The 10 Best Folding Survival Knives of 2019

Looking for the best folding survival knives for your outdoor needs? Check our roundup review for the one that speaks to you most.
  • Best EDC
Gerber Swagger Knife, Assisted Opening [31-001709]
4/5
  • Best Choice
Benchmade - Freek 560-1, EDC Folding Knife, Drop-Point Blade, Manual Open, Axis Locking Mechanism, Made in USA, Coated, Serrated
5/5
  • Best Multi Tool
Victorinox Swiss Army Rescue Tool Pocket Knife with Pouch
4.5/5
Contents show

How you will use your knife matters. Will you be utilizing it for basic tasks within and outside your home? Or will you have it on you for emergencies or wilderness needs? These factors are the core determinant of which blade is best for you.

Overall, a folding tactical knife with all the right features to serve as both a go-to everyday carry (EDC) knife and a survival blade, day in day out, should be at the top of your list. Today, we will be exploring in detail the best foldable survival knife out there to help you identify which is right for you.

In case you are in a hurry, check out our overall winner, the Benchmade Freek 560-1, to see why it meets your needs.

Round-Up Review of The 10 Best Folding Survival Knives of 2019

Best Overall Folding Knife

  • Best Choice
Benchmade - Freek 560-1, EDC Folding Knife, Drop-Point Blade, Manual Open, Axis Locking Mechanism, Made in USA, Coated, Serrated
Value
8
Sharpness
8
Ergonomics
9
Portability
10
Construction
8

One of the superior models of the Freek family under Benchmade knives.

8.6
Overall Score

The Freek 560-1 is one of the superior models of the Freek family under Benchmade folding knives. This blade clocks an overall length of 8.46 inches with the handle being 4.46 inches and the blade 4 inches.

With this length specification, you can use this blade for various kinds of everyday carry tasks, including heavy-duty jobs like cutting through woods. 

For the steel type, Benchmade has gone for a superior carbon option, fitting this blade with CPM-M4 steel of 2.9mm thickness. With this, you have a survival blade that is tough and thick enough to take up serious abuse like batoning. At the same time, the material fairs better to rust than most carbon steel.

The handle material of the Freek 560-1 comes in a G-10, known to withstand lots of harsh environments. The composite fiberglass soaked in resin is durable and resistant to moisture. With this, you can boldly venture into the wild with little weather concerns.

Benchmade has gone for their trademark locking system with this pocket knife. You get the axis locking system, which ensures great stability, security, and strength to handle lots of surviving and EDC tasks at home and in the wild.

The blade profile is the drop point edge type. This leaves you with a knife with less drag and more durability. Benchmade has given half of the blade a serrated edge while the area leading to the point has a flat, razor-sharp grind for the best cutting and piercing experience. 

Other features of this blade are a reversible tip-up pocket clip, thumb studs, and Diamond-Like Carbon coated lock studs all on 4.3 oz for the best EDC experience.

Product Specifications

  • Weight (ounces): 5.6 
  • Blade Style: Drop point
  • Blade LockLiner lock

Pros

  • Superior materials
  • Great for all EDC and survival use
  • Excellent locking system
  • Pocket-friendly
  • Durable sharpness

Cons

  • Blade requires frequent maintenance in humid environment

Best For Every Day Carry

  • Best for EDC
Gerber Swagger Knife, Assisted Opening [31-001709]
Value
7
Sharpness
8
Ergonomics
9
Portability
10
Construction
8

A very portable, lightweight, tactically designed everyday carry knife.

8.4
Overall Score

The open-assist Swagger knife from Garber comes in an overall length of 7.5 inches with a blade length of 3.25 inches. This leaves you with a 4.25 inches length for the handle. With that, you have yourself a very portable, tactically designed, EDC knife that weighs only 3.25 oz.

The blade comes with a 7Cr17MoV stainless steel, a vanadium improved version of the 440a stainless steel. With this, you have a superior cheap blade that is durable, strong, rust-resistant, and flexible enough to give you a great experience in all your moderate tasks.

For the handle material, Garber has gone for superior quality, fitting the open-assist Swagger blade with G-10 scales. This leaves you with a durable handle that can withstand harsh weather, has great texture, and is resistant to moisture.

You’ll find the plunge/button lock mechanism housed in this blade. This lock gives you the strength and reliance you need to deploy your blade for varying tasks, including piercing. Fitted to the side of the blade is the thumb studs to enable you to push the blade up and back in while the spring assist takes care of the rest.

For the blade profile, Garber has gone with a double bevel, drop point blade type coated with black titanium nitride. The half serrated, flat edge smoothly curves to meet the spine in a convex edge type. Hence, leaving you with a tough, sharp grind, that is easy to direct and sharpen.

