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10 Ways to Use a Survival Knife

Posted by Larry Catt on May 17, 2013   •   survival knives, survival training

A survival knife is among the first pieces of equipment that come to mind when most people think of bushcraft. The versatility of a survival knife as tool and weapon makes it one of those elite items no woods-wanderer should be without; many authorities consider it the single-most critical item of survival gear. A versatile and quality survival knife in the hand or on the belt alone serves as a critical confidence booster.


While the usefulness of a survival knife as a hunting or fishing spear or survival weapon is popularly known, this tool is invaluable for a staggering spectrum of situations.

  1. Digging Tool: A well-constructed survival knife can serve well as a shovel for all kinds of tasks such as gathering edible tubers, excavating fire pits, disposing of human waste, and carving out distress signals in snow or dirt.
  2. Weapon: In a situation requiring you to procure your own food, a survival knife can be used to harvest small game or even fish. With a little ingenuity the survival knife can be uses as the ultimate emergency weapon.
  3. First Aid: While a clumsy, unpracticed hand can do as much damage as good with a knife in a medical emergency, the tool is as versatile in first-aid as in basic campsite routines. It’s useful for cutting improvised bandages, for example, or—with a sterilized tip—draining pernicious blisters.
  4. Splitting Wood or Cutting Saplings: If you’re only accustomed to flimsy, cheaply made versions, you may have trouble envisioning a survival knife as a hatchet and axe substitute. However, a large, full-tang model with a flat edge to the blade back can be a formidable wood-splitting or cutting implement. The design allows you to use a piece of wood or mallet to pound the keen edge into a log or sapling. This is often called batoning.
  5. Hammer: The butt end, or pommel, of the survival knife handle is its own hammering tool, handy for driving in stakes for shelters or snares.
  6. Gear Adjustments: On an extended foray in the backcountry, you invariably need to make little adjustments to clothing and equipment in the interest of comfort and safety. A survival knife is the perfect tool for emergency modification of your gear.
  7. Stake: In the absence of other materials, a survival knife can be driven into the ground to serve as a stake—as when anchoring an emergency shelter or a food bag balanced in the tree canopy out of a bear’s reach.
  8. Tool-making: Some may think a knife in a wilderness emergency is simply a tool unto itself, but one of its chief purposes in a wilderness emergency is really the manufacture of other, more specialized survival gear. It’s essential for making a fire bow and drill, which is of utmost importance if you’re lacking other means of alighting tinder.
  9. Fire: Speaking of fire-making, a survival knife allows you to flay out ribbons of inner bark from a branch to produce so-called “tinder”—invaluable when making a “birds nest” and igniting a fire in any condition. A survival knife can also be used to strike your ferrocerium rod (ferro rod) when igniting tinder.
  10. Shelter-making: A knife blade serves handily to trim limbs in the event you must build a shelter. It can also be used to notch the limbs before lashing them together.

From lifting simmering stew off the flames or to make your own tools, a survival knife is more than a whittling tool or a fish spear. Make one a permanent addition to your pack, and head into the woods with that much more peace of mind.

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