The Best Survival Knives: Buying Guide, Specs, Pros & Cons

Last Updated: by Aiden Williams

Knives are one of the oldest tools in the world, and they are just as important as they were back when they were invented. While many of us focus more on the everyday use of this tool, that is not the only place where it comes in handy. In fact, a knife is much more valuable and useful in outdoor spaces than in normal everyday experiences.

While this tool is great for day-to-day cutting tasks, it is a lot more crucial in potential survival situations. You can use it to hunt, build shelter, and also protect yourself. That is why we have done an extensive research to bring you nine of the best survival knives in the market that money can buy.

Our favorite is the Ka-Bar BK-22 Becker Companion Fixed Blade Knife as it’s the perfect all-around knife for whatever you need when you’re out there at the mercy of the elements.
ProductDetails
1. KA-BAR BK-22 BECKER COMPANION FIXED BLADE KNIFE

  • BLADE: 5.25 inches, 1095 Cro-Van stainless steel
  • HANDLE: Stock
  • SHEATH: Heavy-duty polyester
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2. FALLKNIVEN A1 FINE EDGE FIXED BLADE KNIFE

  • BLADE: 6.3 inches, 420j outer cladding with a VG-10 core
  • HANDLE: Kraton polymer
  • SHEATH: Zytel sheath, a lefty sheath, or a standard leather sheath option
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3. ESEE KNIVES 6P FIXED BLADE KNIFE WITH MOLDED POLYMER SHEATH

  • BLADE: 6.5 inches, steel with black powder finish
  • HANDLE: Gray linen Micarta
  • SHEATH: Desert tan molded polymer
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4. MORAKNIV KANSBOL FIXED BLADE KNIFE WITH SANDVIK STAINLESS STEEL BLADE

  • BLADE: 4 inches, Swedish 12C27 stainless steel
  • HANDLE: Polyamide plastic handle
  • SHEATH: Plastic
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5. SOG FORCE FIXED BLADE SE38-N BLACK

Best High End

  • BLADE: 6 inches, AUS-8 stainless steel
  • HANDLE: High-strength nylon
  • SHEATH: Nylon sheath
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6. SOG SEAL PUP ELITE E37T-K

  • BLADE: 4.85 inches, AUS-8 stainless steel blade with TiNi coating
  • HANDLE: Glass-reinforced nylon
  • SHEATH: Hard-molded Kydex
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7. BUCK KNIVES 119 SPECIAL FIXED BLADE KNIFE

  • BLADE: 6 inches, 420HC steel
  • HANDLE: Traditional black phenolic
  • SHEATH: Leather
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8. GERBER LMF II SURVIVAL KNIFE 22-01629

  • BLADE: 4.84 inches, 420HC stainless steel
  • HANDLE: Glass-filled nylon w/ TPV overmold
  • SHEATH: Ballistic nylon
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9. TOPS KNIVES TOM BROWN TRACKER WITH ROCKY MOUNTAIN TREAD HANDLE

  • BLADE: 6.68 inches, 1095 high carbon alloy
  • HANDLE: Black linen micarta
  • SHEATH: Kydex sheath
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Reviews of the Best Survival Knife

1. Ka-Bar BK-22 Becker Companion Fixed Blade Knife

The KA-BAR BK22 Becker Companion is one of the best survival knives, as it comes with all the amazing features of an amazing tool. This unit is designed by Ethan Becker and it comes with a heavy-duty polyester sheath.

This tool is made in the United States from 1095 Cro-Van carbon steel, which is like a standard 1095 steel with added Vanadium and Chromium for corrosion resistance and enhanced wear. The overall length of this knife is 10.5 inches, and the length of the blade is 5.25 inches.

This tool is on the heavier side as it weighs one pound, and the thickness of the blade is 0.25 inches. Nevertheless, the weight of this unit is not an issue because it is complemented by its excellent design. On a flat grind, this tool features 20-degree edge angles, which makes it very easy to sharpen.

