© 2012 By Gary L. Benton
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I've spent a lot of time in the woods and on the lakes of America during my lifetime. I grew up in the country, so being outdoors was common, but often this time was just goofing off and not hunting or fishing. As I grew older, my time with Mother Nature turned more serious as I began to hunt and fish and needed the right gear to take with me. I'll compromise on a lot of prices and quality, but never with survival gear. If I encounter a survival situation, what I have on hand is my life assurance policy and I carry the best I can afford. Out of all my survival gear, I think the most important items are my knives. I carry two knives at all times, a hunting knife with sheath and a good quality folding knife, and in my opinion one is as important as the other.
Of these knives, I cannot say which knife is more important, because both serve different purposes in the field. I use the larger knife, the hunting knife, to construct shelters, cut small saplings, and do general camp work. I've found a large blade, when field dressing animals, is too big and bulky for my hand and more than once I've ended up with nicked and cut fingers. The smaller knife I prefer to use to gut and skin animals, because of its small size it's easier to handle and manipulate in my hand. The only real problem with a small blade is the lack of a hand guard, but that's not a serious problem for me.
Regardless of the knife, or knives, you use or prefer to carry in the field, I'd suggest you get a good quality knife, because it's well worth the money. For my sheath knife, I like a 440C stainless steel blade with a full tang design, which produces a good balanced feel in my hand. Now I'm not going to cover the different types of blades available in this article, there are far too many, but I like 440C stainless because it's easy to sharpen and holds an edge for a long time. There are ceramics blades, new metal alloys, steel, and the list goes on and on. I'll stick with what I know best, a good 440C or other quality tempered steel blade.
For my folding knife, I also buy the best I can afford, because it may mean my life to buy less. You have a wide selection of folding knives to choose from, including single, double, or more blades. My current folding knife is small, maybe five inches when closed and has two blades. One blade is larger than the other, but both blades are kept razor sharp. A dull blade will do you more harm than good, because a dull blade means you must apply more force to cut with and that could result in injury, so keep a keen edge on all of your knives. These “pocketknives,” often referred to as penknives, jackknives, or folding knives, come in different designs and quality. I caution you to avoid cheap import knives, because you get what you pay for.
As your experience increases in the woods, your selection of knives will grow and you'll soon have a favorite. It'll likely be one that feels comfortable in your hand, is well balanced, keeps a good edge, and is of excellent quality. Most experienced folks carry knives with practical use in mind and avoid the huge “Rambo” design that Hollywood has made so popular. These Rambo knifes, with immense blades, rarely serve a real purpose, unless you have to fight off a grizzly bear or pack of man-eating wolves gathered up by Hollywood.
Finally, just because a blade is “stainless” does not mean it will not stain or rust. All knife blades need proper care after each use, with means cleaning the blade, wiping it dry, and then storing it properly. If all of this technical talk has you confused, you can learn more by reading my other articles on knives.
Survival Knives and You