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If you are planning on your next outdoor adventure in nature or you are simply trying to prepare for a survival situation, then knives can be a very helpful tool to help you manage the necessities that you have in these scenarios. However, not all knives are suitable for survival situations. For survival purposes, you want to use a high-quality tool specifically designed for this situation.Today we're going to talk about the best survival knives you can buy for under $200. Why not "under $100?" Frankly, we aren't impressed with as many of the knives under only $100. Fortunately, there are only a few knives top-rated for bushcraft and survival that are going to stretch that far.
Anyway, more precisely, we're going to review fixed blade, full tang knives - more on that in a moment. What we'll do in this article is review the basics of what you need to know before investing in a survival knife. Then, we will introduce you to a few that are pretty much rated the best of the best in this price range, and we'll follow up with more in-depth reviews of each option.
- 1 Your Knife: a Multipurpose Survival Tool
- 2 How important is an actual Survival Knife?
- 3 Basic Considerations and Requirements
- 4 Let's Look at Some Knives
- 5 Conclusion
Your Knife: a Multipurpose Survival Tool
As you know, knives come in many different shapes and types - from fixed blade to switch blade to folding pocket knife, etc, but for the purposes of our reviews here, we want to focus on helping you choose a good multipurpose knife that you will be able to use in a variety of different situations. Whether you want to try your hand at batoning wood, carving, skinning game, self-defense, starting a fire, and more, the knives on this list should fit the bill.
How important is an actual Survival Knife?
A knife that is truly designed to help you survive is going to be one of the most important things you can count among your tools. In fact, it's so important you don't even want to keep it in your bug-out bag; rather, you'll likely want to wear it in its sheath on your belt. The knives we're looking at have sheathes.
So, you can also be in a camp kitchen and have lost your forks, but as long as you don't lose the knife you're good to go (you can still eat with the knife, but you can't cut much with a fork). It's one tool you do NOT want to lose.
Basic Considerations and Requirements
There are a few components that we believe are non-negotiable when it comes to choosing the right knife. Most survival experts seem to agree that when it comes to choosing this important piece of equipment, you will primarily be looking at the following characteristics:
Type of Knife
What you will be looking for is a fixed blade - in other words, NOT a folding knife. Think of a point of weakness in both types, and I think you'll quickly agree that a folding knife is going to have a greater chance of breaking if you are using it to do tasks that most knives aren't designed to do (e.g. cutting wood, prying, hammering away at stuff, etc).
Ask yourself - If you are in the woods, with just your knife as your primary tool, is it going to be rugged enough to baton some wood? Is the edge going to be enough to help strike enough sparks so you can get a fire going? Is the blade sharp enough to finely carve or shave off some wood "feathers" for tinder and cut enough limbs for fuel? These are just a few of the tasks you should be able to do with this knife.
Type of Blade
Hands down, without question, you want a "Full Tang" blade. What this means is that the whole knife - from the point all the way down through the handle - is made with one piece of metal. A "Partial Tang" knife will have the blade go part-way into the handle - but that's not good enough. That one piece of metal is going to be far stronger and far better for you for all-purpose use.
Also, think about if your knife handle were to break. If you don't have a full tang blade, how would you modify it to use in the field? Good luck figuring out how to afix the top part of the blade to something to make it usable, whereas even if you somehow found yourself without the plastic grip around the base of the full tang blade, you could still use it. (Got duct tape or cordage to wrap around and around it to create a makeshift handle?) You get the idea.
Finally, do not sacrifice a full tang blade in the name of lightening your load. It's not worth the couple of ounces in weight that you would save by skimping on the type of blade. Full tang, and nothing else.
Blade Length & Thickness
Length: There are a few differing opinions on how long your blade should be. Some think that the best blade length is generally between 5 to 6 inches. Others say 4" - 7" is ideal. Others still want a bit longer blade, and feel 10" is a good length.
You should be good anywhere in that range - and the knives we're showing you below fall within these guidelines.
Thickness: This is another important aspect to consider, and some people don't think about this. You don't want a knife that's too thin. Remember, you may be doing some pretty heavy-duty jobs with this - whether you're hunting and skinning game, cutting through tree limbs, etc, so it needs to stand up to the task without flexing. You need a good, strong blade.
