Knives are fun. Handmade knives made in America are an artwork. There is a level of craftsmanship that is so rare in knifemaking. A person’s survival knife is something they carry every day and we should not build that relationship with something shaped in China.
That said, your survival knife should not be your answer to all problems. Carry some good tools, too! Just because you have a $100+ dollar knife doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a good axe and a folding saw.
What Makes a Great Survival Knife?
Personal preference goes a long way when it comes to buying the right survival knife. It should be that way. We all should invest in a knife that we enjoy carrying.
That said, there is a set of undeniable criteria that a serious survival knife should meet. You should look at your current knife or the knife you want to buy and consider whether it meets these criteria or not. This is not to say that a knife that doesn’t meet these criteria is junk, but it can be improved.
If you are serious about bushcraft, you should have a knife that is made with these criteria in mind. This will assure you can take full advantage of your knife in a true survival situation.
A full tang knife is one that features a knife blade and handle, that are all one piece. Handles are often pinned to the handle of these types of knives. The full tang survival knife is going to be the strongest knife you can buy.
If your knife is not full tang there is always the potential that your blade and the tail of that blade, which is sunk to some degree into the handle, could come loose! If your blade separates from the handle, well, at the very least you must create a new handle.
To avoid this, you simply need to invest your money into full tang blade that will literally have to snap in half for you to lose your handle.
This is the size of the blade itself, not the full knife. A longer survival knife gives you the option to process wood by batoning, which could be a serious task if you don’t have an axe and you need wood to fuel your fire.
A 5-inch blade on your survival knife gives it the kind of length you need to assure this blade can be the multitasking tool that you expect it to be.
Not only are high carbon steel blades durable and strong but there is another secret in having a high carbon steel blade.
When you strike a high carbon steel blade with glass or flint it is going to shave a small piece of that steel from the blade. When that reacts with the air, you get spark. So, you can throw sparks from that blade if you have the right materials to do it with.
That is a survival edge that should not be passed up on.
Knives come with a variety of spines. Many knives come with that toothed spine. While this look is very cool, they are not as effective as a 90-degree spine.
Creating a good tinder requires that you process bark and dry grasses into a bundle of something that will catch a spark. A great way to process that tinder is to use your sharp 90-degree spine.
Now, we just discussed that you can throw sparks from a high carbon steel knife. With a 90 degree spine, you can throw the sparks from a ferro rod. That hard edge will dig into that ferro rod and shower your tinder with hot sparks.
It might seem like a silly thing to mention, the razor-sharp blade. However, it's about much more than just having a sharp blade. What about your ability to keep that blade sharp? You see, survival knives come in all sorts of shapes and blade types.
This is so important because we all want a great looking survival knife as well as a functional one. However, your blade should be as easy to sharpen as possible. That way you can sharpen it at home on your workbench, or you can sharpen it with a handheld sharpener in the cold rain.
If you are preparing for a survival situation, you need to be able to take advantage of your knife in the best of times and in the worst of times.
Survival Knife Tasks at the DIY Bushcraft Camp
If you know how to use your survival knife, it can be used for so many tasks it’s hard to convey them all. What I find, most often, is that I must force myself to use the proper tools for the job because my survival knife can do it all!
Of course, that doesn’t mean you should use it to do everything.
Let’s look at some of the most important tasks your knife will do for you at your DIY bushcraft camp.
One of the best natural fire starters that you can make from wood, in the wild, is the feather stick. This is the process of shaving filament thin pieces of wood off a stick in order to create more surface areas for the fire to burn.
Whether your trap, shoot, stone or procure game some other way, you are going to need to skin it before you take advantage of it.
Once the skin is off that game you are going to need to break it down a bit. Unless you are dealing with something like squirrel that can be cooked whole.
Trimming Foraged Foods
If you go out foraging around your camp you will need a sharp blade to trim those foraged plants and fungus. The forest has so much for you, but you need to be able to trim and bring it back to camp.
Fish is by far the easiest protein to get your hands on in the wild. If you have light fishing tackle or the skill to build fishing traps, which your knife will help with.
Once you have a fish in front of you, you are at least going to have to gut your catch.
