Wilderness Survival Knives – Choosing Wisely
Wilderness Survival Knife. You want a knife in the wild with you. You need a survival knife. Well ok… you don’t actually “need” a knife. Of course you don’t, you have rocks and sharp objects everywhere! But as awesome as you may be “Mr. Caveman”, it sure would make things a lot easier to have it. The human race started advancing more rapidly once we started forging metals, because they just make things easier.
If you’re primary concern is wilderness survival, as in your plane might crash in the deep Canadian Forests or you may need to flee the city in a hurry, then you need a good Wilderness Survival Knife. Now there are a few different kinds of knives that we could look at, but your survival bag or pockets only have so much room. There are folding knives, switchblades, combat knives, survival knives, and pieces of crap that I wouldn’t trust to cut through paper let alone the massive rabbit steak I would like to eat once established in the woods! There are many more to be listed I’m sure, but let’s discuss a few of these most common knives first. These are generalized with no exact brands in mind. “Gerber” knives may be awesome, but they don’t get their own category.
Folding Knifes. Folding knives can be useful for a few reasons. They are small for one, and that means less pocket or bag space. They can be concealed easily, and many are made with multiple tools that fold out from the knife. Pliers, Toothpicks, nail pickers/trimmers, Spork, saw blade, needle threader, corkscrews and all kinds of goodies. These knives are really the only kind of folding knife I would recommend. These are tiny and good to throw into your survival bag, especially the ones that have pliers attached. Any other kind of folding knife with a blade I don’t recommend, depending on the quality of the knife these could actually hurt you in more ways than help you. Anything with a moving mechanism can break and wear down over time. Something that you may be using for weeks, months or even years cannot fail you when you need it most.
Switchblades. The same goes for these. Do you really want a knife that “springs open in a microsecond” to be your “go-to” knife in all situations? How stupid do you feel in the middle of the F****** forest when a stick cracks from a deer and you spin around flipping out your knife in typical “Greaser” fashion? These are not practical knives, even in a real combat situation. Urban combat, wilderness combat… does not matter. I’ve seen guys with fixed blade and even folding knives draw quicker than douches who use these. These are novelty, and there is still a spring in the mechanism that will wear down over the years, leaving you with a beautiful shiny handle and it’s sharp counterpart. Of course when it does break you can make a nice spear out of it. Of course if you were too busy practicing with your “awesome knife” you may not have ever learned to use or make a spear from nothing.
Before we go over the next category I’ve listed, let me explain. When I say “combat” I’m generally referring to close quarters hand to hand in urban or wilderness environments. Of course in a chaotic situation such as a complete collapse of society and structure, there will be violence. Even in a city when the stock market crashes, there will be some kind of violence, so we can only guess what happens in disaster/survival situations. Let me clarify however that I don’t expect there would ever be a situation where you are running through the downtown streets stabbing people in the face. That most likely won’t happen.
Picture the roads being blocked (multiple situations), you grab your family and your “Bug Out Bag” and go on foot. Perhaps it’s still 2 miles before you get out of the city, that means your chances of running into people is quite a bit higher. Not everyone you meet will say “Howdy!” and be on their own way. When you’re stuck between your family and two opportunistic men looking for a free grab of your things, I hope you have a trusty 9mm on your hip. If you don’t, I hope you’ve got a 7 inch combat knife on your belt, and know how to use it.
Combat knives are generally fixed blade knives, they don’t fold. They are sturdy made, with a good sheath. The knife/sheath combination could be made to be concealed in your belt, or strapped to the leg under the pants (boot knife). These combat type knives are generally made to be accessed quickly, be sturdy enough to withstand impacts and stabs, but small enough to be concealed. There are bigger “RAMBO” type combat knives, which are more novelty than anything, however certain ones serve uses in the wilderness or outdoors. Generally something with a 5”-7” blade is about all I recommend, 5”-6” is what seems most comfortable to me. Some of these knives are impractical, so you have to look around for a good deal and make sure to test it out before buying. If buying online, look at reviews and make sure there is a good return policy if you hate it or if is uncomfortable/bad design etc..
Survival Knife. These are usually made with many of the above qualities for combat knives, however they are usually added onto in some way. The most common kind you will see is the hollow handle, you unscrew the bottom and there is a cavity to fill with small items. This is useful for storing matches, fishing line, hooks, fire striker and even some light kindling (never know when it will be sparse). Many you buy even come with kits in them, including many of the above mentioned items. From my experience if it comes with items in the handle and is around $20 or less, don’t buy it. You want a quality made tool, and not something with a bending aluminum handle that has no water seal to keep your matches dry. There are other “survival” model knives, with strikers or some other such thing built in or around the handle. There is a nice one marketed that even has a built in hammer, nail remover and saw. Think about what you need, and what might come in handy to survive any situation.
The best kind of survival knife in my opinion, is something encompassing the last two categories of knives that I mention. A sturdy, lightweight, solid feeling fixed blade knife. Some sort of guard to keep your fingers from sliding if you have to stab. A cavity, to store a few items and keep them dry. If possible I would find a knife with a ribbed grip, something that won’t slip and spin. Also depending on the handle, many allow you to lash the knife to a strong stick to create a makeshift spear. A survival spear, if you will. A spear can come in handy in many situations, you can bet your life on that (and you may bet your life on it when the time comes, so pick a strong rope to secure blade).
This ideal knife I suggest should have a one sided blade, double edged blades are not normally needed for most activities and can get in the way. A double edge can bite back when whittling, skinning and other activities. If you are going to choose a knife with two edges, the other side should preferably be a saw type blade or serrated edge. The only reason I don’t suggest that however is because you can easily carry a pocket wire, made for sawing small trees, inside of the knife cavity or storage space.
The following is a good pick for what I described::
Cold Steel Survival Edge 5″ German 4116 Stainless Steel Blade, Black Polypropylene Handles – $26.95
Cold Steel Survival Edge 5″ German 4116 Stainless Steel Blade, Black Polypropylene Handles
Notice how it is a nice all around knife, but sturdy with a nice fixed blade. There is a storage compartment, and this one even has a slot for the included fire striker on the sheath. Great deal it appears to me.
When it comes time to choose, I suggest you think about these few points:
-Practicality. Is it going to be efficient and practical to carry in the situation you are preparing for?
-Speed. Can it be drawn quickly if needed? Even non-combat knives still can be used in a fix.
-Longevity. Is it one piece of sturdy forged well put together pieces? Or are there multiple moving mechanisms or locks that could be damaged over time?
-Length. Does it need to be concealed? Will it get in the way? Will it fit on your belt/leg strap or even in your survival bag?
-Use. Will it be skinning animals? Will it be cutting plants and edible tree bark? Will it be digging out bullets and arrows from flesh? Will it be helping to build your tree house or shelter?
Think about every aspect you may need for your own knife, and keep those key points in mind. You will find one that is comfortable in your hand, and feels solid. When you find your perfect knife, keep it sharp and keep a sharpening stone nearby because you never know when you might need it. Feel free to comment and discuss your ideal wilderness or forest survival knife.
- Matthew Pizgatti