If I were ever to end up in a situation where it came down to life or death, I want to know the best survival knife available so that I can have it with me. All knives have their pros and cons when it comes to performance, which makes them more suitable for each different survival situation. Some features make it both effective and dependable. Whatever your choice is, be sure always to keep it by your side, as it has always been the foundation of all survival instruments, even if not the only one you need.
With my experience of using knives outdoors, I’ve come up with a list of the knives I would recommend as options for survival applications. So without further ado, let’s see what are some of the best survival knives on the market today:
1. KA-BAR Becker BK2
KA-BAR knives are a favorite among campers, hunters, and those who spend time in the field. The Becker BK2 is an excellent choice for splitting logs and kindling while camping, skinning game while hunting, or chopping onions at the campsite. It’s made of carbon steel with a black oxide coating to protect it from corrosion. You secure the knife in its sheath by inserting it through a slot on your belt loop; when you need to use it, apply pressure with your thumb to release it from the sheath.
KA-BAR is a company founded in the 1920s by American knife manufacturer O.F. Mossberg & Sons. It is a United States army knife that was issued to soldiers during World War II, starting with the Marines in 1943 and then as a general issue for the Army and Navy in 1944. They have since, for decades, been in use by all branches of the US military, including special forces units and law enforcement agencies.
The KA-BAR Becker BK2 comes highly recommended by the Prime Survivor team, and it easily wins the top position on our list.
1. 4″ Blade
2. Powder Coated Blade
3. Food Prep Favorite
4. Ergonomic Handle
- Comfy Ergonomic Handle
- Excellent Balance
- Corrosion Resistant
- Knife dull out of the box
- The sheath is not great
2. Kershaw Ka-Bar 3050 Mule Knife
As the name suggests, The Mule is just as versatile, reliable, and rugged as its fixed-blade cousin. It is made famous by Ka-Bar knives and has so far been a favorite among survivalists. What makes it different from other folding knives is that it can be opened with either one or two hands. It also features a rubber grip and steel liners for increased durability. The Mule is sold with a polyester sheath for protection during outdoor activities.
An elegant and versatile folding knife, the Kershaw KA-BAR 3050-KA is the perfect companion for your next camping trip or hiking trail. With a high-quality stainless steel blade, this knife will last you for years to come.
The handle is well made and provides a grip that is comfortable and slip-resistant, thanks to the rubber inserts. Overall it is a very decent knife that comes with an adequate price tag and growing popularity amongst survivors and folks alike.
- Quality Stainless Steel Blade
- Great gripping handle
- Attachable sheath
- If its power runs out, that’s it because the option to power it with double-A batteries isn’t even remotely viable, it’s just too dim
3. Gerber Strongarm
The Gerber Strongarm is a top-selling fixed-blade knife for a reason. With a full tang, 420HC steel blade, and rubberized diamond-texture grip, it’s a knife you can rely on for decades to come. The MOLLE-compatible multi-mount sheath system is the first of its kind and offers optimal customization. Whether you’re an experienced survivalist or just getting started, the Strongarm is a great choice for your next blade.
The StrongArm boasts a blade type that measures 4.8 inches. It’s a stainless steel blade which means it is corrosion-resistant too. Weighing around 7.2 ounces, it has all of the essential characteristics of a classic tactical edge.
Overall I found the Strongarm to be a top contender on the market today, built for survival and available at a reasonable price. The blade offers many different uses, and it’s a tool I can give a stellar report on.
- Excellent full tang blade
- Stainless steel
- Decent handle
- Molle compatible
- Not the best sheath
4. Buck Knives 124 Frontiersman Knife
This tactical knife is built to last, thanks to its sturdy 420HC stainless steel construction. Its satin finish adds a touch of class, and its straight-back Bowie design allows you to access the cutting edge easily.
Its Micarta handle provides a comfortable grip, and its 6 1/4-inch blade length ensures that you always have plenty of reach. Plus, the knife comes with a genuine leather sheath, which protects your investment and keeps it safe until you’re ready to put it to use.
5. SOG Pillar
I used the SOG Pillar knife instead of the Becker 1095 Cro-Van for a recent survival weekend. I immediately found the edge retention to be much better than the 1095 Cro-Van, and it was capable of lots of different cutting jobs, including chopping up food and wood.
The trademark Micarta handle makes the steel blade easy to grip, and there’s also a lanyard hole that came in handy for tying it to my belt loop. Usually, I’m not the biggest fan of Kydex sheaths, but the Pillar has probably the nicest one on the market.