Experts seem to agree that you should look for a blade that is anywhere from about 3/16" (approx 0.1875" or 4.76 mm) to about 1/4" (approx 0.25" or 6.35 mm) thick.
To be sure, there are some really good knives that are a touch thinner - for example, this 4.3" Morakniv Garberg full tang stainless knife is about 1/8" (approx 0.13" or 3.2 mm) thick - and there's nothing wrong with that knife - and its solid square-edge spine does a fine job when using it to carve off some fat wood and strike up a fire.
(Watch this great video by well-known survival expert and Pathfinder Survival School founder David Canterbury, demonstrating this Mora Garberg):
One note: If you are still getting used to working with survival tools, there is no saying you can't start with a bit thinner blade as you learn to handle, work with, and learn to correctly sharpen your knife.
But most of the knives we're featuring range from about 3/16" - 1/4" thick.
GOOD REFERENCE SOURCE: Learn about knife edge grinds here.
Blade Material (Type of Steel)
Metal terminology can sometimes be confusing. Generally speaking, you want a knife crafted from 1095 or 01 tool grade steel, which will have more chromium in it. For your everyday carry (EDC) knife, an easy-to-care for stainless blade will fit the bill; but for this knife, the pros are going to tell you that you should opt for a heavy duty, high carbon steel - the 1095 (01 tool grade) option. Why? Many will say that a stainless blade won't be as easy to sharpen as carbon, but then again, carbon is more likely to rust. There are pros and cons to everything.
You'll notice that most (but not all) of the knives we are featuring are carbon blades, but don't let that put you off from having knives with stainless blades - we've got you covered with a few of those as well.
It is all going to come down to how you plan on using your knives. Put it this way, if you are a carpenter, you likely don't have just one type of hammer, or one type of drill. Think about your survival tools in the same way.
For example, I liked what one reviewer mentioned in an Amazon listing about the all-purpose Gerber Bear Grylls Ultimate Knife with the Serrated Edge (model 31-000751) - "Choose the right tool for the job. Batoning wood? A fine edge could be better than serrated. I say use an axe to split wood."
Exactly. BTW: That Gerber Model 31-000751 we were just referring to is NOT FULL TANG. And we're not recommending it as "the ultimate" knife for survival purposes. But it is definitely a nice all-purpose knife!
You will notice in a few of our choices, the term "1095 Cro-Van Steel." Don't get nervous. What that "Cro-Van" means is "Chromium" and "Vanadium" (and, according to astute Reddit blacksmith contributors, "Molybdenum" as well). Source: Reddit Blacksmith thread
Handle Grip Material
This is another one of those relatively small nuances that many people may not think of right away. But, the grip, and what it's made of is important. You'll want a synthetic grip - not wood or leather.
Now, at first that may seem counter-intuitive since many folks who are interested in living off the land, off the grid, wilderness survival, prepping etc truly love the idea of using items as close to "natural" as possible. But, in a situation like this, you want something that is going to last.
A wood handle can easily warp and split in the wrong atmosphere, and leather can break down.
When choosing your knife, look to ensure that you can see the way the handle is fastened to the tang - most of the time (but not always) you will see screws or rivets on each side. Look at the Ka-Bar BK-22 knife below to see what we mean.
Let's Look at Some Knives
So by now you know that survival knives are specifically designed to help survivalists operate and manage the processes that are necessary for optimal survival - there's that word again!
And if you read through some of the general guidelines above, you know that whether it is cutting wood for shelter or skinning game for a meal, these knives are meant to handle the various tough and rigorous demands of your survival needs.
This is why the standard favorite "Swiss Army Knife" isn't going to be the tool of choice here. Does it have a place in your bug-out bag or survival kit? By all means, yes. But, given a choice for enduring the challenges of being out in the wilderness on your own, you want a knife built for that purpose.
Today we are going to look at the top 10 survival knives available on the market today. We will assess the features of each knife and the strengths and weaknesses of them as well. From there, we will give our final thoughts and leave it to you to decide which one of these knives fits your particular needs.
