There are a number of great survival knives currently available from a wide range of manufacturers, and no one knife can be considered the best. Which one you should choose depends on personal preference, weight requirements for your pack list, strength and ability to use a larger knife, type of steel used, and blade length all come into play to make up the perfect blade for you. Let’s take a look at some of the top survival knives, and see what makes them so popular.
The Coldsteel Trailmaster is a 9.5″ Bowie style knife with a 5″ checkered kraton handle for a non-slip grip even in moist or sweaty environments. This handle is also replaceable, which is a good thing because the kraton does tend to wear away over time, becoming a smooth surface which is harder to grip. The steel used is an SK-5 high carbon alloy, which holds an edge extremely well without being brittle. Being a carbon steel, however, it is prone to rust in jungle environments or if left in the rain. A little bit of maintenance using mineral oil or other knife lubricant is needed to ensure maximum blade durability and hardness.
Coming in at 16.7 ounces and with a 5/16″ thick blade, the Trailmaster is ideal for splitting large pieces of wood for fire building, the main reason to have a large blade as opposed to a more controllable 3-4″ one. It comes with a leather sheath, which can be prone to water logging, another contributing factor to the dry environment reputation of the knife. At about $150, this is a serious survival knife meant for abuse.
Becker, once a legendary name in survival knives, unfortunately stopped production a number of years ago. Recently, however, they have been producing more new knives under the control and watch of Ka-Bar, and their new product line does not disappoint. A 9″ Bowie blade with a black epoxy coating at .21″ thickness weighs 18.25 ounces. It is heavier and slightly thinner than the Trailmaster, but will be just as adapt at splitting wood for fire and structure construction. The knife uses carbon steel, and it needs to be maintained using oil to prevent rust.
At a very low price of around $80, the BK9 is a steal. It even comes with a small 2″ blade fitted within the high-quality nylon sheath for use in small jobs.
The SOG Seal is a 7″ AUS8 stainless steel blade designed for the US Navy Seals. It has gone through extensive testing in marine and other high humidity environments, and is extremely resistant to rust. While stainless steel will not have blade retention quite up to par with a carbon blade, the AUS8 is a high quality steel that performs admirably. Being designed for in-water use, the handle is also extremely grippy and durable. Coming in at just 10.3 ounces with the 5″ handle, the SOG Seal is a lightweight knife that can handle all the toughest cutting jobs.
Because of its smaller length and reduced weight, however, it will be less suitable for splitting wood. It is recommended to carry an axe, hatchet, or other splitting tool if this knife is to be the only one carried. In a large team of people, an axe is often a better idea than a knife anyways, as the extra weight will not be noticed when split among three or more people. For solo survivability, however, a knife capable of splitting should be considered of the utmost importance. At around $100, the SOG Seal Elite is a great bargain for those looking for a high quality, low maintenance cutting knife.
Which of these three popular survival knives you will choose depends on your own needs, as well as the composition of your group. If travelling in a group of three, a smaller knife on each person in combination with an axe may be the best way to go. For jungle environments, a SOG Seal can be perfect, while in dry conditions the Trailmaster is truly elite. Whatever your outdoor needs, a knife is the most important survival implement. Never be without this much needed tool.