Steel Drop Point Blade
The steel used for this product has been made from is heralded as inappropriate material for cutting edge knives. Knives like the Fallkniven A1 have been made out of this material, and the steel is actually similar to what is used in kitchen knives. This information instantly put a sour taste in my mouth when I first learned about the SOG Pillar product.
But then I thought about all of the great qualities that go into a steel kitchen blade. In my experience, my steel kitchen knives are resistant to the elements and avoid corrosion as well. Due to the steel material, they survive rusting without any issues. The edge retention is much better from a steel one (as we saw in the case of the Fallkniven A1), too, and the sharpening process is a doddle.
Because of the steel drop construction, I thought the edge would be partial to wear and tear. I use this one regularly and still haven’t had to experience any kind of partial wearing of the blade. Even when I’ve put it on my belt to carry or subjected it to a drop or two, it still hasn’t dulled or affected its performance. The blade length is 5 inches and overall weighs an impressive 7.3 ounces.
So in the case of making a shelter, chopping up wood, or preparing food outdoors, my hand will immediately go for the best item in the SOG range – the Pillar.
I just love seeing good materials put to great use, and this is very much the case with the Pillar knife. I’ve had many of the other SOG knives in their survival range, but the features of this particular item make it the one I choose from the crowd.
It’s given me hope that they are definitely going in the right direction regarding the blade materials and design, with room to improve. And, of course, it’s hard not to love the fact that it’s been made in the USA!
- The trademark Micarta handle makes it easy to grip, and there’s also a lanyard hole that came in handy for tying to my belt loop
- Due to its durable steel material, most commonly found in kitchen knives, this survival one is able to resist almost anything nature can throw at it while still being extremely capable
- Because of the steel drop construction, the edge of the blade may seem like it would be partial to wear and tear, but it actually manages to stay extremely sharp
- The sheath is nice but slides way too freely on your belt. It should have some sort of padded gripping material on the inside of the belt clamp
- There have been numerous reports from customers not receiving the color they ordered, and while this isn’t a major issue, it shows the poor procedure that SOG has
6. Morakniv Garberg
Next up in our prize-giving of the best survival knife in the bushcraft category is the Mora Garberg. I was a bit late on the uptake with the Mora range of knives, but I believe they are some of the best survival knives out there, especially for bushcraft. Let’s examine why I think this one is a bit of a standout.
Details And Dimensions
Having a full tang construction is glorious. Seeing that slight bit of steel metal poking out of the spine always gives me a thrill. Many of the Mora knives use a lower grade carbon as their blade material, but with this one, they’ve gone for solid steel. This hardy material keeps up with the demands that we need in terms of edge retention, stability, and corrosion resistance.
Measuring 4.25 inches, the Mora Garberg also has a spine that is square-edged. Overall, the blade is quite broad, and the handle is around 9 inches long. This product also features a lightweight construction with a weight of just under six ounces.
Now one thing I came across with many of the Mora knives is that they tend to feature a scandi edge. To improve on this with the Garberg, they’ve gone with a micro-bevel instead. This deviation could have been an absolute disaster to report, but actually, it’s made sure that one can be used for precision and carving.
I was able to get very fine wood shavings with the use of this item. So even without their usual edge design, it still gets a thumbs up from me.
Plus Points and Weaknesses
One of the key features of a product in this category is its ability to create fires. Fire is key to survival, right? I’m pleased to report that this is one of the best fire-starting tools I’ve come across. The spark shower I generated from the drop blade was so impressive that it instantly had to be noted on my list.
However, with all of the advantages, of course, comes the weaknesses. While its main purpose could be for starting a fire, making food to cook on that fire is not what this item has been designed for. In fact, the whole experience of chopping and slicing food with this blade was an all-around unpleasant time for me. But this is something I have to come to know from Mora survival knives.
Because of the geometry of the steel edge and the inches of thick materials makes it unsuitable for the intricacies needed for slicing food. Of course, it will get the job done, but you may want to stick to using it for your wood shavings and not for your steak.
Overall I felt confident with this blade in my hand. I knew it would be a solid and strong pick from the moment I took it from its sheath. The overall performance and shape of this model help me to overcome the dreadful handle material. It’s definitely a companion I would want to take on the ultimate survival experience.
