The outdoors person knows that any enjoyable trek needs three things: food and water, a comfortable place to lay your head, and the best survival knife you can find. Most people who enjoy the outdoors see to the first two requirements but some fail miserably on the last.
Why is a survival knife the third requirement? A survival knife could mean the difference between getting out of the wilderness or surviving a natural disaster, or not. And we are not talking about killing wild animals or defending yourself from a black bear here. Just the basics of building a shelter, first aid, food preparation, making tools, lighting a fire, and digging up stuff among other tasks
Considering different companies claim to have the best in survival knives how do you find yourself the one? Knowledge of what to look for is important.
Best Survival Knife Comparison Table
The Survival Knife 411: All You Need To Know
It is important to have the right information when buying and handling a survival knife.
What is a survival knife?
This is a specialized knife used for outdoor survival purposes. The best survival knife is one that you can rely on for all tasks.
What differentiates the best survival knife from other knives?
Versatility and build. Despite the common phrase that any knife can be a survival knife bread knives and kitchen knives cannot be survival knives. They just don't have the grit. A survival knife is versatile in use and is built with the hardcore ability to tackle a multitude of chores from splitting wood and skinning dinner to sharpening stakes. This is actually what makes it the best survival knife.
What should I avoid in a survival knife?
The first thing is poor quality materials such as surgical steel and poor designs like folding down the middle. It is pretty difficult to split wood or sharpen stakes with a knife that keeps collapsing in the middle. Surgical steel will just bend during heavy tasks rendering the knife useless. A hollow handle that is bolted to the blade is also pretty useless on a survival knife.
When it comes to tang (the part of the blade that extends into the handle) avoid a rat tail tang. This type of tang has a thick blade that tapers into a thin back near the handle. Also, avoid the tapered tang, a thin blade that tapers into a thick end towards the handle.
Is it illegal to own a survival knife?
This depends on the state you live in and the knife laws there. To have your survival knife on you without any legal ramifications it is best to apply for a concealed carry permit from the state government. There are prohibitions about who can purchase such a knife including ex-convicts and where you are not allowed to carry the knife. Educational institutions, courthouses, and public transport areas are examples of places where knives are not allowed. Minors purchasing knives is a grey area with more knife store owners using store policy to determine whether to sell a knife to anyone under 18.
Best Survival Knife: Price Range
Depending on the features, material, and brand you can expect to fork out anything between $50 to $150. The best survival knife doesn't have to be expensive.
How We Reviewed
Given the workhorse nature of survival blades they need to be able to withstand a lot of abuse. We focused on the materials used to make the blades. We reviewed the knives with full and 3/4 tangs because the best survival knife should have strength behind it in order to be useful. These two tangs are the strongest on blades. Further, we focused on blade design, thickness, length, customer reviews, and price.
Top 10 Survival Knives of 2019
These are offerings from the best survival knife brands. The knives are the most used by survivalists and are highly recommended for outdoor living.
Ka-Bar Becker BK2 Campanion
This is a highly popularly, rugged survival knife that inspires confidence. The full tang blade is immovable even when used for hardcore activities. It has a total length of 10.5 inches long which works very well during chores. The 1/4 inch thick blade holds its own when chopping and digging up things.
The handle, made of a hardened plastic material, is easy to work with and conforms nicely to the grip. The blade has a Rockwell hardness of 57 and is made from 1095 cro-van steel. You can buy it from Amazon or eBay. It is ideal for skinning and generally cutting stuff. Users also commend its versatility and the strong build. The handle has its detractors who find it not too comfortable. It has an average consumer rating of 4.6 out of 5 stars on Amazon.
ESEE 6P-B Plain Edge Fixed Blade Survival Knife
The ESEE brand has some of the most effective knives tried and tested in numerous settings before being released into the market.
The full tang blade on this knife is 7 inches long and the total length is 11.75 inches. It is made from 1095 cro-van steel with a Rockwell hardness of 55 to 57. Despite its length, it has a drop point blade that efficiently cuts through anything and is excellent for hacking.
The handle is made from canvas Mircata so the grip is not only firm, it's well textured so you don't feel cold, heat or even impact when using it. The thickness is 3/16 which is dependable but not as stoic as the1/4 inch thickness. it has an average customer rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars on Amazon.