Ok...now that you have an idea of what to look for in a survival or bushcraft knife, let's take a look at some of top picks!
The Ka-Bar BK-22 is a U.S.-made survival knife that includes features that are designed for maximum survival function. Made from 1095 Cro-Van carbon steel with added Chromium and Vanadium for added resistance to wear-and-tear, this knife is meant to last you for a long time to come.
Included with this knife is a polyester sheath (Made in China) that is specifically-made to ensure the longevity of the knife. With an overall length of 10.5 inches and a blade length 5.25 inches, this full-tang blade makes it easy to deal with rough materials.
While the blade thickness is somewhat high at .25 inches, the design of the blade makes it easy to handle this larger-than-average blade. This thickness also adds to the durability of the blade, which allows you to pry things open with it easily.
While this thickness makes the knife heavier at 1 lb, it makes up for it with enhanced durability. Moreover, the design of the blade's handle allows you to manage the knife as if it were lightweight.
Becker BK-22 vs BK-2
What's the difference between the BK-22 and BK-2? The knives are virtually identical. It turns out that one of the only real differences was that the BK-2's sheath (which was made in Taiwan) had a material in it that was wearing on the blade. The newer, BK-22's sheath (currently made in China) does not have that. The other noticeable difference is that on the newer, BK-22 blade, the coating is upgraded.
By the way, note that the company itself calls it the "Campanion" and not "Companion." It's not a typo.
The Benchmade Bushcrafter 162 really hammers down on features that ensure maximum durability and resistance to various natural factors. Made in the United States, this blade adds extra purchase security by offering a lifetime warranty with the blade.
As stated before, this blade is design for extremely tough conditions and work tasks. The blade is made with CPM-S30V steel and drop-point design for enhanced strength, versatility, and resistance to corrosion of rusting. In addition, The highly-fortified G10, fiberglass handle is soaked in a resin that immunizes the blade from moisture-based damage.
On top of the enhanced durability this particular addition is lightweight and designed for easy use. At little over 7 ounces, this .16-inch-thick blade is easy to handle without sacrificing function and durability. Moreover, the knive's overall length of 9.15 inches and blade length of 4.4 inches makes it the perfect size for easy operation.
In addition, this selection comes with a leather sheath with belt loop for easy carrying.
The ESEE 6P is a favorite among survivalists for it's reliability and versatility. just like the previous blades, this knife is made in the USA, and on top of it's durability features, the ESEE offers its customers a no-questions-asked lifetime warranty.
The knife blade is made with 1095 carbon steel and a Micarta-made handle that makes for a very durable knife. Despite this durability, the knife is relatively lightweight at 12 oz with a .19-inch thickness. In addition to the lightweight nature of the knife, the knife length makes it easy to operate with a blade length of 6.5 inches and an overall length of 11.75 inches.
On thing to note is that the carbon steel is susceptible to rusting. However, the finish on the blade means that you have to lubricate less, which is a big plus. It also comes with a molded polymer sheath with a removable clip.
The Gerber "Bear Grylls" Ultimate Pro is named after the famous, television-starred survivalist himself. As such, you can be sure that this knife is made to withstand a whole host of different survival scenarios that you could experience in your adventures.
This China-made addition is not only made to help you cut and pry with ease and confidence, but also includes features that aren't commonly seen in survival knives. The first of these features rests in the Gerber's firestarter rod, which is stored in a watertight holder.
On top of this, the the stainless steel pommel can act as a hammer that increases your capacity to build tools and shelter in your survival environment. You can even turn the knife into a spear by attaching a stick or pole through the two handle holes fashioned into the knife. Moreover, a special whistle is configured into the knife so that you can alert possible emergency rescuers.
While the added features are nice, it's important that the blade perform the basic functions of a knife well. This full-tang knife is made of 9CR19MoV stainless steel that ensures durability and resistance to rusting. At a weight of 11.2 oz and an overall length of 10 inches (4.8 inches for blade length), this lightweight blade is also easy to operate.
Finally, the blade sheath is designed with features to ensure optimal sharpness. A built-in carbide sharpener is fashioned into each sheath, which not only ensures sharpness, but also saves you the hassle of sharpening it yourself.
