Everyone seems to agree that a good survival knife is an essential item for the outdoorsman, bushcrafters, or preppers. There are many good resources to access to learn about survival knives. However, the key words of versatility and practicality should influence your thinking about knives. Additionally, do you view a knife as a weapon or tool or both? Furthermore, there are at least two major things to consider before you decide on what kind of knife to purchase or carry: the purpose of the knife and the characteristics of the knife.

The Purpose Of The Knife

The defining question for determining the type of fixed-blade knife to carry is the type of use for that knife. What is the purpose or reason for carrying a knife? The term survival knife is a definition for a purpose or an application of the knife. That means that the intent of the knife is personal survival. In other words, it will be the one knife that you will rely on to save your life. However, there are many general categories of survival: combat/tactical, wilderness, urban, water/sea, jungle, mountain, desert, medical, emergency, etc. Thus, there are knives specifically tailored for each of these survival categories. Therefore, a person needs to define what kind of use they want to get out of a fixed-blade knife. Yet, there are some basic characteristics that define a good survival knife.

The Characteristics Of A Survival Knife

1. Full-Tang

The first characteristic in a survival knife is that must be full tang. The term, full tang, means the knife blade and handle tang are formed from a singular piece of steel. The tang is the part of the knife upon which the handle scales are attached. The knife tang should extend to the bottom of the handle and not taper into the handle as in a rat tail design. Some knives marketed as survival knives have a hollow handle molded, bolted, or welded to the blade. Unfortunately, this welding point makes the knife vulnerable to cracking and breaking at the joint where the blade and handle meet. However, in recent years, there has been some significant improvements on the hollow-handle knives and some people are starting to recommend them as a useful knife. What about blade thickness?

2. Blade Thickness: 3/16-1/4 inch

The second characteristic of a good survival knife involves blade thickness. A good survival knife needs a blade thickness between 3/16 of an inch to 1/4 of an inch. This provides a solid and durable blade that will last if you take care of it. The blade thickness is important if using the knife for prying things apart. Other sources will have additional considerations. However, I found that if you find a knife that meets these first two specifications then the other recommended characteristics for a good survival knife will fall into place. Furthermore, blade length is another consideration.

3. Blade Length: 4.5-6 inches

A third characteristic of a good and reliable survival knife is blade length. There are some experts that recommend that a survival or bushcrafting knife should have a blade length of no less than five inches. However, the exception to this rule are the Morakniv® brand knives. Many of the experts in the field of wilderness survival and bushcraft recommend the Morakniv® knives. Yet, a blade length of five or more inches meets the versatility considerations for a survival knife: construct improvised weapons and traps, as well as, process food. One thing to keep in mind about blade length is not to have a knife blade that is too long. A knife blade beyond six or seven inches is probably going to be too cumbersome to wield when building traps or skinning a squirrel. Not only are tang, blade length and thickness important for a survival knife, but also the blade materials are equally important.

4. Blade Materials: D2 or 1095 High Carbon Steel

A fourth characteristic for a quality survival knife is the steel used in making the knife. There is almost universal agreement that high carbon tool steel is the optimum material for a knife blade. D2 and 1095 steels are the most favorable tool steels for the blade construction of a survival knife. These blade steels are the best for those are spending a lot of time in the field such as hunters or bushcrafters. They are easy to sharpen and hold an edge well.
However, a good blade steel to consider is stainless steel if there is only an occasional excursion to the outdoors. This means that it is easy to keep corrosion and rust from building up on the blade or handle. For example, many of the top game processing knives feature a stainless steel blade. So, a stainless steel outdoor knife may be a consideration for only a weekend outing on the campgrounds, cabin, or the favorite fishing hole. Moreover, the type of blade spine is also important to consider.

5. Blade Spine: 90° Spine

The fifth characteristic of a good survival knife is a blade spine that is ground to a 90° edge. This kind of edge is useful in the field. It allows a person to use the spine of the knife to scrape bark from a tree for tinder and strike a ferro rod when making a fire. It is also good for striking flint or chert rock against it to make a spark for starting fires.

