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The problem with 'survival' knives

Discussion in 'General Knife Discussion' started by Camillus, Sep 4, 2015.

  1. Camillus

    Camillus Gold Member Gold Member

    Jun 3, 2015
    Thanks rimfire,

    The knives that have caught my eye so far are the BK 15, BK 16, Schrade SCHF42, Ka Bar Dogs Head Utility, and a more traditional knife like a Hess Whitetail Hunter. These aren't big knives, but seem to be practical knives.

    I already own half a dozen Moras, about twenty assorted GEC folders, half a dozen traditional Schrade USA, a RAT 2, a few victorinox, a few multi tools.

    What concerns me, and still does based on Youtibe etc, is that I can't find honest reviews of these knives' utility. Toomuch smashing and bashing and not enough real work going on people. Too many armchair experts repeating the same information they learnt from another armchair expert, to the point where there is an orthodoxy to the knife testing process that can't be challenged - of which the best example is the batoning test, or perhaps fire steel striking. Both are tasks I have never needed a knife to perform in my life, and which I would never contemplate doing in a survival scenario (because there are better ways).

    that is why i posted the link to a real survival scenario - but that quickly shut down discussion because its kind of inconvenient to inject some realism! The fact that it might be dark, that you might be scared or cold or injured, means a knife is still useful, it just might not be the first tool you want to have in your pocket.

    People seem to want to pretend that warm, healthy, well fed and hydrated people building complex structures, are well placed to test and recommend a survival knife. I want to know what knife is recommended in the opposite scenario.
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2015
  2. The cow

    The cow

    Jul 3, 2014
    Batoning is what I see break the most knives (followed by prying with the tip). Since thats what everyone does, that leads to bigger, thicker survival knives.
    Depending on where you live, thats one of the only ways to get dry wood/tinder.

    Survival knives are too much of a compromise for me. I'm talking about the ESEE 5 and the 6 to some extent. Too small to do heavy tasks besides batoning, too big for fine tasks. But thats the result if you want a "one tool option" that'll withstand human stupidity. But in reality, no well-made knife will fail under normal use. Its when you start prying with the tip or batoning is where you'll get the knife to fail. Unfortunately, youtube survivalists love these features so knives have gotten bigger to accommodate that.

    I might be spreading rumors, but the reason why some of the Becker knives are so chunky is because nobody would buy the smaller ones. Jeff Randall has said he dislikes the ESEE 5, but its one of the biggest sellers he has.

    In a "survival situation" the knife I'll have on me will most likely be a ESEE Junglas and some kind of folder. Why? Because I do a lot of scouting for hunting season or property maintenance and thats what I'll have on em. Hunting season? It'd be a 4 inch belt knife and a hatchet....
  3. craytab

    craytab Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 26, 2012
    There is the problem right there. Take a look around here. Use the search functions. Tons of great reviews over in reviews and testing.

    Again, not a real survival scenario, and certainly didn't pertain to the discussion of a survival knife. Only thing to learn from that was not to be so dumb. Those folks couldn't even check the weather much less survive, knife or not.
  4. 22-rimfire

    22-rimfire Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 20, 2005
    Camillus, I really like both the BK-15 and Bk-16 (have both). I have no experience with the chinese made Schrade SCHF42. Generally anything Kabar makes is pretty good if you like the size, design, and steel.

    I am not all caught up in this "survival knife" thing. I do have the BK-7 and find it just a tad large for me. But I can see the utility in it however, and could see myself carrying it in the woods where I might need to do a multitude of tasks other than serious chopping. It is right at the edge of being cumbersome to me. It might not be a bad choice for you. You might have to grow into using a 7" blade however. You can do finer cutting with it, but again, it is no BK-15 or BK-16. It is the primary reason I have not purchased the BK-10. If I need a large knife, I am comfortable with the BK-7 in terms of using. From there, I would jump up to short stiff machetes made by Condor that are in the 11-12", namely the Pack Golok or Village Parang (which are choppers through and through). The Condor Kumunga has a 10" straight blade (with kind of a fat machete like handle) and much more knife like than the Pack Golok or Village Parang. The BK-7 would be easier to do smaller cutting tasks than the Kumunga. But, just remember, I will always have a folder on me too. One of those GEC's would fit that bill perfectly.

