K4 Outdoors 5 Best Survival Knives

Since it was first invented from flint and other stone, the knife has been man’s most important survival tool.  Today this fact still holds true.  In a world of high tech gear it is easy to be mesmerized by all the fancy gadget choices produced by countless manufacturers.  The truth is that the standard for choosing a survival knife today is the same standard our ancestors held when building their stone versions.

Cavemen looked for traits that you should look for as well.

-          Durability

-          Usefulness

-          Practicality

The more a knife fits these traits the more likely it is to be a consistently good survival knife.  There are many knife choices out there but few score high in all three of these categories.

As for durability, you want to choose a fixed blade knife for your survival knife.  Folding knives are great for what they are designed to do, however in survival situations durability is one of our ‘deal breaker’ qualities.  Even though folding knives have come a long way the fact remains that they cannot compete with fixed bladed knives for durability.

I prefer a knife with a hybrid carbon/stainless steel blade.  This makes it both strong and easy to sharpen.  Since your survival knife will be used to chop, hack and build it is important to look for a blade that is at least 1/8 of an inch thick.  Most knives you will find have a blade thickness between 5/32 and ¼ inch.

The next question to ask is how useful is the survival knife.  Can you accomplish many tasks with it?  When knife shopping you should imagine yourself in a wilderness survival situation with only the knife you are thinking of purchasing.  Is that knife going to do everything you need and make your survival easier?  Companies have gotten very creative with ways to add usability to knives while still keeping them compact and practical.

Practicality is important, you want a knife that is useful, not a knife you can show off with and say “you call that a knife?  This is a knife.”  It should have a good ratio of weight to usefulness, which you need to calculate on your own.  What are you comfortable carrying?  Many knives out there will get the job done but are too bulky, have a handle that is way uncomfortable or just seem like they are built for show.  If the grip doesn’t fit or is slippery it will be frustrating to use in the wilderness.

So with all this being said here are my top 5 picks for the best survival knife.

Number 5

Ka-Bar Straight Edge

This knife speaks for itself.  It has a strong respectable pedigree, being the standard issue knife of the US Marine Corp for years.  Durability is a non-issue, the knife uses 1095 Cro-Van steel which is a mix of stainless and carbon offering a strong blade that is easy to sharpen.  The blade on this version of the Ka-Bar is 7 inches long putting it on the fringe of being ‘too much knife’.  Practicality is so-so for this blade. It would be difficult to dress game with such a long blade but the length does make it great for shelter building and batoning.   Usefulness is average, with little in the way of creativeness this is a pretty bare bones blade.  All in all, this knife is trusted by many to stay strong and get the job done.  This knife retails for around 100 dollars making it a decent buy however, in a world of creativity and technology this survival knife may be outdated.

Number 4

TOPS Tom Brown Tracker Knife

This knife, made by TOPS, catches the eye of any knife enthusiast or gear junky.  Designed by survivalist Tom Brown this knife is a great wilderness tool.  Durability is covered by the ¼ inch 1095 High Carbon Alloy blade.  It is coated in epoxy for protection against rusting.  It is 11.5 inches in length over all with the blade comprised of two separate types, a chopping blade (3.5”) and a carving blade (2.5”).  Although quite heavy at 28 ounces there is a reason for it.  The knife is super useful as a chopping blade, does great for batoning (although lacks ability to baton bigger pieces of wood), acts as a draw knife and has a serrated back for sawing.  It remains fairly practical with all these uses more than making up for the weight.  The drawback to this knife is mostly the price.  At a retail of 300 bucks I immediately took my eyes off it and continued on my search.

