Any survival expert will tell you that a knife (even pocket knife) is better than no knife when lost in the woods or facing a zombie apocalypse. Of course, you don’t want to have to rely on just any knife for your continued existence on this earth. Your best bet for staying alive in any worst case scenario is a survival knife. Plus, it’s bound to be useful in everyday living. Naturally, since we’re talking about possible life and death here, you’re going to want the best of the best. However, with so many knives to look at, it can be quite difficult to figure out which one will make the cut. Fortunately, we’ve done swipes, slices, and stabs with a number of the popular ones just to find which are the best survival knives. Check out the results of our knife tests below.
Top 10 Survival Knives Of 2020 Reviewed
1. KA-BAR Becker BK2 Campanion Fixed Blade KnifeBest Survival Knife For The Money
At 10.5 inches long, the Ka-bar BK2 Becker Companion is a beast of a knife. The blade, which is made of 1095 cro-van steel, is 5.5 inches long and 1/4-inch thick. It’s quite heavy at 1 pound but this makes it an excellent tool for wood processing. The thick stock allows it to wedge into the wood as you chop it. The blade is extremely sharp out of the box. The handle is thick and comfortable; it won’t be slipping out of your hand even under wet conditions. When it comes to outdoor survival, this is a great knife to have on hand. However, it is very heavy. It’s not ideal for fine slicing because of the textured coating on the blade. And the button snap on the sheath is noisy so it’s not ideal for stealth mode.
- 1095 cro-van steel
- Very sharp out of the box
- Very heavy
- Not for fine slicing
- Button snap can be noisy
2. Gerber Strong ArmBest Survival Knife For Bug Out Bag
The Gerber Strong Arm is the perfect knife for both survival and combat. It features a fine edge, full tang 420HC blade with a black ceramic coating that measures 4.8 inches. The diamond-texture rubberized handle ensures you always have a solid grip. The striking pommel located at the base of the handle is perfect for breaking glass during rescue operations or defending yourself from attackers.
The knife comes with a sheath that allows for a variety of carrying options – Molle mount, horizontal belt carry, and vertical belt carry. Plus, it is incredibly lightweight at only 7.9 ounces. However, it isn’t very sharp out of the box. Its short blade length is not ideal for batoning. Some report that the grind on the back of their knife was uneven
- Multiple carry options
- Solid grip
- Doesn’t come sharp enough
- Not ideal for batoning
- Uneven grind
3. Gerber LMF II Survival Knife
The Gerber LMF II Survival Knife measures 10 inches and weighs 11.5 ounces with a partially serrated drop point blade that measures 4.84 inches long. The blade material is 420HC stainless steel while the handle is glass-filled nylon with TPV overmold. The pointed buttcap enables you to use this knife for breaking surfaces or faces. In terms of performance, there’s almost nothing that the LMF II can’t do.
Whether it’s doing detailed work, prying open stuff, or chopping wood, the knife can do it adequately AND still remain shaving sharp. However, the finish does wear out quickly, especially when you use it a lot. the built-in sharpener in the sheath isn’t great. And this is not a full tang knife – just 3/4. Though, based on field tests, it doesn’t seem to matter much.
- Very versatile
- Great edge retention
- Not a full tang
- Built-in sharpener isn’t any good
- The finish wears out quickly
4. Schrade SCHF9Best Survival Knife For Batoning
The SCHF9 is a 12.1-inch survival knife that features a full tang, drop point fixed blade that is made from 1095 High Carbon Steel and measures a good 6.4 inches. The Kraton handle is 5.6 inches long and feels right at home in your hand. Looking at this knife, you know you’ve got a workhorse there – able to do pretty much anything that’ll keep you alive in a survival situation. Slicing and carving are easy due to the thumb jimping, front quillon, and finger choil which allow you better control.
Batoning wood and creating feather sticks for a campfire is a breeze. And chopping branches for creating shelter doesn’t even faze the knife. However, it doesn’t have a piercing tip (too thick) which doesn’t bode well for self-defense. It is no longer made in the USA; it is now made in Taiwan. And the finish wears out quickly.
- Very versatile
- Excellent edge holding capability
- Great grip
- Not ideal for self-defense
- Not made in the USA
- The finish wears out quickly
5. Ka-bar Becker U.S. Marine Corp Fighting Utility KnifeBest Survival Bowie Knife
This is the legendary USMC Ka-Bar that was first issued to the United States Marine Corps during World War II and has become an icon in the world of survival knives since then. This 11.875-inch knife features a 7-inch straight edge blade made of 1095 Cro-Van steel with a 20-degree angled edge. This knife is the perfect tool in almost any situation. You can use it as a hammer, a blade, a pry bar, a screwdriver, a digging tool, a spear, and so many more.
