Last updated: August 9, 2021

Welcome to our big survival knife test 2021. Here we present all the survival knives we have tested in detail.
We have compiled detailed background information and added a summary of customer reviews on the web.

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

You will also find answers to frequently asked questions in our guide. If available, we also offer interesting test videos. Furthermore, 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 most important facts

  • A survival knife is a knife designed for outdoor use. A good survival knife is reliable, robust and feels good 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 is cut-resistant, wear-resistant and corrosion-resistant. The type of steel used is a major factor in the quality of the knife and therefore also in its price.

The Best Survival Knife: Our Picks

Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying a Survival Knife

What is a survival knife?

A survival knife is a knife that has been optimised for outdoor use. A good survival knife is reliable, weather-resistant and robust.

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

Who is a survival knife suitable for?

A survival knife is suitable for anyone who wants to spend a long time in nature. Survival knives can also be used in a variety of ways on camping trips. A survival knife can be very useful and versatile in many areas:

  • Survival
  • Bushcraft
  • Camping
  • Jeep Safari
  • Trekking
  • Hiking

A survival knife is a dangerous item, especially if you do not know how to use it. That is why such knives should not be in the hands of children.

What types of survival knives are there?

There are survival knives that are suitable for fine work and survival knives that are suitable for rough work. There are also knives that you can use for both purposes.

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

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

What materials are survival knives made of?

Basically, a survival knife consists of a blade and a handle. Different materials of varying quality are used in different price ranges.

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

The knife blade

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

  • Premium Steel
  • High-end steel
  • Mid-end steel
  • Low-end steel

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

  • Cut resistance
  • Wear resistance
  • Corrosion resistance

The more cutting, wear and corrosion resistant the knife steel used, the higher its quality rating.

In the following tables, known steel types and their properties are divided into % according to the individual points of criticism. It is easy to see that no steel grade achieves 100 % of all points of criticism.

Premium steel

The table below shows the best-known steel grades used in the premium segment.

Steel grade edge retention wear resistance corrosion resistance
CPM M4 / 63 HRC 90% 85% 25%
CPM S30V / 60 HRC 67% 60% 70%
CPM S35VN / 59 HRC 68% 66% 70%
CPM S90V / 61 HRC 100% 100% 51%
CTS XHP / 61 HRC 77% 54% 70%
Elmax / 62 HRC 84% 85% 53%
M390 / 61 HRC 95% 95% 70%
X50 CrMoV15 / 58 HRC 75% 75% 80%
ZDP-189 / 64 HRC 85% 90% 40%
High-end steel

The table below shows the best-known steel grades used in the high-end segment.

Steel grade Cutting ability Wear resistance Corrosion resistance
154CM / 60 HRC 50% 50% 0%
ATS-34 / 60 HRC 50% 50% 0%
D2 / 62 HRC 75% 40% 30%
H1 / 59 HRC 20% 20% 100%
N680 / 58 HRC 60% 50% 90%
N690Co / 59 HRC 85% 50% 78%
VG-10 / 60 HRC 60% 50% 70%
Medium grade steel

The table below shows the best-known steel grades used in the mid-range segment.

Steel grade Cutting ability Wear resistance Corrosion resistance
1095 / 57 HRC 30% 60% 25%
12C27 / 57 HRC 34% 35% 60%
14C28N / 59 HRC 68% 70% 65%
420HC / 56 HRC 20% 20% 80%
440A / 57 HRC 30% 25% 56%
440C / 58 HRC 40% 40% 44%
8Cr13MoV / 58 HRC 30% 30% 35%
AUS-8 / 58 HRC 30% 30% 46%
CTS-BD1 / 59 HRC 35% 35% 60%
Low-end steel

The table below shows the best-known steel grades used in the low-end segment.

Steel grade edge retention wear resistance corrosion resistance
420 / 53 HRC 25% 25% 90%
AUS-6 / 57 HRC 30% 30% 47%

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

Depending on the steel grade, the weather resistance also differs. To improve this, the blades concerned are often coated.

