Preppers, hunters, guides, backpackers, and hikers all rely on their equipment to give them the best outcome for any survival situation. In some circumstances, your kit can mean the difference between life and death.
If you have to strip your survival kit back to bare essentials, we’re sure that one of the items left on your list would be a survival knife. A good knife is a critical component of your gear, and without it, you are at a severe disadvantage in a precarious situation.
There are tens of thousands of knives available in different styles and from various manufacturers. Trying to settle on the best survival knife to meet your needs is challenging if you don’t know what to look for in a knife.
In this review, we’ll unpack the best survival knives available. Read through our buyer’s guide section for more information on how to pick the right survival knife for your outdoor needs.
Best Pick: Bear Grylls Gerber
- Full Fine Edge High Carbon Stainless Steel Drop Point Blade - Ideal for edge retention
- Ergonomic Textured Rubber Grip - Maximizes comfort and reduces slippage
- Stainless Steel Pommel - At base of handle for hammering
- Emergency Whistle - Integrated into lanyard cord
- Military grade mildew resistant nylon and hard rubber sheath with integrated diamond knife sharpener and ferrocerium fire Starter
Our choice for the best overall survival knife goes to the Bear Grylls Gerber model. This survival knife has everything you need for a real survival situation. The tough blade will cut through wood, and you get a hi-visibility handle with an ergonomic grip and integrated emergency whistle. We like the Firestarter included in the durable nylon sheath. This knife is functional, effective, and affordable, and wins the award for our best performer in this review.
Best Survival Knife: Fallkniven F1
- 8 1/4" overall.
- 3 3/4" laminate VG-10 stainless drop point blade with satin finish.
- Black checkered Thermorun elastomer handle with visible tang end and lanyard hole.
- Country of Origin: Sweden
- Includes Black Zytel sheath.
If you’re looking for the best survival knife to have in a real survival situation, then rely on real military tools to do the job. The Fallkniven F1 offers you top-quality performance in a military-grade blade with full-tang design. This knife has everything you need for peak performance in survival and combat situations.
Runner-Up Pick: ESEE 6
- Blade length: 5.75 in
- Overall length: 11.75 in
- Blade material: 1095HC
- Handle material: Micarta
- Black sheath
If you’re looking for a functional and high quality survival knife, try the ESEE 6 with micarta black handle. This stylish knife offers top performance. You get a strong blade and handle, with full-tang design and a variety of colors.
Best Survival Knife Reviews
Gerber Bear Grylls ULTIMATE PRO Fine Edge Knife
If you’re like us, then you’re a huge fan of Bear Grylls. Not only does this man eat the most disgusting things on the planet to stay alive, but he also carries some cool essential gear on his survival trips. The team at Gerber teamed up with Bear to produce a range of knives “bearing” his branding.
The result is a set of high-quality knives, offering exceptional performance, with an affordable price tag. You might expect this model to be more of a TV gimmick than a real survival knife. However, the reality is that this blade offers you a viable option for your survival knife.
The blade features design and construction with 9Cr19MoV Stainless steel for corrosion resistance and strength in this knife. We’ve all watched Bear’s survival episodes, and we’ve seen how he bangs on the back of his knife with rocks without damaging the blade. You can expect that level of performance from this knife.
Gerber introduced this model with a full-tang blade, making it a reliable and sturdy survival tool. You also get a few extra features with this model that are excellent for survival situations.
The knife comes with an emergency whistle built into the handle. If you’re ever stuck on an island, or under a pile of rubble where people can’t see you, we see how the whistle could come in handy. The whistle is an essential survival tool, and we like the innovation Gerber makes with inserting it into the handle of the knife.
This Gerber survival knife comes with design and manufacture from 9Cr19MoV high carbon, stainless steel. This steel is corrosion resistant and durable, retaining an edge for months on end. The rubberized grip on the handle ensures you never slip when using this knife.
We don’t have much to complain about with this model. However, we found that the belt loop was a bit tight on the sheath, and the Velcro on the sheath doesn’t have great stitching.
- Blade material – 9Cr19MoV Stainless steel
- Sheath – Woven nylon
- Blade Length – 4.8-inches
- Military-grade design
- Official Bear Grylls survival knife
- Full-tang blade design
- Rubberized textured grip for comfortable handling
- Bear Grylls survival guide and whistle included
- Small belt loop
Fallkniven F1 Military Survival Knife
The ESEE P5 is an excellent example of a survival knife built for hikers and other survival sports enthusiasts. However, if you’re looking for a military-style combat survival knife, then the Fallkniven F1 is our top choice in this review.
