You can agree with us that any self-respecting outdoor enthusiast should have the right outdoor gear to get the best experience in the wilderness. There are gear and equipment that will help make their journey comfortable and there are those that will keep them alive once things get out of hand.
But without knowing what that gear is, you can easily fall into the trap of buying everything under the sun just to ensure you’re rightfully equipped. Who really has that kind of money to spend, in this day and age? That’s why we’re going to make your buying experience that much easier by showing you what you need to get by and the key features you should be looking for.
We’re talking about survival knives. Having the best combat knives with you will significantly increase your chances when facing a survival situation; it is essentially the most important tool you can have in the wilderness.
Simply put, the applications of survival knives are virtually endless. Sure, you can fashion a knife out of stones or bones but it pales in comparison to a knife with a steel blade. So let’s take a look at what you should look for in a knife and some of the top rated survival knives on the market to get you started.
Our Top Picks
|Name||Weight||Blade material||Type of blade||Blade length||Price|
|Banner Knives TI-G10||6 ounces||Titanium-coated steel||Clip point||5.5 inches||Check price on Amazon|
|Ka-Bar Full Size||11.2 ounces||1095 Cro-van steel||Straight back||7 inches||Check price on Amazon|
|Ontario M9 Bayonet System||16 ounces||420 Modified stainless steel||Straight back||7 inches||Check price on Amazon|
|Zero Tolerance ZTO160||8 ounces||Sandvik 14C28N steel||Clip point||5 inches||Check price on Amazon|
|Sheffield Sykes FS2000||4.8 ounces||Carbon steel||Stiletto||6.875 inches||Check price on Amazon|
|Gerber Mark II||12 ounces||420 HC stainless steel||Stiletto||6.5 inches||Check price on Amazon|
|Cold Steel GI Tanto||6 ounces||1055 Carbon steel||Tanto||7 inches||Check price on Amazon|
Things to Consider Before Buying
Both new and seasoned outdoorsman have asked this particular question time and time again. True enough, you can’t just buy a knife and expect that things will work out in the end. So which one is the best combat knife? The honest answer is: it depends.
That might sound frustrating for you, but that is the truth. There is no “best combat/survival knife” that you can buy in the market, since personal preference definitely plays a part as well as the tasks you need to accomplish. What might be good for you might not be suitable for someone else.
To help you out, we will provide a number of important guidelines that will enable you to properly choose a knife that best fits your needs and preferences. Here are some things you should look at before purchasing a knife.
You may believe that knives are only good for cutting, but you may be only used to the ones you have in your knife block in the kitchen. Contrary to what you may believe, different kinds of knives serve different purposes and are capable of completing a large variety of tasks. Here are just some of the most common applications of a combat/survival knife:
- Cutting: Perhaps the most obvious and popular use of a knife. Survival knives are generally razor sharp and can cut through a wide range of materials with ease.
- Digging: You will probably cringe at the idea of using a standard knife for digging but a well-made combat knife can function as a digging tool just fine. You can use it for tasks like excavating fire pits, disposing human waste and carving distress signals in the snow or dirt.
- Hunting: A good combat knife can serve as your tool to harvest small game animals or even fish.
- Wood splitting: A knife being used as a replacement for a hatchet or axe? You will probably have a hard time imagining it with a flimsy, cheaply-made knife but it’s more than possible with a combat knife. A sizable full-tang model can be used as a reliable wood-splitting tool.
- First-aid: You can use it to cut improvised bandages or sterilize the tip in order to drain detrimental blisters.
- Hammering: The butt end or the pommel can be used for driving in stakes when making shelters.
- Gear modification: When you are living in the wild for extended periods of time, you will most likely need to do some adjustments to your outdoor gear or clothing for the purposes of safety and comfort. Your combat knife should be more than enough as an emergency modification tool.
- Tool-making: Your trusty knife is already a complete tool by itself. However, most people don’t realize that it can also be used to make other tools. If you are making specialized survival gear like a fire bow or a drill, you will be glad that you have your combat knife with you.
- Making fires: You can use the sharp edge to flay out the ribbons of a tree bark to make the tinder for the fire. You can also use your knife to strike the ferro rod when igniting a tinder.
- Building shelters: It can be used to trim or notch the limbs of your makeshift shelter.
- Self-defense: If you happen to find yourself in a life-threatening situation that involves predators, a knife is invaluable as a self-defense tool.
