There is no specific way of defining a survival knife. One can say that any knife that lets you survive in a difficult situation is a survival knife. However, there must be a few characteristics or features of such a knife. 

Not every knife ensures your survival in harsh circumstances. The most obvious thing is the strength. Hence, to start with, we can say that these knives are the ones that are extremely powerful. 

In this article, we will uncover several features and characteristics of a survival knife. These are the defining things that need to be present in a knife that is supposed to be used for survival. 

Following are those essential features:

1. Full Tang, Fixed Blade

The foremost feature of a survival knife is that it has a fixed blade. By fixed blade, I mean the one that is not foldable. We have two types of blade these days, including folding blades and fixed blades. 

Folding blades are present in the small sized pocket knives that are used for self defense these days. However, these blades are not considered very durable and strong. Since they are movable, they don’t possess enough power to serve your survival in the wilderness. 

On the other hand, a fixed blade is regarded as extremely powerful. It can’t be folded or moved either. It can be used for heavy duty cutting work like digging and batoning. A folding blade on the other hand does not have the power to do such tasks. And you know that you often need to do such things in wilderness survival. 

“Fixed blade is hard to break and requires less maintenance.” 

Also, there is no chance for any accidental injury. A folding blade can accidental fold back while using and hence you can suffer an injury. Since fixed blade can’t be moved, it prevents you from such injuries. Therefore, a survival knife needs to have a fixed blade to ensure strength and avoid accidental injuries. 

Fixed blades are of two types, partial tang and full tang. A full tang blade is the one that extends throughout the handle while a half tang or partial tange blade does not extend all the way through the handle. 

“A survival knife should have a full tang blade for some reasons.” 

A full tang blade is sturdier than partial tange blade. It is further strong because it contains more steel. Hence, it is impossible to break. Remember the knife you require in wilderness survival should be the strongest so that it does tasks requiring heavy duty cutting. 

A full tang knife can easily leverage and pry open things without breaking apart the handle. So, survival knife needs to have a full tang fixed blade. 

2. Neither Small Nor Large Blade

Another key feature of a survival knife is that it should have an appropriate blade size. Generally, it depends upon the tasks you want to do with your knife. 

A survival knife should have a blade of length ranging between 4 to 6 inches. This is a length that is neither small nor large. Such a moderate length is ideal in a survival situation. 

Why do the lengths of blades matter? Small knives have their shares of pros and cons. Similarly, larger blades offer different advantages and drawbacks. 

A smaller knife is less versatile but it is easy to carry. A larger knife causes hassle while carrying it due to its giant size. 

Most of the survival knives are evolved from larger knives, such as machetes and bowie knives. If the blade is larger, heavy duty cutting tasks such as cutting wood, digging and clearing bush etc. become easier. For instance, if you are to survive in a jungle, you need to clear obstacles, cut bush and fight wild snakes. 

“During such situations, only a massive knife can help. However, in more 

temperate regions, you would need a small knife for survival.”

Hence, an appropriate size for a survival knife should be 4 to 6 inches and 10 to 15 cm. This is large enough for heavy duty tasks like cutting trees and small enough for doing tasks requiring accurate cutting such as skin game, tool making and wood carvings etc. 

So, a knife between 4 and 6 inches are suitable for all sorts of tasks. They provide a good balance between versatility and bulkiness. In addition, they are pretty durable. So, you can choose any of these lengths but make sure to first consider your needs or things you want to do with the knife. 

3. Carbon Steel Blade Material

Blade material is one of the most important things to consider in a survival knife. A preferred material for these blades has to be carbon steel. 

99 out of 100 times, the knife you purchase would have a steel blade. That one chance is that you may get a knife with a titanium blade. 

Knives designed for survival usually have two types of blade materials, stainless steel and carbon steel. Both are advantageous, but carbon steel is slightly better than stainless steel. 

The greatest advantage with a stainless steel blade is that it is easy to maintain. It does not corrode and rust. It retains its edge for a pretty long time. The issue with this blade is that sharpening it is a great challenge. 

Carbon steel blade offers a sharper edge than stainless steel blade. Also, it is pretty easy to sharpen it. However, it does corrode and rust which is the only issue with this blade. But,  if you don’t mistreat it, you can avoid the issue. 

For a short camping in the wilderness, you can choose a stainless steel blade, but it won’t last longer afterwards. On the other hand, carbon steel blade would last longer because you can sharpen it. You would realize the difference if you try using both on different occasions. 

