What is the Best Survival Knife for the beginning survivalist? Finding the most suitable survival knife that can do it all is a daunting task. There are many choices available. So many in fact, that research can boggle the mind. And, as far as I'm concerned there is not one, perfect, survival knife.
Best survival knife
Listed here are the qualities I insist on for a survival knife.
- Durability - unbreakable
- Thin blade relief
- Easy to sharpen in the field
- Comfortable handle
- Easy to carry
Best Survival Knife for the beginner
A fixed blade is better for a beginner because it is more stable and less likely to break than a folding knife. The length of the blade should be 4-5 inches so that it is not too small to be useful, but not too large to be unwieldy. The full-length tang ensures that the blade is strong enough to last for a long time.
A thin blade edge is my preference for a survival knife
The cutting edge of the blade, called the relief, should be thin for easy carving. Avoid a thick carving edge meant for chopping, such as you would find with an axe.
Thick edged knives
Most unbreakable survival knives have a thick edge. The thicker edge is to prevent chipping of the edge through repeated use: for example, cutting or chopping hard, dried wood.
Medium thick-edged blade
Even though the F1 has a thicker knife edge compared to SOGS Northwest Ranger, it still meets my requirements for a superior field survival knife!
Knife Handles for comfort
The handle should fit comfortably in the hand and balance well. We're not looking for a Machete or a Bowie here, but rather a strong carving knife with a solid grip. The comfort of the knife handle is a key to consider for beginners.
After a brief time of carving, uncomfortable knife handles make your hand sore and blister.
My short list of Survival Knives I recommend
The F1 Fallkniven. There are many excellent survival knives produced in the USA. And there are more knife companies listed below that you should check out.
The information provided here is to help you make an informed decision regarding the right survival knife. A knife that suits you best.
Utility and survival knives
For general use and a functional utility survival knife for everyday carry, I like the Järvenpää Classic Puka. I use this knife frequently for a variety of bushcraft applications, including the hand-carved netting needles in the photo. But I do use a variety of knives for any given carving project.
If all I had was my Puka (Puukka) with me during a full survival exercise no worries. This handy Puka knife would get me through just fine.
Your skill in the use of a knife. Trumps any knife.
The Fallkniven F1, SOG Ranger, and the Finnish Puukka are all useful knives. For carving, I often use all three. I have other knives of course, but these are the blades I use most often.
In the photo below, beginning from left to right are the -
- The Fallen F1
- UKW Survivor
- Järvenpää Puka
- Village Parang by Condor Knives
Fallkniven Swedish knives
This Swedish Fallkniven A1 has simple lines that I appreciate, as well as my personal favorite, the F1 survival knife. Both are devastatingly economical in no-nonsense knife applications.
I would recommend the F1 for THE EDGE, our extreme survival training camp.
For me, a classic straight back is essential. No gimmicks, and because of their lightweight. Both of these knives are excellent for use with a baton. Each one is a serious working knife for the bush.
The F1 handle
The F1 handle is made of Thermorun, and very comfortable and easy on the hands. Especially if you're not used to carving.
Bench Made - crafted in Oregon City, Oregon. My son-in-law raves about their pocket knives. They make a high end knife-the Bush Crafter Family. Worth checking out.
Buck Knives- for you old timers. Buck has made knives over the years in a variety of price ranges. Most are solid knives though the blades from my experience are dull out of the box and need some relief grinding to get a professional edge.
Cold Steel- Check out the wide variety of knives these folks carry. One of our staff uses the Cold Steel Bowie and has carried it with him for many years. It's a keeper.
ESEE Randall's Knives - these are some great knives! The Laser Strike fits our recommendation for everyday field carry. Definitely check out their knives.
KA-BAR - with a long history of use, KA-BARS carbon blades sharpen easily, and they are inexpensive. They were originally made for heavy utility use, digging foxholes and such, as I said, they are tough!
