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The problem with 'survival' knives

Discussion in 'General Knife Discussion' started by Camillus, Sep 4, 2015.

  1. Camillus


    Jun 3, 2015
    I've been looking into getting a Becker or similar large knife for a while, and am struggling to make a lot of sense of what I am reading about 'survival knives' on these and other forums. The knives that people are reviewing seem to mainly get assessed on their ability to baton wood, with all other features ranking a distant second against this consideration. All the Youtube videos I have watched involve people smashing these knives into bits of wood with other bits of wood, and then commenting on whether the knife 'performed' or did not.

    I fail to see how smashing up bits of pre-sawn wood with a knife has any relevance to an actual survival situation. Why and in what circumstances would you do this? What exactly are these smaller bits of wood used for, and how did the larger logs that are being batoned get sawn up? How much energy/calories are being expended on this task, and to what end?

    The main relevance of the test seems to be that it is used to justify selecting a really large knife with a very thick blade. No other 'survival' test I have seen being performed in a Youtube video seems to require this blade size and strength as an attribute. The trade-off is that the larger knife may make a hopeless spear point, or be poor at food prep, first aid, or the countless other tasks that a small knife performs much better.

    This got me thinking, what tasks are relevant in a survival situation? I just don't think I know. There could be a whole bunch of stuff - it depends where you are trying to survive and what you are doing. Certainly, the type of tasks that a backpacker or trekker uses a knife for would be relevant, but so would the tasks that a hunter does, and probably a general handyman as well. But the more you think about those varied types of situations, the less likely it seems that you would actually be relying on one knife as a multipurpose survival tool. You would need to be on your own, in remote wilderness, without a vehicle, and having to live off the land, all of which seems very unlikely. The most likely way this could come about is if you were already in the wilderness for the purpose of trekking or hunting, and somehow gotten lost, and then needed to live in the wilderness for a protracted period of time with very limited resources. Generally, this situation would befall someone who was inexperienced in the outdoors, couldn't navigate and hadn't make contingency plans if anything went wrong. If that person was a hunter or trekker, and was a knowledgeable outdoors man, they would have selected a knife primarily for its hunting or trekking capability, not for survival purposes. Their knife would not have been chosen for its ability to smash large bits of wood into smaller bits of wood. Nor would they select a knife based on building large or complex structures, trail clearing, farming or other tasks that knives like Kukri's are used for.

    In real life terms, how many people do we know have been in this type of situation and have reported back on their knife's utility? Are there any reports of people getting lost and having to survive who lament the fact that they were only carrying their hunting knife and not something 'designed' for 'survival'?

    All of which makes me think that a 'survival' knife might make a great truck knife, where it may perform a range of different purposes, or if it could also be used as a self-defence weapon, it might be useful tool for a soldier (or more likely, an airman or driver who is pressed for room but not for weight), but the type of 'survival' tasks that you see people using 'survival' knives for on Youtube videos seem completely inappropriate when considered against a real, as opposed to an imaginary, survival situation.
  2. okto


    May 13, 2014
    The purpose of making big bits of wood into smaller ones is primarily to make a fire. Fire gives you heat, animal repellence, visibility, and cooking ability, so it's pretty important.

    People like big and heavy in a "survival" knife because all things being equal, big and heavy = hard to break.
  3. Mr.TheKing01


    Sep 4, 2015
    The only reason I could see anyone bat inning wood would be:a) firewood or b) making shelter and I don't really think batoning wood is necessary for those tasks because a) you do not need to split firewood and b) making a debris shelter or tarp shelter you wouldn't need to baton wood at all. I agree with you on the fact that food prep,fire starting, skinning/gutting animals, cutting down small trees, cutting cordage, etc
  4. Mr.TheKing01


    Sep 4, 2015
    Is more important than batoning wood
  5. bdmicarta

    bdmicarta Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 16, 2012
    First ask what are you trying to survive?

    If you will be caught in the wilderness in cold weather with no protection, it would be helpful to be able to chop up some wood. Otherwise I think batoning is mostly a fad. There are stories of people that were in the wilderness in the cold rain, and of course there would be no dry wood to start a fire with. If you start splitting a piece of wood you can get to dry wood inside and that might enable you to make a fire. Of course you could carry more appropriate fire making gear with you, or proper clothing, if you have the forethought to bring along a knife.

    If you work in a highrise office building and there is a catastrophe you may need to be able to escape by prying open doors or cutting through drywall in which case a heavy thick blade might be helpful. When I worked in a highrise I had a small bag with a Cold Steel GI Tanto, a small pry bar, a chunk of 2x4, and a big flashlight. I'm sure there are other items that might have been useful but I already had all of this gear so it was easy to include.
  6. KingMC

    KingMC Sergeant Snark Platinum Member

    Jul 25, 2014
    Are you carrying more than one tool? If so, then the knife shouldn't be a beastly knife that can survive tons of abuse because you'll be using it like a knife, since you'll have an axe/saw/both for wood prep. Is the knife your only tool? Better hope it's tough, because fires don't get started with rounds and branches that aren't split/prepared, and while a Mora can handle small wood it can't lop off branches to be used to make the small wood it needs.