The knife handle

Knife handles should be comfortable to hold and provide good grip even in inclement weather. 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 material Explanation
Abalone Made from hardened mollusc shells. Looks beautiful. Less suitable for outdoor use
Wood Wood can be carved and treated properly to make it suitable for outdoor use.
Horn Horn is very popular and known for its density. Horn is very individual as no two are alike.
Bone Bone handles look very beautiful and are relatively expensive. They are less suitable for outdoor use.
Leather Looks good and offers good grip even in cold temperatures. Is less durable
Mother-of-pearl Mother-of-pearl is a very beautiful and expensive material. Yet surprisingly durable for a natural material.
Plastic materials
Handle material Explanation
ABS Used as a standard material for inexpensive knives. Offers good durability and grip despite the low price
G10 Consists of various glass fibre layers. It is very light, resistant and looks good.
Carbon fibre Often used for combat knives in the military. Carbon fibre handles are relatively expensive
Micarta Can be compared to G10 but is much more slippery.
Zytel Nylon Very stable material for knife handles. Optically not very beautiful but cheap and resistant.
Metallic material
Handle material Explanation
Aluminium Is very light and resistant. Can scratch easily and no longer looks nice.
Stainless steel Very stable and rustproof material. Often used in combination with rubber. Stainless steel can be used to create skeleton constructions which make the knife particularly light.
Titanium Guaranteed stainless material. Very light

How much does a survival knife cost?

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

The most expensive part of a survival knife is the blade.

What are the alternatives to a survival knife?

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

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

What Types of Survival Knives are there and which is the right one for you?

Basically, we distinguish between these types of survival knives:

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

In the following, we explain the different types and their advantages and disadvantages. In this way, we want to help you find the survival knife that is best suited to you.

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

Survival knives for rough work are much more solidly built and have a wider blade. Due to the additional mass and thanks to the stable blade, you can also use the survival knife as a striking tool and thus take over some of the work of an axe.

Advantages
  • Suitable for cutting branches
  • Very solid and reliable
  • Can also cut thicker branches with relatively little force
Disadvantages
  • Relatively large pack size
  • High weight
  • May often not be carried in public

Survival knives for rough work can rarely be used for fine work such as carving. Because of the coarse blade and the long distance between hand and blade, a lot of fine motor skills are lost.

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

A survival knife for fine work is relatively small and can often be folded and stored easily. The blade is narrow and very sharp, ideal for carving or similar work. The ability to guide the blade close to the hand makes very precise work possible.

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

Buying Criteria: These are the Factors you can use to compare and evaluate Survival Knives

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

In summary, these are the following criteria:

In the following, you can read about the respective criteria and find out why it makes sense for you to purchase a model based on the criteria or not.

Field of application

You should think about the purpose for which you might need a survival knife. Do you want to have a good all-purpose tool for carving and cooking on a camping trip or do you want to fight your way through the jungle in your free time?

Size

Size primarily refers to the weight and pack size of the survival knife. But blade length is also an important criterion. Above a certain blade size it is illegal to carry the knife in public. The practical use in the outdoor area is also no longer given above a certain size.

Steel grade

The type of steel used in your future survival knife determines to a large extent the quality, durability and reliability of the knife.

The type of steel a knife needs is decided by the purpose for which it is to be used. Depending on the purpose, certain types of steel are more suitable than others, e.g. for a survival knife.

Price

You should ask yourself what you value in a high quality survival knife and how often you will use it. The steel used will determine the price range of a survival knife, and will also contribute a great deal to the quality of the knife.

Optics

In this case, the decision is based only on the appearance. It depends on whether the survival knife is purely a tool for you or also has to fulfil a certain visual aspect. A high-quality and attractive wooden handle can outshine the functional anti-slip plastic handles.

There are, for example, survival knives in signal colours so that you can easily find it again in the forest. But as a hunter, this is probably less of an advantage, as all the camouflage would be ruined.

Facts worth knowing about Survival Knives

How do I sharpen a survival knife?

Sharpening a survival knife is not much different from sharpening a regular knife. It is best to use a sharpening stone or hire a knife sharpener. Depending on the steel of the survival knife, sharpening may be easier or more difficult.

How do I store a survival knife properly?

It is best to use a sheath, which is often included in the 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 much lower. Also make sure to clean the survival knife after use before leaving it in the sheath for a longer period 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 in question may still be carried in a closed container, such as a backpack or briefcase.

Picture source: pixabay.com / stevepb

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