What Is The Best Survival Knife In The Market?
When you are out battling nature, your knife can be your lifeline. Agree?
You need something durable and effective at the very least. The market is flooded with generic survival blades. They use inferior materials and craftsmanship. To raise up the price, they’re loaded with features you either don’t need, or don’t function properly.
That’s why you can’t always trust the label “survival knife.” That designation alone means nothing. If you want to live off the grid, or survive a world with no grid, you need to know the ins and outs of what you’re purchasing. It’s about more than wasting money. Its about not putting your life in the hands of a bad product.
We’ve put together a list to help you find the best survival knife. We’ll lay out the different types of knives to look for, and what features you need to consider. With our help, you’ll find the perfect knife for whatever nature throws at you.
Fixed Or Folding?
1095 High Carbon Steel
Sandvik 14C28N/D2 Composite
VG-1 San Mai III
S30V Stainless Steel
HC 420 Stainless Steel
HC 420 Stainless Steel
High Carbon Steel
1095 Cro-Van Steel
Types Of Knives
In the world of knives, there are three basic varieties: fixed blade, folding, and multi-tool. There are different varieties of points and blades, but all are available within the three main groupings. Each serves a purpose, and each has its downsides. It’s up to you to assess your needs to find the right match.
1. Fixed Blade
Fixed blades are the original knives. From stone tools of cavemen, to the iconic Bowie Knife, these are hardcore tools for the hardcore survivalist. The main advantage of a fixed blade is the size. Kept in a sheath, this variety can range from palm sized blades, to nearing that of a machete. Both as a weapon and a tool, this size comes in handy.
However, it can also be a disadvantage. Fixed blades are harder to conceal, and larger ones take up space and weight capacity. There are certain things you cannot do with a smaller knife, but sometimes their unwieldiness is not worth it.
If you find yourself cutting larger materials (branches, bamboo, dense foliage), a large, fixed blade knife is the only way. If weight is a deal breaker, your equipment needs to remain concealed, or you do more delicate work, look elsewhere. Both the folding knife and multi-tool are better options.
2. Folding Knife
As the name implies, a folding knife is one that can fold down into the handle. This can cover various types, but for the sake of brevity, we are speaking about single blades that hinge closed. This is the starter knife for many outdoorsmen. It’s small, cheap, and available at any department store. While this leaves it open for low quality designs, a solid folding knife can be a great tool.
The main advantage is portability. Even a six-inch knife can’t fit in most pockets, but when folded in half, and pair of jeans works. No sheath needed. While a hip holster for a fixed blade fixes that problem, there is the issue of publically displaying a weapon. A knife can be deadly in the wrong hands. A folding blade is easily concealable, and can weigh almost nothing.
The blade size is the main disadvantage. You rarely see a folding survival blade much longer than 3.5 inches. That’s an issue when trying to cut or saw through something thick. High quality materials don’t mean as much if it takes you twice the time to cut.
As much of asset to the craftsman as the survivalist, a multi tool can range from two to twenty or more features. More than just blades alone, multi-tools give you screwdrivers, can-openers, cork screws, saws, and more. You can’t fit a tool box in your backpack, but you can fit something a little bigger than pliers.
The main advantage of a multi-tool is versatility. No matter what the scenario, a quality multi-tool can tackle it. Some even have a hammer built in. Even if it’s in addition to a dedicated knife, a multi-tool is a crucial addition to your kit.
The downfall of the multi-tool is a common one for feature heavy items. Every tool included is a less functional version than a dedicated one. The knives are small, the pliers weak, and everything is easy to break. The multi-tool is a great item to keep on hand. But if you know you are going to need a certain tool, bring the real thing.
When it comes to finding the best survival knife, trustworthy brand-named are a good starting point. There are thousands of different brands out there. Some rely on quality materials. Some turn to superior craftsmanship. Some try to meet the bottom line and put out a cheap product.
We’ve pulled together a list of some of our favorite brands. This is by no means a make-or-break collection. These are simply names synonymous with quality, that you can count on time after time. Most of these put out designs in all three of the above categories.
Some are more known for a specific one. Fortunately, passion for quality carries over. The top folding knife manufacturer is going to put in the same attention to detail no matter what the product.
Use this list as a starting point, but explore all the possibilities. Your needs are different than ours., but these are the brands ruling the game.
When it comes to tactical combat knives, KA-Bar is on top. They mostly produce fixed blade knives, but their folding knives are highly regarded as well. The brand has been around since the 19th Century. Since then, it has been the official knife of the US Marines, and a favorite among collectors.
Most famous for their USMC Fighting Knife, you can find many with 7+ inch blades. Make no mistake. This a brand made for doing damage. When you’re in the thick of it, there is no time for multiple knives. You need something that can serve in battle, and get the dirty work done.