The handle of this tool is made out of DuPont-made glass-reinforced nylon – Zytel – which is almost indestructible. When holding this tool appropriately, it balances right at your index finger, giving it a lighter feel in your hand.

This tool also shines pretty well in processing wood. The thickness of the blade allows you to pry or baton with confidence. This knife also comes in pretty handy in a camp kitchen as it does a great job of dicing and slicing potatoes and onions.

Specs

  • 5.25 inches, 1095 Cro-Van stainless steel
  • Stock
  • Heavy-duty polyester

Pros

  • 100 percent synthetic
  • Heavy-duty polyester front pouch sheath
  • Made from 1095 Cro-Van carbon steel
  • Ergonomic design
  • Easy to sharpen

Cons

  • Prone to rust if not properly cared for

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2. FallKniven A1 Fine Edge Fixed Blade Knife

The FallKniven A1 Fine Edge knife is another great survival knife in the market. This tool features a drop point design with a nice sweeping belly and swedge. You can also use it as a spear-tip, as it features a great tip strength. The overall length of this knife is 11 inches, whereas the blade itself is 6.3-inch long and it weighs just 12 ounces. The thickness of the blade is .24 inches, which is perfect for most outdoor tasks. It also features a fantastic cutting performance, as it chops or slices through just about any material.

This tool is up to the task when it comes to cutting through treated lumber or hardwoods. When it comes to the steel, the FallKniven A1 utilizes a laminate featuring 420j outer cladding with a VG-10 core, which is hardened to 59 HRC. VG-10 is high-quality stainless steel, and it is rust-resistant. It also sharpens easily, but it is a bit brittle than the 1095 carbon steel. The handle of this tool is made out of Kraton – a semi-rubbery high-density polymer. It also features a wonderful texture and scale.

It also has a variety of sheath to choose from, such as a Zytel sheath, a lefty sheath, or a standard leather sheath. This tool cuts very well and it batons through wood with much ease. The FallKniven A1 works beautifully for slicing, carving, or skinning game.

Specs

  • 6.3 inches, 420j outer cladding with a VG-10 core
  • Kraton polymer
  • Zytel sheath, a lefty sheath, or a standard leather sheath option

Pros

  • VG-10 blade
  • Lightweight
  • Kraton handle
  • Variety of sheaths to choose from
  • Suitable for multiple tasks

Cons

  • The blade is more brittle compared to those made with 1095 carbon steel

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3. ESEE Knives 6P Fixed Blade Knife with Molded Polymer Sheath

If you are looking for a durable and high-quality survival knife that will not leave a hole in your pocket, then you should consider the ESEE Knives 6P survival knife. This knife comes with a durable blade that is made out of high carbon 1095 steel. This knife is also available in several appearances such as the standard black powdered blade with a gray handle or a venom green blade with orange handles. This medium-sized knife features an overall length of 11.75 inches, which is a little bit longer though.

The length of the blade is 6.5 inches with a thickness of 0.19 inches, which is relatively slim. This knife feels great in the hand; it is lightweight, as it weighs just 12 ounces. The black powder finish holds pretty well and it is easy to sharpen. The steel of this tool is not stainless, which means it can rust if you do not care of it well. The handle of hits knife is made out of gray linen Micarta, a strong and durable resin handle.

The rounded pommel also comes with a lanyard hole, which is very important in any survival knife. The handle of this tool is easier to grip even when it is wet, thanks to the material it is made from. This means you can use this knife to work in any condition, when sweating or in the rain, and not worry about it slipping off your hand.

