Survival Knife Test

We've come a long way since Rambo. Saw-tooth spines, hollow-tube handles and screw-on compass buttcaps have given way to advances in steel recipes and synthetic materials. These four technologically and ergonomically advanced knives marry functionality and versatility. And each of them could very well save your butt some day. SOG SEAL Pup Elite (Editor's Choice)
The success of a survival knife lies in its usefulness, and the Pup Elite offers a little bit of everything. The thick, well-balanced blade and handle suggests a nostalgic feel, but with all the high-tech aspects of today. Deep, ergonomic finger grooves won't leave you guessing in the dark which way the steel is facing, and the rifle checkering gives the handle plenty of grip. Serrations, full-spine jimping and an equally versatile nylon sheath make this a favorite. ($120; sogknives.com) Report Card
Performance: A+
Design: A+
Price/Value: A
Stars: 4
Steel: AUS 8, black TiNi coating;
Overall length: 9.5 in.;
Weight: 5.4 oz.
Benchmade 147BK Nim Cub II (Great Buy)
This petite knife is the closest of the bunch to a survival EDC (everyday carry). Its size might be an issue with bigger jobs, but this light, all-black, drop-point tool can be gripped traditionally, from the side, reversed, inversed or choked up--each grip providing a specific cutting advantage. Paired with its MOLLE-compatible sheath, it's the hands-down winner in terms of weight-to-usefulness. ($135; benchmade.com) Report Card
Performance: B
Design: A+
Price/Value: A
Stars: 3.5
Steel: 154CM stainless, BK1 black coating;
Overall length: 7.87 in.
Weight: 3.2 oz.
Spyderco FB20 Rock Salt
Father Time's greatest gift to the knife world is boutique steel. This knife utilizes nitrogen-infused H1; unlike carbon-based traditional stainless, this steel will never rust, even in a marine environment. With a deep recurve edge for skinning and draw-cuts, plenty of grip options and ample weight for big jobs, this tool is a no-brainer for surf-and-turf survival. With a proprietary bi-directional textured grip and a positive-locking injection-molded FRN sheath, retention is not a problem. ($200; spyderco.com) Report Card
Performance: B
Design: A+
Price/Value: C+
Stars: 3.5
Steel: H1 nitrogen-infused
Overall length: 10.5 in.
Weight: 9.2 oz.
CRKT Razel SS7
This knife is about as close to a machete as a knife can get while still retaining considerable versatility. The Razel has Jeff Veff-designed serrated saw teeth along the spine that work well, especially with the knife's considerable weight. The chisel tip adds volumes to the knife's usefulness, and the window breaker and bottle/jar opener lend additional versatility. The positive-locking molded Kydex sheath assures a secure carry. ($200; crkt.com) Report Card
Performance: B
Design: A
Price/Value: C
Stars: 3
Steel: 9Cr18MoV stainless
Overall length: 12.25 in.
Weight: 13.8 oz.

Saw-tooth spines, hollow-tube handles and screw-on compass buttcaps have given way to advances in steel recipes and synthetic materials.