Because 1095 cro-van steel corrodes ESEE have coated this knife with a baked-on powder coating to prevent corrosion. Unfortunately, the coating doesn't cover the edge as well so it loses sharpness faster. You can buy it from Amazon.
Cold Steel Survival Rescue Knife
Cold Steel SRK is 10.75 inches long from tip to tip. It handles gracefully because it is not heavy but neither is this a lightweight knife. The blade thickness is 3/16 inches and it can take a lot of abuse. The AUS-8A Stainless Steel blade does not corrode and has a Rockwell hardness of 58 to 60 so this knife can saw through anything. It has an average customer rating of 5.0 out of 5 stars on Amazon.
The Kraton rubber handle has a firm secure grip with a simple design to fit into your hand perfectly. Unfortunately, the Kraton rubber dissolves when it comes in contact with agents like petroleum and other solvents. The advantage is that it features a straight edge and a clip point tip that makes it easy to do any kind of prep work from skinning game to sharpening and cutting stuff. You can buy it from Amazon and eBay.
Geber LMF II Infantry
- Originally designed to free an aircrew from a downed aircraft
- Tough enough to cut through the fuselage of an aircraft
- Purposeful break between the tang and the butt cap, providing insulated protection against stray wires and absorbing any...
From Geber's arsenal of survival knives, the Geber LMF II Infantry is extremely popular because it is your partner outdoors. It can handle a wide range of tasks ranging from a simple camping trip to working to your advantage in a disaster situation or even a tactical mission. The blade is only 4.84 inches but the entire blade is 10.59 inches long. Interestingly, this blade has a serrated edge which ideally doesn't make it perfect for every day cutting chores but comes in handy when cutting through tough material when on survival mode. Remember, this is more of a combat survival knife.
The blade is from 420HC Stainless Steel and has a Rockwell hardness of 58. It doesn't corrode, holds its edge for a long time but still has massive strength owing to the thickness of the blade. The tang is 3/4. Does that affect performance? Not by long shot! Because in airborne situations the part without the tang acts as an insulator from electric currents. Full tang knives conduct electricity in such settings and can endanger your life.
The knife has a pommel which allows you to break through glass. A huge pro is that it comes with a blade sharpener. Unfortunately, having a serrated blade somewhat limits its use out in the woods. You can buy it from Amazon where it has an average customer rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars or eBay.
Geber Strong Man Military Knife
- The StrongArm features a black handle and a fine edge, full tang 420HC steel blade
- Ceramic blade coating and rubberized diamond texture grip
- A striking pommel at the base of the handle breaks through hard surfaces
This knife from Geber is the perfect camp/regular outdoors survival knife from the brand. The full tang blade measures 4.8 inches with the full length being 9.8 inches long. It is not a handful and fits the hand adequately. The thickness is adequate for solid work and the handle has a rubber mold covering glass nylon material underneath. This offers grip, especially in slippery situations.
The blade is 420HC Stainless Steel and it can chop, cut and skin with accurate efficiency. It doesn't corrode owing to the ceramic coating on the blade and it holds the edge well. Just like the LMF II Infantry above you can use this to break through glass.
The Strong Man has the option of a serrated or plain blade. This is a huge advantage because you can buy what you really need. Unfortunately, once the cerakote black coating on the blade wears off it may corrode. You can buy it from Amazon where its average customer rating is 4.7 out of 5 stars.
Fallkniven A1L Survival Knife
Larger than your everyday survival knife this offering is able to handle every chore without flinching. With an 11 inch tip to tip length wielding this knife is comfortable and easy. The blade is full tang and measures 6.3 inches. It has a Rockwell hardness of 59 and the handle is large enough to limit impact during use. The handle is Kraton material guaranteeing you a firm and secure grip. The customer rating for this knife is 4.6 out of 5 stars on Amazon.
The ¼ inch thickness gives the blade a solid punch. Its blade is VG10 high carbon Steel which although tough does hold the edge very well. There is a pommel on the butt of the handle that can be used to crush stuff as well as hammer down things like stakes.It has a customer rating of .You can buy it from eBay and Amazon.
SOG Seal Pup Elite E37T-K
- 4.75-INCH AUS-8 STAINLESS STEEL FIXED BLADE KNIVES: SEAL Pup Elite full tang knife is an outdoor knife, duty knife and...
- 5.4 OUNCES W/ GRN HANDLE: A nearly indestructible service knife handle for this type of Bowie knife with sheath;...