- Having a full tang construction is glorious, and this one is no exception, with its excellent rigidity and more than above-average cutting potential
- Overall, the blade is quite broad, and the handle is around 9 inches long, giving it enough cutting space to cut even large trees and stumps
- This item features a micro bevel edge, which is a much-wanted and excellent improvement over their previous Scandi one
- Because of the geometry of the steel edge and the inches of thick materials makes it unsuitable for the intricacies needed for slicing food
- The stainless steel used on this blade for more hard work, like chopping wood and batoning through more demanding terrain
7. KA-BAR Full-Size
No more partial tang for us. It’s time to look at the full-tang design that is best for survival. Used by the U.S. Army, Navy, and Marine Corps, of course, this bad boy had to make it onto the list somewhere. In use since 1942 and made as a multi-use tool, this one was not only crafted for fighting but is still being used throughout the military because of its durability and longevity. With my background, I hear the words military issued, and my ears immediately prick up.
I’ve tried out the KA-Bar for almost all of the standard survival jobs around a camping ground, and in every single chore, it has excelled beyond what I thought it could do.
Information About the Blade
This is the full-size version of the knife, which measures in at 11.875 inches and features a 7-inch blade. There is also a smaller version available, but it comes with a smaller handle, meaning that I preferred the full size for a more comfortable grip.
The steel is 1095 Cro-Van with the addition of vanadium and chromium. All of these elements work together with the steel to give this item better edge retention and durability. You can get it with a serrated or plain edge, depending on your personal preference.
Because of the mix of different materials, it does take a bit more regular sharpening to keep the blade on point, but it’s definitely worth that effort for the one you would count on for survival.
Crossguard, Handle and Pommel
You can see the visible full tang because of the steel peeps through the pommel. Don’t worry because it’s all secured into place with a steel pin that can be seen on one side. The pommel is actually made from steel as well.
Looking at the end of the handle, you will see the crossguard which has been curved ever so slightly. This gives your handsome protection, especially around the knuckle. I loved the leather wash handle that contrasts beautifully with the steel, and I much preferred this version to the Kraton used in other models. The leather handle is, of course, much more beautiful than function, but if you plan on using this over a length of time, you will find that weathering will improve the overall grip.
Trying to find any other product on the market that has such a rich history, has an excellent proven track record, and is still being produced today at an affordable price is an absolute rarity for survival gear. I would still like the blade to be around an inch shorter to make it a bit easier to carry, but the extra length certainly makes it handy for chopping up wood.
- Used by the U.S. Army, Navy, and Marine Corps, of course, this bad boy has been in use since 1942 and made as a true multi-use tool
- Looking at the end of the handle, you will see the crossguard, which has been curved ever so slightly, which gives you even more protection around the knuckles
- While the leather grip around the handles gives it more style over substance, after using it for a long time, you will appreciate the full weathering
- The handle is made from laminated compressed sawdust, so it is considerably more fragile than the blade, and it is better not to stress it that much
- While it is a fairly good product, there are numerous amount of fakes that can be encountered even on amazon, so you should research even more carefully for this product
8. Benchmade Griptilian
I knew that Benchmade Griptilian was one of the most popular steel folding survival knives out there, which is what made me curious about whether it lived up to the hype or not. I found it to be a very versatile product for what it is, and the serrated edge became an instant favorite with me. There are both large and small options available for this one, so I had the choice of getting one for daily use or for more heavy-duty jobs.
Stainless Steel Bladed Survival Knife
Crafted from premium stainless steel, the blade is very much up to Benchmade’s standards. The 3.45-inch drop point blade truly is an ideal length for a huge variety of everyday survival tasks, and the small stature makes it easy to carry with you. Right out of the box, the blade was ultra-sharp and sharp on both sides as well. Even with months of use, the blade stayed sharp, and I loved that Benchmade has a sharpening service available to its users.
Handle and Grip
The handle covers the steel of the blade and has been crafted from a polymer grip and then reinforced with glass. It has a pleasant texture to it, and I found that the grip fitted well into my hand. I could hold it steady or hard in my hand, and both were just as comfortable.
The functionality of this steel knife is that it folds. I clipped it onto my pocket and put it inside as well, and did both with ease. Steel liners are holding the handle together, and I’m pretty confident when I say that this product will hold together for quite some time.
One thing I really have to focus on with the Griptilian that really astounded me, even though it was an Amazon impulse purchase, was the locking mechanism. Finally, left-handed people have a high-quality blade that can be used on either hand with ease.
By pulling the lock back, you can flip it open with a quick flick of the wrist instead of having to use studs to pull the knife open. Though this might not be everyone’s taste in knives, I found the clicking lock quite satisfying and got a great deal on amazon for the blade to boot!
Using the pocket clip, I thought that it was simple to put the weapon on either side of my belt. I was disappointed in the lack of sheath included with this item, but I know Benchmade offers some different options in this area.
