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Survival and bushcraft intertwine in so many aspects. So is the case when it comes to equipment and tools in each of these survival categories. However, they also differ in many ways and points. Thus, we’ve decided to illustrate the difference between a very particular tool and weapon through this bushcraft vs survival knife guide!
Although both a bushcraft knife and a survival one can help you stay alive in the wilderness, the latter will serve you only when trying to escape imminent danger.
Also, a survival knife works best for tasks that don’t require ultimate precision such as batoning and chopping.
Bushcraft knife’s design makes it highly versatile so you can use it for a plethora of delicate tasks such as carving wood.
Best of all? It is practically indestructible!
But apart from the mentioned key difference between bushcraft and survival knives, what are the other ones, including the pros and cons of each?
You’ll find the answer in the paragraphs below!
What is the Difference Between Bushcraft and Survival?
A bushcraft knife is super versatile and can be used for a myriad of tasks, while a survival knife is more suited as a weapon and/or for less precise tasks such as chopping.
And here are six particular differences between the two!
1. Origins of Bushcraft and Survival Knives
The term „bushcraft knife“ dates back to the 1980s.
Mors Kochanski, the Canadian survival expert, was the first to introduce the bushcraft knife to the world in his instruction manual published in 1987.
He described the bushcraft knife as highly versatile, as you could use it for wood-making tasks (making a fire drill, canoe paddle, etc) and complex survival tasks like building a protective shelter.
Yet, Kochanski made it clear it would be absurd to expect a single knife to do everything.
Thus, a bushcraft knife is incredibly capable but it still has its own limitations.
The Survival Knife has been Around for Almost a Millennium
It originates from the Mountain Men in America.
However, the Saami people from Europe also had their own version of a survival knife and they called it the leuku.
And traditional survival knives were very alike to butcher knives.
You could use one in numerous ways but these knives weren’t exceptionally good at something specific.
Then, the survival knife came back to life in 1982 in the movie First Blood and other series of Rambo movies.
John Rambo (Sylvester Stalone) carried a classic 9-inch and other variations of a typical survival knife.
2. Design and Style
Survival knives are straight while bushcraft knives are curvy.
That’s the primary difference in the design of these two types of knives.
And this key difference affects each knife type’s work style.
Bushcraft knives work great on heavy materials, while survival knives are the exact opposite.
Also, both types work great with wood, but for different tasks.
A survival knife has a strong and grippy handle, albeit a bit heavy.
While a bushcraft knife has a smaller, lightweight handle which is unfortunately not as comfortable to hold as you would expect.
If possible, look for a bushcraft knife with a leather-made handle.
This will reduce any extra strain on your wrist when using it.
Survival knives feature a wide range of blade sizes ranging from 5 to 10 inches in length.
So you should be able to easily find a model that fits your hand size.
But you don’t have much choice when it comes to bushcraft knives as they typically come with 4-inch blades.
Regardless – both types come with carbon or stainless steel blades.
Survival knives boast either foldable or full-tang blades and bushcraft knives come with fixed blades that make extra sturdy.
You can use either a survival or bushcraft knife for dicing, skinning and cutting.
Still, a bushcraft knife won’t be of much use when it comes to hammering and batoning.
The main reason for this is the blade size!
The longer blade of a survival knife makes it operate like a full-blown machete.
While you can only dream for this with a short bushcraft blade.
On the other hand, a survival knife functions just as its name says – to help you survive in the wilderness and tackle unexpected dangers until you find your way out.
But with a bushcraft knife, you can stay outdoors as long as you want – you can even live in the wilderness.
Survival knives can serve you for a while but this type of knife is typically less durable than its bushcraft counterpart.
However, bushcraft knives are extremely sturdy and durable.
And they are typically the type of knife that will last you a lifetime.
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Survival Knife – Pros and Cons
Here we’ll list the main pros and cons associated with survival knives.
