Following on the heals of their 55 Experts Share their number one sharpening tip mega-roundtable, KnifePlanet put together a panel of 22 experts and a random trout-bum who somehow made it onto the list. It is the second time I have been asked to participate in a group like this. Earlier this year I was on TopSpecUS’s Survival Knife panel.
My answer was a bit of an odd-ball because I didn’t really name my perfect long-term SHTF knife. Instead, I highlighted traits that I think are important, and the knife I happened to mention, in this case a Mora Bushcraft, doesn’t fit the full-tang criteria I laid out.
That being said, the Bushcraft is a knife I am happy to carry, and I trust as part of my regular backcountry kit.
From KnifePlanet.net: (my answer)
The specific knife model is not so important. There is too much variation in personal preference and what works for me might not work for you.
Instead, there are 3 design traits that I look for in a SHTF blade. Size, Steel, and a full-tang construction:
Size: I think that 4″-6″ is really the sweet spot for a bushcraft and survival knife. Most wood processing that you will do from shelter construction to tinder prep to cutting saplings for a travois is dealing with wood under 3″. This is enough to get a fire going that will burn logs that are larger than that. A blade over 6″ (that isn’t designed specifically as a kitchen knife) is going to be awkward at some of the finer tasks that you are still likely to encounter when the SHTF.
Steel: “Super-steels” are fun to play with and produce some incredible tools. They can hold their edge through some pretty heavy abuse. However, once dulled they can take specialty sharpening tools to bring the edge back into shape.
In a SHTF scenario, you are not likely to have such a luxury. The softer 1095 of an Ontario TAK, or 420HC of a Gerber Strong Arm might be a better choice. An amateur sharpener can achieve excellent results with a common whetstone and a little practice. In a pinch you can even use a stone off the ground if it is fine-grained and flat.
Finally, a full tang construction is essential. I would go as far as recommending a tang that extends beyond the scales and can be struck with a wooden baton. Even if the scales eventually wear out or break off, you can always wrap the knife with paracord or make rudimentary wooden replacements.
I frequently carry a Mora Bushcraft when guiding and deem it sufficient for a couple of days in a survival situation in the Smoky Mountains. If the S-really-HTF however, I simply don’t trust a hidden-tang knife to be as durable in absolute terms as a full-tang one for extended use.I would want something more robust for the long-haul.
In the end, it is a deeply personal choice as to what is your perfect SHTF knife. The most important thing you can do is plan ahead and test a variety of tools and practice a variety of skills. When you know your capabilities and the capabilities of your tools, you can have the confidence to begin to take control of your situation.
Stay safe, Stay sharp.
What do you all think of my answer? In reality, if it were TEOTWAWKI, I would give my wife the Bushcraft and grab my Wilmont Wharny. It has the full-tang reliability I am looking for. I am not so concerned with the hardness of the steel, I have a small diamond hone in my go-bag. It is a great knife for both rough and fine tasks, and it is the kind of knife that says “I will not fail you” when you hold it in your hand.
What is your SHTF knife?