Specs

  • 6.5 inches, steel with black powder finish
  • Gray linen Micarta
  • Desert tan molded polymer

Pros

  • Durable and strong handle
  • Slim and lightweight
  • High carbon 1095 steel
  • Easy to sharpen

Cons

  • It is not stainless

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 4. Morakniv Kansbol Fixed Blade Knife with Sandvik Stainless Steel Blade

Morakniv is another great knife-maker. The Kansbol Fixed Blade Knife from Morakniv is one of the best in the market. It is also the best knife for the money. This tool is one of the most affordable on our list, yet it comes with many great features. It comes with sturdy stainless steel fieldcraft blades. While many hard use blades are made out of carbon steel, corrosion-resistant stainless steel has some obvious advantages in the wild where muddy and wet conditions are common.

The blade of this unit is 4 inches long and it is professionally designed for tasks such as slicing and cutting, which is what you are going to need the knife for mostly. Blades, such as the ones that come with this model, are not made for heavier tasks such as batoning and chopping wood. This tool is also lightweight with a smaller footprint in your lead-out.

It comes with a sturdy sheath, top-grade Swedish 12C27 stainless steel, and no-frills bushcraft design. One of the major selling points of this tool is its price, as it sells for less than $32. The steel of this blade also features razor sharpness, excellent edge performance, exceptional corrosion resistance, and high hardness. It also comes with a tough polyamide plastic handle.

Specs

  • 4 inches, Swedish 12C27 stainless steel
  • Polyamide plastic handle
  • Plastic

Pros

  • Perfect size for backpacking and bush crafting
  • Lightweight
  • Stainless steel with corrosion and rust resistance
  • Sturdy plastic handle

Cons

  • A longer blade would have been better

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5. SOG Force Fixed Blade SE38-N Black

Whether you are an ex-military or you are just looking for the best survival knife, the SOG SE38-N is one knife you would enjoy having in your sheath or hand. This knife is usually marketed as a hunting knife. Nevertheless, it can do much more than that. This model comes with a full tang, thick AUS-8 steel blade that makes it practically unbreakable. It also comes with high-strength and minimal grind. It is a pleasure to hold and work with this knife and it performs perfectly whether you are breaking glass, cutting wood or gutting wolves.

The length of the blade is 6 inches and it is made from AUS-8 stainless steel. It is also coated with titanium nitrate to combat rust and corrosion. The blade has also passed through cryogenic heat-treatment to enhance its edge retention and strengthen the steel. For deep punctures and perfect control, the blade of this unit has a clip point shape. This knife is also very versatile, as you can use it for a wide range of tasks.

It also comes with a very strong handle. The handle is made from impact-resistant, high-strength, and glass-reinforced nylon. You can use this knife to baton as much as you want. The handle is also easy to grip, thanks to its unusual checked pattern. The package comes with a nylon sheath, an accessory pouch, and a MOLLE attachment.

Specs

  • 6 inches, AUS-8 stainless steel
  • High-strength nylon
  • Nylon sheath

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • AUS-8 stainless steel
  • Solid glass-reinforced nylon
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Durable

Cons

  • Using the knife for difficult tasks for too long may leave your hands feeling a bit sore

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6. SOG Seal Pup Elite E37T-K

The Seal Pup Elite #37T-K is another great survival knife from SOG. This is one of the best survival knives in the market, which is why it made it to our list. This knife comes with a fixed blade. It also boasts of high performance and a high-quality blade. It is also on the high end of the SOG Seal products. This tool was designed for military use and it comes in pretty handy in the wilderness. The overall length of this knife is 9.5 inches, whereas the length of the blade is 4.85 inches.

It comes with an AUS-8 stainless steel blade. For added strength and durability, the blade is treated with heat. It is also partially jagged with a longer cutting edge and it comes with a newly designed clip point shape. It comes with a thin blade, with a thickness of just 0.9 inches. This 9.5 inches long knife is also lightweight, as it weighs just 5.4 ounces. It also features a black finish, which is something unique to the SOG brand. This knife also comes with one of the strongest coatings that can be applied to metal – a titanium nitride (TiNi) coating.

That coating coupled with the proprietary cryogenic heat treatment process of SOG ensure that the knife will last for a very long time and still retain its quality.  It also comes with a hard-molded Kydex sheath. The knife is super sharp and sharpening it is also very easy.

