Welcome to Bens Backwoods Blog

Bushcraft , Survival, Homesteading, and simple living articles and info.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Choosing a Bushcraft / Survival Knife

Deciding what type of Knife you need for your outdoor wanderings can be tough as there is so much to choose from, and so much hype.

When choosing a knife you should decide on what type of chores you will need it to accomplish. Do you need a knife that will be used in combat, puncture a car door, dig a hole, or maybe even be thrown like in the movies to fend off the boogie man?

Well for general bushcraft and survival chores you dont need any of the above, If you have succumbed to the advertising hype and gimmicks of many manufactures then you probably dont own a good working field knife.

As a general rule big knives and machetes are used in the jungle or rain forest and a knife axe combination in hardwood or boreal forest. This is a traditional way of looking at things and will help you make a decision toward a knife that cuts and carves, not hacks and whacks.....we will save the hacking and whacking for our axe.

Mora knives have been made in sweden for over a century, the design is basic and simple. They use high quality carbon or stainless steels and heat treat the blades to hold an edge. The knives are easy to sharpen as they have one wide scandinavian bevel that goes right to the cutting edge, this bevel also gives you a lot of control when carving or making feather sticks. Mora knives are thin and not overly built, this makes them lightweight and less fatiguing to use, even though they have a thin blade the knives will stand up to the use of a baton for most realistic bushcraft chores.

This is where I would start looking for a bushcraft/survival knife, this has also been the end of the search for many survival instructors, guides, and professional outdoorsman. That says alot for a 12.00 knife!!

I prefer the basic carbon steel blade models. I do keep a stainless knife in my fishing pack where I know it may get wet. The laminated blades are geared more toward carving. I like to sharpen the spine on my moras to work with a firesteel to throw sparks. The carbon steel is the best, the stainless also works, but the laminated and triflex steels are too soft on the spine to work as a scraper with a firesteel.

I really like the JRE sheath system for my bushcraft knives and is what I highly recommend for a knife system. These sheaths hold your knife and a army size firesteel in one compact package. These are important tools and its nice to have them together in one place.

Now if you are all ready familiar with the Mora type knife but want something a bit stronger built, in near the same size and weight. I would lean toward the Enzo trapper, Skookum Bush Tool , or Woodlore type knife.

Enzo Trapper o1

I guess overall I lean toward a carbon steel scandi ground knife for my all purpose Bushcraft / survival knife. This style of knife is tops for woodcraft chores and also does well with skinning game , cleaning fish and cutting food.

I hope this helps weed through the hype to find a knife you can count on!


Tyler said...

I realize everyone seems to prefer a 4” knife or so, but I actually like a knife in the 5 1/2" to 6" range. Dont get me wrong, a small knife is just about necessary for some things but have you ever tried to quarter a deer (much less an elk) with a pocket knife? A little bit of heft is good when you need to hack something, building shelters and whatnot is much easier with a knife with a little bit of heft. I rarely carry an axe in the woods, but I always carry a knife.

Ben said...

It all depends on what you need your knife to do. If I need more heft with this size knife for splitting wood or cutting down saplings I just use a baton with the knife. You have to use what is most comfortable to carry for your intended chores...thanks Ben

Unknown said...

As an addicted knife owner, I say what ever knife you have on hand is the right survival knife at that moment.
I prefer to carry a 2-knife system, one knife has about a 4-inch blade while the other, the larger of the pair has a 8 or 9-inch blade. They both are carbon steel blades very similar to the scandi blade styles.
Any knife is suitable for survival/bushcraft situations - some are just better than others...

Neil said...

Thanks for the excellent article Ben. I agree a 4" knife and a 20" axe is an excellent combination. I've noticed bushcraft sheaths often hold a ferro rod but rarely hold a sharpener. I wonder why? Is there a good way to sharpen your knife in the field without a sharper?


Ben said...

Neil, You can fit a 3/8" ceramic rod in the firesteel loop, but in general fire is more important.For short term survival you wont need a sharpener if you know how to use a knife...I keep a sharpener in my pack.

Anonymous said...

Hi Ben,

Do you find the fact that the carbon blades are 2 mm wide, a problem? (comparing to the 2.5 mm of many stainless steel blades)

Ben said...

I find that the thinner carbon blades are still plenty strong and actually cut through food better because of less drag...The newest Mora ROBUST is 1/8" thick carbon and is very tough.