Both the handle and the sheath are made out of leather. While this knife has a classic Bowie knife design which makes it perfect for combat, it is also a great knife in survival situations. However, the black finish does not withstand abuse well since it wears off pretty quickly. The leather sheath is thin and doesn’t look like it will last very long. And the handle doesn’t give you a solid grip.
- Solid construction
- Sharp out of the box
- Poor quality leather sheath
- The black finish wears off quickly
- The handle is not “grippy”
6. Buck Knives 119 “Special” Fixed BladeBest Buck Survival Knife
The Buck Knives 119 Special is the best-selling camping knife from this family-owned, century-long manufacturer. And it’s easy to see why outdoorsmen still continue to love this blade 70 years after it was first introduced. With an overall length of 10.5 inches, the 119 Special features a 6-inch clip point blade made of 420HC and a phenolic plastic handle with a finger guard and polished aluminum butt cap. The knife is generally used as a hunting knife which is why it’s so great at cutting and slicing.
It can even be used as a small saw to cut through hiding and meat when splitting the brisket and the pelvic bone. As a camping knife, it’s up there at the top of most people’s list. However, it comes with a poor quality sheath. It’s not a great tool for batoning (though it would do in a pinch). And the balance isn’t perfect.
- Classic design
- Great for cutting and slicing
- Ergonomic handle
- Not perfectly balanced
- Not ideal for batoning
- Poor quality sheath
7. ESEE Knives 6P Fixed Blade KnifeBest Survival Knife For Beginners
Made from high carbon 1095 steel, the Esee 6P fixed blade knife is perfect for performing a variety of outdoor tasks. The blade is 6.5 inches long and 3/16 inches thick while the micarta handle is 5.25 inches. The weight of the knife is 12 ounces. We love the jimping on the spine because it gives you a good grip when performing detailed tasks like carving or making feather sticks. However, it comes with a plastic sheath which comes with a belt clip that is difficult to remove from your belt. Also, it’s hard to draw the knife from the sheath. The handles don’t feel all that comfortable and feel a bit slippery, though they are easy to replace.
- Great edge retention
- Good balance
- Jumping on the spine
- Poor quality sheath
- The handle could be better
8. Fallkniven A1L Survival KnifeBest Survival Knife For Backpacking
The Fallkniven A1L Survival Knife features a 6.3-inch clip point blade made of laminated VG-10 stainless steel, making this one of the strongest survival knives we’ve ever tested. The overall length of the knife is 11 inches while its weight is a good 12 ounces. The handle is made of Kraton rubber which has a diamond texture and an internal finger guard to ensure you have a non-slip grip. This all-purpose knife has excellent edge retention and durability.
It can baton and chop wood much like a small axe or hatchet yet still remain sharp enough to cut paper. However, the Zytel sheath is a bit too big for the knife. And the Fallkniven A1L is a bit on the pricey side. And people with large hands might find the handle a bit on the short side.
- Excellent edge retention
- Very durable
- Non-slip grip
- The handle may be too short for some
- The sheath is too big for the knife
- Very expensive
9. Schrade SCHF3N
The Schrade SCHF3N is an 11.75-inch knife which is a bit longer than our preference. The drop point blade is 6.4 inches long and made of black 7C17 High Carbon Stainless Steel. The handle is Micarta and measures 5.6 inches. Now, the steel is not what most would call “superior” like high carbon 1095 steel. However, testing does show that it’s quite sturdy; it’s strong enough that it can perform heavy chopping tasks quite easily. The Cordura nylon sheath isn’t all that great; the single-stitch seams look like they’ll fail easily. And the handle is a bit big for small hands.
- Solid construction
- Sheath is flimsy
- Blade material could be better
- The handle is not for small hands
10. Ka-Bar BK10 Becker Crewman
There’s no question that the BK10 looks absolutely wicked. Originally designed as an Airforce Survival Knife, this full tang knife measures 10 7/8 inches. The 5.5-inch straight edge blade is made of 1095 Cro-Van steel and has a flat grind. This knife is awesome at cutting 1 ton rated cord which means you can slice through the webbing, parachute cord, or seatbelts with ease if you have this baby.
The clip point design and reinforced tip enable you to use this knife as a pry bar or for self-defense. While it doesn’t have an issue with chopping wood, it may not be so great at batoning thinner pieces of wood. However, the thumb ramp is uncomfortable to use; it causes your hand to cramp when doing detailed work. The quality of the sheath is subpar.
- Reinforced tip
- Can cut through 1 ton rated cord
- Lightweight but tough
- Using the thumb ramp is uncomfortable
- Subpar sheath
How to Choose the Best Survival Knife: The Ultimate Buying Guide
If you ask any experienced hunter, hiker, and camper around the world, they’ll tell you that the most valuable tool you’ll ever come across when enjoying the great outdoors is a survival knife. There’s a lot you can do with one – food prep, cutting wood, creating traps, digging, opening cans, building shelter, and even first aid. And in case the need arises, you can use a survival knife for self-defense. While any knife is better than no knife at all, it’s still important that you get the best survival knife for you. Not all survival knives are made equal. And there’s no perfect knife for every single task. But if you know what features to look for, you can definitely find the best survival knife for you.
