Swiss Army Knife

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5 essential knives every survivalist should own

By Nicholas O

As a general rule of thumb, water or the ability to purify water is the most important priority in a survival pack, and a good knife is typically second. With a good knife, you have a means to protect yourself, make fire, prepare meals, help build shelters, and a vast array of other useful purposes.

No survival pack is truly complete without a trusty knife.

But one knife isn’t enough. This is a list of the five most essential knives a survivalist should own, listed in order of importance:

1. Fixed blade knife. Think a military K-bar knife that’s securely fastened in a sheath that you can strap onto your belt. A good, fixed-blade knife will be one of your most valuable assets and tools in a survival situation. It will provide you with excellent security as a means to defend yourself. Also, with a good fixed-blade knife, you can perform a field dressing and work on tough jobs around camp. The best aspect of a fixed-blade knife is that the blade is a solid, sharp piece of steel attached directly to the handle, making it a truly reliable and robust tool.

2. Folding knife. In many aspects, a good folding knife can serve as an excellent backup to your fixed blade. The blade of your folding knife should be smaller than that of your fixed blade and something that you can easily place inside your pocket wherever you go. While a folding knife won’t be as durable as a fixed blade, it will be more compact for safe carry.

The Essential Survival Secrets of The Most Vigilant…Most Skilled…Most Savvy Survivalists in the World!

You can also use your folding knife for situations when your large fixed blade is not required. An added benefit of the folding knife is that it can always be carried in your pocket when you don’t feel like attaching the fixed blade sheath to your belt, or if you need a good knife that’s easily concealable.

3. Swiss Army Knife. It doesn’t have to be a classic Swiss Army Knife, but a little knife that contains several tools inside of it, such as a blade, scissors, tweezers, toothpick, screwdriver, can opener, or even a little saw, will be immensely valuable. Granted, this knife won’t exactly fill the security purpose of the fixed blade or the folding knife, and there are a wide variety of other tasks that a little Swiss Army-type knife won’t be able to fulfill because of its small size. But in due course, you may also find that there is no tool that will prove just as handy. An alternative to a Swiss Army Knife would be a good multi-tool, which comes with the added benefit of having a pair of pliers.

4. Fish fillet knife. If you’re stuck in a survival situation, it’s always a good idea to have a small fishing kit in your survival pack. There are very few sources of food out in the wilderness that will have as much nutrition as fish. When you make a catch, a good fish fillet knife will allow you to clean the fish. Granted, all three of the above knives will do the job one way or the other, but a true fish fillet knife is designed specifically for this purpose. If you do have a fish fillet knife with you, it should be used solely for the purpose of cleaning fish — otherwise, the blade could dull.

5. Machete. This may seem a little over the top, and indeed, it’s probably not as critical to have a machete as the above options. A machete is large, can be a pain to carry after a period of time, and won’t be used nearly as much as the other knives on this list (other than hacking through thick brush). But a machete will provide you with the best means of security out of this list. You should always have firearms and/or bow and arrows with you, but a machete will help protect you if things really become too close. As an added benefit, a machete is intimidating! If someone with malicious intent comes toward you or your family, they may think twice when they see a machete strapped to your side or at your back.

There are many other knives that any survivalist should consider, and this list just serves as a suggestion for the most important five. You should also consider having at least one reliable back-up to each of the knives on this list. If you ever find yourself in a situation where you need to survive, having these five knives, or even just one of them, in your pack will greatly aid you in surviving.

What would you add or delete from this list? Tell us in the comments section below:

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This article first appeared at Off The Grid News: 5 Essential Knives Every Survivalist Should Own



Trench_knifeOne thing that is difficult to argue with, is the importance of a decent cutting tool. A good knife is a flexible tool that can be used for nearly anything. However, with how many different kinds of knives there are, it can be difficult to select one for the proper uses. This article is to take some of the mystery out of the variety, and teach basic knife care. While it will not be as in depth as some solid time researching the subject, it will hopefully make a quick and easy reference guide to the casual knife shopper, and owner. We have more tips and tricks over at Outlive the Outbreak.

