What’s your idea of a survival knife? I  don’t like restricting definitions. In the upcoming Knives Illustrated issue, we have a special section that’s labeled “Bushcraft.” Some of it mentions survival, such as Jim Cobb’s excellent article on survival knives the survival instructors choose. 

Avoid the Survival Knife Debate

I’m hoping to avoid any debates on what exactly constitutes bushcraft and survival, specifically when it comes to the knives involved. I’ve heard those arguments before. Bushcraft, as I see it, is a minimalist approach to setting up housekeeping, especially in wild places, just as Reuben Bolieu did in Malaysia as he discusses in his story on parangs. You make use of the resources in the surrounding environment to improvise the things that you didn’t drag along with you.

While that constitutes entertainment for Reuben (he’s a little crazy), it’s great practice for you and me should we ever find ourselves in a survival situation. I suppose you could insist that a survival knife by definition has a certain length blade or that a true bushcraft knife must have a certain blade shape and grind. But let’s face it, any knife is a survival knife when you’re stranded, cold, and alone, weighing whether you should try to get out on your own or stay put and await rescue.


Malaysian Golok

This Golok is one of the bushcraft tools Reuben Bolieu used while setting up a primitive camp in Malaysia.

Definitions won’t matter then. You’ll use the knife you have. Any bushcraft skills you have might help you to survive. Of course, some knives are better suited to the task than others. A survival knife must be sharp, but that doesn’t narrow the field because all the good ones are sharp. What it comes down to is how a survival knife handles in performing the cuts needed to fashion the things that might help you to prevail. You don’t want to fight the knife when everything else seems to be against you already.

Does what’s typically considered a bushcraft knife make a good survival knife? Probably. But survival situations can vary greatly. Who can say in advance what exactly you might face? Will you be hacking your way through the jungle, procuring firewood in a blizzard, building a shelter, or making cooking utensils to eat the frog you just caught with the spear you made? I always have a metal spoon in my kit, so in my case, I probably won’t have to whittle one. That doesn’t mean it’s not a good skill to have.

Find the survival knives and other edged tools that fit your hands, and make the cuts you need seem as close to effortless as possible. You’ll only know by working with them. Don’t worry if they’re labeled bushcraft, survival, or neither. One size doesn’t fit all. Bushcraft and survival are intertwined, not distinct categories.

More Than Survival Knives in This Issue

If you’d rather not be swatting bugs in the wilderness, I understand. But you’ll still be able to enjoy our November print issue of Knives Illustrated because it features much more than survival knives and bushcraft tools. For you EDC fans, we are running reviews of the Spyderco Kapara, Bear & Son Bear Ops Rancor VII titanium flipper and an innovative multitool, the UpKnife UPK-M2. Also, be sure to check out Tim Stetzer’s article on the the latest CRKT Minimalist designs by Alan Folts. And take a look at all the great knives that have been included in Gear Pack’s monthly subscription surprise packages.

And be sure to check back with KnivesIllustrated.com for more of the latest news from the knife industry.

(Lead image of ESEE PR4 by Reuben Bolieu.)

The Bear Ops Rancor VII Titanium Flipper

The Bear Ops Rancor VII Titanium Flipper is just one of the EDC blades featured in the November issue of Knives Illustrated.


You look like you could use a vacation. I always had you pegged as a winner, so why not enter the Knives Illustrated Giveaway? The prize is a $1,500 gift certificate to use at any Airbnb rental on the planet. Start thinking about where you’d like to go. It costs nothing to enter, so get all your friends and family to enter too. Even your Uncle Fred.

Go online to this page:

Knives Illustrated

The page should look something like the picture above. Just fill in your name, zip code, and email address in the entry form. It’s that simple. You must sign up before Oct. 10, 2021. That’s when the winner will be announced. Good luck!

Steven Paul Barlow