Another criteria that you need to consider when buying a knife is the blade style, which also determines what kind of job your knife is capable of handling. This is really important because you need to get a knife with a blade style that’s compatible for its intended use. Alternatively, you can choose a knife that can handle a wide variety of tasks. Here are some of the most common blade styles and their uses:
- Straight back: This is perhaps the most common style which features a straight back and standard curved edge. It’s generally a multi-purpose blade but the applications depend on the length of the blade itself.
- Clip point: This knife provides you with a lot of precision when it comes to cutting. There’s also a lot of edge for you to use so that you’re saving more energy in your arm. However, keep in mind that clip point knives have very weak points which can break very easily if you’re not careful.
- Spear point: Another common blade type and is mostly seen in pocket knives. The symmetrical blade and the slightly raised bevel in the mid part gives it a spear-like shape. This type may have one or two bladed edge. It can be used in both combat and as a utility tool.
- Stiletto: They’re great as multi-purpose knives capable of piercing even thick leather; dual edges allow you to continue using the knife if one edge becomes dull.
- Gut hook: It’s the blade of choice for many hunters. The gut hook is the most popular knife for dressing carcasses and tanning hides. It is recognizable by its wide curved trailing point and has a sharp hook shape on the tip of the blade.
- Serrated: Knives that have teeth belong to this category of blade type. The teeth itself can vary from half an inch to almost a centimeter. If you’ve got a sawing task at hand, this knife should do the job.
- Curved trailing point: This knife has a long, slender blade with a gentle curve pointing to the dull side of the blade. This knife is commonly used in hunting and fishing, particularly for filleting and skinning.
- Tanto: The point of these blades are extremely strong, making them excellent at puncturing hard materials. However, they don’t have much of a cutting edge and there’s reduced precision in controlling the point.
The most common material to use for survival knives is steel, and this is because it is a hardy material that is quite resistant to corrosion and wear. However, there are different kinds and grades of steel that make a difference. Don’t fall for the trick that the most expensive survival knife is going to be made from the best quality steel, however.
The two most common types of steel used are carbon steel and stainless steel.
- Carbon steel: steel that has carbon added to it in order to make it tougher and hold an edge for much longer. However, it is susceptible to rust and corrosion, so it’s important that you take care of a carbon steel blade on a regular basis, including cleaning and keeping oiled. Because of this weakness, carbon steel knives tend to have coatings added to them in order to make them more resistant, but these coatings are not permanent.
Carbon steel survival knives are more popular as they’re more affordable for those who are shopping on a budget.
- Stainless steel: it takes a very long time for stainless steel to corrode and rust, giving you more time to use your knife instead of cleaning it. They tend to be a bit more expensive, but that’s the price you pay for a knife that will last a longer time.
If you are going to use your knife frequently, it is important that you are comfortable with using it. Knife ergonomics simply refer to how good the knife feels in your hand. The most important thing is that you can use it with comfort and ease, especially when under stress.
In general, you will want a knife that doesn’t have sharp corners, pinch points or an unnatural feel at the handle. You should also look out for sculpturing or contours that force your hand into a fixed position.
Fingers should rest nicely into the handle without forcing them. Finally, the knife should not feel too large or small for your hand. Once you find that knife that feels right, you might be inclined to think that it was made just for you.
When it comes to combat knives, size does matter. However, this is not one of those instances where bigger is better. If the blade is too big, you might compromise your ability to use it effectively. Many outdoor tasks like carving snare sets or dressing small game require precision. Such tasks are not suited for that big of a blade.
On the other hand, a small blade is not ideal for rougher tasks like chopping and batoning. Again, you will need to evaluate your intended usage for the knife so you can acquire the size that’s just right.
Best Products on Today’s Market
Now that we’ve discussed the important features you should keep in mind when looking for a knife for yourself, are you still at a loss regarding which knife to buy? To help you out with your quest for shopping for the best knives, here are some products that we highly recommend.
Price: Approximately $50
Weight: 6 ounces
Dimensions: 11 and 3/8 inch overall length
Specific features: Full tang design, titanium-coated steel blade, G10 handle, comes with nylon sheath, single edge
Best use: Cutting and carving
Talk about a knife that can handle just about anything. The Banner Knives TI-G10 Knife might just be one of the best fixed blade knives for beginners (although many seasoned vets love it as well).
It’s made from the highest quality materials and the craftsmanship is on point. The titanium coated steel blade makes it strong enough to handle most outdoor-oriented tasks, from cutting saplings to skinning small game animals. The G10 handle provides a nice ergonomic feature that feels good in the hands. If you are planning to get your first combat knife, make it this one.