Specs

  • 4.85 inches, AUS-8 stainless steel blade with TiNi coating
  • Glass-reinforced nylon
  • Hard-molded Kydex

Pros

  • Lightweight with GRN handle
  • Hard-molded Kydex sheath
  • Black titanium nitride-coated partially serrated blade
  • Serves a wide range of purposes

Cons

  • A slightly longer blade would have been better

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7. Buck Knives 119 Special Fixed Blade Knife

The Buck 119 special is one of the most popular survival knives in the market. This knife is classic and it has proven itself to be one of the best survival knives out there. The Buck knife brand has been making knives for more than 75 years. This means you are getting 75 years of knife making experience in the Buck 119 special. This knife has a stamp on the blade and an embossed logo on the leather sheath, and many would want to own it as a keepsake.

This tool comes with a razor-sharp clip point blade. The length of the blade is 6 inches and it is made out of 420HC steel. The design of the blade makes it an ideal option for poking holes and other intricate knife work. The blade combines the corrosion resistance of steel with the durability of high carbon alloys. This knife has a durable and strong blade, thanks to Buck’s proprietary heat-treatment process. It is also lightweight, as it weighs just 7.5 ounces. The overall length of the blade is 10.5 inches. It comes with a traditional black phenolic handle with palm swells for a comfortable grip.

For a perfect combination of balance and beauty, this tool features an aluminum pommel/guard. This knife also comes with a genuine high-quality protective leather sheath with a snap fastener.

Specs

  • 6 inches, 420HC steel
  • Traditional black phenolic
  • Leather

Pros

  • Razor-sharp clip point blade
  • Comfortable grip and balance
  • Classic phenolic handle
  • Lightweight and convenient to carry

Cons

  • Beware of fakes

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8. Gerber LMF II Survival Knife 22-01629

The Gerber LMF II survival knife is another budget-friendly knife on our list. It is a military-inspired, top-rated, and rugged fixed blade knife and it is one of the best in the market. Gerber is also very popular for manufacturing tools and knives, and a former military man designed their Survival Knife. They also tested the knife in the field to ensure it was up to their rigorous standards.

The company made some unique alterations to the design of this knife by adding a pointed stainless steel butt-cap at the tip of the blade. With this feature, you can use this knife to break glass in the event of an emergency. As a result of this, the tang is extended about 3/4 of the way through the handle. This separates it from the stainless steel butt-cap to prevent electrical shock and shock absorption when in use. The handle is pretty comfortable to hold and it comes with lashing holes.

The overall length of this tool is 10 inches and it is known for durability and strength. It comes with a belt attachment, a built-in carbide sharpener, and a well-designed sheath. The handle of this knife is made with glass-filled nylon with TPV overmold. The sheath is made with ballistic nylon with fire retardant coating.

Specs

  • 4.84 inches, 420HC stainless steel
  • Glass-filled nylon w/ TPV overmold
  • Ballistic nylon

Pros

  • Tough knife
  • Comfortable grip
  • Durable blade
  • Pointed stainless steel butt-cap

Cons

  • The length of the blade is a bit short

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9. Tops Knives Tom Brown Tracker with Rocky Mountain Tread Handle

If you are looking for a large and versatile survival knife, then you might want to consider the Tom Brown Tracker Knife. This knife is specifically designed for survival situations. It is from the TOPS brand and it was designed by Tom Brown Jr. – a survival expert. This knife has been on the Blade Magazine and it was also featured in the movie “The Hunted.” The overall length of this knife is 11.88 inches. The length of the blade is 6.38 inches, which is on the longer side. This is not one of the thickest options on our list, as it features a thickness of 25 inches.

The blade of this knife is made from 1095 high carbon alloy and it has a black traction coating. This knife was designed to be used in a wide range of tasks in a survival situation. You can use this knife to split, chop, carve, scrape, engrave, saw, hammer, and even break a metal wire, thanks to its multiple parts. It has two parts that you can use to chop or carve.

