It’s a tale as old as time and one of the biggest disagreements people in the Survival world have all the time. Which knife is the best survival knife? This can depend on lots of different things like the intended tasks. And even then there’s a whole myriad of shapes, sizes, grinds, tangs, handles, and features. However, when it comes down to it factors like sharpness, toughness, and cost are usually the deciding factor for what ends up in your pocket or in your backpack.
Some will say that what you’re looking for is a giant chopper. Some hulking bowie knife straight out of a 1980’s Rambo movie that you carry on a drop-leg holster like a revolver. Other people will insist that all you need it the little fold-out knife on a multitool or a Swiss Army knife. Both obviously have their drawbacks.
Folding blades like the ones found on multitools and Swiss Army knives can unlock while you are using them and close on your fingers, causing cuts or worse. This is the last thing you want to be worrying about when you’re in a survival or life-and-death situation. Also small stainless steel blades like the ones included as part of the tool selection on these devices are usually lower in quality and can break if put under extreme pressure. This simply won’t do if you’re trying to break down some wood to start a fire or get a shelter set up.
On the other hand a giant knife with a huge blade isn’t the solution either. In a survival situation you’re probably not going to be impaling Russians in the middle of the desert (at least I hope you’re not) so having a large unwieldy blade does more harm than good. In most survival settings what you’re using a knife for is carving. Whether that’s long controlled cuts to make feather sticks or small intricate cuts to make joints for traps you need to have very fine control over your blade. This is all but impossible with a huge saber.
Remember that the things you see in movies are depicted to create drama, not conveying reality. While in your mind you think you’ll be using your “survival knife” for things like slaying zombies or taking on cannibalistic enemies by hand, the reality of a survival situation is your knife is going to be used to carve fire-making tools or process fuel into kindling or tinder, cut harder fibrous edible plants, and fashion traps for small mammals or fish.
That’s why I think that the best knife for the job is a Scandinavian style knife. There are many out there on the market ranging from $20 to sky’s-the-limit. Many such as the Helle knives can get quite spendy quite quickly. But fear not! My go-to survival knife out in the field in any situation is the Mora Bushcraft knife. At only $65 it includes a fire steel and striker in the sheath. It’s a perfect medium size to handle almost all tasks besides splitting large logs, and the carbon steel blade is wickedly sharp with its Scandi grind.
For the money, I think this is the best option currently out there. But don’t take my word for it, go try it out!