6. Blade Grind: Scandinavian or Flat

A sixth characteristic of an excellent survival is the blade grind. There are two common blade grinds that one will find on a quality survival knife: a Scandinavian grind and a flat grind. The Scandinavian grid is the most popular grind of the two. The main reason that these two grinds are popular on survival knives is that they are the easiest type of blades to sharpen in the wilderness. Other blade grinds sometimes require special tools or expertise to sharpen. Thus, most of the high quality, and, expensive bushcraft or survival knives will feature these blade grinds. Moreover, there are some other things to consider when deciding about a knife to carry as a survival knife.

Other Considerations

Jimping

Some things to think about when deciding on a good survival knife are the type of additional features some knives have on them. For example, some survival knives have notches on the spine of the blade near the handle called jimping. This feature allows additional friction when using the thumb for wood carving or cutting tasks. Is jimping something that you want on your knife?

Scale Material

Another feature to ponder on survival knives are the kind of scale material on the handles. The four most common handle scale materials on survival knives are: bone, wood, rubber, or micarta. Wood, rubber, and bone are understandable scale features. However, micarta is a material that is often used on survival knives. Micarta is a composite material of polymers and linen cloth fibers. Thus, micarta has a wood-like quality to the touch.

Type of Edge: Fine or Serrated?

Finally, some commentary on serrated edges. There is much ado regarding a knife blade with a serrated edge and one without. The decision about this feature is a matter of preference. It is also being able to answer the earlier question, “What is the purpose of your knife”? If you want to cut down on weight in your backpack by carrying only one knife, then a knife with a serrated edge may be a viable option. The serrated edge provides some versatility with the ability to saw small diameter limbs or materials such as plastic. However, if you are going to carry a good multi-tool, you do not really need a knife with a serrated edge. Thus, a good survival knife is an essential piece of gear. Therefore, choose your survival knife wisely.

Recommended Survival Knives:

1. Morakniv Bushcraft
2. Morakniv Garberg
3. The Sigma 3 Survivor “Ultimate Bushcraft Blade”
4. Tops BOB Fieldcraft
5. Ka-Bar Becker BK2 Campanion

Knife grinds? What are the advantages of different grinds? What are my favorite knife grinds for bushcraft? In this article we are going to breakdown everything you need to know about knife grinds and what you should choose for your bushcraft blade. So you’ve heard just about every single so called survival expert in the world tell you the most important tool to have in a survival situation is a knife. But they don’t go into much depth about what grinds you need for the type of work you expect that knife to do. So here are the top ones you need to know and what they are meant to do!

TOP 5 Knife Grinds:

    1. Scandinavian Grind
    2. Saber Grind
    3. High Flat Grind
    4. Convex Grind
    5. Hollow Grind

bushcraft knife grinds

Performance Factors to Consider

  • Cutting Ability- Heavily outweighs all other factors. If  knife doesn’t cut well, then what is the point of carrying it. You can have the best steel and ergonomics in the world and it means nothing if it doesn’t cut well.
  • Edge Retention- How long does the knife hold a sharp edge? This becomes very important when you plan to be in the field for longer periods and need you edge to hold up through tough tasks without resharpening.
  • Overall Durability- Does the knife hold up to heavy use? All that really matters is whether you can slam this baby through a cinder block un-scathed or not. I kid, I kid. Though it does seem many in the industry consider extreme durability a much higher priority than they should. Just take care of the knife and use it for what it was intended and it’s not likely to break. But always buy the best your budget can afford. Because this is the most important outdoors tool you can carry.
  • Ergonomics- How does it feel in your hand? If you have to use your knife a lot, then how it feels in your hand is pivotal. There are a lot of great knife makers out there, but very few of them understand how to build a professional grade handle.
  • Sharpenability- How difficult is it to sharpen? Can you sharpen it in the field? With all the new super steels coming out that hold an edge forever, its hard to know what is the best choice. But it really boils down to a matter of preference and what you plan to do with the knife. Many people prefer a softer steel so they can sharpen it super quickly. Other prefer something they only have to sharpen a few times a year. I lean towards the super steels that are harder to sharpen, because I don’t like maintenance that much, and they tend to perform better.

