How to Sharpen Your Survival Knife in the Bush

Posted by Leighton Taylor on

We all know that a knife in hand is better than none when in a survival situation. But there’s one more thing you should know: a dull knife (even if it’s the best survival knife in the world) just won’t cut it… or slice, chop, or hack. If you find yourself in a life-or-death situation, you’ll need to be able to rely on this tool. And though you’re still better off with a dull knife than no knife at all, using it will mean loads of frustration – something that you may not be mentally equipped to handle given your circumstance. If you’re lucky, you might have thought to bring a sharpening tool with you before you found yourself lost in the wilderness. Unfortunately, we all can’t rely on luck (you were unlucky enough to find yourself in a survival situation, remember?).  So, how does one sharpen a survival knife in the bush? We’ve listed three ways you can do so with only the materials you have in hand.

Sharpening a Knife in a Survival Situation:

Create your own whetstone.

Find small coarse stones that you'll find in rivers and crush them into a pulp using a big stone. Once the stones are like mush, get a piece of living wood (about as thick as the handle of a baseball bat) and strip off its bark. Wet the wood a bit and then rub the pulp around it using your hands. This "contraption" now serves as your DIY whetstone. Draw the knife's edge across the wood until you reach your desired sharpness. To ensure that you get the most out of your makeshift whetstone, be sure to hold the blade perpendicular to the wood the entire time you’re sharpening it. If you need to see how it’s done, you can check out a video of Bear Grylls making his own whetstone here.


Use a flat, smooth rock.

If used properly, a flat, smooth stone, preferably a sandstone or any other sedimentary rock, will easily sharpen your survival knife. The quality of the blade’s sharpness may not be as great as that provided by a real sharpening stone but since you’re in a survival situation, it is definitely more than adequate for your needs. You can easily find these stones in streams, rivers, lakes, ponds, and even under waterfalls. Sedimentary stones are preferable over other types of flat, smooth stones you’ll find because the small, abrasive grains that make up these rocks enable faster cutting action. To sharpen your knife, glide the stone along each side of the knife’s edge for an equal number of times until you the knife is as sharp as you want it to be.

Strop your knife with your belt.

Stropping is a technique used to sharpen a blade's edge by polishing it and smoothening out the microscopic burrs found along the edge. To use this method, you’ll need to use a leather belt or a piece of rubber. If a belt is no longer Hold the strop nice and taut. Drag the blade's edge back and forth on the strop while holding it at a very shallow angle. Be sure to draw the blade away from the cutting edge so that it won't cut/slice the strop or you while you perform this task. If you don't have a leather belt at the moment, you can use the edge of the rubber sole of a boot as an alternative. To see how it’s done, check out this video:

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Top 3 Ways to Start a Fire in a Survival Situation

Posted by Leighton Taylor on

Fire is a vitally important tool in the wilderness, possibly second only to the survival knife. It provides you with a cooking flame, a way to keep warm at night, a means of purifying water, and more. Knowing how to start a fire is an essential survival skill every camper, hunter, and outdoorsman should have. Obviously, having a lighter or matches means you probably won’t have any difficulty with this particular task. But what if you didn’t have any in your survival gear? How would you start a matchless fire, especially in a life-or-death situation? Well, there are actually a lot of ways but knowing just a handful of the easiest should do the trick.

Before you make the fire though, you’ll need to do some campfire preparation. First, you’ll need to find a good location for a campfire. This is a site where you’re close to firewood and a water source. It should also be protected from the wind. Lastly, the ground should be dry and flat. Once you’ve chosen the site, you should create your fire pit – 4 to 6 inches deep with a 3-foot radius. Place rocks around the pit to help contain the fire. For firewood, you’ll need to gather three types: tinder, kindling, and fuel. Tinder can be anything that’s absolutely dry and can catch fire easily such as fallen leaves, bird feathers, and dried moss. Kindling, small twigs and sticks around 2-8 inches in length, should also be dry. Fuel, which gets your fire hot, can be logs and large branches around 8-24 inches in length. Once you’ve got your fire pit and firewood, you’re ready to take that step and start making fire.   

3 Ways to Start a Matchless Fire:


Using a lens to start a fire is easy and something most people are knowledgeable about. After all, who hasn’t seen this on TV or in the movies? Even kids know about this matchless method. To start your fire, all you need to do is to get some sort of lens (eyeglasses, a dismantled binocular lens, or a camera lens), angle it toward the sun, and make sure the beam hits your tinder. Adding a bit of water on the lens will intensify the beam.

