Most important considerations for an outdoor/survival knife

Most Important Consideration For An Outdoor/Survival Knife

  • Blade Type (Fixed vs Folding)

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Blade Steel

    Votes: 1 100.0%
  • Blade Length

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Blade Thickness

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Tang

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Sharpening Ease

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters


Oct 8, 2004
All of the listed factors come into play, but IMHO, "the one you have with you" is not flippant but the most important. If a knife does not feel good in your hand and give you a good feeling of control, you are less likely to have it with you when needed. If a knife is too large and unweildy, weighs you down and gets in your way, draws unwanted attention, you are less likely to have it with you when needed.

Fixed or folder? Doesn't really matter though I prefer fixed. I am not concerned with failure, dirt and grime or any other supposed drawbacks of a folder, I just prefer a fixed blade in a sheath on my belt, easily secured and easily withdrawn when needed.

It doesn't need to be big. A 3 1/2" to 5 1/2" blade is plenty for the tasks I use a knife for. It doesn't need to be overly thick as that makes simple slicing more difficult. I don't need a handle to stash fishhooks, or saw teeth.

I don't care for the American Tanto design, but like clips, trailing points slightly over drop points. Besides ergos, a handle should give fair grip when wet or slimey. It shouldn't freeze to my hand in the cold.

I like plain 1095HC steel hands down over stainless. As long as it has a good heat treat and quench. it is durable yet flexible, easy to sharpen yet will hold a proper edge, and if needed will throw a good shower of sparks if the spine is correctly ground.

I don't like blade coatings and have been known to strip them. I know how to care for a knife and keep it from rusting appreciably. Paint just does not belong on a knife blade, again personal preference.
Feb 7, 2012
I have to agree with a lot of what has been said here already.
My $.02...

Tang/fixed vs. folder considerations: Yeah, as most have
said, I prefer a full tang fixed blade. (My ESEE 4 being my
personal favorite so far.) But there are some very sweet
folders out there now-days, and with proper forethought
and technique I'd totally trust SOME folders. My BM Adamas
or my Spyderco Manix 2 XL for a few examples.

*Some SAK or multi-tool type folders also have other tools
that can be REALLY nice to have, such as an awl or saw.*

Blade length: I feel like if it's long enough that I'd carry it
for edc and to work, (at least 3" cutting edge), it's probably
long enough for most survival tasks. It will probably be
your edc that you have to work with...

Steel: This one gets a bit complicated. What kind of
environment you live in or plan to take it to makes a big
difference in what properties have priority.
And of course there's always personal preference.
But in general a good HT is the most important part of
the steel.

Thickness: I do have a preference, and that's 1/8 to
3/16. But the grind geometry is a lot more important
than the spine thickness. A really narrow blade needs
to be thin to be able to cut well. A wider blade, ground
right can be much thicker and sacrifice very little in
cutting ability.

I think ease of sharpening and ergonomics are by far
the most important attributes in the end. There is no
steel known to man that won't eventually dull. If
you don't get rescued quick, your knife will dull.
So it is important it can be sharpened in the field.
No matter how sharp it is, if it hurts your hand
and causes you to get blisters and infections
in those blisters, that's... demoralizing at best.
And I will step on a limb and say we can all
agree in the value of a positive attitude, which
is necessary to carry on and survive.

Ergos and sharpening.
What good is a knife you can't use?
Last edited:
Dec 30, 2013
Absolutely THE most important feature is handle ergos. If you don't have good ergos then power cuts become impossible. Carving something beyond a pointed stick becomes a pain. Try a skeletonized neck knife for a while and see what I mean.

Blade Type (Fixed vs Folding)- Doesn't really matter. You just need to know how to work around the limitations of each.
Blade Steel- if you have a quality HT this doesn't matter either.
Blade Thickness- same as blade type. Work around what you got.
Blade Length- same as blade type
Tang Type- quality HT and a tang done right...again doesn't matter.
Handle- thick, round and a little contoured. Squared and/or thin handles should be ruled out.
Ease To Sharpen-Meh. If you do a lot of carving then maybe. However I've yet to need a sharpening on a typical camping trip with plain jane 1095. Sharpen it before you go and again when you get back. You can always get a small diamond sharpener if you have a supersteel. This is a non-issue for me.

One thing not on your list that's almost as important as handle ergos is geometry of the knife both in the edge and overall. It can make a huge difference in how easy the knife is to use.

good points, thanks for sharing!