Let’s Talk About the Size
Yes, size does matter when it comes to survival knives. But that doesn’t mean bigger is better. A Rambo-sized knife isn’t going to do you any good unless you plan to scare people away with the size of your tool. Why is that? Carrying this knife around can become cumbersome (try walking for an hour with a big ass knife hanging from your waist and let us know how you feel). It also can be very unwieldy, especially when performing certain tasks such as skinning small game.
Does that mean small is better? Not really. If a knife is too small, you also limit the type of tasks that it can perform. It won’t be able to cut or split wood which is essential in survival situations if you want to eat cooked food or stay warm. So, what size is best? Experts recommend that you find a knife that is 9-11 inches long. That sweet spot enables you to perform both delicate and heavy-duty tasks. The KA-BAR Becker BK2 Campanion Fixed Blade Knife, our number one pick, falls into this range at 10.5 inches.
What Should be the Blade Material?
There are generally two types of material used in making survival knives – carbon steel and stainless steel. Both types of steel have their own pros and cons. Stainless steel is rust-resistant and very durable. However, compared to carbon steel, it isn’t quite as tough. Also, it doesn’t hold an edge as long as carbon steel.
Carbon steel, as we’ve already mentioned, is quite tough and holds a razor sharp edge longer which means less time spent sharpening the edge (though it is quite easy to do). However, it isn’t resistant to rust which means you need to take extra care in maintaining it. So, which one should you choose? It depends. You need to weigh these pros and cons according to your needs and see which type of material suits you best. If you like carbon steel, you can go with the Gerber Strong Arm. The Gerber LMF II Survival Knife, on the other hand, is made of stainless steel.
It Should Be a Fixed Blade
Whether you’re young or old, you’ve probably heard of the Swiss Army knife and all that it can do. Well, if we’re talking about survival knives, a folding knife isn’t going to cut it. That hinge is a weak spot that limits the knife’s capabilities because it makes the knife so easy to break. It won’t be able to cut firewood or dress game. The blade of a folding knife is also typically short and thin which makes it less than ideal for performing demanding tasks in the great outdoors.
A fixed blade like the ESEE Knives 6P Fixed Blade Knife, on the other hand, is one solid piece of metal – no weak spot there. This makes it more durable in comparison and able to handle heavy duty tasks such as pounding, prying, and chopping without causing the knife to break.
It Should Be Full Tang
Before you ask, the “tang” of a knife is the part of the blade that extends into the handle of the knife. Knives with a partial tang are those with blades that extend a little into the handle up until halfway. The problem with this kind of blade is durability. Because the blade doesn’t go all the way to the end of the handle, there’s a bigger chance for it to loosen inside, especially when performing heavy duty tasks such as chopping wood. Not only is this going to make your knife difficult to handle, but it can also cause it to eventually break which is incredibly dangerous. With a full tang blade, you get a more balanced feel and the blade can handle greater force. It’s not easy to break a continuous piece of solid steel, after all.
Straight or Serrated?
Ok, technically, there’s still a lot of debate among experts on which one is better – straight or serrated. One thing you can be sure of, it ain’t partially serrated. When it comes to knives, having the best of both worlds is not a good thing. It’ll make things worse because, unless you have an extremely long knife, you won’t be able to perform any task well due to the small amount of edge available.
So, straight edge or serrated? There are certain benefits and disadvantages to both. Straight edge knives are incredibly versatile because you can do a lot more tasks easily such as skinning game, chopping wood, batoning, creating traps. It’s also much easier to sharpen because any smooth stone will do.
A serrated blade, on the other hand, is perfect for cutting thin metal or rope – things that you may face if you find yourself needing to cut off a seatbelt that got stuck or a similar situation. Some experts believe it’s a better choice if you’re in an urban survival situation. However, the teeth of the blade prone to breaking when used in certain tasks such as chopping wood – an essential activity should you get lost in the woods. This type of edge also requires a special sharpening stone which you may not be carrying with you when you get lost.
It should Have a Sharp Point
If you’ve been browsing survival knives online, you may have noticed the variety of tips available – hooked, angled, etc. While all those have their uses, the best option for you in a survival situation is a knife with a sharp pointed tip. Not only is this great for stabbing and piercing (either when you’re hunting or defending yourself), it’s also incredibly useful for digging holes, taking out splinters, and prying open stuff.
While these are the recommendations of most experts, you may find that some features are not as important to your situation, preference, skill level, etc. The most important thing to remember when choosing a survival knife is that it should work well in a majority of situations that you might find yourself facing. In other words, it should be able to more than adequately perform a variety of tasks in whatever environment that will help ensure your survival.