- HARD-MOLDED KYDEX SHEATH: Great as a camping knife, hiking knife, belt knife, rescue knife, skinning knife, boot knife,...
As far as tactical knives are concerned you are working with the best when you choose the SOG Seal Pup Elite E37T-K. It has a full tang blade of 58 HRC Rockwell hardness. The steel is AUS-8 Stainless Steel.
What stands out for users is the partial serrations which give this knife absolute versatility. It can saw and cut with ease. The blade length is 4.85 inches and the overall length is 9.5 inches. The overall design is very tactical with the basics of utility and ease of use completely covered. It holds the edge efficiently and remains extremely sharp once sharpened. The average customer rating for the SOG E37T-K is 4.5 stars on Amazon.
The Stainless Steel doesn't rust and has a solid feel. This is an excellent all-purpose knife because of its partially serrated blade. You can buy it from Amazon or eBay.
Buck Model 119 Special Survival Knife
The quintessential camping survival knife, the Buck Model 119 has a tip that is adept to puncturing. Survivalists know how frustrating it is to open cans especially on those days when the weather is horrible and you can only eat canned food. But more than that, the tip comes in handy when hunting and skinning game. In fact, some survivalists only use this knife for hunting purposes.
It is large with a total length of 10.5 inches 6 of which are the blade. The Rockwell hardness is 58 which makes the 420HC Stainless Steel extra sturdy and strong. The edge retention on this blade is magnificent.
The Buck Model 119 has a straightforward design aimed at being functional as opposed to fancy. Features are pretty regular which is a con if you are looking for a tactical knife. Also the handle is wood resin which is not ideal in the elements. You can buy from Amazon where it has an average customer rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars. For most traditional campers this is the best survival knife on the market.
Schrade SCHF2 Extreme Survival Special Forces Knife
- DIMENSIONS: 12.7 inch (32.3 cm) overall length with a blade length of 7.5 inches (19 cm) and a weight of 1 lb 1.8 ounces
- DURABLE: Blade is made of reliable SAE-1070 Carbon Steel with a grey, steel handle
- DEPENDABLE: Quick and easy access with the convenient ballistic sheath making it ideal for everyday carry
Schrade is synonymous with survival knives. This particular knife is solid with a full tang blade made from SAE-1070 Stainless Steel. The full length is 12.7 inches giving it not only excellent cutting ability but also balance. The thickness of the blade is 7/32 of an inch great when attending to hacking type of tasks.
The blade is one solid piece with a hollow handle. Schrade claim the hollow handle works effectively and is sturdy because the knife is one piece and users concur giving it an average customer rating of 4.4 out of 5 stars on Amazon . As far as the best survival knife goes the SCHF2's handle can take a pounding and not fall apart.
Bear Grylls Ultimate Knife -Serrated
- ½ Serrated High Carbon Stainless Steel Drop Point Blade - Ideal for edge retention and cutting rope
- Ergonomic Textured Rubber Grip - Maximizes comfort and reduces slippage
- Stainless Steel Pommel - At base of handle for hammering
This knife is a collaboration between Geber and Bear and they have done a good job of arming survivalists with a versatile tool. It has a serrated blade so you can cut through rugged materials. The blade is four inches of the total 10-inch length of the knife. It is half serrated so you can cut and dice on the front part and saw with the back bit. it has an average customer rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars on Amazon.
The handle is made of molded plastic insulated by rubber giving it excellent grip. The butt of the handle has a pommel as well that you can use when hammering. The Rockwell hardness is 54 to 56 on the 7Cr17MoV high carbon steel blade. It is a 3/4 tang blade with incredible strength and versatility. The knife has a whistle that is handy when one is lost excellent addition to the best survival knife from Bear.
The Ultimate Survival Knife
Each of the above offerings is the best survival knife depending on what your needs are. Geber is in the business of making survival knives for the US military while Buck manufactures excellent survival knives for regular camping use. However, the ESEE 6P-B Plain edge fixed blade survival knife straddles the balance between a tactical and a regular camping survival knife. It is a versatile blade that works for any outdoor situation. The length and thickness perfectly fit the blade without making it bulky. It is our pick for the ultimate and the best survival knife.
Do you have a go-to blade that we didn't cover here, or have you had experience with the blades in this list? Let us know your thoughts, down in the comments.