As a product baring Bear Grylls' name, it makes sense that each blade comes with a Bear Grylls Survival manual. Moreover, you purchase is secured by a limited lifetime warranty.
Buck Knives delivers a handy and useful survival knife that is made in the USA. As one of the least expensive knives in this list, the Buck 119 Special is designed to give you a quality knife that won't break your wallet in two.
The blade is made with 420HC steel with a 6-inch length that contributes to the overall 10.5-inch length of the entire knife. Add in the extremely lightweight nature of the knife at 7.5 oz and you will find that 119 is designed for easy use.
While the handle is made of phenolic plastic, it is still very durable and easy to grip. This blade also comes with a nylon sheath, which may not be to the liking of some users. However, for the price of the blade, this particular choice offers a lot of value and utility. Moreover, this product comes with a lifetime warranty.
The Schrade SCHF9 Carbon Steel survival knife is an extremely affordable blade that doesn't skimp out on utility and function. This particular blade is manufactured in Taiwan and the handle is made in China, but don't let that convince you that this knife is weak or inferior to others.
This plain-edge knife is made from 1095 High Carbon Steel with a teflon coating to resist rust and increase durability. The handle is crafted from Kraton, a hard thermoplastic elastomer that is very durable and ensures easy and reliable grip.
This full-tang item weighs in just under a pound at 15.7 inches and an overall length of 12.1 inches and a blade length of 6.4 inches. In addition, the sheath comes with adjustable retention strap to cater to your dominant hand. The sheath also includes an extra storage pocket that lends itself to adding customizable parts like belt loops.
Schrade offers its customers a lifetime warranty for replacement parts so that you can continue to use it in the case of missing screws and defective parts. Priced at just under $40, this survival knife packs a lot of punch for such an inexpensive blade.
The Fallkniven A1 is a full-tang blade that is designed to provide you with a high level of utility and range of use. This Japanese-manufactured blade includes features that focus on durability and ease of use.
This blade measures in at an overall length of 11 inches with a blade length of 6.4 inches. At .24 inches of thickness, this particular selection is suprisingly lightweight at 12.8 ounces.
The blade steel is actually a composite of several different metals. The blade consists of a VG10 stainless steel core that is slightly more brittle than 1095 carbon steel. However, with a 420J stainless steel laminate and precisely-crafted geometric design allow it to withstand tough and harsh tasks.
Fallkniven includes 3 different options for a sheath: leather, lefty and Zytel. These options allow you to choose a sheath that fits your needs, whether you need a quiet sheath for tactical situations or a polymer sheath for enhanced security.
There seems to be some differing information about its manufacturing - many reviews call this a great "Swedish" knife; yet the blade is manufactured in Japan (at the time of this writing). Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily. I just wish that the sellers on Amazon would ensure that the product information is updated.
Finally, this product comes with a lifetime warranty to ensure that your purchase is protected. Regularly, I would say that to ensure that you get this warranty, it might be best to buy directly from the manufacturer (which is located in Sweden), as many users have reported problems with warranty eligibility due to buying from 3rd-party vendors. However, the company only lists distributors - and the only one we found in the US (Blue Ridge Knives) didn't appear to carry this one. Just be cautious.
ESEE 4P Knife
This particular piece is yet another survival knife brought to you by ESEE. Manufactured in the United States, the ESEE 4P is designed to match the needs that you will have in your survival scenarios.
The blade is made with 1095 Carbon Steel and weighs in at a light 12 ounces. This full-tang selection comes in at an overall length of 12 inches and a blade length of 4 inches. At a thickness of .188 inches, this knife's dimensions are tailr-made for easy use.
The handle is fashioned from Micarta, a highly-durable thermoplastic elastomer made from phenolic resins. It also includes a molded polymer sheath that enhances resistance to rust.
There have been reported issues of the laminate coating that covers the blade. Many users have reported that this coating wears off somewhat quickly, which increases the susceptibility to rust for 1095 steel. This can be an important factor when using this blade, so it may not be suitable for consistent, heavy-duty use.
In spite of this, ESEE does offer an unconditional warranty that replaces broken blades. So if you do wind up with a malfunction or deterioration of the blade, ESEE will just send you a new one.
