Survival and Outdoors

SHTF: 23 Survival Experts Share Their Knife Of Choice




“SHTF and you can only bring one survival knife with you: what knife would you take with you and why?”

Whether you’re out in the woods, or a disaster happens, having the right knife with you can make all the difference in a life or death situation. Although a good survival knife is one of the most important tools to have, it’s not easy to find the right one. In fact, there’s no single best knife for everyone. In order to help you, we’ve asked 23 survival and outdoor experts to share their favorite knife with us.


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EXPERTUrban Survival Network
KNIFE: Fällkniven F1 Pilot Survival Knife

buck hoodlum
[box size=”large”]When life gets tough, there’s only one knife that I’d want and that’s the Fällkniven F1 Pilot Survival Knife. Standard issue to the Soldiers of the Swedish Army, it was designed to be the most reliable, simple, and versatile knife possible. What I like most about this knife is that the designers ditched all the “tacti-cool” gimmicks and focused entirely on making this knife pragmatic. The designers weren’t messing around, this knife was made to deal with the very real rigors of life! I’ve used this knife on many occasion (camping, bush craft, hunting, and even cooking at home) and although not my first choice as an EDC, it’s the only knife I’d consider when my survival was on the line.

EXPERTModern Survival Online
KNIFE: Buck Hoodlum

buck hoodlum
[box size=”large”]Buck Hoodlum. Why? Versatility. A large knife can do many jobs that small knives excel at while a small knife cannot do many jobs that large knives do well. The Buck Hoodlum is a well-built knife and offers great durability for the money.

EXPERTLifesong Adventures
KNIFE: SOG Seal Pup Straight Edge

sog[box size=”large”]I have used a singularly heavy, stainless steel (approximately seventeen ounce) single fixed blade, with the tang running completely through the handle (this is necessary for fixed blade knives) for eight years with a lanyard hole at the end of the handle (which can be handy). The knife is somewhat fancy.
The design is a commercial high-end version of the Vietnam War Era’s fifth Special Forces Groups known as the Study and Observation Group, made by SOG Knives. The overall length of my older version is from tip to handle – 11 1/8″ The blade length itself is six inches, the width has been modified from sharpening over the years, but it is around 1 1/8″ at the middle of the blade. The blade is quite thick where it meets the handle, a solid one-quarter inch and tappers to a very sharp point to a thickness 1/16 at the top of the blade at the point, or about 1/32 at the cutting edge of the blade point. Read more in this article.

EXPERTUrban Survival Site

[box size=”large”]With knives, there are plenty of great options. But personally, I really like the M.A.K.-1. It was originally designed for firefighters and rescue workers so it’s very versatile. As someone who spends a lot of time in an urban environment, I want a knife that can quickly smash glass and pry open doors and windows in case I’m trapped in a vehicle or building. It has a full tang, its shape makes it a good digging tool, and it even has an 8mm groove you can use as a wrench. It’s a great knife for city dwellers.