A carbon steel blade won’t be impacted by heavy use while stainless steel blade would lose its sharpness. In the wilderness survival, you need to cut wood and the right way of doing it is by using carbon steel knife rather than stainless steel blade. 

Hence, a survival knife does not afford to have a dull blade. A carbon steel blade is the right choice! 

4. Thick, Single Edged Blade

A few key features of a survival knife include thick blade with a single edge and a flat top of the blade. Such a knife feels like hammer which actually makes it tough and appropriate for survival. 

As far as edges are concerned, there must not be more than one. Double edged knives are more suitable in combat. But, when you need to survive in the wilderness, you should have a single edged knife

Double edge on a blade can be dangerous at times. It can tear someone apart but your own hands are on a risk as well. You may receive some cuts on your own hands too. 

Imagine yourself in a car that just had an accident. A double edged knife may not be convenient for cutting the seat belt and setting yourself free. You may also hurt yourself with an edge that is on the other side of the blade. 

“Single edged knives are better for precision work and 

also pretty safe to use.”

A survival knife must have a thick blade because it is supposed to be durable and powerful. Since it is used for both heavy duty and precision cutting tasks, a thick blade would last longer. 

In a life threatening situation, you need a solid knife that doesn't break. Thinner blades often disappoint in such situations. Once you do some heavy duty tasks with them, they would break soon after. 

One can’t suggest how thick the blade needs to be. However, it should b thick enough that it ensures your survival by cutting the hardest of materials. 

Don’t worry about precision tasks. Once you have a flat top of the blade, your knife become versatile and good for precision cutting. 

Jimping is another key feature of this knife. On the spine of the blade, there are a few notches closer to the handle. This offers more friction when using thumb for different cutting tasks and carving wood. 

So, an ideal survival knife has a flat top with a thick and single edged blade. But, jimping is another key necessity. 

5. A Comfortable Handle

Two important things make a knife, a blade and a handle. Once you have the right blade, the next focus in on the handle. Generally, a survival knife needs to have a comfortable handle. 

“A comfortable handle means a handle that fits well in your 

hand and offers good control over the knife.”

Many knives come with handles that cause discomfort to your hands. A lack of control over the knife can be seriously dangerous. You may end up getting a few cuts on your own hands. 

Let’s say you have to survive in bad weather conditions by building a shelter in a forest. What if you have not done even half of the work and you have already hurt yourself? What a disappointment it would be! 

A handle that does not fit in your grip can be damaging as well. At a point of time, it may slip from your hands and result in an accidental stab in your own body. 

Handle of a survival knife should be gripped tightly in your hands. However, it is not necessary that you hold it as tight as you can. In the end, you should be comfortable and stable while using the knife. 

Just like blade, handle can be chosen as per the requirement. For example, all of you don’t have similar sized hands. A few have small hands while others have large. Therefore, you can choose the one that fits perfectly in your hands. Before you purchase your knife, hold it in your hands and feel the comfortability of the handle. 

We won’t suggest a specific material for the handle. But, we do suggest to check the texture on the handle. At times, textures on the handles cause irritation to the hands. The handle should feel soft and comfortable to the hands. 

To conclude, the handle of a survival knife must not grate on your hands. Ideally, the handle should be textured rubber. For a better grip, it may have notches and dents. 

6. Sharp Pointed Tip

Sometimes during a survival situation, you need to drill holes into the wood. For example, while building shelter, you need to make holes for tying ropes. This is where your survival knife should come to rescue.  One of the features of this knife is that it contains a sharp pointed tip or a drop point. 

“A sharp pointed tip helps prying something open and drilling holes into 

harder materials like wood and plastic.”

If your blade only has edges and no drop point, it can’t be a great knife for survival. Tasks like building shelter, camping require you to drill and pry something open. For this purpose, only a knife with drop point assists. 

7. Partially Serrated Blade

Partially serrated blade refers to a blade that has half serrated blade. There are a few occasions during wilderness survival where you need a serrated blade. For example, sawing small diameter limbs. Serrated edge also provides more versatility. 

A knife with fine blade and no serrations can still be called a survival knife. However, it is not ideal in all sorts of situations. Hence, a preferable option should be a partially serrated blade. 

Sheath: An Essential for Your Survival Knife!

Sheath is not essentially a feature of survival knife, but it is still a necessity. Once you get this knife, you should get a protective sheath straight away. 

A sheath is essential because it makes it easy to carry. It covers the knife to protect the blade and also protect you from the blade. Once the blade is covered, you can carry your knife in the pocket as well. 

Hence, once your survival knife has the right features, make sure it has the right sheath covering its blade as well!