Product Specifications

  • Weight (ounces): 3.25
  • Blade Style: Drop point/Serrated
  • Blade Lock: Button lock

Pros

  • Decent materials
  • Reliable locking system
  • Excellent for everyday use
  • Lightweight
  • Durable sharpness

Cons

  • Reported quality control problems
  • Can be extremely difficult to open and close
  • Thumb stud might be too sharp for some
  • Not suitable for heavy-duty tasks
  • Best Multi-Tool
Victorinox Swiss Army Rescue Tool Pocket Knife with Pouch
Value
8
Sharpness
8
Ergonomics
9
Portability
10
Construction
8

This survival blade comes fitted with fifteen different cutting tools.

8.6
Overall Score

The Victorinox First Responder is more than just a folding knife under $100. This survival blade comes fitted with fifteen different cutting tools that all first responders will need, all in a 4.8 inches length and 5.9 oz weight. 

This means you can easily have this on you while at work, at home, or in the wild for varying EDC tasks.

The spine thickness of this Swiss Army knife varies across the number of cutting tools it houses. However, it comes from pure, high-quality stainless steel that has been tempered and annealed for the desired toughness and corrosion resistance. 

Your blade can come in two colors, black or yellow handles. Both are from nylon for more grip and durability. As such, you get a nicely crafted handle that easily does its job to store your tools and the liner lock system.

To contend as the best folding survival knife for rescuers, this Swiss Army Knife comes with a glass breaker, layered hole, cut out thumb hole, flipper, screwdriver, seatbelt cutter, disc saw, tweezer, wire stripper, key ring and much more. 

You can conveniently use this blade to get yourself out of a tight spot in a car or other similar environment.

For the blade, the Victorinox has a flat serrated cutting edge. The spine posses a large wavy pattern that smoothly slopes into a convex drop point profile. This is no regular everyday carry knife or tactical blade, but it will do the work of getting out of that tight spot.

Product Specifications

  • Weight (ounces): 5.9
  • Blade Style: Drop point/Serrated
  • Blade Lock: Liner lock

Pros

  • Quality materials
  • Multi-functional
  • Pocket-friendly
  • Corrosion-resistant
  • Reliable locking system

Cons

  • Blade size too small for varying tasks
  • Spring bar might be hard for some to reach
  • Requires both hands to open
Ontario Knife Rat-1 Knife, 5in. Closed
Value
8
Sharpness
8
Ergonomics
9
Portability
10
Construction
8

Ideal for urban use and minor chores like slicing and cutting through easy subjects.

8.6
Overall Score

The Ontario Rat 1 Knife is the bigger brother to the Rat Two. This portable blade has 8.6 inches overall length. That means from the tip of the blade to its ricasso, you have 3.5 inches. Then the handle takes 5.1 inches.

When considering the ideal length for your blade, for EDC use, this length makes it suitable for your urban use and minor chores like slicing and cutting through easy subjects. At the same time, it makes it portable enough for you to have it on you at all times.

Coming with an AUS-8 steel and 3mm spine thickness, this pocket knife has the right combo to take on moderately heavy tasks like prying through difficult things. However, it being foldable, its blade length and blade material might limit you from using it for real straining tasks like splitting woods.

The coyote brown handle material comes with an FRN (Fiber Reinforced Nylon) that does a good job to conceal the liner locking system, which ensures your blade is sturdy and ready to go in no time.

For the edge and profile, Ontario has gone with a drop point for the spine and a flat grind, which has a simple tipping edge type. The result is a blade that is pretty good for cutting thinly, durable, and easy to sharpen.

With a 5.6 ounce weight, 4-way reversible pocket clip, dual thumb studs, a lanyard hole, and a black or satin finish, the Ontario RAT 1 knife is one of the most functional folding knives under $50 for your EDC needs.

Product Specifications

  • Weight (ounces): 5.6
  • Blade Style: Drop point
  • Blade Lock: Liner lock

Pros

  • Quality materials
  • Excellent for everyday use
  • Pocket-friendly
  • Corrosion-resistant
  • Reliable locking system

Cons

  • Not good for heavy-duty tasks
  • Less grip than some of the competitors
  • The black coating is likely to clear off with time
Smith & Wesson SWMP4LS 8.6in S.S. Assisted Folding Knife with 3.6in Serrated Clip Point Blade and Aluminum Handle for Outdoor Tactical Survival and EDC
Value
7
Sharpness
9
Ergonomics
9
Portability
10
Construction
7

A tactical folding knife suited for more than just EDC use.

8.4
Overall Score

The Smith & Wesson SWMP4LS is another great folding knife under $50 with a tactical design, which makes the blade suited for more than just everyday carry

At 8.6 inches overall length, this survival knife is portable enough to fit anywhere. The blade is 3.6 inches in length while the handle is 5 inches. However, this blade length limits the cutting task you can use this knife for.

