Like many other outdoor enthusiasts, I really like knives. These versatile cutting tools are handy around camp and vital in a life-or-death scenario. But what kind of knives do you need for survival? Everyone has their own opinion, and these thoughts may vary wildly from expert to expert. I’m a proponent of carrying two different knives in your kit. Here are the types, and why I recommend them.
A Wood Carver
Scandinavian wood carving knives (like Mora) are the knives I use most often in camp. Since much of camp craft involves wood carving, it makes sense to carry the best wood carving blade (also known as a bushcraft knife). The steel choice and the edge geometry of these knives allow them to excel at carving tasks, and as a bonus, most of these knives are very affordable. The “Scandi” grind is also maintenance-friendly. I’ve sharpened dull Mora knives to a shaving sharp edge, in the field using a river cobble as a whetstone.
For splitting and chopping tasks, the small thin blade of a Mora knife just isn’t up to the task. That’s why your second survival knife should be a chopper. Beefier and heavier, the typical survival “camp knife” is longer, wider, and thicker than a wood carving knife. This allows you to strike the spine with a wooden baton to split wood, and it allows you to chop with the blade as if it were a min-machete. Select camp choppers that are full tang and sharp enough to carve (if you lose your carving knife). Ka-Bars, Bowie, and many other large knife styles can make a very functional camp chopper.
These tips, and many more survival tips, are in MacWelch’s books: Prepare For Anything – the Hunting & Gathering Survival Manual – How To Survive Anything – the Ultimate Winter Survival Handbook – and How To Survive Off The Grid
Follow him on Twitter @tacticalstrategygear
And check out more of MacWelch’s outdoor skills and survival articles in Outdoor Life Magazine.