The folding knife is a great way to have a very good performing knife and be able to tuck it away into your pack or pocket. There are many types of folders which allow you to open them easily and when open many (all that I own) will lock in the open position. Below are two I find to be extremely utilitarian and hold a great deal of quality.
The Benchmade Mel Pardue-
Notice it has a textured grip, a serrated portion, a straight blade portion and the back of the blade is flat. Making it easy to use a log to hammer the back of the blade to split wood or other tasks. I love the locking mechanism and I can open and close this blade with one hand which I feel is an incredibly important feature. There have been many times wher I have only had one hand to use my knife while holding on to an object. When a task is complete I can close this knife and stow it back in my pocket without ever having to let go of said object.
The Gerber Gator Serrator-
This knife is similar to the Benchmade but has a locking mechanism on the back of the handle. It also has a sharper point at the tip which I feel is actually a drawback in survival situations. Pointy tips break easily. Having said that I have had this knife since 1994 and those of you who know me know I use knives to their full extent so if it’s lasted this long then that’s something. I do not abuse knives though, I wouldn’t use a knife as a screw driver, which would be exactly what would break this tip. My favorite thing about this knife is the rubberized grip. It holds firmly in your hand and isn’t cold to the touch even on the harshest of days on your bare skAnother drawback though is that with this rubber handle it is tougher to get in your pocket and if I hadn’t lost the sheath for this knife it probably wouldn’t bother me.
The Spyderco has an interesting take on the one handed opening. The common thread through most all Spydercos is the big circle at the top of the blade. This is where your thumb goes to open the blade by pushing forward away from your palm. The locking device is on the back of the handle so you kind of need two hands to close it which is interesting because rumor has it the original Spyderco was invented either by or for a guy with only one hand. I can’t really open it well and I’m always more frustrated with this knife style so I avoid it.
Fixed blade knife
Fixed blade knives can be much stronger than folding knives but they should be full tang, meaning the metal from the blade should carry all the way through to the end handle.
This is the classic survival fixed blade knife from the military, there have been many incarnations of this knife from the simple to the complex where the sheath and the knife snap together and work as wire cutters. The best part of this knife is you can often pick them up at surplus stores and they’re pretty reasonably priced. I’ve seen them anywhere from $35-75.
Benchmade Adamas Fixed Blade –
This is an excellent knife because it balances functionality and weight. It’s incredibly strong and very versatile. Below you can see the skeleton handle. Mine is wrapped in 550 cord which can hold up to… You guessed it 550 pounds. The blade snaps into the sheath and can attach almost anywhere. It has a long straight blade and the back side of the blade is serrated. Because of the holes it can be fashioned onto a stick and made into a spear using the 550 cord from the handle. The only drawback I have experienced with this knife is that because the serrated back edge is so sharp you can’t use a piece of wood to hammer the blade while trying to split wood. It just attaches to the piece of wood your using as a hammer. All in all though, this is my go to knife for back packing.
Multi Plier/Swiss Army knife-
If I were trapped on a deserted island I often wonder if I’d want to have a multiplier or a fixed blade knife. It’s a good debate I run in my head from time to time. I really can’t answer the question, I think if I were, I’d just be happy to have either. The Multiplier offers some great advantages with the amount of tools which are packed into the frame. The downside is the weight. They are heavy, but that’s a price you pay for such a great toolbox in your pocket. There are three major brands I have owned, Gerber, Leatherman, and SOG. They’re all pretty good and last count between these three there were about 500 different models to choose from. Here are some I like:
Here’s an image of the gerber I have. I like it because it has a knife blade with a straight and serrated edge, scissors and a multi material cutting blade which works well on metal and wood. Gerber offers a ton of different multipliers all geared towards specific tasks. Anywhere from fly fishing to bomb disposal. I like that there’s a locking mechanism for every tool in the knife and the pliers deploy with a flick of the wrist. Here’s a link to a similar unit for $49 Gerber Compact Sport Multi-Plier 400 Tool
LeatherMan offers similar knives to Gerber but has an opposite orientation. The tools are available on most units immediately from the folded position and the knife must be opened to reveal the pliers. You have to judge what you’d rather have fast access to. The tools or the pliers, it’s your world. Below is the Squirt Ps4, I think this exact model is out of production but it’s the one I carry in my EDC. I love this little guy because it’s micro small and is the perfect tool to use as a needle driver when suturing wounds. It’s also rock solid for most tasks where you might need a little knife in the field. There are new versions which are slightly different but have the same theme.
The SOG has a similar theme to the LeatherMan and also comes in a wide variety of models. I include it here because my wife owned one and I was always impressed at how rugged it was. I don’t have much experience in the field with it but I feel its worth mentioning, the company started in 1986 based on the knives that outfitted special forces in Viet Nam, that knife was the MACV-SOG. Since 1986 they’ve been manufactured just north of Seattle. I’m not sure if they are still 100% made in the USA but they are worth considering.
Eric Haney – Hardware store knife
When working on The Unit I asked Eric Haney what type of knife he would mostly carry on missions. I was expecting he would tell me about some fancy hand crafted knife special operations gave him. Instead he told me they would usually go to a hardware store and buy a cheap butchers knife. It comes with a paper sheath and they would tape that to what ever rig they would be wearing. This presents a good opportunity for you to look around your house and rummage through the knife drawer to see what’s lying around. When I go running into wilderness areas I take this little pairing knife, not sure my wife knows I absconded it yet (it’s been 3 years now). It’s super light weight and snaps into the sheath.
The survival knife was really popular right after all the Rambo movies came out. These knives are appealing because they have cool stuff built into the handle and look like they are the solution to all your woes. AVOID these knives at all costs. The hollow handle is ripe for disaster, the knife is usually the cheapest metal – it’s just not worth your time.