Everyone with an interest in survivalism and disaster preparedness should know a thing or two about knives. More than handy kitchen helpers and weapons for self-defense, knives are priceless tools that can prove useful in a variety of survival scenarios. With such a large variety of knife types out there to choose from, it can be a bit overwhelming trying to choose the right blades to keep in your survival kit. In my experience, there are just a few knives that are indispensable in a survival situation—so if you’re short on space and want to be as prepared as possible, here is a guide to must-have knives for survival (and how to use them).
Of course, the top knife a survival-minded person needs to have is a hollow-handled survival knife. In my opinion, survival knives are still worth having in the survival kit because they are compact and serve multiple purposes. The hollow handle of a survival knife can be loaded up with small survival goodies (fishing line, weights and hooks, waterproof matches, a wire saw, bandages—all sorts of things) that will be fairly well-protected from the elements inside the handle.
The survival knife consists of an all-purpose blade, mini weather-resistant storage compartment and compass—all in one ten-inch package. It’s not only for hacking back plants, though—the weight and size of the typical machete blade make it ideal for the timely on-site processing of large game animals.
Note: I don’t recommend wearing a machete hanging freely from your belt because its length can prove cumbersome when you’re trying to be surefooted in an area of uneven terrain. Scrappy cousin to the machete, the Bowie knife can handle a multitude of tasks just like its brush-and-bush-busting counterpart, but was designed for use in combat, so it is very handy for use in self-defense in a survival situation. Where I live, there are uniquely gorgeous landscapes to behold in the chaparral ecosystem, which makes for an ideal day hike. Although they were designed with defense in mind, Bowie knives can also take the place of machetes in various survival situations, from brush clearing to wood chopping (and acting as a makeshift spatula at supper time). Many who hunt prefer use of fixed blades when dressing a deer or other reasonably large game animal or carrying a kit that includes several tools to aid in skinning and processing kills, but for compactness you can’t go wrong with a triple-blade folding knife whose sole purpose is aiding in the dressing of game.
These handy folders include a straight blade that can be sharpened to a razor-like edge to help with making the incisions for skinning anything from a rabbit to a moose, a gut hook to aid in laying bare the viscera of the animal, and a saw blade for cutting through bones. To have butchering basics all together in one easy-access, compact package, you can’t go wrong with a game-dressing folder. The compact, “jack of all trades” of knives, the Swiss Army-style knife (or other multi-tool) is another one that should be in every collection. My own knock-off brand multi-tool knife features an array of tools and has proven handy over the years whenever I needed a two-inch straight blade, a saw, a Philips-head screwdriver, a corkscrew or a nail file (don’t laugh!). This is a tool that is not only useful in a situation where surviving without modern amenities is a necessity, but is also helpful to all types of people in the moment, which is why I keep Ol’ Faithful in my purse instead of tucking it away into my camping kit or survival bag.
You never know when it’s going to come in handy, from popping open salvaged canned goods to skinning small game to snipping a stray thread (hey, mine has nice, functional scissors!) to popping open the wine at a party when the host didn’t have a corkscrew on hand. Most of us won’t need everything from our current lives in a bare-necessities survival situation, but the Swiss Army-style knife is one that I maintain is vital in a survival scenario, and just too-handy-not-to-have as part of your everyday life. Let’s take a moment to be honest here: survival isn’t all evading big cat attacks and hunting for game.
When you’re not tearing through thick brush or hacking down tree limbs (or uncorking a bottle of wine), you may find that a small pocket knife—in the form of an itty-bitty folder—is all you need to fit the bill. When you’ve got survival handled and are looking to add a bit of quality to your life, you’d be surprised how well an itty-bitty folder can work to do just that. When supper’s been hunted down, dressed and cooked and shelter’s been squared away and ennui sets in, why not break out the folder and do some whittling? I’ve been told before that my itty-bitty folder is just a waste of space and laughed at for insisting on carrying it, but I reason that since it’s about the size of your average flash drive (and has a thinner profile, to boot), I can spare the miniscule amount of space in my bag for the peace of mind my teeny-tiny knife brings me. We’ll see who’s laughing when I have a sparkling smile and a neat wood carving to show for it! I practice survivalism and preparedness with a focus on versatility, compactness and minimalism. Each year, a couple thousand people start their thru-hike at Springer Mountain, Georgia and start hiking north. I have published my general tips for successfully thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail based on my experience. Put a pair of clothes in a large Ziplock freezer bag and only take them out of the pack at the end of the day.
By the way, before my trip, I was one of the rare southbound thru-hikers that cached food in the 100 Mile Wilderness. When considering a southbound thru-hike, recognize that there are some differences relative to the northbound thru-hike experience.