Number 3

Cold Steel SRK

The Cold Steel Search and Rescue knife is an excellent choice.  Durability is this knives claim to fame.  With a 3/16 of an inch blade and a legacy for being built for survival you can count on this knife for most wilderness tasks.  In terms of practicality this knife scores very high.  No fluff built into this thing, just no nonsense craftsmanship.  The blade is made of AUS 8A Stainless Steel making it rugged and easy to sharpen. On top of that it is coated with Tuff-Ex keeping the blade safe from the elements. It weighs in at 8.2 oz which is respectable. The blade measures 6 inches making it good for batoning and light chopping.  The sheath is great with a strong snap to secure the knife. What keeps this knife from the top of the list is that it lacks some of the usability found in some of today’s survival knives.  The price scores average.  At 135 bucks it isn’t too outrageous for a quality knife but others exist for far less.

Number 2


SOG Seal Pup Elite

Well if the Navy SEALS say it’s good, who am I to argue?  The Seal Pup is tried and true and passed a torture test that you might call the ‘Hell Week’ for knives.  Having said that, the subject of durability is covered, this thing can handle snow, ice, saltwater and whatever you can throw at it.  The knife weighs in at an extraordinary 5.4 ounces and just feels delightful in your hand.  It comes in to blade versions, partially serrated or fine edge.  Not to get into a debate about this but I prefer the fine edge.  Keep it sharp and it will cut as well as the serrated version.  The fine edge is more durable and better for bush craft.  In an urban military situation I might change that stance.  The Seal Pup has a 4.85 inch blade with a thickness of .185”.  With the blade length and weight this knife scores high for practicality, you won’t even know you are carrying it.  As for usefulness the knife scores average.  Because of its size and durability it will do everything you need and also accommodate uses it was not intended, but there is little creativity built into the knife.  For around 100 dollars this knife is a good deal considering it can boast such a light weight.

Number 1

Gerber Bear Grylls Ultimate Survival knife

And we have a winner!  Gerber changed the game with the Bear Grylls Ultimate knife.  Durability has been a hot topic for this knife all over the internet since its release.  The pommel bottom of the knife (the only knife on the list to have this feature) had issues with its first release but has been addressed and fixed.  The blade is made of ½” High Carbon steel making it rugged and easy to sharpen.  It has an overall length of 10 inches with the blade being 4.8 inches.  The weight of the knife is 11.8 ounces making it heavier than some of its competition but remember it has a nail hammering pommel built into it!  These specs make the Gerber an extremely practical survival knife.

I want to talk about why the Bear Grylls knife made the cut and not the Gerber LMF.  This knife is almost identical to the LMF but built more for a survival situation.  The LMF is built more for a military combat situation; the pommel is the biggest evidence of that.  On the LMF you get a glass breaker on the bottom of the knife.  Other than that the two blades are similar so there was no need to mention 2 Gerber knives.

The Bear Grylls Ultimate knife stands out in usefulness.  I already mentioned the pommel, which works perfect for hammering and cracking.  After fixing initial problems, the pommel holds up to testing.  The knife has holes built in where you can lash it to a stick to make a spear and it works very well that way.  It carves and batons as well or better than the other knives.  The sheath has a built in diamond sharpener as well as a Ferrocerium rod that you can remove for starting fires.  The rod snaps in place nicely and will not come out.  The knife has a notch on the back of the blade for striking the rod, and when done throws a shower of sparks.

This knife also comes in serrated and fine edge models, as with most, the serrations did not hold up well in testing.  Again I mention, I would not recommend a serrated knife for a wilderness survival situation but I have pictured that version here.

The only drawbacks of this knife come from the sheath.  Although I would personally like to have a green or black knife the orange is great for being rescued and is not really a drawback.  As for the sheath I would have liked to see the sheath from Gerbers LMF line that has more attaching capabilities to a molle vest or backpack.  The sheath is two pieces, the actual knife sheath and the nylon holder. The polymer sheath itself is nice and actually holds the knife very well. The belt loop on the nylon holder is small however, and wider belts may not fit through it.

Having said all this, the Gerber Bear Grylls Ultimate knife is my clear winner.  Now let’s talk money, this knife retails for 69 dollars.  Game, set , match, great job Gerber.

Items Mentioned in this review

Ka-Bar Full Length Knife

TOPS Tom Brown Tracker Knife

Cold Steel SRK


Bear Grylls Ultimate Survival Knife

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