KNIFE: The Odin by Fallkniven, ESEE 6, Junglass by ESEE, Ontario Blackbird SK-5

odin fallkniven SHTF knife
[box size=”large”]For me, one perfect knife does not exist. I have different requirements than most. A knife is a personal thing and the requirement for just one makes it more so. Everyone has their own set of circumstances, tasks they want the blade to perform and skillset and I think every guy should design his own at some point.
You see, you need a thin blade for some tasks (such as cutting feather sticks), but a thin blade, while an efficient cutter, would make a lousy fighting knife. The blade would roll too easily.It might break contacting bone, and it might snap off or get bent on a thrust between the ribs when you tried to withdraw the blade. Too thick and the blade isn’t good for filleting fish or carving feather sticks. So you have to consider the thickness of the blade, the shape and angle of the grind, blade length, steel, and shape, whether or not it has a guard, the handle material and how aggressively it is checkered, if it is. You don’t want a guard that will get tangled in clothing or give you blisters, and you need scales or handle material that won’t slip when it get wet, bloody or muddy, but that won’t tear up your hands in prolonged use. I prefer a pommel with a lanyard hole that you can slip your thumb over in a reverse grip, so I prefer it to be flat. You definitely want a full tang on a survival knife, which means that the knife is made of one piece of steel all the way back through the handle.
I prefer a convex grind on survival knives, because it’s the strongest – the same grind on a katana like the Samurai used. But a convex grind would be a poor choice for a novice, because it is harder for them to sharpen. A sharply squared spine is best for striking ferrocerium or mischmetal rods, as is a high carbon steel. It’s also nice to have a flat spot to use a baton to baton the blade when splitting dried wood. Saw teeth or serrations on the spine can tear up batons pretty fast.
Many guys will tell you that a survival knife should be short, 5 inches or less, but for me that wouldn’t work. They say that you only need a 3 inch blade for fighting, but they must not have ever killed anything with a knife … at least not in a hurry. You need some reach: a fighting knife should be able to reach vitals through fat, muscle and clothing at an angle. It also needs to reach far enough past the vocal cords to sever them. A 3″ blade can’t do that. I find that it’s easier to do small knife jobs with a big knife than to do big jobs with a small one, but that’s me. Some people would argue that longer knives are too heavy or awkward on the belt.
I haven’t found my dream blade yet, but Busse makes some excellent blades, as does Busse’s sister companies, but they have a collector-oriented sales model which is frustrating to non-collector consumers. I can point out a model that is close: The Odin by Fallkniven, but it uses a laminated steel blade. It has a high-carbon steel core sheathed in stainless so it has the edge retention of carbon and low maintenance of stainless. The problem with that for a single knife expected to do everything is that stainless doesn’t throw much of a spark off a ferro rod. The best strikers have a sharply-squared spine and are made of carbide, but high carbon steel can throw a fat spark. But get that from the Fallkniven, you would have to use the blade’s edge, which would dull the blade. TheOdin’s blade shape is also a clip point instead of a spear point, which I would prefer for the theoretical “one knife” scenario. The Odin’s guard would help in a fight, but would get in the way when working with the knife. Another option would be a blade like the ESEE 6 or the Junglass by ESEE. But those blades are high carbon steel that is typically coated with finish to simplify maintenance. There’s nothing wrong with a stained blade on a working knife. I prefer it to finish if the finish creates drag when it contacts the material you are cutting. I also prefer a blade without much of a shoulder if possible.
So I’d like for a full-tang sheath knife with spear point blade in the 8-inch range, (which the prevailing wisdom these days seems to reject), convex grind, uncoated high-carbon blade, a sharply-squared spine, no shoulder, enough guard to protect the hand from slipping on the edge side of the blade, but none on spine side, and appropriate handle material. The Ontario Blackbird SK-5 has a lot of those features, but it is taper ground instead of convex ground and it is too short at only 5 inches. It also sacrifices a little blade performance for corrosion resistance with the choice of steel. But I don’t want a pretty knife. I want my knife to cut. So for me, I haven’t come across my perfect blade yet, but if you’ve seen it, please give me a holler. Then I wouldn’t have to have it made. But I prefer to carry more than one blade so I have the right tool for each job.

KNIFE: Survive GSO-5.1

survive GSO 5.1
[box size=”large”]The best SHTF knife is the one you have with you, but if the SHTF my go to knife has to be Survive! Knives GSO-5.1 in CPM-3V steel. The fit and feel of this knife is just amazing. The steel is extremely tough and has excellent edge retention. It’s easy to sharpen and can handle any task that you can throw at it. Besides how many knife makers will use their knife as a climbing anchor to rappel off a cliff.

KNIFE: Schrade SCHF42

schrade survival knife griffin
[box size=”large”]This is tough. No one knife is perfect for all things. However, I’ve been testing a Schrade SCHF42 (Griffin design).
It has done an excellent job at carving trap triggers, splitting wood and even cleaning small game. It would certainly be my choice.

EXPERTSurvival Weekly

[box size=”large”]If I were forced to rely upon only one knife for the immediate future, I’d grab my LT Wright GNS. It has been my go to fixed blade for over a year now. It fills my hand comfortably and I’ve never experienced hot spots, even after extended periods of use. It holds an edge very well. The blade is robust enough for batoning yet handles delicate work just fine. The length is perfect for any common camp or survival chore. The leather sheath holds the knife securely, with or without the dangler attachment.