The brand also offers a variety of other tools. From machetes to ice scrapers, KA-Bar has you covered. They pack the same quality into everything they make. To top it off, they try their best to offer replacement pieces free of charge. This only refers to bolts and hinges, but that is a godsend for a heavy folding knife user.
Kershaw has been apart of the knife market since 1974. They primarily make folding knives, but their catalog includes a few others.Kershaw’s name is always in the mix when talking about the best survival knife. They keep their knives very affordable. While they might not satisfy the biggest of steel snobs, their material choice is central to this. Their use of materials like 8Cr13MoV stainless is key to cutting costs without cutting quality.
Another finer point of the brand is their uncommon designs. The Barstow is an upcoming spear point design. Described as a “folding dagger” this is an option you don’t often see in the folding variety.
It’s price and creativity that really earns Kershaw a spot in survivalist circles. They have the tools you need for a variety of scenarios, including machetes and hatchets. Kershaw is the perfect brand for a hardcore woodsman on a budget. It’s living proof that quality and affordability can go hand in hand.
When you think of pocket knives, you likely think of a little red multi-tool. It likely has a small knife, a saw, scissors, and the like. This is the iconic Swiss Army Knife made by Victorinox. While the word “multi-tool” conjures up something closer to a Leatherman, the SAK is no less deserving. With designs sporting tools for up to 31 different functions, Victorinox is the versatility go to.
What really sets the brand apart is size and value. At a reasonable price for their most feature heavy model, Victorinox tends to cost less for more features than competing models. Plus, it’s packed into a handle that’s half the size. When space is a concern, you can’t haul a tool box with you. Victorinox puts that box into the palm of your hand.
This does create a few unfortunate issues though. The small size means some tools are too small to do you any good. While many multi-tool brands sacrifice compactness for functionality, Victorinox takes the other route. Depending on your situation, this could be a major drawback.
Top 10 Survival Knives
Of course finding the best survival knife isn’t all about the brand. Some brands might deserve recognition as a whole. You can likely trust any product they put their name on. However, there are plenty of brands that put out a fantastic model or two without deserving a “top brand” designation.
The main thing to take into consideration is your use. If you’re looking for a tool to use around the house, look at a Leatherman. Space is clearly not an issue. If you’re packing a rucksack for a few weeks off the grid, that’s a different story. You have to take a few more factors into account. Primarily those factors are environment, potential dangers, fauna of the area, and many more specific issues.
All of these thoughts should go into your decision. This is what dictates everything from your handle variety to your point shape. Will you be alone? Get something to battle all circumstances. Have a team? Can you and your team share a few varieties? Then go specific. Look at everything from tactical blades to throwing knives.
We’ve laid out the top 10 rated knives. Work within these, and you’re guaranteed to find a quality tool. We’ve tried to cover all of the bases here.
1. ESEE Knives LSP Laser Strike
Our first knife is a fixed blade from ESEE. With an overall length of 10inches, this is not pocket sized. It comes with a sheath, so this is a solid addition to your belt loops.
The blade is made of high carbon 1095 steel and it features a drop tip. This is a working knife. The canvas handle provides adequate grip without weighing you down.
This is a heavy duty knife however. Don’t expect this to be one that feels like light in your hands. If you want a substantial tool, pick one of these up for a hundred or so. The company does warn that 1095 steel is vulnerable to rust, but the coating should protect it. As you should with all knives, make sure you take the care required into consideration.
2. Kershaw 1660CBBW Leekwith Composite Blackwash Blade
It has a high carbon D2 steel on the edge. That means the edge retention of your dreams. The spine is made of Sandvik 14C28N for strength and durability.
It’s this kind of innovative design that puts Kershaw on the map. If you can only bring one knife, find one that will last and can effectively do the most. While the Leek lacks a serrated edge, it can do pretty much anything else. At a couple of tens, this is versatility at a low price.
3. Cold Steel SRK San Mai III
This is a simple knife. Cold Steel does not go with flashy aesthetics like colored blades or faux-tactical handles. This is a weapon. Efficient. Sleek. Deadly. Cold Steel gives you an extra long handle, with kray-ex grip. This would not work well as a tool, but that’s not its purpose. This is meant to protect you when nature hits the hardest.
4. Buck 192BR Vanguard
Buck has long been a staple in the hunting community. While they are most known for revolutionizing the folding knife, the entire catalogue is top notch.
The Vanguard is a gorgeous, wood handled fixed blade, featuring 420HC steel and a drop point. It’s on the smaller size, but this could be an advantage in hunting situations.
A word of warning, this is a hunting knife. There is definitely a time and place for that. Especially when surviving off the grid. However, it won’t serve all of your needs. With no serrated edge, this would not be optimal for any woodwork. Given the drop point design and smooth handle, this would likely come up short in a fight.