bark river knife grinds

 

Scandinavian Knife Grinds

Scandinavian Grind style knives are hands down the king of bushcraft knife grinds because they are capable of doing numerous types cutting tasks efficiently. They are definitely my favorite knife grind and I think almost all outdoors instructors can agree for woodworking and campcraft, the scandi grind cannot be beaten for general use. This is also an exceptionally easy knife to sharpen and any beginner can get one sharp in no time.

Think of the scandi grind as a double sided chisel and we all know chisels to be efficient at carving and removing wood in a controlled manner. The single most important performance factor for any bushcrafter to consider is how well the knife cuts through wood. If it can’t do that well, then sell it or chuck it in the bin for use with some other kind of job. Because cutting performance is the main priority. We need to quickly and efficiently remove wood for survival trap building, making friction fire kits, and other camp craft that is essential to our comfort and survival.

For more info on TOP 10 SCANDI GRIND BLADES OF 2018, CLICK HERE!

 

Saber Knife Grinds

I truly believe that the saber and scandi grind blades go hand in hand. You should carry both because each grind has a preferred use. Though you’ll use your scandi grind 10 times more, you should have both. The saber grind is good because it offers superior durability and will hold up better than the Scandi grind will to more abuse. The Saber Knife Grind is essentially a really high scandi grind, with a secondary edge bevel at the edge to add durability. This grind is best for limb chopping, light batoning, and taking down small trees when a saw or axe isn’t handy. Pick a blade with some weight to it that can chop and handle heavy tasks.

While this grind has better durability and edge retention, it will suffer when it comes to cutting wood efficiently. So it should be used as a backup and for heavier camp tasks. But we really think you should always have two different knives in your kit in case one is lost or broken. We also love a two sheath knife system when using kydex and for leather sheaths we like dangler options.

Favorite Saber Grinds Knife: The Standard Blade

bushcraft knife grind

 

High Flat Knife Grinds

I really love a good flat grind, because it is somewhat of a mix between a saber and a scandi grind. The cutting performance is right on par with the scandi, and I tend to like a flat grind in a larger style knife, that I want to make cut as efficient as smaller blades. You can have a very thick spined blade and cut as well as a thin blade with a flat grind. Because the edge is so thin, it has similar performance but the downside of the flat grind is the durability. Even with a super steel, you can still roll the edge or damage the steel from heavy bushcraft use. It has a very thin edge and really should be used for lighter camp tasks. This isn’t my go to knife grind and is considered more of a hybrid option.

Convex Knife Grinds

So I really love convex style knives and they have a plethora of uses. Essentially a convex knife grind offers slightly lower durability of the edge than a saber grind, but cuts closer in performance to a scandi grind. Here is the kicker, a convex grind will work better at taking small amounts of material off or doing finer cuts. While the zero degree scandi will take large amounts of wood and be harder to control for tasks such as feather sticking. It is trying to play in both worlds while offering durability & controllability. The Bark River line of knives is done in convex and is a great choice for any woodsman.

Favorite Convex Grind Knife- Bark River Bushcrafter 2

Bark River Bravo Series 1.5 & 1.25

 

Hollow Knife Grinds

This knife grind is ALL about cutting ability and remember that the thinner the edge, the better it will cut. The hollow grind is one of the thinnest and weakest edges you can get but will get razor sharp. This type of grind is always used best for skinning, gutting, and butchering animals. I’m absolutely a believer that you should carry several knives in your outdoors kit. You should have a scandi for fine wood working, a saber for heavy camp tasks, and hollow grind for cleaning game. When it comes to longer term survival, you will spend more time cleaning game than almost anything else you will with a knife. So this knife grind is a must have in any bushcrafters kits if he plans to get his meat from the land.

