How to choose your survival knife?

There are survival knives in different shapes, sizes and materials. Today we have such a wide selection of knives that it is difficult to choose between the different brands. To make the right choice, you must first determine what a real survival knife is, what it is capable of and how to choose the one that is right for you.

survival knife

What is a survival knife?

Before discussing the different types of survival knives it is important to define what a survival knife is. As opinions differ, we describe here the criteria that we believe are most important.

In our opinion, a survival knife is a fixed, robust and versatile knife that you can rely on in a survival situation, whatever the circumstances. With a survival knife you can split wood, make fire and prepare food. It must also be suitable for woodworking, for example for making a shelter, but it must also be able to be used for hunting. In any case they are knives made for rough use.

Based on these characteristics we have made a first selection on our survival knife page. You will find hundreds of different knives there. That is why we try to guide you in your research with different elements to consider and some basic choices.

What type of steel should I choose for a survival knife?

One of the first things to determine is the type of steel. Not yet the definitive type but the category to which it belongs. Knife steels are divided into three categories: carbon steel, tool steel and stainless steel. It is important to know that there are hundreds of different steels within these three categories and that each has its own properties. In addition, each type of steel behaves differently depending on the heat treatment it has received. As no one is in a position to proclaim the absolute truth about steels, we give you here the main lines to know more about them.

Carbon Steel

Carbon steel is, as its name suggests, a type of high-carbon steel. Carbon steel is not resistant to corrosion. Leave it damp or without washing it after cutting fruit and it will be covered with rust after a few hours or days. He also does not like salt or salt water. To prevent rust, expensive outdoor equipment is often coated with an anti-corrosion coating. This makes a big difference in terms of maintenance. However, this sensitivity to corrosion is a compromise to be made for quality steel. A carbon steel survival knife is very resistant and indestructible. You can ask him for a lot of it without the blade (or a piece of the blade) breaking. In addition, the carbon steel blade of a survival knife can easily be sharpened in the field. The edge will certainly be less sharp but this makes things easier during an expedition of several days.

Example: the most common carbon steel is 1095 steel.

Corrosion-resistant steel

Corrosion-resistant steel is a type of steel that, like carbon steel, has a high carbon content combined with a high chromium content. Chromium largely protects steel against rust. But not completely, steel is only corrosion resistant but not entirely stainless. Corrosion-resistant steel is often more difficult to sharpen than carbon steel, but again, this varies depending on the type of steel. In general, corrosion-resistant steel will be less resistant to impact. We recommend that you choose a corrosion-resistant steel survival knife only when you use it in a very humid/salty environment without the possibility of maintaining it.

Example: Frequent corrosion-resistant steel types for survival or outdoor knives are VG10, CoS, Sandvik 12C27, AUS8 and Böhler N690.

Tool steel

There is also tool steel. These are types of steel with a high carbon and chromium content but not enough to fall into the other two categories. They combine the best of both worlds. They may rust after a while but not as quickly as carbon steel. On the other hand they can be used more sharply, more often and are (often) easy to sharpen.

Example: Two widely used types of tool steel are Sleipner and D2.

Which survival knife should I choose?

These considerations form a good basis for further research. In order to help you a little more here are some tips.

Choose a brand with a good reputation

The leading survival knife brands in our range are ESEE Knives, KA-BAR, Ontario Knife Company, Fällkniven and TOPS. This does not mean that they are the only quality knife brands, but they are known for their wide choice of survival knives that have proven their worth for many years.

Think carefully about the choice of weight and length of the blade

A Junglas EES is so long that it splits the wood. It is very practical but it makes it a relatively heavy knife. You have to weigh (almost literally) the pros and cons of a heavier knife against the advantage of a longer knife.


As you can see, choosing the best survival knife is not so easy. We hope, however, that by reading this information you will be able to put your ideas in order and define what you expect from a survival knife. A knife that is suitable for your use and will not let you down! Here you will find all kinds of second-hand survival knives of high quality and at a reduced price. If you don’t want to buy your new knife second-hand, then go to the websites of the major brands we have mentioned.