5. Zero Tolerance ZT0350TS G10 Handle Folding Tiger Striped Blade
Zero Tolerance is a brand that makes knives just as tough as their name. While this model has a hefty price tag, ZT uses the materials to match.
S30V stainless-steel coated in tungsten DLC (Diamond-Like Carbon) makes for a strong blade that won’t lose its edge.
The steel is designed with a tiger stripe pattern for an adventurous aesthetic.
This model has been sized down from previous incarnations. That means this is a lightweight machine. Compared to the rest of their catalogue, this is a tamed down design. While they may have skipped on their usual looks, they did not skip on quality.
6. Leatherman Super Tool 300 Multitool
Taking a look inside, you will find 19 tools. This of course includes a knife, a saw, and anything you might find in a Swiss Army Knife. Where Leatherman’s stand out, however, is with the pliers. Featured in most of their models, the pliers are essentially a full sized tool. You will also find that the two knife system can be very effective for varying situations.
We talk about the inability to pack a toolbox for the wilderness. With this design, you can essentially do just that. Leatherman is in the top two of multi-tools for a reason.
7. Gerber Prodigy Survival Knife, Serrated Edge
For the next knife on our list, the name says it all. The Prodigy Survival Knife is not for craftsmen. It’s not for fishermen. This is a survivalist blade. Gerber has been making knives in Oregon for nearly 80 years.
Over that time, Gerber has become synonymous with quality. A favorite of police officers and the military, this is another brand to stake your life on.
The Prodigy features a full tang, 420HC stainless steel blade. It’s a durable and strong tool made for the worst scenarios. The length of serrated edge means the Prodigy will get through whatever tasks come your way. This is definitely a knife you want in your corner.
The fixed blade design means that storage can be an issue. To combat that, Gerber includes a few options. For about $50, you get the knife, a sheath, and several straps. This can be carried openly on the hip, or covertly on the leg.
8. Morakniv Companion Heavy Duty Knife with Carbon Steel Blade
Our next knife is a minimalist fixed-blad from Morakniv. Morakniv is a company out of Sweden, where all of their knives are manufactured.
There outdoors and survivalist knives tend to favor simple designs. Looking through their catalog, you won’t find many aesthetic choices What you will find is a durable knife.
The Companion has a slightly shorter blade than seen with most top-rated fixed. If size is not an issue, the strength of this blade may win you over. Carbon steel does plenty on it’s own for durability, but Morakniv takes it farther. They take the edge to a 27 degree point, which means this blade can take an excessive load. It’s perfect for intense tasks that might wear out a common knife.
The ergonomic handle features a soft grip for superb handling. They also give it some extra size. This knife is going to feel heavy, yet comfortable in your hands. It’s perfect for the survivalist that wants a substantial tool.
9. Kershaw Ken Onion Blur Folding Knife
The next knife on our list is the Ken Onion Blur by Kershaw. A folding knife with a 3.4 inch blade, this is a power house in your palm. Sandvik 14C28N steel insures a quality blade.
The drop point insures that said blade is a workhorse. Plus, it’s coated in DLC (Diamond-Like Carbon). This gives it extra resilience against the elements.
The handle is made out of 6061-T6 anodized aluminum. That’s the stuff they use on airplanes. It’s lightweight, and gives you the kind of durability needed to keep a plane intact.The Trac-Tec tape gives you extra grip for proper handling. This is another case of Kershaw combining budget and performance.
The Blur is an industry standard. Kershaw shows that they can put out a top-quality blade for cheap.
Taking the cheap way out is usually a bad decision. Don’t make a third rate purchase based on price, but Kershaw is different. It’s a trusted brand that you know won’t steer you wrong.
10. KA-Bar Fighting/Utility Serrated Edge Knife
As the name implies, this is a weapon. So it features a clip point. In addition to the combat functions, this makes it an aggressive looking blade. The 7-inch length doesn’t hurt that either. This is of course only possible with the fixed design. Throw in a small protective hilt, and you have a knife that handles a deadly as it looks.
The KA-Bar Fighting/Utility Serrated Edge Knife is reasonably priced. That means you’re getting a military quality at a steal of a price. Again, brand isn’t everything, but why put your life on a name you can’t trust?
Things To Look For When Shopping For A Survival Knife
There are a lot of different factors that go into buying survival blades. Most of that depends on your primary use. Someone that does a lot of hunting will not have the same needs as someone going into combat. A casual camper will not have the same needs as a hardened survivalist.
Take that into consideration. Research the terrain you may be entering. Think about what tasks you would need to accomplish. This is a highly individualized purchase. Don’t rely purely off the experience of others.
