– WE ASKED 23 SURVIVAL EXPERTS: –
“SHTF and you can only bring one survival knife with you: what knife would you take with you and why?”
Whether you’re out in the woods, or a disaster happens, having the right knife with you can make all the difference in a life or death situation. Although a good survival knife is one of the most important tools to have, it’s not easy to find the right one. In fact, there’s no single best knife for everyone. In order to help you, we’ve asked 23 survival and outdoor experts to share their favorite knife with us.
EXPERTS RECOMMENDED KNIVES: COMPARISON TABLE
|SHTF KNIFE||EXPERT||EXPERT OPINION||OVERALL LENGTH||STEEL||PRICE|
|Fallkniven F1||"Realiable, simple, versatile"||8.3"||VG-10 steel||$$$|
|Buck Hoodlum||"Great durability for the money"||15 1/2"||5160 Alloy Stee||$$$|
|SOG Seal Pup Straight Edge||"Thick blade, very sharp point"||9.5''||AUS8 stainless steel||$$|
|M.A.K.-1||"Originally designed for firefighters and rescue workers. Very versatile"||10''||3Cr13 stainless steel||$$$|
|Odin by Fallkniven||"It has the edge retention of carbon and low maintenance of stainless"||12.72"||Lam.VG10||$$$|
|Schrade SCHF42||"Great for cleaning small game and splitting wood"||9.95"||1095 High Carbon Steel||$$|
|Mora Knife||"Inexpensive, strong, sharp"||8.6''||High Carbon Steel||$|
|Gerber Bear Grylls Ultimate Knife||"Great knife, it also have a fire starting kit"||10''||High Carbon Stainless Steel||$$|
|Cold Steel SRK||"Great for cutting, slicing and stabbing"||10 3/4-Inch||VG-1 San Mai III||$$|
|Ka-Bar Becker BK2||"Great for chopping, but short enough blade for finer works"||10.5''||1095 cro-van steel||$$|
|Gerber Steadfast Knife||"Large enough for all the tasks I need, but not too large to carry"||10.75"||440A stainless steel||$|
INFOGRAPHIC: SHIT HIT THE FAN, DO YOU HAVE THE RIGHT KNIFE?
SHARE THE INFOGRAPHIC: IT’S EASY!
Copy and paste the following code to share it:
23 SURVIVAL EXPERTS SHARE THEIR FAVORITE SHTF KNIFE
EXPERT: Urban Survival Network
KNIFE: Fällkniven F1 Pilot Survival Knife
EXPERT: Modern Survival Online
KNIFE: Buck Hoodlum
EXPERT: Lifesong Adventures
KNIFE: SOG Seal Pup Straight Edge
The design is a commercial high-end version of the Vietnam War Era’s fifth Special Forces Groups known as the Study and Observation Group, made by SOG Knives. The overall length of my older version is from tip to handle – 11 1/8″ The blade length itself is six inches, the width has been modified from sharpening over the years, but it is around 1 1/8″ at the middle of the blade. The blade is quite thick where it meets the handle, a solid one-quarter inch and tappers to a very sharp point to a thickness 1/16 at the top of the blade at the point, or about 1/32 at the cutting edge of the blade point. Read more in this article.
EXPERT: Urban Survival Site
KNIFE: The Odin by Fallkniven, ESEE 6, Junglass by ESEE, Ontario Blackbird SK-5
You see, you need a thin blade for some tasks (such as cutting feather sticks), but a thin blade, while an efficient cutter, would make a lousy fighting knife. The blade would roll too easily.It might break contacting bone, and it might snap off or get bent on a thrust between the ribs when you tried to withdraw the blade. Too thick and the blade isn’t good for filleting fish or carving feather sticks. So you have to consider the thickness of the blade, the shape and angle of the grind, blade length, steel, and shape, whether or not it has a guard, the handle material and how aggressively it is checkered, if it is. You don’t want a guard that will get tangled in clothing or give you blisters, and you need scales or handle material that won’t slip when it get wet, bloody or muddy, but that won’t tear up your hands in prolonged use. I prefer a pommel with a lanyard hole that you can slip your thumb over in a reverse grip, so I prefer it to be flat. You definitely want a full tang on a survival knife, which means that the knife is made of one piece of steel all the way back through the handle.
I prefer a convex grind on survival knives, because it’s the strongest – the same grind on a katana like the Samurai used. But a convex grind would be a poor choice for a novice, because it is harder for them to sharpen. A sharply squared spine is best for striking ferrocerium or mischmetal rods, as is a high carbon steel. It’s also nice to have a flat spot to use a baton to baton the blade when splitting dried wood. Saw teeth or serrations on the spine can tear up batons pretty fast.
