Some of the most basic and useful survival skills require nothing more than a knife. With a little patience, practice, and common sense, it’s easy to be comfortable in the outdoors without expensive equipment or a heavy pack. As long as you have a good, sharp, full-tang survival knife and the experience needed to use it properly, you can build a fire, set up a shelter, and have a hot meal in just about any condition, all year round.
Make A Feather Stick or Fuzz Stick
Being able to make a feather stick is one of the first benchmarks of an outdoorsman. Using a very sharp knife and a dry piece of wood, slowly shave away thin strips of wood, leaving them attached at the base. When you’re finished with your feather stick, you’ll be able to start a fire fast and easy, even in wet weather or with poor tinder.
Another crucial knife skill for fire making, batoning firewood gives you the mid-sized pieces you need to get a roaring fire going. Batons of firewood are also great for quickly creating coals to cook over, saving a lot of time if you’re hungrily waiting for your fire to burn down.
Striking A Spark
Ferro rods and magnesium fire starters are a great backup tool, in case your lighter or matches won’t work. They aren’t the easiest thing in the world to use, but with a little bit of practice you can get a fire going in a few minutes. The key, though, is developing the knife skills you need to throw off big showers of sparks every time you strike them.
Skinning, Gutting, And Filleting
Skinning game and filleting fish are two vital survival skills to have. Whether you’ve snared a rabbit or shot a squirrel, using your knife to gut your dinner and start the skinning process takes a bit of practice.
Our pick for skinning small game, the Spyderco Tenacious Folding Knife
As far as filleting goes, it’s possible to clean panfish with any pocketknife if your patient, and even if you aren’t you don’t need a fillet knife to gut a fish and cook it whole over the coals. When they’re well-cooked, the skin and scales come right off of the fish, letting you pick the meat off of the bone.
The true test of a survivalist is building a winter shelter with only a knife. Any shelter, though, is a big accomplishment, and even a small lean-to takes time and practice. When you build a shelter with your knife you’ll need to use a lot of different skills, from notching branches to removing boughs. Believe it or not, with patience and a sharp knife it’s even possible to fell a tree with only a pocketknife.
Practicing basic survival knife skills is a great excuse to get out into the woods for a day or two. The more time you spend honing your skills, the less you’ll need to carry on your back when you take your next camping trip. A firm grasp of the basics will take you a long way, whether you’re just camping for the weekend or need to survive in an emergency.