13 Types of Blades for SHTF Survival Situations

If you’re like me, you’re probably knife poor.  I like knives and all kinds of blades, but sometimes they don’t like me.  I have a tendency to get How to pick a survival knifecut.  Imagine that.  Among all the survival tools we could amass, I highly suspect that knives or more generically then, blades would be tops on our lists of instruments to have, pack, and use.  But which ones?  If we were limited to a list of 13 blades, what would we take with us, or use most of the time.  Is 13 too many, too few, or does it matter?  Everything in this world is subjective otherwise you would not be able to buy an automobile in one of a dozen color choices.  Have you tried to buy a sport shirt lately?  A necktie?  The options boggle the mind.

World Blade Market

Well, it is of course the same with blades.   My choices here are just practical suggestions and How to choose a survival kniferecommendations based on my own uses.  You have your own ideas, so give us your input.  Knowledge is power.  If you have ever visited the Smoky Mountain Knife Works mega blade store in Sevierville, Tennessee, then you need to go.  If you love blades, this place will drive you crazy.  I needed therapy after just three hours in the store.  I never knew there were so many brands, kinds, sizes, shapes, materials, and such when it comes to knives or anything that cuts, chops, hacks, or slices.  You can check them out on their web site as well at www.smkw.com.  Seeing that many blade options is overwhelming.  Naturally any one of them can basically get the everyday cutting jobs we need done.  But as they say “variety is the spice of life.”  So, why only have one pocketknife or kitchen knife.  I mean I have 3-4 hammers or saws when they all can do the job.  I just like different ones for different reasons.  I feel the same way about blades, but particularly if you are planning a Bug Out, then you might have to limit yourself to a narrow selection.   Here’s my take on that.

Box Cutter

Yeah, I know this is not really classified as a knife, but it cuts and does a lot of dandy jobs around the house, shop, garage, work room and SHTF Bug Out camp.  I would rather wear out a dozen of these cheap razor cutters than constantly dull up a good knife.  Their uses are endless.  I have a box cutter in every tool box, on the shop bench, and in the office.  It is very often the first blade I reach for.

Pocket Knives

Take your choice there are a million of them.  There are little ones, big ones, single blades, multiple blades and all kinds of handle materials.   how to pick a survival knifeI probably have 25 pocket knives of all kinds but I usually fall back on a good Case, Browning, or RemingtonSome larger ones I have in a leather belt sheath that I can carry with me when I don’t want one in the pocket.  If you carry one, you’ll find a gazillion uses for it, but everyone will want to borrow it.  Never, ever part with a pocket knife if you want it back.

Fine Mincing Knife

I invented this title for a knife as I don’t know if it really exists.  Mine is a small, flat sided blade knife with a blunt blade tip for small kitchen work or even tight spaces around eyes and ears when prepping for the taxidermist.  When I am cutting up close or small things, I don’t want a needle blade tip sticking me in the off finger that is holding things.  I do a lot of cooking prep with this knife for thin slicing green onions, radishes, or stripping a good piece of sirloin for stir fry or stroganoff.  Could a dozen other knives do these jobs?  Sure, but like I said, I like knives.  Mine is from Knives of Alaska.


This can also be a rather generic term for a meat table knife or deer skinning rack knife used to get the hide off of a game animal for further how to choose a survival knifeprocessing.  Every hunter “knows” what a skinning knife is but they vary by the eyes of the beholder.  Usually these knives have a larger, thicker blade with a solid tang and a good grip for grabbing tightly reducing slippage, the main reason for nasty cuts at the game pole.  Some of these have hook blades for skinning work.  Such a knife is often used for the first stages of butchering right off the animal in the case of deer sized game.  It is not really a capping knife either.

Hunting Knife

A hunting knife is a close call to a skinner and often serves the same purpose.  Generally a good hunting knife is also an all-around camp How to pick a survival knifeknife for cutting rope, small branches, and other utility work around camp or on the trail as well as processing game.  These are heavy knives with leather ring handles or some kind of bone, or natural wood handles or even modern synthetics.  Hunting knives work best if they have a full tang and can be stored securely in a leather sheath carried on the belt.