Step 1: Why You Want a Knife

Whether you want to survive the urban jungle, or go out into the woods, a knife can give anyone a little extra boost of confidence. To go out into the wilderness and have a knife gives you the ability to clean and dress any game you capture, strip bark or other flora to make cordage or baskets, cut cordage to make snares or rig shelters, shape sticks to create new tools or just extend your reach. In addition to what you can do with the knife itself, there are tools you can use with a knife such as fire strikers, or things like compasses that can be sculpted into the knife itself. Even if the most dangerous part of the day is getting out of bed, a decent knife can come in handy for the littlest of things like opening mail. There may be some fancy pieces of equipment out there, but it is still possible to make a lot out of a little with a just basic pocket knife.

Step 2: Know Your Knife

There is a near endless assortment of knives. They can be built for survival, or designed by a fantasy artist, and everything between with even more past the extremes. If that wasn’t enough there is an almost infinite combination of alloys that the blades are sculpted from. So with so much variety, where does one even begin?

The Steel: Where the different compositions of each alloy will vary between almost any producer, there are a few that are more common, or a couple of phrases that would be helpful to recognize when you’re making a selection.

420 Stainless Steel: This will be one of the most common compositions of metal used in knife making. It offers good resistance to rusting but tends to be a few shades softer than other metals on the market. This does not mean it is bad, however it won’t hold its edge as well as some other blades.

440 Stainless Steel: This will be a step up from the 420. It still has the high corrosion resistance, but will generally hold its edge better.

Carbon Steel: Carbon steel is a vague term. There are numerous grades encompassed by that simple phrase, but they share a few common threads. A carbon steel blade will not be as resistant to rusting, and will need to be watched more carefully. They may take a little more maintenance, but overall will be a harder blade and will not need to be sharpened as often.

Unrated: While it is possible that the knife could be homemade, it is generally a good practice to avoid a knife that doesn’t list its grading. If it only says Pakistan, or China, or some such on the blade, but will not even proclaim a basic 420 steel it may not even be rated. Knives like this have a tendency to lose their edge quickly and bend without returning to their original shape.Elasticity in a blade is desirable, a knife that can flex but will return to its original shape on its own is an extremely high quality, most knives are rigid and won’t flex, but be wary of knives that will bend without going back.

Damascus: The blade featured in the picture is one of the most distinctive blends of metal. Known as Damascus Steel, its comprised of metals with different carbon content being folded together. Its widely valued both for its signature appearance, and the fact that the different metals together offer it a blend of flexibility and hardness. Good Damascus is notoriously expensive, and while high quality can be prone to having the different layers begin to flake with prolonged use if it isn’t taken care of.

Step 3: The Importance of Shape

There are multiple phrases used to describe different kinds of knives. As always the lingo may vary and not be terribly helpful, but there are a few different pieces of the knife to consider. Is the blade folding or fixed, and what is the shape of the belly, being the cutting edge, in relation to the point.

For example, take the knife that won the west, the famous, or perhaps infamous Bowie. First and foremost it is a fixed blade, meaning that it doesn’t feature a mechanism that closes it. It has to be kept in a sheath to hide its edge and has a much larger profile, making any fixed blade a poor choice for say, an every day pocket knife. The blade is relatively straight but curves upwards, meeting a section removed from the back of the blade to give the Bowie a finer point. The Bowie is a fine example of a knife that was as much tool as weapon being rather heavy and sturdy, but still having a sharp straight blade, with a narrower tip for stabbing.

There is another variety of knives called skinners. Skinners are used namely to remove the hide and clean game, making them a good friend for anyone who would go hunting or is just trying to catch their own food. They can be fixed or folding which offers a choice between the stability of a fixed blade, or something more compact to put in a pocket or backpack. The blade will generally be shorter, and have more curve to it, and the back of the blade will be straighter and have the cutting edge slop upward to it. This will reduce the knife’s penetrating power, making it less likely to poke holes in the subject. Some skinners will also come with a “gut hook” which will be a ground down portion on the back of the blade, with a cutting edge that does not feature a point. These are helpful when a hunter is trying to not pierce the stomach or organs which would risk fouling some of the meat.