    I hope I may have helped you with my verbal wanderings.
  5. 22-rimfire

    22-rimfire Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 20, 2005
    In the "opposite scenario", a 5-6" knife is ideal for the woods. It may be a tad cumbersome for hunting tasks, but the size is very useful.
  6. stabman

    stabman Gold Member Gold Member

    Sep 17, 2007
    Perhaps in some cases.

    Myself, I tend to ignore other people's opinions on most things, so for what I like to use, it's based on what I liked using.

    But hey, at least you invented a new word today...Toomuch. :thumbup:
  7. Velitrius

    Velitrius Gold Member Gold Member

    Mar 3, 2000
    Cray's right. YouTube is no place to hang your hat for your entire breadth of review knowledge. Buy one yourself, review it yourself.

    He's also right that you didn't offer up a real "survival scenario" that presents a knife as anything more than another frozen piece of gear. Just like the hikers in the desert I mentioned before, they had zero use for the most expensive knife in existence...they'd have traded a knife made of gold for a book of matches and a tarp.

    Your user name is "Camillus"... so I hereby recommend the Jerry Fisk designed Camillus OVB bowie knife. Jerry himself told me... "It's made to work... GO FORTH!" I have two of them. I find another for sale, I'll own a third.

    You have a problem with "survival knives"? So do I. If that term, along with "bushcraft", disappeared tomorrow, nobody'd cry over the loss.
  8. stabman

    stabman Gold Member Gold Member

    Sep 17, 2007
    I'd miss it.
    If not for the terms "survival", "bushcraft", "tactical", "combat", etc., there would be less posts with people complaining about those terms. :)
    Then I might actually get some work done, and we can't be having that! :eek:
  9. Velitrius

    Velitrius Gold Member Gold Member

    Mar 3, 2000
    You got me there, Stab.... would mean fewer sub-forums as well probably.
  10. pinnah


    Jul 28, 2011
    Hey Gaston,

    I'll bet I've made more stupid mistakes than everybody posting to this thread, so no judgement from me. Honestly. But your story really makes my point. Three things...

    First, with regard to your derailleur failing, a bit of easy adjusting and lubrication would have in all likelihood prevent the failure. That it was shifting poorly and you knew it was not lubricated were signals to perform 5 minutes of preventative maintenance. Closely related, with a weak drivetrain, it is possible to "ride light" on the pedals, minimizing the chance of blowing out weak parts.

    Second, with regard to your overall kit, a bike repair tool with allen keys (to remove the toasted derailleur) and a chain tool (to shorten the chain) combined with pair of mini Vice Grip pliers (to remove and replace the masterlink) would have allowed you to convert the bike into a sloppy but workable single speed. With regard to a lack of cell phone, I consider that a part of an urban EDC.

    Third, with respect to the line between frontcountry and backcountry, it sounds like you knew you were closing a threshold of sorts and yet proceeded despite having no phone, deterioriating conditions and a soft drive train.

    I've made this same set of mistakes a ton of times and like you, have lived to tell about.

    But I do stand by my original statement, that in almost all cases, these situations come down to a combination of lack of knowledge and an inadequate set of essentials (of which a knife is part).

    Note: please don't get me wrong on the bikes. Plenty of failures that can happen suddenly and can leave you stranded with no easy way to fix it.
  11. 22-rimfire

    22-rimfire Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 20, 2005
    I sometimes think that too much effort is expended on selecting a "survival knife". You sort of have to learn as you go as to your preferences. You have many Mora's, and would apparently like something a bit stronger and probably bigger. The BK-7 may be the one for you. It is not the end all in Beckers, but I like it as I mentioned two posts ago. I much prefer it to the BK-2, MUCH. It is just a BK-10 with some inches and the BK-9 adds a couple more inches of blade. People on the Becker forum often say it is one of their least used Beckers, but they all have BK-9's and obviously a BK-16 and perhaps a BK-15. I always pair a larger blade with a smaller knife in the woods or two smaller blades. A Mora, BK-7, and GEC slippie would be a good combination if you are willing to use the GEC's ( :D). Me I would probably have my trusty SAK for the finer cutting tasks and the problem of cutting finer with the larger blade goes away. Then it becomes a matter of what you are comfortable carrying length wise and you do have to carry it if you want to use it.

    There are so many good knives available to choose from. So, I am thinking you have about a $100 budget for this acquisition versus going with some custom or even a Bark River knife. You have more GEC's than I do, but I am slowly catching up on you. Love their knives.
  12. AreBeeBee


    Sep 3, 2013
    Not to focus on a single comment, but this jumped out at me, especially after reading about all the unhelpful Youtubish stuff.

