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If you are in a survival situation, one of the most valuable tools to have on you would be a survival knife. These handy tools can literally mean the difference between life and death. You should make a habit of having access your survival knife at all times. You never know when you may need it.


But, what is a survival knife, and how do you find a good one? What features are a must and what should you be looking for? This guide aims to answer all your important questions on how to research and buy the right survival knife for you.


If you are experienced with knives, this article will be a good refresher. If you are a novice, we recommend using this article as an introduction. No matter what your experience level, this is the article for you


First of all, it is important to know what a survival knife is and why it is important.


survival knife in log

What is a Survival Knife?


A survival knife is a knife that is designed for survival purposes. It will have more features than your typical knife. This is because it is made for people who may have lost all of their other gear. Essentially, a survival knife is an all-purpose tool that helps you survive in extreme situations.


You should be able to use your survival knife for many purposes. These types of knives are often used for hunting and even fishing. You should also be able to use it to cut and carve wood, trap animals, and potentially even store small items like matches.


The rise of the survival knife began at about the turn of the 20th century. Before then outdoorsmen and men in the military used knives that were similar to butcher’s knives. There was no specific survival knife design.


Slowly at the beginning of the 20th century, knife manufacturers began introducing new features, such as serrations, heavier blades, and more. The survival knife became popularized during World War II. This was when modern survival knives first began to be designed.


Today you will find many different varieties of a survival knife. There are a few common features, though, which will be discussed in the next section. These knives are still popular with outdoorsmen and women and those in the military. Hikers, campers, and survival enthusiasts also often carry survival knives.


This is probably the section your looking for-What you need to know when buying


Important Features to Look for in a Survival Knife


Obviously, there are a lot of people that could use a survival knife for different reasons. Because these tools are so multi-purpose, they can help in many tasks. You never know when you will be in a survival situation. It’s better to be safe than sorry anyway.


Keeping a survival knife in your survival pack is a great way to ensure your safety at all times.


Purchasing a survival knife can easily get overwhelming. There are a lot of products out there. The knives vary a lot as well. This can lead to a confusing situation. Which knife is the best? Which one should you choose?


Here is a list of the most important features to look for and consider when purchasing your next survival knife.




Because survival knives have become increasingly popular, there are many different types to choose from. Knowing the different types, and their pros and cons, are an important first step in picking out a survival knife of your own.


  • Boot: Boot survival knives are designed to fit into your boots. They are extremely easy to conceal, which means they are one the smaller size (up to five inches) and are lightweight. You can also wear boot survival knives in your pant leg or around your neck.


  • Buck Hunting: Buck hunting survival knives were made for buck hunting originally. However, they have a lot of uses that make them ideal as a survival knife. They can be used to skin animals, chop wood, or defend yourself. The thick blade on the buck hunting knife helps it accomplish multiple tasks.



  • Combat: Combat knives are a type of military type. They are universal in a soldier’s pack. Combat knives are durable, have a serrated edge, ergonomic grip, and a long blade.


  • Folding: Another survival knife type whose name is very descriptive is the folding knife. Folding knives do just that, they fold. Because you can fold this type of survival knife, they are extremely portable and easy to pack and conceal. They are also smaller and more lightweight than other types of a survival knife.



  • Military: Military knives are the survival knife of choice for the U.S. military. These are a fixed blade-type of a survival knife. Military knives are versatile and durable. They can help soldiers, hikers, and campers survive in the most extreme of circumstances.


  • Rambo: You have probably seen the Rambo survival knife in the Rambo movie series. This survival knife was popularized by those movies. It has a long fixed blade with a serrated edge and a hollow handle.



  • Tactical: Finally, there is the tactical survival knife. This type of knife is both a tool and a weapon. It is the most durable and high-quality type of survival knife. You can choose several types of blade configurations with the tactical knife.




Metal is important in a survival knife. The metal used in the blade will determine the strength, utility, and durability of the knife. It seems like every survival knife manufacturer has its own proprietary type of metal. Do your research and ask around. More experienced survival knife owners can help steer you towards the best types of metal.


When looking for your survival make sure the blade is made from either carbon steel or stainless steel. These are strong and flexible metals that hold an edge well. The exact combination or type of these steels can be hard to keep track of. You can find a steel grade composition and hardness chart here. It should help you determine the best metal for your preferred type of survival knife.




As you can tell from our list of the types of survival knives above, there are many sizes available. You will need to determine what size of a survival knife you want before you shop.


