Best Survival Knife Buying Guide For 2020

Survival knives are vital for one’s survival in the wilderness. They are adapted to serve a number of roles when being out there:

  • Food preparation
  • Firewood preparation
  • Digging a hole in the ground for a fire pit or food storage
  • Building shelters – how would you cut down branches without a knife or an axe?
  • The pommel can be used for hammering
  • And many others…

These are all situations where an ordinary knife most likely won’t be any good. Moreover, you would probably break the knife if you were to try to could down small trees or branches with such a knife.

Of course, these situations do not happen that often, however, it’s better to be prepared than sorry. Even if you are only going out camping, get yourself the best survival knife, and nothing will catch you unprepared. There are many survival knife reviews on the net, and I have also put together a couple of mini-reviews of survival knives in this guide. Now let’s get into business and let’s find out how to pick the right knife!

Fixed Blade Survival Knives Comparison Chart

Check out the table of the top 10 fixed blade survival knives I’ve put together for you. You can order the columns by clicking on their headers.

ImageModelConstructionBlade LengthSteelHandleWeightSheathRatingPrice
Fallkniven A1Full Tang6.375VG-10Kraton12Zytel4.8$$$$
Schrade SCHF9Full Tang6.41095Kraton15.9Nylon4.6$
Gerber StrongArmFull Tang4.8420HCNylon/Rubber7.2Nylon4.7$
ESEE 6P-BFull Tang6.51095Micarta12Polymer4.7$$$
Cold Steel SRK San Mai IIIFull Tang6VG-1Kraton8.1Secure-Ex4.7$$
Ka-Bar Becker BK2 Campanion Full Tang5.51095Grivory16Nylon4.7$$
Buck Knives 65 Hood PunkFull Tang5.625160Micarta7.4 Nylon4.8$$$
Gerber Prodigy Serrated EdgeFull Tang4.75420HCTacHide12.2Nylon4.8$
Morakniv BushcraftFull Tang4.3HC steelRubber5.4Plastic4.7$$
Tops Knives B.O.B.Full Tang4.51095Micarta14.4Kydex4.8$$$

Considerations

There are a couple of decisions you’ve got to make when choosing the best survival knife for yourself or someone else. Let’s take a look at them now.

Knife Style

Let’s start with the most basic decision – what type of survival knife you would like to purchase? There 2 basic choices:

  • Fixed blade survival knives
  • Folding survival knives

Now what you choose is entirely up to your preferences, I can tell what are some of the pros and cons of both types.

Fixed Blade Survival Knives

Fixed blade knives are the most popular knives be it in the kitchen or out in the woods. With good production materials and proper technology, they will offer you outstanding sharpness and will stay in great shape for decades.

In terms of general durability, fixed blades knives have the upper hand over folding knives. This is mainly due to one-piece-of-metal construction aka full tang. Unless you shop for really low price fixed blade knife, there’s usually a single piece of metal running from the tip of the blade to the pommel of the handle. Cheap survival knives tend to not go via the full tang road so be careful in what you are buying.

Pros

  • Possibility to achieve larger size than pocket knives
  • Simple design, easier to manufacture and therefore less susceptible to build quality issues
  • Much stronger than folding knives – usable even for more demanding tasks such as chopping
  • Easy to clean

Cons

  • Not concealable
  • Banned in some states and countries

Folding Survival Knives

As the name suggests, folding or pocket knives are foldable and you can conceal their blade in the handle when you don’t use the knife. Therefore the knives are usually much smaller than fixed blade knives. This is probably their main advantage over the fixed blade design. They are not as strong as their fixed brethren, and this may be crucial when your survival is at stake. I won’t lie to you, if I had to choose, I would definitely go for the fixed blade design. However, there are also many high-quality folding survival knives to choose from, if you really want to go the folding road.

