Large survival knives are the workhorse of the wilderness survival world. If you look at any under developed country or places that the native folk still rely on primitive techniques to gather food or live and survive in the wild, they all have one thing in common: a large survival knife. You will see many natives using Kurkis, machetes and other large blades as a way of life. Having a large knife with you in the bush gives you a huge advantage over someone with a smaller less robust blade.
There are things that a large knife will do that a smaller one simply cant do. I would rather take the extra time for things that a large knife is not particularly good at like the smaller chores such as making feather sticks, traps, and primitive fire, then use a 4 inch blade to clear brush or chop firewood. The energy that it takes to do large tasks with a small knife far exceed the energy and care it takes to do a smaller task with a larger knife.
Quick Content Navigation
5 Top Survival knives (production knives)
While there are countless custom shops out there that make some fantastic large survival knives, they are extremely pricey and cost prohibitive. Would I rather have a $500 Busse or Grayman by my side? Sure. But do I have 500 bucks to spend on a knife? Not without my girlfriend killing me. There are plenty of top quality large survival knives on the market that are under $200 and are phenomenal knives.
This is my list of best survival knives that are highly recommended and designed by prominent survivalists.
Esee Junglas (pronounced Hoonglas)
The ESEE Junglas is probably one of the top knives in the large survival knife (non custom) category. ESEE knives are designed by the extremely experienced folks at Randals Adventure & Training. These guys have tons of credentials and have created some of the best production knives in all categories.
The Junglas is no different. You will be extremely hard pressed to find anyone that will challenge you on the fact that ESEE knives are top of class. If they do, they probably don’t know much about what a quality knife is. If you have the money to spend, the Junglas is the way to go, you will be buying a blade that you can hand down to your kids.
Cold Steel Trail Master
The Cold Steel Trail Master is a survival knife in every sense of the word. It is 14.5 inches overall and has a 9.5 inch blade. It is exceptional at chopping, slashing and clearing your way through brush. If I had a need to build a shelter for the night or prep firewood this survival knife would be one of my first choices.
The blade of the Trail Master is a full flat grind with a cantled edge, and a full 5/16 of an inch thick. Yes, 5/16 of an inch thick, that is almost a 3rd of an inch. This is one of the thickest knives that I have handled outside of a sword. The majority of my survival knives are ¼ inch thick which is pretty much the standard I look for in top survival knives. The trail master out does that and that is why it is viewed as the best survival knife available, by many survivalists.
KA-Bar Becker BK 9
The Becker BK 9 combat bowie is another hefty survival blade. It is designed by Ethan Becker, a prominent outdoors expert and knife designer. You will read nothing but good things about this, and all Becker blades. A lot of people love the handle ergonomics on this blade, it is very comfortable to use.
The 1095 carbon steel blade holds an edge very well and like the other blades featured here, this blade is phenomenal at chopping wood and splitting logs via batoning. If you ask a lot of people they will tell you that the Ka Bar Becker blades are the best survival knife for the money.
The Buck Hoodlum was designed by the famous late survivalist Ron Hood. The design on this knife is excellent, the lightweight large blade design makes this knife the best of both worlds. At 14.6 oz it is one of the lightest blades for its size and durability on the market.
This knife is an excellent battoning knife and makes chopping a breeze. The great thing about the Buck Hoodlum is that not only is it great for all of the big camp tasks but it is also really good at the small tasks like making notches for traps and friction fire parts. The finger choil on the blade gives you surprising control.
The sheath is heavy-duty nylon, M.O.L.L.E. compatible with leg strap cord and a roomy front storage carry pouch. There are many ways this knife can be worn or attached to other gear, and the sheath is feather-light, coming in at just over 7 ounces.
Ontario RTAK II
At 2.2 pounds and nearly 17 inches the Ontario RTAK II is one of the most hefty and best survival knifes that I have had in my hands. The heft of the blade makes chopping down trees and splitting wood surprisingly easy. The Ontario RTAK works as good or better than the majority of field hatchets that I have experienced so you essentially cut down on weight if you often carry a hatchet and a knife when replacing them with this blade.
The micarta handle fits your hand nicely but can have a bit of shock when you are chopping because the material is pretty rigid and not soft like a rubberized handle. A good remedy is to wrap it in para cord or any other shock absorbing material. Don’t get me wrong the handle is a comfortable fit but in cold weather while chopping down a tree, a little extra padding might be welcome.
The edge keeping capabilities on this knife are phenomenal, I have said that with other knives but this one really does a good job with keeping a sharp workable blade even after heavy chopping and cutting chores.