This knife features an innovative design with manufacture from laminated CoS steel. The original version of this knife featured laminated VG-10 steel, so it’s nice to see the new upgrade in this model. You can expect superior performance and durability from this blade, and the knife keeps an edge for months without the need for sharpening.
This Fallkniven model features full-tang design, with the bottom of the hilt of the blade protruding from the handle. This feature is good for combat, and breaking objects like car windows when helping people escape from vehicles.
The shorter blade and long handle give you plenty of control over the knife. We feel this is a good model for self-defense professionals, security officers, law enforcement, and military personnel.
One of the drawbacks of this model is that the knife does not arrive razor-sharp. You’ll need to send it in for sharpening before use. However, this model is an effective combat tool, and it also makes a good survival knife for urban settings where you need a shorter blade to comply will legal restrictions on carrying weapons.
The knife also comes with a quick-draw zytel sheath. Zytel is a low-friction material that allows for fast draws of your knife in combat situations. The sheath attaches to your belt loop, and a clip secures the handle.
- Blade material – Laminated CoS Stainless Steel
- Sheath – Zytel
- Blade Length – 3.8-inches
- Military-grade design
- Suits heavy-duty use
- Full-tang design with a hammer on the butt of the hilt
- Quick-draw sheath
- Ideal for real survival situations or civilian combat
- Large handle provides good control over the knife
- Pricier Option
ESEE Knives 6P Fixed Blade KnifeThis model is a top choice in this review for an all-rounder model that has it all. The ESEE 6P is an example of a top-quality knife. This model comes with an ergonomic handle that feels comfortable in your hands.
This multi-purpose survival knife comes with a 6.5-inch, powder-coated blade manufactured from 1095 carbon steel. This blade is durable, robust, and can hold an edge for months, even with the toughest jobs.
We like the inclusion of 1095 steel because it’s so easy to sharpen. One 5-minute maintenance session each month is all you always need to keep your blade razor-sharp. Unfortunately, 1095 carbon steel does have a few drawbacks. This steel is more prone to weathering and corrosion, especially in hot and humid environments.
Make sure you keep your knife clean and oiled, as it’s the only way to prevent corrosion of the steel in these environmental conditions.
Some users reviews complain that the ESEE doesn’t arrive very sharp. As a result, you might have to take this knife for sharpening before you use it in the field. Other drawbacks about this model include a tight sheath, but we expect this to loosen as you use the knife.
Overall, the ESEE 6P is a good choice for people that live in dry climates. The blade is robust enough to handle abuse in the field, and the ergonomic design allows for good grip and control over the knife when cutting.
- Blade material – 1095 Carbide Steel
- Sheath – A molded polymer with a support strap
- Blade Length – 6.5-inches
- Ergonomic handle design for better grip
- Sharpens easily
- Sturdy design
- Comes with quick-draw sheath
- 1095 Carbide steel not the best choice for coastal environments
CDS Knives’ CELTIBERO Fixed Blade Survival Knife
If you’re looking for a survival knife that is as attractive as it is functional, check out the Celtibero model.
This knife features design and construction with Molybdenum-Vanadium 58, also known as MOVA-58. This premium knife-forging material is corrosion resistant and incredibly strong, making it a top choice for all-weather survival knives that last a lifetime.
This model features an attractive handle, with an artistic look and feel to the black and grey finish that’s somewhat memorizing to the eyes. The blade is front heavy and comes with a finger guard forged into the bottom of the cutting surface in front of the hilt.
The sheath for this knife consists of design and construction with genuine leather, and you get a firesteel and sharpening stone included with the knife. However, one drawback of the sheath is that it’s challenging to close the snap button, and we feel this might end up with some users losing the sharpening stone and firesteel.
The blade feels somewhat unbalanced with this model, so you’ll need to appreciate a top-heavy design. However, you get a full-tang construction, with a good-looking handle, a razor-sharp blade, and a lifetime warranty.
- Blade material – MOVA-58 stainless steel
- Sheath – Leather
- Blade Length – 5.7-inches
- Attractive handle design
- Wide blade surface
- Full-tang design
- Lifetime warranty
- The button snap on the sheath is hard to press closed
- Challenging to grind
Benchmade BUSHCRAFTER 162 Fixed Outdoor Survival Knife
Benchmade is a premium brand with a solid reputation for designing some of the best knives available. The company offers a lifetime guarantee on their knives, and they know how to build a blade that can keep an edge.The BushCrafter is the survival knife model on offer from BenchMade, and it doesn’t disappoint. We think it’s the best knife in the BenchMade range, offering superior performance and reliability in the most demanding survival situations.
