Whether you are going camping, hiking, hiding from the zombie horde, bugging out of a shitty situation or escaping the apocalypse; you need a knife. A rugged, sharp, well made blade will serve you well in any sticky situation and is an essential tool for any survivalist or outdoorsman. Don’t believe me? Read a history book. Human beings have been using edged implements since the dawn of time; starting from sharpened rocks and advancing to medieval side arms. Face it, we have been using blades to survive and poke holes in our enemies long before you or I walked earth and will continue to do so long after we’re gone. Still don’t believe me? Good luck to you then.
Folder or Fixed Blade?
When purchasing your perfect survival knife your biggest decision will ultimately be between purchasing folder or a fixed blade. For those of you who don’t know, a folder is a knife in which the blade folds into the handle and opens with a manner of mechanisms including button, spring assisted and gravitational opening ( centrifugal force ). A fixed blade is a knife that is held within a sheath and does not require opening as it is a solid steel piece which is anchored to the handle. But how do you come to that conclusion? Let’s start by examining both styles and get you on your way to picking YOUR ultimate survival bug out knife. Later we will check some specific blades and see if they are to your liking.
All tools have specific uses and the folder is no exception. While used by survivalists all over the globe, we tend to see the folding knife utilized more often by military and police for a diverse range of jobs. These professions are primarily rough in nature and require durable tools for their completion, proving that folders can be used for tough, dirty jobs or in the outdoors. Some of which are cutting rope, freeing someone from a seatbelt or self defence. While lightweight and compact, they can be stored easily and carried with no hindrance to movement and an almost non existent addition in weight to your overall load. It can be employed quickly if need be, depending on its position on your body with repetition and practice. For example, having it clipped on a vest would be much more accessible and rapidly deployable then in your pocket. Yes, I know before someone says it; some folders have pocket catches for quick opening. As I mentioned earlier, with practice, properly utilizing a folder can be effective, however under a stressful situation one of the first things to be affected in the human body are your fine motor skills. This type of blade requires it be reached on your person, the lock disabled, the thumb stud or button ( if your country, province or state laws allow for automatic knives) to be located, and the blade to be opened. If you are not on point with your training and your hands are trembling and sweaty, quickly utilizing this kind of knife in a pinch could prove difficult and leave you stumbling like a fool. My second pet peeve about folders is the simple fact that they have a mechanism of opening. Like any mechanism, these can break and once that happens your knife may become essentially useless or impractical for you to be carrying without risk of injury. Take a second to process those points; next we will taking a look at the fixed blade.
Used more by survivalists and outdoorsman then military and police ( although some do in fact employ them ), the fixed blade in my opinion is the ideal choice for a survival knife. A quality fixed blade can stand up to the toughest of outdoor jobs, such as hacking small branches or creating kindling for a fire by utilizing the pommel ( the round end of the handle ) as a hammer and of course defending yourself against a larger animal or attacker. They are typically worn in a sheath on a belt but can be attached to a molle plate carrier or vest if you happened to be wearing one. No mechanism of opening, just a solid piece of steel. If you are under duress and need to deploy it as quickly as possible; grasp the handle, remove it from the sheath and your ready to rock. Sound simple enough? It is. However there are still factors that need to be considered. They are significantly larger and less compact then a folding knife, meaning you may find it uncomfortable hanging from a belt ( assuming that is where you are wearing it )or it could get caught on branches and foliage while moving through the brush. The final observation you need to make if you are leaning towards the fixed blade is what kind of tang it has. Let me make this as clear as possible for all you ‘know it all’s’ “FULL TANG IS THE BEST” if you think I’m wrong, punch yourself in the face as hard as you can. That being said just because a knife does not have full tang does not make it a piece of garbage. All it means is that it simply will not be as durable as a full tang; there are still plenty of high quality companies that produce partial tang knives. So please weigh this; a tang can break, just as the mechanism of folder can, however I would be very flabbergasted if a full tang knife broke during use.
Now that we have discussed the pro’s and cons of folders and fixed blades, their weight, deployment capability, durability and where you would in fact carry your blade, lets move on to a few brands and products that I feel would make good candidates for your survival knife.
What I would consider to the Mac Daddy of folding knives Benchmade was founded in 1979 originally under the name Bali-Song in California and was primarily producing the more commonly known “butterfly knives” in which the companys’ first design won the Knife of the Year award in 1979 from Blade Magazine. Since then the company moved to Oregon where they continue to produce extremely high quality knives of various types. They currently use 12 types of high quality steel on their products including Damasteel which is of the highest quality. The company also has an excellent lifetime warranty program called “Life Sharp” in which your knife will have all the worn pieces replaced and blade re sharpened for you at no cost. Benchmade also has an unrivaled amount of customization options for their knives if you have a particular style you want to follow.
Benchmade Bug Out 535
The Benchmade Bug Out 535 is an excellent choice when it comes to potential survival knives. Made from CPM-S30V steel it offers high corrosion resistance which is beneficial if being used in a rugged outdoor setting. It has a drop point style blade and as with all Benchmade knives it’s sharpness is of the highest quality. The locking mechanism is referred to as the AXIS lock and is a product you will only find on bench made products. In the interest being as simple as possible, this lock in my opinion is the easiest to use. It can be operated with one hand and is also completely ambidextrous. All in all an excellent choice for a survival/outdoor knife, or just an every day carry.
