Heading outside is supposed to be an escape from reality. An opportunity for us to let go for a little while and wander around in the woods, down by the river, or even hanging off the side of a cliff with chalk-covered hands. But without the safety net of modern amenities, and being that we’re in the company of wild animals, we need to ensure we’re prepared for anything out there.

Despite what cheerful reviewers and YouTube personalities may lead you to believe, survival isn’t supposed to be fun. It’s not like bushcraft or backpacking, where you’re out enjoying yourself in the wilderness. Those pursuits are all well and good. But survival is just that — getting out of a precarious or life-threatening situation with nothing but your wits and the tools you have.

Whether you’re stranded in the woods with a wrecked vehicle or caught in the suburb in the middle of a hurricane, you’ll want a tough, multi-role knife that can tackle a wide variety of tasks. As survivalist Doug Ritter will tell you, “the right knife can turn a survival situation into a prolonged camping trip.”

That said, we have compiled a list of what we believe to be the cream of the crop in terms of survival knives. These knives have proven their point and have gotten countless people out of life-threatening situations. Through our testing, Nick LeFort didn’t find the need to fend off a grizzly bear or take on a foreign army with just the knife he was testing, but he made sure to beat the snot out of these knives. In doing so, he’s proven that our recommendations are the best survival knives of 2024.

Feel free to read through our findings. If you’re looking to fast-forward through the details, check out our comprehensive buyer’s guide and frequently asked questions for helpful tips and have a look at our comparison chart to steer your decision-making.

Editor’s note: For our March 8th, 2024 update, our awards list received a huge shake-up, with the Tom Brown Tracker, Morakniv Kansbol, Hogue Knives Ritter MK1-G2 all receiving strong nods of approval from our knife experts.

The Best Survival Knives of 2024


Best Overall Survival Knife

  • OAL
    11.88”
  • Blade length
    6.38”
  • Blade steel
    Cerakoted 1095 High Carbon Steel
  • Blade shape
    It’s complicated
  • Sheath
    Kydex
  • Weight
    1 lb., 12 oz.

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The Best Survival Knives of 2024


  • Tough-as-nails Cerakoted 1095 steel

  • Multiple blade edges

  • Sheath allows for a variety of carry options


  • Heavy by modern standards

Best Budget Survival Knife

  • OAL
    8.9”
  • Blade length
    4.3”
  • Blade steel
    Sandvik 12C27
  • Blade shape
    Clip point
  • Sheath
    Polypropylene
  • Weight
    4.7 oz.

The Best Survival Knives of 2024


  • Sandvik 12C27 stainless steel

  • Unbroken spine for easy ferro rod use

  • You can’t beat the price


  • We really want the Survival Kit now …

Best Folding Survival Knife

  • OAL
    8.15”
  • Blade Length
    3.44”
  • Blade Steel
    Magnacut
  • Blade Shape
    Drop Point
  • Lock Type
    ABLE Lock (Crossbar)
  • Weight
    4.5 oz.

The Best Survival Knives of 2024


  • Designed by survivalist Doug Ritter

  • MagnaCut Steel

  • ABLE Lock


  • May be too large for some users (there’s a mini version for those folks)

Best Small Survival Knife

  • OAL
    6.75”
  • Blade length
    2.875”
  • Blade steel
    Powder-coated 1095 carbon steel
  • Blade shape
    Drop point
  • Sheath
    Plastic
  • Weight
    3.2 oz.

The Best Survival Knives of 2024


  • Small and versatile

  • Curved design

  • Sheath provides multiple, concealable carry options

Best Multifunction Survival Knife

  • OAL
    17”
  • Blade Length
    11.5”
  • Blade Steel
    Powder Coated 1074/1075 Spring Steel
  • Blade Shape
    Woodman’s Pal
  • Sheath
    Leather
  • Weight
    2lbs. 8oz.