The handle of the BushCrafter features a slimline design, and it feels small in your hand. That might also be our only concern with this model – that the hilt and handle are not as long as we would like, limiting your leverage over the blade.
However, considering the shorter design of this survival knife, with a blade measuring only 4.4-inches, it’s not such a big deal to have a smaller handle for a compact knife.
This survival knife comes with an authentic sheath design that gives it a rustic, country feeling. You can imagine this knife strapped to the waist of a cowboy on the ranch as he looks over the herd.
The faded look of the leather on the sheath is attractive, and it will continue to weather over time. The sheaths also come in a few color options, so make sure you choose your preference at checkout.
Wee also like the Benchmade sharpening and oiling policy, keeping the knife in prime condition for the duration of the product life. That’s not a policy you’ll see very often with knife manufacturers.
- Blade material – CPM-S30V Stainless Steel
- Sheath – Leather
- Blade Length – 4.4-inches
- Full-tang design
- Authentic sheath
- Heavy handle for sturdy grip
- American made
- True workhorse
- Lifetime warranty
- LifeSharp service included
- Short handle
ESEE Knives 5P Fixed Blade Knife
If you’re looking for a tactical survival knife, the ESEE 5P is the best choice for the hardcore knife enthusiast that demands peak performance from their blade. If you’re a ranger, rancher, hiker, climber, or outdoor enthusiast, you need this knife strapped to your waist.
The ESEE P5 features design help from the Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) team. The instructors collaborated with design engineers at ESEE to produce the quintessential survival knife for pilots who find themselves downed behind enemy lines.
ESEE and the SERE instructors focused on designing a durable, sharp, and functional knife in hand-to-hand combat. This model is one of the bigger survival knives on this list, with a 5.25-inch blade and 6-inch handle. The total length of the knife measures nearly 1-foot, and it’s a big piece top keep on you as a daily driver.
The heavy feel of this knife in your hands provides you with a feeling of power, and there’s plenty of stopping power behind it. The form factor is sleek, with a strong blade and full-tang design. The only gripe we have with this model is the use of 1095 carbon steel in the blade.
We fell that we would like to see tougher stainless steel in this model. 1095 leaves too much open to corrosion and deterioration of the finish in the blade. However, with the right maintenance, this knife will last for years, and it’s a powerful and practical survival knife that suits real-world survival applications.
- Blade material – 1095 Carbide steel, 55-57 RC
- Sheath – Kydex
- Blade Length – 5.25-inches
- Heavy-duty performance
- 1.5-inch blade width
- Thumb jimping on the spine
- Bow drill divot in the handle
- Good choice for real survival situations
- 1095 carbide Steel susceptible to corrosion
- Too bulky for some users
Officially Licensed RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II Survival Knife
The iconic image of Sylvester Stallone sitting on a skip on a Vietnamese river is how we remember the film, Rambo: First Blood Part II. In the scene, Stallone is sharpening his outlandishly large survival knife, which he uses to claim several enemies’ lives throughout the 1985 classic.
The survival knife and the red headband are how most of us remember John Rambo, and now you have the opportunity to own the same blade he used in the movie! Ok, well, it’s not the same knife, but it’s an identical copy that will look great on display.
However, while the blade is functional, we wouldn’t recommend this knife for real-world use. The knife comes with a compass, and survival gear embedded in the handle. Therefore, you don’t get the full-tang construction that you need with a dedicated survival knife.
This model is best for showmanship, not for practical use. However, the team at Master Cutlery designed and forged this blade, so you know it does have a quality finish. Overall, this model is a great talking point, but we wouldn’t trust it with our lives in a survival situation.
- Blade material – Stainless Steel
- Sheath – Toughened leather
- Blade Length – 10.5-inches
- A great novelty item for Rambo fans
- Comes with a survival kit in the hilt
- Dual blade with a serrated edge on the backside
- Built for durability and performance
- Hollow handle means no full-tang design
- More of a show knife than a utility tool for survival
Other Best Selling Options
- THE FINEST MILITARY SURVIVAL KNIFE SET: Maxam's 12-piece Survival Knife Set gives outdoor sportsmen, adventure enthusiasts, campers, hikers, hunters and survivalists the raw physical power to handle any cutting task imaginable!
- DYNAMIC CUTTING CAPABILITY: Measuring 14" in total length with a 7 3/4"-long 1/8"-thick blade, our primary hunting knife features a hollow zinc alloy survival-tool capsule handle—and our second 7"-skeleton knife has a 1 1/2" blade with a gutting hook.
