About a month or so ago Darren Ian, the purveyor of the online retailer TopSpecUS.com contacted me about a piece he was putting together for the relaunch of their blog. The post, “An Army of Experts Share Tips on Choosing the Best Survival Knife” went live today.
I have to admit that I hadn’t heard of their site, but they have 66k likes on Facebook (including TTAK’s own Nathan), but more importantly to me a thorough perusal of their previous posts proved Darren and the site’s bona fides.
Darren was interviewing a panel of “experts” in the fields of knives and wilderness survival to answer the question: “What is the most important trait you look for in a survival knife?” The panel was made up of survival bloggers, knife writers such as myself, and one individual whose CV blows me away to be included on the same panel with.
JJ’s (neither the TopSpec piece nor his blog Reality Survival give his full name) bio includes service in the USAF as a SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape) Instructor. His blog is an incredibly in-depth guide to survival and prepping, and I plan on returning to browse further in the future.
I feel I have a solid knowledge base on woodcraft and survival, but that is lofty company for a guy who sometimes still considers himself a Trout Bum who gets paid to write about knives. That being said, I stand by my answer and put it up against the other ones with confidence.
I said “The single most important consideration for a survival knife is Trust“.
There are two coincidences that made me smile. The first is that this comes out on the heels of my Brian Williams stolen valor editorial last night where trust was a theme. The other is that another blogger, Thomas Xavier, independently chose the same word when I thought my answer was somewhat unconventional. I go onto explain:
“You need a knife that says ‘I will not fail you.’
The number one rule for survival, if I remember my merit badge, is ‘maintain a positive mental attitude.’ I can think of little more devastating to one’s personal morale than to have a tool fail at a critical time. With a good knife and the knowledge you carry in your head, you have the foundation to begin to take control of your situation.”
Thomas’s explanation is similar to mine. He specifies trust in the manufacturer and materials as well, while I did not specifically mention these I believe that they are inherent in the relationship you have with the tool in question. I stressed a more emotional /morale component between the survivor and their tool.
There were 3 closely related answers referring to the blade’s size. Their argument being that cultures that live in the woods rely on tools such a kukris, machetes, and other larger edged tools. I can understand their point, though I have managed to deal with some pretty significant wood processing with my 4.25″ bladed Mora Bushcraft. The Wilmont Wharny that I am currently testing is a heck of a chopping and batoning knife and is still a manageable 4.5″. However, I would certainly be happy to have my 14″ CRKT Halfachance with me in a survival situation.
This ties into David Polczynski‘s answer that the knife should be something you are comfortable with and want to carry. For me, the fact of the matter is I am already schlepping enough gear with me when I guide, that I don’t want to carry something so big and heavy when it is beyond anything I typically would need to deal with on the river. However, should an emergency arise, I know I can cut saplings up to 3.5″ with my Mora, which are perfectly adequate for constructing a shelter or pole drag to facilitate the rescue of an injured client or other victim.
The final answer was Simplicity. It was by Tim MacWelch, Outdoor Life contributor and Author of Prepare for Anything.
“I don’t need a knife that’s also a saw, hatchet, and cheese grater. Quite often, the more features you stack onto a knife, the more each feature suffers.”
I can’t argue with this at all. In a way I would put in into the “Trust” camp, to a degree. Tim is stressing reliability, which I think is a related concept.
The article goes on in great detail on blade styles, shapes, and other considerations as well as a compilation of statistics from another 100 people surveyed. It is well written guide and worth a read.
What do you all think of my answer, and the others? Which camp do you fall in or do you have answer that we hadn’t thought of?