Wednesday, December 4, 2019

6 Things to Look for in a Survival Knife

With so many options available, it’s easy to get lost in the sea of choices when looking for a good survival knife. Every company out there swears by their own product and the commonly used marketing tricks don’t help in making an objective, practical decision.

So what do you want to take into consideration when buying a survival knife?

1) Design. Is the shape of the tool adequate for the purpose it is intended for? The blade geometry, how long, thin and narrow blade is, how thick is the stock used, the bevels, it all should make sense in relation to the intended use of the knife. Is it a carving tool, a piercing weapon, a utilitarian sharp prybar?  In my experience this is the hardest thing to achieve: An overall sound design with a blade geometry that is well suited for its intended purpose. The more broad that intended purpose is, and that’s often the case with survival knives, the harder it is to nail it with a blade shape that will perform well for most potential applications.

2) Quality. A Knife may be of sound design but if the materials used are of poor quality or if the execution is mediocre it won’t be of much use.  People new to knives often obsess over what steel the blade is made of. In reality, with modern steel this is for the most part an academic discussion and for most practical uses, even the more affordable steels, both stainless and carbon steels, will perform adequately as long as they are properly heat treated. Having said that, the difference between steels does exist and in some cases the extra toughness, edge retention and ease of sharpening is worth the higher price of premium steels for some people.

3) Handle. The knife may be well designed, well-crafted out of the finest materials but if the handle just doesn’t “fit” you then it will perform poorly in your hands. The handle is an extremely personal part of the knife. Some handles just work well for most people’s hands. The swell in the handle of a Glock knife, the typical machete handle, these are time proven designs. But still, either because your hand is too big, or too small, or it just so happens to close around a handle a bit different, it just may not fit you as well. In general you want comfortable, grippy yet durable materials and you don’t want any aggressive patterns that chaff the skin or cause hot spots.

ESEE - 4 Plain Edge Black Sheath Black Blades with Micarta Handle (ESEE-4P-B)
4)Sheath. A knife without a sheath cant be carried around safely, can barely be used at all without having a safe method of carrying. There’s no need for anything fancy but the sheath must be functional. Hold the blade safely in place, be easy to access, remove and return the knife. Just like with gun holsters, hard polymer sheaths are a solid choice, especially if they have different attachment points to adjust the way you carry it.

5)Finish. Often overlooked, not all finishes perform the same. The current typical textured paint finish commonly used in tactical knives is a rather poor choice. Not only does it wear off easily, leaving the steel naked unless it has a phosphate finish of some kind underneath, these finishes also attract dirt and grime, making it harder to keep clean. The textured finish also increases traction when cutting through materials, which you definitely don’t want. You want the surface of the cutting tool to be smooth like glass with minimal friction. A mirror polished surface would be ideal, even if some treatment had to be added on carbon steel to avoid rusting. This is something to consider but not a deal breaker since finshes do wear, become smoother with use even if they originally were textured, and with a bit of oil rust shouldn’t be a problem.

6)Price. Although you often pay for what you get, in the knife world you sometimes have knives that are hyped beyond their logical price point just as you have some wonderful bargains, a ton of knife for very little money. This means you save money for other preps or it allows you to buy multiple blades for all your kits and bags or for backups and spares.
Check out my new Book “Street Survival Skills” . Fernando “FerFAL” Aguirre is the author of “The Modern Survival Manual: Surviving the Economic Collapse” and “Bugging Out and Relocating: When Staying is not an Option”


Anonymous said...

As many tasks as a knife is called for, I'm not sure "One" is up for the job. I think a fixed sheath knife as well as one folding knife would work better.

As far as durability, I've had some good luck with the Spyderco 'Salt' knives, their H-1 steel is reputedly as rust resistant as they come so they will resist corrosion more than the usual knife. Washing them out after a particularly grimy task is much easier to debris out of nooks and crannies.

Thank you for your post - you are right, so many factors in finding the suitable tool is difficult.

Steve said...

This advice is not finished. What knife should we buy? Top ten please. End of the world criteria. A knife to last a thousand years, no seriously a knife that can be abused for a long time.