Best Survival Knife: A Reliable Pal for All Scenarios

Survival knife review
Dennis Owens
Written by Dennis Owens

There are many tasks that would be impossible without the aid of a knife so you can see why we’re interested in discussing the best survival knife. A knife is a critical tool for your survival out in the wilderness, and whether you want to build a shelter, skin a deer or cut the rope, you are going to need the help of a reliable blade.

What to Look for In A Survival Knife

Before you make your purchase, there are some features you need to consider in a survival knife.

Survival knives

This is an important item, and you want to make sure you make the right decision.

  • Full Tang vs. Partial Tang: For a survival knife, you need a full tang knife. What does this mean? The blade extends the entire length of the knife, from the top to the bottom of the handle. The reason you want full tang is because you will need strength in wilderness situations. Partial tang knives are just too weak and flimsy for the uses you would need in a survival scenario.
    If you had to pry something with the knife, the partial tang could easily break. A full tang knife is heavier than a partial tang, but durability is an important feature. Partial tang knives can also loosen inside of the handle and move around. That is a dangerous scenario. So, remember full tang knife for your survival knife is the way to go.
  • Fixed Blade: Most people assume you would want a folding knife, so you can save space. However, this is not the case for a survival knife. Folding knives are awesome and handy for so many reasons, but the pivot (or joint) point of the knife is a weakness. It wouldn’t be able to handle the abuse of a survival scenario. In the woods, you are going to be using the knife for nearly everything. There will be chopping, cutting, sawing, pounding, and more.
    There are some really durable folding blades, but they can’t take the substantial usage of a fixed blade. Another factor to think about is the speed of use. If you are in an emergency situation, you have to take out the folding knife and make sure it is fully extended before using it. With a fixed blade, once it’s out of the sheath, it’s ready to go.
  • The size of the Blade Length: The size of your blade is another important factor for your survival knife. You want a blade that is versatile. A blade that is too thick can’t do certain things, such as skinning At the same time, you need it to be able to chop up wood or heavy brush. So what is the perfect blade length? You want to look for a blade between 4 and 7 inches. This will give you a total length of around 10 to 11 inches.
    There are some blades that are 10 or 11 inches! That is way too big and difficult to carry in a survival scenario. If you want something that big, you are better off with a machete. You have to be comfortable with your choice, the weight and the full of carrying the knife around with you.
  • Synthetic Handle: I know the look of a knife with a beautiful, gleaming wooden handle is visually appealing. However, this isn’t the best choice for a survival knife. Plastic is a bad idea as well because it is far from durable for all the jobs you will use it. Some other knives have metal handles and, at first glance, metal seems like a good idea because it is strong and durable. But, it conducts heat and won’t be comfortable to hold in cold weather.
    You need to look for a synthetic handle, made of materials such as Kraton, Micarta, GRN/FRN, or G-10. These materials are extremely strong and there isn’t much that can break them. They typically come with a texturized grip, which is another important feature. If you want to hammer things with the handle, synthetic is the way to go.
  • Carbon Steel Blade: The blade is the most important part of the whole knife, so purchasing one made with cheap steel makes no sense at all. Sure, it might be easier on your pocketbook, but a cheap knife will break easily and cut nothing. Stainless steel is a fine choice and many people select it for their survival knives.
    One of the best options though is carbon steel. A carbon steel blade is going to last you So long as you take care of it, it will do everything you need. The most popular carbon steel is 1095 due to its strength and ability to sharpen. Stainless steel is also a popular option because of its resistance to rust.
  • The thickness of Blade: So far, we have discussed the length and material of the blade, now we have to think about the blade thickness. This blade is going to be used for a wide variety of activities, so don’t opt for an extremely thin blade. While it may seem like a good idea because of weight, it is going to reduce what you can do with it. The ideal thickness is between 0.17 and 0.25 inches. This is perfect for skinning animals and chopping wood.

Top 10 Survival Knives

KA-BAR Becker 22 Campanion

KA-BAR Becker 22 Campanion

Weight: 16oz

Dimensions: Blade Length – 5.25in, Overall Length – 10.5in

Features: Utility Knife, Easily Sharpened, Carbon Steel, Synthetic Handle, USA Made,

Description: One of the best selections for a survival knife is the KA-BAR. Made in the USA from 1095 carbon steel, it is designed for durability and strength. Coming in at 16oz, or 1 pound, it is on the heavier side of knives. The blade is 0.25 inches thick – the maximum suggested for your survival knife.

The KA-BAR is designed with a drop point so you can easily sharpen it. The handle is made from Zytel, which is a glass-reinforced nylon. This is a solid synthetic material and is nearly indestructible. Becker designed this knife for comfort; the handle will feel cool to hold. Despite the weight, it feels surprisingly light in hand.

While you can use the KA-BAR for nearly anything, it truly shines as a utility knife. You will love this knife for wood processing. Because of the size, it doesn’t excel at precise carving, but it is great for chopping and cutting. You will be able to hollow out a container, chop wood or baton logs for firewood and more. It also serves well for a kitchen knife. Chances are the KA-BAR will become your “go-to” knife.