Photo by spacepleb. Used under Creative Commons license.

Fire Plow

You’ve probably seen Bear Grylls do this a time or two on his show but seeing is different from knowing the actual steps and doing. So, here goes. You’ll need a fireboard with a length of around 18 inches and a width of about 2 inches. Carve a groove in the middle of the board (6-8 inches long, 1 inch wide) using a knife or sharp rock. Use a stick (around 12 inches long) as your spindle. Make sure that one tip is pointed/sharp. Place your tinder at one end of your fireboard where it will catch any embers you’ll be making. Then, rub your spindle up and down the groove using the sharp tip. Once an ember catches on the tinder, blow gently on it to get that fire started.

Here's a video of the fire plow method in practice:

Flint and Steel

This is a tried-and-true, primitive method of starting a matchless fire. Striking a flint against steel creates a spark that will get your fire going. For this method, you’ll need the flint, the steel, and a char cloth (any 100% cotton cloth that has been turned into charcoal). To start creating fire, hold the cloth and the flint between your thumb and forefinger. With the steel in your other hand, strike the flint several times until sparks catch on the char cloth which will cause it to glow. Once it does, fold the cloth into the tinder nest and blow gently on the ember until the flame erupts. If you don’t want to carry a flint and steel set in your pack, you can buy a survival knife with a fire starter – two birds, one stone. Though it might not be claimed as the best survival knife in the market, you’ll never have to worry about matches, lighters, or fire plows when it comes to making a fire in the wild.

It always helps to have a visual demonstration, so here's a video that does a great job of teaching this method:

Hopefully, you’ll never have to find yourself needing to use any of these methods. But if you happen to fall right into a survival situation, you’ll at least have three options that will keep you warm, fed, and alive while you fight your way back to civilization.

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Top 8 uses for a survival knife

Posted by Leighton Taylor on

You’ve probably seen Bear Grylls win the battle between Man vs. Wild with nothing but a survival knife and his wits. This tool should be something you never leave home without – at least not when you're heading out to the woods. And that's truly great advice since you never know when you might find yourself getting lost or in an accident far away from civilization. But for those of us who are new to wilderness survival skills, our knowledge of the numerous ways to use a knife to survive in the wild is probably a bit limited. Aside from the skills that may seem obvious (cutting and chopping), what are the uses of a survival knife?

A Few Uses of a Survival Knife:

  • Hunting: Survival knives are one of the essential tools for hunters. Such a knife can be used to spear prey (by lashing it onto the end of a long rod) or set up a trap. A survival knife can also be used to skin the dead animal or gutting a fish you caught.

  • Digging: Even without a shovel in your pack, you can dig yourself a fire pit or some edible grub found underground (i.e. Tubers and insects) if you happen to have a good survival knife in your hands. You can also use it to dig yourself a makeshift toilet since there probably aren't any in your vicinity.

  • Tool-making: While the knife itself is a tool, you can also use it to make more specialized tools. You can fashion yourself a spear for hunting or a bow drill to start a fire.

  • First aid: Most people would think that a knife would be the cause of applying first aid rather than a tool to apply it. In the wilderness, however, one can use a survival knife to help cut or create bandages, take out splinters, and drain blisters.

  • Hammer: It's safe to say that most people who go wandering in the woods would not have both a hammer and a knife on them. Of the two, you're obviously better off with the knife. This is because you can use it just like a hammer via its pommel (the butt end of a knife). For example, you can use it to crack some nuts or stake down your tent/makeshift shelter.

  • Cutting/Chopping Wood: Whether or not you're lost in the woods, you'll need a campfire if you're planning to stay the night. A lot of survival knives are tough enough to chop through logs of a moderate size. You may also cut, whittle, or chop wood in order to build yourself a raft or some sort of shelter.

  • Clearing a Path:  Should you be unfortunate enough to be stuck in a jungle with loads of plants in your path, you can use your survival knife much like a machete to cut your way through. After all, you're better off seeing where you're going.

  • Signal SOS: A survival knife can be used to carve out an SOS in the snow or on the ground. You can also use the reflective surface of the knife and the blazing sun to signal your distress.

There is no doubt that a survival knife can help save your life if you find yourself in trouble while in the great outdoors. You will find that there are a great deal more uses for it aside from what was mentioned above. But you'll also want to ensure that the knife is not going to cause you to get in trouble. So always remember these 3 things: stay mentally sharp when using your knife, always keep it on you, and take good care of it.

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