The Best Survival Knives of 2024


  • Guarded leather banded handle

  • Double blades for expanded uses

  • Guarded leather banded handle

  • Included fighting manual and sharpening stone


  • Blade can chip if you hit a bolt or nail

Best Bushcraft-and-Survival Combo Knife

  • OAL
    9.83”
  • Blade length
    5”
  • Blade steel
    Cerakoted Cruwear
  • Blade shape
    Clip point
  • Sheath
    Kydex w/ ferro rod holder
  • Weight
    5.9 oz.

The Best Survival Knives of 2024


  • Cruwear steel

  • Textured G10 Handle Scales

  • Sleek profile


  • There’s only one place to use a ferro rod, and it’s not easy to use

Best of the Rest

  • Steel
    1095 high-carbon
  • Blade length
    4.75″

The Best Survival Knives of 2024


  • Bulletproof warranty

  • Great ergonomics

  • Sterling reputation


  • Sheath rides high on the belt

  • Steel
    420HC or BDZ-1
  • Blade length
    4.875 in.

The Best Survival Knives of 2024


  • Outstanding comfort

  • Versatility

  • Durability

  • Steel
    AUS-10A
  • Blade length
    4″

The Best Survival Knives of 2024


  • Tri-Ad lock

  • Strong ergonomics


  • Middling pocket clip

  • Stiff deployment

  • Steel
    LC200N
  • Blade length
    4.44″

The Best Survival Knives of 2024


  • Solid grip

  • Essentially rustproof


  • Light to moderate duty only

  • Steel
    1095 high-carbon
  • Blade length
    7 in.

The Best Survival Knives of 2024


  • Affordable

  • Durable

  • Fire/sharpening kit included


  • Blade coating can chip off

KA-BAR

  • Steel
    1095 Cro-Van
  • Weight
    15.9 oz.
  • Total Length
    10.75 in.

The Best Survival Knives of 2024


  • Rugged

  • Reliable

  • Fully coated blade


  • Thick

  • Heavy

  • Not the best for detail work

  • Steel
    12C27N Sandvik stainless
  • Blade length
    3.9″

The Best Survival Knives of 2024


  • Included fire steel

  • Solid materials

  • Low cost


  • Partial-tang construction

  • Basic sheath

Survival Knife Comparison Chart

How We Tested The Best Survival Knives

The TOPS Tom Brown Tracker has proven to be the ideal survival knife; (photo/Nick LeFort)

There’s no one particular way to get into a survival situation without actually being in a situation where your survival is at stake. Aside from Nick LeFort almost taking his thumb off with the Benchmade Anonimus, there was no blood shed during the testing of these knives – nor the threat of it. So, we just beat the hell out of these blades to see how they would hold up in a situation where we really needed to depend on them.

For this year, we relied solely on tester and knifemaker Nick LeFort to work with these knives and get a sense of their worth. Bringing together years of product knowledge as well as a keen sense of what kind of situations we’re going to get into, he worked with our editors to find the right knives that would meet GearJunkie’s standards for such high accolades. In that process, everything from blade shape to blade steel to handle materials and sheaths was considered.

In reality, every knife out there could be used in a survival situation, so the daunting task here was to find what knives were designed for that task. Where in backpacking and bushcraft, knives may need to be used as a line of defense, in a survival situation they ARE that line of defense. To say this process for this particular category got very nit-picky would be an understatement.

But, in the end, we think we nailed it.

So what did we do?

The one thing that really stuck out in picking the top survival knives was the blade steel. When we think of survival, we think of living, moving, and sleeping in undesirable settings. This may include having to build shelters and traps for catching food. These situations may include bad weather, mud, and gunk. So, you’ll notice that all of the knives on this list either have materials that have great corrosion resistance or they’ve been treated so that worrying about corrosion altogether is eliminated. You’ll also note that all of these tools are easy to resharpen or maintain.

