Survival and Outdoors

How to Choose a Versatile Bug Out Knife for Survival



In this modern age society has progressed to the point, in part thanks to FEMA’s education efforts, that even the average citizen knows what a bug out knife and bag are, and hopefully has one. If not, perhaps this article will aid in putting one together, sooner rather than later.

One of the first, if not THE first choices to make aside from what type of pack or bag to use, is what knife goes in it.  Should it be a fixed blade? Folding knife? Hopefully we will help to answer some of those questions.

Key Considerations for a Bug Out Knife

In a bug out or survival situation, when SHTF, a knife will quickly become a everyday use item. Its duties will range from cutting rope or string to food prep or butchering, fire starting to even possibly self defense. And given the fact that it will be a heavy-use tool, durability is important.

Having a tool that can dice a potato, skin a rabbit then cut a piece of rope for a shelter or maybe cut a hole in a tin can to make a cooking vessel is a large request to ask of any tool. Having a knife that excels at one thing doesn’t mean it will be good at another, you will have to decide what is the most versatile for your survival skill set.

My bug out bag.

Fixed blade vs. Folding blade. There is not simple answer. A fixed blade takes up more valuable pack space. A folding knife gives up strength. However it is possible to strap a fixed blade to the outside of the pack and gain some room, but it’s not always possible to replace a broken folding knife in a SHTF situation.

As tempting as it may be to go to a Swiss Army style knife or some other multi blade folder. I have owned and used some rugged and tough folding knives, however I have yet to see a folding knife without any moving parts, and moving parts increase the chance of breakage. And breakage is something that can be a game changer in a bad situation. If you find a folding knife that you trust with your life, by all means go for it, because that is what’s at stake.

Stainless vs. Carbon. This debate over materials is almost as old as mankind itself. It would be easy to provide several pros and cons for either. My personal choice is carbon steel. The edge retention and ease of sharpening is important in a heavy use survival situation. And I also like the spark for fire starting when used with a ferro rod. Another tip that will go great in rough times, learn to sharpen a knife with the edge of a car window, or bottom of a coffee cup, you can thank me later.

Size of the Knife. As in a lot of things, size does matter. You don’t want to try and skin a rabbit with a machete nor do you want to baton firewood with a small skinning knife. I find a good size is in the 7-10” blade length.

Blade/ point style. When trying to decide if a drop point works better than a tanto etc, that falls in the realm of personal choice.. A bit of advice is to avoid gut hooks and serrated blade. In an emergency situation its best to avoid gimmicks and tricks.

Cost. The absolute worse thing you can do is skimp on something that your life would depend on. Buy the best your budget will allow. If you can only afford a twenty dollar knife, it’s better than no knife..maybe.

Top 6 Best Bug Out Knives for Survival

  1. KA-BAR Full Size US Marine Corps

    KA-BAR Full Size US Marine Corps Fighting Knife, Straight

  2. Morakniv Carbon Steel Survival Knife with Fire Starter and Sheath

  3. Gerber Fixed Blade Survival Knife with Fire Starter

  4. SOG Fixed Blade Knive with Sheath Elite Survival Knife

  5. Cold Steel SRK Survival Rescue Fixed Blade Knife with Secure Sheath

  6. Ontario Knife Air Force Survival Knife


Once you have picked out a knife, put in in your bug out bag and leave it. Don’t use it as a hunting knife or use it in the garage, leave it where it will do the most good in an emergency.

Now that you have done that.. add a backup. Having a spare is a fantastic idea. Perhaps this one could be a folder, keep it in a outside pocket of the pack or bag, or near the top for easy access.

The next most important thing is to learn the skills using the knife that will keep you alive. Learn to make a fire, skin a animal, build a shelter. Do you have any other ideas? Leave them in the comments.


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