Choosing The Right Knife
We’ve avoided it long enough, the pure gear discussion. And make no mistake, we’ll avoid it more in the future, because that’s a rabbit hole more than half the industry is stuck in, and all of its marketers, because that’s their job. We respect it, but our mission is to provide you with information you can’t get anywhere else. It may mean we move a little less merchandise over the short run. Because we don’t operate in those fits and starts that come with practically every gear maker out there dancing their way between discounts and specials, because in the long run it means we get to talk about things that operate on more levels, like the philosophy behind the List of All Things that really isn’t a list of anything, and maybe we get to build some trust along the way.
But there’s a few things we just have to get down to, so you know we know what we’re talking about, from experience, from research, and just from the love of all things, yes, including gear. For example, we put up a knife discussion a while back and got a whole lot of feedback, asking why we didn’t get into bushcraft knives, and only mentioned KA-BAR. That was an example, admittedly an old one, but if you dip a little toe into the world of knives, well get ready, because they’re everywhere, everyone’s got an opinion, there’s a ton of great information already out there from people who specialize solely in knives, and the prices are often changing. What was an incredible bargain less than two years ago is now selling for upwards of $200, and has every right to. Yet there are still old school brands available that will sell you what you need for under $20. So we decided just to speak generally about why the knife is the one tool that tops the List, and we predicted we’d get a whole lot of--let’s call it feedback--so we weren’t disappointed.
Knives For The Family
But we’re on the subject of go bags, particularly that conundrum between packing one for yourself, versus making sure you’ve divvied up the load appropriately in case you’ve got a group. Does every single pack need its own knife? Short answer? Yes, and all razor sharp. We’ll leave it up to you parents to disagree, based on your children’s age, but some of us had knives when we were seven, and our older brothers showed us how to use theirs when we were five. Kids respect them if you impress upon them how to handle them right, just like school teachers do with their students the first time they let them use scissors.
So, let’s use a family of four with two kids around 7 and 10 as our base example. You can extrapolate from there for all ages and numbers. This means we’re recommending buying four knives right out of the chute, not to mention sturdy backpacks of varying sizes, a collection of appropriate clothing, and sleeping bags. Not to mention pads, tents, shoes, first aid kits, cups, bowls, spoons, and a few other items that begin to tail off on the priority list.
Even if you’re not on a budget, the idea of buying a bunch of stuff you hope you’ll never use and hardly ever see again...? Because keep in mind, we’re envisioning a true bug out situation as something like a fire in your home during the kind of pandemic we’re in. This means if you’re frequently switching items between your bug out bags and camping gear, you risk not having your bug out bags absolutely ready at all times, which defeats the purpose.
Also, the truth is, when we experience emergencies other people are likely out to lend a helping hand and nobody cares what you’re carrying, whether it’s cheap emergency stuff or worth a used car.
But tweak a few variables, and you could easily imagine a circumstance where you don’t necessarily want to be walking down the street with thousands of dollars of gear shining in any stranger’s eyes, and on the other hand you don’t want it splitting at the seams or breaking after ten minutes of use.
Using knives as just one example, ask practically any survivalist or outdoor aficionado what the best quality, cheapest option is out there for a knife and most will admit that the Swedish company, Mora, has set the standard for a long time. The Morakniv Companion sells for around $18, including tough plastic sheath designed just for it, and comes with absolutely excellent steel. Their “Basic” model is sometimes available for as low as $10, and while a short blade, is also excellent steel and comes with a sheath. Frankly, we don’t know how they do it, but we’re glad they do.
The first thing anyone will mention is these aren’t “full tang” knives, meaning the blade extends into the handle, but is not full and fat steel all the way to the back. What do you want for around fifteen dollars? The only reason survivalists even lean toward “full tang” is in case you really need to abuse your knife to the point you wish you had a hatchet. The standard for this kind of abuse is “batoning”, and now we are really getting into the kind of detail that you can find explained, filmed, youtubed, and hashed over by knife aficionados a thousand times over. And just about every single one of them will admit, the Mora Companion in a bugout bag is absolutely smart, economical, and will not let you down. If you want to spend $200 on a great hand-crafted knife, we are all for it, but we generally can’t stand not taking ours out for a spin every once in a while as opposed to staying tucked permanently in their emergencies-only place.
If you really need “full tang” you can still get a sub $15 knife: Old Hickory. You go check your grandmother’s or great grandmother’s cutlery drawer right now, and odds are she’s got her favorite chef’s knife that may be a pretty well known brand, and right next to it a wooden handled Old Hickory that’ll bring back memories a whole lot of people didn’t know they had. She’ll use the chef’s knife for every vegetable in sight and all the fillets, but if there’s something that might have a bone, or otherwise presents knick potential...yep, Old Hickory to the rescue. But you get what you pay for. The steel in the handle is thin, and while we’ve tested Old Hickory’s and the best we can say is they do the job of a knife, we would would prefer trusting something a little higher up on the scale in any true survival situation.
That said, KA-BAR makes sub $15 sheaths that they sell separately, that fit Old Hickory knives just fine. Whether you get a sheath you can use on a hip belt or shoulder strap on your pack, or just a safe case so you can tuck the knife in a ready-access pocket of your go bag, either way you’ll need something to keep that blade covered.
Not Fixated On Fixed Blades
On that note, a lot of people may say, if you recommend Mora, which is not full tang, are you stuck on “fixed blade” at all? What about a pocket knife that folds up, or a multi tool? Yep, their fine too. While all of us here prefer fixed blade for true survival, truth is we all have a multi tool and a pocket knife or two. Maybe that seven year old of yours just loves the mechanism of a folding, locking blade. We say go for it. Odds are a nice quality pocket knife will handle its own fair share of abuse, as long as you remember, when in doubt, go with fewer moving parts. Those Mora knives offer several different colors in the handle, and some of us who’ve packed a family set of go bags went ahead and got two Mora Companions of different colors for the kids, and two Mora Garberg full tang versions that are upwards of $80 each.
Again, our regular blades for camping are not the ones we keep in our go bags for the most part. Each of us browsed all the knives out there, including those brilliant handmade ones by a whole lot of hobbyist artisans, and pros out there, and while we think $200 for a knife that’s meant to be used is on the high side, at the same time we know what goes into making them by hand, and we like to support these people for keeping alive one of the most essential skills that separate mankind from the beasts. And you know what? The good ones are so well respected and popular, they can’t make them fast enough. They’re always out of stock, and many of them could be selling for $400 or more just because of demand. We would love to list them for you, but there are so many it’s amazing. Several companies started out in a workshed, and some still operate out of one. Some have grown up, charge double what they used to because their name has earned the recognition, and we feel if we list a few, we’d be excluding twenty others who deserve to be named just as much. If you go on Instagram and search “knives”, well, we’ll talk to you next month, because it’ll take that long to find you in the rabbit hole, but it’s a fun one. Filled with artisans, craftsmen, their tools, their opinions not only on knives but wilderness survival, workshop machines, materials, and best practices on all sorts of things. And don’t even let them get started on sharpening!
Just Scratching The Surface
Now you see? We just barely scratched the surface and haven’t gone into any of the other gear specifics we’ve been planning on getting to for your bug out bags. So we’ll cut this off here for now and trust that if you need to learn more, there’s plenty out there on knives alone for you to wade into.