    There's no substitute to learning first hand how to do these things. Take a bunch of weekends to try some of the knives on typical woodlands trips that don't actually get you into risky places but do provide chances to try out basic skills with particular items of gear. With knives, go for Moras and others that aren't budget-busters.

    Use them. See how they work for you. Spending a dozen weekends, or even a dozen (single) weekend days, over the course of a year — that's just one a month, through all the seasons — will teach you more than 99.9% of the Youtubers have to show. And you'll know it because you yourself did it.
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2015
  13. Boats


    Aug 7, 2003
    I have plenty of knives that cost more, but I'd be perfectly fine getting by with a Ka-Bar USN Mk.1, but only because I have read and practiced the techniques for smaller knives found in Mors Kochanski's books.
  14. AreBeeBee


    Sep 3, 2013
    That's an excellent woods knife, and an excellent guide to the woods in MK.
  15. comis


    May 17, 2013
    Just read through the posts quickly, and few things come into mind:

    1) I think the question come to my head most often when discussing 'survival knife' is that we focus a lot on the 'knife' part, but maybe not enough on 'survival'. My understanding of 'outdoor survival' is to be able to stay alive and find rescue(either to wait for rescue or find rescue) in a wilderness situation, within 72 hours time frame, if possible. Not sustaining live in wilderness indefinitely or Armageddon zombie scenario. I am not an outdoor survival expert or seasonal outdoorsman, so I do try to practice those skills whenever I can to up my chances.

    2) When travelling to different outdoor setting, I do alter the contents in my survival kit(for example, winter vs tropical), and maybe even the knife if needed to. There is a very good reason why certain knife shape/grind/size is popular in different countries, and in many sense, those are the long-term 'survival knife' they use to live on their land. So I think it is reasonable to say no one survival kit will covers all different scenario, and no one 'survival knife' will cover those scenario as well.

    3) As someone posted earlier, batoning is just a knife technique. Not all survival scenario will require it. It maybe comforting to know the knife can baton when needed to, but only if we know our survival priorities and to have the skills to do them.

    A youtube video I did a while ago about my on person survival kit, and in this kit, my 'backup'(or redundant) knife is the Victorinox lumberjack.
  16. buckfynn


    May 1, 2011
    Too many people attempt to force some specific style of knife to perform tasks that it really was not designed to do well. Then such folks don't understand why they failed in their tasks. The thought process is backwards. One should choose a knife that is designed for the tasks they are performing.
  17. Thomas Linton

    Thomas Linton

    Jun 16, 2003

    This reminds me of: "If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail."
  18. KingMC

    KingMC The Pun-isher Platinum Member

    Jul 25, 2014
    If you have a Becker BK9, everything looks like a round to split
  19. afishhunter


    Oct 21, 2014
    Is there a practical difference between the two? "Bushcrafting" is "survival" if you think about it. In bushcrafting, you make a shelter, possibly a bed, and a fire for heating and cooking. You process game and/or fish, build traps and snares for the game and fish. How is that any different from "survival" other than it may not have been planned for when you left the house?

    Over in the BUCK KNIVES forum, there was a survey on what the best "survival" knife would be, if you could only have one. The winner? The Buck 110 folding hunter. Short of batoning, the 110 can do everything needed of a good bushcraft knife. Batoning is not necessary, anyway. I am 60 years old, and have yet needed to baton anything.
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2015
  20. Sword and Shield

    Sword and Shield

    Apr 3, 2004
    Bushcrafting, if you read the books around the topic, also tends to carry a much lower environmental impact. Survival, I don't give a damn if I have to light a dead tree on fire. Bushcrafting, I do.

    I liken it to the difference between some of the techniques used winter camping when I was in Scouts. You'd have two types of shelters- massive ones with multiple dead trees, swaths of tarp and yards of rope, then you'd have the minimalist ones, a long branch or two as poles, a small tarp, and a little rope. The massive ones took a lot longer to build and take down, which expends energy in a survival situation you really don't have. The minimal ones are easier and quicker.

    I'm a firm believer in the best survival knife being the one you know well and have available. It may be the old Ka-Bar and Plumb felling axe in my trunk, or the SAK in my pocket. Even if there were such a thing as the best survival knife, it means nothing if you don't have it or know it well enough to use it properly.

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