Gerber LMF II

Gerber LMF II

Weight: 11.7oz

Dimensions: Blade Length – 4.8in, Overall Length – 10.6in

Features: Stainless Steel, Serrated Blade, Built-in Sharpener, Hunting and Skinning Game, Lightweight

Description: Despite the shorter blade, the Gerber LMF was designed with survival in mind. It features a stainless steel blade, made from 420HC. This material isn’t known to be the highest quality, but it is great at resisting rust, which is an important factor in the wilderness or survival scenario. 420HC could withstand some tough uses.

Gerber LMF II is serrated, which can be useful in the woods. It makes slicing even easier. A drop point is easy to sharpen, and they even have a built in sharpener inside of the sheath. It is also one of our thinnest feature blades, measuring 0.1875in.

The area that the Gerber shines is with hunting. You can use the LMF as a spear, which is an extremely useful tool in a survival lifestyle. Once you have secured some meat, you can use the LMF for field dressing and slicing the meat.

Due to the less-strong stainless steel, I wouldn’t recommend using it for things you go tip-first. There is a small chance it could break or nick. Otherwise, the Gerber knife is an affordable, yet quality knife.

Cold Steel 95BBUSK Bowie Bushman Knife

Cold Steel 95BBUSK Bowie Bushman Knife

Weight: 10.1oz

Dimensions: Blade Length – 5.25in, Overall Length – 12.2in

Features: Partial Tang, Stainless Steel, Utility Knife

Description: Bushman knives are known for their strength. This particular knife is partial tang, with a hollow handle. Despite that, it was designed to flow seamlessly between the blade and handle. There is no joint or seam and this increases the strength of the knife overall.

Cold Steel 95BBUSK Bowie Bushman Knife is created with SK-5 high carbon steel. It is still stainless, so it has a high resistance to rust which is important for long term survival scenarios. The knife is treated to increase its strength.

It is a little thicker than normal, at .039in so this wouldn’t be a knife good for precision skinning of game. There is a higher chance of mistakes with a thicker knife. The edge holds sharpness well as The Bowie Bushman is a great knife for chopping and slicing wood and meat, after it was skinned. Overall, it is a great utility knife.

Cold Steel Cutlery 80PGTK G.I. Tanto now with Secure-Ex Sheath

Cold Steel Cutlery 80PGTK G.I. Tanto now with Secure-Ex Sheath

Weight: 12oz

Dimensions: Blade Length – 7in, Overall Length – 12in

Features: Carbon Steel, Synthetic Handle, Partial Tang

Description: The G.I. Tanto is a tactical knife, made from 1055 carbon steel. It was tempered and protected by a black, rust resistant finish. Carbon steel is more likely to rust, so this is a great feature in a survival knife which will be exposed to the elements.

The handle is made from polypropylene, which is a synthetic material. There are a number of benefits that come with this material, such as: impact and shock resistance, hygienic, and a smooth texture.

This knife is basic, but it is going to do the job you want. It has a broad pointed blade. The blade is sharp and it could be useful for things such as chopping, slicing, and even skinning game. One of the cool features of the G.I. Tanto is the removable handle, making this a partial tang knife. You could make this knife into a spear or throw just the blade as a weapon.

Cold Steel Leatherneck Tanto D2 Fixed Blade Knife

Cold Steel Leatherneck Tanto D2 Fixed Blade Knife

Weight: 11.7oz

Dimensions: Blade Length – 5in, Overall Length – 12in

Features: Full Tang, Stainless Steel, Synthetic Handle, Chopping and Slicing

Description: The term Leatherneck came from the U.S. Marines; this is a tactical knife designed to be able to survive in any situation, just as the strong Marines. It is made from strong, German D2 steel, and it is coated with DLC. The coating helps strengthen the steel.

One of the best features of the Tanto D2 is it is a full tang. These are the strongest variety of knives due to no weakness at the seams. The handle is ergonomic and has a great texture for grip. There is a hand guard to protect the user from accidental slippage.

The Tanto style blade is an interesting choice as it is mostly known in the world of knives used for fighting. It will serve you well for cutting and stabbing. So, this is a great choice for chopping or slicing wood, or killing and skinning game.

KA-BAR 5019 US Army, Leather Handle, ComboEdge

KA-BAR 5019 US Army

Weight: 11.2oz

Dimensions: Blade Length – 7in, Overall Length – 11.75in

Features: Carbon Steel, Synthetic Handle, Serrated Knife, Great Grip

Description: KA-BAR knives are known as one of the best brands in the industry. The 5019 knife is made from high quality, 1095 carbon steel. They coated the knife in a black powder coating to help prevent rusting as Carbo steel is known to rust very easily.

One of the best features is the stacked, leather grip. The handle is designed in a unique manner, and it will provide a solid grip on the knife. The knife itself has a serrated portion on one side of the blade.

