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Survival knife: test & recommendations (05/21)

Welcome to our large survival knife test 2021. Here we present you all of the survival knives that we have tested.
We have compiled detailed background information for you and also added a summary of customer reviews on the web.

We want to make the purchase decision easier for you and help you to find the best survival knife for you.

You can also find answers to frequently asked questions in our guide. If available, we also offer you interesting test videos. You will also find some important information on this page that you should definitely pay attention to if you want to buy a survival knife.

the essentials in brief

  • A survival knife is a knife designed for outdoor use. A good survival knife is reliable, robust and fits comfortably in the hand.
  • In most cases, a survival knife is suitable for either rough work, such as chopping wood, or fine work, such as carving.
  • One of the most important points about survival knives is the type of stainless steel used. Flawless knife steel has a long-lasting edge, is wear-resistant and corrosion-resistant. The type of steel used makes up a large part of the knife quality and thus also the price.

Survival knife test: favorites of the editors

The best survival knife with partially serrated edge

Bear Grylls is a British survival expert with military and extensive outdoor experience. The knife he designed has extensive equipment to survive in the wild.

The blade of the Bear Grylls survival knife is made of a rustproof Cr17MoV stainless steel. It consists of a drop-point bevel for fine work such as carving and a serrated edge for sawing branches or the like.

The handle was designed from Tac-Hide material which offers a good grip even when wet. The knife can be easily secured and fastened through the holes in the handle. In addition, a stainless steel hammer surface is attached to the lower part of the handle.

The Bear Grylls survival knife comes with a flint stone, a whetstone and a whistle. You can use the nylon plastic sheath also included to store accessories and knives.

The best survival knife with an ergonomic handle

The K9 from Bergvist is a folding survival knife made for camping trips. The blade of the K9 is made of 7cr17 stainless steel and the ergonomic handle is made of aluminum.

Thanks to the folding function, you can easily carry the knife with you in your trouser pocket, the blade is safely stored and additionally secured with a thumb-lock system.

Thanks to its short blade and ergonomic handle, the Bergkvist K9 survival knife lies very comfortably in the hand and is therefore ideal for fine work.

The best survival kit with survival knife

This survival knife from LC-dolida is a 15-in-1 survival kit. Among other things, the set includes a bracelet, knife, tactical pen, carbine and a flashlight. This folding knife and accessories are ideal for every camping trip.

The survival kit is packed in a practical small box so that it can be easily transported. The blade of the knife is made of steel and the handle of aluminum. Thanks to its short blade and ergonomic handle, it lies very comfortably in the hand and is therefore ideal for fine work.

Buying Guide: Questions to Consider Before Buying a Survival Knife

What is a survival knife?

A survival knife is a knife that has been optimized for outdoor use. A good survival knife is reliable, weatherproof and robust.

In nature, knives are used either for fine work or for rough work. Not every survival knife is suitable for both work areas.

Who is a survival knife for?

A survival knife is suitable for everyone who wants to spend a long time in nature. Survival knives can also be used in many ways on camping trips. A survival knife can be very useful and versatile in many areas:
  • Survival
  • Bushcraft
  • camping
  • Jeep safari
  • Trekking
  • hikes

A survival knife is a dangerous item, especially if you can't handle it. Therefore, such knives should not get into the hands of children.

What types of survival knives are there?

There are survival knives, which are suitable for fine work, and survival knives, which are suitable for rough work. There are certainly knives that you can use for both applications.

The main difference is the length of the blade and how close you can hold the knife to the cutting edge.

Survival knives for rough work often have a significantly longer and thicker blade. This means you can use the knife more and easily cut off wood splits or smaller branches.

What materials is a survival knife made of?

Basically, a survival knife consists of a blade and a handle. Materials of different quality are used in the various price ranges.

A high quality blade ultimately determines the value of the survival knife.

The knife blade

Different types of steel are used in the blade, depending on the survival knife. The types of steel used can be divided into four quality levels.

  • Premium steel
  • High-end steel
  • Middle class steel
  • Low-end steel

You can recognize high-quality knife steel by three points of criticism.

  • Edge retention
  • Wear resistance
  • Corrosion resistance

The better the cutting edge, more wear-resistant and corrosion-resistant the knife steel used, the higher it is classified in terms of quality.

In the following tables, known types of steel and their properties are broken down into% for the individual points of criticism. It is easy to see that no type of steel reaches all points of criticism with 100%.

