Being a full time survival instructor I have the opportunity to truly test knives in the field and see how the hold up in not only professionals hands but amateurs as well. This list is my favorite blades of the last few years and have all proven to hold up extremely well in the field under harsh conditions. We run the longest outdoor wilderness survival programs in the country, and during these courses we see a lot of knives fail. Our philosophy at SIGMA 3 Survival School is to buy once, cry once. Meaning you should buy the highest quality gear you can afford because buying cheap gear now will just mean buying higher quality gear again later. Spend good money once and it will last you for years!
Since we believe the Scandi grind blade to be the best grind we are only going to cover knives with that grind. Now our bushcraft knives philosophy is to always carry two knives, one scandi and one sabre grind blade. That way you not only have a backup blade, but also have a larger more durable knife for heavier work. But this article will only cover Scandi grinds with a blade length of 4-6″, since we believe that you will use those type blades for 90% of your chores in the field . These choices will cover varying price ranges from mass production blades, to custom or semi custom bushcraft knives.
Top 10 Bushcraft Knives
- Morakniv Bushcraft Carbon Steel Survival Knife with Fire Starter and Sheath, Black ($60)- Best in budget blade for the money. This can be purchased for around $60 on Amazon and has great performance in general. This is a great choice for students looking for an entry level blade.
- SIGMORA Ultimate Bushcraft Blade ($250)- This is SIGMA 3’s custom designed blade that is suppose to be similar to a Mora style blade, but in full tang CPM3v crucible steel. It has a neutral grip and a very unique tinder scraper on the pommel, great for making very fine tinder for catching sparks.
- Bark River Bushcrafter 2 ($220)- This is a very sturdy blade designed for heavy duty bushcraft use. It has a well sculpted handle and has a scandivex grind versus the traditional scandi. Meaning it has a small secondary bevel on the edge to add durability to the blade. This type of grind doesn’t cut as aggressively, but is more controllable for things like feather sticking.
- Tops BOB Field Craft ($140)- This has been one of my favorite bushcraft knife for years and I have never seen it fail in the field. Typically I’m not a fan of TOPS knives at all, because of soft spines and edges. But this specific blade cuts well and is durable enough to hold up during our 45 day survival instructor course.
- Mora Companion HD ($20)- This is the cheapest of all the options listed and should be considered a secondary or backup blade. Our own instructor Josh Hamlin used one for around 5 years without seriously damaging it, but should not be considered a super durable blade. But for the money, it is one the best wood whittling blades you can get. For people on an extreme budget, this is the best option.
- Mora Garberg ($85)- This is Mora’s newest knife and is the first full tang blade they’ve made to date. While it is a good blade, we still prefer the Mora Bushcraft. We are not typically a fan of stainless steel blades but this one performs very well in the field.
- LT Wright Genesis ($210) – This knife has a very low scandi grind, and a very neutral handle. It has a good finish and great cutting ability. But still doesn’t outperform the SIGMORA blade, IMO.
- PKS Scorpion ($90)- This is Dave Canterbury’s knife shop design and we have seen it used in our courses numerous times. It holds up well and above all is very reasonably priced. The steel is somewhat softer than some of the other blades, but the design is rock solid and should be a consideration for budget minded bushcrafters.
- ESEE Knives Camp Lore RB3 Knife With Leather Sheath ($90)- This is ESEE’s bushcraft model and designed for light to medium duty bushcrafting jobs. It has a softer steel and is a factory production knife, so the quality isn’t as high as some of the other blades mentioned. We prefer the Mora, SIGMORA, and Bark River knives better.
- Condor Tool & Knife 60005 Blasted Satin Blade with Micarta Handle Bushlore Camp Knife and Leather Sheath, 4-5/16-Inch– This blade is one of the cheapest options and shouldn’t be considered high quality by any means. But the design is solid and it holds up well in the field for light bushcraft tasks. Since its so cheap you can buy 2-3 for the same price as some other knives. It’s great choice for the budget minded bushcrafter.
Most Important Aspects of any Bushcraft Knife:
- Handle- The handle must be contoured for a neutral grip and you must be able to hold it in a variety of grips. Any bushcraft knife handle shouldn’t have any places that will create hotspots on the hands. Its essential that your blade be comfortable to use for many hours at a time. Stay away from contoured or rough grip handles or any tactical style grips.
- Steel- Our favorite steels is CPM3v. All other knives listed in other steel types will not be nearly as durable or high performance as the CPM3v. There are so many steels to list that we could write an essay on just that subject. But stick with a good carbon steel and you’ll be fine.
- Sheath- Sheath type is a personal choice. Kydex has better mounting options, but tends to break easier and is harder on the edge of the blade. It also doesn’t protect from rust like leather does. Leather is preferable for most situations because the leather can be treated with oil to help prevent rust from moisture in the air.
- Grind- There are tons of grinds available, but the two top choices are Scandi and Scandivex grinds. A close second would be a flat grind or asymetrical grind such as the Bark River Bravos offer.
- Handle material- We prefer micarta for our bushcraft knife handles. They are durable and have a good grip when wet. Its best if the micarta is sanded and left rough on the outside.
Of all the items a survivalist or bushcrafter can spend their money on, the single most important they make will be their knife. With a knife and the right skills, that is literally all you need to survive in most areas. It should be your most well considered survival purchase and we recommend buying two good blades. One scandi and one heavy duty sabre grind style blades. Just remember buy once, cry once is our philosophy! Its far better to spend more money the first time than to buy a cheap knife and then just turn around later and buy a higher quality knife.