Favorite Skinning Blades- Havalon Piranta-Edge

Conclusion:

There are so many options when trying to pick a bushcraft blade or set of blades for outdoor use. The options can be mind numbing and overwhelming. So here is what I tell students about knives in general.

Get the best you can afford! But if you can’t afford much, then get something with a great knife grind for the task. You can put a great grind on a terrible steel and it will still cut good for awhile. Put a bad grind on a fantastic steel and it will still cut bad despite being great steel.

Grind geometry is far more important than steel choice, ergonomics, or anything else about the knife. It needs to cut well, and the grind & sharpness are the most important factors to consider. Each grind has something it’s designed to do so use the knife for it’s intended purposes. Carry several if there are several cutting tasks to be done. They weigh very little and you can rebuild almost anything with a good set of blades. So why not have them all?

survival gear

MEET THE AUTHOR

Rob Allen Survival

Rob Allen

Founder of SIGMA 3 Survival School

The best bushcraft knife for under $75 is by far and away the Mora Bushcraft knife. There are a lot of good blades on the market for the money and I have tried most of them. But I still keep coming back to this one knife. In fact, even though I have several high end custom survival knives, I still find myself carrying a Mora Bushcraft knife at many of our survival courses. It is always in my go bag as a backup knife to my main survival knife set as well. It’s just a handy setup to have around. Figuring out the best bushcraft knife can be a difficult task for the beginner and we are taking all the homework out of it for you. Trust us, we have beat the hell out of this knife in dozens of survival courses and we have yet to see one fail! They aren’t the toughest knife on the market, but they are the best wood cutter and best bushcraft knife for general uses.

For less than $75, you get the best bushcraft knife from Mora, a good firestarter, and a sharpening stone built right onto the blade. It’s an all in one survival kit on your side, because if you have a knife you can build anything else that you need with it in the wilderness. Survival and bushcraft is about improvising tools from the local landscape around you and the most important tool to do that is a good blade. Now many companies have tried to reinvent the wheel with all these fancy survival knives that have come out in recent years. But the simple truth about survival knives is that you don’t have to have a super steel, but you do need to have super good design. And the Bushcrafter fits the bill in all respects! The Mora is so good because of its comfortable handle design and a very well designed blade.

The Scandinavian style grind on the Mora is designed to fly through wood. It is a flat grind that is somewhat similar in its cutting efficiency to a chisel. It was simply designed to cut through wood easily and efficiently. This makes bushcrafting chores a breeze and time is money in the bush. Your knife should do the task quickly and should cut through the wood easily. That is the single most important thing a knife has to do when you have several bushcraft chores.

The best bushcraft knife is also a high carbon steel which is good for making fire with a flint and charred tinder. You always go with high carbon steel for survival and not stainless. Never get a stainless steel blade unless you plan to be in or around the water all the time. The high carbon blades just have to many advantages to not use them over the stainless versions. The knife also comes with a fixed belt loop and a swinging dangler belt loop for either type of carry. The belt loops detach quickly and a very secure in their construction. It comes with a great sheath, but there are also a lot of options to upgrade your sheath through custom kydex making companies such as Grizzly Kydex

The diamond sharpening steel does a great job on quickly putting an edge on the high carbon steel. And since it is conveniently located on the sheath, you will always be sure to have a sharpener when the task is needed. A dull blade is a dangerous blade, so always keep your tools sharp. And don’t forget knife safety when doing bushcrafting. The blade should never be cut towards any body part. Never carve on your legs or over the tops of your palms. You never know what could happen. I always say the best knife safety learning always comes from cutting yourself really bad one time, and you will never do it again. Don’t learn the hard way, practice safe methods. So be safe and get yourself a Mora knife for our survival classes today! As they are definitely the Best Bushcraft Blade for our courses. SEMPER PARATUS!

Here is an independent review on the Mora Bushcraft knife:

TheTruthAboutKnives.com

If your interested in purchasing one of these blades then make sure to check them out at our Survival Store

Buy Your Mora Bushcrafter Now!

 

 

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