The Most Important Survival Tool is the Knife

January 13, 2015

in Tools

There may be scenarios where there are immediate needs that take priority, but in a general sense, a good knife is the single most important survival tool.

The most important survival needs usually follow the rule of threes:

  • Air – you can only survive for about three minutes without air (or less), but we usually take this need for granted (until it’s missing)
  • Shelter – you can survive most harsh environments for three hours without shelter (this one is highly variable depending on the environment)
  • Water – you can only survive for about three days without water (less in hot environments or when you are involved in strenous activity)
  • Food – you can usually survive about three weeks without food

Without specifics, we tend to take air and shelter for granted and that leaves water as our primary survival concern. If you were forced to head out into a wilderness survival environment and could only take one tool with you, the knife should be your first choice. A good knife is a tool that can either directly provide many of these needs or help get or create the resources to provide them. Here is a list of functions that a good knife serves.

  • Water
    • Prepare fuel, strike a spark, craft a fire-bow, to build a fire to purify water
    • Craft a water container to carry and boil water
  • Shelter
    • Prepare fuel, strike a spark, craft a fire-bow, to build a fire to stay warm
    • Prepare materials, craft a shelter
    • Prepare materials, craft clothing
  • Food
    • Prepare materials, craft hunting tools and traps to obtain food
    • Prepare fuel, strike a spark, craft a fire-bow, to build a fire to cook food
    • Prepare materials to store and carry food
  • Defense
    • Use knife as a defensive weapon
    • Craft materials to make other defensive weapons

A good knife can provide materials and resources to make tools and obtain many other needed items to improve survival status. It is the single most valuable resource you can have, short of knowledge. Also note that the knife alone may not be very helpful without the knowledge of how to use it to obtain the other needs. Using a knife to build a fire or hunt and trap game or fight off an attack is not an easy thing without the right knowledge and experience.
[see the link below to an excellent survival handbook]

A fixed blade (sheath knife, not a folding knife) with a full tang is usually the most preferred survival knife. “Full tang” describes a single piece of metal that is sharpened into a blade on one end of the knife and extends through the length of the handle (often inside handle grips that are added). This single piece of metal offers more integrity than a knife with a blade and a handle that are separate pieces. It usually offers more strength and durability than a folding knife (although this can depend upon the two knives being compared).

There are many personal preferences in blade size and width, the kind of metal used in the blade, hand-grips, sheath and more. Some very good knives have been reviewed below and offer a good starting point for comparison.

BOOK: SAS Survival Handbook
Knife – KA-BAR Becker Campanion BK2
Schrade SCHF9 Extreme Survival Knife
Buck TOPS Nighthawk Knife

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