We often state that testing the true merit of a knife isn’t by sitting in a garage or workshop slicing cardboard and rope. It’s about really using the knives and tools in the environments how they’d be used in real-life scenarios. This was paramount in picking these knives because there’s no way to replicate the variables that you face in the outdoor world while sitting in a lawn chair listening to Led Zeppelin in your temperature-controlled abode.

All of the knives on this list were used, abused, and relied on. During the testing of the Benchmade Anonimus and TOPS Tom Brown Tracker, there was snow on the ground, but it was warm, muddy, and raining. The Woodman’s Pal was used to bushwack through an overgrown, half-frozen swamp. The ESEE Izula II really was carried and used by LeFort for over a decade. In fact, he almost got the boot from a bouncer in Brooklyn for wearing it in a brewery once. That’s kind of a survival situation – the dude was really big.

Anyway, here at GearJunkie, we decided long ago that if we’re going to recommend something to you, we need to be as authentic as we can. The best way to do that was to rely on them, which we very much did.

Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose a Survival Knife

The Benchmade Anonimus is truly versatile and can adapt to a variety of situations; (photo/Nick LeFort)

Blade Shape

The shape of the blade plays a critical role in every knife’s purpose, but for survival knives you need a blade that can stab. If it can’t stab, then it needs to be able to slash. These are two critical maneuver’s in self defense. But equally important are the abilities to slice and chop as well as process meat and other materials you need to rely on when you’re in a survival situation.

That said, Drop Point and Clip Point style blades are usually preferred due to their ability to adapt to different tasks. But ergonomics also plays a heavy role in the overall success of a knife in a survival situation. So make sure to choose a knife that you feel comfortable maneuvering through uncomfortable situations.

Knife Steel

The amount of knife blade steel and handle materials out there is pretty impressive. But, where the handle materials seem to have stabilized, there’s new steel coming out every year. As you can see from the above selection of eight knives, there are seven different knife steels. Our recommendation is to consider each steel on a case-by-case basis. But they should still meet or exceed the following requirements:

Corrosion Resistance

The last thing you want is your knife turning orange on you out in the field. Especially if you’re planning on using it to prepare food. All of the steel mentioned in this guide either has exceptional corrosion resistance or has been coated to eliminate the occurrence of rust.

Abrasion Resistance

Some people consider this property to be more form than function. But in all reality, if your blade can easily get scrapped up that can lead to chipping, which then could lead to blade failure. 

Edge Retention/Ease of Resharpening

No matter what knife you carry, the worst knife you could carry is a dull one. That being said, you want to look for knife steels that either excel in edge retention or can be easily resharpened. 

Handle Material

When it comes down to handle material it’s all about grip. Ergonomics play a part in this as well, as you could have great handle material in a weird shape that will cause fatigue. In the end, you won’t want to use the knife and you’ll have wasted your money. These are some of the more preferred materials on the market today:

G10 & Micarta

G10 and Micarta are both extremely strong materials. Both excel in grip whether your hands are wet or dry which is why those two materials are so popular with EDC, Survival, Tactical, and Bushcraft-style knives. 

Nylon & Plastic

Nylon and Plastic also make for great handle materials because they’re durable and lightweight, but they’re also generally textured. It’s this texturing and styling that increases the grip on a knife with these materials. Note: Nylon and Plastic handle scales can be called a litany of names. Some of the more popular names are: FRN/Zytel (Fiber Reinforced Nylon), GRN (Glass Reinforced Nylon), GFN (Glass Filled Nylon) and Grivory (Injection Molded).

Rubber

In some knife worlds, rubber is the sign of a cheap knife. However, in bushcraft rubberized handles can be a great benefit to you due to their durability as well as their unsurpassed grip.

Wood

Wood is a fantastic handle material as long as it has been stabilized so it won’t crack. It offers a good amount of grip which generally increases when the wood gets wet. It also looks very nice.

Leather

Leather is the original OG when it comes to handle materials. Aside from wood, it was one of the earliest used materials for handle scales; and it has stood the test of time. Usually stacked in rings, Leather breaks in rather quickly to provide a very good grip.