For the blade material, S&W settled for a 4035 black oxide carbon steel with a 3.3 mm thickness. This leaves you with softer carbon steel that is thick enough to handle some beating. However, you will need to sharpen it more often than its higher alternatives.

The SWMP4LS has an aluminum handle material, which could be problematic in cold seasons. The firm has inlaid this with rubber to compensate. Hence, you have solid scales for your blade with enough texture and grip for those wet seasons.

This survival knife features a liner lock system, magic spring assist opener, and safety lock mechanisms put in place to ensure you don’t ever encounter an accidental open or close. However, the liner locking system works great without you needing the safety lock.

For the blade edge and profile, you have a hollow spine complemented by a partly serrated, flat edge that sweeps in to meet the spine in a simple edge type. 

As you will guess, there is a secondary bevel at the swedge of the spine, giving you the chance to turn this blade to a double edge blade. 

Other tactical, additional features include a tip-up pocket clip, an ambidextrous thumb stud/flipper, a glass breaker, and a black finish all balanced in 7.8 oz weight.

Product Specifications

  • Weight (ounces): 7.8
  • Blade Style: Hollow/Simple
  • Blade Lock: Liner lock

Pros

  • Highly secured
  • Reliable locking system
  • Excellent for everyday survival use
  • Pocket-friendly
  • Excellent for piercing

Cons

  • Prone to rust
  • Cheap materials
  • Reported quality control problems
  • Needs frequent sharpening
Kershaw Blur Black (1670BLK) Everyday Carry Pocketknife with 3.4” Stainless Steel Drop Point Blade, DLC Coated Handle Features SpeedSafe Assisted Opening, Lanyard Hole, Reversible Pocketclip; 3.9 OZ
Value
9
Sharpness
8
Ergonomics
9
Portability
10
Construction
8

A portable, urban-friendly knife ideal for everyday carry tasks.

8.8
Overall Score

The Kershaw Blur EDC knife is a 3.9 oz, portable, urban-friendly blade you can use for your varying EDC tasks depending on your length preference. The pocket knife comes in an overall length of 7.9 inches with the blade having a 3.4 inches length and the knife handle is 3.5 inches.

The firm has gone for superior stainless steel for its blade. Going for this, you get a Sandvik 14C28N chromium steel of 3.1mm spine thickness. With this steel on your knife, you have an incredibly tough blade with great corrosion resistance, with reliable sharpness.

The blade has a black Diamond-Like Carbon (DLC) coating for better all-round blade performance.

For the Blur handle, Kershaw opted for an anodized aluminum scale inlaid with trac-tec inserts to give the knife handle great texture and grip. With this combination, you have a blur handle that is tough, a bit heavy, durable, and with enough texture to meet the demands of several harsh kinds of weather.

A liner lock system followed by the Kershaw SpeedSafe Assist accompanies this pocket knife. Both allow you to deploy and sheathe your blade with ease. There is a thumb stud on both sides of the blade for one-handed, ambidextrous operation.

With these components, you can confidently open your blade to a reliable lock and utilize it for demanding tasks like splitting woods.

The blade has a drop point blade profile with a mild S-curve pattern. With these, you get a great cutting edge type that offers durable edge sharpness, less lag, and more control.

Additional features include Lanyard hole and a reversible pocket clip.

Product Specifications

  • Weight (ounces): 3.9
  • Blade Style: Drop point
  • Blade Lock: Liner lock

Pros

  • Quality materials
  • Excellent for everyday use
  • Portable
  • Reliable locking system
  • Excellent grip

Cons

  • Might be too small for some
  • Have a sharp thumb stud
SOG Folding Knife Pocket Knife Trident Tactical Opening Knife with 3.75 Inch Black TiNi Partially Serrated Edge Blade & Military Knife Grip (TF1-CP)
Value
9
Sharpness
9
Ergonomics
9
Portability
10
Construction
8

A well-priced outdoor survival knife suitable for hunting, woodworking, and self-defense.

9
Overall Score

As a folding knife under $100, the SOG Trident Tactical Knife presents itself as an affordable outdoor survival blade for hunting, woodworking, down to self-defense.

The knife comes with an overall length of 8.5 inches while the blade, from point to the ricasso, houses 3.75 inches. You get a 4.75 length for the handle on a knife weight of 3.6 oz. With this, you have a decent blade length to cater to varying tasks, including heavy jobs like hammering, digging, or tightening loose screws.

SOG has gone for AUS-8 stainless steel of 3.3mm thickness for the blade of this pocket knife. To further improve its performance, a black titanium nitride coating covers the blade and enhances its scratch and peel resistance.

With AUS-8 steel by your side, you have a survival blade that is corrosion resistant and able to take up moderate heavy-duty tasks. 