Almost twenty years ago, I bought a Spec-Plus Bolo knife from Ontario Knife - I liked the look and feel of this large blade, machete-style knife. I use this knife for chopping brush along the trail. But it can be used for any traditional work in the bush.
Swiss Army Knives - I have had several of these very handy and useful pocket knives over the years. Traveling on skis while snow camping, the knife has essential gear for the backcountry: scissors, toothpick, and screwdriver.
TOP Knives - They make a variety of tactical knives that are in the high dollar range. TOP makes the Tom Brown Jr. Tracker Knife. If you have never seen it, go to their website. It’s a multi-application knife, very beefy and well-made. I tried the earlier version made by Beck. It's quite heavy and expensive, but it’s a work of art. Tom also developed a companion knife to accompany the larger Tracker knife
Mora carving knives
You do not need to spend a lot of money on a carving knife for practicing survival skills. Down the road, when you have some carving time behind you, you will have a clearer idea of the type of knife that fits you best - as well as the type of work you use it for.
Mora sells affordable knives for day-to-day carving. I recommend these knives especially if you haven't carved for a while. A note on Mora's companion series of knives: many of Mora's knives do not have a full tang. But they are excellent lightweight carvers. These knives are recommended for most of our camps.
If you want to learn more about the knife steel Mora uses for their knives. Read their article "The Steel That Makes the Knife."
Mora's Companion Series
Mora knives, including their Bushcraft series, are lightweight so be careful how you treat your Mora blade. The edge will chip if used on dense, dry wood. Also do not pry with these lightweight knives. These are great knives for carving but not for rough treatment.
We have been issuing these Mora's for our Teen camp since about 2006. The edges of the blades have chipped but with a bit of sharpening the edges come back quickly.
Knives and manufacturers
All major knife manufacturers make knives for survival and bushcraft. So, take a look at the manufacturers I have listed below. I also recommend visiting several knife stores in your area and checking them out. Listen to what the dealers have to say, but at all costs, stay away from hollow-handled knives.
Many of these long-winded knives have a survival kit stashed in the handle. Some even come with a compass at the end. This is a worthwhile idea but unless the quality is high stay away.
Kill me a Bar
A couple of students showed up with knives that looked like Rambo's at camp. They looked like they were ready to take on a Grizz instead of carving wood. They soon learned about these types of knives.
After one minute of carving with these monsters, their hands were sore. Not far behind, blisters were on the horizon. These knives are weak and cheesy. If that's all you got. More power to you.
There are times when a heavy knife is appreciated when there is a lot of chopping required like when making your way through the thick jungle.
Condor Tool & Knife
This is a new knife company for me. They have some exciting knives. After reading about the Parang knife used by the people of Malaysia, I had to have one. I didn't want a 3ft machete so I chose the Village Parang SS, designed by Joe Flowers. The Village Parang, is 12" in length, and is a very serious heavy knife.
The walnut handle is a top-notch finish. For heavy chopping, this heavy knife weighs in at around 2 lbs. I've had some time to take this knife to the task of harvesting small dead spruce poles: cutting, limbing, and peeling the bark. This knife does the job.
Utah Knife Works - Mark Russon the owner and knife maker of Utah Knife Works, sent me his UKW Survivor Knife.
The UKW survival knife is indestructible! Which is what you want in a survival knife. However, my main issue with Russon's UKW is the aggressive saw teeth on the top side of the blade. These teeth are sharp! And will easily pierce your skin if you handle this knife without leather gloves. Otherwise, the UKW is surprisingly functional in the field.
A closeup of a Mora companion bush craft knife. Handle and blade.
Wood Jewel "Bear Leuku" Survival Knife Finland
F1 Fallkniven Swedish Pilot Survival Knife
Any old piece of iron with an edge will suffice as a cutting tool with the handle wrapped in cord or cloth. Even a chip of stone with an edge is helpful when nothing else is around. There is something about our DNA whether man or woman. We all appreciate a fine-looking blade. Half the fun with knives is discovering what blade suits a fella or gal the best. The other half of fun using knives is putting a sharp edge to work.