Caring for the Star of Your Survival Gear

Posted by Leighton Taylor on

Photo by Mike Petrucci. Used under Creative Commons.

The star of the show when you’re in a survival situation is not your shoes or your axe or your paracord. The star of the show (in my humble opinion) is your survival knife. Think about it. From batoning wood to skinning game to spearing or chopping or as protection, a survival knife is wonderfully multifunctional, and really, essential to a lot of outdoor tasks. Fortunately, survival knives can usually take on loads of well-meaning abuse without breaking, but this does not mean that you shouldn’t take care of them. In the same way that you will always take care of your parents because they took care of you growing up, you really ought to take care of your knife so it can continue to take care of you! (Alright, so your parents might be worth a little more than your knife, but you know what I mean.) So, how should you take care of your ever-faithful survival knife? Here are a few tips.

Tips for Survival Knife Care:

Always keep it clean. 

Your knife won’t live forever, but making sure that you keep it clean will definitely lengthen its lifespan. Keeping it clean will also keep any harmful bacteria that you may have picked up in the wild from being preserved on your blade. No, this doesn’t mean that you have to intensely clean your knife after each and every task you do. Just make it a habit to wipe your survival knife down before you put it back in your sheath. When you are cleaning your survival knife, make sure to use just a little bit of soap and running water to clean both the blade and the handle.


Photo by Arek Olek. Used under Creative Commons

What should you check for when cleaning it? 

  • Make sure there’s no dirt or sap on the blade.
  • Dry both the handle and the blade thoroughly.
  • Check again for moisture, then put it back in its sheath. (Any moisture left on the sheath could lead to rust.)

If your survival knife is made of stainless steel, avoid putting your fingers on the blade because the acid from your fingertips could lead to corrosion. One thing you should never do when cleaning your knife is to use anything abrasive to get the dirt off. This can irreparably damage your knife consequently leaving you with no tool when you just might need it the most.

Keep it lightly oiled.

Oil your survival knife's blade regularly to prevent friction. A small amount of oil can also protect the blade from rust. Lubricating oils such as household oil or oil that can be bought in local hardware stores and firearm supply stores are your best option. Some good brands include Dri-Lube and 3-in-one. You can also opt to use some WD-40 but stay away from motor oil. When oiling your knife, remember to only use a small amount. Also, don't use the oil on the handle if it's made of rubber. This will make it too slippery for your hands which could mean accidentally cutting off your fingers.

Keep it sharp.

While it’s true that a dull knife is better than no knife, even the best survival knife is not really of much use to you if it isn’t sharp--not to mention the fact that a dull knife can actually be a danger to you or to anyone else who uses it. With a dull knife, you're going to have to exert more pressure on it to get it to perform to the same standard as a sharp one. All that extra pressure makes the knife more difficult to control and can cause your fingers injury or even slip through your hands and hurt someone nearby.


Photo by Beverly & Pack. Used under Creative Commons

Since keeping your knife sharp is extremely important, you should learn how to sharpen it yourself. This is an invaluable skill that you may find yourself in need of should you suddenly be in a survival situation with no expert knife sharpener in sight. If you're a bit leery of doing it yourself while you're learning, you can find professionals that will be happy to do it for you for a fee. Whichever option you do go for, just make sure you do get your knife regularly sharpened.

Store it in a dry place.

When your knife isn’t hanging out in your pocket or you boot, it’s best to keep it in a humidity-free environment to keep moisture from getting to it. This means that as much as you might love your sexy leather sheath, you shouldn't leave your knife inside of it if you're going to be storing it for a long time. Leather can attract moisture and the chemicals in the leather can also damage the blade. To keep your survival knife safe while in storage, you'll need to wrap it with paper, place it inside a plastic bag with desiccant, and then put it in a cool, dry place. Some outdoorsmen recommend oiling it lightly before wrapping it to add an additional layer of protection against rust.

Whether you spent a fortune on what you deemed the best survival knife out there or got your knife real cheap, it doesn’t matter. A good knife will take care of you as long as you take care of it. With just a little bit of effort, you can keep your survival knife at your side for a very long time.

Survival knives

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  • I want to purchase a survival knife that I can use for wood carving. It was helpful when you mentioned that it is best to keep a survival knife in a humidity-free environment. It seems like it would be a good idea for me to store the knife in a high place in my garage so that my children can’t find it.

    Henry Killingsworth on

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