away from you
  • Keep your eyes on the object you are cutting-stick, meat, etc.
  • Be aware of your physical limitations-shakiness from hunger, cold, or fatigue
  • Keep it in its sheath when it is not in use
  • Cut toward yourself
  • Look away from what you are cutting
  • Try to cut anything if you are feeling weak or tired
  • Run with your knife out
  • Leave it lying around when not in use
  • Throw your knife into or against anything

These may seem like obvious measures, but it is easy to forget about them when you are distracted or stressed. By making sure you follow these measures every time you use your knife – even just for mundane tasks – you can ensure that safety becomes automatic, and you do not even have to think about it.

 

In Summary

Choosing the right survival knife can be overwhelming at first, but with some knowledge under your belt and things to look for, the task can be much simpler and even enjoyable. Whether you are a knife collector looking for that awesome-looking Rambo knife to add to your collection, want a knife that can be used for various situations, including self-defense, or want a knife that is ideal for camping foraging, there is an option for everyone.

Some things to keep in mind are what makes a knife strong and durable. A medium-sized blade and handle should be your first choice as it works for the heartier tasks of chopping wood as well as the more detailed tasks of fixing clothes.

A fixed blade is ideal whenever possible for both stability and strength, but you will want a full tang knife if your number one priority is complete assurance that your knife will not break on you at the moment when you need it most. With that in mind, having a folding knife or a smaller boot knife can be great back-ups for your main knife and are convenient and easy to carry around and use.

Naturally, a survival knife is not the only type of tool that can serve you faithfully. I have posted detailed articles on selecting the best survival axe as well as the best multi-tool, you should really check them out for complete information on these highly useful survival items.

Stay safe out there!

Alex Rejba

Alex is a seasoned survivalist, with a passion to all things related to prepping, hiking and living off the grid.

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