Tips for Choosing the Right Knife
A good quality knife is the single most important tool that you will ever need. Just think about that for a second. It is the one thing that gets used repeatedly, whether at home in the kitchen or in the great outdoors in a survival situation.
The right knife should be able to be your trusted companion for many years of use in a variety of situations. Whether you are camping, hiking in the backcountry, paddling a scenic river or throwing lead at the range, your knife will be called for repeated duty.
Your knife will be asked to cut rope, open packaging, cut a steak, cut strapping, sharpen a stick, pry open a lid and maybe, save your life. Your trusted knife should always be easily accessible and sharp.
When choosing the right knife, there are a few things to consider. A knife is composed of basically three main parts, the blade, the handle and the cutting edge. Let's get into the tips for selection, but let me first preface the tips by saying this, There is no one perfect knife, only the perfect knife for the job. The meaning of this is a fillet knife will suck at splitting wood.
For good performance, your knife needs to be made of good material. Here, I am talking about the grade of steel that the blade is made of. A good grade of tool steel or stainless steel is required in a good knife. The steel that is used in the blade determines the sharpness and durability of the knife. Grades such as A-2, D-2, 154CM, 440C, CPM 20CV and CPM S30V will provide the wear resistance, toughness and corrosion resistance needed to deliver many years of very durable service, along with easy care.
The shape of a backcountry field knife should be nearly straight along the spine with a gentle curve along the cutting edge. It should feel comfortable in your hand and have a soft curve of the handle, allowing you to correctly apply pressure to the cutting edge. A sword or Bowie shaped knife will not make a good survival knife, and forget about those gimmicky "survival" knives.
A knife handle serves as the connection between the user and the blade. G-10, micarta and Zytel provide the necessary grip and are impervious to liquids, which prevents cracking and splitting. Handles made of wood or bone won't make for a durable field or bushcraft knife as they aren't impervious and are susceptible to cracking and splitting.
A useable field or survival knife is typically about 7 1/2" to 10" long and between 1 1/4" to 1 3/4" wide. If your knife is much outside of these dimensions then it can become unwieldy to use, or too small for the job. The thickness can be even more important. Between .120" and .220" provides the needed resistance to bending under a variety of loads.
Some general TLC goes a long way in the service life of your prized posession. Simply wipe it off after each use and occasionally clean it with some soap and water. It's a good idea to keep it in a knife pouch, sheath or backpack to prevent accidental damage.
Alta Saco offers knives and multi-tools at