Survival Knives: Bushcraft Knives or Something Different?

By: Greg R.

A survival knife, also sometimes named a bushcraft knife, may be used for wilderness chores like trimming rope, carving wood, cutting tree limbs, digging, and even skinning game. Its versatile nature is rather helpful to outdoorsmen who cannot afford to be weighed down by a bunch of weighty tools.
Bushcraft Knives vs. Survival Knives
Bushcraft and survival knives are mostly the same thing. Some individuals might say a bushcraft knife is appropriate for a general outdoors situation, whereas a survival knife is created for an unexpected, emergency situation. In practice the distinction is negligible at best and you won't find many knifemakers that discriminate between them.
Further muddying matters is that these knives are also named "wilderness" knives or "camping" knives.
"Batoning" is one task that survival blades accomplish competently however bushcraft blades do not. What batoning means is to apply the knife to hack off larger branches. The person puts the cutting instrument on the wood and slams it into the wood by hammering on the knife's spine.
Blades
Bushcraft knife cutting edges typically be about four inches in length. People with a bigger hand might prefer a longer blade, though a blade longer than than five inches is not typically recommended.
When looking for a high caliber knife, look for one that has a full tang or hidden tang.

A full-tang blade runs along the entire length and width of the knife. It is often visible on the border of the handle. A hidden tang knife traces the entire length of the knife as well, however it is tapered when it enters the handle. It is also completely concealed by the handle.
Steel may be stainless or carbon steel. Stainless steel does not oxidize, a huge advantage during exposure to moisture. Carbon steel edges can be easier to sharpen and should hold a keener edge.
Edges can be saw-toothed or non-serrated. Full-serrated edges are not suggested since they are difficult to sharpen, but many blades will have a small piece of the blade that is saw-toothed while the majority of the blade is non-serrated.
A2 is an excellent choice for carbon steel. VG-10 is an alternative popular option. For stainless steel, some excellent options include 440C or AUS8.
Handles
A survival knife handle should be robust, comfortable and be secure in all climate conditions. Micarta and stag bone are popular selections. Leather grips are popular as well, though might not be the optimal choice in a constantly damp climate.
Knives of this type typically do not possess any sort of hand protection, since they are not meant for the in-and-out movement of sawing, but instead for the up-and-down movement of slicing.
You can hide small gear in the tool if it has a hollow handle and a removable lid, such as strike-anywhere matches. This type of design makes the knife prone to wear, though, so is not a good choice.
Complementary Knives
Survival blades are adaptable, but they aren't designed to be all-purpose blades. If you want to turn, wrest, or screw an item with the knife, this sort of knife may be prone to damage. A multi-tool is a superior pick for those types of duties, and it makes an ideal counterpart to a survival knife.
If your task requires a heavier-duty knife, opt for a machete or an ax.
Brands
Many significant knife makers make a knife in this category. Popular options include knives from Fallkniven, Bark River Knife and Tool, and Ontario Knife Company.
More Info
For an introduction to survival tasks, check out the Wikipedia. It's succinct, but an acceptable starting point. Wikipedia also has a decent site on survival knives.

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