In the survival knife community, many survivalists claim that a fixed knife is the way to go, however, the best folding survival knife offers many benefits that a fixed knife doesn’t, especially in terms of a low profile and safer way to carry. If you’re searching for a new folding survival knife, then you’ve come to the right place. I’ve created a buyer’s guide that will discuss all the must-have features to look for in a new knife, and how a folding knife can be crucial to your survival when disaster strikes. I’ve also tried out several of the leading folding knives on the market, narrowing it down to ten that have what it takes to get you through an emergency, and help you survive, whether you’re trying to make it home during a state of emergency, a natural disaster, or you’re stuck in the backcountry with limited supplies.
Below, you’ll find a comparison chart that includes each knife on my list, their best features, and how they rated.
Folding Survival Knife Comparison Chart
SOG Tactical Folding Knife
The Escape by SOG is a lightweight, quick open tactical knife that measures in at 4.8 inches in length when closed. The knife comes with a cord-cutting groove for use when cutting seat belts, lines, and cords. The knife also comes with an extra line cutter blade located under the pocket knife handle, a wire stripper, and a glass breaker. The one-hand open design and lock back will allow you to use the thumb studs for leverage, to open your knife in a matter of seconds. The knife itself is very light. The EDC handle is made out of hard-anodized aluminum, with a blade that’s 3.4 inches long and made out of black stainless steel. The clip point is partially serrated, for excellent cutting action.
- Lightweight handle
- Compact design
- Four tools in one
- Ambidextrous design
- Handle is uncomfortable
This knife is four tools in one, including the glass breaker, wire stripper, line cutter, and knife blade. The design allows for discreet reversible low carry, so you can easily conceal your weapon, thanks to the pocket-friendly design. The knife’s ambidextrous design makes this model suitable for both right and left-handed users, for a knife that’s built tough and equipped with all the tools you’ll need to get by in the event of an emergency, whether you’re in the backcountry, or stuck in a crowded urban environment.
Smith & Wesson Border Guard SWBG2TS Folding Knife
This is a long folding survival knife, with a length of ten-inches and a blade length of 4.4-inches. Despite the longer design, the knife is surprisingly light, weighing just 8.8-ounces. The blade itself is durable and made out of black oxide high carbon stainless steel. The handle is made out of black aluminum and comes complete with Trac-Tec inserts. The design allows for fast and easy access, thanks to the ambidextrous thumb knobs that you’ll use for leverage as you open the knife using one hand. The knife has a thick clip that you can use to secure it to your pocket. The knife’s liner lock will prevent the blade from slipping during use, making this model a great choice for the new knife owner. Easy to handle, lightweight, and comfortable to hold, this is one knife you’ll want to keep on hand during your next hunting, hiking, or camping trip, and a knife that will be a great addition to any bug out bag.
- Comfortable handle
- Liner lock prevents blade from slipping
- Not spring assisted
Smith & Wesson have designed a fairly basic survival knife, one that offers the type of blade quality the survivalist, hunter, or camper is looking for. The knife’s durability, combined with the thick lightweight handle will give you more control during use, as will the well-balanced design. This model is very low profile, features an ambidextrous design, and comes with a tough pocket clip that won’t break with regular use.
RoverTac Pocket Knife
This knife is described as practical, durable, and compact. In fact, not only does the knife come equipped with a stainless steel blade that’s coated with durable black oxidation, but it also offers eight tools in one. This is the type of knife you’ll want to keep on your person at all times, but it’s also a great addition to a bug out bag. This model is a great choice for any type of outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, fishing, or everyday carry. If you aren’t concerned about the low-profile way to carry your knife, then you can use the included carry pouch that’s made out of nylon and equipped with a belt loop. The built-in tools include a knife, screwdriver bit adapter, bottle opener, can opener, wire cutter, regular pliers, needle nose pliers, and a nine in one screwdriver set.