Now those are only two specific designs. There are variations there of within their own names, not to mention countless varieties besides. The most important thing to ask when looking at purchasing a knife is, “What will this be used for?”. Is it for splitting logs and pretending you’re Rambo in the jungle? By all means use the heavy handed Bowie knife and find a ridiculously large, serrated, and mean looking version there of. Is it to open bottles of both cap and cork variety, while still being able to clip loose threads and still have a sharp little blade to open mail or boxes? Then perhaps the multifaceted Swiss Army Knife variety would be more appealing. A knife is a very personal thing, and a good knife over time could take on a legacy of its own.

Step 4: Caring For a Knife

As with every relationship of give and take, a knife can take care of you, only if you take care of it. The two basic needs of caring for a knife are cleanliness, and sharpening. This does not mean that a knife needs to be sharpened after every use or that a knife cannot get dirty.

Keeping a knife clean may sound simple enough in theory, but that depends entirely on what kind of knife it is, what it gets used for, its age, or any number of things. When cleaning a knife, avoid fully submerging it in water. Water can get into places that can’t be reached easily and begin to form rust. Also if the knife has a wooden handle, or wooden inlays, the wood could swell and warp if it soaks for too long. A soft cloth or a stiff brush with soap and water should be enough for most cleaning. If a knife is beginning to develop rust, a chemical cleaner or light abrasive like steel wool may be in order. Always avoid things like sandpaper or wire brushes, as they could scratch the surface of a blade and create stress points or give rust a place to begin forming. A clean polished surface will be more resistant to corrosion, and make the entire length of steel stronger overall.

Sharpening a knife can take a bit of practice, although there are products that do make easier work of it. Many companies produce stones set at predetermined angles so the blade only needs to be run between them. That is the easy way, but many people still use flat sharpening stones, both for their availability, and the control they offer. If you want to sharpen a knife on a whet stone, the key thing to remember is patience. A basic rundown of sharpening goes as follows.

Most whetstones will come in sets of two, featuring a rough stone, and a fine stone. The rough stone is used primarily to set the angle of the blade, as well as work out any nicks or chips in the edge. This is the stone to use first. Apply a lubricant to the surface, this can be water but mineral oil is a very popular choice, and set the flat of the blade at a 10 to 15 degree angle. Some kits will come with a plastic wedge to help guide the angle, but it isn’t a requirement. The idea of keeping it in that zone will allow the blade to still be sharp and preform as needed, without the angle being so fine that it becomes more likely to chip or break. Patience is key. Try to make steady, consistent strokes, moving the entire length of the blade over the stone with the edge leading and grinding down towards the body of the blade. This makes it less likely to warp or roll the “truth” of the blade, being how consistent and straight the cutting edge is. After the edge is satisfactory, use the finer stone in much the same way. The difference isn’t so much that the finer stone will put a finer edge on the knife, but rather will polish the section ground down by the rougher stone. This will remove small scratches and fissures in the knife surface that would develop into stress points, and harbor moisture for rust and corrosion.

Step 5: More Than a Knife

A knife can be a useful tool on its own, but it works well with other tools, especially in a situation where one may not have all of the necessary equipment.

A big mention are fire steels. These tools have become one of the staples for campers and backpackers. While it may not be as easy and convenient as matches or a lighter, they offer an additional source of sparks that does not require fuel and will work when wet. Furthermore, most of them will come with a nice flat piece of metal, that can easily be replaced with the back edge of almost any knife.

Multi-tools are another variety of knife that are extremely popular. In addition to having an all purpose blade, a multi-tool will combine other useful tools ranging from saws and screwdrivers to tweezers and toothpicks. The trade off with multi-tools is that they will not be as streamlined or well behaved as a tool specifically designed for the task, but they have a multitude of tools readily available at any given time, where it would otherwise be necessary to carry a toolbox.