The handle of the Sog folding knife has a GRN (glass reinforced nylon) material, which is thick enough with the right texture to ensure a no-slip grip and durability. 

The firm has gone with a groove designed knife handle with a small blade at the end of the groove, which helps in cutting ropes, belts, or similar things.

For the lock mechanism, SOG has gone for their Arc-actuator alongside SOG assisted tech for a rapid blade deployment and closure. The Arc-actuator is a Piston lock mechanism similar to the axis lock. Hence, it provides ambidextrous one-hand operation, great stability, and strength to combat those stubborn surfaces.

A safety lock mechanism also assists the locking system in ensuring your blade closes up when in your pocket. It deploys itself automatically and can be a problem for some.

For the blade profile, you have a clip point style to enhance the sharpness of this blade. The spine abruptly, but slightly, curves inward in a manner that suggests someone chipped off the rest of the blade. For the cutting edge, the SOG blade houses a half serrated, sharp edge that slopes to meet the spine just above the center.

Product Specifications

  • Weight (ounces): 3.6
  • Blade Style: Clip point/Serrated
  • Blade Lock: Piston lock

Pros

  • Quality materials
  • Excellent locking system
  • Corrosion-resistant
  • Excellent for survival use
  • Durable sharpness

Cons

  • Quality control issues
  • Safety lock might stand in the way of quick deployment
CRKT Seismic EDC Folding Pocket Knife: Heavy Duty Everyday Carry, Black Blade, Flipper Open, Deadbolt Button Lock, IKBS Ball Bearing Pivot, G10 Handle, Deep Carry Pocket Clip 5401K
Value
9
Sharpness
8
Ergonomics
10
Portability
9
Construction
9

A large, thick but well balanced knife to hold.

9
Overall Score

The Seismic Heavy Duty survival knife is really a large looking, thick, and balanced weight knife to hold.

Coming in an overall length of 9.4 inches, the Seismic pocket knife features a blade size of 3.96 inches and a handle of 5.45” length. Alongside its 3.76mm spine thickness and 6.3 oz weight, you get a sizeable blade ready to take up the hard jobs you throw at it.

The firm has gone for cold steel that possesses similar performance with the 440c stainless steel. On your knife is a blade of 1.4116 stainless steel. This material is way easy to sharpen, tough, and wear plus corrosion-resistant. Hence, your blade is ready to keep its edge a bit longer, sharpened quickly, and serve in varying environments. 

 At the tang of the blade starts out its large G-10 handle ready to take up space in your folded palm. With this material, you have a knife handle that has the right thickness, grip, and durability for the various locations and tasks you will like to see through.

For the lock mechanism, CRKT has gone with deadbolt lock alongside a button locking system. What this means is that you have thick stainless steel that extends to the butt of the scales, with part of it shining through at the rear. 

This bolt then locks your blade in place when swung open, providing an insane blade strength and stability. To disengage, all you need do is press the button at the side then flip close with the thumb studs at each side.

There are two lanyard-potential holes cut into the cold steel part of the handle. You can use them for this purpose or leave them as decoration. Also, this knife comes with a flipper, which assists you in swinging the blade open with one hand. There is also a two-way pocket clip to the side, which you can place at either side to meet your preference. 

For the profile, CRKT has gone for a mild drop point blade. Depending on whether you go for the one with satin or black finish, you will have a half-serrated or plain, simple edge type that curves upward to meet the spine. This gives you a more durable sharpness, control, and an easy blade to sharpen.

Product Specifications

  • Weight (ounces): 6.3
  • Blade Style: Drop point/Serrated
  • Blade Lock: Button lock/Deadbolt

Pros

  • Quality materials
  • Reliable locking system
  • Ease of sharpening
  • Great for EDC and survival use
  • Corrosion-resistant

Cons

  • The handle might be uncomfortable due to its sharp edges
Pocket Knife MultiTool with Safety Locking Blade, Ideal Gifts for Men & Women, Tactical Knife/Folding Knife/Utility Knife with Pliers, Bottle Opener, Screwdriver, Great for Hunting, Outdoor, Survival
Value
9
Sharpness
9
Ergonomics
9
Portability
10
Construction
8

The versatile multi-tool knife you can use for varying home and outdoors tasks like cutting through tapes, tree backs, and more.

9
Overall Score

As a multi-tool folding knife under $50, the RoverTac multi-tool stands as a great alternative to the Swiss Army knife in this list. 

The versatile blade comes in an overall length of 7.6 inches where the handle takes up 4.3 inches and the blade 3.3 inches. This gives you a portable blade you can actually use for varying home and in the wild chores like cutting through tapes, tree backs, and more.

The firm has gone for a quality stainless steel for both its handle and blade giving the knife a total weight of 7.8 oz. there is a black oxide coating on the steel of this knife to give the extra protection and boost in performance.