Premium steel

The table below shows the best-known types of steel that are used in the premium segment.

Steel gradeEdge retentionWear resistanceCorrosion resistance
CPM M4 / 63 HRC90%85%25%
CPM S30V / 60 HRC67%60%70%
CPM S35VN / 59 HRC68%66%70%
CPM S90V / 61 HRC100%100%51%
CTS XHP / 61 HRC77%54%70%
Elmax / 62 HRC84%85%53%
M390 / 61 HRC95%95%70%
X50 CrMoV15 / 58 HRC75%75%80%
ZDP-189/64 HRC85%90%40%
High-end steel

The table below shows the best-known types of steel that are used in the high-end segment.

Steel gradeEdge retentionWear resistanceCorrosion resistance
154CM / 60 HRC50%50%50%
ATS-34/60 HRC50%50%50%
D2 / 62 HRC75%40%30%
H1 / 59 HRC20%20%100%
N680 / 58 HRC60%50%90%
N690Co / 59 HRC85%50%78%
VG-10/60 HRC60%50%70%
Middle class steel

The table below shows the most popular types of steel that are used in the mid-range segment.

Steel gradeEdge retentionWear resistanceCorrosion resistance
1095/57 HRC30%60%25%
12C27 / 57 HRC34%35%60%
14C28N / 59 HRC68%70%65%
420HC / 56 HRC20%20%80%
440A / 57 HRC30%25%56%
440C / 58 HRC40%40%44%
8Cr13MoV / 58 HRC30%30%35%
AUS-8/58 HRC30%30%46%
CTS-BD1 / 59 HRC35%35%60%
Low-end steel

The table below shows the most popular types of steel that are used in the low-end segment.

Steel gradeEdge retentionWear resistanceCorrosion resistance
420/53 HRC25%25%90%
AUS-6/57 HRC30%30%47%

The purpose of the knife determines which type of steel is the best.

Weather resistance also differs depending on the type of steel. To improve this, the affected blades are often coated.

The knife handle

Knife handles should lie comfortably in the hand and offer a good grip even in unsightly weather conditions. Different materials can be used for knife handles.

Which material you prefer for your knife handle depends first of all on your personal preferences.

When it comes to quality and durability, more modern materials like G10 are superior to the classics.

Natural materials
Handle materialExplanation
AbaloneConsists of hardened mollusc shells. Looks beautiful. Is less suitable for outdoor use
WoodWood can be provided with carvings, and with the right treatment, wood can also be suitable for outdoor use.
hornHorn is very popular and known for its density. Horn is very individual because no two are alike.
boneBone handles look very nice and are relatively expensive. They are less suitable for outdoor use.
leatherLooks good and offers good grip even in cold temperatures. Is less durable
Mother of pearlMother-of-pearl is a very beautiful and expensive material. Surprisingly tough for a natural material.
Plastic materials
Handle materialExplanation
SECTIONUsed as the standard material for inexpensive knives. Offers good durability and grip despite the low price
G10Consists of different fiberglass layers. Is very light, durable and looks good.
Carbon fiberOften used for combat knives in the military. Carbon fiber handles are relatively expensive
MicartaCan be compared with G10, but much more slippery.
Zytel nylonVery stable material for knife handles. Visually not very nice but cheap and durable.
Metallic material
Handle materialExplanation
aluminum Is very light and resistant. Can be scratched easily and no longer looks nice.
stainless steelVery stable and rust-free material. Often used in combination with rubber. Skeletal constructions can be made from stainless steel, which make the knife particularly light.
titaniumGuaranteed rust-free material. Very easy

How much does a survival knife cost?

You can get a survival knife for as little as 20 euros, but the price ranges up to 500 euros. The high price differences are mainly due to the steel used.

The most expensive thing about a survival knife is the blade.

Where can you buy a survival knife?

You can find survival knives in hunter shops, in general survival outdoor specialist shops or in gun shops. You can of course also order survival knives in online shops:
  • amazon.de
  • kotte-zeller.de
  • messershop.de
  • eknives.de

What are the alternatives to a survival knife?

A good alternative to a survival knife would be a smaller camping ax, which should be well sharpened so that it can be used for some knife work.

The big advantage of knives is the small pack size, especially folding knives can be halved in size.

Decision: What types of survival knives are there and which one is right for you?