- Eight tools in one
- Ergonomic handle
- Durable blade
- Does not have a pocket clip
The knife is covered by a 100% satisfaction guarantee, which will give some shoppers more of an incentive to buy. The knife itself is durable, easy to handle, and reliable. It’s designed to handle any type of job in almost any situation and features an ergonomic design that makes the knife feel comfortable in your hand. The secure locking system, lightweight design and heavy-duty build will make this model invaluable in any type of emergency situation.
Jellas Pocket Folding Knife
Each of these knives by Jellas is unique. The olive wood handles feature naturally formed grain, which is what makes each model different. The blade is made out of 7Cr17 stainless steel and comes with a clip point shaped blade for better piercing power. The blade material is corrosion resistant, offering the perfect level of hardness that ensures a powerful performance, with a blade that won’t snap when put to the test. This model comes with a detailed user manual, nylon sheath, and a whetstone, so you can keep the blade in pristine condition, sharp, and always ready to go. The blade measures in at 3 1/4 inches, with a total knife length of 8.5 inches, so this knife is the perfect choice if you’re looking for a low-profile carry.
- Unique olive wood handle
- Includes whetstone
- Blade is made with 7Cr17 stainless steel
- Low price
- Difficult to sharpen
This low-profile knife features a razor sharp blade, a beautiful olive wood handle, and a design that’s well-balanced, for ultimate control during use. The knife is perfect for cutting rope, leather, slicing through plastic, carpet, and whatever else you need it to. The blade offers the perfect level of hardness, for a knife blade that won’t easily snap and one that retains a nice edge longer than competing models in this price bracket.
Buck Knives Folding Selkirk Survival Knife
This model by Buck Knives is named after the Selkirk mountain range in Idaho. This is a mid-sized folder with added features that will be invaluable in demanding conditions. The knife features a black CNC contoured Micarta handle, with a stainless steel blade. The knife comes with a sheath that you can use to configure a vertical or horizontal belt carry. This model also comes with a whistle and a 2 ¼” ferrocerium strike integrated in the grip. The blade measures in at 3 9/10” long and features excellent edge retention, strength, and corrosion resistance. When folded, the knife is just 5” long and weighs just 5.7-ounces. The design promotes fast and simple one hand opening, using the thumb stud on the blade.
- Contoured Micarta handle
- Includes whistle and ferrocerium strike in the handle
- Low-profile design
- Includes sheath
- Does not have a pocket clip
The manufacturer currently offers a forever warranty, which is pretty impressive. Aside from the unique ergonomically designed handle, integrated tools, and tough blade design, this model will be invaluable in an emergency situation, and is a great choice for an everyday carry, bug out bag use, or for your next hunting, hiking, or camping adventure.
HB1041 Honey Badger Pocket Knife
This medium-sized folding survival knife comes equipped with a knife blade that measures in at 3.19 inches long, with an overall knife length of 7.3 inches, and a closed length of 4.1 inches. The knife weighs in at just 2.9 ounces. This model is designed to fit perfectly in your hand and in your pocket. It comes with a non-slip hexagonal handle pattern for improved grip and handling. This knife is perfect for a bug out bag or everyday carry. You’ll quickly find that you never want to go on another hiking, camping, or hunting adventure without it. The knife’s smooth opening action is due to the twenty roller bearings that offer an impressive flip feel that allows you to open and close the knife in seconds. This model is also designed to sit deep inside a pocket, with a low-profile design that allows you to take this knife wherever you go.
- Non-slip hexagonal patterned grip
- Lightweight design
- Smooth opening action
- Arrives dull
The knife’s ambidextrous design is another important feature. The unique design allows the knife to feel comfortable and balanced in the hand. Additionally, the smooth opening action, low-profile design, and non-slip grip on the handle allow you to expertly use this model in a wide variety of situations, with impressive blade durability that allows it to easily slice through thin branches, seatbelts, twine, rope, and more.
