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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.
The concept is far from new and should not be intimidating, although some zealots of particular EDC items can come across a little strong in their discussions and guidance.

An identifiable generalized trend in Urban Preparedness, Wilderness Survival and even EDC, is the obsession with and reliance on ‘lists’. The aim of this article is to run through what I regard as the foundation concepts and therefore key considerations on items we carry. Whatever we decide to carry must be carried in a manner that does not excessively confine or restrict our movement, ensures the items are held securely, but allows them to be accessed as needed (and this may be exceptionally time sensitive, especially in regard to any defensive items).
Most militaries will define individual equipment scales (also known as ‘loadouts’) right from basic training. Level 2 – These are items that are always within arm’s reach, but maybe removed from the body.
This again can be easily translated for civilian application with the exception being the method for carrying items, since a military style webbing system may not be an appropriate choice in most cases. For those who have given consideration to larger scale preparedness, level 3 is the equivalent of a ‘Bug Out’ bag. There is a lot written about what constitutes the ‘ultimate’ Bug Out Bag, but often, in my mind, there is WAY too much equipment advised to be carried at this level, and this is where the dangers of ‘the list’ really begin to manifest themselves. Level 4 – These are typically ‘on base’ level items, which can be kept in a trunk, locker, in barracks or equivalent.
In EDC terms, level 4 will be items we potentially have stored at home for replacement or supplementation of regular EDC items if needed.
Remember we are addressing at a conceptual level here, so what must be considered with regard to our item choices? The final part of our Foundation Concepts is to address what demands we have from our equipment.
With a clear understanding and grasp of these foundation concepts, it should be easier to carry EDC items more suited to us and our situation, rather than carrying generic items from a different individual?s list. In subsequent articles I will be going through some of my personal carry items and going into more detail on how these foundation concepts relate.
I get tired of reading about how I need to train like a Special Forces soldier if I want to live. Being in very good shape helps, but having right mindset and preparing based on YOUR own personal settings is the key.
Our main camps teaching the survival skills course are located in Oxfordshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, and Lincolnshire.
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.
Even the shortest journey out of home or work place triggers an instinctive check of pockets and bags: do I have my phone?

I get the distinct impression that for most people purchasing items from a recommended list of “things to carry”, is far easier and less time consuming and gives a quick ‘sense of peace’. My issue is this: if we look to the founding concepts of EDC, we realize that arbitrarily following a list does not necessarily give us the protection and peace of mind we desire, in fact, in some circumstances, it may put us at more risk depending on what and how we carry.
In the military these would be items carried in your pockets, affixed to your belt or worn on your person e.g morphine syrettes worn on a neck chain. In military terms, this would be your weapons system and ‘fighting order’, (Body Armour, Assault Vest or equivalent). Normally this larger pack (Ruck or Bergen) will contain additional supplies (ammunition, batteries), food, sleeping system, field equipment (shelter, wash kit, stove, additional clothing items etc). The intention here is to carry the essential items to sustain the individual for a period of up to 72hrs.
Answers to all these questions are going to significantly influence what you carry and how. Multitool), however with some creative thinking, we may come up with multiple uses for even the most banal items we carry. You may want to walk around primed for imminent apocalyptic action, just don’t look like you are. This makes us not only more prepared, but more informed and therefore confident in the equipment we are carrying.
All of this said, the final note is to know and understand EDC needs to be fluid and dynamic, making it easy for us to change, amend, add or remove items as we see necessary in changing circumstances. This contains enough gear, as multi purpose as possible to reduce weight, to survive the necessity of reaching safety, whether that be returning home or making it to my secondary or even tertiary bugout location. Home is where I strive to have all the comfort and sustainability gear to not only survive, but ultimately thrive in a shtf scenario. I am not Special forces trained neither, and not in perfect condition, but I work with what I can and have, on so many levels. 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.
Fighting orders revolve around the necessity to carry ammunition, water, emergency medical equipment and some key survival items. Consideration also needs to be given to the type of clothes we are wearing and what stowage options are afforded to us by these. The greater your training, skill and experience level, the less likely you are going to carry equipment to ‘substitute’ your knowledge.
Before I begin I just want to clarify, it is very rare you will find an item that fulfills all 5 of these considerations. Investigate every piece of equipment and make sure you are carrying it because it’s essential.
This is a great mental exercise and also a good way of really pairing down your gear if you feel you are currently carrying too much. If you are still unsure what to pack, you can always get more guidance in our Survival Boot Camp. In such a case, having a Bowie knife that you are skilled enough to wield can mean the difference between life and death.
If we can’t specify our goal it is incredibly difficult to work back from that point to identify our equipment needs. By logical extension, those of us who analyze and assess external influences on our lifestyle, normally have additional items in our routine carry checklist, and it is these objects that tend to be classified as EDC items.

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