The Three-knife Survival System: Bushcraft Knives

download (7)[Don’t forget to check out the other posts in this survival knife series here, here and here.]

For those of you who have read the previous articles in this series, I mentioned that as an experienced wilderness survivalist, I have come to the conclusion that there is simply no such thing as a single, do-all, survival knife! Therefore, instead of carrying a single survival knife, I now carry a three-knife system consisting of a heavy duty chopping tool, a somewhat smaller fixed blade camp knife, and a significantly smaller utility knife. Therefore, in this article I will provide a more in depth look at bushcraft knives since they are the third leg of my three-knife system.

Therefore, I tend to think of a utility knife as general purpose knife that is somewhat akin to a camp knife but which is significantly smaller. Consequently, when I envision a bushcraft knife, I envision a knife with a blade that is 4 to 5 inches in length with either a straight back, drop point, or a clip point blade design and a highly ergonomic handle design. Also, the reason that I call it a “bushcraft knife” is because I use it to perform all of the various tasks for which my camp knife is too large. For instance, I often use it to sharpen the ends of the stakes and to cut the notches that I need to build traps and snares for procuring food.

However, a good bushcraft knife also has many other functions such as skinning game, gutting fish, scraping hides, opening freshwater mussels, and a myriad of other cutting tasks for which my camp knife is often too large. Therefore, if I were ever limited to carrying only two knives, I would carry a heavy duty chopping tool and a bushcraft knife. In addition, a utility knife can be either a large folding knife or a fixed blade knife depending on your preference but, my personal favorite is one designed by A.G. Russell called a “Laplander” which features an 8 1/4 inch overall length with a 3 7/8″ drop point, flat grind, blade made from 3/16 inch, A2, high carbon, tool steel with a Rockwell Hardness of 59-61 and full tang construction with linen Micarta handle scales.

Therefore, this knife is small enough that I can perform any small or detailed cutting task that I need to and the fixed blade, full tang, construction makes it every bit as strong as my A.G. Russell Camp Knife. Also, I tend to prefer either O1 or A2 high carbon tool steels for constructing bushcraft knives because, when properly heat treated, either of these steels will take and hold a significantly finer edge than stainless steels will but, will also remain easier to sharpen which is important when I need to use the knife to remove the hide from a game animal. However, it should be noted that high carbon tool steels do require more care to keep them corrosion free than stainless steels do.

But, because A.G. Russell knives are considered custom knives and, because he only commissions a limited number of any knife he designs, the Laplander is somewhat hard to come by on the used knife market. Thus, some other knives that are more readily available that are well suited for this purpose are the Randle Made Knives model 5 Small Camp and Trail and the model 26 Pathfinder, the Bark River Knives Fox River and Bushcrafter, the Entrek Bravo 11 and Companion, the Randal’s Adventure Training ESSE-4, and the TOPS knives Air Wolfe and HOG 4.5 just to name a few. However, all of those knives are fixed blade knives and thus, if you happen to prefer a folding knife for this purpose, then you might want to consider the Ontario Knife Company RAT Model 1, the SOG Spec-Elite II, the Buck model 110, the Cold Steel Mackinaw Hunter, or the Schatt & Morgan Mountain Man Lockback.

However, like camp knives, bushcraft knives are a very personal choice and thus, different people will likely have very different opinions of what is best suited for their individual purposes and thus, the knives listed above are only suggestions meant to provide you with the gist of what a bushcraft knife should look like. But, regardless of which brand and model you choose, it should be a well constructed knife with a blade design that will perform a wide variety of small cutting tasks.

Written by,

Bill Bernhardt

Outdoor Professional

PS: You can even get this knife by TSA.

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