Bear Craft Folding Knife
This is a multifunctional survival knife that features a blade made out of sharp stainless steel. In the knife’s handle, you’ll find a glass breaker and belt cutter, both of which will come in handy in emergency situations. The one-handed design can take a little getting used to, but once you’ve mastered opening the blade, you’ll find you can open and close it in just a couple of seconds. The blade is made out of 5Cr13mov stainless steel, with a handle that features an ergonomic design that makes the handle easier to grip and more comfortable to hold. The grip is made out of a combination of high carbon steel and wood, for improved comfort and durability. The knife features the type of compact design that makes it pocket friendly. However, the included holster, complete with a belt loop, will also allow you to carry the knife in the open, making it more accessible in the event of an emergency.
- Tough steel blade
- Includes a glass breaker and belt cutter
- Low price
- Wood and carbon steel handle
- Difficult to open
This model is covered by a thirty-day money-back guarantee and a 100% satisfaction guarantee. This sturdy little knife weighs just 141 grams, features an ergonomic design, and also comes with a three-fold screwed belt clip, so you can carry it in your pocket securely, or attach it to your belt. This model is a great choice for everyday carry and offers the type of functionality and overall quality that every buyer is looking for, in a compact package that makes the knife easy to secure and carry.
Swiss Safe 3-in-1 Tactical Knife
This model by Swiss Safe features a high-performance steel blade, combined with a lightweight carbon fiber handle. This is a three in one style tactical knife that includes a blade, seatbelt cutter, and glass breaking tip. The knife is a great choice for new knife users, thanks to the built-in safety lock, spring assisted open and ergonomic hand grip. When folded, the knife measures in at just five-inches and comes complete with a pocket clip, offering multiple attachment options. The solid steel construction, safety liner lock, and lightweight milled aluminum handle makes this knife one of the toughest and safest on the market.
- Three tools in one
- Ergonomic handle
- High-performance steel blade
- Low price
- Knife can be difficult to close
This model comes with a seatbelt cutter, glass breaker, and tough stainless steel knife blade, with a lightweight design and an ergonomic handle that makes this model easy to use and control. Considering the overall quality, functionality, and comfortable design, this model is a steal for the price and a great knife to have on hand in the event of an emergency.
KINGMAX Pocket Knife
This compact multi-tool weighs just 7.7 ounces and comes equipped with a blade that’s made out of stainless steel, offering premium rust resistance and hardness. This knife also includes a nine-bit screwdriver set, bottle opener, pliers, and saw/knife. The nylon cloth carry bag can be attached to your belt loop for easy carry and faster access. The handle is made out of steel, which can make it uncomfortable to use for certain tasks.
- Five tools in one
- Includes nylon carry bag
- Tough knife blade
- Blade is rust-resistant
- Handle makes the knife uncomfortable to hold
Compact, durable, and loaded with some extra tools that you’ll find yourself relying on to handle a variety of small jobs, this knife will leave you feeling prepared in the event of an emergency. It’s a good choice if you’re looking for a daily carry knife, or it’ll make a great addition to any bug out bag or stored in your vehicle’s glovebox.
HX OUTDOORS Spring Assisted Survival Knife
This knife by HX Outdoors comes with a blade that’s made out of G10, a type of fiberglass laminate, and a tough blade that’s made out of high quality 9Cr14mov stainless steel that’s fortified with alloy. The blade measures in at 3.34 inches long and features a compact design that makes this knife very pocket friendly. The knife also comes with a pocket clip, so you can keep it secured in your pocket and easily accessible. Like a true survivalist knife, this model comes with a few extra tools including a whistle, a steel-tipped glass breaker and a built-in seatbelt cutter.
- Includes three extra tools
- Fiberglass laminate handle
- Pocket-friendly design
- Low price
- Whistle is hard to get out of handle
- Knife can be difficult to open until broken in
This model is low-priced, compact, and equipped with a tough blade that can slice through a wide variety of materials, easily. The knife’s sleek design makes it pocket-friendly and a good choice for a daily carry, but keep in mind that the opening action struggles in the beginning. I recommend practicing opening this knife whenever possible to break in the action, for a faster opening time and easier use.
Folding Survival Knife Buyer’s Guide
When you’re shopping for a folding survival knife, one of the first things you’ll need to consider is each model’s strengths and limitations. Folding knives don’t offer the same level of durability as fixed knives because of the folding mechanism. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t end up with a folding knife that’s impressively durable and able to take care of business.
