Survival knives

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How to choose the right survival knife?

Survival knives come in a variety of shapes, sizes and materials. To make the right decision, it's important to start by defining the features of a survival knife, understanding its capabilities, and determining which model best suits your needs.

First of all, what is a survival knife?

A survival knife is most often a fixed-blade knife, characterized by its strength and versatility, making it an essential tool in survival situations. This type of knife is renowned for its reliability and durability, predisposing it to a variety of crucial tasks in critical conditions.

The most important attributes of a quality survival knife are as follows:
  1. Strong, easily sharpened blade: When it comes to blade material, strength is paramount to endure intensive use without the risk of breakage. At the same time, the blade should be easy to sharpen in the field, using simple sharpening tools.
  2. Firm, comfortable grip: The ergonomics of the survival knife handle should ensure optimum comfort during prolonged use. The design should also maintain a firm grip, even in wet or cold conditions.
  3. Full tang construction: A full tang design means that the blade extends all the way to the end of the handle, reinforcing the knife's structure and improving its balance.
  4. Versatile blade shape: The blade of a survival knife should be versatile, capable of performing a variety of functions, such as splitting wood, carving or butchering game.
  5. Durable sheath: A quality sheath accompanies a first-rate survival knife, guaranteeing secure storage and quick access in any situation. What's more, the sheath makes the knife easy to carry.

What material for the blade?

One of the first considerations is the choice of steel, focusing not on a specific type, but on the general category to which it belongs. The steels used for knives fall into three broad categories: carbon steel, tool steel and stainless steel. It's crucial to note that each category comprises a multitude of variants, each with distinct properties. What's more, the behavior of each type of steel varies according to the heat treatment it undergoes. Since no one can claim to hold the absolute truth about steels, we present here the main guidelines for a better understanding.

Carbon steel

Carbon steel, as its name suggests, is a type of steel with a high carbon concentration. However, it has no intrinsic resistance to corrosion. Leave it in contact with moisture, or neglect to clean it after cutting fruit, and it will rust within hours or even days. It also has little tolerance for salt and salt water. To counteract this phenomenon, knives for outdoor use often feature an anti-corrosion coating, which proves to be a significant asset in terms of maintenance. Nevertheless, this sensitivity to corrosion represents an unavoidable compromise in exchange for exceptional steel quality. A survival knife made from carbon steel is remarkably strong and invulnerable. It proves capable of accomplishing demanding tasks without its blade, or even a fragment of it, giving way. What's more, the carbon steel blade of a survival knife can be easily sharpened in outdoor environments. While this results in a slightly thinner cutting edge, it does make things easier on an expedition lasting several days.

Corrosion-resistant steel

Corrosion-resistant steel is a type of steel which, like carbon steel, has a high concentration of carbon in conjunction with a significant chromium content. Chromium acts as a preventive shield against the formation of rust on steel, but it does not confer absolute resistance to corrosion, as the latter is not entirely unalterable. Corrosion-resistant steel generally requires more effort to sharpen than carbon steel, although this may vary according to the specific type of steel.

It should be noted that, as a general rule, corrosion-resistant steel offers lower impact resilience by comparison. We therefore recommend that you opt for a survival knife made from corrosion-resistant steel only if you plan to use it in extremely wet or salty environments, where regular maintenance would be difficult to achieve.

Tool steel

Tool steel is another option to consider. It is characterized by a high proportion of carbon and chromium, but these proportions are not sufficient to classify it as either carbon or stainless steel. You could say it combines the best of both worlds. Under certain conditions of use, it is likely to develop rust, although not as rapidly as carbon steel. However, it is highly resistant to intensive use and can be restored to near-new condition after proper sharpening.

And what about the handle?

A solid grip is a fundamental feature of any quality survival knife, given that it is often used for long periods and in demanding contexts. When it comes to survival situations, it becomes crucial that the handle offers an effective grip, even in the presence of moisture, slippery surfaces, or when it's raining or wet. A comfortable grip makes the knife easier to handle and instills confidence in its reliability in any scenario.

In addition to comfort, this type of handle must also withstand a variety of conditions and impacts. In this respect, several outstanding handle materials are available to meet these requirements.


Micarta is one of the most popular handle materials for survival knives. It is a composite of flax and synthetic resin, creating a material of exceptional strength. Micarta provides a reliable grip, even in wet conditions. Its resistance extends to temperature variations and changes in humidity. What's more, micarta stands out for its ease of care, its ability to resist wear and tear, and the comfort it offers in the hand. All in all, it's an exceptionally well-suited material for a wide range of knives.


An additional stable material to consider is G10, made from fiberglass and synthetic resin. Its characteristics are quite similar to those of micarta, with the notable exception that micarta offers better grip in damp environments.


Rubber is also a common choice for handles, and can be used in its pure form or synthetically blended. It can also be used as an overmold around a core made of another material. Rubber is totally impervious to moisture and, depending on its texture, can offer excellent grip. In many situations, rubber proves to be an extremely stable material, particularly valuable in humid environments. However, it should be noted that one of rubber's few disadvantages is its tendency to be less resistant to excessively high temperatures.


You may notice that we don't discuss wooden handles. Why not? The answer lies in the stability of wood as a material. Indeed, as a natural substance, wood remains vulnerable to cracks and changes in shape, such as swelling, under the influence of variations in humidity or temperature. Although there are stabilized or laminated types of wood that are less prone to these variations, in the context of a survival situation, our preference is to use synthetic materials to avoid any potential risk and ensure a safe approach.

Full tang construction

A knife with full tang construction means that the blade extends right to the end of the handle. The handle is made up of plates attached to either side of the steel. Full tang knives offer several substantial advantages over other designs.

The intrinsic advantages of full tang construction are as follows:
  1. Strength and stability: As a general rule, a full tang knife is stronger and more stable than other types of knife. This is because the blade runs the full length of the handle, minimizing the risk of breakage or twisting, even under intense use.

  2. Better balance: knives with full tang construction generally feature improved balance compared to other models. This is due to the weight of the blade being judiciously distributed along the length of the knife, making handling easier and smoother.

  3. Easy maintenance: Full tang knives, often equipped with removable handle inserts, are simpler to clean. What's more, these knives are easier to replace.

Overall, full tang knives are generally more reliable and durable than knives with alternative constructions. This robustness makes them particularly suitable for a variety of tasks, as well as survival situations.

Blade shape

Versatility of blade shape is also a feature of the utmost importance for a survival knife, given that it is called upon for a wide range of tasks. While most blade shapes can be adapted to a variety of uses, some stand out for their superior efficiency. The blade shapes most commonly seen on quality survival knives are as follows:
  1. Drop point: The drop point blade has a slight downward curve at the tip. This simple blade shape is the most versatile, enabling activities such as cutting, game evisceration and many others.

  2. Clip point: With a clip point blade, the front part of the blade slopes downwards while the tip rises, creating a "clip". This blade configuration is ideal for eviscerating game.

  3. Tanto: A tanto blade features a triangular or hammer-shaped tip that is exceptionally robust. This strength predisposes it to perforations and work on resistant materials.

  4. Spear point: A spear point blade is characterized by a broad, solid curve towards the tip. The result is a strong point where the cutting edge and the back of the blade meet. The spear point blade shape, similar to the tanto, is ideal for piercing, but its wide central section also facilitates precise cuts.

In short, a versatile blade shape gives a survival knife the ability to perform a considerable variety of tasks within a survival context. This makes it an essential tool to have on hand at all times.
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