With the rising popularity of survivalist documentaries and shows like “Man vs Wild,” the market for survival tools has unsurprisingly also been on the rise. Firestarters, ropes, first aid kits are all increasingly popular as people flock to build their own survival kits. But one multipurpose tool has possibly witnessed the greatest rise in demand especially in 2020: The Survival Knife.
This isn’t particularly surprising considering how versatile and useful it can prove to be. From kindling fires, cleaning fish and dressing wounds, to have a good survival knife in your pocket is a must in 2020. It is quite literally the most important and essential item you carry with you besides food and water.
But from so many brands and possibilities to choose from, where do you even start looking?
Best Survival Knife 2020 – Top Picks
Let’s start off with a brief overview of what our favorite picks are, make sure to read on for more detailed reviews on each of these and more.
Ka-Bar Becker BK22
Multi-Purpose, Heavy Duty
Kershaw Ken Onion
Ideal for Portability
strongest blade with full tang
Our top picks were chosen with versatility and functionality in mind. The rest of the list as a result also includes popular choices for the wide range of camping demands you might have, however, if your needs are a tad more specific we would like to suggest you read the rest of the article- particularly the FAQ section- to get a better grasp on what qualities you look for personally in your ideal survival knife.
|Survival Knives||Blade Size||Ratings||Price|
|Cold Steel Recon|
Durable and resilient
Ideal cut point end
SEAL Team Elite Survival Knife
Molded Kydex sheath *Waterproof*
|Gerber Bear Grylls Ultimate|
Build-in Ferro Rod
|Benchmade – Mini Griptilian 556 EDC|
Made is USA
|Buck Knives 120|
Best edge retention and excellent strength
|Spyderco Paramilitary 2|
Best Travel Companion
|Morakniv Garberg Full Tang|
Best in Sharpness
|Custom Handmade Hunting Knife|
|Kershaw Blur Black|
Stainless Steel Drop Point Blade
In this guide, we’ll look at 12 of the Top survival knives according to critical acclaim and aim to give you all the technical know-how you want to know while deciding on the best one for you.
1. Cold Steel Recon 1 Tactical Knife *Black Blade*
Built for strength, durability and efficiency, the Recon 1 upholds Cold Steel’s high reputation. Some delightful features of the blade include its non-slip grip on the handle, a stunning black Teflon finish making it rust and glare-resistant (excellent for stealth) as well as well lubricated. The lubrication allows it to cut deep with close to no friction without the need for excessive pressure, aided by the clip point edge it is ideal for self-defense. The blade is relatively small with its 4 inches and is foldable which makes for it being extremely portable. or lubricant, which causes the blade to slip through even tough material with markedly less friction.
- Small, sleek design and foldable blade make for a portable knife
- Durable and resilient
- Sturdy thumb grooves on top prevent slippage
- Strong lock mechanism makes for easy use
- Keeps its edge long without needing to be resharpened
- Price could be considered steep
- Starts to rust slightly without proper care and lubrication
2. Ka-Bar BK-22 Becker
The Ka-Bar Becker BK22 Companion happens to be one of the well-reviewed and most popular survival knives in the market. This is no surprise when you take a closer look at some of its features: A heavy-duty construction made of high carbon steel with a 5.25-inch long blade and a cut point end ideal for survival usage. The medium size allows it to be perfect as a utility and camp knife. The handle design is built for toughness and to repel moisture. Perhaps its biggest advantage is the price, for the value, it is a steal!
- Immensely durable
- Holds a good edge for a good period of time
- offers a comfortable grip
- Sturdy hex screws
- Very economically priced
- The blade coating scratches off
3. SOG Fixed Blade Knives with Sheath
The SOG knife is truly a force to be reckoned with in the survival knives market. SOG comes to wit a long and slim profile with a clip point end and a fixed blade. The full tang makes it immensely sturdy and practically unbreakable. The handle consists of glass-reinforced nylon and is both abrasion and impact resistant. For all these reasons, it manages to serve as a standard multi-purpose survival knife with the added benefit of a lifetime warranty against manufacturing defects.
- Secure handle
- Keeps edge over a long time
- Practically unbreakable because of full tang
- Rust resistant
- Impact and abrasion resistant handle
- Lifetime warranty
4. Fallkniven A1 Fine Edge *Fixed Blade Knife* Black
Although intended for heavy-duty application, the fallkniven proves to be precise enough to perform the most delicate of operations. Possessing a large 6 and a half-inch blade, the knife can withstand great force and pressure. Although a bit on the more costly side, the full tang and rather large build explain this and the weather-resistant handle makes up for it. This is the best survival knife of 2020 when it comes to performing heavy-duty tasks. It is a worthy addition to any collectors belt and has proven to be a brilliantly resilient model.
