Choosing A Survival Knife
There are so many different types of survival knife to choose from, it can be hard to narrow it down to just one. The following eight areas give you a basis of comparison.
Because of its durability, a fixed blade knife is preferable to a retracting knife or switchblade for your bug-out-bag. You are going to be using this knife for a wide variety of tasks, and it needs to be as versatile as possible.
Another feature you will want your knife to have is a full tang. The Tang of a knife is the portion of the blade that extends down into the handle. The Tang and the blade are one solid piece of steel and so a ‘Full Tang’, or tang that goes all the way to the base of the handle, is considered the best choice for entire knife strength. With cheaper knives, where the blade is only connected to the top of the handle, it can break off.
Survival Knife Material
The next decision is whether to go for a full carbon or a stainless steel model.
- Full carbon models are stronger and less likely to break. They tend to hold a good edge longer than stainless steel – but will rust faster when exposed to the elements.
- Stainless steel models are less subject to corrosion but lose an edge faster than carbon.
Either option will work for you but for most emergency situations a full carbon model is preferable.
The handle on survival knives varies widely with some being hard rubber and others polymer. Avoid any knife that has a hollow handle for “storing things.” While this might sound efficient there are a couple of good reasons to avoid such knives.
- If it has a hollow handle the knife certainly does not have a full tang which is important for the strength of the knife.
- If you are storing matches or other items in your knife handle and you lose the knife – you lose your other supplies.
- Another thing that is popular among novelty survival knives is a compass in the handle. Again, this seems efficient but it could interfere with your grip on the knife. Is it really worth making the knife hard to work with or even capable of injuring you? In a survival situation that is unacceptable.
There is also endless debate over which is better – straight blade or serrated. A straight blade knife will work better for chopping wood and is much easier to sharpen. A good smooth stone can even be used to sharpen a straight blade if you are without a whetstone, whereas a serrated edge almost always takes a special sharpener.
Most Survival Knives fall within the range of 6 to 12 inches. Any less and it might not be big enough to do the things necessary in a survival situation, like chopping wood. A hatchet would be better for chopping wood but you might not have a choice.
A good general rule is about 3/16 – 1/4 of an inch thickness for survival knives. A knife will be extremely solid and able to withstand the abuse of wood chopping and prying. You do not want a survival knife that has a lot of flex in the blade.
Survival Knife Sheath
The sheath will affect how you carry and draw your knife. Ideally, there are three things you want to have in your sheath:
- Lower Attachment at the tip end of the sheath used for strapping the knife to your leg when on the belt, or onto a backpack strap.
- Belt and Lanyard Attachment: A belt loop for the sheath or a hole for a lanyard in the knife handle itself.
- Strap – A crossover strap where the handle meets the sheath is best. Sheaths with the strap at the base of the handle can allow the knife to slide out.
6 Excellent Options For A Survival Knife
1. Ka-bar Becker BK-22 Fixed Blade Knife
The Ka-bar Becker BK-22 is a fixed blade full tang knife. The BK-22 comes with a polyester sheath for added protection when not in use. The knife features a 5 ¼ inch blade, and measures just over 10 inches total.
The Ka-bar Becker BK-22 is an excellent budget option for a durable and solid fixed blade knife.
2. Esee 6P
The Esee 6P is made of high carbon steel. The 6P’s blade is 6 ½ inches, and the knife is 11 ¾ inches in length total. The sheath is made of a heavy-duty molded polymer. One feature of this knife is a hole in the handle so you can attach it to a lanyard and hang it around your neck. The Esee 6P is a solid mid-range option for your bug out bag.
3. Gerber StrongArm
The Gerber StrongArm features a high carbon steel blade and a full tang, with a striking pommel built-in to the handle. This budget knife comes in either black or coyote brown and has a coated ceramic blade for better grip. The Gerber StrongArm is surprisingly durable for the price point, as well.
4. Buck Knives 119 Special Fixed Blade
Buck Knives 119 Special Fixed Blade is a high carbon steel knife, like the others on this list. The 119 has a 6-inch clip blade, and the knife itself is 10 ½ inches long. Made in the USA, the 119 also features a leather sheath with a clip fastener.
5. MTECH USA Fixed Blade Knife
The MTECH USA Fixed Blade Knife is truly a budget knife. But do not let its’ low price fool you– the MTECH USA is a highly rated knife that can easily stand up to its higher priced counterparts. Unfortunately it is made of stainless steel, but the knife is still full tang and durable. A great budget option for anyone low on cash.
6. Boker Magnum Collection 2019
At the high end of the spectrum is the Boker Magnum Collection 2019. This is a solid, high carbon, full tang knife. The knife measures 14 inches, with an 8 ½ inch blade and a weight of just 14 ounces. The Boker Magnum Collection 2019 is a durable knife that can withstand just about any survival situation.
There is no doubt that a knife is a critical part of any bug out bag. The ones listed here are just a few of the survival knives out there. For a discussion of ‘Knife Safety, Selection and Use’ with Kirsten Rechnitz, see the video below!