Survival Knife Selection – A Guide


A survival knife can go a long ways towards making your life a little easier in any survival situation.  They can be used to easily help create fire starting tender, cut rope, webbing, para-cord, clean a fish, field dress wild game, create a spear by lashing it to a sturdy stick, and many other uses.

When looking to buy a survival knife there are a few key factors you will want to consider when making a choice that is best for you.  Those factors are; overall blade length, tang, overall weight, blade material, blade design, handle & pommel.

Overall Blade Length

Overall blade length among survival knives can vary from 4-12 inches.  It is typically suggested by people around the prepping and camping community that choosing a knife with a blade between 4-7 inches is enough to get the job done.  Blades that are longer also tend to be weaker overall at their center points, and can have adverse results when combined with a knife that has less then a full tang.


Tang is the protrusion of the knife blade that goes into the handle of the knife.  Cheaper end knives will have a separate blade and handle instead of a tang – avoid those kinds of knives.  Focus on finding a knife that has a full tang where the blade extends all the way to the back-end of the handle.  Full tang knives are going to be more durable overall than a half tang or no tang.

Overall Weight

Weight from one knife to the next can vary greatly, through probably not enough to be overly noticeable.  However, you still want to find something that has a weight you are comfortable with.  Where you end up carrying your knife; hip, backpack, thigh, or maybe even around your shin, may determine what kind of weight is acceptable to you.  Avoid knives with a hollow handle, while they are considerably lighter don’t forget that such knives will not have a full tang design.

Blade Material

Stainless steel and high carbon steel is the primary blade materials used in making quality survival knives.  Stainless steel is more resilient to the elements and rust, but looses its edge faster than high carbon steel and will require a little more frequent sharpening.  High carbon steel is harder and stronger than stainless and holds an edge longer.  However, high carbon steel will typically require a little more care and maintenance to help prevent rust.  Keeping any knife clean and lightly oiled after sharpening should go a long way towards keeping rust in check.

Blade Design

Survival knives come in a variety of blade designs; tonto, skinner, clip point, drop point, andbowieare quite common.  The tonto and drop point blade designs are the more prevalent in survival knives with blade lengths 4-7 inches.  Both are great designs and it is recommended that you take the time to research what you like best.  Just remember that the tonto design blade requires more sharpening because it has 2-3 straight blade angles.

Survival knives may also have a serrated edge that is located either on the top spine of the blade or located closer to the handle behind the cutting edge.  Serrated edges are great for cutting things like rope, webbing, cloth, and leather, but tend to make cuts that are less smooth than the straight edge part of the blade.  Serrated edges tend to stay sharper longer than straight edges, but are also much more difficult to sharpen.

Handle & Pommel

A good handle will be grooved and textured to provide a solid grip.  A smooth handle could make the knife slippery to hold when wet or cold, and is best to avoid such smooth handled knives.  The pommel should be capped with steel and have a straight angle design so it can be used to hammer small to medium sized nails as well as break glass if needed, or serve in other light to moderate pounding needs.

There are many survival knives on the market.  Take your time and research as many as possible before making a purchase decision.