Step 6: Always Remember To Be Safe

Earlier I said that knives can offer confidence. This is not to induce a false sense of security in carrying one. A knife is a dangerous tool and needs to be treated with respect at all times. To carry one automatically imposes responsibility: to know what is legal in regards to carrying a knife, what is safe in how to use and care for it, and to know when you should and should not draw it. Some people will play with knives, and I am as guilty of that as anyone, but if you take it out at a place with no weapon policies, such as a school, there could be very serious implications, even if no harm was intended. Accepting the responsibility of owning a knife, and living up to it, are two easy things that anyone can do, and be better off for it. So always remember to be safe, and enjoy being the proud owner of your choice in cutlery. – Outlive The Outbreak


Steps to Take Before Crossing Your Doorsill

By Todd Walker

My bud over at For Tomorrow We... shared with me his article on building an office emergency kit. It reminded me that I should update my kit – and plan. Tip ‘o the hat, my friend!

If you’re fortunate enough have a job in today’s shrinking economy, it’s likely that you spend over a third of your life commuting to and from work. Whether your ‘office’ is a construction site, hospital, toll booth, boardroom, or classroom like mine, you must leave the house to get there.

Having a few preparedness tools stacks the deck in favor of you getting home.

And it all starts…

Before Stepping Over Your Doorsill

I give Dirt Road Girl a hard time about how long it takes her to get ready when we’re leaving the house. She returns the good-natured ribbing *hands on those beautiful hips and eyes rolling* as I start my ritual of loading my pockets and belt with stuff I carry everyday.

I just smile and say, “Ya never know!”

Pockets Full of Preps

The stuff you carry on your person is known in the prepper community as EDC (Everyday Carry). If you work in a victim zone (Weapons Free Zone) as I do, you’ll have to get creative with preparedness and self-defense items.

Ask a prepper if he has a knife on him. You’re likely to hear what my daddy’s says…

“I’ve got my pants on, don’t I!”

But wait! There’s more room for other useful stuff besides a knife.

Wallet (some conventional and unconventional items)
  • Money (stash some so the spouse and kids don’t find it)
  • Duct tape – wrap 3 feet around an expired store card
  • I.D. to prove your residency when local law enforcement have blocked off your neighborhood after a natural disaster
  • Survival Wallet
  • Emergency contact numbers on a card. If your smart phone is lost, stolen, or dead, it’s no longer real smart. I personally don’t have my adult children’s phone numbers memorized. That’s why an old-fashioned paper card is important.
  • Pre-paid phone card. They work if you find a pay phone at a truck stop.
  • Condom. Of the extra-large, un-lubricated variety. Settle down, now! Condoms have more than one use. Creek Stewart shows 11 redundantly resilient ways a condom could save your life – with pictures and videos!
  • Sidearm – This item, along with a spare magazine, is on my person everywhere I go. The only exceptions are places my government permission slip won’t allow me to exercise my natural rights – like my victim zone classroom!
  • Flashlight – I carry a Streamlight ProTac 2L clipped inside my pocket.
  • Reading glasses – LightSpecs go where I go. I use the two LED lights on these glasses far more than any other flashlights I own. DRG can tell you about my flashlight fetish.
  • Cell phone – smart phones are pocket-size, survival super-computers.
  • Swiss Army Knife – tool of my trade as the resident handyman at school
  • Tooth picks – it’s a personal thing.
  • Chap stick
  • Lighter
  • Metal mechanical pencil – for school.

Okay, stop stuffing your pockets! You’re beginning to look like the Michelin Man.

Here’s a place for the rest of your stuff…

Your Man Purse

Guys ~ time to swallow your pride and invest in a good man purse. One peek into the bottomless pit the ladies call a purse will convince you of its utility.

Manly men and only a few metro-sexuals correctly refer to their Man Purse as Get Home Bags (GHB). A book bag, shoulder bag, brief case, or duffel bag will serve the purpose. Keep in mind that a well stocked GHB isn’t built to get you through a sudden zombie apocalypse or end of the world scenario. GHB’s are simply a stopgap measure to get you home safely.

Your family is depending on you – prepare accordingly.

Here’s a look at my GHB ‘man purse’:

Maxpedition Jumbo™ E.D.C. Versipack® – (I have no affiliation with this company).