The most vital part of the folding knife is its blade pivot and locking spring. If these are not made well, the knife has no chance to be as strong as the fixed blade. Unfortunately, the cheaper knives tend to have issues with these two features. The stress, which the pivot has to handle, is increasing with the length of the blade. This is why these knives ten to have shorter blades.

Pros

  • Smaller size – can be concealed easily and carried pretty much all the time
  • Usually lower price

Cons

  • Not as strong as a fixed blade knife
  • A smaller blade can be a hindrance
  • More difficult to clean – dirt, fur, and other stuff will most likely start to gather in the handle, and will have to be cleaned sometime.

What Else To Look For?

Now that we have gone over the basic types of wilderness knives, let’s dig a bit deeper and look at some of the factors to consider while choosing the best model.

Construction

If you want to use your knife for difficult tasks, you should get such a model that is constructed appropriately. This usually means that you should be aiming for a full tang knife. Of course, this is only true, if you decided to purchase a fixed blade knife. I’ve already mentioned what the full tang construction means and why it’s important. Just keep this in mind and make sure you read everything you can about the knife you have chosen. Knives without full tang construction are easier to break and that’s definitely something you don’t want.

Material

It’s not rocket science, steel is the number one material for most knives. Stainless steel and carbon steel are the two most prominent types today. Which one should you prefer? First, let’s make one thing clear – not all stainless steels and carbon steels are equal. There are different versions with different properties. So always try to find out what exact type of steel is the knife made from.

In my opinion, it’s good to choose such steel that can hold a razor-sharp edge for a long time. This is usually the attribute of carbon steel. However, this type of steel can develop rust. On the other hand, stainless steel is more resistant to corrosion, but it loses its edge rather quickly so you will have to sharpen it more frequently.

Good types of steel are for example – 1095 carbon steel, S30V stainless steel, or 440C stainless steel. Of course, there many others that will do the job and I might write an article about knife steel in the future.

Size

Size doesn’t matter they say, right? Well, not quite. Size is actually one of the most important factors to consider, and it’s not only about the blade length but about the overall size as well. Consider when and where you are planning to use the knife. Isn’t it too large and heavy to carry it all day long? Or isn’t it too small to allow you to chop tree branches easily?

Most of the time, the survival or camping knife is less than 10 inches long. If you go over 10 inches, it may be too heavy. The typical blade length is between 4 to 7 inches. I would not advise going for knives shorter than 5 inches, because they may not be suitable for some of the survival situations you may encounter.

Blade shape

There are many different types of blade shapes and you should choose such one that is most appropriate for the task you’re expecting the knife to do. The most popular blade type is probably the drop point. It has a strong tip, which is useful in many situations. Some people also like the clip point blades of Bowie style knives, but in my opinion, the tip is much easier to break than the drop point.

What I would definitely recommend, is getting a knife with a sharp, pointed tip. Pointed tips shine over other tips in various situations such as drilling or notching, cleaning small game or fish, or processing some of the wild edibles such as acorns or nuts.

Edge

When it comes to the edge of the knife, there are two basic considerations you have to account for. One of them is the grind and the second one is whether it is a serrated edge or a plain edge.

The grind is pretty much the shape in which the blade tapers from the spine to the tip of the edge. What I would recommend is the typical flat grind as it is probably the most versatile style.

Having a serrated edge is in my humble opinion not necessary. The plain edge is most of the time a better choice. In case you really want to have the serrated edge, go for a knife that has a combination of both edges.

Handle

The handle is another important factor. It should fit nicely in your hand and provide a strong and comfortable grip. A non-slippery finish is also a welcome addition, as there is nothing worse than a knife slipping out of your hand. This happened to me once with a cheap sashimi knife, and it pierced my other hand’s palm when it was falling. It is definitely not a pleasant experience, so choose wisely, and be careful. I’m sure you don’t want to have your hands stitched up.

It’s also great if the handle has a pommel at the end. If it is strong enough, it can serve well for hammering. This is especially useful when you’re trying to build a shelter and you need to drive stakes into the ground.

