[Editor’s note: this true knife story was submitted by a reader; submit yours to firstname.lastname@example.org.]
Here’s a true story: back when I was much younger in my late 20’s, my brother and I went up to the Adirondacks. It was a hunting and hiking trip celebrating my brother’s recent college graduation.
While walking a steep trail, I lost footing on some wet leaves and fell. As I fell I happened to loosen some rocks, and then I had the helpless silent sensation of falling. I landed hard, I lost my breath, I saw stars. I ended up hurting and herniating two discs in my back. I was barely able to move or roll over without screaming pain. My brother faced the dilemma of whether to go for help, or stay with me. It was getting dark.
He chose to go, but not without starting a fire near me so I could stay warm and so there was smoke and fire he could find to return with help. There was enough small brush in the area that I could use my elbows to shimmy to get more wood to feed the fire.
Luckily for me, I always carry a 499 Air Force Survival knife. However, it was not the best choice that day. It was difficult to use for him or me to cut branches to untangle me or feed the fire. While it could be used for sawing motions, it was not good for chopping or cutting away brush. It did the job it had to do that day, although more difficult than what was needed.
To make a long and painful story short, I was rescued several hours later in the dark by some state rangers whom my brother was able to direct to the location.
I still have my $40 499 Air Force Survival knife and it saved my bacon that day, but have always looked for something better.
The 499 Air Force Survival Knife was originally made in the USA by the Ontario Knife Company, and they still make it today. It has a 5″ blade and a design that’s generally similar to the larger Ka-Bar USMC fighting knife, but at $40 the 499 is considerably cheaper. It’s a fantastic bargain in its own right, although it’s a bit too small for optimal use chopping brush and similar survival tasks.
Our reader was lucky to have a serviceable tool on hand when his day in the woods turned suddenly into a survival situation. It helped him keep his fire burning and signal his rescuers. Tools and fire are what allowed our early human ancestors to survive in a dangerous world of fangs, horns and hooves, and when you find yourself off the grid they’re just as vital now as they were then.