It also has sawback serrations along the spine. The total weight of this 11.88 inches blade is 26 ounces. You can also attach it to your hip or pack easily, as it comes with a Kydex sheath with a rotating spring steel clip.

Specs

  • 6.68 inches, 1095 high carbon alloy
  • Black linen micarta
  • Kydex sheath

Pros

  • Easy to attach
  • Kydex sheath
  • Designed for multiple different tasks
  • Sawback serrations

Cons

  • A bit expensive

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Buying Guide: Things to Consider When Buying a Survival Knife

When it comes to choosing a survival knife, there are many things you need to put into consideration such as your expected use, needs, budget, and more. The best survival knife often incorporates several vital features. Below are some of the key features you need to consider when picking out a survival knife.

 

The Design of the blade

To settle for a great survival knife, one of the first and most important things you should consider is the design of the blade. The design of the blade would tell if the knife is handy enough for survival use. When faced with different wilderness survival situations, from the tip, cutting edge, down to the belly of the knife plays a vital role.

There is a wide range of blade designs out there. Different knives come with different blade designs. Some of the blade designs out there include drop points, Nessmuks, clip points, trailing points, spear points, and more. However, the designs that are best suited for the purpose of survival include the drop point, clip point, and the spear point.

These blade designs are meant to position the tip of the blade closer to the centerline, providing the user with more control. This is one feature you do not get to enjoy when you are using a knife with a straight back design.

Those three-blade designs also help to lighten the tip of the blade, which balances the blade closer to the hilt. This also gives the user great control over the tip. Survival knives are divided into three categories camp knives, heavy-duty choppers, and Bushcraft also known as utility knives. However, the category a survival knife falls into depends on the design and length of its blade.

Survival knives under the heavy-duty chopping category usually feature full-bodied construction. They also have a blade length of 10 inches to 14 inches with a weight-forward design. Their blades are made out of tough steel such as 440C, 5160, and 1095. Furthermore, they come with non-slip, and highly ergonomic handles and the handle are made out of Hypalon or Kraton rubber.

Those under the camp knife category, which are also referred to as medium-sized knives, come with less-robust constructions. The length of their blade usually within 5 inches to 8 inches. The blade also has a balance point close to the hilt and a hollow or flat grind. These knives also come with an ergonomic handle that makes it easy for users to hold the knife at different points.

Whereas, the Bushcraft knives, which are also known as the utility knives, are those whose blade length falls within 3.5 inches to 5 inches. They also have a drop point, spear point, or clip point blade design. They also feature an ergonomic handle design with a hollow or flat grind.

It is crucial that you know what kind of knife you need in order to choose the right blade design. There are different types of blade designs and it is important that you know the type you need.

 

The Cutting Edge of the Blade

Another very important factor you should consider when picking out a survival knife is the design of the cutting edge. There are different types of cutting edges, and they are all designed for different purposes. We have the straight cutting edge blade design, which is designed specifically to be a general-purpose edge. Nevertheless, you should know that knives with straight cutting edges usually come with a negative, a neutral, or a positive rake angle measured from the bolster.

A positive rake angle extends from the bolster at a downward angle. This helps to increase the attack angle when slicing or cutting. The most common is the neutral angle, and it extends from the bolster at a right angle. Whereas, a negative rake angle extends from the bolster at an upward angle. This design helps to reduce the pressure on the cutting edge when slicing or cutting.

There are also survival knives with re-curved edges. These knives come with a straight section from the Ricasso. However, the edge changes to a positive angle as it gets to the center of the blade it tends curves upward as it approaches the belly. This design helps to place the balance of the blade forward of the hilt.

Hence, a survival knife with a re-curved edge is great for both carving and cutting close to the bolster, but it also makes the tip a bit heavy for superior chopping performance. Hence, you need to consider your need before picking out the perfect cutting edge that you need.