    It comes down to how prepared you want to be: you want a full wood kit? Get a normal knife. If you only want one knife, you're gonna need a tough one or else you won't be very good at many things.
  7. willseeyalater


    Jan 7, 2012
    Does anyone remember the guy out in North Dakota whose arm got stuck in an auger? For him a survival knife was a SAK which he used to amputate his own arm Whatever happened to that guy anyway, sure was no victim of circumstance if you ask me.
  8. dug24


    Jan 21, 2014
    I kinda see where the OP is coming from. How many reviews do we need of the popular choppers batonning another log? I'd like to see some filleting fish or field dressing a deer. Reviews of the big knives doing these tasks will really help me decide which one I will buy in the near future.
  9. stabman

    stabman Gold Member Gold Member

    Sep 17, 2007
    The wood doesn't have to be sawn to be split. :)

    Your post seems less to be "The Problem With Survival Knives", and more "The Problem With YouTube". ;)
  10. mete

    mete Gold Member Gold Member

    Jun 10, 2003
    A BK-7 makes a fine truck knife ,just like the one I have !
  11. gonebad395

    gonebad395 Ironworker! Platinum Member

    May 19, 2015
    besides cutting wood for fire which in a survival situation which is vital to survival and morale. it can be used for protection from wild animals, tied to a large stick to hunt fish in shallows or game. also a larger blade knife could be used to dig a hole for a dew catch for drinking wate. there are lots of use for them does everyone need one probably not as not everyone put themselves in these situations. for the most part the sales of these are for people going in the woods battoning wood for fire but wth its there money batton away

    also as going into the woods with the equipment to survive most do in their packs but if a fall happens and you lose your pack you almost always have your knife strapped to your leg just my 2 cents
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2015
  12. Seriousbladeno1


    Sep 11, 2014
    I like your comment and thread Camillus.

    Well,I d say a lot of adventurer is within every boy or man and bond between man and knife is as old as bond between man and woman.

    Personally I do not mind who does what with his blade and how he is testing it,many videos and reviews are real jokes too,you are right here.Splitting logs would be very unlikely in any situation of person being lost or on the run in wilderness,for simple reason and that is-there will be no logs available anywhere prepared for him....Cutting branches wet or dry yes,but not splitting and batoning. The only purpose are these guys possibly doing it is to see durability of their knife.... This task is similar to penetrating bonets of the cars or penetrating large barrels made of steel....too very often task measuring how tough and durable knife is.

    When it comes to fact and the bottom line: survival knife is the knife that you have on you in any situation that endanger your life in any way..... (attack from animal or human,lost in wilderness,or being on the run from something)....

    I personally always preferred sturdy rather tough blades not necessary the monsters neither dwarfs,just about right size....Into the wilderness I would always carry one large thick bladed knife and other small for fine work on meat,skin,food and cloths preparation,large for cutting /chopping branches and possible defence from animals,human attacks etc.So I am finding greatest combination in one large and one small fine knife-both fixed blades only...
  13. stabman

    stabman Gold Member Gold Member

    Sep 17, 2007
    This log was just sitting there.


    Photo is actually from 2010...the cold was screwing up the camera.

    No sawing, no even ends, just a chunk of tree laying on the forest floor. :)

    Did I need to split it?
    Nope, but why the hell not? ;)

    But anyway, you don't need sawn ends, and the woods is full of...wood.
  14. Inazone

    Inazone Gold Member Gold Member

    Aug 27, 2012
    It's all situational. If someone will feel better knowing that they can baton wood with their knife, or saw through the fuselage of a crashed airplane, or kill a bear with it, more power to `em. Considering the sheer overkill that most knives provide when it comes down to normal, everyday cutting tasks, the survival knives start to seem less ridiculous.
  15. Wormil


    Sep 11, 2007
    I think if extra thick knives were useful they would have been the norm prior to the 19th century.
  16. bt93

    bt93 Gold Member Gold Member

    May 12, 2015
    The purpose of batonning wood is in case all the wood was wet like after a long rain storm. You split the wood to get to the dry stuff. With that said a small camp hatchet like a short handled all metal Estwing that's carried at Home Depot does the job far superior than any knife. I agree about batoning though, a knife is used for so much more. I carry a Buck 110 Folding Hunter when I'm doing outdoorsy stuff, there will be no batonning with that. I also like to take my small hatchet in case there isn't enough wood on the ground.
  17. killgar


    Sep 24, 2002
    Youtube is not reality, it's Youtube. There are a lot of posers and knucklheads and wanna-be experts on Youtube trying to be internet stars, feed their egos, and get attention.

    I don't personally know of anyone who has ever used a large fixed-blade to save themselves in the wilderness, but I also don't personally know of anyone who has used an emergency fire starter, flare gun, or satellite phone to save themselves in the wilderness. Doesn't mean that people haven't. There are lots of stories of wilderness survival reported by the media, but they don't always go into detail about every piece of equipment the survivors used.

    There's more than one tool that can be used to chop, cut, and split small pieces of wood/tree branches in the wild. Hatchet, axe, saw, knife. It's all a matter of personal preference and what type of wood processing a person thinks they may encounter. If all a person expects to do is split some downed tree branches or chop some branches off a tree to make a shelter, a big knife might work just fine, and it can also be used as a knife.

    What is a fixed-blade? It's a piece of sharpened steel with a handle attached. And as such, it has several uses, and is a very versatile tool.

    As far as the notion that people who find themselves in survival situations are inexperienced and/or lack wilderness knowledge, there are many situations a person can unexpectedly find themselves in regardless of their knowledge or experience level. I'd imagine that many highly knowledgeable outdoorsmen with decades of experience have gone down in bush planes, or experienced vehicle trouble or suffered injuries that left them stranded, or experienced sudden and unpredictable changes in weather, flash flooding, etc, etc.

    I wouldn't necessarily judge a person by the fact that they found themselves in an emergency survival situation. Instead, my opinion of them would be based on how they dealt with it, and how they got out of it.
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2015
  18. Mazer415


    Oct 25, 2014
    Have you thought about getting a small axe. NO knife can do it all.
  19. Mazer415


    Oct 25, 2014
    Have you thought about getting a small axe. NO knife can do it all efficiently
  20. HwangJino

    HwangJino Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 2, 2012
    If survival, i think a large knife is useful.
    If bushcrafting, just a simple scandi ground knife will do.

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