Each size has its own pros and cons. The size of the survival knife will be given in total length and the length of the blade. Most survival knife blades will be between 10-20 cm long—that 3.9-7.9 inches. The overall length of the knife will be in proportion to the length of the blade. So, survival knives with a shorter blade will be less long overall.


The advantage of shorter survival knives is that they are easier to carry and store. You can conceal them easily on your person or in your pack. Shorter survival knives are also lighter. If you are hiking or doing something where every pound counts, you should go for a shorter survival knife.


The problem with short survival knives is that they are less multi-functional. Short knives can be hard to hunt with or use for self-defense. If these are important considerations in your survival knife, you may want to go for a longer variety. Just make a plan for carrying the knife before you purchase it.




The best survival knives have a sharp and pointed tip. Occasionally, you will find knives that have hooked or rounded tips. There are even those people that defend these tip types.


While you should purchase a survival knife that works for you, we think the sharp and pointed tip is the way to go. These tips are easier to use for hunting, self-defense, and skinning/scaling prey. You can also use a survival knife with a sharp and pointed tip lashed to a branch as a spear. This is not an option for other types of tips.


Fixed or Folding


Whether to purchase a fixed or folding type of survival knife is an important decision. We’ve mentioned folding knives above. These are the types of knives that have a blade that folds into its handle. Fixed blade knives do not fold. You need a sheath that fits over the blade to store it safely.


Fixed blade knives are more robust. They can be used in a wider range of situations. These types of blades are also typically longer, which means they are better for hunting and self-defense.


Folding knives are much easier to store. And, they definitely make a great everyday carry knife. However, they may fold up on you in a survival situation. Or, they may be too small to be much help.


To get the most out of your survival knife, go with a fixed blade variety. But, if space and weight are big considerations, then a folding knife may be better suited to you.




On a knife, the tang is the part of the blade that connects to the handle. Tang is important because it determines how much force you can put on the blade.


There are a couple of common tang types, but we recommend a full tang for a survival knife. If you do not have a full tang then too much force could break or snap the blade where it meets the handle. You can still break a full tang knife, but it is much harder.


Survival knives with a full tang may be a bit more expensive. However, they signal a good quality knife that is built to last.


Spine of Blade


The spine of the blade in survival knives can vary quite a bit. It may be serrated, which makes it easier to cut branches or bone. It may also be flat. A knife with a flat spine is ideal for splitting wood. Some survival knives even have spines designed to create sparks for a fire.


You will need to choose a survival knife that has a spine best suited to the way you plan on using it. Unfortunately, you cannot find a knife with all of these spines. A blade only has one spine, after all. You will instead need to consider what use is most important to you. Then find the knife that best fits that use.



The handles on survival knives should be durable and useable. The blade is not the only part of a knife that can be useful. We recommend purchasing a survival knife with a flat butt of the handle. You will be able to use the handle as a hammer with this feature.


You can also find hollow handles, as in the Rambo knife. Hollow handle knives fit the hand better. Modern ones are much stronger than the original designs. This means that the biggest argument against hollow knife handles has now been addressed.


A final benefit of a hollow survival knife handle is its utility. Often manufacturers make hollow handles with removable tops. You can store first aid materials, matches, or even fishing equipment in the hollow part of the handle. Thus, your survival knife because even more tools in one.

knnife cutting branch

Where to Find a Great Survival Knife


Now you know what to look for in your survival knife. But, your job isn’t over. You still have to find a great survival knife.


For the highest quality survival knives, you will need to get a custom product. Customer knife makers are intimately familiar with their metals and all the materials of their knives. Often, these knives are handmade and can be made to fit your hand perfectly. The biggest drawback to customer survival knives is their cost. These knives can be extremely expensive.


If you cannot afford, or don’t want to pay for, a customer survival knife, there are worthwhile manufacturers. Try to stay with USA made survival knives for the highest quality. And do your research. The top manufacturers will be upfront about their materials and production process. Reading reviews can also help you find a great survival knife manufacturer.




Whenever you spend time outdoors, you should be carrying a survival knife. You never know when you will be thrown into a survival situation. People have even gotten into trouble on their own property.


Don’t be stranded in a dangerous situation. Use our buyer’s guide to pick out a wonderful survival knife today. Hopefully, you never need to use it for survival. But, at least you will have the security of knowing you have a tool that can save your life in a pinch.