While traveling my wife and I made a quick pit stop at a cutlery store in Lebanon, Missouri, which was a double delight for me. I got to use the restroom, something that had been seriously on my mind for the last ten miles, and I got to peek at a huge assortment of knives.
“Holy S**t!” my wife said, sneaking up from behind and scaring the hell out of me. “Look at those prices.”
That’s when it me … making me feel more foolish than my normal self. I’m as frugal as the next guy, but knowing the quality and potential uses of certain knives had somewhat tempered my sticker shock reflex. But … how many other people felt exactly like my wife? How many people would run to Walmart to buy a survival knife because of the cost, not considering quality at all?
With this new revelation (duh) I decided to post about the importance of a good quality survival knife. Now I said that as if there is a one size fits all weapon, which is not true. Let’s slowly work our way into the world of survival knives beginning by listing a few of the uses, which are not by any means all-inclusive.
Important Knife Features:
To begin with, pretty knives are not always good knives. Performance of the knife far outweighs its artificial looks. Not saying a pretty knife can’t be good, but look beyond the exterior, kinda like choosing a mate, its intended to be for life.
A true survival knife should be a fixed blade, that is, not a folding knife. A folding pocket knife has its place, but because of the rigors the knife will be expected to endure in a wilderness survival situation, a folding knife, regardless of quality, will not last. Anytime there is a joint, blade to handle, there is a weak point that will eventually fail while prying, digging or splitting wood.
Full Tang Knife Blade
Therefore, the knife should be a fixed blade and full tang. What the heck is full tang? Full tang means the knife blade and the handle are formed out of one piece of metal. The handle, of whatever material, is attached to the tang for gripping and handling. Should the handle come apart or break, you still have a fully operational knife that you can fashion another handle for.
What about size? Does it really matter? Yes and No. Don’t you love an answer like that? Seems like all survival questions and equipment are always full of trade-offs. If your knife blade is too large you will not be able to use it for fashioning detailed and precise snare sets, as well as dressing small game such as squirrel.
However, a small blade is literally useless in performing more rugged and robust tasks, such as chopping and batoning, which is a term used to describe when you strike the back of the knife with another heavy object in order to split wood, as well as chop down smaller trees.
Do not buy a double edged knife for survival purposes. You’re not a commando and you have no use for a dagger style weapon. A single edged blade with a flat 90 degree grind is perfect for batoning and for striking fire-starting ferro rods against.
Also note the pommel, or butt of the knife handle. A less curved or flat butt will allow you to use the knife as a hammer for light striking duties such as driving tent pegs into hard ground.
This may sound silly, but the knife should have a sharp point. Not all knives, designed for a slightly altered use, possess a sharp point. A sharp point is crucial for hunting, penetrating fur and hide, and self defense, thrusting through layers of thick clothing.
Let’s review a few of the common uses you’ll need a survival knife for:
1. Collecting firewood.
In the event you don’t have an ax or hatchet, you can use your knife to chop up firewood, even felling small trees. Fire is essential for warmth and cooking and any tool which helps create it is essential.
2. Making a campsite
There are times the perfect camp site is not so perfect until the brush is cleared away. Your knife will allow you to cut brush and vines away in order to clear a campsite spot.
Digging is probably about the last thing you want to use your knife for, but if you need a hole dug and don’t have access to another type of digging tool, the knife will help you do the job. You’d be surprised by using a knife and your hands the size hole you can dig if absolutely needed.
4. First Aid.
A sharp knife can be essential for emergency first aid. Thorns and splinters can easily become infected, as if not painful enough on their own, to the point it can disable you. The point of a sharp knife can be used to dig the foreign object out of your body part. It can also be used to shred fabric for use as a bandage, or heated for cauterizing a wound.
You won’t be using your knife for actual hunting, to throw a knife and bring down a prey happens only in the movies, but you’ll use it to fashion snares, drop traps, finish a kill and field dress it. You’ll use it to cook with and possibly as an eating utensil.
As you can see a good survival knife is an essential piece of survival equipment and a must have. Cost? Cost is a relative term. How much would you pay for a knife if you’re thrown into a survival situation and need one? I’m not advocating go out and buy the most expensive knife on the market. That would be foolish. Exam the knife and the features it offers, do not settle for something you know won’t last or will fail you in the woods because of cost. Find a cheaper model that still has the basic requirements you need.