How To Choose A Good Survival Knife

How To Choose A Good Survival Knife

Firstly, it is without doubt that a good survival knife will make it is very hard to survive any outdoor situation.

Your survival knife is undoubtedly the single most important item to have in your Bug Out Bag, your Emergency Kit and for Home.

So what are the important facts on how to choose a good survival knife and what do you really need to know in order to make the right decision for you and your circumstances.?

feathering wood with a knife

What do you need your survival knife for:

Above all ask yourself where and how you intend to use you knife, make a list of scenarios that you foresee happening that are personal to yourself and your foreseen survival situation.

If you see a situation where you will be forced to bug out and leave your home with minimal previsions, then you must have knives that are capable of being used for both hunting and skinning.

Selecting a good survival knife can sometimes mean choosing to have several survival knives at your disposal.
In fact this is common prepper practice having several survival knives, each with the best qualities for you foreseen situation. Remember, your survival knife is one of your most important items in your bug out bag and survival kit.

Consequently, I would always say have more ham one knife. If you were to break or loos one, you always have a backup.
Remember: One is none....

Survival knife sizes:

Likewise size isn't everything – A big knife can be fine for splitting wood and chopping but a complete pain for fine work and completely useless for skinning.

A small knife can also cause problems when battoning wood and ineffective for personal protection.

Hence choosing the best survival knife must be based on how prepared you are for your particular survival scenario and your perceived situation and dangers.

Survival knife design:

There are really only 5 main design areas when choosing a good survival knife –

  • Full or 3/4 tang blade
  • Serrated knife edge
  • Straight edge blade
  • Pointed tip blade
  • Comfortable grip
  • Sheath

Full Tang Blade:

This refers to a survival knife with a fixed blade where the whole knife, blade and tang, are made from one piece of steel.

Big knives, like the Ka-Bar shown here need to be full tang to function properly.

A full tang will make your survival knife much more stronger and less likely to bend or snap, giving you more leverage.

3/4 Tang Blade:

You can get knives with a tang that does not go the full length of the handle - these are known as 3/4 tang knives.

They are still strong but, for a survival knife I would always choose a full tang knife for peace of mind and the added strength.

choose the best survival knife

Serrated Edge Blade:

These offer a sawing option if needed and ideal for cutting rope or through small twigs of wood.

The Gerber knife shown here is a very solid knife.
Ignoring the fact that this knife is endorsed by Bear Grylls, it has the serrations to the lower 1/3 of the blade, specifically for rope or animal bone cutting.

The main problem with a serrated blade is the edge very difficult to sharpen. A straight blade can easily be sharpened with a sharpening stone, but serrated blades require a bit more attention.

Serrated blades are no good when hunting and skinning as they will rip the skin, but can help to cut tendon and bone if needed.
Definitely choose a straight blade if you intend to use your knife for more hunting related purposes.

Straight Edge Blade:

A full length blade is usable.
Especially for fine work where you need to choke down on the knife.

The straight blade is ideal for wood splitting, carving, skinning and are the easiest knives to sharpen.

The Mora range of knives are a very good straight edge blades and well worth considering.

I have review article on their best knives here: Mora Knives Review

Blade Thickness:

This is quite an important part of your survival knife and will effect its performance considerably if you choose badly.
Again, the general rule is, don’t buy cheap. The blade should never flex.

As a general rule most good knives have a blade thickness of 3/16″ – 1/4″ this give them the thickness to withstand impact when chopping wood and also prevents any flexing when levering.

click image for more info

You can, of course, go for a hand made, custom knife and something that's practically unbreakable.

The 'Titan Knife' by fellow prepper Tom Linden fits right into this category, with a custom design knife having a blade thickness of 8mm.

 Blade material knive carbon V steel

There two main types of material used for a survival knife - Stainless steel and Carbon.

The choice is more personal preference than anything else really, however, a carbon blade will be expected to hold a good edge for longer than a stainless steel blade but will rust if left out or not cleaned off. The stainless blade is considered a pretty much indestructible but will require sharpening much more frequently. 

 Pointed tip blade knife 11

This is much preferred over a curved blade as this can be lashed to a pole to give extended reach for a stabbing action [especially fishing and hunting] 

 Handle & Grip knife mora bushcraft handle

Grip is essential when using the knife for long periods and must feel comfortable in your hand, but this must also be strong and solid,  as you may need to use it for banging nails in or breaking glass or even as a 'non lethal  self defence weapon.

Grips come in various materials - wood, bone, hard or soft rubber, polymer etc.  But so long as your knife fits you comfortably is more personal choice.  *very important point - Avoid buying a hollow handled knife. - 

I know there are plenty on the market and many by reputable manufacturers, all offering this feature to store something in, maybe some matches or fire starter or a small map maybe -  but consider these two main points - 

  1. A hollow handle means a weaker knife as it has not got a full tang
  2. If you loose you knife you loose everything in the handle 

Overall, the choice is yours -

 But do consider the points above when looking for a good survival knife that suits you.

Generally it is best to have several knives and double up on the most important one.

Happy Prepping Folks,



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Skip to comment form

    • Yvonne on September 20, 2020 at 6:14 pm
    • Reply

    Thank you so much Steve for putting all this excellent information together. A valuable resource for the potential future ahead. Much appreciated.

    • Mary on December 17, 2018 at 3:38 pm
    • Reply

    Wow this is very informative!

    • dave on September 3, 2018 at 7:10 pm
    • Reply

    Thx for this great article.

    • Shanel Perez on November 11, 2017 at 9:05 am
    • Reply

    Very useful information. I definitely appreciate. I personally like to use ESEE 6P-B Plain Edge Fixed Blade Knife as a survival knife, which I bought last year. It’s really well made. The material of the handle has an expensive feel to it. There are better ergonomically designed handles that fit my medium size hand better like the kabar turok, but it still feels quite good. It’s definitely a top-shelf quality whiskey of knives. It feels and looks indestructible.

  1. Great Page we have a big problem in germany with the politik and the theme knife…. 🙁

  2. Hey very nice article thank you very much

    • Chunky on May 24, 2016 at 9:40 pm
    • Reply

    Great article with lots of information.
    I also like this website
    what are the best hunting knives for sale

    all the best

    • James on October 17, 2015 at 11:14 pm
    • Reply

    I have to say that if the SHTF and without law and order the best knife have would have to be a MACHETE as this can be used to cut and chop wood easily and can do more easily jobs that the knives you mentioned, not to say they wont work but your machete would also be a good self protection weapon. Maybe try having both as one would be a backup.

  3. Hey!

    Thx for this great article.

    I am writing a blog about the best cooking knifes in germany.
    Survival knifes are a very interesting topic too, but still not like in the UK.

    Its a shame, you are not allowed to have survival knifes here in germany, which have a longer knife blade, then you palm 🙁
    I am sure, in case of emergency no one will take care about this law, but a good knife can always be helpfully, not only in emergency case.

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