Before I start off this buyer’s guide, let’s learn more about the benefits this type of survival knife has to offer.
Folding Survival Knife Benefits
These knives are engineered and designed with high-quality materials. This type of knife can be used for a number of purposes ranging from self-defense to cutting twine.
Other benefits include:
- Opening packages, letters, and boxes. These knives allow you to easily slice through a variety of materials and will allow you to easily slice through thick package material, cleanly open an envelope, or make short work of a cardboard box.
- Most people would never go camping without a knife. It’s one of the most essential survival tools to have, whether you’re setting up a tent or preparing a meal.
- You’ll also need to keep a knife on hand when you’re fishing. This type of knife makes cutting lines, removing fish hooks and other jobs fast and easy.
- You can use a folding knife to prepare a meal, open a can, peel fruit and veggies, and chop up food.
- These knives can also be used for cutting string, tags, rope, hunting, cutting up wood kindling, as a screwdriver, deburring wood, scraping away rust, butchering, whittling, and more.
As you can see, these knives are very versatile. Their low-profile design is another reason why they can be a more popular option than a fixed blade knife. Below, I’ll go over the different factors to consider before you buy, such as blade design, blade material, handle design, grip, and more.
The Right Design
To start, look for a blade that’s somewhere between three and four inches long. In terms of thickness, find a model that comes equipped with a blade that’s above an eighth of an inch. Anything that’s under an eighth of an inch will be prone to snapping. Anything thicker will be heavy to use and carry and may not be suited for certain tasks that require precise cuts.
Each type of steel will have a different level of corrosion-resistance. Some grades of stainless steel will not be able to hold up to tough environmental conditions. Humid and hot conditions and salty air can damage lower grades of stainless steel. If you live in these types of environments, then search for a knife that has a steel blade that’s made out of 410 stainless steel. This grade of steel will offer top of the line corrosion resistance.
When you’re choosing a new knife, whether it’s a traditional folding knife or a modern-day survival knife, blade steel is something you’ll want to consider. The steel used for these blades can be divided into a few categories that consist of carbon steels, non-stainless and stainless steels. Each type of steel has different properties. High carbon steels are usually much tougher than stainless steels because of the grain structure. They also aren’t as wear resistant as stainless steel, and they’re more prone to corrosion. Stainless steel isn’t as tough as high carbon steel and it’s more likely to break under duress. But they’re also much less prone to corrosion because of the inclusion of a minimum of 12.5 percent chromium. Sometimes nickel is also added for improved resistance. Stainless steel blades can be more difficult to sharpen, compared to high carbon steel and it doesn’t take as fine of an edge. However, they will hold their edge longer than a high carbon steel blade with an equal Rockwell hardness rating.
Many survivalists prefer a wider blade that has a flat ground that’s made out of high carbon stainless steel, since it will be able to handle plenty of wear and tear.
A blade’s Rockwell hardness rating will determine how durable the blade is. A blade with a higher rating on the scale means that the knife will hold an edge well. These knives often have a rating that ranges between 58-62.
While a standard edge is preferred, combo edges can also be a great choice since they tend to retain their sharpness longer and are very easy to sharpen.
The main purpose of a knife is to cut. Because of this, it makes sense that edge retention is one of a knife’s most important features. Retaining the edge on a knife is essential, since the last thing you’ll want to have to do is sharpen your knife after every trip.
The type of steel used to make the blade, and the knife manufacturer will determine the blade’s ability to retain an edge. The blade’s shape will also play an important role when it comes to maintaining the edge of the blade.
A wider blade offers more coverage for functions such as slicing and they’re significantly stronger than narrow blades. They also come equipped with a sturdy curve and a longer cutting edge.
The main reason many people are turning to folding knives in favor of fixed blades is they’re more convenient to use as an everyday carry. It’s more practical to carry around a folded knife in your pocket and these knives are also less obtrusive.
The sides of a blade are straight all the way down to the very edge and make a V-shape. This type of design is very strong and more suitable for daily use and emergency situations due to their strength.