- RUGGEDLY RELIABLE INNOVATION: This incredibly dependable Rambo knife also comes equipped with a sheath-attached slingshot with tubing and missile pouch, knife sharpener, compass, and a scabbard-sheath safety latch for reassuring security.
- THE BEST WILDERNESS HUNTING KNIFE: Survival tool storage capsule includes a bandage, fire starter and matches, fishing line, weights and hooks, razor blade, tweezers, pencil, safety pin and a needle and thread to combat all outdoor challenges effectively.
- 21ST CENTURY SURVIVAL GEAR & HUNTING EQUIPMENT: Maxam creates powerful military survival knives and innovative hunting gear that are affordable.
- EDC tactical knife for men with pocket clip and lanyard. Spring assisted knife equipped with a thumb stud for quick one-hand opening and locking with liner lock. Handle made of durable plastic, it carries a firestarter rod to strike against the blade
- Folding Knife for Camping Hiking Hunting Fishing Military & Army Outdoor & Survival Self Defense Emergencies
- Sharpest out of the box 420 stainless steel single blade provides razor sharp cutting performance. The best fire starter knife combo in your camp - boy scout knife set with fire starter ferro rod
- Combat tactical knife with magnesium survival flint fire starter - your best camping knife for self defense
- Hunting folding knife for men is the perfect addition to your EDC collection, backpack, survival kit
- ✅ FULL-TANG AXE & KNIFE - Both full-tang 3CR13 blades have excellent strength, edge retention and corrosion resistance for lasting durability. The handle is constructed of black wood with fully polished finish, suitable for long-term use
- ✅ EXTREMELY HUMANIZED DESIGN - The hatchet set has sharp blades, which provides you a great striking force and deep. The tool is built with a comfortable and textured grip wooden handle designed with ergonomics in mind for strongest grip. The raised part of the handle is provided with an anti-skid groove to prevent slipping and injuring yourself in the process of use
- ✅ EASY FOR EDC - Combo set comes with protective Nylon Sheath, snap-button closure and hook and loop fasteners scabbard protect the blades for extra safety. Belt loop for easy attach to your belt, keep everything at your fingertips when needed
- ✅ GREAT CHOICE FOR OUTDOOR WORK - WORKPRO Axe and Fixed Blade Knife Combo Set can be used for various jobs in your daily life. Perfect for outdoor activities such as fixing garden, camping, hiking, DIY home & farm projects
- ✅ WHAT WILL YOU GET - Combo Set includes a 10-inch axe and a 13-inch knife with corresponding sheath. We are always here to accept your suggestion or resolve your issue
Survival Knives Buyer’s Guide
If you’re looking at buying a survival knife, then chances are you already own a few other smaller knives. Whether it’s a pocketknife, karabiner, or flick knife, you understand the basic components of a knife and how to handle one of these instruments, so you don’t hurt yourself or other people.
Adding a survival knife to your collection is a big step. A survival knife is possibly one of the most expensive pieces you can buy. With models ranging from $20 to $1,000, how do you know which survival knife suits your needs and your budget?
In this buyer’s guide, we’ll give you the information your need to make an informed purchase decision on your survival knife.
What are the Characteristics of Survival Knives?
When purchasing your survival knife, it’s vital that you understand what you’re going to need the knife for in a survival situation. Going on a hike that’s not far from home, is an entirely different situation to a 5-day trek through the wilderness in an unknown part of the country.
Compare your survival knife with the following criteria to see if it meets your requirements.
Retaining the Edge
The primary purpose of a knife is for cutting. Therefore, it would make sense that one of the most important features of your knife is that it stays sharp for a long time. Retaining the edge on the blade is essential, and the last thing you want to have to do is sharpen your blade after every trip.
The type of steel used in the design and manufacture of the knife determines its ability to retain an edge. The shape of the blade also plays a significant role in maintaining the edge of the knife.
Another vital consideration for your survival knife is the blade. The blade needs to be sturdy enough to absorb significant impacts.
If you have to hit the spine of the knife with a rock to split some wood, the last thing you want is to crack the blade. This kind of occurrence in a survival situation could lead to a nasty injury that requires immediate medical attention, putting your life at risk.
Fixed blade knives enable you to complete heavy-duty chopping and cutting tasks, without damaging the knife or dulling the blade.
Your survival knife should have “Ductility.” This term refers to the ability of the metal in the blade to flex under stress and torsion. As a result, the blade will not break if it experiences high forces, such as hitting the spine with a rock.
The give in the blade is vital to ensure that it doesn’t shatter, leaving you without a knife, and a nasty injury that could get infected or bleed out.