EXPERTOutdoor Self Reliance
KNIFE: Mora Knife

mora green
[box size=”large”]There is quite the allure to the term “survival” knife. Immediately it conjures up images of hacking bones, slicing zombies, and penetrating car doors. People want one tool that can do it all. And while there are knives that can do it all, they become, as the term says “Jack of all trades, master of none.” At it’s core, people loose sight of the basic day to day functions of a knife—food prep, maybe wood whittling (feather sticks, notches, etc.), maybe rope cutting. Why then would you use drive a tank to work day in and day out when a small car can do it better and more efficient?
For the past twenty years, I’ve used the same Mora. The single biggest reason being it is inexpensive. If I could find a more inexpensive knife with a good history of dependability, I would use it instead, just to prove a point.

EXPERTFlorida Hillbilly
KNIFE: Randall #5, Mora

randall 5
[box size=”large”]First, I hate loaded questions that promote an unrealistic question. On any given day, I have at least two knives on me… more if I’m in the outdoors fishing, hunting or camping. Thus to say “pick on” for me, I’d almost have to be in the shower or in some horizontal activity (I meant sleeping or watching TV while laying on the couch!) at the time I needed to make the choice.
If the S really did HTF, the best survival knife is the one within reach as you are bolting for the hills…
If I had a moment, I’d grab far more than one…like guns, there is no perfect knife for every situation, though in an emergency, whatever you can get your hands on is just fine.
So in the spirit of the question, I’d opt for either my Randall #5 (yes, I USE it..a LOT – enough to make any collector cry) or one of my Mora knives. I’d probably opt for the stainless Mora with the orange furniture, but any of them would be just fine. A third option is an M. Coker custom made copy of the Randall Triathlete in D-2 with custom made black micarta, affectionately called the RT-D2. It’s wicked sharp and holds its edge well…and since it was made custom for me by a good friend, its more than just a tool. I know what went into making this, so I know what kind of abuse it should take…so I trust it.
And in a pinch, trusting in your tools is a must.
The Randall #5 is mighty trustworthy of course, but the Moras are lighter, and simply can’t take the abuse the #5 or RTD2 can…so the Moras are out.
So having talked myself through my three initial choices, I’d probably opt of the Randal #5, simply due to its larger size….but I’d sure like to have that little RTD2 with me as a backup….

EXPERTMy Family Survival Plan
KNIFE: Gerber’s Bear Grylls Ultimate Survival Knife

gerber bear grylls
[box size=”large”]The Gerber’s Bear Grylls Ultimate Survival Knife is a very practical knife, and it comes packed with a lot of survival gear. The blade measure 5 inches in length 7Cr17MoV stainless steel with a waffle-head hammer on the pommel. To add more variety, the manufacturer makes it available with a fine edge-version or a half serrated edge version, which makes it easier to cut through tough material. The handle is covered in a texture that makes it very easy to hold on to and to utilize in almost any scenario. It has a fire starting kit, based on a square striker notch located in the back of the blade and also an emergency whistle located on a rope tied to the end of the handle.

EXPERTDoomsday Moose
KNIFE: Cold Steel SRK

swiss army knife
[box size=”large”]I go with a swiss army style pocket knife because I can fit it in my pocket, and is relatively non-intimidating to others if they see me fiddling with it before the everything falls apart. This means that there is a very good chance that I will actually have it with me which is important as well. Another thing that I like about this type of knife is that there is usually a variety of tools that go along with it that can be used when other tools are not available.

KNIFE: Cold Steel SRK


[box size=”large”]What would be the only one knife that I would carry if SHTF? That is a hard question. Before I make my choice in what knife that would be, let see what we are going to do with it. I will use it as :
1. weapon (cut, stab, slice)
2. build a shelter (wood work)
3. skinning and gutting animals, fish etc. (small and large game, fish, shellfish etc.)
4. food preparation (cutting, vegetables, fruits)
5. can opener
6. fire making
7. building snares
8. hammering
9. first aid
10. making spear (improvised weapons)
To do all of the above and much more I have to choose wisely. I will have to take into consideration different factors that are needed to be combined in one single knife.
I would definitely go for fixed blade. Folding knives are easier to carry but fixed blade knife is much stronger and robust and it will serve me longer and stronger than folding one.