The other side is smooth. This will be great for chopping and batoning wood. You will easily be able to cut a large variety of things with this knife.

KA-BAR makes a strong and sturdy knife. The edge is sharp and holds it well. It also comes with nylon, hard sheath which locks knives in place for safety. The sheath is a great design and you can easily retrieve the knife.

Overall, this would be a fabulous selection for a survival knife. The serrated edge wouldn’t be ideal for skinning game, but it would be a great overall utility knife.

Gerber’s Bear Grylls Ultimate Pro

Gerber’s Bear Grylls Ultimate Pro

Weight: 11.2oz

Dimensions: Blade Length – 7in, Overall Length – 10in

Features: Stainless Steel, Carbon Content, Synthetic Handle, Utility Knife, Serrated Blade, Lightweight

Description: Most people have heard of Bear Grylls and his TV shows. So, if you are skeptical because of the marketing, you will be pleased to know this knife actually is all it cracked up to be.

Gerber’s Bear Grylls Ultimate Pro is made from 9cr10MoV high carbon stainless steel. This is a great selection because, even though it has a high amount of carbon steel, it is still stainless steel and more rust-resistant. The blade is serrated and has a drop point design, as well being a full tang blade. The weight is lightweight, in comparison to some other options that are almost 5oz heavier.

The synthetic handle is made from quality, texturized rubber. This is perfect for durability and providing a strong grip in all weather. You need a good grip in a survival scenario.

Something that is unexpected with this Gerber knife is the extras. It comes with a sheath, featuring a fire starter and a diamond sharpener integrated. Because the blade is on the shorter size, you might struggle to use this for chopping wood. It would make a superb utility knife and not break your budget.

Cold Steel Outdoorsman Lite Knife

Cold Steel Outdoorsman Lite Knife

Weight: 5.6oz

Dimensions: Blade Length – 6in, Overall Length – 11in

Features: Stainless Steel, Synthetic Handle, Full Tang, Great Grip, Utility Knife, Skinning Game

Description: If you want a lightweight knife, the Outdoorsman Life is the perfect option. It is made from German 4116 Stainless Steel which is a great, rust resistant option for a survival knife. It is a full tang, 1/8in thick blade, perfect for any situation that may come your way.

The handles are newly designed, featuring a Polypropylene guard and a pommel core section. Then, the outer layer is a Kray-Ex material with a deep textured, checkered, non-slip grip. This is perfect for all weather, and it’s easy to clean.

The blade is thicker than average, coming in a little over .040in. However, it would make a great knife for chopping and batoning wood. The bottom of the knife is an exposed, tang end which can be used to break or hammer, in a needed situation.

The lightness of this knife makes it an ideal choice. It will hardly take any room up in your bag or pocket. Despite the smaller size, it would be a great hunting and skinning knife. Unlike other knives at this price range, the sharpness runs from top to bottom. This would make a great utility knife, for nearly any purpose you could imagine.

Gerber Silver Trident Knife, Double Serration

Gerber Silver Trident Knife, Double Serration [06995]

Weight: 17.4oz

Dimensions: Blade Length – 6.8in, Overall Length – 11.22in

Features: Stainless Steel, Carbon Content, Synthetic Handle, Utility Knife

Description: The Silver Trident is one of the top line survival knives on the market. The price tag is higher than the other listed knives in this review, but the price is well-worth it.

The blade is made from 154C stainless steel and hardened to HRC 59-61. This gives the knife excellent strength and flexibility. It is coated with a non-reflective black coating to help prevent rusting and corrosion. The back of the blade has a saw-like serration which can be useful for making firewood.

The Trident has a synthetic, Hytrel construction with a great, strong handle with a hybrid grip. You won’t lose hold on this knife and the material used can withstand most environments. The knife has a stainless steel butt cap, which can be used as a hammer in many situations you could find yourself in.

This is a great utility knife! It would serve you well at various times, such as hunting, skinning, chopping or slicing. Actually, there is little you couldn’t do with this knife! It’s true that it is a bit more heavyweight in comparison to the other options burt the added weight would make it easier to chop or baton wood.

When The Right Knife Is The Best Tool to Own

This completes our list of the top 10 survival knives. As you can see, there is quite a selection! The KA-BAR is one of the most popular survival knives, but any of these knives would serve you well.

Using a survival knife

First, you have to decide which features are most important to you. Then, look for a knife that has them. Are you most concerned about chopping wood? Or, do you want to make sure you can skin game precisely? It is hard to decide what would be most important in a survival scenario. You may find you want to have two knives, so you have something for every circumstance.

We hope this review has been helpful in narrowing down your selection! Is your favorite survival knife not listed? Let us know in the comment section what your favorite is and why.

Dennis Owens
Dennis Owens

Dennis Owens is a graduate of National Camping School and REI Outdoor School. He knows everything about what gear to take with you, how to plan your trip to stay safe and what to do if you get lost in the mountains. We are lucky to have Dennis with us as he is a ‘walking encyclopedia’ when it comes to the wilderness.