Different types of steel have different corrosion-resistance. Some stainless steel grades won’t hold up to the tough environmental conditions. Salty air and hot and humid conditions might damage lower-grades of stainless steel.
If you live in these types of conditions, look for blades featuring 410 stainless steel. This grade offers excellent corrosion resistance for your survival knife.
RC – Rockwell Hardness
The Rockwell Hardness of your survival knife, known by the “RC” rating, determines the durability of your blade. A higher rating on this scale means your survival knife will hold an edge well. A survival knife is usually between the range of 58 RC to 62 RC.
Do Brands Matter?
Yes. The brand of your knife will likely play a role to some extent. Leading brands use premium materials in knives, as well as industry-leading design and form factors. Therefore, when you purchase a knife from a leading brand, you are buying confidence that this survival tool will deliver on its promises in a critical survival situation where your life might be at stake.
There is no need to purchase a survival knife that costs hundreds of dollars. However, a top-quality blade is an investment in your security and your life while out in the wilderness. Prepare yourself to pay a bit extra, and you won’t regret your decision when it comes down to do or die with your knife in a survival situation.
Are Survival Knives Good for Home Defense?
Yes, as long as you are a trained knife-fighting professional. Somehow, we doubt you have this qualification. If someone breaks into your home, don’t confront them with a survival knife. They may have a gun.
A survival knife might give you a false sense of confidence in a life-threatening situation. If you have no previous training in knife fighting, you are taking a huge chance with your life by taking on assailants with your knife. Rather retreat to a room, keep your knife for protection, and call for help from the police.
Survival Knife FAQ
You probably have a few outstanding questions about your survival knife before you settle on your purchase. Here are some frequently asked questions that might give you some insight on choosing the right model for you.
Can I cut wood with my survival knife?
Yes, survival knives are for cutting through various plant materials, from thick brush to luscious leaves and vines, and wood. If you’re stuck in a survival situation, using your knife to make shelter and fire from trees and branches lying around is vital to get you through the situation.
Your survival knife features a design with high-quality stainless or carbon steel, giving it enough strength to withstand you hammering at the back of the blade with a rock as you cut timber for your survival projects.
What is the best sheath material for my survival knife?
Your choice of sheath materials comes down to personal preference. However, the reality is that you don’t have much choice. Manufacturers don’t offer different sheath options, and you’ll have to go with what you get in the box.
The best sheaths feature design and manufacture with synthetic materials like zytel. These materials allow for a durable sheath that limits friction on the draw, allowing for quick-draw of your knife in combat situations.
What is the best steel to use in survival knives?
There are a variety of steels used by manufacturers in the design of survival knives. Not all stainless steel carries the same corrosion-resistance, and you’ll need to check with our buyer’s guide for an explanation of the different grades of stainless steel found in survival knives.
The steel makes a big difference in the performance and the price of your survival knife. High-quality grades like 9Cr19MoV Stainless steel can drive up the cost of your survival knife.
Can I use my survival knife for skinning and hunting?
Of course, you can. Hunting is one of the primary functions of a survival knife, and you can use it for bringing down animals, as well as assistance with packing, and skinning them in the field. Survival knives have long blades and hilts, allowing you to get plenty of leverage over the knife during use.
The thick, sharp blades cut through tissue and hide quickly and easily, giving you years of hassle-free service in the field.
What is the difference between a survival knife and other self-defense or hunting knives?
Survival knives are vastly different pieces of equipment from traditional folding or pocketknives. Survival knives feature longer and thicker blades. They have the design and construction to withstand huge forces for the largest cutting jobs.
Survival knives are not for precision work, they are the sledgehammer of the knife world, and you take them out to do the heavy lifting on the job site.
They also demand respect during use. It’s easy to mishandle the knife, and the large blade can cause severe damage if you slip on the handle during use. The full-tang construction of the knife makes it suitable for the most heavy-duty cutting jobs in survival situations.
Does my survival knife come with a warranty?
Some knives do come with warranties, while others don’t. Those knives that don’t feature warranties have design and construction with lower-grade steels. As a result, they don’t guarantee the blade against corrosion, especially in coastal environments with humid weather.
Knives that feature excellent craftsmanship in the design and assembly, as well as top-quality materials in its construction, typically come with lifetime warranties.
It’s important to note that the warranty on your knife only covers manufacturing defects. The warranty or guarantee will not cover normal wear and tear or damage to the blade due to improper handling or use.
Even the toughest blades will snap if you try to use the knife for improper purposes, such as prying something open using the tip. The tip is a cutting surface; it’s not a crowbar. Therefore, you can expect the tip to deform of snap, requiring repair and sharpening.