So it would be fixed blade definitely.

Knife tang should be a full tang, eventually skeletonized tang, because they are much stronger and durable and not prone to breaking like partial, half tang or stick tang. It’s better to have one solid piece of metal!

So it would be fixed blade with full tang. Let’s go to size.

I will need to find optimal size that will give me options what I can do with it. Too long or to heavy knife, is hard to carry around all the time, and it’s difficult to perform any precise work. Knife too small, is easy to carry but it will be difficult to baton wood, chop and perform heavy duty work.
For me it would be size between 25 – 30 cm.

So, fixed blade, full tang, 25-30 cm.

I would always choose a straight edge, it is more versatile than serrated one or half serrated, and it is easier to sharpen it.
Every knife of course, has a sharp point. For my knife I would go for drop point shape or tanto shape point. Tantos are very thick and strong at the tip, but drop points are much more versatile in survival situation (easy skinning, precision work etc.). Bowie shape is also very popular if it is not too curved at the tip.

So for now, it is a fixed blade, full tang, 25-30 cm long, straight edge with some variation of drop point shape.

Material that the blade will be made of is either carbon steel or stainless steel. Carbon steel would be my choice because it is tougher and more durable than stainless one and much easier to sharp. The bad thing is that it is prone to rust, but if you keep good maintenance it will serve you good.
Back edge spine of the knife should be straight, thick and durable. Working with knife, batoning, precision work etc.

So to conclude :
Fixed blade, full tang, 25-30 cm long, straight edge, drop point shape, carbon steel with straight back edge, hmmm….

When I put all of that together, it came to my mind that I already have that knife it is a Cold Steel SRK with Secure Ex holster, one of the best and most versatile survival knives that I had a chance to test.

Cold Steel SRK is a formidable weapon in combat, good for stabbing, cutting and slicing. It is good for making shelter, batoning branches and wood, skinning and gutting fish, preparing food, opening cans, making fire, cutting precisely for snares, hammering, cutting bandages and splints, and can be used on a stick as a spear. It has a clip point shape, which is highly similar to drop point, but it is more suitable for piercing, carving etc.
When I first started writing this article, I did not had in mind the knife that I already posses, but once I finalized all mentioned above he was the first one that came to my mind. There are many others great knives for survival situation, don’t get me wrong, but this one is amongst the best for sure.

Most important thing is that you are comfortable with type of knife that you choose, and to know how or learn how to use it, how to sharpen it, how to use it as a tool and as a weapon, how to make fire with it or baton the wood. The knife is only good if you know how to extract the most of it by yourself in SHTF situation.

EXPERTGetting Started In Emergency Preparedness
KNIFE: Swedish Mora Clipper Companion knife (Orange) + sharpener

mora clipper bug out knife
[box size=”large”]I would say the Swedish Mora Clipper Companion knife in bright orange with a stainless steel blade. If I could, I would include an inexpensive ‘combination‘ ceramic and carbide sharpener to keep the knife sharp, also in bright orange.
I believe most people (including myself) don’t have the financial resource to purchase a Fallkniven F1 survival knife especially when the whole family needs a knife. Plus, for most people, a ‘survival‘ event is going to last a few days with emergency services arriving shortly thereafter to provide some support.
Oh, … About that bright orange. It easier to see ‘If‘ the knife is dropped.

EXPERTBackwoods Survival Blog
KNIFE: Kukri knife

[box size=”large”]Choosing only one knife to have with me in a survival situation is a difficult question, since many different quality knives all have their own ups and downs. I guess though, in my opinion, I would choose the kukri. Not often seen in this part of the world, the kukri is the knife favored by the Gurkhas in South Asia. The reason I would choose this one as my absolute favorite is its versatility. You can use it for most things for which you would need a good knife as well as cutting through fairly dense brush and chopping down thick limbs and saplings. It’s kind of like having both a good survival knife as well as a machete all in one piece of gear, and it would be very useful as a combat blade on top of its overall utility.