The grip isn’t lacking as there are grooves on the handle that does a good job in eliminating the chances of it slipping off your hands.

The RoverTac multitool features a Liner locking Safeguard system that has an easily accessible lever under the handle to help you lock or close the blade with ease. This ensures your knife gets all the backing it needs to handle varying tasks including cutting woods.

This blade is a bulky tool that takes up space in your hand and offers lots of tools like a useful blade, needle nose pliers, wire cutter, can opener, regular pliers, and a screwdriver bit adapter with 9 screw bit sets and sleeve. 

For the blade profile, you have an asymmetrical flat edge and secondary bevel for the spine. The half-serrated cutting edge then smoothly incline to meet the spine at the center of the blade. Hence, giving you a durable and sharp knife that you can better exert force on any area of the grind.

Product Specifications

  • Weight (ounces): 7.8
  • Blade Style: Asymmetrical flat/Serrate
  • Blade Lock: Liner lock

Pros

  • Multi-functional blade
  • Excellent for everyday use
  • Reliable locking system
  • Corrosion-resistant
  • Quality materials

Cons

  • Quality control issues
  • Might be too bulky for some
ALBATROSS Pocket Knife Dalbergia Cochinchinensis/Abalone Seashells 6.5'' Damascus Steel Knife Liner Lock Folding Knife 100% Prime Quality
Value
9
Sharpness
8
Ergonomics
9
Portability
8
Construction
9

A beautiful knife for EDC or to give as a gift.

8.6
Overall Score

The Albatross Damascus Steel Knife is a beautiful blade to have on you or as a gift. Coming with a 7.6 inches overall length, 4.3 handle size, 3.2 blade length, and a weight of 6.8 oz, you have a small foldable blade made from superior steel to handle all your EDC needs.

For the blade of this knife, Albatross provides you with a handmade, true Damascus steel derived from the fine combination of 1095 and 15N20 carbon steel famous for their toughness, durability, and strength.

 As such, you have a survival blade that can handle any task you throw at it while retaining its edge, toughness, and shiny appearance. Its 2mm thickness further enforces this.

Albatross has also attached scales made from an aesthetically pleasing yet functional blend of blue wood and brass. The handle material includes two brass bolsters at each end of the handle with a blue wood at the center. This provides the much support you need to use your Damascus blade for varying tasks.

For the lock mechanism, you have a lockback locking system, which provides you with great safety, strength, and reliance. You can easily disengage the superior steel bar spreading from the tang of your blade to the butt of the handle by pressing down on the exposed part of the bar at the rear of the knife.

Each part of the Albatross pocket knife has a unique and captivating pattern. The blade has a twisted design on each side of its cheek while the bolsters have a scrimshaw work pattern on their shiny surface. 

For the blade profile, your Albatross knife gives you the full control you need with a Simple edge blade type. The sharp cutting edge smoothly tilts to meet the straight spine of your blade at the point. Hence, offering you more control and slicing area for your wood and thick vines.

 Product Specifications

  • Weight (ounces): 2.6
  • Blade Style: Simple edge
  • Blade Lock: Lockback

Pros

  • Superior materials
  • Good for EDC and heavy-duty tasks
  • Aesthetically pleasing
  • Excellent locking system
  • Durable sharpness

Cons

  • Prone to rust
  • Might be too small for some heavy-duty tasks

How to Choose the Best Folding Tactical Knife for Your Needs

1. The knife blade material counts

best folding survival knives - stainless steel vs carbon steel folding knives

You know how the kind of jacket you wear for hiking can make all the difference. It is the same for your pocket knife. 

When you go shopping for your next pocket knife, it is best to settle for blades with quality steel like carbon steel or stainless steel. However, you should base your choice solely on your primary goal for wanting a survival knife by your side.

Carbon steel blades like the Benchmade Freek or the Albatross Damascus Steel Knife are more durable and ready to take on the severe abuse you will throw on them when cutting through woods or branches. This is due to their harder nature. However, this steel is prone to rust and stains when not taking care of.

On the other hand, a stainless steel blade has a balanced amount of carbon toughness and chromium, the one thing significantly lacking in a carbon blade. This allows it to take up more tasks in varying harsh environments while remaining corrosion resistant.

So, if you are after an every-day-carry knife, then a stainless steel blade like that of the Ontario RAT 1 should do the trick as they are low maintenance and good enough to handle several moderate tasks. 

Always go for blades with AUS-8, 420HC, 440C, or higher stainless steel as they own a good edge and are easier to sharpen than other variants.

However, if you want a pocket knife for heavy-duty tasks like chopping stubborn woods, then a carbon blade like that of the Damascus Bluewood or the Benchmade Freek 560-1 are both good choices. These blades are of 1095 carbon steel or its equivalent, which are the best in their category for hardness, toughness, and ease of sharpening.

