The marketing of a knife. The word “survival” is often placed in front of it, implying all sorts of various value propositions. (I will get into that in a moment). The question here is, “If you could only have one survival knife, what would be the best survival knife to have?”
I list several below. Each of which could easily qualify, and many people consider them to be among the best for this purpose.
I have just updated this information to reflect my current up-to-date opinion for best choices.
What Is A Survival Knife And It’s Purpose?
First, I’m not talking about a knife that’s purposed towards one particular use, like camping, pocket carry, hunting, fishing, go-bag / survival gear kit, cooking, bushcraft (though closely aligned with our topic), or even self defense.
Hey, that’s all great – however, what about a knife that you can count on for survival. Any situation. A knife that will get you out of a jam regardless of the task at hand. A quality multi-task tough knife. It’s actually a tool. That’s what I call a survival knife.
Ask yourself, what is the purpose of a so called, survival knife? And then, will the functionality of the given knife serve (perform) the multiple purposes that you require, given its design?
A survival knife is really a sort of multipurpose tool. You might say that a true survival knife will perform very well at many tasks. Something very reliable.
A knife is designed to cut. It’s a cutting tool. But not all knives are good at cutting a wide variety of things. A good survival knife will be designed sturdy and rugged. Enough to not only cut ordinary things that an ordinary knife would cut, but will hold up to the tasks of more demanding cutting and tasks.
Logically, one common purpose of the survival knife would be in a wilderness environment. Often to assist in making a fire. Sharp enough to scrape, chip, and shred tinder. Strong enough and big enough to cut/split kindling. They are also used with a ferro-rod to start a fire.
A good sturdy and strong survival knife can be used for batoning wood. It’s a technique of splitting wood. Repeatedly striking the spine of the knife into the end of the wood you’re splitting.
Use the knife while cooking and eating. A utensil of sorts. Stab and flip the meat cooking over a fire. Lift a hot pot off the fire.
A survival knife can make tools. A sharp spear. Tent pegs. A shelter.
You get the idea. The many tasks…
What To Look For In A Survival Knife
A fixed blade (as opposed to a folder). It will be safer and stronger, and a better performer.
A full tang. The full length of the knife itself. The steel goes all the way and will be visible at the butt of the handle. In other words, it’s not a knife blade attached to a handle. Instead, the handle is fastened to the blade.
The steel. High carbon 1095 steel is popular with survival knives. Made of 95% hardened carbon, it’s good for wear (resists wear better). It holds a great edge. It’s easy to sharpen. Typically coated to resist rust. However they do require care to further resist rusting. There are other steels too. Stainless. Pros and Cons for everything…
TIP: Use Tuf-Glide dry lubricant for maintaining 1095 steel from rust. Goes on wet and dries leaving lubricant and metal protectant micro-bound to surface.
The sheath. Popular choices include those made from Kydex. They’re durable heat-molded plastic. Here’s a bit of practical advice… Consider a sheath designed to carry below the belt. Because a protruding handle (above the belt) can cause injury if you fall (ribs, organs).
It’s handle. It should be comfortable in your hands while providing good grip.
The size. This is a matter of preference. The bigger the knife, the more issues with carrying it. So choose what works for you. A Rambo knife (machete!) might not be the one…or maybe it is…
Straight edge or serrated blade? Personal choices. Serrated is difficult to sharpen and I would rather have a longer smooth edge. Some have partial straight edge with partial serrated. I’m curious of your opinion on this, and your own preferences…
So, what’s the best survival knife?
In my opinion, many, or most, would consider the following ESEE to be the best choice, especially if you could only have one. However, if money is no object, the choice after this one is perhaps technically the best (grin). But the ESSE-5 (or 6) are fantastic!
Designed by Military SERE instructors.
ESEE-5 or ESEE-6
The ESEE-5 has ~5″ blade whereas the ESEE-6 has ~6″ blade.
- Blade Cutting Edge: 5.75 inches
- Blade Overall: 6.5 inches
- Overall Length: 11.75 inches
- Blade Steel: 1095 High Carbon Steel – 3/16″ thick, full flat ground
- Jimping on the spine for increased thumb grip
- Micarta handle
- Durable olive drab molded polymer carry sheath with removable clip
- “Best In The Industry” No Questions Asked Lifetime Guarantee
- Made in the USA
The Fallkniven A1 is a better knife. But it is a bit more expensive than the ESSEE. If money is a concern, the ESEE’s your best survival knife.
This one is more common among those in the military who choose to buy their own.
Laminated VG-10 stainless steel instead of 1095 high-carbon. This enables a longer-lasting edge, and no worries about rust or rust prevention maintenance like the 1095.
It is broad across the shoulders, with 0.24 inches of blade width.
Fallkniven’s signature convex edge. Better retention and cutting performance against natural materials like wood.
- Blade material: VG10
- Blade Length: 6.3 inches
- Overall Length: 11 inches
- Processed in Japan with finalized quality control and assembly in Sweden
With a shorter blade and overall length, the Fallkniven F1 is the official survival knife Swedish Air Force pilots since 1995.
The Ka-Bar USMC fighting knife is a legendary blade that was first designed to serve US troops during World War II.
The traditional KA-BAR is still in service with the Army, Navy, and USMC.
- Blade Length: 7 inches
- Overall Length: 11.875 inches
- The most famous fixed blade knife design in the world
- 1095 Cro-van steel
- Made in the USA
This is the Mora you have always wanted. It has all of the cutting performance of its little brothers, but with a much more burly build.
The Morakniv Garberg is a powerful, full tang, stainless steel knife that is the toughest Morakniv the company has ever made.
- Full tang 14C28N Sandvik stainless steel blade
- Blade Length: 4.3 inches
- Overall Length: 9.0 inches
- Made in Sweden
The Best Survival Knife
Many people carry a pocket knife. It’s part of our every-day-carry. I use one often throughout a given day. In addition, I own a number of full tang fixed blade knives. Each of them is a sort of “survival knife”.
However, upon looking for a sort of best survival knife, I sure do like the Fallkniven A1. Or any of those listed above!!
I’m curious to get your input regarding your own ‘survival knife’.
[ Read: How to Baton Wood ]
[ Read: The Secret To Sharpening A Knife ]