- weather resistant handle
- Large blade ideal for self-defense
- Full tang lends it immense durability
- Slightly expensive
5. ESEE ESLSP-BRK Laser Strike *5-Inches*
This is popular among survivalists for this very reason as it is considered the ideal point style for a utility knife design. With a blade length of 5 inches and a large overall length, the knife is rather big and heavy, the high carbon steel used to make it also reflects the heavy-duty style that was intended. A full tang and the steel make it a tough knife, featuring a comfortable and non-slip handle design meant to be impervious to moisture.
Featuring a 4.75” spear point blade made from 1095 high carbon tool steel and a Rockwell Hardness of 55-57 HRC with a flat grind and a black, corrosion-resistant, coating, this knife is the perfect companion to the ESSE Junglas. The high carbon tool steel makes it a tough little knife while the mid-range Rockwell Hardness enables it to hold an edge well without being excessively difficult to sharpen.
It features full tang construction with a highly ergonomic handle design made from two linen Micarta handle scales attached to the tang with three Allen screws. Not only is the handle very comfortable just like the ESEE 6, but it also provides the user with the same nearly indestructible, non-slip, grip that is impervious to the absorption of moisture. ESEE finishes it off with a molded Kydex sheath which is not only extremely tough, it is also completely waterproof.
- Waterproof sheath
- Incredibly tough and durable
- Great multipurpose knife
- Corrosion-resistant blade
- Holds its edge well
- Non-slip, waterproof handle
6. Gerber Bear Grylls Ultimate Pro Knife, *Fine Edge*
Despite being a relative newcomer to the world of top survival knives of 2020, the Gerber Bear Grylls has risen to high prestige and popularity over an unsurprisingly short amount of time. The knife comes with many perks and nifty features such as a Ferro rod built-in for starting a fire, with a heavy handle base meant for hammering and a survival pocket guide in the sheath.
The blade is close to 5 inches with a textured rubber handle and a half serrated edge. However, customers have complained about a lack of durability because it breaks down relatively easier than other survival knives. However, it is hard to deny that for a low price point it is quite the steal.
- Many additional features including a pocketbook, fire starter, whistling lanyard and sturdy pommel for hammering
- Incredibly cheap for what it offers, great value.
- Lacks durability
- Low manufacturing quality
7. Benchmade – Mini Griptilian 556 EDC
Boasts a simplistic design and construction, which works in its favor as the ultimate every day carry a survival knife. The foldable blade and small size allow great portability and the blade itself is durable (made with a high carbon stainless steel) and corrosion-resistant.
- Great value
8. Buck Knives 120 General Fixed Blade Knife with Leather Sheath
Built primarily as a hunting knife, buck knives are known for their amazing edge retention and excellent strength. The blade is durable, sharp and corrosion-resistant complete with a full tang and finger guard. The handle has comfortable custom swells for grip and the pommel provides both aesthetic and functionality. These knives are quickly rising to become a fan favorite, and it’s no surprise when you realize they’re a great blend of beauty and utility.
- Great edge retention
- Easily Sharpened
- Good grip
- Aesthetically appealing
- Great for multipurpose
- Very durable
9. Spyderco Paramilitary 2 plain blade silver
The Spyderco plain blade with its flat end back gives you clean, unfettered cuts through a range of materials. The length of the blade is rather small (3.4 inches) which makes it a great utility knife for precision and delicate slicing. As a foldable blade with an overall small length, the knife is clearly built for ease of portability and is a great travel companion Flat ground from the spine to the cutting edge, the blade cuts cleanly and unfettered through all material. This blade is also best for chopping wood in the jungle to lit fire and for other purposes.
- Great for EDC
- Amazing grip
- Great edge
10. Morakniv Garberg with Sandvik Stainless Steel Blade, 4.3-Inch
With a full tang stainless steel design, the garberg is the most robust and durable knife Morakniv has developed. The blade is corrosion resistant and strangely chooses a square-edged spine, it has brilliant edge performance and maintains razor sharpness. With a total length of 9 inches and a blade length of 4 inches, its a great medium-sized blade, what makes it particularly interesting however is its thickness of 0.13 inches which lends it an unbelievable edge.
Also check this list of Top Fixed Blade Survival Knives
- Great edge
- Unbelievably sharp
- Select lifetime warranty for manufacturing defects
- Handle is slightly uncomfortable and hard
11. Custom Handmade – Overall Walnut Wood with Sheath
Boasting a more classic bowie survival knife look among the Teflon coated giants, this knife’s ease of use design and sturdy build makes it a great blade for a range of versatile activities including camping, EDC, hunting and skinning. The complete tang and custom steel composition claim to make it highly duration and with a 5-inch blade and a body of total 10 inches, the knife is large. Moreover, though it is custom made and looks classy, this is one of the best budget survival knives 2020 one can have.