Basically, we differentiate between these types of survival knives:

  • Survival knife for rough work
  • Survival knife for fine work

In the following we explain the different types and the respective advantages and disadvantages. We want to help you to find the most suitable survival knife for you.

What distinguishes a survival knife for rough work and what are the advantages and disadvantages?

Survival knives for rough work are built much more massive and have a wider blade. Due to the additional mass and thanks to the sturdy blade, you can also use the survival knife as a striking tool and thus do some of the work of an ax.

  • Suitable for cutting off branches
  • Very massive and reliable
  • Also cuts off thicker branches with relatively little force
  • Relatively large pack size
  • High weight
  • Often not allowed to be worn in public

Survival knives for rough work can only rarely be used for fine work such as carving. A lot of fine motor skills are lost due to the coarse blade and the great distance between the hand and the blade.

What distinguishes a survival knife for fine work and what are the advantages and disadvantages?

A survival knife for fine work is relatively small and can often be folded up and stowed away well. The blade is narrow and very sharp, ideal for carving or similar work. The possibility of holding the blade close to the hand enables very precise work.

  • Suitable for fine work
  • Small pack size
  • light weight
  • Not suitable for rough work
  • Folding mechanism is a weak point

Purchase criteria: You can use these factors to compare and rate survival knives

In the following we will show you the criteria you can use to compare and evaluate survival knives. This makes it easier for you to get an overview and to decide on a suitable and effective model.

In summary, these are the following criteria:

  • scope of application
  • size
  • Steel grade
  • price
  • optics

Below you can read what the respective criteria are all about and find out why it makes sense for you to purchase a model based on the criteria or not.

scope of application

You should consider what purpose you might use a survival knife for. Would you like to have a good all-purpose tool for carving and cooking with you on a camping trip or do you fight your way through the jungle in your free time.

size

The size primarily relates to the weight and packing dimensions of the survival knife. But the length of the blade is also an important criterion. If the blade exceeds a certain size, it is illegal to wear the knife in public. The practical use in the outdoor area is no longer given from a certain size.

Steel grade

The type of steel used in your future survival knife largely determines the quality, durability and reliability of the knife.

The type of steel that a knife needs is decided by the intended use. Depending on this, certain types of steel are better suited than others, e.g. for a survival knife.

price

You should ask yourself how much value you place in a good quality survival knife and how often you will use it. The steel used is decisive for the price range a survival knife is in and also contributes a large part of the knife quality.

optics

At this point, the decision only relates to the exterior. It depends on whether the survival knife is purely a tool for you or whether it has to fulfill a certain optical aspect. Thus, a high-quality and attractive wooden handle can put the functional anti-slip plastic handles in the shade.

There are, for example, survival knives in signal colors so that you can easily find them in the forest. But as a hunter this is probably less of an advantage, as the entire camouflage would be destroyed.

Trivia: Facts worth knowing about the subject of survival knives

How do I sharpen a survival knife?

Sharpening a survival knife hardly differs from a conventional knife. It is best to use a whetstone or hire a knife sharpener. Depending on the steel grade of the survival knife, sharpening is easier or more difficult.

Especially in nature you shouldn't walk around with a blunt survival knife, that's why we picked out this video for you:

How do I properly store a survival knife?

It is best to use a knife sheath, which is often included in the scope of delivery. Depending on the type of steel, it is advisable to apply a thin film of oil to the blade to prevent rust.

You should also make sure that the humidity in the room is not too high, so the risk of rust is significantly lower. Also, be sure to clean the survival knife after use before leaving it to go into the vagina for long periods of time.

Is a survival knife a weapon?

The survival knife can of course be a weapon, but possession is not prohibited. Only the public carrying of knives with a blade length of 12 cm or more is prohibited. However, the knives concerned may still be transported in a closed container, such as a backpack or briefcase.

The possession of the following knives is prohibited in Germany

  • Drop knife
  • Fist knife (except with hunting permit)
  • Butterfly knife
  • Switchblade

Further reading: sources and interesting links

[1] https://survivalmesserguide.de/der-beste-stahl-fuer-messer/

[2] https://www.knivesandtools.de/de/ct/messergesetz.htm

Image source: pixabay.com / stevepb

Why can you trust me

We, the editorial staff of MESSERBOOK.de, research and write informative, understandable advice texts on knives and everything that goes with them.