The best bushcraft and survival knives you can buy
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- Knives rank among the oldest tools known to man, and if you're in the wilderness and can only take a single item with you, then a good survival blade is the one you need.
- Owing to its tough-as-nails build quality, utilitarian blade geometry, and textured Micarta grips, the US-made Esee 5 is the best survival knife for most people.
Of all the tools that we use today, the knife remains one of the most prolific and most useful. Humans have been relying on knives for tens of thousands of years for a myriad of tasks both mundane and deadly. Although most of us employ knives for rather simple things like cutting food or opening packages, a good survival knife is still among the most important tools - if not the most important - you need to have if you ever find yourself in the wilderness far away from the amenities of civilization.
These handy blades, while rather simple technology, have come a long, long way from the stone tools of old. First made from sharpened rocks such as flint, knives were later crafted from metal alloys like bronze, and later still, bronze was replaced by iron and the many different steels (that is, iron alloys) that blade-makers employ today. Knives come in a myriad of shapes and styles as well, designed for tasks such as cutting, cleaning game, hunting, self defense, and, of course, survival.
What is meant by "survival" (in terms of knife design) refers more specifically to bushcraft, or the set of skills necessary for a person to source sufficient food, water, fire, shelter, and other necessities from a wilderness environment with minimal tools at one's disposal. With the possible exception of procuring water, your knife plays a role in meeting all of these needs.
Although there is no single blueprint for a "bushcraft knife," most designs cleave towards a fairly standard overall philosophy. This prioritizes ease of carry (i.e. not too bulky or cumbersome), ease of use (comfortable to hold during extended repetitious tasks and with a good grip), and utilitarian in both blade length and geometry (long enough to tackle most jobs but not unwieldy). This is a broad topic, so be sure to check out our more in-depth buying guide at the bottom of the page.
The next time you head into the great outdoors, don't be without your most important tool: We've rounded up the five best survival knives which cover a nice spread of sizes, styles, and price points to help you find the right blade for your next bushcraft outing.
Here are the best survival knives you can buy:
- Best survival knife overall: Esee 5
- Best budget survival knife: Morakniv Kansbol
- Best all-purpose survival knife: Buck 119 Special
- Best big survival knife: Becker BK9
- Best high-end survival knife: Benchmade 162 Bushcrafter
Read on in the slides below to check out our top picks.
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The best survival knife overall
The best budget survival knife
The best all-purpose survival knife
The best big survival knife
The best high-end survival knife
How to choose the right survival knife for your needs
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