Perhaps built more for aesthetics than utility, the knife has garnered very conflicting reviews on how durable it really is.
- Looks stunning
- Blade design is unique and custom made
- The grip is great
- Not very durable
- Handle cracks very easy
12. Kershaw Blur Black (1670BLK) *Everyday Carry Pocket knife*
Assisted Opening, Lanyard Hole, Reversible Pocket clip; 3.9 OZ
Despite being a folding knife, the Kershaw blur black has amassed quite a fan following from even the most staunchest of fixed blade supporters. This is due to the undeniable high manufacturing quality of the survival knife. With a durable handle a one-handed blade deployment, the knife is convenient and extremely portable. Much smaller than most blades in the market, the knife is perfect as a utility knife and for precision-based cuts.
Take a look at our Top Folding Knife Reviews and Buyer Guide.
- Excellent Grip
- Fast opening
- Very durable and tough
- Curvature makes sharpening slightly challenging
- Slightly expensive
How to choose the right survival knife?
New to the world of survival tools? If so, it’s easy to get confused by all the technical jargon used in reviews. What in god’s name is “tang” anyways? What do we mean when we say a blade is serrated?
What does any of this have to do with how the knife functions and more importantly, what you need it to do?
Since survival knives can feel like a strange cult-ish niche to outsiders, we’ve taken the liberty of explaining step by step what you should look for in your ideal knife, along with what particular function a feature serves and why it is advantageous in the wilderness.
Whether you’re an absolute noob to the world of survivalism looking for wilderness knives or a hardened wilderness-valkyrie, we hope this guide serves you well and teaches you at least a thing or two about these wonderful tools.
Things to look for to find the Best Survival Knife 2020?
You might personally want something that’s customizable or comes with a gut hook, but you NEED something with a great grip, sharp edge that keeps long and corrosion resistance for long time service.
With this in mind, we’ll go over some basic qualities you want to be on the lookout for (and why), and towards the end, we’ll cover some add-ons for you to personally assess.
Most experienced survivalists would recommend mid-length knives with a full tang, made of hard and relatively corrosive proof steel, with a clip point end and a sturdy handle. This can be customized to fit your purposes, for example, if you’re looking for a knife for the sole purpose of self-defense, a longer blade and straight-back design would fit you better.
1. Blade length (3.5 – 10 Inch):
A critical factor to consider when choosing your Best survival knife 2020 is how long the blade is. This is because the length of the blade has a major role to play in what purpose it is best suited for. As a general rule of thumb, longer blades are better suited for chopping and batoning while the smaller ones are ideal for tasks that require more control and delicacy like skinning small game and cleaning fish, etc.
8-10 inches: Long, heavy-duty blade designs built for chopping for fires.However, the tips are difficult to control and don’t allow for much precision
6-7.5 inches: Offer the best of both worlds with a great balance between the two extremes. More often are built for this feature of flexibility and make great multi-purpose knives.
3.5-5 inches: Offer you better control when performing delicate tasks like slicing up small tubers, gutting fish and adding notches to build traps. Don’t offer as great a range though.
2. Blade Design and Shape:
Perhaps it is no exaggeration when we say that blade design is possibly the single most important factor when choosing a survival knife. After all, it is mostly the design of the blade that sets a survival knife apart from other more rudimentary knives.
You have a variety of different blade shapes in the market when browsing, everything from nessmuks and trailing points to spear pointed blades.
For our purposes we will be focusing on the four most common shapes for survival knives: Clip points, Drop points, Tanto points and Straight-back.
i). The clip point- Characteristically large and curves upwards towards the end of the blade. This is advantageous for stabbing and skinning game, it’s forte is thus self-defense. Although it isn’t very multi-purpose, it’s a valuable addition to any set.
ii). The drop point– Thicker and more resilient spine with a more natural curve. Very versatile and is particularly great for cutting, hunting and carving. The tip is more stable and so it offers more control for demanding tasks that require precision.
iii). The Tanto point– Sharp, almost rectangular tip for puncturing. Serves as a heavy self-defense knife but offers virtually no control when it comes to slicing or skinning.
iv). The straight-back blade- Unsurprisingly gets its name for having a straight back, this gives it a strong spine and allows you to use more force when cutting straight into tough material like logs and food. For this reason, it’s ideal for fire starting and meal preparations.
3. Material *Stainless Steel vs Non-Stainless Steel*:
Understandably the type of steel used to craft your blade from is also vital to know when you’re deciding on the Best survival knife that fits your requirements. There are 2 broad categories here, consisting of stainless and in turn, non-stainless steels.
