Buying a knife for an everyday task isn’t too difficult. If you need a knife to cut bread, then you buy one made to cut bread — simple.
But survival knives are much more complex — not only do you need one that can perform all of the essential survival functions, but you also need one that can withstand rain, sleet, and snow. And ideally, you’d like to get one that can also protect you. Fingers aren’t much of a match for claws and fangs.
Below, we’ll go over two things — our reviews of the top survival knives , as well as the elements to look for in the best survival knife. By the end, you’ll be an expert, and you’ll have a good selection of knives to choose from. Let’s begin.
Best Survival Knives Reviews
Here we’re going to give you some knives to browse through. They vary in price, construction, and intended use — make sure to read several reviews from other knife owners too (we provide an amazon link to every single knife, so you can read some reviews from other REAL buyers before making your decision)
Please note that the list is in no particular order. #1 isn’t necessarily better than #4. They’re all worth looking at.
#1 — KA-BAR Full Size US Marine Corps Fighting Knife, Straight
We’ll start off with a classic — the KA-BAR. Originally designed for marines in WWII, it’s still being used by them today.
What makes this knife so special is its diversity. It’s the perfect mix of survival and combat. In WWII, US marines were fighting in all sorts of conditions — rainy, snowy, dry, etc. You name it, they were in it. So the knife addresses all of these concerns, and it holds up to the fiercest of elements.
And considering marines are soldiers, this knife is perfect for combat situations. It works on both animals and humans.
The only downside of this knife is the fact that the tang isn’t full tang. It’s has what’s called a “rat tail tang”, which means that yes, it does extend all the way into the handle, but no, it does not extend all the way in terms of width. You won’t be chopping down trees with this baby, but at the same time, it can perform basic survival tasks.
The basics: 7” straight blade, leather handle, cro-van steel, made in the USA.
Get this knife if you’re looking for an easy, done-for-you solution. With over 900 5* reviews on Amazon, it’s clear that people love it. If you’re looking for something above and beyond, keep reading.
#2 — SOG Specialty Knives & Tools SE38-N Force Knife
This survival knife is a bit more expensive than #1, but it comes with all of the features that we’re looking for. Namely, it has a full tang, a hole for a lanyard, a 6” blade, and an ultra durable, reinforced handle that can withstand the worst of the elements while still maintaining its grip.
This is for those who want the best survival knife… and not a piece of jewelry. It doesn’t have any of the glitz or glamour that other models have — on the surface, it looks like a standard black knife. But when you hold it, you get that feel of a quality blade, you know?
It’s geared towards survival, not combat. It combines a serrated and straight blade by having a small serrated section towards the handle, followed by a straight section all the way to the tip. This allows you to use the lower section for the tasks that call for a serrated edge, but you can still sharpen it with a regular whetstone.
Get this knife if you’re looking for a true survival knife, but you don’t care about how it looks.
#3 — ESEE 6P-B Fixed Blade Knife
The basics: 11.75” overall, 6” blade, 1095 steel, and a black molded polymer sheath.
Fitted for survival.
It’s like the third bowl of porridge: just right. It feels right, it looks right, and it cuts right. There’s not a whole lot of description on the product page, which is why you need to look at the reviews.
Other knives talk a big talk, but this one actually walks the walk. Click the link above — you’ll see that the buyers put the knife through a series of arduous tasks… cutting thick wood, etc. It held up perfectly.
And it can for you, too. This is one of the best survival knives. It’s made for experienced survivors, not newbies who are just getting their feet wet. It’s not the cheapest, but it’s one that will hold out on you for as long as you need to bug out.
#4 — GURKHA KUKRI
A weird name for a weird knife. At first glance, this one looks like a machete.
Its machete-like design allows for greater slicing power. Actually, the GURKHA KUKRI claims to be able to out-chop other knives… and even full-fledged katanas.
A bold claim? Absolutely. But according to reviewers, it’s substantiated — one even said that he replaced his regular axe with this thing once he saw what it was capable of.
Would we recommend getting this knife as your only survival knife? Yes, but only if you know that you’ll be cutting through some serious material.
