The Best Survival Knives of 2022 (2023)

The Best Survival Knives of 2022 (1)


The premise of the hit survival-based reality TV show Alone is pretty straightforward: contestants fight to stay alive in remote and harsh environments in British Columbia, Patagonia, Mongolia and beyond — last one standing wins. But while previous shows in the genre pitted human versus nature nearly empty-handed, this one lets participants select 10 items from a gear list that includes shelter, bedding, tools, cooking equipment and even food. In Alone's eight-season run, roughly 70 percent of the contestants have chosen a knife.

It's no surprise that a knife is one of the best tools to have on hand when survival is the priority. But some blades are better at the task — which might involve building shelter, creating other tools, hunting and processing wild game, starting a fire and self-defense — than others.

“Typically, survival knives will be moderate-sized fixed blades with size, geometry and features that maximize the durability and versatility of the knife,” says Vance Collver, director of product line management at Benchmade. “Ultimately, a good survival knife is a jack-of-all-trades and master of none.” The sweet spot, he says, is somewhere between a bushcrafting knife and a combat or fieldcraft knife.

"Survival knives should follow the “K.I.S.S.” principle: 'keep it super simple,'" Collver adds. The blade should be robust, long enough for light chopping but not unwieldy, and made of durable steel that can resist impact but is also easy to sharpen. The handle shouldn't be so smooth it's difficult to grip, nor so grippy it causes blisters. And its handle should have a guard to prevent one's hand from slipping onto the blade. "In a survival situation, an injury could be catastrophic," he points out.

Hopefully, you'll never need a survival knife. But if you frequently work or wander in remote locations, one of the following models is your best bet.

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Best Overall Survival Knife


The Best Survival Knives of 2022 (2)


The ESEE-4 checks every box for a good survival knife: it has a full-tang construction split between a 4.5-inch blade and a grippy, comfortable handle; its carbon steel blade is sharp and easy to sharpen; it has a guard for added in-use safety. Its blade is also thick enough to take a beating when you really need to test its mettle but fine enough for delicate work like skinning and bushcrafting. Extras include a molded sheath and an exposed tang butt that's good for hammering. Some might knock its size — if that's you, check out the similar but larger ESEE-6 — but we've found it to be just right: big enough for a wide range of tasks, but small enough that you won't think twice about carrying it. After all, a knife left behind can't keep you alive.

Overall length: 9 inches
Blade length: 4.5 inches
Blade material: 1095 carbon steel (also available in 440c stainless steel)
Blade type: drop point
Handle material: fiberglass
Weight: 8 ounces

Best Upgrade Survival Knife

Benchmade 539GY Anonimus

The Best Survival Knives of 2022 (3)

Blade HQ


To create the Anonimus, Benchmade defined what a survival knife is and then fine-tuned every detail of the resulting definition. The grooved handle is ergonomic and grippy, even when wet. The guard is large, as in top combat knives. And Benchmade paid extra attention to the blade, a five-inch drop point made of CPM CruWear, a high-end steel that expertly balances toughness, durability and edge retention with ease of sharpening. It even has modest corrosion resistance, despite not being stainless. All this leads to the Anonimus's high price tag, but such craftsmanship and materials can't be attained for less. And the list of features goes on to include an oversized choil that can be used with a Ferro rod for fire-making — and a Kydex sheath.

Overall length: 9.8 inches
Blade length: 5 inches
Blade material: CPM CruWearBlade
Blade type: drop point
Handle material: G-10
Weight: 2.6 ounces

Best Budget Survival Knife

Morakniv Companion Spark

The Best Survival Knives of 2022 (4)

Now 20% off

Normally, a price this low would be a red flag and a marker of low quality. But with over a century of Swedish knife making behind it, Morakniv knows how to draw quality into affordable design. The Spark’s 4.1-inch, drop-point blade is made of stainless steel that resists rust and its simple, rubberized handle is comfy and grippy and has an unobtrusive guard. The Companion Spark even comes with an integrated Ferro rod for fire starting in a pinch and a polymer sheath. The materials won't stand up as long as those of other knives on this list, but for less than $30, you simply can’t do better.

Overall length: 8.8 inches
Blade length: 4.1 inches
Blade material: Swedish stainless steel
Blade type: straight back
Handle material: TPE rubber
Weight: 4.5 ounces

Best Bushcraft Survival Knife

Cold Steel SRK


The Best Survival Knives of 2022 (5)

Now 33% off

There's plenty of crossover between bushcraft knives and survival knives. Bushcraft blades tend to be smaller and nimbler with narrower blades for tasks that require a high degree of finesse, while survival knives are bigger, burlier and more general purpose. The SRK represents the best of both, bringing tactical features like a guard and robust clip-point blade to a design that's clean and minimal. Its carbon steel is easy to sharpen and hell, if Navy SEALS rely on it for Basic Underwater Demolition training, you probably can too.

