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Survival Knives

What are Survival Knives Used For?

"Survival Knife" is a term used somewhat loosely. The stereotypical image is a “Rambo'' style knife with a compass, serrated spine or a saw back, with a medical kit in the handle. That is one example, but the features that make a Survival Knife truly functional for survival are far less glamorous.

Survival knives are a key component in bushcraft. Survival knives are used for trapping, skinning, woodcutting, carving tasks, and more. Think of your survival knife as a way to get through your “chores” for the day when out in the wilderness.

Review the rest of our Survival Knives frequently asked questions here:

What Are The 5 Basic Features of a Survival Knife?

What are the Top Selling Survival Knives?

Why Do I Need a Survival Knife?

How Many Survival Knives Should I Carry?

What Are The 5 Basic Features of a Survival Knife?

Survival knives are designed for survival and utility tasks. For example, the best survival knives have the following features:

Full Tang

Full Tang knives are blades and handles that are one solid piece of steel. If your knife is not full tang, there is the possibility that the blade and tail, which is sunk into the handle to some degree, might come loose. A knife that is not full tang can break free at the handle when batoning or beaver chewing saplings. 


Ideally the blade should be at least 5 inches

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. (We recommend carrying a folding saw or axe). Batoning should be a last resort.

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.

As long as the knife is full tang, a knife shorter than 5 inches can still be used to process wood, however you are limited in the diameter of fuel you can process.

Blade Should Be Made of High Carbon Steel

In addition to being durable and strong, high carbon steel blades have another secret.

Flint will shave a small piece of steel off of a high carbon steel blade when struck. It produces a spark when it reacts with air. Therefore, you can generate sparks from the blade if you have the right materials to do it with. This can be very helpful in starting a fire for your camp.

90 Degree Spine

Knives are available with a variety of spines. Knives often feature toothed spines or saw backs. Despite their cool look, in a lot of cases they are more for aesthetics and do not offer the functionality a 90 degree spine offers.

The key to creating quality tinder is to process bark and dry grasses into something that will catch a spark. Much like a bird’s nest in shape and size. A great way to process that tinder is to use a knife with a 90-degree spine.

The 90 degree spine also provides you with the ability to throw the sparks from a ferro rod. That hard edge will dig into that ferro rod and shower your tinder with hot sparks.

Razor Sharp Blade

In most cases, a razor-sharp blade goes without saying, as a dull knife can make tasks much more difficult and are also very dangerous. Having to force a dull blade through tasks can lead to unorthodox motions and an overall lack of control and safety. 

It’s not just about starting the day with a sharp blade it’s also about keeping that edge sharp. The easiest way to keep your knife performing well is with a strop. A strop provides a simple option to keep your edge sharp while you are in the field.

Why Do I Need a Survival Knife?

The fact is that you never know exactly what to expect when in the wilderness, which means that you must be prepared for anything. One of the simplest ways you can ensure your survival is with the right knife. 

You can use survival knives in various situations, which is why survival knives are included in the 5 Cs of Survivability. You can use it for everyday tasks like shelter-building and hunting, which are essential things to do in any outdoor situation. You can also use it for emergencies, like defense, building a fire, first aid, and more.  

How Many Survival Knives Should I Carry?

Here at Self Reliance Outfitters, we always say, "Two is one and one is none". You should consider the following knives for your pack.

  • Multitool: This will provide you with a small blade for simple tasks like cutting bankline, fishing or cooking tasks. Multitools come with a variety of other tools that can be helpful around camp.
  • Survival Knife: Survival knives can aid you in acquiring food, water, and shelter. It has similar features to a hunting knife but with different variations and grips, and sizes. Plus, you don’t have to use your same knife for survival food. 

Unless you are truly in a survival situation, we recommend that you pack a folding saw or axe in your kit for large cutting tasks as well.

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