The 11 Best Survival Knives for Outdoor Adventures in 2023
What should I look for in a survival knife?
The two most important elements in most survival situations are fire and shelter. You’ll need some ingenuity and know-how to achieve both, but a good knife will make the job a lot easier. The following are three key cutlery ingredients to keep in mind when hunting for the knife that’s right for you.
Building a shelter and making fire both involve the manipulation of wood, so you’ll need a strong knife that will hold its edge. And because sturdiness is so important—a knife won’t help you survive if it breaks during hard use—we generally recommend a fixed-blade (as in, not folding) survival knife with a full-tang construction, meaning the steel of the blade extends all the way through the handle. Full-tang knives are ideal for practicing bushcraft techniques, too. If you just want a reliable knife to keep in your glove box, purse, or pocket, then a folding knife will work fine.
For a dedicated survival knife, bigger is typically better. But not too big. A good and generally accepted size for the category is around nine inches, plus or minus a few. But again, the best survival knife is the one you have with you when disaster strikes—any blade is better than none at all, and there are exceptions to every rule.
There are some survival knife considerations that don’t specifically pertain to pure function. First: I’m favorably predisposed toward bright orange for knives and outdoor tools when that’s an option. Survival situations can often involve low visibility, so having a camo knife could be a bad idea.
Second: Keeping your knife sharp is important. It is a blade after all. I sharpen all my knives (kitchen and outdoor) on a Japanese whetstone. This can be an involved but rewarding process that I won’t go into too much detail about. If you’re interested in learning about knife sharpening, head to YouTube, or if you dare, Reddit. For those looking for a sharpener to use on the move, a good mobile option is the Fallkniven DC4 whetstone. It is small enough to keep in a bugout bag or survival kit and could help in a pinch if you’ve dulled your blade after hours of surviving with it.