 

The Material Used to Make the Blade

After the design of a blade, another crucial thing that you should put into consideration is the type of steel used to make the blade of the knife. First and foremost, you should note that there are two different types of blade steel. We have stainless steel and high carbon, non-stainless steel. Blades made out of high carbon steels are usually tougher and stronger than blade made out of stainless steel. High carbon steels are also less likely to break. However, they are more susceptible to corrosion, which means they are more likely to get rusty.

High carbon steels are also easier to sharpen. Nevertheless, stainless steel blades tend to hold an edge very well than high carbon steel blades do. They have a better edge holding capacity even though they are less tough. They are also far less susceptible to corrosion. However, stainless steel blades break easily compared to those made with high carbon steel. They are also more difficult to sharpen.

Nonetheless, the Rockwell Hardness is what really determines the relative edge holding ability and toughness of any steel type. This means that a blade with 58 to 62 Rockwell Hardness is meant to have a great edge holding ability. Whereas, a knife blade with 50 to 54 Rockwell Hardness is meant to be tougher and those with 54 to 58 Rockwell Hardness have a blend of an edge holding ability and toughness.

Heavy-duty, large survival knives should be made out of high carbon, non-stainless steel with about 50 to 54 Rockwell Hardness, which means that they out to be tougher. Whereas, Bushcraft knives can be made with either steel with 58 to 62 Rockwell Hardness for a great edge holding ability. The same should also go for camp knives.

Some of the best picks for high carbon steel blades include 01, A2, 1095, and 5160. Whereas, some great choices for stainless steel blades include 440C, AUS-8, AUS-10, and 420HC.

 

The Length of the Blade

This is another very important thing you should not forget. You need to consider the length of the blade because blades come in different lengths for different purposes. For example, knives with a blade length of 8 inches to 10 inches are often weighty and pretty long, and they are great for splitting and chopping. However, you might have a hard time controlling the tip of the blade when you want to carry out the precision, small, cutting tasks.

If you would be needing the survival knife for more subtle tasks such as slicing tubers and uproots, skinning small game animals and gutting fish, cutting notches in stakes and staves to build snares and traps, etc., you should go for a blade length that ranges from 3.5 inches to 5 inches.

However, if you are looking for a perfect blend of short utility blades and heavy-duty, long blades, then you should go for a knife with a blade length of 6 inches to 7.5 inches.

 

The Material Used for the Handle

If you do not want to have any issues while holding and using the survival knife for an extended period of time, you should put the material used to make the handle of the knife into consideration before buying. You need to make sure that the material is tough, to prevent breaking and cracking. It must also be resistant to the absorption of moisture in order to prevent rot.

The most popular material used to make the handle of a survival knife is either linen Micarta or canvas. This is a resin-saturated fabric that has undergone heat treatment to liquefy the resin. It also passed under very good pressure to come out as a solid material. Also, fiber-reinforced plastics such as Zytel and G-10 can do the job. Nevertheless, the aforementioned plastic materials do not provide the hand of the user with any kind of cushion to reduce the shock generated when slicing or chopping with the knife.

If you are going for heavy-duty choppers, then one of the best options you have is a textured rubber handle such as those from Hypalon and Kraken.

 

Final Thoughts

Survival knives come in different sizes, designs, and shapes. These tools can and have been used in a wide range of situations. Having a pocket knife is not bad, as it can come in handy sometimes. Nevertheless, having a survival knife can make a significant difference. You can use this sturdy and large blade to carve, saw, whittle, chop, skin, etc.

However, many users usually have a hard time picking out the option that would suit their needs. This is because there are numerous options in the market. This is why we have decided to take away the stress of extensive research from you.

We can definitively say that the Ka-Bar BK-22 is the best of the bunch, as it gives you that fine cutting edge and that tough ruggedness you need in a survival knife — all at a reasonable price.

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