Overall I thought that the blade action was smooth, with a solid locking system and a really grippy handle. The ergonomics were pleasing to me as well, although the material of the handle sometimes felt a bit too plasticky in my hand. The hunters among you won’t be a fan of the loud locking system either, as it closes and opens with a click.
- There are both large and small options available for this item, so you have the choice of getting one for daily use or for more heavy-duty jobs.
- Crafted from premium stainless steel, the blade is very much up to Benchmade’s standards with its 3.45-inch drop point blade that is truly an ideal length for a huge variety of everyday survival tasks
- Finally, left-handed people have a high-quality product that can be used on either hand with ease, with its high-quality ambidextrous locking mechanism
- While the mechanism and the blade managed to live up to its price pretty well, the handle doesn’t only feel cheap, but it is made from extremely low-end materials
- Its high price is even worse when you consider Benchmade’s customer support and quality control, with off-center and dull knives sent out daily
9. SOG Flash II
The SOG Flash II is another wonderful example of creator Spencer Frazer’s unique creativity when it comes to survival knives. Having been in production for a number of years now, this item has had so many chops and changes in its design that it’s been hard to keep up.
Purpose and Use
I classified the Flash II as an EDC knife because I found it useful in emergency and tactical situations. The blade is quite big, and I enjoyed the assisted opening and gripping handle. There are a lot of different finishes, blade edge choices, and handle options for this particular product as well, which makes it great for any collectors among you.
Specifics and Dimensions
Overall it measures 8″ and weighs just on the cusp of 3.1 oz. The longer blade and lightweight design make it an ideal choice for EDC survival. The blade is very much no-frills, with a flat grind and the traditional drop point.
The AUS8 blade steel has been used to make the Flash II. It creates a pretty sharp edge and is known for holding quite well for longer periods of time. I found that the material fitted the price tag adequately, and I liked the cryo treatment that SOG used to toughen up the steel.
Blade Deployment and Locking System
I love a knife that does some of the work for me, which is probably why I enjoyed the Flash II-assisted opening so much. There are two thumb studs on the sides that, when pressed, allow the blade to pop out as quickly as a flash. The opening is smooth and quick, making it really pleasing to try over and over again.
For an emergency, it definitely comes in handy, although I know a lot of cold arms aficionados aren’t fans of assisted opening knives. In an emergency knife, the quick deployment of the blade is exactly what I’ve been looking for.
To add an extra safety element, a lock is on one side of the handle. If you engage the lock, it will stop the blade from deploying by itself. To me, it was pretty useless, but if you like to carry your weapon tip up, then it would be something you should use.
The downside of this top EDC product is that I found it slides slightly from side to side when the blade is in the open or locked position. I adjusted the pivot, and this helped the issue a little bit, but there’s some definite movement where there shouldn’t be any.
There’s no liner included, and in the absence of this, it has a bolt lock, so the fact that the blade slides comes as no surprise. Side to side, I can live with, and I don’t see it as a real sticking point or issue, but it could become a problem if this is something you really can’t live with.
- Having been in production for a number of years now, it managed to keep up with innovations while still retaining a huge level of quality
- To add an extra element of safety, there is a lock on one side of the handle, and when engaged, the lock will stop the blade from deploying by itself
- Overall it measures 8″ and weighs just on the cusp of 3.1 oz; thus, the longer blade and lightweight design make it an ideal choice
- After being disengaged, the lock doesn’t stay in place, but it rattles constantly, and it is no match to the one found on the Benchmade
- While through the years there have been numerous improvements, the quality has dropped significantly, and the new features can’t hide that
10. SOG SEAL Pup
The SOG SEAL has been inspired by the military and sports a fixed blade. It has so many positive features it had to make it to the top of my best-fixed blade knife list. This product took its inspiration from the very first SOG fixed-blade combat weapon, so you know it’s got some good traditions and qualities behind it.
SOG has never been a brand that rests on the originals, and this one is proof of how they are constantly updating their range to improve over time. Judging by the positive reviews this product gets online gives us a good guide on the improvements they’ve made.
The Purpose Of The SOG SEAL
The SEAL wasn’t made for bushcrafting but more general tasks. If you want one for batoning wood, this isn’t the one for you. It’s crafted from stainless steel and not carbon steel, so it’s not really suitable for heavy-duty survival tasks. Carbon steels are much more suited to the survival role, and if you want a bland for extended use that will be used solely as a survival blade, this really isn’t the one for you.