2. Is the knife easy to carry in your pocket?

best folding knife blade size

The pocketability or length of your EDC knife is pretty important not just for being easy to carry but also for usefulness. 

Depending on what you are comfortable with, you should go for survival folding knives that their blades fall within 4 to 7 inches, with their overall length being 10 to 12 inches. Anything less than this will leave you with a knife you can’t use effectively to pry tough things or chop woods. In the same vein, anything bigger might become hard to wield and pose a danger to you.

You are most likely to see everyday carry folding knives within 2 inches to 3 inches blade length like the Garber Pocket Knife. Why this adds to its portability, it won’t give you enough blade spine to work with for tasks like those mentioned above.

3. Choose the right lock mechanism for you

best folding survival knives - blade lock types folding pocket knives

There are various types of lock mechanisms that your survival knife can come with. It is always wise to check this to note if the locking system matches your preference. Using a lock mechanism that doesn’t work with you naturally can take time to warm up to and can put you in harm’s way.

Let’s check out the most used and acceptable mechanisms below:

Lockback Knife Systems

Lockback Knife Systems
Image Credit: Blade Mag

Often, you can find a lockback mechanism on classic American folding knives. This system works by adding a spring to the spine/bar in the handle of your foldable blade. 

When you pull it open, the bar locks onto a notch at the tang of the blade. You can then use it for whatever you have in mind. 

When you are through, push down on the exposed spine at the rear or middle part of your handle to disengage the lock and close your knife.

Here the “spine” refers to the tang-like metal within the handle.

With this locking system, you get more strength and sturdiness from your survival knife. Also, with this lock system sitting safely at the rear, you minimize the chances of cutting yourself while trying to close the blade or accidentally disengaging it while using. 

However, it might slow things down when you can’t use both hands to pull it open or close. A good example of this locking system is in the Albatross Damascus Steel Knife.

Liner Lock Knives

Liner Lock Knives
Image Credit: Knife Informer

A liner locking system is the most common type of lock you can find on your pocket knife. This lock uses a spring bar termed liner to create a spring effect. It does this by cutting out and bending part of the spring bar to claps unto the tang (butt) of your blade when it makes contact.

The bar spreads from the butt of the handle to the butt of your blade, “lining” the handle material. It sits to the side and on the path of your blade’s edge. Recent models come with a stop pin and detent ball to enhance safety, alignment, and strength.

When you close your survival knife, the bar experiences tension. When you pull it open, that tension forces the liner to move inward, hence, locking it to the tang of your blade. The stop pin at the scales then aligns the blade correctly. These leave you with a firm knife ready for action.

To close this EDC knife, you have to push down on the spring bar to make it lose its contact with your blade’s butt. Then gradually push down on the back of your blade (the blunt side) with your index finger. This will prevent the bar from locking back in place and give you the chance to remove the rest of your appendage from the blade path.

Once done, continue pushing the spine (back of your blade) until the blade safely snaps close. The detent ball then helps keep the blade from accidentally flipping open.

Most newbies and advanced EDC pocket knives users like this locking system because of its two handle sides and the ability to flip it close and open without having to switch hands. However, most models usually possess thin metals that are prone to wear and tear. This makes these EDC folding knives not an excellent fit for heavy-duty tasks.

The Kershaw Blur Black is a good example of an EDC knife with his locking system.

Axis Lock System by Benchmade

Axis Lock System by Benchmade

Axis lock is a locking mechanism patented by the Benchmade Knives Company, as you will see on the Benchmade Freek 560-1. It has been the star of their pocket knives since its first appearance in 1998. It is worth mentioning as many EDC knife users love it for its practicality and simplicity.

The system uses a spring-tension bar that can move back and forth in a track cut for it between the handle and liners. The tension comes from the omega-shaped springs termed omega situated at both sides of the bar to give each side equal tension.

At the tang of each blade, you will find a notch that locks into place with the spring bar when you pull the blade open, forcing it to remain in place. The springs are the ones responsible for pushing the bar towards the butt of your blade.

The axis lock system also features a stop pin, which helps improve the reliability of your survival knife.

To close your knife, pull back the moveable bar on your blade’s handle while using the thumb stud to push down the blade to a quick close. You can do this with either hand as these EDC knives are entirely ambidextrous (they feature the moveable bar at both sides of the handle).

It is good to note that there are other similar lock systems like this one that apply the same principle with a different design to avoid breaching the patent rights of Benchmade Knives. An example of this is the Ball Bearing Lock or the Arc-Actuator from the SOG Trident Folding Tactical Knife.

Frame Lock Knives

Frame Lock Knives
Image Credit: Knife Informer

Frame lock or R. I. L (Reeves integral lock) is a famous lock system among mid-range and high-end survival knives. This is because the mechanism makes it easy for users to handle their EDC pocket knives with one hand while giving the needed stability and strength to pierce, cut, and handle other heavy-duty tasks.