Some aspects that you may want to consider:
More often the best material for making a knife is Damascus steel but this is now being disputed since it has been lost in for a long time and the Damascus steel which is being made now is produced through some new process. This new process has been created just to duplicate the old process of forging blades.
However, this new process is a bit expensive thus making it difficult for commercial use. Well, many knife enthusiasts or knife collectors usually prefer this material and there are also some alternative materials that can be used instead of the Damascus steel.
Some of these new materials have even proved to be reliable compared to the Damascus steel currently being used.
The Knife Handle
For a survival knife, you will realize that it only has two main parts and that is the handle and the blade. Looking at many articles, you will also realize that they tend to focus much on the material used for making the blade and forget to talk about the materials used for making the handle.
This should be looked at since it is also as important as any other factor. Good handles always enhance the steadiness of the knife’s grip. They also have the ability to absorb the moisture from the user’s palm hence preventing any slip ups that are likely to occur when using the knife.
Materials used for making these handles usually range from stainless steel, leather, and plastic. Some of these materials will usually last for longer periods of time but others will wear out with time leading to shrinking and cracking.
Anyway, a good material for making the handles should be that which is not too slippery and also that which will not tear or crack under pressure when being used.
Many of us probably won’t care about the size of the knife as we think this isn’t an important factor to look at. Well, this is just as important as the other factors. The best tactical knife should have just the size that fits its purpose.
Sometimes, you will find that greater tasks will require you to use long knives even though this isn’t always the case. More often in tough situations, shorter knives have always proved to be more effective than the longer ones.
The longer ones, however, are almost always the best option for general purposes.
This is how easily you can carry your knife around. When looking at this factor, the best options are always the folding tactical knives and fixed blades like the combat pocket knife. Anyway, this is not about the ability of the blades to be folded or not.
Some knife enthusiasts will always go for those knives with clips which are usually mounted on the handle to provide a better sheathing.
Others will prefer those knives that come with their own sheath while others would go for those that don’t have clips or sheaths. This will depend on your personal choice, the one that will best suit you when moving around.
This is what is called the ergonomics. This is also an important feature to look at when you are searching for the best tactical knife. You should go for that knife that will best fit your hands. You should be able to hold the knife in any possible position and not feel any pinch points along the grip.
When handling the knife, it should feel natural and the overall weight should also be light. You should also have an agile knife that will provide you with some sense of strength and withstand a lot of pressure.
Many experts usually recommend that you should go for a knife that you will feel comfortable when you use either the forward or the reverse grip. Furthermore, a comfortable knife should not be having any contours or grooves on the handle. This might just force you to hold the knife in one particular way.
This is also a matter of personal preference and if you want to choose the design for your tactical knife, you should you note the purpose for which you want to use your knife. You might want to use the knife as a weapon or you might even use it as part of your emergency kit.
When you finally realize the purpose for which you want to buy the knife, you will find it easy to pick the design you want since these two usually go hand in hand with each other. Some knives might have one or more functions due to its overall design and some might just be having one purpose.
A typical tactical knife should be having a cutting edge and a sharp point. These knives can be used dig a hole, poke a wood, and stab an animal or just an attacker. On the other hand, the cutting edge should also be sharp enough to enable you to cut through a leather or any other clothing.
It should also be long enough to work as an improvised saw. The best knife should be having serrated edges which help in preventing dulling. You can use all the best materials in the world to make a knife but when the design is poor, you will just be having a poor tactical knife.
Of course, these are certain features that are always relevant. Find a knife with hard steel and quality materials. Find one that will fit well in your pack. Avoid generic brands.
Below is a video that gets into some of these features, but mostly focuses on a hunting-centric survivalist.
He brings up several of the brands that top our list. He prefers them due to their hard steel, thick blades, and squishy handles. Again, those are specific to a hunter. He avoids folding knives because they can fail. For many survivalists, the pros of a folding blade may outweigh the risks. If your only goal is escaping the scenario as fast as possible, then long term durability is not an issue.
ONE POINT he makes that I cannot stress enough is avoid gimmicks. Celebrity endorsements mean nothing. Unnecessary features will weigh you down. Go with a trusted brand name. Go with time-tested features. GO with solid construction and superior parts.
Your knife is the most important tool you can own. It separates you from the embrace of death. It can feed you. It can shelter you. It can save your life. Treat the decision with respect. There are no shortcuts or cheap ways out. You want the best survival knife you can find.
We’ve discussed a lot of different knives. Several brands continuously come up. That doesn’t mean everything, but it is important. You can’t test drive a knife, so you must go with what your peers are saying.
Personally, I like the Ka-Bar but use our list as a jumping off point. Look at the features some of these have in common and draw your own conclusions.