Sheath

Most of the survival knives come packed together with a sheath. Usually, it’s made of genuine leather, but sometimes other materials are used such as nylon or plastic. If the knife comes with no sheath, I would recommend checking out whether a fitting sheath exists. Otherwise, you may have some trouble with carrying and storing.

Of course, you can also have a custom sheath made by skilled craftsmen. If a folding knife is what you want, you don’t have to care about the sheath that much.

Best 5 Fixed Blade Survival Knives

Here I present you 5 fixed blade knives which would be an excellent choice for survival needs.

Fallkniven A1

Fallkniven A1Fallkniven is a Swedish company widely regarded for making excellent knives. The A1 is a fixed blade survival knife with full tang construction, which makes it especially strong and hard to break.

It is 11 inches long in total and the laminated VG-10 stainless steel blade is 6 1/3 inches long. I like the satin finish of the blade. The blade has a spear point shape, which is excellent for usage in the wilderness. It has a hardness rating of 59 HRC. If you don’t like this specific finish, there is also a black one.

A semi-rubbery high-density polymer called Kraton is the material that forms the handle. Together with the diamond-shaped pattern, it provides excellent anti-slippery measures. The design of the handle is rather plain, but the handle sits nicely in hand. You can use the end of the handle for hammering.

It comes packed with a polymer sheath or genuine leather sheath. Make sure you read the description carefully if you would like to get the leather sheath because it is not always available.

Overall, this is one of the best fixed blade survival knives available on the market. One of the downsides is its rather high price. But be assured you will be getting top-notch quality should you decide to purchase this gem.

Check the Fallkniven A1 Survival Knife on Amazon!

Schrade SCHF9 Extreme Survival Knife

Schrade SCHF9 Extreme Survival KnifeIf you read my website regularly, you surely remember the review of the Schrade Sharpfinger skinning knife. This time we have here a survival knife by the same company. It is the Schrade SCHF9 survival knife which belongs to the bestselling survival knives on Amazon and it also has couple hundreds of customer reviews over there.

The total length of this full tang knife is 12 inches which a bit over my recommended maximum, but the knife is quite lightweight, so it’s not an issue. The drop point blade is 6.4 inches long and it is made of 1095 high carbon steel. Thanks to the steel, the knife holds a sharp edge for a long time.

The handle is made from the same material as the Fallkniven A1 – the Kraton polymer. In my opinion, it has a bit better feel and offers greater comfort than the A1. The end of the handle is rounded and it’s a bit tricky to use it for hammering.

A cheap-looking nylon sheath is also included.

Where the knife really shines is the price-performance ratio. The Schrade SCHF9 is about five times cheaper than the A1. I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a cheaper survival knife. If you care where it’s made, it is Taiwan, not the USA.

Check the Schrade SCHF9 on Amazon!

Gerber StrongArm Fixed Blade Knife

Gerber StrongArm Fixed Blade KnifeThere’s no need to introduce Gerber since it’s one of the most famous outdoor-knife-making companies in the world.

The StrongArm is a fixed blade full-tang survival knife available at a reasonable price. It comes in two different color schemes and two different edge finish. You can choose either full black or coyote colored versions. Edge finishes are available as fine plain edge or a serrated one, which is slightly more expensive. I would personally go with the plain one.

The black 420HC stainless steel blade is 4.8 inches long and the overall length of the knife is 9.8 inches.

The glass-filled nylon handle has a rubber overmold, which has a slightly tacky feel to it. There is a striking pommel at the base of the handle designed for breaking through hard surfaces. The pommel is slightly difficult to use for hammering due to its irregular shape.

Gerber StrongArm SheathAnother interesting part of the whole package is the fact that it is shipping with a modular sheath system. Thanks to the system, the knife can be carried on MOLLE, vertical belt, or horizontals belt.

