How to Choose a Survival Knife
How to Choose a Survival Knife for Hiking, Backpacking or Camping
When you are out there in the wilderness, hiking, backpacking or on a long camping trip, one of the most useful tools you can have on hand is a trusty survival knife. But with all the many styles, sizes, brands, colors and in some cases, the history behind all the knives you could obtain, getting one that can meet your needs or preferences can sometimes be too confusing. Knowing what some knives are designed for and the tools they might come with can be a time saver. So here are a few guidelines you can use when looking for a good survival knife.
Knowing is half the battle.Everyone needs the best knives in the world for his or her outdoors survival trips like hiking, camping or trekking. But there is no perfect knife for everyone. The survival knife which might be perfect for one, might not prove perfect for another.
- When going into the wild, you should know up front what you could come across. A knife that can meet these needs will make your experience easier, and in some situations, save your life.
- For example, an ax is considered a very useful tool in the California or Canadian woods. But a machete in a jungle environment is better suited to cut through the dense jungle foliage. Finding a knife that can meet both needs halfway could come in handy. You have to decide to get the best survival knife or trekking knife which can be used for multiple applications and are easy to carry in your bug out bag.
Take size into account, as it matters.
- When choosing a knife to take with you, you should keep in mind how easy it will be for you to carry. Some knives can be kept on you with a clip-on bar. But some others will require you to obtain a sheath to attach it to your belt, vest or pack.
- Remember, having easy access to your knife is ideal.
Don't break your wallet.Many knife manufacturers have a large variety and styles of knives that usually vary on price as well.
- Always be wary of cheaply priced knives, as the quality of these can be so poor that they will fail you when you least expect it. But just because a knife is simple, it doesn't mean it is of poor quality (such knives, like tanto blade knives, are known for their simplicity but their reliability).
- But just as well, beware of overly priced knives that claim great quality and craftsmanship. Just because they claim to be used by survival experts, military groups or simply because of their brand name, you shouldn't spend hundreds of dollars on a knife that would meet the same requirements as a knife with the same durability and reliability (Ka-Bar knives are known for their strength and history, at a much more affordable price).
Research what they are made of.Different blades are made of different materials.
- Most small, pocket-sized or tanto boot knives are made of 440 steel. This is an affordable, light and decently strong metal for knives, that is known for it's lightweight, sharpness, and that it takes a long time to rust.
- Other, much larger and heavier knives are usually made of 1080 (or higher grade number) steel. These knives hold their blade much better and for longer. They are good for heavier tasks, like wood cutting or small game hunting. Many large 7 inch (17.8 cm) Ka-Bar or SOG knives are made of this material and are historically known for their reliability. But beware: these materials makes them much more prone to rust over time, due to the high amount of carbonation the metal is put through. So keep them away from moisture, preferably in nylon sheaths.
Choose a "full-tang" knife.This means the steel goes all the way down through the handle to the end of the knife (where it might form a pommel). Lesser quality knives may end a quarter of the way into the handle, making it prone to snapping when batoning the knife through branches, or exerting pressure when cutting other dense material.
Think of comfort.Just because a knife looks like Rambo's knife doesn't mean is the best to carry on your back for weeks to come. A knife’s handle can make a huge difference.
- A knife has to feel good in your hand, even if it is for a minute or for hours (the weight can make a difference as well. Heavier knives can cut through wood better, but lighter knives might make it easier to carry on road trips).
- Clip knives are often used for small, quick activities because the clip makes it uncomfortable to handle over time and can create blisters in your hand (just imagine building shelter in the rain while using a clip pocket knife).
- Larger knives can come with rubber grips, which makes it more suitable for wet environments than leader grip knives.
- Gerber knives are known for their comfort.
Consider its multitasking ability.Think of the many things you can or will do with the knife you choose. From opening cans to cutting through rope or vegetation, or even unscrewing things. All of these should be things you have to keep in mind when you decided what knife to carry.
- Many people prefer to carry a single multi-tool knife instead of a single blade knife, as this can be lighter, more compact and can be your one everything stop.
- Others, like hunters who expect to skin animals or kill small game, and some who will find themselves in more remote areas who expect to cut through the wood for fires, or to make their own shelter, usually take much heavier knives that can take much heavier and tougher treatment.
Do your research.Just reading one or two articles or reviews on a couple of knives would not give you a good idea of what kind of knife makes the best match for you. Read as many reviews as you can, form the goods to especially the bad ones, as these can give you a better understanding of the complications a certain knife can give you.
- There are many web forums in which people discuss their experience with the knives they have purchased and used. Especially look for opinions if they are written by known or respected knife experts.
- Also consider going to knife stores in your area. Look around, as a good quality knife can be found on almost any store even if you don't expect it. Stores dedicated to knives only tend to know a lot about knives and can give you advice on how to take care of it and what kind of sheath you could use, but beware, because they tend to overprice the knives in comparison to other chain stores (Target carries a good variety of Gerber knives, for example).
Know that experience is the best way to learn.Expect your knife to fail or not to meet your expectation on your first try. Be prepared to go through a couple of knives until you know what style, size and material are the best suited for you. Many experienced campers and hunters carry at least two knives, a large or main knife, and a smaller tanto or clip knife as a backup.
- Make sure your knife doesn't have any flaws such as chipping in the blade or a bent blade before you buy it.
- Good known knife brands are "Ka-Bar" (who developed their namesake knife for the US Marine Corps), "SOG", "Gerber" or "Bowie". Although these knives can run up to the hundreds of dollars, know that other reputable brands such as Spyderco and Cold Steel make expensive as well as affordable and very reliable knives.
- Learn how to take care of a knife. Many manufacturers have good tips on how to take care of their specific knife on their websites.
- A good sheath is important. It makes carrying the knife safer and protects the knife.
- Don't be afraid of treating a knife roughly.
- Know your laws. Many states in the U.S. for example, have laws against carrying knives larger than 3 inches (7.6 cm) in city areas, but allow them to be taken into national parks, but not into ranger's pack station if they are concealed.
- Do not pry or baton with a folding knife unless absolutely necessary. These two actions can break or damage your knife severely or beyond repair.
- Always keep a knife in its sheath. These will keep it clean, dry, and less prone to cause injuries while reaching for it.
- Handle a knife with care. They are deadly weapons and can cause deadly injuries to you or others.
- A knife is not a toy!If you are reading this article it’s because you are serious about obtaining a tool for survival and not to show off or scare anyone.
Video: What To Look For In A Survival Knife?
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