The frontiersmen may have used the same knife to skin game, eat dinner, and shave—but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to have just one blade. Sometimes you need a very specific tool to get the job done, and when that job is survival, you can’t afford to fail. Here are three essential survival knives that everyone should own.
1. A Bushcraft Woodcarver
Swedish woodcarving blades have largely been popularized by the living legend of the north woods, Mors Kochanski, and his acolytes. In recent years, they have become one of the most popular wilderness blades on the market. They are rugged, easy to sharpen and dirt cheap. The entry level on these knives is around $12-15. You could buy ten of these for the price of one name-brand survival knife. “Why a wood carver?” you may ask. Simple. Most of the tasks in survival revolve around wood working. From cutting the sticks to make traps and other gear, to carving a friction fire set, you’ll need a dependable wood cutter that is easy to field sharpen, and this is the best one for the price.
2. A Self-Defense Blade
As the name indicates, these blades are made with hand-to-hand fighting in mind, and utility as a secondary use. A single-edged, high carbon steel straight blade with a clip point allows the wielder to both thrust and slash. On the large side, the KA-BARs made famous by the United States Marine Corps are popular for their design and proven, field-tested effectiveness. Smaller knives, such as folders, can also be designed for the business of self-defense. These blades are often used as backup for firearms. Whether big or small, a self-defense blade should be rugged and razor sharp. They should also have a penetrating blade tip. The tanto style point is very popular these days, though a classic drop point will get the job done too.
3. A Heavy Utility Blade
The Bowie-style knife, popularized by the Western hero Colonel James “Jim” Bowie, is the quintessential heavy utility blade. It has been used for hunting, fighting, chopping, and all things survival. Modern incarnations abound; but make sure you buy one that has a full tang (the blade metal extends all the way through the handle). Pick one that has some weight to it for chopping, but isn’t so heavy that you don’t want to carry it. Many different types of steel are (and have been) used for Bowies, so do your research. You’ll want steel that will keep an edge without being brittle.
What are your go-to blades and favorites? What knives would you buy if money was no object? Please share your thoughts—and your wish-list—by leaving a comment.