If you have nothing else to cut wood with, well, you will need to at least process firewood. Maybe your axe breaks or you get lost while traveling outside of your DIY bushcraft camp.
You can use a long blade to smash through and split smaller pieces of wood.
Removing Bark from Branches, Twigs, and Saplings
Sometimes you need to clean up some of the wood that you harvest for what you are building around the bushcraft camp. Whether this is a hook for hanging gear or a tripod for cooking.
Of course, your survival knife is going to be your best tool for carving anything. You could whittle some wood for someone, or you could just practice things like making notch sticks, as well.
As we mentioned, you can use your survival knife in a couple of ways to start fire. There is no reason why you shouldn’t prepare to make fire with your knife. This way, if you have nothing else, you will have a means of making fire with your number one survival tool.
Processing tinder is another very important part of what you might call your survival knife to the table to accomplish.
Top Quality Survival Knives
Here is a collection of knives that would all be great to have at your side. These are some of the best knives you can get your hands on, not just here at Self Reliance Outfitters but in the world. We have 4 distinct knives that will undoubtedly meet your needs.
These knives are handmade in the USA and because of that they could vary slightly from the pictures featured here. These are not knives cut out by machines. These are made by craftsman and each knife has its own uniqueness and soul.
The Pathfinder Trade Knife is handmade and designed to meet the criteria we mentioned above. It’s got it all right on the button. You have a 5” blade with this knife, it’s about 1/8” thick, full tang, 1095 carbon steel.
The PTK also features G10 grips that make holding it a dream.
This knife is an exclusive made by Habilis Tools which is one of the best handmade knife makers out there. This knife is a product of that partnership. Again, it was designed with our criteria in mind. If you are not into researching gear and seeking out the best. The PTK is a sure shot for anyone looking for a quality survival knife.
This knife is another great creation that is built for quality. You just cannot find a better collection of survival knives for those who enjoy bushcraft. It's not just about bushcraft but these knives look the part.
I know we aren’t supposed to be worried about how our rugged survival knife looks but the curly maple handle just gives it such a great look!
It features all the things you want in your knife with a blade topping out at 5.25 inches and the rest of the list. This knife is made in America, just like every other one on this list.
You see, this is a simple survival knife that just gets the job done and hits all the high notes.
If you are not aware of its Jeff White is, hands down, the best knife maker in the states. To have him work in tandem with Self Reliance Outfitters has created an incredible opportunity.
The Bush One is hands down the most affordable survival knife in this list and it might be one of the best knives for the price in existence. The knife blade is only 4.5 inches long, but it is a great, hand-forged blade.
Outside of that the knife hits all the criteria to be a serious survival knife. The Bush One is about 1/3 the price of any other knife on this list! If you like the design but want something a little larger you can check out The Bush Knife.
The Forest Tool in camo micarta is more of a froe than a survival knife. It is undoubtedly the blade to carry if you are not messing around! It features a 10 inch blade and is nearly a pound of metal and handle!
It’s a whole lot of knife.
It also comes with a sheath that makes it safe and easy to carry. This knife meets all the requirements of a quality survival knife. Everything from the high carbon steel construction to the 90-degree spine. The Forest Tool takes the survival knife to new lengths.
Its capable of even more than your average survival knife because of the extended blade. If you are after a big knife, this is the right one for you.
The process of building your own DIY bushcraft camp has many benefits. One of the biggest is the chance to get better with your gear. Having a base camp allows you to explore further, navigate locally and return to a camp that can be improved upon as you see fit.
Having a quality axe and saw is something you should carry into a project like this. No matter how good your survival knife is it can never be a woodsman’s axe and it can never be a folding saw. Nor should it be!
There is an air to creating a bushcraft camp that is more about experience and less about survival. Many of the tasks we discussed using your survival knife for have to do with a survival situation. For example, don’t baton wood with your survival knife if you have an axe to split it with.
Bottom line, If you find yourself with a knife that meets the criteria we discussed or any of the knives mentioned above, you are ready to hit the woods with a tool that will be by your side through the worst of things.
Your survival knife is a great partner in the woods. Invest in a great one but never assume it should be the only tool you carry into the woods.