I love a good folding knife, in fact, I carry one every day—even when I wear a suit. (Yes, I have a day job.) But anytime I’m in the field, I carry a fixed-blade survival knife. You can’t beat the convenience of a folding knife, and you can’t beat the utility of a fixed-blade knife.
The key is selecting a knife that balances quality and cost. You can find tons of mass-produced Chinese garbage at any flea market or on any website, but when the blade snaps off after an hour of use you’re screwed. If you’re out hiking a local trail, it’s probably just a minor pain in the ass, but if you’re in a real-life survival situation, it can mean the difference between life and death.
Below are a ten hand-selected knives that I recommend. They range in style and price, so evaluate your specific needs and environment, as well as what fits your hands best.
The Cold Steel 80PGTK GI Tanto is one bad-ass piece of hardware made by one of the most trusted names in the industry. Manufactured from 1055 carbon steel blade with a black rust-resistant finish, this is built to last. Its hard, angular lines may not appeal to everyone, but it’s a great value and definitely worth consideration.
I would never have bought this Gerber Bear Grylls knife myself because I prefer my gear to be more subtle, but I received one as a birthday gift and have beaten the hell out of it for several years with virtually no signs of wear. The sheath comes with a built-in diamond sharpener, removable ferrocerium fire starter, and a signaling whistle is attached to the handle with a lanyard.
No list of survival knives would be complete without the battle-proven US Marine Corps KA-BAR Fighting Knife. From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli, this beautiful masterpiece of steel and leather has kicked ass and is just as tough as the men who carried it into harms way. Simple, basic, and iconic; you can’t go wrong with this knife on your side.
In addition to being among the best warriors in the world, the US Navy SEALs are kown for having some of the best equipment your tax dollars can buy, and the SOG SE37-N SEAL Team Elite is no exception. Its 7-inch serrated black TiNi coated AUS8 stainless steel blade is designed to withstand the rigors of saltwater and any other abuse you can throw at it.
The Tom Brown Tracker is a beast of a knife, equally suited for cutting, chopping, or slashing, and includes an aggressive saw blade along its backside. With a heavy-duty 4.25″ 1095 high carbon alloy blade, it’s more than adequate for any survival situation, but its unique shape, weight, and price may turn some people off. In my opinion, it’s still a great knife and a great addition to any gear bag.
An aggressive serrated blade and unique non-slip grip make the Columbia River 2125KV one serious knife. Resembling the shape of bronze age daggers of 4000 years ago, this knife is maintains a simple, yet effective design and its Ti-nitride finish protects it in any environment. It even includes a prying tip on the butt end.
The Fallkniven A1 is probably the best knife you’ll ever own, but at over $200, it’s certainly not for bargain shoppers. This survival knife has a 6 3/8″ laminated VG-10 stainless modified spear point blade with black CeraCoat 8H coating. Black checkered Kraton® handle with visible tang end and lanyard hole.
A no-frills design makes the Ontario SK-5 Blackbird one of the most reliable knives you can find on the market today. The American-made blade is manufactured from 154CM steel, known for its superior toughness, edge-retaining ability, sharpness, and corrosion resistance, while the rounded Micarta handle provides a firm, comfortable grip.
It’s hard to go wrong with the U.S. Army and Air Force-issue survival knife. This tough little knife is made of 1095 carbon steel with a rust-resistant zinc phosphate finish. The grooved leather handle makes it easy to grip even with sweaty or wet hands. Its leather sheath has an integral belt loop, tie-down holes, and a pouch to hold the included sharpening stone.
The nearly indestructible Becker BK2 Companion is an ideal size with a 5.5″ 1095 cro-van steel blade, perfect for splitting kindling, skinning game, or chopping onions, and the Grivory handle fits your hand like it was made just for you. The butt end had an extended tang for striking and there is a hole in the handle for attaching a lanyard.