How to Choose the Best Knife for Your Bug Out Bag [+6 Expert Top Picks!]
Have you heard the saying, “The best knife for your bug out bag is the one you have on you at the moment you need it?”
If you’ve ever found yourself without when you needed one, you know this all too well to be true.
That said, a good, reliable knife is one of the most valuable additions to your Bug Out Bag you can make.
Bug Out Bag Knives Are Not “One Size Fits All”
Of course, there is a dizzying array of choices for a good knife to carry in your bug out bag.
Ultimately, like most bug out gear, the decision is a personal one and should be unique to the individual.
And regardless of what some may try and tell you, there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to knives.
That said, let’s walk through how you can choose the best knife for your bug out bag….
How to Select a Bug Out Bag Knife Based on Your Budget
For most people, this is where it all starts. How much knife can you afford? While there are decent quality knives at low budget prices, you tend to get what you pay for when it comes to blades. At least to a point. 😉
In my experience, a $500 knife doesn’t usually function any better than a $200 one. The price difference at that level is rooted in aesthetics not usability.
Buy the best quality knife you can afford. Remember, your life may depend on this tool.
Should I Carry a Fixed Blade or Folding Knife in My Bug Out Bag?
Spoiler alert: My answer is “Yes.”
As a general rule, I recommend a full tang, fixed blade knife for your bug out bag. They are stronger and more robust than a folding knife.
That said, there’s nothing wrong with carrying a folding knife as a backup to your fixed blade.
What I often do is use a folding knife for opening food packets and cutting cordage. This way I can reserve my fixed blade for when I truly need it.
Keep in mind, every time you use a blade you dull the edge a bit. For instance, over time, even cutting cordage will noticably dull a blade’s edge.
For those inexperienced with knives, it may seem a bit counter intuitive but…
A dull knife is far more dangerous to the user than a sharp one. A dull knife requires more force and pressure to make a cut.
As a result, you end up pressing harder to make the cut. This increases the chance of slipping and cutting your hand, leg, or anything else that gets in the way.
That said, a folding knife is great for EDC (Every Day Carry) and is far more useful than a sharp rock when your life is on the line.
However, folding knives have moving parts. And those parts can fail.
If you decide to invest in a folding knife, be sure to get one that has a locking blade for safety and has been proven to be reliable.
Editor’s note: I recently picked up the CRKT Squid on Amazon and really like the size, look and feel of it. Jim also likes the CRKT Ignitor for those of you wanting a longer blade than the Squid offers.
Which is Better for Knives… Carbon Steel or Stainless Steel?
When it comes to knife steel, there are basically two camps—Carbon Steel or Stainless Steel.
Once upon a time, 440 stainless steel was one of the best metals around for general use knives. Today, many survival instructors recommend carbon steel. It is strong but still relatively easy to sharpen and will hold that edge for some time.
Stainless steel is more corrosion resistant than carbon steel. This can make it a better choice for those working in wet environments, especially saltwater. But, stainless is also a harder steel and thus can be more difficult to sharpen properly.
Does Size Matter?
Thanks to Hollywood, many intrepid survivalists are convinced “bigger is always better” when it comes to blades.
To them, anything less than, say, a foot-long blade is looked upon as being inferior. The truth is, you don’t need nearly that much knife to complete 99% of the tasks in an emergency or survival situation.
And while it may have worked well for Crocodile Dundee, you probably don’t need an oversized Bowie knife either.
As a rule of thumb, look for a blade that is 4 or 5 inches long.
How to Determine the Right Size Knife Blade
Some instructors say a good way to determine your ideal blade length is to to lay your hand flat on a table. Placed palm side up, measure from the outer edge of your thumb across the hand.
The measurement you get can help you determine a good starting point for your ideal blade length. The width of mine is 4.5 inches, which falls right in line with my preference for a blade around that length.
For a folding knife, I recommend sticking with a blade length of 3 inches or so. You’ll be carrying it in your pocket often, if not every day, so you want to make sure it will be comfortable.
Know Your Local Knife Laws
You may need to look into local knife laws, too, and check for the maximum blade length allowed for pocket carry. The last thing you want is to end up paying a fine because your chosen blade was a hair too long.