Benchmade Griptillian 550-1
Any knife advocate will agree that the Benchmade Griptillian is the crown jewel of the company. The base model itself has been quite possibly their most popular product for years. The 550-1 Griptillian has been upgraded with the G10 handle scales made of resin soaked fibre glass layers for improved grip. The blade is made of CPM-20CV steel which offers superior edge retention as well corrosion resistance. The sheepsfoot style blade is designed for cutting and slicing and is even more durable with the addition of the serrated edge. Rest assured, this knife is a tried and tested excellent survival knife and will not leave the user disappointed.
Founded in 1984 in Boden Sweden, Fallkniven has been producing several lines of the highest quality survival knives on the planet today. Primarily regarded for designing and supplying outdoor and military knives, the Fallkniven F1 has been the official survival knife of the Swedish Air Force since 1995 and in 2000 the United Stated Naval Air Warfare Center tested and approved the F1 and model S1 for use by air crews of the U.S Marine Corp as well as the U.S Navy.
The Fallkniven A1 is what I would consider the gold standard of fixed blade survival knives. In fact, the blade is forged of VG10 steel in which the “G” stands for “gold” meaning “gold standard”. An extremely tough metal with excellent edge retention and rust resistance; it is made for rough outdoor work. The convex grind ( a gently rounded bevel ) provides a stronger edge while not taking away from the blades cutting power. The knife has a full protruding tang which makes for a useful hammer and can be utilized without cracking the Kraton handle. Always be careful when using the pommel as a hammer as become overzealous in your action can damage the bottom side of the handle or potentially yourself. If you are leaning towards a fixed blade, this knife should definitely be considered as a top contender.
We could not in good conscience discuss Fallkniven without reviewing the blade that started it all; the F1. As mentioned above this knife is still the official blade of Swedish air force pilots; it is perfect for any outdoor or survival situation. While smaller then the A1 it is still forged with the convex grind and can be customized with different types of steel ( 3G, COS or VG10 ) depending on your preference and price range. The handle is made of Thermonrun which is subtly harder version of Kraton and provides excellent grip, even when wet. Again like it’s counterpart the A1, it made with a protruding full tang which provides the ability to use the knife as a hammer if need be. This is a sure choice for the serious survivalist and is as versatile as they come.
Above are four very viable options for your perfect survival knife from the two companies I personally would purchase from. I highly encourage you to explore more products within those brands as both forge high quality folders and fixed blades. However that being said, I do believe there are other knives out there that require recognition and are of great quality.
TOPS Tom Brown Tracker
The Tom Brown Tracker knife is one of the best survival knives on the market today and was featured in the Hollywood movie “The Hunted”. Made of 1095 High Carbon steel, it has good edge retention and is easy to sharpen. The design is mostly for hacking purposes and with the full tang handle you can ensure it’s durability. It does have a saw back blade which can be useful for creating notches etc. however please do not consider saw back blades a substitute for an actual saw. They absolutely are not; don’t think you’re going to cut down a small trees with your saw back blade. On that note, give this knife some thought, it is worth a look as it is a heavy, rugged, full tang, well designed blade.
KA-BAR USMC Fighting Knife
KA-BAR, originally called Union Cutlery Co. dates back to 1923 in New York and is steeped in history. The company received a hand written letter that same year from a fur trapper who claimed to kill a bear with a knife after his rifle failed to fire. The phrase “kill a bear” was only partly legible resembling “Ka bar” which is where the name of the company originated. The KA-BAR USMC Fighting knife has been in service for 70+ years and has been tried and tested in numerous conflicts and wars throughout that time. The blade is made of 1095 Cro-Van steel which is basically Ka-Bars’ own version of 1095 steel. It is slightly stronger then regular 1095 and can carry an extremely sharp edge. Although using a strong steel, it is forged with a rat tail tang which is very narrow inside the handle. Simply put, it will take normal abuse however it will not stand up to the same punishment as a full tang blade, so be cognisant of that. On the end of course is the hammer pommel which is always a useful tool to have while in the bush. This knife has passed the test of time and has aided service men and women around the world for decades, and should be considered by anyone looking for a top notch survival knife.
Choosing a quality knife is one of the most important things you can do when deciding your kit and load out before heading into the wild. It will serve you a long time if you treat it well and practice how to use it. Remember, all these blades require maintenance and upkeep. Just because you have rugged, durable knife doesn’t mean it will never break or rust. They need to be oiled, re-sharpened, cleaned etc. Don’t forget. Whether you choose a folder or a fixed blade, remember it is up to YOU. A lot of the “know it all’s” will tell you your choices are wrong simply because it’s not their choice, or it did not work for them. Do what works for you. If you’re happy with the weight and where its carried and how it’s employed that’s all that counts. There are plenty of other brands as well that supply very high quality knives; these are simply my choices. Hopefully these reviews provided you with some aid on making your decision, and like always figure out what works for YOU.
Until next time,
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