The Gear ~ Knives

Attitudes and skills are the most important assets for survival. However, even the toughest attitude is more effective with a sharp knife to cut cord or rope, fashion shelters, or shave off kindling. Knives are a high priority survival item and one-size does not fit all circumstances.

Craftsman Penknife 95241

A small knife is every bit as important as a big knife. Small knives are easy to use, they can get into small places, and they are indispensable for removing splinters or cutting through a piece of string.

knifeThe Craftsman penknife is a fine little knife with a multitude of uses. At just 0.60 ounce and 2.625 inches (folded) this knife goes almost unnoticed in a pocket or fanny pack. The knife has two carbon steel blades and it was made by Schrade (Ellenville, New York).

The downside is the knife is small enough to lose; so pay close attention when you use it and store it.

Buck 110 Folding Hunter


The Buck 110 Folding Hunter was introduced in 1962 and it still has a well-deserved reputation for strength and endurance. It stores in relatively little space and keeps a very sharp edge (the blade is 3.50 inches long and crafted from 420 HC stainless). The knife weighs 7.63 ounces (9.50 ounces in its leather carrying case). It is an attractive knife with both wood scales and brass hardware.

The blade locks securely into the working position and the handle feels hefty. The carrying case is black leather with an attached belt loop and a snap for closing. The case is convenient on a belt and it wears very well. Occasional leather lube keeps it looking great. I have had mine for more than twenty years and it's not for sale. New Buck 110 knives sell for $40 to $66 and remain in high demand. Overall an excellent choice for an all purpose camping/hiking knife.

Gerber Profile


The Gerber Profile is a full-tang, general purpose knife. It weights 6.25 ounces (8.25 ounces in its nylon sheath). The blade is thicker than many other knives and 3.5 inches long. It takes an edge well and holds it. It is sold with a sheath that snaps to secure the knife in place. This knife can be picked up for less than $20 and is an excellent choice for a roust-about utility knife.

Buck 639 Fieldmate Survivalist


Some knives look assertive just laying on the desk. The Buck 639 Fieldmate Survivalist demands your respect. Slip it out of it's nylon sheath, and you will begin to feel unusually self-conscious that this is a knife that senses its own ability to cut, penetrate, or saw almost any substance it encounters.

Out of the box, this knife was razor sharp and capable. It weighs only 6.5 ounces (9.12 ounces with its nylon sheath). The saw teeth that adorn the back of the 5 inch blade serve to cut through the canopies of downed helicopters. This knife is 'one step down' from the famous BuckMaster which is one of the earliest knives associated with special forces and a perennial favorite of survivalist discussion forums. The sheath secures the knife in place with a snapped band of nylon. The handle is Kraton and provides a very good grip on the blade.

I have owned this knife for almost 25 years and taken it back country in Virginia, Colorado, and California. Finding one of these for sale is a challenge and Buck does not make them anymore. On the used market they range from $40 and up. In Buck's current catalog, they only have one knife that is 'tactical,' has a blade longer than 4 inches, and looks a tiny bit like the 639. It's brand name is 'Nighthawk' and it sells for $84. I wouldn't trade my 639 for it. The Fieldmate is a knife for serious business; it is an 'adults only' knife.

Buck 119 Special


This is a 'modern' knife (i.e., you can still buy a new one at a sporting goods store or large retail outlet). The Buck 119 Special is not quite as menacing as the 639 Fieldmate Survivalist; however, it too, will shave hair out of the box. The knife weighs 7.75 ounces (9.75 ounces sheathed) with a 5.37 inch blade and a Phenolic handle. The blade is crafted from 420 HC steel and holds its edge well. The nylon sheath snaps the knife securely into place. These knives sell for around $70 and they have the heft and balance that inspires confidence.

The Hoffritz Specialty Knife: The Spirit Solution

This 10.75 ounce knife teeters between novelty and utility. Its craftsmanship is superb. It takes an edge and keeps it and it serves two purposes: it is a knife and it is an axe. The knife credit is well deserved. The 4 inch blade is 'Hoffritz-sharp," and the knife's handle is both comfortable to hold (with those nicely space finger indentations) and comforting to use (almost like brandying a sword, your fingers have some protection within the handle's guard).


The axe feature is less convincing. In the picture above, the top half of the handle pivots up in a counter-clockwise arc and locks into place on the blade portion of the knife/axe. I have owned this knife for more than twenty years and it is still not a smooth operation. It is slightly disquieting to have both the super-sharp knife and the super-sharp axe exposed at the same time that I am moving the handle in its arc, opening a flap in the handle to allow the knife to fold in safely, and fiddling with a metal pin that will hold everything in place (i.e., it passes though a portal in the handle into the small hole toward the front of the blade). This is a fun item to show friends; everyone is impressed. I do not take it back country. A knife and an axe replace it too easily.

Cold Steel GI Tanto

This knife is famous, famous. It has been the subject of several "what can we do to destroy this knife?" investigations. It is heavy (11.87 ounces/15 ounces sheathed) and formidable (5.5 inches of blade and 12 inches overall). The Tanto point gives it that no-nonsense profile of a reliable survival knife. If you search the web, you will find videos of this knife chewing through cinder blocks, hacking up bricks, and being driven into angle iron with a 3 pound mall.


It is not going to win any fashion contests. It is a knife for doing things, not a prop for people posing as mountain men or woodsmen. Its sheath is practical nylon and nothing fancy to look at; however, it holds the knife snuggly, it snaps closed on the knife, and the belt-loop is generous. The blade is 1055 carbon steel with a hard spring temper and it is protected by a black, rust resistant finish. The biggest surprise here is that this is a $20 to $35 knife. Cold Steel markets this knife as a fighting knife. That might be working for them and improving sales. I'm inclined to think of it as a very useful overall camping, back-country, utility knife.

Anderson-Nelson Academy


The Gear ~ Knives

Barred Owl Publishing


Craftsman Penknife
Buck Folding Hunter
Gerber Profile
Buck Fieldmate
Buck Special
The Spirit Solution
Cold Steel GI Tanto