Steps to Take Before Crossing Your Doorsill

My Maxpedition Man Purse

I’ve owned this pack for a few years and absolutely love its utility! Your ‘office’ environment will determine the type of GHB you carry and it’s contents. If you wear suits and ties to the office, the Maxpedition line of bags will stick out like a man wearing a speedo to a lady-preachers convention. Choose a GHB that blends in naturally.

What should you pack in your Man Purse – GHB?

Personalize your bag to meet your needs (meds, contact numbers, etc.). Outside those personalized items, I recommend these items for every Man Purse – GHB:

Essential Steps to Take Before Crossing Your Doorsill

Your packing list

  • Container: I carry a stainless steel water bottle full of agua. The metal container also allows you to kill nasties in drinking water via boiling method.
  • Fire: A couple of ways to make fire – lighter, storm matches, ferro rod, and tinder. Fire is even useful in an urban jungle. My fire kit is in a self-contained Altoids tin.
  • Self-defense Weapons: If legal at your ‘office’, pack heat. There are many compact handguns on the market to choose from. Less lethal pepper spray should also be included.
  • Flashlight: Ever change a flat tire with a mini Maglite between your teeth? Not fun! Invest in a good headlamp for hands-free operation. Don’t forget extra batteries. I wrap 3 AAA batteries in yellow electrical tape with the packing date written on the tape. This does two things – 1.) keeps them in one unit and 2.) reveals their freshness date.
  • Cordage: 50 feet of 550 paracord.
  • Knife: A fixed blade knife and a multitool.
  • Calories: Energy bars, pemmican, jerky, nuts, trail mix, and sardines. Be sure to rotate/eat any nuts in your GHB periodically to prevent spoilage. If your GHB is exposed to extreme heat inside your vehicle, spoilage can be a major concern. My bag goes inside my classroom and house.
  • Cover: Lightweight poncho, tarp or contractor garbage bags. I also pack an emergency space blanket. A tarp is in my vehicle emergency kit.
  • Compass and Map: Navigational instruments that don’t depend on electronics. Detours happen in disasters. A map of your city and state (states if you’re a traveling salesman) is an essential tool. Practice and be familiar with several routes home before a crisis. Reminder: Keep your fuel tank at least half full.
  • Pencil and Paper: A small note pad for taking notes, leaving messages, and playing tic-tac-toe with your imaginary friend in the passenger seat stranded in a winter storm. Seriously, it’s great to have these items!
  • Paper Money: Cache some cash of different denominations in different places in your Man Purse – GHB. I can roll about 5 bills and stuff them into a metal pill container.
  • Band-Aids: I pack Moleskin, a few Band-Aids, moist wipes, Advil packets, hand sanitizer, and a partial roll of flexible equine bandage wrap. I also pack duct tape and a 100% cotton bandana. These last two items are enough to get you home!
  • Dust Mask: A N95 mask allows you to breathe without inhaling harmful dust particles. They’re cheap, lightweight, and can be MacGyvered for other uses. Remember the scenes from 911 of people running through the streets of NY enveloped by dust and disaster debris.
  • Bandana: Speaking of MacGyvered items, pack a 100% cotton bandana in your GHB.  Makes a cool doo rag too!
  • Whistle: A simple signaling device to alert rescuers – if you want to be found.
  • Bug Spray: A small pen-style container fits easily in my kit.

Note to the ladies: Jane over at Mom With a Prep reviewed her GHB, or Day Bag, just for you. Just so you know, she’s not your typical soccer mom. So don’t call it a purse to her face!

A good Man Purse – GHB doesn’t take into account your vehicle or office kit. You’ve prepared your car and office emergency supplies, right? If not, I’m planning a future post on building these additional kits.

Whether you love your job or not, the fact is that you spend a lot of time away from your safe place called home. The important people in your life are counting on you to get home in one piece. Your Man Purse – GHB fills the gap when you step over your doorsill.

Do you carry a GHB? Add your valuable comments, suggestions, or subtractions from my list of contents. – Survival Sherpa

Keep doing the stuff!


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