The sides of the blade will be curved inward, toward the edge. This produces a sharper, thinner edge that’s perfect for precision-based cutting and slicing, but it’s not the best choice for more demanding tasks.
The blade design is incredibly important, especially when it comes to folding survival knives. The blade design will make up for any type of weaknesses that the folding design faces. The right blade can counterbalance these weaknesses effectively. Usually, stronger points are better to have than sharp ones, so it’s a good idea to look for one that has a thick wide point, such as a spear point, short clip, or drop point. You should also avoid false back edges, since they tend to be prone to breakage and have a reputation for being fragile.
Serrated or Textured
Texture or serrated edges are very popular these days. However, you should try not to rely on these too much unless the origin is higher quality, since these styles are not ideal for most survival tasks. A straight or standard edge is a better choice since it’s easier to readjust and sharpen.
You can also find a compromise between these styles in the form of a combo blade that consists of half serrations close to the handle and a half standard edge design.
You’ll need a grip that’s well-rounded, thin, and sturdy. Sturdiness and comfort are key here, so make sure you look for a grip that has finger grooves built-in or a non-slip grip.
Modern or Traditional Knife Patterns
Unlike modern folding knives that you’ll come across, many types of knives with traditional patterns were designed to meet the needs of specific professions. For example, the stockman pattern was designed for use by stockyard workers, ranchers, and farmers who used their knives to neuter and spay livestock or trim hooves. The pen knife was designed to be used by lawyers, bankers, and clerks so they could sharpen their quill pens.
The Barlow is another classic pattern, and it did an excellent job of working as an all-purpose knife.
There are a total of six traditional pocket knife patterns that are still commonly used. These patterns include the Wharncliffe, spey, sheep’s foot, spear points, drop points, clip points, and straight backs. These patterns can be combined with a number of different handle styles. Models with a clip point, a spey, and a sheep’s foot combined with a serpentine handle design are always referred to as a stockman pattern. Choosing the right type of pattern is mainly a matter of personal preference, depending on how you intend to use the knife.
A Modern Design
In terms of the modern folding survival knife, there are a couple of distinct patterns to choose from. Modern knife patterns are very popular due to the type of technological advances they offer. These designs surpass the more traditional knife designs, depending on how the knife will be used. These modern knives are designed to handle plenty of abuse and work well in all areas of labor that require a knife that’s loaded with more aggressive features. This means that a person who lays carpet may be more inclined to stick with a SOG tactical knife as opposed to a traditional buck knife.
Modern tactical folding knives are a great option for someone that needs a knife for everyday carry, but they shouldn’t be relied on as a sole self-defense knife. For that purpose, you’d want a full tang fixed blade model, since the blades and handle are significantly longer.
The blade locking system is another feature that you’ll want to pay close attention to. You’ll need a knife that has a durable locking system in place, so you can avoid the blade disengaging during use.
The two most common mechanisms include a lock back and a liner. The liner is a spring-loaded leaf that snaps into place when the blade is open, to prevent it from closing. To close the knife, you’ll have to press the lock to the side, pushing it out of the way. While this type is very reliable, it can be a hassle each time you need to close the blade.
The lock back features hooks placed toward the mainspring that are designed to snap into a cutout when the blade is opened. In order to close the knife, you’ll press down on the mainspring, lifting the hook out of the notch. This type of locking mechanism is adequately strong.
There are a few opening mechanisms to choose from:
An automatic mechanism is the least user-friendly option. For this style, the blade will be held in place with the use of a catch that must be set loose to allow the blade to spring into action. This type of mechanism is prone to wear and tear and isn’t as durable or as reliable as the other options. Another issue is the catch, which can be released in a pocket. Obviously, this is a major safety concern.
Manual style mechanisms are completely opened by the user and are considered the most reliable, however, they can be tough to open.
The assisted opening mechanism requires the manual opening to be started. This will prompt the spring tension to be applied, which opens the blade the rest of the way. These knives are about as safe as a manual opening lock and are more durable and reliable than automatic knives.
