Preparedness blog

How to Survive with Nothing But a Knife

By Lexi from Ready Store
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As humans, we want to be prepared as much as we can and have the necessary equipment to do so. Learning how to survive with a knife is an important factor for survival. Successfully surviving on our own takes both knowledge and experience, and if you know how to effectively use a knife, surviving with nothing else is very possible.

1. Collect Wood
You can use your knife to collect firewood in order to start a fire. Your knife will be most useful when collecting tinder and kindling. You can cut bark and smaller branches off of dead trees or carve out wood shavings to help you feed a spark. You can also cut sticks into kindling-friendly sizes for your fire.

survive with a knife

2. Start a Fire
Knives can work as a great flint. By striking the blade on the sharp edge of a rock, you can create sparks to catch on your tinder and start a fire. When doing this, you will want to use a hard rock that will be strong enough to shave off the necessary amount of steel to create a spark. Flint is the ideal rock for starting a fire, but you can also use other hard rocks like granite, obsidian, and quartz.

survive with a knife


3. Build a Shelter
A knife can help you fashion each component of a sturdy shelter, including stakes, cordage, or notches. You can also use your knife to cut the branches that will create the frame of your shelter. You can sharpen the ends of these sticks and drive them into the ground for increased stability. Then you can cut thin strips of wood to use as cordage, carve notches into your framing, and lash the sticks together. And finally, you can use your knife to cut and gather underbrush and leaves to use as the roofing of your shelter.

survive with a knife

4. Go Hunting
While knife throwing might not be a feasible hunting skill for you, you can create various different hunting methods using a knife. You can carve sharp sticks or bones into fishing hooks and catch your dinner that night. You can also fashion different components of animal traps to set. Carving arrowheads for a bow is also something that a survival knife can do to help you hunt.


5. Preparing Food
Once you have gone hunting, you’ll need to prepare your food. Use your knife to clean a fish or skin an animal. Smaller knives usually work best for skinning an animal, but in a survival situation, any knife will work just fine. Once your food is cleaned, your knife can help you carve the meat of the animal that you’ve just caught and get you ready for cooking. You can clean out bones, organs, and other parts that you don’t want to eat or would use for another purpose.

how to survive with nothing but a knife

6. Find Water
Water is essential for survival and finding it in the wild is one of the first things you’ll want to do if you become lost or stranded. If there are no obvious water sources available, you may have to dig. Water usually collects downhill at the base of trees and in the bottom or gullies or dried riverbeds. Use your knife to dig a two foot hole into the dirt and wait 5 minutes to see if water begins to seep into the hole. You can also carve into different plants or trees that may contain water.


7. Defense
A knife is not an ideal weapon and won’t kill an attacker instantly, but it is better than nothing at all. If you find yourself in a situation where you need to protect yourself against an animal or otherwise, you can use your knife to make stabs and slashes at your attacker to ward them off and defend yourself.

knife for defense

8. Carving Tools
A knife is a great tool in and of itself, but you can use it to make more specialized tools for whatever task you need. For example, instead of tying your knife onto the end of a stick and calling it a spear, you can carve yourself an actual spear. Make notches in the end of a stick in the shape of a cross and insert other sticks to hold them apart. You can sharpen each of the four points that you now have on the end of your spear. You can also carve an arrowhead and fit it into the notches. By using your knife to make the tools that you need, you will reduce the risk of damaging or losing your knife.

knife as a carving tool

9. Use as Hammer
Along with making tools, your knife can be used in place of many tools. The butt of your knife can be an effective hammer when needed. If you need to pound stakes into the ground, use the butt of your knife for a solid hit on your stake to make a sturdy shelter. You can also use your knife to split wood. Pound the blade of your knife into a piece of wood and hammer it all the way through until the log is split. You can cut larger logs into perfect sizes for burning on your fire.

knife as a hammer

10. Sending an SOS
The reflective blade of a knife can be used as a signaling mirror if you are stranded or lost and are trying to call for rescue. Hold the blade in front of your face and move the blade to catch and reflect the light of the sun in the direction of your rescue. You can judge the necessary angle by spotting your rescue on the other side of the blade and adjusting the angle as needed.

knife to signal sos

A knife can be used for much more than its basic purpose and if you know how to use it, you’ll be able to survive in any situation.

Now we want to hear from you. If you could only have one tool in the wilderness, what would it be and how would you use it?

9 years ago
Northwoods Cheryl
9 years ago at 11:30 AM
Be careful using pocket knives. If you use your knife as a striker to start a fire, you best have a VERY sturdy one! Most pocket knife blades will break if struck hard enough to spark. That would leave you with NO knife.
9 years ago at 7:15 PM
Please be careful when choosing a knife with a hollow handle as these are not full tang( the blade and handle are not one piece) as these tend to be weaker than a full tang. There are many inexpensive (cheap) knives of this type and only a few worthy of your consideration, just choose wisely.
9 years ago at 12:36 PM
A good solid knife is real asset to have & agree with the other comments that it should have a full tang. You don't want the knife to break when you need it most. I have a few good knives, always looking for that "perfect" knife though. There should be a "Knives R Us" store!
8 years ago at 10:28 AM
Ben. if you put your trust in a cheapie knife with a screw off handle carrying and kind of kit your survival life can be measured in days (on 1 hand probably). these knives are nothing but a blade, typically of cheap quality spot welded to a hollow handle. cheap material, normally won't hold an edge and breaks easily. put your faith in a good knife. Mora knives are good and inexpensive.
Joseph B.
8 years ago at 12:18 AM
I have lots of knives. Small pocket knives up to a Katana. My favorite and the only one I use is a KaBar Marine Combat Knife. I have had it 35 yrs. It has served me well.
Jack Hommel
5 years ago at 3:21 PM
For survival use, choose a knife with a good heavy, thick blade at least eight inches long and a handle that fits your hand. Check around pawn shops and military surplus stores. Estate sales can be fruitful also. Save yourself a bunch of wok and go buy a magnesium fire starter block and keep it and the knife with you at all times when you are out in the country. Long life to you !
5 years ago at 5:07 PM
Instead of a “cheap” hollow handle knife with a survival kit ...why not a good quality knife with survival items in/on the sheath
5 years ago at 5:11 PM
Instead of a “cheap” hollow handle knife with a survival kit ...why not a good quality knife with survival items in/on the sheath you can always afix a small tin to hold the supplies
3 years ago at 9:52 PM
I would second the comments about avoiding "kit" knives and folding knives. For a survival knife you want a heavy duty blade. IF you are going to be batoning firewood and digging water holes or Dakota fire holes with your knife, you might want to be sure to include some kind of sharpening device in your kit. While a razor sharp edge is nice, a heavy duty blade that can take abuse is better all around.