What Makes a Good Survival Knife?

This site contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

If you are planning on surviving in the great outdoors, especially when times get tough, a good knife is always called for. Yes, here we are of course talking about the survival knife. For those of you who don’t know what a survival knife is, as the name implies, it’s a knife designed to keep you alive.

This is a knife that generally has a fairly long blade, up to 10 inches long. It also has a fairly thick blade, usually more than 1/8 inches thick. In general, it is quite long, thick, and sturdy. A survival knife is also built with very tough materials, such as carbon steel.

Furthermore, survival knives are usually fixed blade in nature and feature full tang designs, which allow for maximum durability and functionality. Survival knives are designed to keep you alive, or in other words, to defend yourself against people and animals. However, they are for more than just that.

They can also be used to chop down small trees, break down firewood, start fires, build shelters, dig for food, hunt for food, build traps, signal for help, first aid, and so much more. These are true lifesaving tools that can help keep you alive when things get tough.

With that being said, not all survival knives are built the same. There are many different materials, shapes, weights, lengths, blade designs, and so much more. There are hundreds and hundreds of different survival knives to choose from.

Therefore, you need to know what makes a good survival knife. If you are to choose a survival knife that will help keep you alive, you need a good one. This is what we are here to help you find today. Let’s get to it and take a look at all of the different facts of what makes a good survival knife.

What Makes a Good Survival Knife?

Let’s take a closer look at all of the different factors that go into making a great survival knife. If you know what these factors are, choosing the best one for your purposes will be easy.

Blade Length

One thing that makes a good survival knife is blade length. For a survival knife to perform a wide variety of tasks, it needs to have a blade of a decent length. Generally speaking, this means that you want your survival knife to have a blade anywhere between 6 inches and 10 inches long.

The longer the blade in question, the bigger the task the knife can perform. We definitely would not recommend going for a survival knife that has a blade any less than 6 or 7 inches. If you plan on chopping down small trees and performing other large tasks, the knife needs to be big enough.

Blade Width

For a survival knife to be able to perform many jobs and to be able to withstand a beating, it also needs to have a decent thickness. Here, the blade of a survival knife should be anywhere between 3/16 of an inch and 1/4 of an inch thick. It should absolutely not be any less than 3/16 of an inch.

Survival knives absolutely need to be able to handle a whole lot of punishment. They need to be able to chop wood, pry items apart, and more. If the blade of your survival knife is too thin, it’s going to snap when you apply pressure to it.

Therefore, getting one that is about 1/4 of an inch thick should be more than good enough. With that kind of thickness, you should be able to do more or less anything to the knife without risking it snapping or breaking.

Overall Length

In terms of the overall length of the knife, this really shouldn’t be any more than 12 or 14 inches at the most. Here we are including the handle. The simple reality is that a survival knife needs to be large enough and also comfortable to use and hold. The longer the knife in total is, the more leverage you will have when trying to cut or pry.

Having a fairly long handle will also make the survival knife in collection fairly comfortable to hold. Once again, to perform large tasks, you also want a pretty big knife. That being said, you also don’t want the survival knife to be too large. Remember, here we are talking about survival knives, not machetes or broad swords.

If the survival knife in question is too long, it’s going to become cumbersome and unwieldy. You’re going to have a whole lot of trouble wielding and maneuvering it if it is too long. Therefore, anything longer than 14 inches should absolutely be avoided.


You also need to pay attention to how heavy your survival knife is. Generally speaking, you don’t want a survival knife to weigh any more than 1/2 a pound. However, you also don’t want this survival knife to be too lightweight. You really don’t want the survival knife to weigh any less than 1/4 of a pound.

If your knife is too heavy, it’s going to be hard to wield. You’re going to get tired carrying it around and you’re going to get tired using it. Moreover, if it’s too heavy, you might have trouble using it for delicate work. Lugging around a cinder block with you all day long just isn’t very fun.

That said, for a survival knife, we would rather go too heavy than too light. If it is too heavy, although you might get tired, at least you know that it’s tough and able to withstand a good deal of punishment. If the survival knife is too lightweight, chances are that it’s not made out of very good materials. If it’s too lightweight, it probably won’t be able to withstand a whole lot of punishment.