Overall, it’s a very good survival knife, which receives extremely positive reviews from the customers. If it had a better pommel, I would not have any complaints. It might even be a candidate for the best survival knife for the money.

The knife is made in the USA if you are one of those who cares about that.

Click here to buy the Gerber StrongArm knife on Amazon!

ESEE 6P-B Plain Edge Fixed Blade Survival Knife

ESEE 6P-B Plain Edge Fixed Blade KnifeHere’s another outdoor knife with a black finish. Is it any good as well? Hell yes, it is.

This is the ESEE 6P-B, a full tang, fixed blade survival knife with a plain edge, and a Micarta handle. ESEE knife is a line of survival knives made in the USA by Rowen Mfg. Survival knife reviews are always praising their knives, and this one deserves it as well.

It is an 11.75 inches long knife with a 6.5-inch 1095 steel blade. This high carbon steel is not exactly new and it stains easily. That’s possibly one of the reasons why the engineers at ESEE coated the 6P-B in black powder. The drop point blade is ground flat, which in my opinion is the best grind for survival usage.

The linen Micarta handle provides excellent grip, especially in wet conditions. That’s certainly a great feature to have when it’s pouring outside you have hammer tent poles into the ground.

The sheath is your standard black polymer. It is very functional and you can clip it to your backpack.

As with other ESEE knives, this one receives very positive customer ratings on the web. Definitely recommended.

Click here to buy the ESEE 6P-B knife on Amazon!

Cold Steel SRK San Mai III

Cold Steel SRK San Mai III Black Kraton HandleThe Cold Steel SRK knives often top the survival knife charts together with the iconic KA-BAR USMC, or the Fallkniven A1. The San Mai version is among the top-rated survival knives on Amazon at the time of the writing with the majority of the reviews being very positive.

It is a 10.75 inches long, full tang, fixed blade knife with a simple design. It comes fitted with a 6-inch razor-sharp drop point blade. The blade is made of laminated steel with the core being made of VG-1 steel.

The handle is finished with the Black Kraton material. This is the same material as the one used for the A1 handle. As I already mentioned, it is a rubbery material, which provides a great grip. You can use the end of the handle for hammering purposes.

Just like other Cold Steel SRK knives, this version comes with a Secure-Ex sheath. It grips the blade tightly and you can also use it to mount the knife with the tip pointing up.

Overall, this is an excellent knife in pretty much all aspects, and it is usually available for slightly less than the Fallkniven A1.

Click here to buy the Cold Steel SRK San Mai III on Amazon!

Conclusion

Now that we have gone through the survival knife reviews and buying guide, I would like to tell you that you can ask me for any advice and leave feedback below this article via the comment form. I will be reviewing the article every couple of months, so it should be worthwhile to come back in the future, to see the new updates.

Frequently Asked Questions

In this part of the article, I will be going over the most frequent questions buyers are asking. If you have a question that I haven’t covered here, feel free to send it to me via the Contact page, or using the comment form below this article. I will do my best to answer the question and will publish it here.

Now let’s start with the questions!

Which survival knife is the best to buy?

Well, I’ve shown you quite a few knives in this article, which I personally consider being among the best survival knives on the market. However, you will still have to do your homework and choose the right one for YOUR NEEDS.

Is this or that knife legal in my state?

Unfortunately, it’s not possible to answer this question for all states as the laws are changing in time. Please check your state/country laws before purchasing any of the knives.

Is a bowie knife good for survival situations and camping?

Bowie knives are fighting knives first created by James Black in the 19th century. While you can use bowie knives in survival situations to some degree, the standard survival knives will most likely outperform them. Keep in mind that Bowies are usually quite large, weigh quite a bit, and have the clip point type of blade, which is easier to damage than for example the drop point.

Are the Bear Grylls Gerber knives any good?

In my opinion, they are often very expensive, and you can get a better knife for the same money if you look around.