Do you know of must have items for the 100 Mile Wilderness at the start of  a southbound hike? I recently have discovered that I will be commitment free come september first, or possibly the middle of august. My names Dylan and I was wondering what tips and advice you have for the southbound through hike. Hikers often take their dogs through the 100 Mile Wilderness, but dogs aren’t allowed in Baxter State Park. I’m pretty sure the 100 Mile Wilderness does not actually stretch into Baxter State Park, and the northern terminus of the 100 Mile Wilderness is near Abol Bridge. Also, I hope your dog can carry his own food, as that would be a lot of burden on your shoulders.
Is there any difference in degree of physical difficulty between going North to South or South to North through the 100 mile wilderness. I don’t think there would be a discernible difference in physical difficulty when going north or south in the 100 Mile Wilderness. The potential challenge heading north is that you may be hiking to a deadline to meet a shuttle to take you back to Monson or wherever you may be staying.
Of the outdoor stores in Maine, (LL Bean, Cabellas, Kittery Trading Post, etc…) where does a beginner go for good quality without breaking the bank? If you are just getting started, be sure to check out our Backpacking Gear Checklist for the 100 Mile Wilderness in Maine. There are links there to gear we recommend that would be typical for a non-winter backpacking trip in Maine.
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Now, there are mixed feelings about the usefulness of this type of knife in the survivalist community, mostly centered around the potential flimsiness of a blade that isn’t full-tang. You may not be able to use your average survival knife as a makeshift ax for splitting firewood (although with some of the better brands, you probably could!), but if the blade is well cared for, you’d probably have no problem dressing game like rabbit or deer.

The compass built into the pommels of many of these knives is also handy for keeping on track in spite of low visibility (or an admitted bad sense of direction, if you’re me). The versatility of the common hollow-handled survival knife is why it makes my list of must-haves. If you should find yourself in an area where vegetation has taken over, you can easily cut a path through by chopping back tall grasses, low-hanging tree limbs and vines with a machete.
One common mistake made when wielding a machete is overuse of the middle section or rear section of the blade.
To get the most “oomph” from your machete as a cutting tool, practice finessing the tip of the blade instead. Instead, I suggest strapping it to the back of your pack when it’s not in use, or investing in a sheath that straps flush to your thigh if you have a strong preference for wearing it on your belt. Ideally, the Bowie should have a full tang (a blade that is one continuous piece that is embedded into the handle) and be heavy enough to be sturdy, but light enough to carry without feeling like a brick. Some of these folders will feature a greater number of accessories that fold out, and some will have fewer—but I think the triple-tool folder is just right for combining minimalism and survivalism into a winning field processing situation (call me Goldilocks!).
It is highly unlikely that a traditional Swiss Army knife is going to help you fight off a bear or hack your way through jungle-like foliage, but for the smaller tasks that are sometimes overlooked when considering survival situations, this type of knife is an essential. So even though a big blade can generally do whatever a little blade can, when you’re just looking to get a tiny task done, using a larger knife can become unwieldy (have you ever tried to clean a fingernail or do precision whittling with a Bowie?). My interest in survivalism began with my father, who passed down both wisdom and weapons in his quest to prepare me for what he termed, “surviving the urban jungle.” As I grew older, much of my interest became dormant as I bustled about my city life—until the blackout happened. Well below are 7 must-have items I recommend for starting the Appalachian Trail southbound thru-hike, and specifically for hiking the notorious 100 Mile Wilderness, which can punish to would-be thru-hiker.
However, hiking southbound does present unique terrain and conditions in the 100 Mile Wilderness for which you’ll need to be prepared.
Bug Spray (95-100% DEET) – When you start the southbound thru-hike of the Appalachain Trail, you will spend your first week or so in the notorious 100 Mile Wilderness. The bugs were so pestering and painful that he simply wasn’t having any fun and wanted to get the heck out. Baseball Cap, Head Net, and Light Gloves – I can’t underestimate how bad the bugs really can be in Maine.
Be sure to wear the head net over a ball cap so you have some space between your face and the mesh, otherwise it’s useless as mosquitoes and black flies will find you’re your skin. Crocs (water shoes) – I consider these lightweight shoes an absolute must-have for the southbound Appalachian Trail thru-hiker for a variety of reasons. Some of the creeks and rivers you’ll cross could be chest deep because of all the snowmelt rushing off the mountains. Hiking Poles – Maine is full of rocks, roots, flooded trail, and bog bridges through the swamp.