What Makes a Good Survival Knife

The Handle – Materials and Design

You also want to pay attention to the handle. A good survival knife is going to have a handle that is ergonomically designed to fit your fingers. For the most part, this means that a good survival knife is going to have finger wells, or in other words, small grooves designed to hold each finger in place. This will allow you to have a good grip on the handle, so that you don’t slip and hurt yourself.

Ideally, you also want the handle to have a good pommel. A pommel will allow your hand to stay in place without slipping because it provides your hand with a stopper. At the same time, a good pommel may also be used as a hammer or striking utensil. Some survival knives also have pommels that are designed to double as glass breakers.

You then also want to pay attention to what the handle is made out of. Generally speaking, although wooded handles look nice, they’re also prone to cracking and absorbing water.

You are much better off with something like a micarta handle, a filled fiberglass the field of nylon handle, or even something like high quality rubber. As long as it’s a tough material that can withstand impact and moisture, you’re on the right track.

Fixed Blade vs Folding

If you plan on getting yourself a good survival knife, you always want to go for a fixed blade knife. Now, folding knives are convenient because they fold. In other words, they fold down to half the size.

This makes them very convenient as far as putting them in your pocket and portability are concerned. Yes, they are convenient, but what they certainly aren’t is tough or useful.

That hinge that a folding knife has is an inherent weak part that is prone to breaking, rusting, and failing when you need it the most. A fixed blade knife has no such hinge, no such moving component, and therefore there is a much lower chance of something breaking.

Folding survival knives are not nearly as tough as fixed blade knives and cannot be used for for heavy duty of purposes. A fixed blade survival knife is going to be able to withstand a whole lot more punishment than a folding knife.

The Tang

You always want to get yourself a survival knife that has a full Tang design. This means that the material which the blade is made out of does not stop at the guard. In other words, the material of the blade, the so-called tang or spine of the blade, goes all the way down through to the end of the handle, right down into the pommel.

This means that effectively speaking, your survival knife is going to be one long piece of unbroken metal. Yes, where your hand goes there will still be material covering the tang if you create a handle.

This automatically means that full tang knives are much tougher and more durable than knives that do not have a full tang design. That metal going all the way down through to the end of the handle allows for great durability. It also has an added bonus of allowing for much better balance. You don’t want to get a survival knife that doesn’t have a full tang.

Blade Material

Another important factor to pay attention to is what the blade itself is made out of. Generally speaking, you have two main choices: carbon steel and stainless steel. Carbon steel is generally considered the best. This is because it is extremely hard and durable.

Carbon steel has great physical resilience towards chipping, scratching, cracking, and snapping. It’s also very hard, so the edge says sharp for a very long time. That said, carbon steel is somewhat prone to rusting. For this reason, many people may choose to go with stainless steel instead. Stainless steel is corrosion resistant.

However, the issue with stainless steel is that it is not nearly as tough or resistance to damage as carbon steel. And therefore, many modern survival minds are made out of what is known as high carbon stainless steel, which provides you with the best of both worlds.

Blade Shape and Design

Something else to keep in mind here is the shape of the blade. Generally speaking, a drop point blade is considered best.

A drop point blade is fairly easy to sharpen, can be used for many purposes, and is quite versatile overall. You then also want to consider whether you want a flat edge or a serrated edge, or a combination of both.

Remember that flat edges are good for certain tasks and serrated edges are good for others. Therefore, you might want to go for a survival knife that has a flat edge on one side and a serrated edge on the spine.

Extras – Fire Starters and More

Some survival knives come complete with items like fire starters located inside of hollow handles. Sure, these things may be useful. However, remembered that if the handle of your knife is hollow, it’s automatically going to be somewhat weak.


No, it’s not like a high cost makes a good survival knife. However, a good survival knife is probably going to cost quite a bit. Therefore, when you go to buy a survival knife, realize that if it has a rock bottom price, the quality probably isn’t much better.


As you can see, there are plenty of different factors that go into a good survival knife. If you combine all of the different factors that we discussed above, finding a top-notch survival knife for your purposes should be easy enough.

Special offer for our visitors

Get your Free Survival Gear Guide

We will never send you spam. By signing up for this you agree with our privacy policy and to receive regular updates via email in regards to industry news and promotions