Many guys will tell you that a survival knife should be short, 5 inches or less, but for me that wouldn’t work. They say that you only need a 3 inch blade for fighting, but they must not have ever killed anything with a knife … at least not in a hurry. You need some reach: a fighting knife should be able to reach vitals through fat, muscle and clothing at an angle. It also needs to reach far enough past the vocal cords to sever them. A 3″ blade can’t do that. I find that it’s easier to do small knife jobs with a big knife than to do big jobs with a small one, but that’s me. Some people would argue that longer knives are too heavy or awkward on the belt.
I haven’t found my dream blade yet, but Busse makes some excellent blades, as does Busse’s sister companies, but they have a collector-oriented sales model which is frustrating to non-collector consumers. I can point out a model that is close: The Odin by Fallkniven, but it uses a laminated steel blade. It has a high-carbon steel core sheathed in stainless so it has the edge retention of carbon and low maintenance of stainless. The problem with that for a single knife expected to do everything is that stainless doesn’t throw much of a spark off a ferro rod. The best strikers have a sharply-squared spine and are made of carbide, but high carbon steel can throw a fat spark. But get that from the Fallkniven, you would have to use the blade’s edge, which would dull the blade. TheOdin’s blade shape is also a clip point instead of a spear point, which I would prefer for the theoretical “one knife” scenario. The Odin’s guard would help in a fight, but would get in the way when working with the knife. Another option would be a blade like the ESEE 6 or the Junglass by ESEE. But those blades are high carbon steel that is typically coated with finish to simplify maintenance. There’s nothing wrong with a stained blade on a working knife. I prefer it to finish if the finish creates drag when it contacts the material you are cutting. I also prefer a blade without much of a shoulder if possible.
So I’d like for a full-tang sheath knife with spear point blade in the 8-inch range, (which the prevailing wisdom these days seems to reject), convex grind, uncoated high-carbon blade, a sharply-squared spine, no shoulder, enough guard to protect the hand from slipping on the edge side of the blade, but none on spine side, and appropriate handle material. The Ontario Blackbird SK-5 has a lot of those features, but it is taper ground instead of convex ground and it is too short at only 5 inches. It also sacrifices a little blade performance for corrosion resistance with the choice of steel. But I don’t want a pretty knife. I want my knife to cut. So for me, I haven’t come across my perfect blade yet, but if you’ve seen it, please give me a holler. Then I wouldn’t have to have it made. But I prefer to carry more than one blade so I have the right tool for each job.
EXPERT: Prep For SHTF
KNIFE: Survive GSO-5.1
KNIFE: Schrade SCHF42
It has done an excellent job at carving trap triggers, splitting wood and even cleaning small game. It would certainly be my choice.
EXPERT: Survival Weekly
KNIFE: LT Wright GNS
EXPERT: Outdoor Self Reliance
KNIFE: Mora Knife
For the past twenty years, I’ve used the same Mora. The single biggest reason being it is inexpensive. If I could find a more inexpensive knife with a good history of dependability, I would use it instead, just to prove a point.
EXPERT: Florida Hillbilly
KNIFE: Randall #5, Mora
If the S really did HTF, the best survival knife is the one within reach as you are bolting for the hills…
If I had a moment, I’d grab far more than one…like guns, there is no perfect knife for every situation, though in an emergency, whatever you can get your hands on is just fine.
So in the spirit of the question, I’d opt for either my Randall #5 (yes, I USE it..a LOT – enough to make any collector cry) or one of my Mora knives. I’d probably opt for the stainless Mora with the orange furniture, but any of them would be just fine. A third option is an M. Coker custom made copy of the Randall Triathlete in D-2 with custom made black micarta, affectionately called the RT-D2. It’s wicked sharp and holds its edge well…and since it was made custom for me by a good friend, its more than just a tool. I know what went into making this, so I know what kind of abuse it should take…so I trust it.
And in a pinch, trusting in your tools is a must.
The Randall #5 is mighty trustworthy of course, but the Moras are lighter, and simply can’t take the abuse the #5 or RTD2 can…so the Moras are out.
So having talked myself through my three initial choices, I’d probably opt of the Randal #5, simply due to its larger size….but I’d sure like to have that little RTD2 with me as a backup….