- Good balance
- Very sharp
- Solid handle
- Can be a bit heavy
- Sheath is somewhat flimsy
Related: If you’re looking for a knife that’s a bit smaller to carry on your quest, then you may want to try the ESEE 4P Black Knife, which has a blade of only 4.5 inches long. This blade is known for being quite sharp and for holding an edge for an extremely long time. It fulfills a wide variety of purposes, making it the perfect tool to take on your trip if you’re just looking for one knife to accomplish all your tasks.
Price: Approximately $82.54
Weight: 11.2 ounces
Dimensions: 13.5 x 3 x 2.5 inches
Specific features: Leather handle, USMC fighting knife, 100% leather sheath, gold-plated brass guard and pommel
Best use: Shaving and any task requiring push cuts
The KA-BAR Full Size US Marine Corps Fighting Knife is what knife enthusiasts would call a classic. It’s made from 1095 steel and features a beautiful leather handle. It also happens to be the most famous fixed blade knife design in the world. There’s a reason why this knife became a standard issue during World War II.
It became the blade of choice for many people due to its hardcore reliability, especially with everyday tasks. The blade can turn razor sharp without the need to use any specialized sharpening method. The leather handle provides a solid, comfortable grip.
It’s not exactly the most technologically advanced knife out there, so it does require proper care and maintenance in order to prevent the steel from rusting.
- Intimidating appearance
- Nice balance
- Very easy to carry around
- Doesn’t seem to retain an edge well
- Not suitable for tough jobs
- Sheath is cheap and flimsy
- Finish can scratch off from use
Related: Whether you need a replacement sheath or you bought your knife second-hand, the Ka-Bar USMC Brown Sheath will do the job in keeping your blade protected from the elements. Using only the finest high-quality leather, this sheath allows your blade to breathe so that there is no accumulation of moisture to cause your blade to rust. It also fits almost any 7-inch blade, in case you don’t possess the blade reviewed above.
Price: Approximately $93.07
Weight: 16 ounces
Dimensions: 15.4 x 3.8 x 3.6 inches
Specific features: Zinc phosphate finish, comes with a glass-filled nylon sheath, rates at 53-57 HRC hardness
Best use: Shaving and any task requiring push cuts
The Ontario 6143 493 M9 Bayonet System is one of the more expensive knives in this list, but that’s not a reason to overlook it. Upon holding this knife, you’ll first notice the solid build and weight.
The handle is fairly hefty and doesn’t feel like it’s cheaply made, making it capable of handling most outdoor tasks. However, the most obvious application of this knife, considering it’s a bayonet, is for weapon attachment. Because of this, it may not be very comfortable in the hand for extended periods of time. However, the blade itself is very versatile for various kinds of firearms, if you’re interested in attaching it.
- Sturdy and solid blade
- Sheath is high-quality
- Cheap craftsmanship for the price
- Uneven grinding of the edge
- Not extremely sharp
Related: Having a knife with a sheath is great, but what happens when you need both hands free? The Ontario Knives Leg Strap does all of the work for you by keeping your knife out of the way but still close by for you to have access to your blade. The strap is fully adjustable to any leg circumference, making it the perfect gift for any knife enthusiast, regardless of size or gender.
Price: Approximately $99.99
Weight: 8.2 ounces
Dimensions: 9 7/8 inch overall
Specific features: 14C28N fixed blade with tungsten DLC coating, black 3D machined G-10 handles, lanyard hole, black nylon molle compatible sheath w/ leather strap
Best use: Cutting and carving
The Zero Tolerance ZT0160 Combat Knife is one of the smaller knives that we recommend for those who want something easier to carry. However, don’t let that discourage you because this knife packs a great deal of punch.
The 5-inch blade makes it a perfect tool for camping and bushcraft activities, as it can be stored easily in your backpack. Be careful, however; the blade is extremely sharp. Thankfully, the manufacturers included a sheath to keep your fingers safe. Since this has a stainless steel blade, rusting is not an issue. Overall, this is a solid, reliable survival tool that gets the job done.
- Feels great to hold
- Good balance
- Sheath is cheap and flimsy
- Can feel a bit heavy for some
Related: Serrated knives may be a better choice for those looking for a knife to add to their bug-out bag, and the Columbia River Ultima Knife doesn’t disappoint. The 5-inch serrated blade proves excellent with cutting power, especially when it comes to sawing through small branches for firewood, or cutting open a fresh kill for dinner.