A lock can also come with holes or thumb studs that can help with a manual opening. They’re reliable and work well enough, however, you’ll need to practice using whatever type of system you decide to go with so you can get the hang of quickly opening your knife.
Another important consideration is how durable the blade is. The blade must be tough enough to absorb impact. If you hit the spine of the knife with a rock, the last thing you want to happen is a cracked blade. This could lead to a nasty injury, one that can require immediate medical attention.
Ductility is a term that’s used to refer to the metal’s ability to flex under torsion and stress. A blade with excellent ductility will not break if it experiences high force, such as hitting the spine of the blade with a rock. The level of give in the blade is crucial, ensuring it won’t shatter, leaving you without a knife.
When you’re searching online for a knife that will meet your needs, aside from strength and overall durability, how comfortable a knife is to hold can also have an impact on your decision. In many cases, specific handle shapes will be paired with certain designs. When you’re choosing a traditional design, you have to accept the handle design that accompanies your blade of choice. Traditional style handles are made from a wide range of natural materials including stag antler, jigged bone, exotic hardwoods, and synthetic materials such as Mica pearl and Delrin. Since you’re searching for a survival knife, you don’t want one that has a delicate handle, such as one made out of abalone or mother of pearl. Instead, you’ll want something more durable, like Delrin, which is a very tough material.
Aside from the material the handle is made out of, it should also feel comfortable in your hand. Folding knives do not have long handles, like a fixed knife does, but the handles should still feel comfortable to hold and should be easy to grasp.
These knives are available starting at $13 up to around $70. Obviously, if you plan on using your knife daily, and keeping it on you at all times, then you want one you can rely on, and a knife that scored well in terms of strength and durability. Higher priced models will offer the type of edge retention and overall blade quality that most survivalists are looking for. However, price alone is not enough to indicate quality, so you’ll still need to do a little research and pay close attention to each model’s specs, user rating, and the types of materials it’s made out of.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why Do You Need a Quality Survival Knife?
Purchasing a new knife that’s designed specifically for most types of survival situations will ensure you’re always prepared. Whether you’re stuck in the middle of the backcountry or stuck in a crowded urban environment when disaster strikes. A survival knife can help you get through any type of emergency situation, whether you need to secure ropes, cut through fishing line, or gut a fish, a survival knife will be your go-to tool. Since these foldable knives are so highly portable, and have a low profile, you can take them almost everywhere, so you’ll always have this important tool on hand.
What Are the Benefits of a Survival Knife Over a Normal Knife?
A standard knife isn’t tough enough to handle heavy duty use. A survival knife is much tougher and more durable compared to a standard pocket knife. The blades are often tougher and retain an edge better, so they can be used for a wide range of tasks, in many different types of environments. Basically, these blades are designed to handle it all, despite their smaller size.
What is the Strongest Folding Knife Lock?
A framelock is said to be much stronger than a liner lock and does an excellent job of keeping the blade securely in place.
What is a Drop Point Knife?
This type of knife slopes on the blade’s spine from the knife’s handle to the tip. This design allows the blade’s spine to continue forward to the blade’s tip. Knives with this design are commonly used for hunting.
Why do pocket Knives Have Two Blades?
Having a choice between two blades will allow you to choose the right blade for the job. These blade options make the knife more valuable and versatile, so they can be used for twice as many tasks, depending on the material you want to cut through.
Can a Folding Survival Knife be Used for Home Defense?
While the blades may be shorter than what you’ll come across on a fixed blade knife, a folding survival knife can still make a good home defense weapon, especially if you practice with it often and know how to handle it. While a firearm would be a better alternative in a break-in situation, a folding knife can protect you if you don’t own a firearm or you’re unable to reach it in time.
While fixed blade knives are often favored by survivalists, if you follow the tips I’ve included in this guide, it’s possible to find the best folding survival knife, one that’s durable, resilient, and able to handle plenty of wear and tear. The products I’ve included here all scored well in a variety of areas, and they offer a more convenient and low-profile way to carry a blade on you at all times, which is what’s really important to those who want to always be prepared in the event of an emergency.