EXPERT: My Family Survival Plan
KNIFE: Gerber’s Bear Grylls Ultimate Survival Knife
EXPERT: Doomsday Moose
KNIFE: Cold Steel SRK
EXPERT: SHTF School
KNIFE: Cold Steel SRK
1. weapon (cut, stab, slice)
2. build a shelter (wood work)
3. skinning and gutting animals, fish etc. (small and large game, fish, shellfish etc.)
4. food preparation (cutting, vegetables, fruits)
5. can opener
6. fire making
7. building snares
9. first aid
10. making spear (improvised weapons)
To do all of the above and much more I have to choose wisely. I will have to take into consideration different factors that are needed to be combined in one single knife.
I would definitely go for fixed blade. Folding knives are easier to carry but fixed blade knife is much stronger and robust and it will serve me longer and stronger than folding one.
So it would be fixed blade definitely.
Knife tang should be a full tang, eventually skeletonized tang, because they are much stronger and durable and not prone to breaking like partial, half tang or stick tang. It’s better to have one solid piece of metal!
So it would be fixed blade with full tang. Let’s go to size.
I will need to find optimal size that will give me options what I can do with it. Too long or to heavy knife, is hard to carry around all the time, and it’s difficult to perform any precise work. Knife too small, is easy to carry but it will be difficult to baton wood, chop and perform heavy duty work.
For me it would be size between 25 – 30 cm.
So, fixed blade, full tang, 25-30 cm.
I would always choose a straight edge, it is more versatile than serrated one or half serrated, and it is easier to sharpen it.
Every knife of course, has a sharp point. For my knife I would go for drop point shape or tanto shape point. Tantos are very thick and strong at the tip, but drop points are much more versatile in survival situation (easy skinning, precision work etc.). Bowie shape is also very popular if it is not too curved at the tip.
So for now, it is a fixed blade, full tang, 25-30 cm long, straight edge with some variation of drop point shape.
Material that the blade will be made of is either carbon steel or stainless steel. Carbon steel would be my choice because it is tougher and more durable than stainless one and much easier to sharp. The bad thing is that it is prone to rust, but if you keep good maintenance it will serve you good.
Back edge spine of the knife should be straight, thick and durable. Working with knife, batoning, precision work etc.
So to conclude :
Fixed blade, full tang, 25-30 cm long, straight edge, drop point shape, carbon steel with straight back edge, hmmm….
When I put all of that together, it came to my mind that I already have that knife it is a Cold Steel SRK with Secure Ex holster, one of the best and most versatile survival knives that I had a chance to test.
Cold Steel SRK is a formidable weapon in combat, good for stabbing, cutting and slicing. It is good for making shelter, batoning branches and wood, skinning and gutting fish, preparing food, opening cans, making fire, cutting precisely for snares, hammering, cutting bandages and splints, and can be used on a stick as a spear. It has a clip point shape, which is highly similar to drop point, but it is more suitable for piercing, carving etc.
When I first started writing this article, I did not had in mind the knife that I already posses, but once I finalized all mentioned above he was the first one that came to my mind. There are many others great knives for survival situation, don’t get me wrong, but this one is amongst the best for sure.
Most important thing is that you are comfortable with type of knife that you choose, and to know how or learn how to use it, how to sharpen it, how to use it as a tool and as a weapon, how to make fire with it or baton the wood. The knife is only good if you know how to extract the most of it by yourself in SHTF situation.
EXPERT: Getting Started In Emergency Preparedness
KNIFE: Swedish Mora Clipper Companion knife (Orange) + sharpener
I believe most people (including myself) don’t have the financial resource to purchase a Fallkniven F1 survival knife especially when the whole family needs a knife. Plus, for most people, a ‘survival‘ event is going to last a few days with emergency services arriving shortly thereafter to provide some support.
Oh, … About that bright orange. It easier to see ‘If‘ the knife is dropped.
EXPERT: Backwoods Survival Blog
KNIFE: Kukri knife
EXPERT: Selous Scouts
KNIFE: Becker/KaBar BK-2
EXPERT: Armageddon Online
KNIFE: Set of Kitchen Knives
EXPERT: Reality Survival
KNIFE: Victorinox Farmer Silver Alox, Mora Bushcraft Black, Ontario RAT 7, 15 inch bow saw, 2 1/4 Pound Hudson Bay Axe.