Price: Approximately $75
Weight: 4.8 ounces
Dimensions: 14 x 3.6 x 1.9 inches
Specific features: Long build, double edged, blade black kalgard-coated, comes with leather sheath
Best use: Combat, multi-purpose
The Sheffield Sykes 2000 FS2000 Dagger Knife is both a beauty and a beast. This knife is derived from the reputable Fairbairn Sykes military dagger, which was used by the 1941 British Special Forces. One look and you’ll see that this knife is a thing of beauty. However, appearances don’t mean much for a knife if it can’t be taken out and be used.
Fortunately, the FS2000 fits the bill, thanks to its superior Kalgard coating. And for a knife with a sizable reach, it sure is lightweight. The FS2000 is a worthwhile investment if you are looking for a utilitarian high-end knife.
- Sharp point
- Affordable for what you get
- Needs sharpening after initial purchase
- Not put together well
- Cheap sheath
Related: The Columbia River Double Razor Knife not only looks stylish, but also sports double cutting edges to make your work that much easier. The finish is great to look at and it’s very capable of taking care of any cutting job you have. It comes with its own sheath, and is a very affordable small knife for those who are more interested in keeping their blades in their back pockets.
Price: Approximately $79.14
Weight: 12 ounces
Dimensions: 13.5 x 3.1 x 1.8 inches
Specific features: 420HC steel blade with a black oxide coating and double serration, aluminum handle, ballistic nylon sheath
Best use: Survival, hunting, multi-purpose
This knife has been around since World War II, specifically during the Vietnam era. The Gerber Mark II is regarded as the quintessential combat knife due to its great length and solid build. The 6.5-inch blade has great reach and can penetrate materials that other knives can only dream of.
Despite its length and weight, the knife doesn’t feel like you’re carrying a lead pipe. The 420HC stainless steel might not be the most durable blade available but it’s easy to sharpen and will stay sharp for a reasonable amount of time. In fact, the blade is already razor sharp out of the box. It comes with the standard sheath that gets the job done. This blade is best used for combat and survival situations.
- Very versatile
- Good quality
- Plastic sheath is poor quality
- Knife itself feels flimsy for the price
Related: A larger, serrated knife may be more your style, and that means you should look to the Schrade Needle Boot Knife. This is also a stiletto blade, which is designed primarily for puncturing. It comes with a sheath of its own, as well as a lanyard hole for you to attach it to your backpack. It’s definitely affordable for those who want a cheap knife to do a few jobs while on a camping trip.
Price: Approximately $29.84
Weight: 6 ounces
Dimensions:13.1 x 3.2 x 1.6 inches
Specific features: 1055 Carbon steel, tanto style blade, secure-ex sheath, integral quillon guard and polypropylene handle scales, black, rust-resistant finish
Best use: Defense, survival, prying and scraping at hard surfaces
We present to you one of the hardest survival knives to beat for the money. The Cold Steel Gi Tanto Knife is very solid and sturdy, making it perfect not just for outdoor activities but day-to-day chores as well. That’s because of it’s full-tang solidity.
The Secure-Ex sheath is made of plastic, which may seem like a bad thing, but is actually quite sturdy and looks good. One noteworthy drawback is that the 1055 carbon steel is prone to rusting.
In addition, the polypropylene handle doesn’t provide the best grip but it’s more than tolerable, especially at such an affordable price. It’s great at chopping wood and can handle tougher jobs that a regular drop-point knife may not be able to complete.
- Durable sheath
- Performs well at tasks
- May need extra wrapping to improve the grip
- Somewhat unbalanced
Related: If you’re looking for a much larger blade that’s better at cutting back brush and limbs in your path, then the Cold Steel Tanto Machete could possibly be what you’re looking for. This solid black blade comes with a full tang to guarantee power behind every swing without the risk of it coming loose.
The handle also feels quite good in the hand, and the edge can be kept sharp very easily, which you will need to do with this machete once you receive it. Customers have stated that the edge has been a bit too dull and needed further sharpening in order to get it in working order.
With all that we’ve discussed, it’s easy to see why so much time and patience should be exercised in getting a capable knife for your needs. There are so many different kinds that serve different purposes that it’s easy to become confused.
Although it’s easier to go online and pick one out, you would have an easier time figuring out your purchase if you tried them out for yourself at a sporting goods store. A survival knife may look great, but if it doesn’t feel great in your hands, you’re not going to use it a lot.
With that said, do you feel there’s a survival blade we might have left off this list? Have a story of a product you’d like to share with us? Be sure to do so in the comments section below.