Five tips for choosing a knife for your bug out bag

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5 tips choosing knifeEvery prepper/survivalist/ needs a good knife. Here’s how to pick the one that will work best for you

meatcutting BRs
Your knife may be used for a variety of preparedness-related jobs.

One of the things you’ll need in a bugout bag is a knife. Chances are, it will be used every day. Your preparedness knife may be called upon to gut a fish or rabbit, skin a squirrel, cut rope, whittle a wiener stick, peel a potato, dice carrots, open a can etc. Worst case scenario: It might be used as a weapon.

That’s a tall order for any single implement to handle, so here are some tips and suggestions to help you with choosing a knife.

Think about these aspects:

Steel: IMHO, the blade steel is the most important part of any knife. Carbon steel blades are inexpensive. High carbon steel, such as 1075 or 1095, has good edge-holding ability and is relatively easy to sharpen. I really like tool steels, such as A2 and CPM3v. These are tough and the edge-holding ability is superb. These steels are a little more challenging to sharpen, so do your homework. Sharpening is a survival skill everyone needs to learn.

Folder or rigid blade? Personally, I prefer a rigid blade because they tend to be safer. The weak spot in any folder is the hinge. When it fails or breaks, you end up with two pieces and a cutter that doesn’t work.

pocket knives
Folders come in a variety of shapes, forms and sizes.

Also, a rigid blade is better for cooking because you don’t want food stuff to get in the blade channel.

A folder is a better choice if the knife needs to be less obtrusive, or you want your cutlery to be more compact.

Blade grind: I don’t like specialty grinds on a do-all knife. Serrations, gut hooks or whatever are useful for a very few unique, special cuts, and chances are, it won’t be used enough for those special tasks to justify the blade modification. Besides, serrated edges are traditionally next to the guard, and they take out the most useful part of the blade for whittling. A gut hook has real potential for hooking on your clothes or hand!

Handle: If the handle doesn’t fit your hand, you won’t be able to use it safely for long sessions. The material the handle is made of is less important than the design. Get one that’s ergonomic for you. My wife and daughter have small hands, so they prefer smaller handles than the ones that work for me.

Hess Whitetail edited
Make sure the handle fits your hand.

When it comes to handle material, you can’t beat micarta. This man-made material is virtually bulletproof, and it tends to get “grippier” when wet.

On a recent Mississippi deer hunt, I used micarta-handled knives to field dress two deer. The handles ended up covered with blood and body fluids, but never got slippery at all. If anything, they got tackier.

I also like and have used the soft handles on the Mora 840, the Cold Steel SRK and Master Hunter and Fallkniven F1.

Sheath: Even a folder needs a belt sheath. A folder in your pocket will attract all sorts of lint, dirt etc., and there is always the possibility it might fall out of the pocket. A sheath can be attached to your belt, a daypack, or a rifle sling. The idea is to have the tool easily accessible, and a sheath, IMHO, is the safest way to secure it.

When you get right down to it, what works for me might not work for you. We all have different hand sizes, survival/preparedness considerations and skills. That’s why this gave general characteristics to look for, not specific make and model information. Use these suggestions to pick the best knife for you and your specific situation.

And don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice, if you are at a store or website with trained staff.

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Leon Pantenburg

A journalist for three decades, covering search and rescue, sheriff’s departments, natural disasters and outdoor emergencies, Leon Pantenburg learned many people die unnecessarily or escape miraculously in outdoor emergency situations. Leon now teaches common sense techniques to the average person in order to avert potential disasters.

4 thoughts on “Five tips for choosing a knife for your bug out bag”

  1. It seems that the author of this article doesn’t really understand what a ‘grind’ is. Speciality grinds such as serrations and gut hooks (serrations would be an edge option and a gut hook more of a feature) but no mention of flat,hollow or chisel (to name but a few) grinds. I do realize that it’s impossible to cover all aspects of what is important in a knife, but get the basics right.

  2. It would take a separate, long story to discuss knife grinds. There are many, many different types and variations abound. This post was intended to get the knife selection ball rolling.

  3. II’ve tried many knives and ended up going with and keeping the Victorinox Swiss Knife. For the Kids i prefer “My first Victorninox”.

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