You have to consider these 7 factors when choosing a survival knife

Survival knife
Written by Joe

We look at the 7 essential factors to consider when picking a new knife. A survival knife is essential when heading out in nature, don’t get caught out

When the movie ‘Rambo' released in 1982, every man in the world wanted to get themselves a ‘Rambo' knife.

rambo knife

It was a big, imposing knife that had a compass and the handle could be unscrewed to store small items like matches, fishing line, and fishing hooks.

The fact that it sold for only $15-$20 made it possible for many people to get their hands on the knife. Unfortunately, as cool as this knife was, it was useless for survival situations.

Survival knives certainly have a place in the real world and according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency; the disaster tally has increased gradually over the past 70 years. 2010 marked the year with the highest number of disasters (about 91 in the United States alone!) and despite advancements in technology, medicine, communications, and travel; millions of people across the world continue to suffer the gruesome consequences of disasters.

Others unexpectedly find themselves in life or death situations where survival depends solely on available resources, knowledge, and skills.

What's my point? It's important to have survival supplies close by and one of the most important ones is a survival knife. For centuries, humanity has depended on the knife or the equivalent of a cutting tool to help acquire basic needs such as shelter, fire, wood, and food.

The modern society often refers to it as the survival knife and understandably so. However, not every knife is built to be a survival knife – not even the Rambo knife. At the very least, you should consider the following when choosing your survival knife.

Survival knife

A modern survival knife


Contrary to what you may think, bigger is not always better in survival situations. If you pick a knife with too big a blade, you are sacrificing the effectiveness of the knife when it comes to tasks like carving precision snare nets and dressing small game. On the other hand, you can't use a small blade for activities like chopping and batoning.

The latter refers to a situation where a massive object is struck on the back of the blade to drive it through a stubborn or thick piece of wood. Batoning allows you to use the knife to cut through large tree or limbs as well as split wood. Having used my fair share of survival knives in my life, I have found that the ideal blade length is 9-11 inches.

batoning wood with a survival knife


The Tang refers to the portion of a knife that extends into the knife. The blade and Tang are usually a solid piece of steel. When choosing a survival knife, consider one that comes with a full Tang. In simpler terms, purchase one with a Tang that extends all the way to the back of the handle.

Knives with full Tangs are considered the best for survival as they provide plenty of strength. The Tangs of cheaper models usually connect to the top of the blade, and as such, they can easily break off.


Depending on the manufacturer, handles are made from a polymer, hard rubber or another material. Because there are so many options, it's easier to know what you should not purchase. Stay clear of anything that comes with a hollow handle for storing small items because if you lose your knife, you also lose anything stored inside.

Also, a hollow handle means the absence of a full tang, and as mentioned above, it's important. A compass on the handle can mess with your grip, making it hard and dangerous to work with the knife. Regardless of the survival situation, your survival knife MUST be safe and comfortable to work with.

Sharp pointed tip

It may seem like an obvious consideration to make when shopping for a survival knife, but that's not always the case. I often meet people whose knives have flat, straight, hooked, rounded or angled tips. There are many reasons why a sharp pointed tip is necessary.

For starters, anything other than a sharp pointed tip compromises your ability to defend yourself whether faced by man or beast and especially of thick clothing or fur is involved. Your spear pointed knife can also be used for hunting either lashed onto the end of a long pole to make a spear or by itself.

Other tasks where a sharp pointed blade excels more than others include detailed picking and prying, splinters, accessing live bait in hardly accessible areas, processing wild edibles like hickory nuts and acorns, clothing/gear repairs and cleaning/dressing small game like fish just to name a few.

Fixed vs. folding blade

Avoid any knife that comes with a folding blade needed in survival situations. It won't be as reliable as it needs it to be. Despite the compatibility of such knives, fixed blades have the upper hand when it comes to handling most of the demands that arise in survival situations. A joint of any form is a weakness, and that's the last thing you want in a life or death circumstance.

Choosing a knife that is better suited for rigorous cutting, prying, thrusting, chopping and pounding is the best way you can minimize the risk of losing or damaging a vital survival resource.

foldable knife blade


The sheath affects how one carries and draws their knife. There are three main things one should look for to choose the ideal sheath.

  • It should have an attachment piece or hole at the tip end that can be used to strap the knife to a back strap of your backpack or on the belt.
  • A good sheath should also have a belt loop. A hole on the knife for the lanyard is also acceptable.
  • Lastly, the strap affects how the sheath closes around the knife. Consider a crossover strap where the sheath meets the handle for maximum efficiency.

Blade material

The blades of survival knives come in either one of two types of steel i.e. stainless or carbon. There is no definite answer as to which is best.

However, it's important that you know the main differences between the two. Stainless steel is indestructible and can serve you for decades without rusting. However, it loses the edge faster compared to carbon. On the other hand, carbon steel knives rust faster and hold their edge longer.

You can opt for a cheap knife if you are looking for aesthetics rather than quality. However, if you are looking for something that you can bet your life on, prioritizing quality is crucial. Following the above criteria will ensure that you invest only in the best survival knife.

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