A survival knife is one of the must-have gear for serious survivalists. This tool will help you accomplish a ton of tasks like hunting, skinning game, building shelter, self-defense, spitting fire, cutting ropes, and so much more.
But bigger isn’t always better when it comes to survival knives. Your state laws may prohibit larger survival knives. Or you simply feel more comfortable carrying and working with smaller knives. In this case, you’ll need to look for the best small survival knife.
Here’s a roundup of the top 5 small survival knives on the market today for you to choose from.
Best small survival knife:
1. KA-BAR TDI - Best Small Fixed Blade Survival Knife
This Ka-bar TDI is one of the best options on the market today for survivalists who want a smaller knife at a fair price. The knife features an overall length of 5 5/8 inches, making it highly concealable and shorter by half the length of large survival knives measuring between 10 and 11 inches.
It comes with an equally smaller blade measuring 2 5/16 inches. This is a perfectly legal blade size in most states. Plus, it’s the perfect blade size for tackling everyday tasks like cutting ropes, opening cans, opening boxes, self-defense, and more.
The super-sharp blade is made from Aus-8 stainless steel for high sharpness retention, corrosion resistance, and great toughness. This is one of the best steel for small knives.
The knife handle and ergonomics of this knife are also great! It feels perfect in your hands and the grip is solid and secure in different weather conditions.
When you purchase this small and lightweight knife, you’ll also get a well-made sheath with great retention for securely and safely carrying your knife. A reversible clip is also included for easy attachment of the knife inside your pant pocket, car, or backpack.
2. ESEE Knives Izula-II Fixed Blade Knife
Esee Izula II was designed after Izula I, the most popular knife in the Esee line. Unlike Izula I, this knife has an added ½-inch handle length and comes with full-size handle scales. With an overall length of 6.75 inches, this knife is small enough for easy carry while being strong enough for big work.
The knife blade is made from high carbon 1095 steel, which is the top choice for knives designed for hard use. The blade comes super-sharp out of the box and is extremely easy to sharpen. Since the blade has a coating, it keeps away rust associated with high carbon steel blades.
A true survival knife, this knife comes with full-tang construction to give it the extra strength needed to withstand hard outdoor use.
You’ll like the textured micarta handle that comes with this knife as it offers a comfortable grip for long hours. The handle is ½-inch longer than Izula 1, making it even more comfortable.
The Izula 2 comes with a durable polymer sheath which is quite better than what you find in some knife models. It’s small and lighter, and offers better retention, and leaves no room for rattle.
3. CRKT Minimalist Bowie Neck Knife
This is another incredibly compact and lightweight ideal specially made for wilderness carry, handling camping chores, skinning, and dressing, and even cooking. It perfectly fits the definition of a small survival knife.
The minimalist bowie neck knife comes with full-tang construction which gives it extra strength to withstand tough outdoor use. It features a blade made from 5Cr15MoV—a high carbon stainless steel that takes an edge perfectly well while offering high rust resistance.
This blade comes sharp out of the box and is finished with a bead blast coat which excellently minimizes reflections.
Another great feature of this minimalist bowie knife involves the hand-contoured green-black micarta scaled handle for snug grip. Besides, it offers you up to 3 finger cholis and friction grooves for the thumb. Above all, it comes with a braided fob for extra grip.
When you purchase this knife, you’ll also receive a versatile carry sheath that securely holds your knife with a positive lock that firmly holds your blade inside so it doesn’t come out accidentally. Both the sheath and knife weigh approx. 2 ounces, making this minimalist knife a perfect personal carry you’ll barely notice.
4. SOG Small Fixed Blade Knife
We also have this SOG small fixed blade knife designed for lightweight, everyday carry. It has an overall length of 5.9 inches, making it a true compact tactical knife for a trip to the woods, bushcrafting, backpacking, and so on. This knife is great knife for small hands.
The blade is razor-sharp out of the box and is crafted from 5Cr15MoV high carbon stainless steel. This material has decent edge retention and sharpens easily. It also offers high rust resistance and can withstand harsh outdoor elements with minimal maintenance.
A sturdy sheath that tightly holds your knife—even in an inverted position—comes is included to offer you a convenient way to carry your knife anywhere.
Added to this sheath is a strong metal clip that tightly holds to your belt for a comfortable and secure carry. You’ll like that this belt clip is 360 degrees adjustable, allowing you to set the sheath to whatever angle you desire, including the horizontal angle.
The SOG small knife G10 handle has finger grooves and jimping to fit your hands perfectly well and grant you maximum control. The scales on it ensure you have a firm and solid grip in all conditions, including wet environments.
