|RedHead Expedition Fixed Blade Knife|
A knife is widely regarded as the single most important survival tool for those who venture into the wilderness. It can obviously cut things — an important task in the woods — but with a little know-how, can be applied to many jobs and take the places of other heavier or not available tools.
For the purpose of this article, we looked at single, fixed blade knife. Folding knives have their place, but are not as strong as fixed blades and can close unexpectedly, potentially injuring the user.
A quality survival knife, like the RedHead Expedition Fixed Blade Knife, will have a full tang, meaning the metal of the blade extends all the way through the handle. It should also be made from a high quality steel. Most people prefer knives with blades from four to 6 inches, although some people prefer shorter or much longer blades.
While survival knives will do basically anything any knife will do (gutting and skinning game, fighting, fileting fish) they aren't great for detail work and are usually too heavy for combat. When specialty work is in order, choose a specialty knife if possible.
But for the rest of the time, a survival knife is one of the best tools in the outdoors. Here's why.
Make Firewood — A big, heavy knife is an effective tool for cutting firewood and even splitting it into smaller pieces. To chop logs, simply hold the blade against the wood and whack it with a sturdy stick. To split logs, start the blade down the grain as you would an axe, then smack it down through the log. It's not quite as efficient as an axe, but does the job very well in a pinch.
Shave Tinder — A survival knife is perfect for stripping bark from standing deadwood, peeling birch bark or shaving dry branches into tinder. Use this fine material to catch a spark or grow a fire.
Whittle Tools — First off, your knife is your most important tool. Don't make the mistake of attaching it to a stick as a spear because you could easily lose it in the process. Instead, sharpen a stick to a point and then split the point into four or more smaller points by driving the knife a few inches down and into the tip. Force the points apart with a small stick or rock in the center to create a four-pointed spear for catching fish or other small game.
Many other tools, fish hooks and traps can be whittled using a survival knife.
Start a Fire — You should carry matches and a lighter, but what if those fail? If you are prepared — and you should be — you will have packed a ferrocerium rod for such an occasion. Use your knife as a striker for a shower of blazing hot sparks. It's worth practicing this type of fire starting in a controlled environment. While not as easy as a match, this method is reliable so long as good tinder is available. To make the chore really easy, carry a couple Vasoline-soaked cotton balls to catch your sparks and light up quickly in any weather.
Dig a Hole — This isn't a great use of a knife as it dulls the blade and can damage the knife (you should never use a knife to pry) but when you must dig (for example, to find grubs or other bait or dig a toilet), a knife will do the trick and serves a lot more purposes than a shovel.
Build a Shelter — Because the survival knife is good for cutting down branches, it works well in crafting a shelter. Start by cutting down some evergreen branches to lay on the bottom for padding, then build a lean-to over the boughs using a few stout branches and more boughs or leafy branches (depending on the climate — palms work amazingly in the tropics).
Stake Out Lines — Jab the knife into the ground, a stump or tree to make a quick impromptu stake. This is something you should rarely do, as it's easy to fashion a stake from a tree limb, but could come in handy in the desert.
First Aid — Use the knife to cut clothing or other cotton material into strips as a bandage. In a pinch, the knife can be used to remove splinters, just be careful!
Hammer — The handle of the knife, or pommel, works as a fine hammer in a pinch. Put on the sheath first for safety. Many such knives also have a point on the base of the pommel to smash a window in case of emergency.