However, when it comes down to a survival situation, we can’t really pick and choose, which is why this blade has some potential. If it’s all you have, I think it could work. But the SEAL Pup is more of a combat knife for tactical situations rather than a defending tool. Anything basic you need to do, like cutting some rope, prepping food, and opening up a package, is what this is there for. It’s definitely a cool camping item, and for day excursions and hiking, it’s easy to carry along with you.
In More Detail
The blade of the SEAL Pup is 4.75″ long, and the 9″ knife weighs 5.4 ounces. Even with the sheath on, it still weighs under 10 ounces, so it is super lightweight. Carrying ability is always important with these kinds of knives, which is why I found its weight advantage. A huge 35-ounce survival ounce might be the best tool for splitting wood, but for an all-day hiking trip, the last thing you want to be hauling around is a massive carbon beast. In this situation, the SEAL Pup comes to the rescue.
The handle is so ergonomically pleasing it’s hard to put down. There are finger grooves along with the handle, and the edges have been rounded off to give it a wonderfully smooth texture. The handle size now, compared to the old version of this product, is much better and will work even when wearing large gloves. It’s a really satisfying item with a practical design.
SEAL Pup Sheath
It may seem like a pretty poor thing to be impressed with, but the sheath was a particular shining point of the product. I have experienced so many knives where the sheath lets them down massively, dragging them down in the ratings for what would be an otherwise brilliant piece of kit.
The SEAL Pup comes to you with its very own nylon sheath. There is also a more modern Kydex sheath available from SOG at an affordable price, too, if you fancy an upgrade. For me, the nylon sheath was enough without purchasing any add-ons.
So what makes this sheath so great? First, I want to comment on the high quality of the product. Everything about it has been built well, and all of the seams have been riveted and double-stitched for extra durability. In between each nylon layer of the sheath is a reinforced plastic shield that gives it rigidity and form.
The SEAL Pup also has a snug plastic insert within the sheath that fits onto the blade perfectly with no side-to-side wiggle room at all. A retention strap has been added in, and even if you’re not a fan of using these, it’s still an awesome feature because it’s velcro and snap closing. There’s also a little pouch with a flap on the front of the sheath, which I used to store a sharpening stone, although I was very aware of quickly drawing out the blade and cutting the strap off.
- This is a weapon that took its inspiration from the very first SOG fixed-blade combat blade, so you know its got some good traditions and qualities behind it
- The blade of the SEAL Pup is 4.75″ long, and the 9″ knife weighs 5.4 ounces even with the sheath on, it still weighs under 10 ounces, so it is super lightweight
- There are finger grooves along with the handle, and the edges have been rounded off to give it a wonderfully smooth texture
- While the blade itself is pretty durable on its own, its tip is very fragile, and even with a little bit of pressure on it, it will break off pretty easy
- While every piece of gear has its issues, this one has many of them, and on top of that, it has abysmal customer support that won’t do any refunds or returns, no matter what happened
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is A Survival Knife?
All survival knives have features in common. Most have one-handed opening functionality that is quick, will have blades built for purpose, and the grip material will be strong and aggressive. When you want to get your first knife, there are a few things you have to think about in order to get the best.
The first thing we need to think about is what we are going to be using it for. The second is under what conditions you need this knife to perform. The last thing you should consider when looking for the best knife for you is how it will fit into your hand. Just because you splash the cash on the most expensive kit doesn’t mean a thing if the blade isn’t suiting your needs
Do You Need A Serrated Blade?
With most other fixed blades, you would go with your preference on if the blade is serrated or not. With tactical knives, this isn’t the case. To get the best option, you have to think about exactly what this tool will be used for.
Most knives that are going to be used outdoors need to be heavy-duty, easy to carry, made from durable materials, and have either a serrated or partially serrated blade. This makes it easier to cut through tougher materials and comes in especially handy if you aren’t going to be around a sharpener for a while.
What Is The Best Steel?
Blade steel is incredibly important to survival knives, and the material I would choose above the rest is the 1095 carbon steel. This adds 0.95% of carbon to the blade, helping it to keep its edge as well as fight off rest. With the right storage and the proper care, these knives can last a lifetime, but you want to get a thicker blade made from this steel, as thinner ones tend to be brittle and break easily.
The Final Verdict
To finish off my best survival knife guide, I thought I would end with my final thoughts on the SOG SEAL Pup. The design, finish, and fit of the handle are very good. It’s put together well, and the finish means everything looks great and fits together snugly. There isn’t anything to dislike for such a well-priced product of this caliber.