Overall length: 10.75 inches
Blade length: 6 inches
Blade material: SK-5W
Blade type: clip point
Handle material: Kray-Ex
Weight: 8.2 ounces

That Little Hole in Your Swiss Army Knife Has a Surprising Use

The Best Survival Knives of 2022 (6)

Gear Patrol

It could save your behind in the backcountry — or at least help you keep your pants up.


Best Old-School Survival Knife

KA-BAR Becker Kephart

The Best Survival Knives of 2022 (7)

Now 14% off

(Video) Best Camping Knives of 2022 | Knife Banter

Next to contemporary synthetic materials, wood is sometimes considered too smooth a handle for a survival knife. But plenty of knife companies that have forged their reputations on the classic material still use it today (looking at you, Scandinavians). The Becker Kephart is a modern rendition of an American classic — its name refers to Horace Kephart, an outdoorsman who literally wrote the book on bushcraft back in 1906 — and spent most of his life in the woods and mountains with a similar blade at his waist.

Ka-Bar's update follows the original closely with a broad blade and a walnut handle that includes a subtle guard. It was designed by Ethan Becker and is definitely less tactical than most modern survival knives. (If you lean that direction, try Ka-Bar's wildly popular BK2 Companion, also designed by Becker.)

Overall length: 9.6 inches
Blade length: 5.1 inches
Blade material: 1095 Cro Van carbon steel
Blade type: drop point
Handle material: walnut
Weight: 6.4 ounces

Best Folding Knife for Survival

TOPS Knives Fieldcraft Folder

The Best Survival Knives of 2022 (8)

Folding knives typically don't make great survival knives, and Collver explicitly warns that any instance of design complexity is an opportunity for failure. In a folding knife, that's the pivot. So if you must use a folder for survival, be sure it's burly. TOPS's Fieldcraft Folder is the pivoting version of a fixed blade of the same name and comes with many of the features that have made that knife a favorite, including a finger guard, micarta handle and carbon steel that's easy to sharpen. Its blade is longer than many folders’ at nearly 4.5 inches, and a liner lock keeps it safely deployed. Remove the pocket clip for a more ergonomic grip (it comes with a leather sheath as an alternative carrying method).

Overall length: 9.9 inches
Blade length: 4.4 inches
Blade material: 1095 carbon steel
Blade type: drop point
Handle material: canvas micarta
Weight: 7.5 ounces

Best Multi-Tool for Survival

Leatherman Signal

The Best Survival Knives of 2022 (9)

(Video) Top 10 BEST Survival Knives - Mora / Gerber / ESEE / TOPS / Ka-Bar - Best Blades

Again, Collver's warning against complexity rings loud when it comes to multi-tools and all their moving parts, and the knife blade on any multi-tool is likely too short and too flimsy by the standards of legit survival knives. But survivalists still rely on them, and the Signal is packed with functions for staying alive in less severe (and likely more common) conditions. The list includes a partially serrated high carbon stainless steel knife, a saw, a whistle, a Ferro rod, a hammer, a sharpener, a can opener, pliers and a whole lot more (19 total). At the size of a standard pocket knife, you can throw it in your pack and forget about it until the moment you need it most. You can always combine it with one of the other knives on this list, too.

Overall length: 4.5 inches closed, 6.75 inches open
Blade length: 2.73 inches
Blade material: 420HC stainless steel
Blade type: Wharncliffe, partially serrated
Handle material: stainless steel
Weight: 7.5 ounces

Best Small Survival Knife


The Best Survival Knives of 2022 (10)

Controversial pick alert! Many will say that to be considered a survival knife, the knife must meet a minimum length. There's no consensus on what that length is, though nine inches is a common medium. The Izula-II is only 6.75, and only 2.63 of those inches are portioned to its blade. That's about the length of an EDC pocket knife, but the Izula-II can handle itself in far more rigorous situations than those types of knives can.

Like our top pick, the ESEE-4, the Izula-II uses 1095 high carbon steel that's coated for corrosion resistance and easy to sharpen. Its micarta handle is comfy and, despite its size, allows for a full-handed grip. The blade design includes an extended ricasso — that's the flat, unsharpened side portion of a blade near the start of the handle — that effectively extends the handle and forms a guard in the process. So, even though it's the smallest knife on this list, the Izula-II still has all the characteristics of a good survival blade. And at just 3.2 ounces, there's no excuse not to bring it on any outing that involves a little bit of risk.

Overall length: 6.75 inches
Blade length: 2.6 inches
Blade material: 1095 high carbon steel
Blade type: drop point
Handle material: canvas micarta
Weight: 3.2 ounces

The "Knife" I Use Most Often Isn't Even a Knife at All

The Best Survival Knives of 2022 (11)


For most jobs, Gerber's super-affordable keychain tool is all you really need.


