If we are honest, we can admit that we like to carry a survival knife that looks the part. A good knife, like the truth, has a certain ring to it. It can be an expensive handmade, Damascus blade or a high-quality cost-effective Morakniv.
The modern American’s neglect of hand tools has forced the knife making industry to create something of an anomaly in their survival knives. A lot of this has to do with people on YouTube and television shows using their survival knife to do everything from skin game to split wood.
Though I cannot be 100% sure, I have to imagine, a pioneer or a native American from the 19th century happening upon a guy chopping wood with his survival life would probably think he was either possessed or insane.
You see, we come from a stock of people who used tools to handle many of the tasks that the modern survival community wants to accomplish with a survival knife. Things like hatchets, saws, axes, and froes were all part of the pioneer’s toolkit.
In the instance where it is just you, your knife and a ferro rod, what can your survival knife do?
As markets often do, the knife makers course-corrected and began making wider, high carbon, full tang knives for just this type of a situation.
What’s the Criteria for a Survival Knife?
While this is a concept that could set the internet on fire, it's important to lay down some criteria for a serious survival knife. There are so many different types of knives on the market, you need a way to differentiate between all these options.
Let’s look at the following criteria in detail. As we go through this criterion, think about your own survival knife. It's not to say that a knife cannot be a powerful survival tool if it doesn’t meet these criteria, but the perfect world survival knife should.
The survival knife that features a 90-degree spine gives you the ability to preserve your blade. Sometimes people strike a ferro rod with their precious blade and the people around them just bristle. You want to preserve that blade.
The 90-degree spine will strike that ferro rod just as good as knife blade, at no cost to the knife.
The 90-degree spine is also going to allow you to process material for tinder bundles and other applications. You can use that hard edge to process barks and grasses. It’s a tool.
While a full tang blade is not necessary if you have a strong blade, you can depend on a knife much more that is one piece over one that is just driven into a rubber handle.
Full tang knives are one piece of metal entirely. The handle and the blade are all one piece, and this gives you a stronger tool, in most cases.
The full tang blade is easy to recognize because you will see the blade sink into the handle of a knife that is not full tang. Some knives that aren’t full tang are still exceptional survival knives. The Mora brand knives are the best examples of this.
HIGH CARBON STEEL
High carbon steel will throw sparks when you strike them with a piece of flint. This will give you the ability to start fire with a simple piece of flint and a bit of charcloth. In a survival situation, this is head and shoulders above having to carve a bow drill set.
Using flint is also a great way to test knives to determine if they are high carbon steel. You might be shopping flea markets or yard sales; this will be the best tell for a high carbon steel knife.
5 INCH BLADE
You could argue a 5-6 inch blade is optimal for the very best survival knife. However, it's important to mention that your blade length should also align with your skill level.
A large, razor-sharp blade for a person who is new to bushcrafting could wind up being a detriment. You need to learn how to handle a survival knife even before you learn how to carve a feather stick.
The Affordable Morakniv
Survival knives can get up there in price. Some rightly so! When you look at a blade like a handmade Forest Tool for $210, it's understandable!
Of course, not everyone has that kind of money to spend on a survival knife, but people really want to have a high-quality knife that will answer the call in the wild. There are options out there but none of them measure up to the quality to cost ratio of a Morakniv.
Mora knives have been at the head of the pack, in terms of survival knives, for a long time. They have been making blades from the highest quality steel since 1891.
There are several Mora knives that are excellent additions to any survival kit and are an absolute steal, in terms of cost. They make the most affordable survival knives on the market, that can stand up to true dirt time.
The Mora Companion
This is probably the most infamous of all Mora knives. This is because it’s a serious knife at an unbelievable price. You just aren’t going to find a better deal when it comes to a survival knife.
The Mora Companion is designed to process tinder, strike ferro rods, split kindling and do all the things you expect a survival knife to do. It costs about 4 times less than your average survival knife! You could likely buy one of these for your entire family and stay under $100.
At 4.1 inches this knife is not the ideal survival knife length but its such a deal that it works. You also don’t struggle to put it to use. It comes with a plastic sheath and is made from 1095 high carbon steel so it can be used to make sparks with a piece of flint, if needed.
If you add one knife to your survival gear loadout, the Mora Companion is it.
Maybe you are really scraping the bottom of the barrel. Even if you only have a few dollars to spend, Morakniv has an answer for you. That comes in the form of their Morakniv Basic that costs less than $10!
Not only is it such a value, but it also has great reviews and is made with the same exacting standards as Mora’s other knives.