Giant Folder

When I think of this style of knife, I most often think of the first folder my dad got me way, way back yonder.  Mine is a classic Buck knife with the dark walnut wood handles, brass bolsters, and the big cutting blade.  For a kid it was a manful in the hand and still is.  Folded up it fits nicely in the leather sheath with snap cover.   I also have a unique custom folder made by Al Mar.  These knives have many uses and purposes, but frankly could be an overlap to other blades on the list.


Well, maybe not really a knife per se, but they all usually have a cutting blade incorporated into the many fold out tools available on most of these multi-tasking tools.   I have a small Gerber multi-tool with a blade, screwdrivers, bottle opener, fold out pliers, and some other things, plus I also have one of the larger tools that every SHTF survivalist needs to have.  You simply have to have one or more of these tools on your belt, clipped inside your pocket, or hooked on your Bug-Out-Bag.

Medium Kitchen Knife

You need a couple of good cutting knives for food prep.  Start with a medium sized kitchen knife with a good stainless blade and a strong handle.  These can cut up a chicken, slide celery or carrots, mince up a pile of potatoes or even slice a roast ready for the table.  There are literally dozens of choices when it comes to good kitchen knives.  You probably already have several in the drawer.

Large Kitchen Knife

Ok, the large kitchen knife is a medium kitchen knife on steroids so to speak.  This blade is for heavy duty kitchen work from big slicing to big chopping.  I like Best Survival Knifethe control a bigger knife handle gives me for my big mitts, so you have to judge what works for you.  I can go through all kinds of root veggies with this knife in short order getting stuff ready for a soup or stew.  It will cut a whole chicken in half with one motion and make fast work of the bone, too.  It will slice pork tenderloin chops off a whole tenderloin just as well.

Butcher Knife

Again this is a crossover type blade you can probably do without.  However, if you plan a Bug In like me then why not have as many knives and tools around as you want.  If you are scramming for a Bug Out then you may have to trim down your choices.  Anyway, a big butcher knife powers its way through a beef prime rib to create ribeye steaks, whacks a whole watermelon down the center with ease and takes out a zombie in one swath.

Meat Cleaver

Ditto on the meat cleaver with the butcher type knife.  If you are into processing your own game meat from the field or woods, you are going to want a seriously heavy blade to separate a deer pelvis, or take an elk down into manageable portions to pack out back to SHTF camp.   A couple swings with a good cleaver can do the work of any other knife with half the effort.  It’s a good tool to have around.


This is intended more for camp work.  Buy one with the flat hammer on one side and you’ll have two great tools.  A good, heavy hatchet can Bruce Campbellhammer in tent stakes, chop all kinds of rope into useful pieces, and trim down branches or small trees from a Bug Out wilderness site.  Hatchets can chop up limbs for kindling wood or split small logs for the fire.  You cannot be a self-deserving Boy Scout without a good hatchet.  Wielding one also gives you a certain amount of attention getting power among undesirables.


In the famous words of Ash Williams from the cult classic Army of DarknessIt’s a trick, get an Ax.”  Whatever your SHTF plan is do have an ax available for heavy duty woodland or yard jobs.  An ax is obviously meant to cut wood, big wood, so learn how to use one, sharpen it, and take care of it.  There are also all kinds of axes out there, but I find the lightweight ones a little flimsy for most big cutting jobs like reducing a downed tree into firewood.  Personally I prefer the ones with a good ole hickory handle rather than a slippery plastic or fused nylon ax handle.  An ax is a worthy blade tool for any SHTF.

My List

So, there’s my list of have-to-have blades.  I could easily do without some of these or add more items like a good cutting board, sharpening stone or tool, and a sledge hammer with log splitter wedge.  Add some or take away to suit your needs.  Let us know what those are.  We want to learn from you as well.

Photos By:
Dr. John J. Woods
Caleb Royer Studio
Army of Darkness

Written by John J. Woods

John J. Woods, PhD, has been outdoor writing for over 35 years with over 3000 articles, and columns published on firearms, gun history, collecting, appraising, product reviews and hunting. Dr. Woods is currently the Vice President of Economic Development at a College in the Southern United States. Read his full interview here. Read more of John J.'s articles.