The frame lock, in reality, is like an improved variation of the Liner Lock system. Instead of the Liner being a separate piece from the handle, the bar is a part of one side of the handle projected to lock onto the butt of your blade when forced open.

In the frame lock version, the frame is thicker and stronger than the liner lock. However, they both share the same tension effect as well as closing and opening. You simply push down on the spring bar to disengage and effectively close your knife.

In most models, there is a hole at the base of the blade which the detent ball slips into to keep your blade in place. You can find several frame lock survival knives with a titanium frame. However, some come with a stainless steel material as a better alternative due to less wear and tear.

4. How functional is the knife design?

It is easy to get carried away by the several seemingly necessary features your folding tactical knives has that you forget to make sure of the most important aspects.

For your pocket blade to be truly functional, it has to get the blade and handle right first before looking at other additional features.

For example, there is a big chance of you settling for an EDC knife with a semi-sharpened swedge (the tipping part of the blade’s spine) and saw-like cuts like the Smith & Wesson SWMP4LS and the RoverTac MultiTool

While the former could help in effectively piercing through some body armor, some manufacturers utilize the latter to cover the cheapness of their blade. Moreover, you need the back of your blade to be thick and square enough to take the beating you will be inflicting on it when trying to cut through wood.

The same point shines through for the type of handle your survival knife has. As an explorer, you will face several harsh kinds of weather that could make you lose your grip on your knife just when you need it the most.

The ideal knife for you should be one with a handle material that is firm, durable, and has enough grip plus texture. With that said, whether you are purchasing a fixed blade knife or foldable EDC knives, don’t go for those with hollow, metal, and cheap plastic handles. They lack the very thing you need!

The hollow handles sacrifice thickness and strength to provide you a place to hide your matches or fishing hooks. The cheap plastics aren’t durable enough, and the metal handles will leave you losing your grip, mostly during winter.

The best materials to consider for your handle are synthetics like G-10, Micarta, Kraton, FRN (Fiber Reinforced Nylon), GRN (Glass Reinforced Nylon), and any other dense rubber handle. These handles have the right thickness, durability, and grip you need for both EDC and survival usage.

5. What knife edge type works for you?

types of knife edges

Before you go hunting for your next survival knife, you might want to know which cutting edge works for you. There are several options out there, and each one has its merits and drawbacks on durability, strength, and use.

Here are the most common options:

Frame Lock Knives

A flat edge blade starts out with a straight edge and then abruptly inclines from both sides of the blade to meet at the point (the meeting point between the spine and the edge). This makes it good for piercing activities and easy to maintain but less durable. The sudden transition presents an extra drag.

Simple Edge Knives

If you are trying to improve your knowledge and blade sharpening skills, then an EDC knife with a simple edge is worth considering. These knives have a straight spine and a cutting edge that smoothly curves to meet the spine at the point.

The design of the blade profile allows you to easily exert force on the intended edge area for better cutting performance. It also gives you room to handle the blade with both hands conveniently. The Albatross Damascus Steel Knife is a perfect example of this style.

You can use this kind of EDC knives for heavy-duty tasks like cutting through thick vines, ropes, and batoning woods.

Convex Edge Knives

Convex edge or drop point blade plays more to durability and less drag. Each point along the edge of the blade is durable and easy to direct, with the tipping edge having a more robust design for smooth cuts and piercing.

The spine of the blade starts out straight and smoothly transitions to a convex curve until it meets the belly (edge) at the point. This creates a blade with a strong, outwardly curved tipping edge that best other grinds (edge) types. The Kershaw Blur Black showcases this edge type perfectly.

It is a great option for EDC use, simple chores, piercing, and slicing activities.

Asymmetrical Semi-Convex Edge Knives

This edge type tries to score on both ends for durability and ease of sharpening gotten from the convex and flat grind types.

The edge design uses a drop point for the spine of its knife and an abrupt inclination of the cutting edge to meet at the point. With this, you get a blade that is good for piercing and durable until the edge gets dull.

Asymmetrical Flat Edge Knives

These kinds of knives start out with a straight edge and spine. However, they both deviate abruptly at different points and angles to meet at the blade’s point.

With this edge type, you get a survival knife that has a durable edge at the cost of sharpness. The RoverTac MultiTool uses this edge type for its blade spine.

Compound Bevel Edge Knives

Compound bevel or double bevel edge type is a blade that houses a primary and secondary bevel each on one side of the blade.

A bevel is an inclined area between the grind and the cheek of your steel.

This edge design can appear on different edge types and makes the blade stronger, cut better, and last longer than a flat edge. However, it causes it to lose some degree of sharpness.