Some hikers might discourage the use of poles, and indeed on a north bound hike I don’t think they are necessary at the start. Not knowing the time had a number of negative consequences in those early days of the hike, mainly that I didn’t know how fast I was moving, how long I had been hiking, and therefore often didn’t know how much further ahead a particular destination (like a shelter) might be.
A Backpack Liner and a Bag for Dry Clothes – When thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail through the 100 Mile Wilderness in June, you will almost always be wet. 10 Days of Food – Hikers beginning the trail at Springer Mountain have a number of options for resupply and equipment near the beginning of the Appalachian Trail. Take into account the broad advice offered by past thru-hikers and experts, but be sure that you are also seeking out advice specific to the southbound thru-hike, especially the first couple hundred miles of it.
I would really like to do a long trek, and I know the PCT would not be a good option because of early snowfall around october in the sierras. I plan on doing the through hike in about two years and could use all the advice I can get before I go.
As you prepare over the next couple of years, I encourage you to hit the AT or other trails on short spurts to gain some exposure to the backpacking lifestyle that becomes you when hiking the AT. Water levels may still by high in July, so creek crossings could still be sketchy, with rushing white water and potentially overhead, so hopefully your dog is a good swimmer. If you and the dog could get to Monson, Maine, then you could hook up with a shuttle service to give you a ride to the trail head on the north side of the 100 mile wilderness at Abol Bridge.
Katahdin, which isn’t in the 100 Mile Wilderness but is a pretty cool way to finish a trip. You can get dropped off in Baxter State Park at the trail head and then hike south at your own pace, walking right into Monson, Maine when you please. In fact, those who are new prepping can actually spend a ton of money unnecessarily trying to buy every type of supply they will need. Machetes can be used for more than just hacking and slashing your way through plant life and fallen elk—the size and length of the blade makes it double as a handy spatula or hands-free potholder at dinner time as well as a good tool for wood splitting (perhaps not alone, but certainly by batoning it with another chunk of wood or a rock). This will keep it handy as needed, but safely out of the way and unable to “catch” on things at inopportune times. Now, big cats (specifically in my case, mountain lions) will often leave you alone so long as you leave them alone—but a mother mountain lion defending her cubs may behave unpredictably (or rather, predictably aggressively) and sadly, recent times of drought have caused the big cats to feel thirsty, angry, and ready to pounce on humans who come their way. When my first child was just a baby, the power unexpectedly went out and my neighbors started getting agitated, being deprived of modern convenience and trying to drink all their beer before it got warm—and I finally fully understood what my father had been trying to prepare me for.
I successfully thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail southbound from Maine to Georgia, and I discovered first hand some of the gear you must have for the first hundred miles beginning in Maine.
Chances are you’ll be starting your hike somewhere around June 1 during the summer, which means the forest floor of the 100 Mile Wilderness will likely be soggy and full of mosquitoes and black flies. Unless you happen to be reading this post in a canoe in the steamy backwoods of the Louisiana bogs, you likely can’t imaging just how bad the mosquitoes can be in Maine.
But for the 100 Mile Wilderness, while you are just getting used to hiking the AT and balancing with a heavy pack on your back, I suggest taking the poles.
In the early days and in all of the obstacles of the 100 Mile Wilderness, it’s hard to know how much ground you cover and what pace you keep. From backpack to tent to pad to how to get food along the way, what is everything you brought to complete the trail? Totally doable, but you would be dealing with colder temps and likely greater amounts of snowfall than most SOBO hikers experience in Tennessee, North Carolina, and Georgia.
The best advice I think I can provide is to suggest that you don’t let life get in the way of the thru-hike ambition.
At Abol Bridge, you are just outside of Baxter State Park, which lies to the north of Abol Bridge.
It’s actually more important to get the most bang for your buck.Here are some of the survival items that are most popular for not only new preppers but those with more experience under their belts as well.

In such a case, having a Bowie knife that you are skilled enough to wield can mean the difference between life and death.
Much of the 100 Mile Wilderness traverses swamp land, and I found that that the bugs can be absolutely merciless in these lowlands.
This guy was a little south of 100 Mile Wilderness when I met him and was looking for a way out of the woods. Katahdin, you will have to cross many rivers and bogs as you travel through the 100 Mile Wilderness to Monson, Maine. I had some crummy flip-flops for the 100 Mile Wilderness and they turned out to be both useless and dangerous. Imaging trees cut in lengthwise into two pieces and stacked end to end for hundreds and hundreds of years. They saved me more than once from an accident like that described above, and I was certainly glad to have them on the bog bridges, steep climbs, and steep descents. That far north on the globe as the calendar approaches the Summer Solstice, the sun comes up before 5am and goes down after 930pm.  Long days are great for hiking since it gives you lots of time to get started and rest throughout the day. A watch helps you make better sense of your progress, and I definitely wouldn’t leave for the 100 Mile Wilderness without one.