Because the Morakniv Basic is so affordable you won’t get all the features of the companion. This knife does not come with a 90-degree spine but is made of high carbon steel. You can add a 90-degree spine to this blade for a little extra money.
The Mora basic is built for those of you out there who claim to not have any money for bushcrafting or survival. You probably have enough change in the nooks and crevices of your car to afford one of these!
Kansbol Knife by Morakniv
The Kansbol Knife is more expensive than our prior mentioned knives but it comes with a lot of added benefits. You will get a longer blade and a 90-degree spine with this high carbon steel knife. You also get a multi-mount sheath that is designed to hook to everything from your belt loop to your chest rig and do so very snug.
The Kansbol Knife is a taste of what Mora knives can be when you invest a little more money into them. While they are great economy knives that don’t mean the more expensive Morakniv models do not perform with the best on the market.
The Kansbol is a thicker blade and features a scandi grind to hold your blade even longer.
Where to Carry Your Survival Knife?
One of the more interesting topics, in terms of a survival knife, is how to carry it. It’s a lot more complicated than you might think! People can be very particular about how they carry their special blade and rightfully so.
The survival knife is something that will keep you alive when you have lost everything else.
There are two types of materials that make up most of the knife sheaths in the modern world. Those are leather and Kydex. Both are great options and really come down to a person’s preference.
This ancient material has been used to carry blades in all fashions for thousands of years! There is even evidence that the Sumerians tanned skins for a variety of uses. We are talking about 5th millennium BC!
This would not have been the tough refined leather of today but its still interesting to consider.
Our knives sink down into a leather that is durable and long-lasting. The leather of today can be oiled and cared for to last more than a lifetime. That is one of the most valuable assets, as a sheath material, that leather presents.
This is a thermoplastic acrylic polyvinyl chloride material. It's very easy to heat and mold over a variety of shapes. It's used for everything from survival knife sheaths to gun holsters and even aircraft bulkheads! This is an incredibly versatile composite.
You can even make your own Kydex holsters at home! When it comes to knives, you need a sheath that is designed for your knife or you must create your own sheath. It is not as forgiving as leather. Though the fit is very impressive.
WHERE TO CARRY YOUR SURVIVAL KNIFE
The overwhelming majority is going to opt for a sheath on the belt. If you are carrying a fixed blade knife, then it’s going to require some sort of solid sheath. It's different than carrying a folding knife that clips into your pocket.
It's hardly the only option.
Most recently, there has been a surge in popularity over the neck knife. These, primarily Kydex, sheaths are fixed on a necklace and that necklace. While the neck knife is rarely a 5-6 inch full tang blade you could achieve some of the survival tasks needed.
It's hard to argue it wouldn’t be a good piece of survival gear to have on your person.
Another popular location to carry is in your boot. These sheaths are often clipped to a boot or the laces. You can find Kydex and leather sheaths that are designed for boot carry.
This is a great way to carry because you have a knife, but it is out of the way. This can make a huge difference.
While you might not prefer to carry your survival knife this way it could be a great method for carrying a secondary knife for a friend or in case you have issues with your primary knife.
STATIC LINE IN POCKET
Another cool way to consider is to have a simple sheathed knife that fits into the pocket but to attach a static line, or piece of cordage, to the belt loops on your pants.
This method keeps the knife out of your way. It’s a cool little method and assures your knife won’t getaway! Even in a wilderness accident like a fall, your knife will literally be tied to you!
There are many variations of carrying a knife, but it really comes down to how you feel most comfortable. Moving in the dense wilderness might require you carry the knife closer to your person. While open areas are a little more forgiving with things hanging off your belt.
No matter the quality of your survival gear or the amount, you need a reliable survival knife. Your knife should be there for you to help start a fire, build shelter, process raw materials for tinder or medicine and of course, it should have a blade that is razor-sharp.
While you may have a knife that meets all our above-mentioned criteria for a good survival knife, don’t forget your knife should be about comfort, as well. An old cheap knife you know is going to make you a much better woodsman than a new expensive knife you have never used before.
Mora knives are the answer for those who are on a tight budget but are looking for tested quality knives. If you don’t have the scratch to waste on other low priced knives, don’t take the risk. Look to the Morakniv basic.
If you buy a couple of bad knives you will already have spent too much money.
Above all, its not the knife that makes the woodsman. It’s the dirt time that forges him. You do need a knife that can stand up to that dirt time but your knife, no matter the cost or the makeup, can only do so much in the hands of a beginner.
Get out and get crafting and bring the woodman’s greatest companion: the survival knife.