Ease of use

Ergonomics

A good knife will feel right in your hand. From the shape of the handle scales to the Overall thickness, and even texturing, ergonomics can be the difference between you being confident with your knife or leaving it in your drawer at home. When you consider a knife, put it in your hand and give it a good squeeze. Then, push down hard on a hard surface. If everything feels right, that’s your next knife.

Sheath

A good bushcraft knife is only as good as its ease of carry. In considering your next bushcraft knife, consider a sheath made from leather or kydex. Leather will cost you more, but can last you for years. Kydex, which is widely used by the military, is durable and generally offers not only multiple carry options but room for you to expand it to carry a Ferro rod.

Lock Mechanism

Without fail, you will find yourself in a position where you need to rely on the lock on your knife more than you expected. 

Some of the more common lock types are liner/frame locks that use a bar that indexes into the back of the blade. There are also button-style locks that use a steel barrel to keep the blade engaged. However, the most popular lock type is the crossbar lock which also uses a steel bar to hold the knife in place.

In my time and experience, I have never seen a crossbar-style lock mechanism fail without some outside force creating a major disruption in how the knife functions. Like a truck running it over.

Prior to the internet, we learned fighting techniques through printed manuals; (photo/Nick LeFort)

Freaquently Asked Questions

No one expects to find themselves in a survival situation, but everyone should expect to end up in one. Those are just the facts. That said, the best survival knife is the one you have with you.

But, big picture, a good survival knife is one that you’re comfortable using. It needs to be durable so that it can perform under duress. It also needs to be adaptable so that it can be used in all types of environments; wet or dry.

Where there is no real size to the ideal survival knife, the sweet spot is 8” – 12” with the preferred size hovering around 10”. That’s not to say that smaller knives or larger knives won’t do the trick – in fact, they may even suit your needs better. So, if we can be so bold – statistics aren’t going to save your life – the right knife will.

When choosing a steel for your new survival knife, you want a steel that can endure abuse and be easily maintained. In other words you want a knife steel that can be used in all weather conditions, that won’t turn brite orange if it gets dropped into a body of water. You also want something that is tough, but easy to sharpen.

You’ll see on our list that the high carbon steels – 1074/1075, 1095 – are either powder coated or Cerakoted. These are softer steels that are easier to sharpen, however, they don’t have a great level of resistance to corrosion. In coating these blades, you eliminate the need to worry about the blade rusting on your. 

The Cruwear used in the Benchmade Anonimus has a fairly good natural resistance to corrosion. In this case, Benchmade’s decision to Cerakote it is an added benefit albeit maybe not necessary. Either way, it’s a benefit.

Overall the four things you want to look for in the ideal blade steel are:

  1. Corrosion Resistance
  2. Abrasion Resistance
  3. Edge Retention
  4. Ease of Resharpening

Excellent question! Like all tools, survival knives need to be cared for to maintain their readiness for action. The biggest factors to consider are edge maintenance and rust prevention.

Many of the knives we’ve listed here are coated to prevent corrosion. But the cutting edge remains exposed, so you’ll need to wipe it down (carefully!) before returning the knife to its sheath. Once the edge shows signs of dulling, there are many ways to bring it back to life.

Sometimes, a simple stropping motion across a leather belt or edge of a cardboard box will straighten things out. Just angle the blade and pull the edge backward across the surface to see if it improves. But when it does come time to sharpen your survival knife, you can use anything from a guided system like the Work Sharp Professional Precision Adjust Knife Sharpener or Lanksy Deluxe 5-Stone System, or traditional sharpening stones.Out in the field, we recommend using the Work Sharp Guided Field Sharpener or Smith’s Pocket-Pal Knife Sharpener. But, hey – if this is a matter of life or death, a flat rock, the beveled edge of a car window, or another piece of steel can provide you a decent edge.

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