#5 — Tool Logic SL-PRO 2
Cheap, somewhat sturdy, and very diverse. That’s what you should expect from the SL-PRO 2.
It’s more of a multipurpose tool than a survival knife — it comes with a fire starter, flashlight, and whistle. The blade is only 3” — enough for regular survival tasks, but not enough for the labor-intensive ones like splitting wood.
This is a small, practical knife that, because it folds, you can store almost anywhere. It’s good for those of you who want to have a handy tool that can double as a survival knife. It’s not that practical if you’re going to be going on month-long excursions in the wild.
So if you’re a casual survivor, get this one. If you’re a serious one, consider getting something a little bit more powerful, and then carry your fire starter, whistle, and flashlight separately.
#6 — KA-BAR BECKER BK2
Full tang? Check. Affordable? Check. Made in the USA? Check.
This is a shorter knife. It’s 10.5” overall, with the blade being only 5.25” long.
Despite its length, though, it’s incredibly thick: ¼”. Because of the thickness and length, you get an “indestructible” feel when you pick up this knife. And it holds up to that indestructible feel with its full tang.
To top it off, this knife is just over $70, making it one of the cheapest on the list. It’s not ideal for heavy cutting jobs, but aside from that, it’s perfect, and it won’t break the bank. It has a “quick” feel, if you know what we mean. It feels more like an extension of your arm than a knife.
#7 — FALLKNIVEN A1
We’ll be blunt — this one looks like a standard kitchen knife. But it’s anything but that.
If you don’t mind spending close to $200, this is one of the best survival knives you can find. Multiple reviews attest to the fact that it holds up for years, and because of the laminated stainless steel blade, it holds its sharpness while also resisting the elements. Nice.
The blade is right in the middle, coming in at 6.5”. Full tang. Incredibly “grippy” handle — you’ll have a firm grip even if it’s raining or you’re sweating bullets. Or both.
Last but not least, power. We said that it retains its edge — it can chop down an entire tree and maintain its edge at the same time. Multiple reviewers talk about how they beat up their A1s regularly, and they boast about how durable it is.
#8 — TOM BROWN TRACKER
Last but not least is the Tom Brown Tracker, which is the definition of a survival knife. This is not a hunting knife, but rather a survival one that can slice through almost anything you put it up against.
It’s so effective because of its construction. There are three “segments” a serrated edge, a curved edge, and a straight edge. So if you’re skinning an animal, you go with the curved edge. Slicing rope, serrated. Etc.
The width of the blade is both an upside and a downside. It’s ¼”, so you can do the more labor-intensive tasks, but you won’t be able to perform the intricate ones without difficulty.
Another upside and downside is the fact that it’s 1095 high-carbon steel. Holds an edge extraordinarily well, but you’ll have to oil it up frequently to prevent oxidation.
So is it the best knife? Not really. You could probably find one that’s better… but also much more expensive. This is a knife that does the job well while not draining your bank account.
If even one of the 10 above didn’t catch your eye, you can now read about the different elements of a knife that you should be looking at. You can find a knife on the list that is good as multipurpose tool, but you can also select one of the more specialized ones depending on your needs.
The 7 things to look for in the best survival knife
There are seven “elements” of any survival knife. When you’re choosing one, it’s important to keep them all in mind. Miss even one of these elements and you might find yourself with a not-so-useful tool… and in survival situations, you can’t afford that.
#1 — The length of the tang
How much force you can exert on your knife is dependent on the length of the tang. The “tang” is the section of the metal from the blade that’s inserted into the handle itself.
The longer the tang, the more power you’ll have. We recommend going with a survival knife that has a “full tang”, or the blade extends all of the way to the end of the handle. This allows you to put an extreme amount of pressure on the blade — if the tang weren’t to extend all the way in, you risk it snapping off. (This ruins your knife, and can injure you at the same time. Not worth it!)
#2 — The type of metal used in the blade
Steel. Always steel. But there are two types of steel to consider: carbon steel or stainless steel.
We’re not going to sit here and tell you that one is better than the other, because they’re both good in certain circumstances.
