Thoreau wrote a great article on survival knives about a month ago and I’ve been thinking a lot about this topic since then. Almost anyone who is active outdoors can understand the need to carry a knife with them at all times. Whether you’re just working around the house or out in the field a good sharp knife comes in handy constantly. Rarely do we need to use them for self-defense but if called upon, we’d all like to know that we have that option.
So, when I’m asked, “which knives do you like best in a survival situation?” I’m a little torn. First of all, I agree with Bill (one of our regular readers) who pointed out that having one knife is like having one gun. I couldn’t agree more. Personally, I have a couple of “everyday pocket knives” and a couple of “SHTF knives”.
When I’m thinking about folding pocket knives I tend to gravitate towards a few different characteristics. First of all, I like a knife that is solidly built, easy to open, easy to access, very sharp, and yet non-threatening looking.
We talk about a lot of different makes, models, and styles of knives but the one thing you can’t compromise on is quality. There are lots of cheap knives out there that look very formidable but that fall apart under even the most basic tests. If you’re buying a knife that you intend to carry with you and use everyday you need to think quality. If we’re talking generalities I like solid lock-blade knives with composite handles and sharp (and easily sharpened) blades. If we’re mentioning brands I like Benchmade and Kershaw, although there are others that are just as good or better.
I like a pocket knife with a belt clip so I can quickly pull it out and open it with one hand. This is for convenience and is critical in a self-defense situation. You never want to be fumbling around for a knife when you’re feeling threatened. I also like a “thumb stud” style opener, which I find very easy to operate, but that’s just personal preference. There are a few other designs (such as the thumb hole) that work just as well or even better depending on your hand size and the shape of the knife in question. Again, personal preference.
As far as the style of pocket knife that I tend to gravitate toward it’s the high-quality yet non-threatening models that get my vote. Here’s why. I’m thinking that I’m going to carry this knife with me just about all the time. At work, out with the guys, at kids sporting events, whenever… So, when I pull it out of my pocket to cut off a piece of my son’s athletic tape I really don’t want other parents freaking out that I have a knife in my pocket. Well, with the type of knife that I carry (generally a Benchmade mini-griptillian with a blade under three inches) I don’t get any gasps from the crowd. It’s just a little pocket knife. On more than one occasion I’ve had Mom’s of other kids ask if they could, “borrow my little pocket knife”. Clearly they’re not threatened by my choice of carry knife, which is exactly what I want. Of course, if forced into action it could be much more, but it doesn’t look all scary and weapon like. And why should it? It cuts just the same or probably better than some menacing looking blade. If you’re in the market for a pocket knife my advice is to avoid the models that look like they came from a ninja’s hidden pocket. Knives like that are more likely to get you in hot water or just plain ostracized for no reason whatsoever. Stick with a knife that’s conservative looking but that gets the job done in a tough situation.
The above covers your everyday carry knives, but what about a serious SHTF survival knife? Here I’m talking about a fixed blade scabbard carry knife with a blade of at least five to six inches that can handle heavy duty as both a weapon and a tool. In my selection of a knife like this I lean heavily towards use as a tool as, in agreement with Thoreau, I hope if I’m in a self-defense situation I have something more than a knife on my side…
So, we’re looking at solidly built fixed blade knives and here, I feel, there are a lot more options. When concealment and discretion are no longer a factor the market really opens up. Again, I tend to gravitate towards Kershaw, Benchmade, and Case, but there are lots of other brands that are solid and capable. Here you need to choose a knife as not just an instrument for cutting but also one for use as an axe or a wood splitter. One that can take a pounding from a tree branch in order to cut through a thick limb. These are knives that need to be able to handle all sorts of tough treatment so they have to be high quality.
This may be the knife you rely on when other options are gone, not just the knife you open letters with or cut your kids athletic tape with… Thus the classic Ka-Bar knife is never a bad option. However there are so many other options to look at that I think I’ll need to write more about this in the future. For now I think I’ve given everyone enough to think about.