But after a long day of hiking, when you’re wet from rain, river, or sweat, nothing beats putting on a pair of dry clothes, a dry sleeping bag, and a dry tent. Starting the AT in the north is a different story, as there is very little option for food resupply in the 100 Mile Wilderness. What are your thoughts about starting the southbound trail in late august, first week of september?
If this is your aim, then you’ll need to board the dog for a day, which may mean a couple more shuttle rides for you. But guess what, there aren’t many exits in the 100 Mile Wilderness, so escape isn’t often an option.
And with so few southbound hikers in the 100 Mile Wilderness in June, there aren’t a whole lot of people for mosquitoes to pester. If you are hiking the 100 Mile Wilderness, make sure you read my cautionary tales about 5 Things that could kill you in the 100 Mile Wilderness. When crossing the rivers, my feet slipped and slid among the rocky river bottoms, and I lost one flip flop in some rapids. Imagine balancing with a 40 pound pack on your back while walking across these foot bridges, and then image that you slip and go feet first, or worse yet, pack first, into the muddy bog.
Garbage bags are light weight and relatively strong, and they can help you keep your sleeping bag, tent, and other items dry, making your 100 Mile Wilderness hike a lot more comfortable. If it hadn’t been hanging in that tree when I cross Jo Mary Road, then I’d have been in big trouble. Hiking back south to Monson will be a little less pressure versus trying to time a shuttle pickup at Abol Bridge. This advice would of course go for a northbound hiker as well, but the southbound hiker has unique challenges in that they are faced with a lot more water in the first couple of weeks of the trail.
Take a pair of lightweight gloves that will keep the mosquitoes and blackflies off your knuckles. Your boots will inevitably get wet in the 100 Mile Wilderness, and some hikers I met spent a couple hours in their Crocs hiking each day to let their boots and socks dry out. Want to read more about the foot bridges: check out my account from my 5th Day in the 100 Mile Wilderness. The 100 Mile Wilderness is tough, and unless you’re a particularly seasoned hiker, you may have trouble averaging more than 10 miles a day. Simply uncap the caps at each end and submerge the bottom end of the straw in water, keeping the mouth-piece dry.
DEET has it’s pros and cons, so determine for yourself if you want to risk the health effects of DEET. Pack for 10 days in the 100 Mile Wilderness,  and aim to get to Monson in 9, giving you a day of food to spare. LifeStraw has been lab-tested and proven to remove a range of harmful water-borne bacteria, including Cholera, E.coli, Salmonella and Campylobacter.
There’s also no aftertaste when using LifeStraw.Remember that LifeStraw does not desalinate water or remove dissolved chemicals and minerals. Matador Pocket BlanketAnother BOB essential, this patented super-blanket is versatile and hardy.It’s compact enough to fit into a small bag or purse, yet stretches out to a substantial size of 55” X 44”. Create a sling, use it to tie firewood together, pick it apart for some fishing line or create a pulley line with it. BioLite Wood Burning CampStove This camp stove is easy to maintain and provides the benefits of both a power charger and a light-weight camp stove, enabling you to charge key items while your meal is cooking.All you need to do is collect twigs or kindling as fuel because it’s able to operate on any biomass available. Say goodbye to heavy, expensive gas that pollutes the environment, weighs down your pack, and may be very hard to come by when SHTF.It’s quick to light, boils fast and is easy to use. Partstock Aircraft Aluminum Defender Tactical Pen They do say that the pen is mightier than the sword.
SE Outdoor Tanto Knife with Fire StarterThis 7-inch, full-tang stainless steel blade is perfect for cutting robust paracord, as a spear head, or for splitting kindling. Jackie Portable Extra-large Head Windproof Waterproof MatchesThese are the superheroes of matches. They’re packaged in a water-tight tube, which includes a waterproof coating and a striking surface.The matches have extra-large heads for maximum burning time and lighting efficiency, even when damp. Emergency Mylar Thermal BlanketsThese tightly folded blankets are individually packed in Ziploc bags, making them compact and perfect for light-weight packs.
With a 50-page count and unmatched durability, this little notepad is the perfect writing companion.16. The high-end white LEDs, with advanced optical design, last over 30 000 hours!When you’re off the grid, having the best survival gear can make life a whole lot easier. Even for the seasoned prepper, buying gear that’s right for your needs, environment and the kind of disaster you might face can be tricky terrain.

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