Carbon steel has a tendency to stay sharper for longer. You won’t have to frequently sharpen it like you will a stainless steel one. But at the same time, it rusts easier in the elements.
Stainless steel doesn’t rust, but it’s not as resilient to becoming blunt. Expect to be sharpening a stainless steel one frequently — laminated stainless steel will hold its edge for longer, but it’s a bit more expensive.
So get a carbon steel survival knife if you’re in mild conditions, and a stainless steel survival knife if you’re in the elements. Also consider what you’ll be using the knife for — the more usage it gets, the more it will have to be sharpened.
#3 — The handle of your knife
It seems that in the past decade or so, manufacturers have tried to make survival knives “trendy”. They’ve started making hollow handles to store things in, and some have even inserted compasses into the handle…
Don’t get one of these knives! You want your handle to be a handle, and nothing else. That’s because you want your knife to be the best survival knife… and nothing else. It’s one of (if not THE) most important survival tools to have — don’t risk getting a mediocre one at the benefit of having a cool little feature installed.
As for the handle material itself, it doesn’t really matter. You can choose from either hard rubber or polymer on both. You’re set with either of them. Just make sure that it’s a real handle, and not a hollow encasement ready to break on you at a moment’s notice.
#4 — The length of the blade
When you picture someone in the movies using a survival knife, you probably picture him ripping out a massive, 2-3 foot blade. This isn’t effective.
You want your blade to be between six and 12 inches. If it’s shorter than six, it’s not very useful, as it simply does not have the length necessary to perform even the most basic of tasks. However, if it’s longer than a foot, not only does it become cumbersome, but the changes of the blade snapping off are increased exponentially.
Aside from that, it’s mostly about personal preference. You can feel safe picking anything within that sweet six to twelve inch spot.
#5 — The design of the blade: serrated or straight
Straight blades are straight up and down, whereas serrated blades have little notches through the length of the blade.
On the surface, serrated blades might seem like the smart choice. After all, those little notches help you slice things more easily — rope, the skin of that animal you just killed, etc.
The problem is that serrated blades can’t be sharpened with a good ol’ fashioned whetstone. You’ll have to have a special sharpener… and in a survival situation, you might not have anything but your knife. We’d recommend going with a straight blade, just to keep things simple. The alternative to this is getting one with both a serrated section and a straight section — you get the best of both worlds. Just having a serrated edge can lead to disaster if you lose the special sharpener.
#6 — The thickness of the blade
Blade thickness is usually measured in sixteenths of inches. It’s hard to imagine that in your head, but when you look at an actual knife, the difference is apparent.
Due to the small differences, most people think that blade thickness isn’t important. It’s very important. Too small and your blade will bend and flex whenever you do anything. That’s not ideal — it’s hard to generate power with a blade that’s too thin, and the chances of it snapping off are greater.
At the same time, you don’t want one that’s too thick. That takes away from the effectiveness of it — you can’t perform certain tasks that require precision.
Survival experts agree that the “sweet spot” is between 3/16 and 4/16 (¼) of an inch. You’ll get a little bit of flex in this range, but not enough where you feel as though it’s weak.
#7 — The sheath that your knife is stored in
Even if you have the best survival knife it is useless if you lose it, and it’s also useless if it wears down. A sheath will keep it attached to your body, protect it from the elements, and allow you to draw it at a moment’s notice.
You really want two things — a firm connection mechanism and a hole for the knife to be attached to something on your body.
By a “firm connection mechanism”, we mean that when the sheath goes on the knife, it doesn’t just sit there. It locks into place somehow. The most common thing you’ll see is a strap that crosses over right where the handle meets the sheath — this ensures that it won’t slip out.
Then, you want a hole that you can thread through a belt loop or lanyard. Carrying your knife in your pocket can work, but you don’t want to be doing that. It’s more dangerous, you’ll move slower, and you won’t be able to draw it as quickly. Oh, and you’ll probably lose it.
We hope this helped you. As a survivalist, you can’t be picking up the first survival knife that you lay your eyes on — it’s always good to compare the options and pick the one that’s best for you and your situation.
Good luck! In the wild, your knife is your best friend. Make sure you get a good one.