Hollow Edge Knives

The edge and spine of your hollow edge blade smoothly curve inward, concave style, as opposed to the convex method. The steel often has a double bevel and a thin meeting point for extra sharpness.

This design leaves you with a pretty sharp knife with low durability that is good for hunting or piercing. The knife also has an extra drag to it because of the sharp transition. The Smith & Wesson SWMP4LS is a great example of such blades, owning a hollow spine.

You will have to maintain the blade often by steeling or stropping to keep it at its top performance.

Chisel Edge Knives

The chisel edge is what you should consider when looking for a survival knife with the sharpest edge. It has the design of a typical chisel and potential for a zero grind (number of inches in an edge) when lacking a secondary bevel. That means it can be as sharp as a blade can ever be.

Another good thing about this edge style is its lack of extra drag. However, to keep it that sharp, you will need to have a strop or buffing wheel to avoid creating a second bevel while sharpening it.

Chisel Edge with back Bevel Knives

Another common edge type you could bump into is the chisel edge type with a back bevel or micro bevel at 3 to 5°. This enhances the durability of its sharpness but sacrifices how sharp the blade can be.

6. What do you want to use your knife for?

The kind of task you want to use your blade for would determine if you should settle for a fixed blade knife or foldable as well as what style works best. 

Let’s look at some task to put things into perspective:

Cutting and Slicing

Kyocera Camp Kitchen Ceramic Knife (PRNewsfoto/Kyocera,Kuhn Rikon,CDN)

The number one thing you will likely do with your survival knife, whether fixed blade knives or pocket knives, is cut and slice.

They come in handy when you want to slice some vegetables for your meals, cut through woods for fire or setting up camp, remove leaves or vines from your path, and even some minor home cut needs.

For this reason, you might want an EDC knife that is reliable, versatile and made from superior steel to get things done quickly and smoothly.

Batoning Wood

Can I use a Lock Knife for Bushcraft
Image Credit: Paul Kirtley

Another important reason for having a survival knife along is to use it to split woods. 

Now, you might wonder how this is possible or a better substitute to an ax or hatchet. However, a survival blade made of superior steel, with the right spine thickness and flat edges like the Benchmade Freek and the Albatross Damascus Steel Knife can split woods in an outstanding manner.

When considering having an EDC knife for emergency or frequent wood splitting, the best option is to go for fixed blade knives. Why?

A large fixed blade knife made of excellent steel and full tang (the blade’s butt reaches the butt of the handle) has no pivotal joint like the pocket knife, which means no slight lateral movement and no risk of the join breaking.

That means more precision in catering to hardcore tasks like wood splitting. Hence, it is best to head into the wide with more than one type of survival blade.

Digging

Yes, a shovel can take care of that, but you might forget your shovel. In such a situation, you want to rest assured that your survival blade can handle the task ahead.

Be it a foldable or fixed survival knife, a well-constructed survival blade that is big enough can be an excellent shovel alternative to help you dig up worms, edible roots & tubers, make a fire pit, dispose wastes, and even create a dirt or snow distress signal.

The CRKT Seismic and the Benchmade Freek are good examples of such blades.

Self Defense and First Aid

In the wild, a lot can go wrong. At some point, you might be in a life and death situation where your blade is your only hope. From the high risk of infection, predator attacks, hostile people, down to hunting, your survival knife stands as a versatile tool needed to defend and protect yourself or your loved ones.

For this reason, it is wise to go for a survival blade that is reliable and easy for you to deploy and handle.

7. The Manufacturer Warranty Matters

Getting the best folding survival knife for you isn’t all about the specs alone. The warranty also matters a lot. The product could have some defects straight from the manufacturer. These factory faults could take time for you to unearth. If you don’t have a good warranty covering such an occurrence, you stand to lose more money and time.

Luckily for us, most pocket knife manufacturers know this and are in the business of making you happy. Always check the details of the warranty as some might only cover some specific defects or have a short coverage period.

For example, Garber Swagger Knife has a limited lifetime warranty, only for folks in North America, and 25 years coverage for the rest of the world.

Conclusion: What is the Best Best Folding Survival Knife for You

Picking out a winner for exceptional all-round experience has been difficult. However, the Benchmade Freek 560-1 exceeds the Damascus as the best folding survival knife. 

Both blades have terrific construction and locking system. Following behind those is an excellent material selection where the Bluewood leads. However, the length of the blade can make all the difference, as explained earlier.

Hence, when looking for a survival knife that has the minimum length to make a difference and best all-round performance, the Benchmade Freek 560-1 is an excellent choice.

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Jason Miller

Jason Miller

Hi there, my name is Jason and I am the creator and editor of this site. My activities include hiking, skiing, mountain biking, camping, and backpacking. I'm also a keen nature photographer. I like to get outdoors and then write about it. I created this site to help people find the right gear so they enjoy their outdoor pursuits that much more.

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