EXPERTSelous Scouts
KNIFE: Becker/KaBar BK-2

[box size=”large”]I hardly consider myself an expert, more a practitioner of the survival arts.In my EDC I carry the Becker/KaBar BK-2. It has the heft needed to chop if needed, a shorter blade for finer work, and it is thick enough to pry with if needed without worrying about bending. It has a full tang so you do not have to worry about breaking it. It has a full size handle to give you the grip you need for the most arduous tasks. It has a nice hard sheath that allows you different options for carry, and for other sheath options, a quick search on the internet will yield many results.

EXPERTArmageddon Online
KNIFE: Set of Kitchen Knives

Dexter chef knives
[box size=”large”]I can’t answer the “if you could” because my “real world” job involves chef knives and personal knives of all varieties. Personally my whole kit would be ideal because I can break down anything and everything with it as intended. … however, the one I have in my pocket – and if the shit hit the fan – is just a plain old Smith & Wesson. It is not exactly survival and not ideal for much other than quick work and utility, but it does what I need on the spot. I also keep a bottle opener on my keyring. That would be for if the shit is beyond hitting the fan.[/box]

EXPERTReality Survival
KNIFE: Victorinox Farmer Silver Alox, Mora Bushcraft Black, Ontario RAT 7, 15 inch bow saw, 2 1/4 Pound Hudson Bay Axe.

[box size=”large”]Personally, I wouldn’t ever be caught with only one knife. For wilderness survival I use a 3 knife system. If SHTF I will always have at least one pocket knife (Victorinox Farmer Silver Alox) and a medium sized knife (Mora Bushcraft Black) and a knife with at least a 7 Inch blade (Ontario RAT 7). However, it should also be noted that I would also be sure to have a 15 inch bow saw and at least a 2 1/4 Pound Hudson Bay Axe. Cutting tools are extremely important for wilderness survival and being caught with only one knife is dangerous and irresponsible.[/box]

EXPERTPrepper Link
KNIFE: Becker/KaBar BK-2

kabar prepper knife
[box size=”large”]We at Prepperlink are big fans of the Becker BK2 as your all-in-one survival tool. Great for cutting, chopping. Holds an edge, durable. Will not break.[/box]

EXPERTSurvival Civilization
KNIFE: Hunting knife + Arkansas Sharpening Stones + ATF transmission fluid

[box size=”large”]I’d thought about this for awhile, and while in reality no one knife could possibly do everything. If I had just one, it would be a nice, solid hunting knife. Something about 6″ long; too long and it becomes unwieldy for the everyday tasks, too short and it’s worthless as a defensive weapon.
All that said, the most important part in my opinion isn’t the knife itself – there are a dizzying array of damned good hunting knives that one can carry around. The most important part would be to have a pair of good sharpening stones (one coarse, one fine), a supply or source of good oil, and the skill in keeping one’s knife in top condition. If you cannot or will not carry those with you, at least have the knowledge and skill in finding/making something similar. In my case, a couple of good Arkansas-sourced stones (as a former resident of Arkansas, I’m kind of biased like that) and a quart of ATF transmission fluid will do the trick nicely. The stones are kind of costly, but they will last longer than me, so they’re worth the cost. the ATF is dirt-cheap and does the job nicely (as a bonus, you can always scrounge more of the stuff from the plethora of automatic transmissions that a hypothetical apocalypse will happily provide you). By the way, pay as much attention to the sheath as you do the knife…
Look at it this way – you can have the best knife in the world at your side, but if it’s nicked and dull, it’s kind of useless. If the sheath is cheap, it’ll come apart when you really don’t want it to.

EXPERTSHTF Preparedness
KNIFE: Tomahawk, Mora knife

mora green
[box size=”large”]The one you have on you… If I were to choose I would have a tomahawk as a blade. Much more versatile but the mora knife is very good too. Small, light, strong and sharp as hell.