EXPERT: Prepper Link
KNIFE: Becker/KaBar BK-2
EXPERT: Survival Civilization
KNIFE: Hunting knife + Arkansas Sharpening Stones + ATF transmission fluid
All that said, the most important part in my opinion isn’t the knife itself – there are a dizzying array of damned good hunting knives that one can carry around. The most important part would be to have a pair of good sharpening stones (one coarse, one fine), a supply or source of good oil, and the skill in keeping one’s knife in top condition. If you cannot or will not carry those with you, at least have the knowledge and skill in finding/making something similar. In my case, a couple of good Arkansas-sourced stones (as a former resident of Arkansas, I’m kind of biased like that) and a quart of ATF transmission fluid will do the trick nicely. The stones are kind of costly, but they will last longer than me, so they’re worth the cost. the ATF is dirt-cheap and does the job nicely (as a bonus, you can always scrounge more of the stuff from the plethora of automatic transmissions that a hypothetical apocalypse will happily provide you). By the way, pay as much attention to the sheath as you do the knife…
Look at it this way – you can have the best knife in the world at your side, but if it’s nicked and dull, it’s kind of useless. If the sheath is cheap, it’ll come apart when you really don’t want it to.
EXPERT: SHTF Preparedness
KNIFE: Tomahawk, Mora knife
EXPERT: Bugged Out Prepper
KNIFE: Gerber Steadfast Fine – Edge Knife
My choice of survival knife would be the Gerber Steadfast Fine Edge Knife for a variety of different reasons. Gerber makes high quality knives and when compared with other brands you get the best bang for your buck out of Gerber. Specifically I use the Gerber Steadfast Fine Edge Knife.
When making my selection for a survival knife I avoided all folding knifes as my primary shit hits the fan/survival knife because of the increased likely-hood of a catastrophic failure. Therefore, the only type of knife I’d put my life on the line with is a completely full-tang sheath knife, which the Gerber knife I am talking about is. Don’t get me wrong, having a folding knife is a good alternative to have for backup purposes… just not as my primary life saving survival knife.
Another often overlooked shit hits the fan situation is those situations in which the police are actually still around and enforcing the law. To be best prepared for SHTF situations with and without the law barking down our backs I’m picking a knife that will still be legal to carry. It would surely be a messy situation if the lawman is trying to confiscate your only knife because it is too long, or has two edges. Best be prepared legally.
The Gerber Steadfast knife has a 5-1/2 inch single-edge blade. This is a great length because it is long enough for just about all tasks I might need it for without being obnoxiously large and difficult to use and carry. Additionally the fact that it has a single-edge blade avoids it being deemed illegal since in most states carrying a double-edge knife is illegal.
I’m sure a lot of others will recommend really fancy and intimidating survival knifes. While they may look great and scare the shit out your neighbors the most important aspect for me is quality and ensuring my knife is legal to carry. I would never want to be without my survival knife..
EXPERT: The Truth About Knives
KNIFE: Mora Bushcraft (for a couple of days in a survival situation)
Instead, there are 3 design traits that I look for in a SHTF blade. Size, Steel, and a full-tang construction:
Size: I think that 4″-6″ is really the sweet spot for a bushcraft and survival knife. Most wood processing that you will do from shelter construction to tinder prep to cutting saplings for a travois is dealing with wood under 3″. This is enough to get a fire going that will burn logs that are larger than that. A blade over 6″ (that isn’t designed specifically as a kitchen knife) is going to be awkward at some of the finer tasks that you are still likely to encounter when the SHTF.
Steel: “Super-steels” are fun to play with and produce some incredible tools. They can hold their edge through some pretty heavy abuse. However, once dulled they can take specialty sharpening tools to bring the edge back into shape.
In a SHTF scenario, you are not likely to have such a luxury. The softer 1095 of an Ontario TAK, or 420HC of a Gerber Strong Arm might be a better choice. An amateur sharpener can achieve excellent results with a common whetstone and a little practice. In a pinch you can even use a stone off the ground if it is fine-grained and flat.
Finally, a full tang construction is essential. I would go as far as recommending a tang that extends beyond the scales and can be struck with a wooden baton. Even if the scales eventually wear out or break off, you can always wrap the knife with paracord or make rudimentary wooden replacements.
I frequently carry a Mora Bushcraft when guiding and deem it sufficient for a couple of days in a survival situation in the Smoky Mountains. If the S-really-HTF however, I simply don’t trust a hidden-tang knife to be as durable in absolute terms as a full-tang one for extended use.I would want something more robust for the long-haul.
In the end, it is a deeply personal choice as to what is your perfect SHTF knife. The most important thing you can do is plan ahead and test a variety of tools and practice a variety of skills. When you know your capabilities and the capabilities of your tools, you can have the confidence to begin to take control of your situation.
Stay safe, Stay sharp.
“If Shit Hit The Fan, What knife would you take with YOU?”
Tell Us in The Comments Below!