- Ideal for skinning, carving and batoning
- Various blade-length options
- Works great as a self-defense weapon
- Not overly durable
- A bit heavy
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Bushcraft Knife – Pros and Cons
In this section, we’ll have a look at the key pros and cons of bushcraft knives.
- Ideal for processing game, getting the fire started, building shelter and creating traps
- Potent all-in-one tool
- Extremely durable
- Shorter blade
- Not an awful lot of blade-length options
What Should You Look for in a Survival Knife?
These are the top 5 things to look for when choosing a survival knife:
1. Fixed Blade
If you want a survival knife that can truly save your life, go for a fixed blade.
Lock blade or folding knives are not as reliable when it comes to dealing with dangerous situations.
Also, there’s a chance of hurting yourself when unlocking the knife in a hurry.
On the other hand, the locking mechanism may fail you.
In this case, you wouldn’t be able to unlock the knife and defend yourself if needed.
The ideal size of a survival knife is between 7 and 10 inches.
You can find survival knives ranging from 5 to 11 inches, but we wouldn’t recommend going to extremes.
For instance, you can find models that feature a 5-inch handle and a 5-inch blade.
Generally – never opt for an overly long blade.
This can affect the overall precision of the knife, and we already mentioned survival knives can’t boast breath-taking precision either way.
On the other hand, if you pick a knife with a small blade, there’s a chance you would have a hard time splitting wood.
3. Full Tang
A full tang knife is a one-piece knife.
The blade and the handle can never get loose in this case.
A full tang knife is more comfortable to hold, while being more precise as well.
4. Solid Pommel
The pommel is the “butt” of the knife and it can add up to the list of the knife’s capabilities.
If the pommel is solid (except for hooked and rounded pommels), you can use it for hammering and pounding.
5. Partially Serrated Edge
A partially serrated edge can improve the effectiveness of a knife, mostly when it comes to cutting and slicing.
Look for a knife that comes with a serration near the handle.
This will give you maximum control over the operation.
What Should You Look for in a Bushcraft Knife?
A bushcraft knife is a sub-category of a survival knife.
That’s why you can look for practically the same features, except when it comes to blade length as you will rarely find a bushcraft knife with a blade longer than 4 inches.
And here are some of the extra features you can look for:
1. Blade Thickness
An ideal blade is not overly thick not overly thin.
Something about a 1/8-inch thickness seems to hit the sweet spot.
If you are going to use your bushcraft knife for hunting, slicing, cutting, whittling, etc, then a sturdy (not too thin) blade would be the best.
Other than that, you are gonna need something more flexible and thinner for boning.
2. Blade Material
Carbon or stainless steel blades are the best.
Stainless steel blades may bend under the pressure, which is not the case with carbon steel blades.
Still, the latter is prone to rust and corrosion, which will never be the case with stainless steel models.
A leather, lightweight sheath is a must-have if you want to protect the top of the blade and prevent cutting yourself.
Make sure it is convenient to carry as you’re gonna need it swiftly in case of an emergency.
Are you a bushcrafter who enjoys the forest with its peaceful atmosphere?
Then the bushcraft knife might be a better pick.
But if you just need a knife to stay alive and get back to civilization, then the survival knife might be it.
Still, if you’re still wondering about bushcraft vs survival knife, we say both.
They both have pros and cons but complement each other perfectly.
Now – which one seems to suit your needs better?
Do you need a knife for prying, digging, or wood-making?
Leave your comments in the comment section below!
Simo, an outdoor specialist and avid survival enthusiast, brings over 3 years of experience in navigating and thriving in the great outdoors. With an unwavering passion for nature, Simo has honed their skills in various aspects of outdoor exploration, including camping, hiking, and wilderness survival. Their extensive knowledge and hands-on experience enable them to tackle challenges head-on while imparting valuable insights to fellow adventurers. His dedication to promoting outdoor safety and environmental stewardship make them a trusted resource for anyone seeking to embark on unforgettable outdoor experiences.