Your Survival Knife Sucks for Long Term Survival

For a wilderness survival scenario of 72 hrs to a week your big and heavy survival knife is excellent. But as soon as you are past that point you will learn that it completely sucks for long term use.

Let me give you a little context. The summer of 2016 I spent 6 months isolated with my partner in the boreal forest. I brought four cutting tools: a survival knife, a bushcraft knife, a multi-tool, and a hatchet. The only time I used my survival knife during our survival expedition was one day when I needed to do some filleting and my partner was using the bushcraft knife.

long term survival knife and hatchet

My point is that if you are serious about spending weeks or months in the woods leave your survival knife at home; bring a bushcraft knife and a hatchet instead. The only reason to pack a survival knife is as a back up. The truth is that those big, heavy survival knives are great for the weekend warrior but perform very poorly for specific wilderness living tasks like butchering, carving, filleting, cutting logs etc.

The survival knife wants to do it all, but ends up doing nothing well.

Which cutting tasks do you need to perform in a wilderness living situation? Cut firewood, fillet fish, skin a deer, cut meat, carve a spatula, cut saplings, make a deadfall trap etc. The only task in which a survival knife is superior to a knife/hatchet combo is as a self defence weapon. But in that case a fire would be a better deterrent against wildlife than a survival knife.

long term survival knife

Bushcraft knife for long term survival

I believe that a bushcraft knife must have these characteristics: lightweight, very comfortable grip, fixed blade, full tang, straight edge (non-serrated). Those qualities make a knife strong, durable and easy to sharpen. Either stainless steel or carbon steel is fine. Stainless steel holds its edge longer but is harder to sharpen and carbon steel is exactly the opposite. Your choice. A bushcraft knife must be geared towards fine, precise tasks, like wood carving and filleting.

The Morakniv knife is a classic example.

Forget about batoning with a morakniv though, it will feel pathetic compared to a survival knife; that’s what the hatchet is for. The only thing that needs improvement in the morekniv is it’s sheath. Luckily there are leather sheaths for it that will strap the knife and prevent it from falling when bushwacking.

The hatchet is for tasks that need momentum or a wedge. You can cut a 10″ diameter tree with a hatchet, but forget about cutting it with a survival knife. With some wooden wedges and a hatchet you could also split a log.

I wanted to write this article for people interested in long term wilderness survival. If you are thinking about packing a long term bug out bag or an INCH bag then this article is for you.

Have you ever looked at the tools our hunter-gatherer ancestors used in the paloeolithic? These are the cutting tools of Ötzi: a copper axe, and a small knife. There is no hybrid, no compromise. Just two tools:

image via iceman.it

image via iceman.it

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are so many people out there asking what is the best survival knife. For a short term survival scenario, your “Rambo” knife is great. It will allow you to make a shelter and cut some firewood. But when you spend a couple of weeks out there and you start to make stuff out of local materials or use your knife for filleting/skinning you’ll notice why bigger might not be better.

Hatchet for long term survival

Choose a 12 inch long hatchet and a good sheath. A full tang hatchet would be the most reliable. But you wouldn’t break the handle if used properly anyways. Keep in mind that a plastic handle might break if used in extreme temperatures.

Either this survival hatchet or the full tang hatchet are great options.

Your survival knife sucks for long term survival

Outdoor equipment is always a compromise, you can’t have it all. Just like life. You will be better off packing a small, comfortable knife and a hatchet, than carrying a survival knife for extended use. I know many of you will think that you just want to pack one thing. I hope Ötzi and I could change your perspective for long term wilderness survival.

Your Survival Knife Sucks for Long Term Survival
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6 Comments on "Your Survival Knife Sucks for Long Term Survival"

  1. I am no outdoor hard core survivalist nor a couch Rambo. The thing that gets covered up,and it is intended,is that all this stuff that we use from knife to a double bit felling ax is a tool and just as in the garage one can do that of many. Your time in the woods showed you that and after a while you begane to make tools for a job.
    I have not read much from those that know that long term survival is sexy it is slot of work keep up the good plane common sense.

  2. Thank you. As many of us have been looking for someone who has done this with the tools.

  3. david k godwin | September 5, 2019 at 09:26 | Reply

    very well said, long term survival is a different and complex animal and the axe with small fixed blade combo is great for everyday tasks unforeseen in just a week in the woods camping. getting by will get you dead but being ready and understanding that things usually do not go our way in shtf is the first step in real survival. PREPARED is the key and having the tools on hand and ready make the difference.

  4. I absolutely disagree and I hope your bad article does not rub off on too many people.

  5. You obviously do not know how to use a knife even though you think you do. A big knife can do anything a smaller knife can (though admittedly not as well in some cases), a big knife can serve as a weapon to protect you (It needs to be at least 7″ long to reach all of the lethal targets in a human with maybe 8″ being more ideal, although even that may be too short in the advent of some wild animals or persons of Large stature), a big knife can serve as an entrenching tool if necessary or paddle a canoe if needed, it will last with minimum care (I expect to have my great great grandchildren using my bowies, and finally I have never found a big knife to be an inconveniece to carry from Vietnam to now and have done just fine with one in all those years. The old saying, “You can tell a tenderfoot by the fact he carries too big a knife” is bull. In the time you take to say that to me I can have my big pig sticker stuck somewhere you would rather not see it protruding from at around 50′-60′. Too small a knife shows me and others that the person using it has most likely not weighed all the facts and is truely not proficient with it.

    • Juan Pablo Q. | October 2, 2020 at 07:20 | Reply

      A big knife is a compromise. The best is to have a small, easy to handle knife, in conjunction with an axe/machete. That’s what I think.
      Obviously if the only man-made object you have with you in a survival situation is a knife, it better be a big knife.

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