How to Select a Knife Sheath
Virtually all fixed blade knives will be carried in some sort of sheath. There are three primary sheath materials on the market today:
Nylon Knife Sheaths
This is largely a matter of personal preference. Nylon works very well and is usually the economical choice. Typically, a nylon sheath will have a snap or other closure to secure the knife, which is never a bad thing.
Kydex Knife Sheaths
Kydex is a plastic material that is very popular, particularly among the “tactical” crowd. It is a hard material that will protect the knife. The knife is secured through pressure and a sharp tug on the handle will release it. The downside, at least as far as some folks are concerned, is a kydex sheath isn’t very quiet. There is a distinct scraping noise when the knife is pulled or replaced.
Leather Knife Sheaths
Leather is a traditional sheath material and is my personal preference. It is durable as well as quiet. However, a good quality leather sheath can add significantly to the overall cost of the knife.
If the knife you choose doesn’t come with a sheath you find ideal, you can always seek out someone to custom craft a sheath that will meet your needs. Facebook is rife with leather and kydex craftspeople.
Best Survival Knife Recommendations
Now that we have the basics covered, let’s look at a few knives from different price levels. Again, not every knife will be best for every person. That said, most instructors would agree these are all solid choices for most folks.
Best Bug Out Knives Under $50
The Mora Companion is one of the most inexpensive yet great quality knives on the market today. It retails for under $20 and is a solid, dependable tool. The only complaint I regularly hear is about the plastic sheath. However, with the knife being this inexpensive, you might have room in the budget for a custom made sheath.
Another great option in this range is the Condor Bushlore.
It is a little larger and heavier than the Mora Companion and also comes with a nice leather sheath. You aren’t going to find a much nicer knife in this price range.
Best Bug Out Knives Under $100
The CRKT Terzuola Survival Rescue knife is a great option. It comes with an injection molded sheath with a built in ceramic sharpener as well as a magnesium edge for fire starting. As an added bonus, the handle doubles as a small compartment perfect for some tinder or other survival essentials.
If you have your eye on the Ka-Bar Becker 22, this is also a formidable knife for any bug out bag. Larger and heftier than the CRKT Terzuola, this knife can take a beating and is a popular knife for good reason.
Best Bug Out Knives Under $250
For many, $250 is about the limit they want to spend on a knife. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of truly great knives out there beyond that price point. But, if you’re just looking for a high quality knife to keep in the bug out bag, $250 is probably the outer limit to your budget.
For my money, I’d go with either the LT Wright GNS or the Bark River Fox River. Both come with high quality leather sheaths. Both knives will perform flawlessly, too.
If you’re new to knives, I hope this introductory guide serves as a great starting point for you. I encourage you to click on the links above to learn more about each selection and see why I recommend them. The more familiar you are with them, the more comfortable you’ll become around them.
If you’ve been around the block a time or two, you know this article is just scratching the surface of all the information out there. Nevertheless, I hope you learned something as well. If you’re looking to go deeper, I invite you to my free newsletter. The details are below.
Either way, if you found this article helpful and would like me to write more on the topic of Knives, please let me know in the comments below.
Additional Knife Resources
There are a few really good resources if you’re looking to learn more about knives in general. One in particular is Craig Caudill’s new book “Ultimate Wilderness Gear“. If you’re wanting to learn more about how to choose the best one for you, this is the book I recommend. And as the title says, the book covers far more than just knives.
Editor’s Note: If you are more of a knife enthusiast, you’ll want to be sure and check out Jim’s email newsletter “Point to Pommel.” Jim has an extensive and awe-inspiring knife collection as well as decades of knowledge about blades under his belt. As the saying goes, he has forgotten far more than I’ll ever know about any of them.
So now it’s your turn!
What knives do you carry in your bug out bag and EDC? Let us know in the comments below why you chose the ones you did and what you like most about them!
Categorized in: Background, Bug Out Bag Essentials, Bug Out Bag Product Reviews, Bug Out Bags, Emergency Preparedness, Every Day Carry - EDC