3 Wicked Problems With Cutting Tools In A Survival Situation

Mark Wilcox
2 min readMay 2, 2022
Bowie knife in a tree

Outdoor Survival and bushcraft are something I enjoy teaching and practicing.

Specifically, I like combining modern backpacking technology (I love wool blankets but they’re heavy and bulky to pack so I’ll backpack with a down quilt instead) with outdoor skills (I prefer to attach gear to my backpack with soft shackles instead of a carabiner).

Today I want to talk about 3 common problems I see with beginners when they talk about knives and other cutting tools.

Here’s a video where I compare cutting tools for outdoor use:

Mistaking A Multi-Tool For A Knife

The first mistake people make is to compare a multi-tool (whether a Leatherman or a Swiss Army) with a knife for use in a survival situation.

In general camping, you only need a pocket knife as you’ll find on your Swiss Army knife.

But in a survival situation, you need a strong fixed blade because you’ll need:

A larger blade.

A strong blade that can accept punishment when you do things like baton wood.

You Need An Axe To Split Wood

An ax is a useful tool, but you want to minimize its use to reduce the chances of an accident.

If you do need to split wood, bring a wedge and a hammer (or another piece of strong wood).

If you do need to use an ax, be familiar with ax safety and keep a tourniquet on hand.

There’s Only One Knife To Use

I wrote an article that compared different cutting tools with their uses in the outdoors.

Here’s a table from that article:

A table comparing cutting tools and uses in outdoor survival situation

If you’re going through some thick brush a machete would come in handy.

But in general, a bushcraft knife plus a folding saw is enough.

If you enjoyed this article, you should check out my favorite outdoor survival resources.

I once backpacked 100 miles in 90 days. After 25 years in IT, I wanted more adventure in my life. I want to inspire you to add more adventure too.

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Mark Wilcox

I once backpacked 100 miles in 90 days. After 25 years in IT, I wanted more adventure in my life. I want to inspire you to add more adventure too.