5. Spyderco Ark Salt Fixed Blade Knife
If you’re looking for the best small survival knife for use in wet conditions, you might want to consider this Spyderco Ark fixed blade knife. Appearing in Spyderco’s Salt series, this knife’s blade is made with H1 steel, a nitrogen-enriched alloy that offers extremely high rust resistance. So, it is undoubtedly one of the best stainless steel for knives.
The Ark itself is compactly designed with 4.98 inches and weighs as light as 2.0 inches, making it easy to carry just anywhere.
It presents you with a deeply curved clip-point blade ground from H1 steel for exceptional rust resistance, great toughness, and high sharpenability. You can even slice thin tomatoes with it.
As for the handle, Spyderco directly molded a fiberglass reinforced material on the knife tang to form a highly durable handle. They also optimized it with bi-directional texturing to offer you a secure grip, even with wet hands.
To ensure easy and convenient carry, the Ark comes with an injection-molded polymer neck sheath with a breakaway ball chain. The knife plus sheath weighs approx. 2 ounces, so you’ll hardly know your knife is in there until you need it.
Also available on:
How long should a survival knife be?
The length of survival knives available today varies from 6 to 12 inches.
The small survival knives are approx. 6 inches long. These smaller knives are easier to carry and are also legally permitted in most state laws. However, they feature a smaller blade length (around 2-3 inches) which might not be effective at chopping and batoning.
But you can get even longer survival knives measuring anything from 6 to 12 inches. These larger knives come with a larger blade size (around 4-7 inches) which is ideal for tasks like chopping and batoning.
Keep in mind, though, that as your survival knife gets bigger, it might present a problem when it comes to easily carry it and effectively using it to accomplish different tasks.
The perfect size of survival knife for you boils down to your unique needs and preferences (i.e., what you’re comfortable carrying and what you intend to use it for).
What to look for in a survival knife?
In this part, we have listed the top factors that contribute to the perfect survival knife for your needs.
A survival knife is meant to handle tough use. With this in mind, you need to choose a model with a full-tang design, where the blade extends the entire knife length. This design is KEY to offering your knife the extra strength needed in many survival applications.
Another important consideration when looking for a compact survival knife is the handle material and ergonomics. You should get a knife made with tough handle material to withstand the tough outdoor use. The handle should also feature an ergonomic design for a comfortable grip, even with extended use.
As you start shopping around for a survival knife, you’ll discover that there exist more steels for knife blades that you can figure out.
This makes you wonder: what’s the perfect material for a survival knife?
We highly suggest that you go with carbon steel grades since they offer greater toughness and can withstand abuse better. A good example is the 1095 carbon steel. These steels also keep their sharpness for longer and sharpen easily.
You should only consider stainless steels if rust is a big problem for you and you can manage to offer your carbon steel regular maintenance.
You should also make sure the survival knife you get comes with a good sheath. After all, how will you be carrying your fixed blade survival knife if it doesn’t come with a sheath? Make sure you get a durable sheath that securely accommodates your blade and offers you comfortable carry. You can even look for knives that resemble a boot knife.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Q. Can I carry a survival knife?
It depends on what your state laws say about carrying a knife. Before you carry that survival knife, we urge you to check your state knife laws to see what blade length they consider legal in your county or city.
Q. Should a survival knife be serrated?
The non-serrated plain edge knife is the perfect choice for sa survival knife. This is because the sharp straight edge is great for handling a variety of tasks like hunting, skinning, chopping, shaving, skinning a fruit, and more. However, you might also consider a knife with partial serration for survival as it might prove useful for cutting fabric easily and ripping through something quickly.
Q. What can you do with a survival knife?
A survival knife has multiple applications including cutting, slicing, piercing, shaving, dressing, filleting, skinning, splitting, digging, scratching, scribing, paring, batoning, staking, poking, self-defense, and so on.
Q. What type of knife is best for survival?
A fixed blade knife is the best way to go for survival. All other types of knives can fail or unintentionally fold back on you in a time when your life could depend on it. They are much more durable and their blades are not replaceable, so when they do break, it will be much easier to fix them than if you had a folding knife.
Lastly, if things get too scrappy during an attack, the handle of a folding knife can easily be pushed up into your palm by an attacker's hand in order to disable you comparatively quickly whereas this type of attack would not have that same effect against a user with a fixed blade."
Q. Are survival knives good?
Yes, of course. When it comes to survival knives, less is more and the best model is the one you feel most comfortable carrying around. A survival knife is more durable and versatile than a pure hunting knife, owing to its strong construction. According to Roger Norling, a Swede who writes well about bushcraft and knives, "survival knives are intentionally not great at anything, but good enough at most things."
There’s no single best small survival knife. The perfect knife for you depends on what you intended to use it for. We have just offered you up to 5 highly rated compact survival knives on the market today and we hope you can now easily choose the most suitable one that matches your unique needs and preferences.