The SOG SE38-N is a very lightweight blade that doesn't sacrifice durability and utility for less weight. At 10.5 oz with a blade length of 6 inches, an overall length of 11.25 inches and a thickness of .24 inches, this knife is designed for easy use and handling.
The full-tang blade forged from AUS-8 steel and subjected to SOG's cryogenic heating treatment to increase toughness, durability, strength, and resistance to wear-and-tear.
In addition, the knife's handle is crafted from durable, impact-resistant glass-reinforced nylon that is made to fit into your hand comfortably. This handle can be very useful for breaking glass, but it is not meant to hammer due to the edges' shaper angles.
These features are what allow SOG to claim that the blade is virtually unbreakable, and customers of the blade love the durability and range of utility with this particular knife. Even though it is made in Taiwan, the SOG is not a cheap, flimsy blade. It is great for chopping, slicing, batoning, prying and prying.
Moreover, the blade comes with a simple nylon sheath that is designed to fit this blade perfectly. To top it all off, the SOG comes with a limited lifetime warranty for its customers.
While all the other blades are true survival knives, the original KA-BAR USMC Knife is not a true survival knife. It is a great tool, but it's not a knife that you would want to be your sole bladed-tool for survival situations.
You might be asking, "if this knife isn't a survival knife, then why is it included in this list?" Well, the KA-BAR Fighting Knife was the knife that sparked the production of survival knives in the future. And that means it deserves an honorable mention here.
This original classic first appeared during Word War II. At the time, the Army and Marines were typically using the Mark I blade. However, this blade was inefficient at not only fighting and survival tasks, but it also was extremely problematic to produce.
In order to create a tools that was easy to use and designed for both optimal combat use and performance when dealing with basic survival tasks. There were many options that various branches of the military tried, but in the end the KA-BAR was crafted from the combined efforts of Union Cutlery, USMC Colonel John M. Davis and Major Howard E. America.
While the sheath is made in Mexico, the knife itself is manufactured in the United States. With a full-length of 11.75, a blade length of 7 inches and weighing 11.2 ounces, you can see how the KA-BAR set the stage for future survival knives to come.
Like many of the previous blades that we included, this knife is made from 1095 carbon steel, which made its durability superior to the previous military choice. While primarily designed for fighting, the KA-BAR is also excellent at performing a number of basic survival tasks like opening cans, chopping wood and cutting wires.
In addition to this, the sheath is made of leather as well as the handle. KA-BAR also includes a limited lifetime warranty for the blade, ensuring the security of your purchase.
As you can see from the knives listed above, there is actually a lot of variation among the list of knives we have selected here. Several selections were made in China, while others were made in the USA. There is also a great deal of variation when it comes to the materials that each blade is made of, as well as size and sheathing material.
We really liked the Bear Grylls blade, primarily due to the sheath's built-in sharpening technology. Even though it is Chinese-made, this didn't stop the manufacturers from creating a highly-reliable and durable blade.
This blade also includes a number of add-ons that enhanced its capacity to perform survival functions. It is also fairly inexpensive in comparison to many other models.
Not too worried about price? If that's the case, we honestly don't think you can go wrong with the Ka-Bar BK-22 (or Ka-Bar BK-2 since they are virtually the same knife) or Benchmade Bushcrafter 162. They are both superb knives.
Despite our preference, the best survival knife for you is going to be based on your needs. These selections all contains blades that are highly-durable and made to perform a great deal of survival tasks.
Look at other verified reviews at each listing - preferably the more recent ones since models do change from one year or season to another.
We suggest that you consider your budget when purchasing a survival knife, especially when considering the knives on this list. While the more expensive brands are very good knives, they didn't seem to have the specs that justified being so much more expensive than the other.
We also wouldn't recommend purchasing the KA-BAR USMC Knife if you really want a blade that covers the full-range of survival-knife capabilities. However, it could a be a useful side tool to supplement your survival knife's longevity by using it for more simplistic tasks. It's also become a valued and cherished part of many knife collections. Whatever route you take, we hope that this lists provides you with the survival knife that is right for you.