They both have their respective advantages and disadvantages, so it is important to weigh them against each other and decide on one that suits your purposes best.
i). Stainless steel: These knives are perfect for harsh and unpredictable weather conditions due to them being prone to corrosion. They also hold their edge well and can go a long time without needing to be resharpened. They tend to be more prone to breakage though because they are generally not as tough as non-stainless knives, in addition to this, they are also more complicated and difficult to sharpen when they do get dull.
ii). Non-stainless steel: These are more suited to intensive and heavy-duty knife work since they tend to be the toughest, they’re also easy to sharpen. Unfortunately, they’re far less safe from corrosion than their counterparts and fail to hold a sharp edge for very long.
As should be increasingly obvious by now, both types have their pros and cons, resulting in certain blade types preferring one over the other.
Heavy-duty knives tend to be non-stainless and high in carbon since they opt for resilience and functionality. Whereas smaller craft knives tend to be made of stainless steel for a sharp finish and ease of use.
Within these two broader types there are more specific types of steels present in the market, these all vary because of the many ways of manufacturing steel. To a beginner, the names can seem like overcomplicated jargon, but understanding where each ranks on 4 key scales should give you an intuitive understanding of which one to choose for yourself.
The scales are Hardness, edge retention, corrosion resistance and wear resistance.
4. Tang (Shorter Tang vs Full Tang):
An often overlooked feature of knives is the tang. This is simply the portion of the blade that extends into the knife’s handle. Shorter or partial tangs always make for weaker knives because they’re prone to wriggling and can become unhinged from the handle. Full or skeletonized tangs are the most popular design, since they allow for more application of pressure and serve you much longer before being replaced but this comes at the cost of being incredibly expensive.
Of the four types of blade tangs, your top choice should always be full tang if it is within your price range. It extends the entire width and length of the knife handle and is held in place with the use of rivets and epoxy.
The skeletonised tang is a good second option, it offers more or less the same sturdiness at a cheaper cost because a portion of the tang itself is hollow, it still extends the entire length of the handle regardless though.
The stick and narrowing tangs are the worst of the tang types because they’re prone to being easily dislocated from the handle and can not withstand as much pressure regardless of steel type.
5. Blade type (Fixed Blade vs Folding Blade):
Between folding and fixed blade, the latter is the undisputed winner because of its inherently superior strength. With a folding blade, there’s an extra weak point where the blade meets the hilt and bends, making it easier to break off… which is understandably not the best scenario when it’s a matter of survival.
Fixed blades are stronger and sturdier, less prone to breakage and allow for more pressure and force to be used on them.
However foldable survival knives have the advantage of being extra portable and safer when not in use. Having one of these is advantageous, but unless it is an exceptionally strong knife, it shouldn’t be a replacement for one with a fixed blade.
6. Handle Material:
Yet another feature to consider when choosing a survival knife in 2020 is the handle material. This is because you want to look for one comfortable enough for prolonged usage, with a grip and also tough enough to prevent cracks or breakage.
Most handles consist of canvas or linen Micarta, which is liquified and pressed resin.
Other handle materials include fiber infused plastics like Zytel, but they don’t the advantage of shock absorption which is especially key for heavy-duty knives. Because of this, you’ll see most heavy-duty knives with textured rubber handles, these are comfortable to use but can tend to be slightly heavier than others.
Frequently Asked Questions- FAQ
Here we’ll try to address some common questions and misconceptions for beginners to help you get a better idea.
1. What is the optimum blade for the knife?
As stated time and time again, there is no one single best blade, this all varies from what you want your knife to be able to do. A great all-purpose blade would be made of a stronger variant of steel, be mid-length (7 inches probably) with a clip point to allow for as many uses as possible.
2. Are we legally allowed to carry a survival knife?
In most places within the states, you’re not allowed to carry a survival knife with you in situations that aren’t survival or wilderness-based. This varies from the size of your blade to state though, so be sure to check on knife laws within your area and ask before purchasing your blade.
3. Best Steel for Survival Knife?
Immensely controversial question, for decades arguments about which knife steel is best, are basically endemic in survivalist fans. What they seem to miss is the bigger picture though, steel selection is only a small part of what really makes the blade. Arguably even more important that the type of steel used is the heat treatment it goes through. It depends on what your intended use with the survival knife is really, but for the most part, some of the most popular steel types tend to be 1095, 5160, O1, and A2 for carbon steel types and a 420HC, 440C, AUS-8, and AUS-10 for stainless steels.
Hopefully, by now you’re equipped with all the information you need to know before you find the best survival knife of 2020 that best fits your needs. Regardless of what type you choose, the one key element is that you must be able to take good care of it in case an emergency situation presents itself.