EXPERTBugged Out Prepper
KNIFE: Gerber Steadfast Fine – Edge Knife

gerber fine edge knife
[box size=”large”]When shit hits the fan, and I think this will be happening soon rather than later. The one most important items to have on you is a good survival knife. There are certainly a lot of factors to consider when looking for the optimal survival knife; one that will hold up in the worst case scenarios, not let you down when you need it most, and is legal to carry.
My choice of survival knife would be the Gerber Steadfast Fine Edge Knife for a variety of different reasons. Gerber makes high quality knives and when compared with other brands you get the best bang for your buck out of Gerber. Specifically I use the Gerber Steadfast Fine Edge Knife.
When making my selection for a survival knife I avoided all folding knifes as my primary shit hits the fan/survival knife because of the increased likely-hood of a catastrophic failure. Therefore, the only type of knife I’d put my life on the line with is a completely full-tang sheath knife, which the Gerber knife I am talking about is. Don’t get me wrong, having a folding knife is a good alternative to have for backup purposes… just not as my primary life saving survival knife.
Another often overlooked shit hits the fan situation is those situations in which the police are actually still around and enforcing the law. To be best prepared for SHTF situations with and without the law barking down our backs I’m picking a knife that will still be legal to carry. It would surely be a messy situation if the lawman is trying to confiscate your only knife because it is too long, or has two edges. Best be prepared legally.
The Gerber Steadfast knife has a 5-1/2 inch single-edge blade. This is a great length because it is long enough for just about all tasks I might need it for without being obnoxiously large and difficult to use and carry. Additionally the fact that it has a single-edge blade avoids it being deemed illegal since in most states carrying a double-edge knife is illegal.
I’m sure a lot of others will recommend really fancy and intimidating survival knifes. While they may look great and scare the shit out your neighbors the most important aspect for me is quality and ensuring my knife is legal to carry. I would never want to be without my survival knife..

truth about knives
EXPERTThe Truth About Knives
KNIFE: Mora Bushcraft (for a couple of days in a survival situation)

mora bushcraft black
[box size=”large”]The specific knife model is not so important. There is too much variation in personal preference and what works for me might not work for you.
Instead, there are 3 design traits that I look for in a SHTF blade. Size, Steel, and a full-tang construction:
Size: I think that 4″-6″ is really the sweet spot for a bushcraft and survival knife. Most wood processing that you will do from shelter construction to tinder prep to cutting saplings for a travois is dealing with wood under 3″. This is enough to get a fire going that will burn logs that are larger than that. A blade over 6″ (that isn’t designed specifically as a kitchen knife) is going to be awkward at some of the finer tasks that you are still likely to encounter when the SHTF.
Steel: “Super-steels” are fun to play with and produce some incredible tools. They can hold their edge through some pretty heavy abuse. However, once dulled they can take specialty sharpening tools to bring the edge back into shape.
In a SHTF scenario, you are not likely to have such a luxury. The softer 1095 of an Ontario TAK, or 420HC of a Gerber Strong Arm might be a better choice. An amateur sharpener can achieve excellent results with a common whetstone and a little practice. In a pinch you can even use a stone off the ground if it is fine-grained and flat.
Finally, a full tang construction is essential. I would go as far as recommending a tang that extends beyond the scales and can be struck with a wooden baton. Even if the scales eventually wear out or break off, you can always wrap the knife with paracord or make rudimentary wooden replacements.
I frequently carry a Mora Bushcraft when guiding and deem it sufficient for a couple of days in a survival situation in the Smoky Mountains. If the S-really-HTF however, I simply don’t trust a hidden-tang knife to be as durable in absolute terms as a full-tang one for extended use.I would want something more robust for the long-haul.
In the end, it is a deeply personal choice as to what is your perfect SHTF knife. The most important thing you can do is plan ahead and test a variety of tools and practice a variety of skills. When you know your capabilities and the capabilities of your tools, you can have the confidence to begin to take control of your situation.
Stay safe, Stay sharp.

“If Shit Hit The Fan, What knife would you take with YOU?”
Tell Us in The Comments Below!


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