Whether you’re going out for a day hike or a full trek of the Appalachian Trail, having a solid knife with you is absolutely essential. After all, there’s no telling what may befall you on an outdoor adventure, so it’s absolutely better to be safe than sorry. We’ve covered survival gear before, but there are few pieces of outdoor gear more critical than your best survival knife.
Knives are essential tools for helping you with all kinds of outdoor tasks including cutting rope, branches, starting fires and more. They’re also helpful to have as a defensive tool, should it ever come down to it. More than anything else, it’s just a functional tool that will serve you well time and time again as you go hiking and camping.
Hopefully, you’ll never be in a position where you need a survival knife to survive. But should that situation arrive, you’ll be set with one of these 14 must-have survival knives. Check out our selections below and see which one meets your needs most.
1. Ontario Knife Company 499 Air Force Survival Knife
Carried by Air Force pilots for decades, this survival knife from the Ontario Knife Company may look retro, but it’s decidedly modern in how helpful it is to have alongside you. The blade itself is five inches long to help you cut and trim anything you may need while the reversed sawtooth side allows for, well, sawing effectively. The leather handle helps to give the knife a good grip, allowing you to use it confidently.
2. SOG SEAL Strike Survival Knife
With its specialized SEAL Strike blade, this survival knife from SOG has been field-tested by the best of America’s military to ensure it’s more than capable for civilian use. With a total length of 9.8 inches, the SEAL Strike is considerable, but not in a bad way. Rather, it feels good in your hand and has a solid weight to it when in use. The titanium nitride coating on the blade itself ensures it won’t break down over time, meaning you can consistently use it without the worry of it failing you. And, of course, there’s a sawtooth edge for really difficult cuts.
3. Gerber Ultimate Survival Knife
This survival knife from Gerber is kind of like a Transformer in the sense that there’s more to it than meets the eye. Sure, you’ve got a dependable blade backed by Gerber (one of the absolute best when it comes to knives) but it also includes a dedicated fire starter, striking edge, sharpener, emergency whistle, and a hammer pommel to give you a fully rounded emergency survival kit. And you can keep it close by with a dedicated wrist loop. Just be sure to keep it in its sheath.
4. Smith & Wesson Extreme Ops SWA24S 7.1in S.S. Folding Knife
Who said a dapper-looking, high-quality survival knife has to break the bank? Because the Smith & Wesson folding knife completely proves it never has to. For just under $14, this folding knife is everything you need for all of your basic survival, tactical and EDC needs. It’s quite tiny and weighs only 3.5 oz, so it can easily slip away into your pocket until you need it. If you’re looking for a dependable option to keep on your body at all times, here’s your match.
5. Nisaku RIKUGATANA Japanese Stainless Steel Knife
Coming in with a whopping 7.5-inch blade, this stainless steel survival knife from Nisaku will do some serious damage if used incorrectly, so be careful. This thing is massive and sharp as can be, with an ergonomic handle that is designed for a tight grip when pushing and pulling through any medium. Keep it on your belt for safekeeping and really impress your friends with this sizeable handyman.
6. Gerber Fast Draw Tanto Knife
In a rut and need your knife quick? Gerber’s Fast Draw Tanto knife has you covered. No matter the situation, this knife is best for quick-to-action moments in order to cut, puncture and perform without fail. It’s classically designed for one-handed blade deployment and has an easy-to-grip handle that layers your thumb on comfortably. The blade is only 3 inches long which makes it ideal both for daily chores and outdoor scenarios.
7. Buck Knives 119 Special Survival Knife
With its curved “clip point” blade, this survival knife from Buck Knives provides superior strength, edge retention, piercing and detailing work. The pommel of the blade has dedicated palm swells to help you naturally grip and hold the blade while you perform whatever task you may need. The dedicated blade sheath has a button closure to ensure it won’t slip out and can sit right on your waist for ease of access and use. Plus, the 119 Special’s overall design is inherently vintage-inspired, making it feel like something your dad might have carried — while still being handy and ready for today’s world.
8. Morakniv Companion Knife
Not only is this survival knife absolutely gorgeous, but the Morakniv Companion Knife is designed for ergonomic holding and sharp slicing. The blade is made from high-quality Swedish stainless steel that’s sharp as hell. When the knife begins to dull, it still holds its edge making it easier to sharpen when need be. The extra-long, easy-to-grip handle adds a handsome touch and it sits in a color-matching plastic sheath to really bear a masculine vibe.
9. Barebones Hori Hori Ultimate Knife
Alright, while it’s technically a garden knife, the Hori Hori can cause some serious damage in survival settings. Its look is designed after the classic Japanese garden knife but with a little bit of extra flair, making this baby completely versatile in nature. Use it in your garden (because, duh), for camping or when fighting off a bear in the middle of the woods, if you ever find yourself in the situation. It saws branches with ease and overall packs a serious punch. Or, stab.
10. Gerber GDC Money Clip
Don’t be surprised that we’re adding Gerber to the list a few times, they make some of the best knives you can buy. We love this money clip for its two-in-one capabilities and for the fact you’ll be able to protect your money in two ways. Keep your stash safe inside this durable clip, and if anyone else tries to rob you, you have a way to defend yourself. While there really isn’t much of a need to bring this one on your next hike, we do suggest you snag it just in case.
11. KA-BAR Marine Corps Survival Knife
Looking to channel your inner Crocodile Dundee? Make sure your knife is this KA-BAR survival knife. Aptly named the Marine Corps knife, its 7-inch blade provides plenty of real estate to accomplish a variety of tasks. The blade is made from Cro-van steel, which helps to keep this survival knife both sharp and durable over extended use. Additionally, there’s a guard a top of the hilt to keep your hand from slipping during use, giving it just an extra step of safety while you’re already working to survive.
12. ALBATROSS Best 6-in-1 Survival Pocket Knife
There’s nothing wrong with a little bit of color. This red folding pocket knife from ALBATROSS is the multi-tool you need in the wild. Not only is it a dangerously sharp survival knife, but also an LED light, seatbelt cutter, glass breaker, magnesium fire starter and bottle opener. So no matter your survival situation, you’ll be able to get through it with this knife option. While we don’t always suggest you keep a knife on you because that might be, well, a bit threatening, this is one we definitely do suggest you keep on you because you really never know when you might need it.
13. Gerber Bear Grylls Folding Sheath Survival Knife
Bear Grylls might as well be the name in survival, as his name is just synonymous with the intensity of the outdoors at this point. It also makes him well suited to tackle a survival knife. Developed in partnership with Gerber, this folding health knife has a high carbon stainless steel blade with a drop point that’s well-made for cutting through things such as rope. Additionally, the textured rubber grip helps to reduce slippage while retaining comfort. When folding out the blade, it will snap into place to securely fasten and can even be opened with one hand. If it’s good enough for Bear, it’ll be good enough for you.
14. Tac-Force- Spring Assisted Folding Pocket Knife
We’re gonna say it, we’re total suckers for a rainbow survival knife, so this pocket knife is a true dream. And with over 8,000 five-star ratings on Amazon, it would seem it’s actually a lot of people’s dream. This spring-assist knife is everything you need for everyday carry and survival. It’s built with an aluminum handle to keep a study hold and a glass breaker at the end for emergencies. Deployment is rapid, so be careful because this baby is sharp.