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Peter Kummerfeldt: Which knife is best for survival situations?

cheap survival knives, knives under $20, Mora
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One of the most common questions asked on this site is about survival knives. Specifically, which one is best for the individual’s needs, and which will serve most effectively in a survival situation.

There are a lot of opinions! This post by an internationally-known survival expert, Peter Kummerfeldt, may help you make a good decision about which knife to include in your survival kit. – Editor


by Peter Kummerfeldt

The debate over “which is the best knife” has raged ever since early man first knapped a sharp edge on a piece of obsidian! The recommendations that follow are just that – recommendations. But they are suggestions based on 50 years of recreating and working in the outdoors.

The variety of knives available is staggering so how does one know where to start?

The Mora sheath, top needs to be modified for safe carry. The Feather Stick comes with a leather dangler.

The Mora sheath, top needs to be modified for safe carry. The Battle Horse Knives Feather Stick comes with a leather dangler.

To begin there is no need for one of “survival knives” seen in the movies. The ones with a hollow handle containing all kinds of things you’ll never use and none of the equipment that you’d really like to have.

I’d shy away from folding knives although the reliability of the hinge is much better than it used to be.

You don’t need a long blade – four inches is plenty! Select a blade with a broad, flat back so that it can be used with a mallet to split wood. Buy a knife with a brightly colored handle so that you can find it if you drop it.

Make sure, although this is hard to do in the store, that the tang extends all the way to the butt of the handle or as close to it as possible. If the handle is plastic it may be possible to hold the handle up to a bright light to see where the tang ends.
Knives where the tang extends only a few inches into the handle are prone to breaking.

I do not recommend serrated blades. They are hard to sharpen. Finger guards between the handle and the blade are unnecessary and tend to get in the way.

The Mora-style knife is the best example of  a knife that meets these criteria. (Read the Mora 840 Companion review here.) They are inexpensive ($15 – $25) and are widely available. I seldom carry a knife on my belt anymore. I found out a long time ago that a knife attached to your

Bark River Scandi, Mora knife, best mora knife

The Bark River Scandi combines traditional styling with modern materials.

belt, behind your hip, is out-of-sight and out-of- mind! Sooner or later you will lose it!

Alternatively a knife sheath carried on a lanyard worn around your neck and tucked into your shirt when you are not using it is a very convenient. Should you place your knife on the ground after using it and then walk off, you will have a much better chance of noticing that the knife is not where it should be, earlier, and then locating it again before you have gone far.

A small pocketknife is another very useful tool. It doesn’t have to be a Swiss Army style of knife or a multi-tool with a hundred utensils built into it.  A simple one or two blade knife is sufficient for most situations where you might find yourself needing a cutting edge.

Remember that cutting tools are designed to cut, and they will cut you too if they are not used safely. Never cut toward yourself or another person!

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