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(Video) Survival vs Bushcraft Knives. What is the Difference?


The Best Survival Knives of 2022? ›

“He gave it everything he got—a job well done,” as Creek put it. That kit was an Ontario Knife Company's Black Bird SK-5 wilderness survival knife with a sheath designed by Paul Scheiter of Hedgehog Leatherworks. It was the sheath that had Creek thinking about how to fine-tune the products he offered going forward.

What survival knife does Creek Stewart use? ›

“He gave it everything he got—a job well done,” as Creek put it. That kit was an Ontario Knife Company's Black Bird SK-5 wilderness survival knife with a sheath designed by Paul Scheiter of Hedgehog Leatherworks. It was the sheath that had Creek thinking about how to fine-tune the products he offered going forward.

What is Bear Grylls favorite knife? ›

Bear Grylls mainly uses the Gerber Swagger Knife (Serrated Edge, Drop Point).

What knife do Navy SEALs use? ›

Navy SEALs (USA) – Survival Rescue Knife (SRK)

This knife has a blade length of 6” and a solid 5mm thickness. Meant to be used in the most gruelling conditions, the SRK is an essential tool used by one of the most elite units in the world.

What knife did Jim Bowie carry? ›

James "Jim" Bowie (1796-1836) who died at the Alamo made the "Bowie knife" famous in the "Sandbar Fight" duel he fought in 1827. Bowie knives became a fad so popular that factories in England and Germany turned out thousands for export to Texas and the West.

What knife does the CIA use? ›

What knife does the CIA use? Duane Dieter's Master of Defense CQD knife is supreme. This custom blade is manufactured with a strap cutter, glass-break prong, friction tape, and a custom seal containing a serial number on the blade. A small and large version of this knife are issued to unit operators.

What knife does Cowboys use? ›

The traditional cowboy knife is a straight-edged blade with a simple wooden handle. Cowboys designed this type of knife in the late 19th century to perform various tasks, including skinning animals and cutting rope. It typically featured one sharp edge and one blunt edge, with no guard on either side.

What knife marines use? ›

The Ka-Bar USMC fighting knife is a legendary blade that was first designed to serve US troops during World War II. Now, more than 50 years later it still offers the same high-quality design you can depend on. It boasts a 1095 carbon steel blade that is epoxy powder coated and a stacked leather handle.

What knife do soldiers carry? ›

A combat knife is a fighting knife designed for military use and primarily intended for hand-to-hand or close combat fighting. 'F-S Fighting Knife”, the famous Fairbairn–Sykes fighting knife, developed for Commandos during World War 2 and adopted by numerous Special Forces post-war.

What knife do Green Berets carry? ›

This knife is known to the U.S. Army Special Forces as "The Yarborough" and to everyone else as "The Green Beret Knife".

What knife is on the Delta Force patch? ›

USASOC's shoulder sleeve insignia worn by Delta operators, depicting the historical Fairbairn–Sykes fighting knife inside the outline of an arrowhead.

What knife do fighter pilots carry? ›

The USAF Pilot Survival Knife is the best and most versatile survival knives. This iconic survival knife is carried used by US Armed Forces for generations. The 5 inch carbon steel blade is Parkerized to eliminate glare. The blade also has zinc phosphate finish to prevent rust.

Which knife is best for everything? ›

There is no knife more essential than a chef's knife. The ultimate multipurpose blade, it can do just about anything that needs to be done, whether you're chopping an onion or carving a roast.

What is the best length for a survival knife? ›

Having used many survival knives, I've found the ideal size to be around 9-11 inches in length. For example, my Blackbird SK-5 survival knife pictured below is 10” in OVERALL length with a 5” blade.

What knife is issued to Rangers? ›

The Trench Knife M3 has been developed to fill the need in modern warfare for hand-to-hand fighting. While designated for issue to soldiers not armed with the bayonet, it was especially designed for such shock units as parachute troops and rangers.

What survival knife did Rambo use? ›

When we say “Rambo knife,” we first think of the Jimmy Lile-designed survival knives that were used in First Blood (1982) and Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985). But there were four movies in the series, and in Rambo III (1988) John Rambo actually carried a bowie designed by Gil Hibben.

What knife does Doug Marcaida carry? ›

Doug Marcaida Talon Fixed Blade Karambit.

What knife did Billy the Kid use? ›

DESCRIPTION (as if it matters!): Standard Green River skinning or butcher knife with a well-worn, full-length blade, 5 1/2" exposed and 9 3/4" overall. The handle is 3-rivet style, with wood slabs or scales. The handle shows heavy wear and is 3/4" thick.


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