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Prepping & Survival

Best Folding Survival Knife for EDC

Knives are the most versatile tool you can carry. Full-tang fixed blade knives are preferred for survival, but it’s not always an option to strap a sheath to your belt. Settling for a folding knife isn’t so bad if you know what you are looking for, and it might just become the favorite of your EDC options. The best folding survival knife is just like you in an emergency- able to handle whatever is thrown at it without being flashy.

There are several options to consider when it comes to folding knives made for survival: steel type, size, quality, etc. This is where we come in. We’ve researched the best folding survival knives, tested each of them, and now the results are in: the overall best, a budget option, and an upgrade option. If you need a knife that will keep up every day or in a survival situation, one of our picks will be a sharp choice.

Contents (Jump to a Section)

Benchmade Bugout Folding Knife

The Best Folding Survival Knife

Benchmade Bugout

Quality Steel, Customizable, and Lightweight

The Benchmade Bugout will help you do just that, with a lightweight but substantial profile sporting top-notch steel.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

Benchmade stumbled onto something big when they developed the Bugout model. Sure, they were already a leading knifemaker but this knife is something special for survival EDC. It is available in tons of different colors and two sizes (we prefer the full size over the mini). Beyond that, there are unlimited options using this blade and frame with aftermarket vendors. You can kit this folder out however you want and it’s almost guaranteed to be your go-to EDC pick.

Here are the quick bullets:

  • 3.24″ drop point CPM S30V steel blade with black cerakoting, 0.09″ thickness
  • Titanium thumb stud opening with bar lock
  • 7.46″ length unfolded, 4.22″ folded
  • 1.8 ounces
  • Made in the USA

With solid specs and unlimited aftermarket customization options, it’s easy to see how the Benchmade Bugout Folding Knife is the best choice out of all of the competition.

Ontario Rat I Folding Knife

Budget Folding Survival Knife

Ontario Rat I

Iconic, Durable, with Great Value

The most suggested survival folder is available in a range of steels and colors to fit the bill.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

Before this knife was a twinkle in anyone’s eye, Ontario Knife Company got together with Randall’s Adventure & Training (now ESEE) and lovingly designed this little beast. You can also upgrade this to S35VN for about $100, or downgrade it to AUS-8 for the same price (seriously, just stick with the D2 steel).

Although the Rat II is smaller, I still prefer the first model. The heft isn’t particularly bad considering the thicker, longer blade.

Here are the specs:

  • 3.625″ drop point D2 steel blade, 0.11″ thickness
  • Thumb stud opening with liner lock
  • 8.625″ length unfolded, 5.0″ folded
  • 4.95 ounces
  • Made in Taiwan

Pick up an Ontario Rat I Folding Knife to add the most-suggested survival folder to your EDC.

Spyderco Shaman Folding Knife

Upgrade Folding Survival Knife

Spyderco Shaman

Thick, Heavy-Duty, with Proven Quality

This absolute unit of a knife forgot that it’s a folder with how well it handles survival punishment.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

With the same steel as our top pick, but 40% more of it by weight- Spyderco has created a folding survival knife monster. The signature thumb hole gives this a smooth open action and the compression lock keeps it there through thick and thin. Whack away on this hunk of metal and feel free to abuse it- it’s got the chops to keep up!

Here is how it measures up:

  • 3.58″ drop point CPM S30V steel blade, 0.15″ thickness
  • Thumb hole opening with compression lock
  • 8.0″ length unfolded, 4.42″ folded
  • 5.2 ounces
  • Made in Taiwan

If you are looking for the best of the best, pick up the Spyderco Shaman Folding Knife.

Everything We Recommend

Ontario RAT I Folding Knife

Ontario Rat I

The most suggested survival folder is available in a range of steels and colors to fit the bill.

Where to Buy

$40* at BladeHQ

*at time of reviewing

The Folding Knives We Compared

Our research narrowed the field down to several folding knives that we tested: Spyderco, Benchmade, Cold Steel, Tops, CIVIVI, Kershaw, SOG, CRKT, Kizer, and more.

You can see our full list of review criteria below in the What to Look For section, with an explanation for each.

We focused on folding knives that met our criteria and had a profile that allowed them to fit in an EDC loadout. This rules out plenty of mall-ninja options, bushcraft staples, and fixed knives. Examining the folding and locking mechanisms was key since those are the weakest points when comparing them to a robust full tang survival knife.

We’re always looking for new and better equipment, so if you have a folding knife that you swear by let us know in the comments. We review most of our tested gear annually, so we can always get it in the next roundup round and see if it makes the cut and we can see if it will beat out our top picks.

What to Look For

The best folding survival knives have several important features to look for:

  1. Value
  2. Type of Steel
  3. Blade Type
  4. Size & Weight
  5. Quality

When you get the right blend of these, you can find a reliable knife that you can keep with you every day. Below, we break down what each of these features means for the survival folders that set themselves apart.

Value: Cost vs. Benefit

The amount of money you spend on something like a knife shouldn’t blow out your entire budget. Don’t go overspending or overdo it. Budget according to your risk and your needs rather than just spending lavishly.

On the flip side, you don’t want to go too cheap or just plain get the wrong thing. There are a ton of knives out there with cheap steel, poor design, and sketchy quality. Stick with tried-and-true brands if you are not a knife collector.

You never want to spend too much money on one resource, especially something like a knife. It’s better to diversify your preparedness gear to make sure you are covered for a wide range of scenarios. There is a sweet spot where you get high value with not too high of a price, which is where our top pick sits.

Type of Steel

There are virtually unlimited types of steel, most of them different in various carbon content. ‘Premium steels’ are difficult to manufacture and a few of them are better for survival.

When you are picking out steel for your survival knife- you don’t want to go too brittle or with a steel that is very difficult to sharpen. You also want to keep the steel you select in mind because some require more maintenance with sharpening, oiling, and cleaning.

Our most selected steel is AUS-8, D2, and CPM-S30V. Many folding knives from larger brands offer the same frame with different steel types (at different prices, of course), which we list as our top picks.

Blade Type

There are many blade shapes, but to narrow it down for you quickly you’ll find that the best shape is the simple drop point. The other shapes you will find include:

  • Clip Point (Bowie)
  • Spear Point
  • Tanto
  • Reverse Tanto
  • Standard
  • Sheepsfoot
  • Hawkbill
  • Trailing Point
  • Wharncliffe
  • Recurve
  • Kukri
  • Nessmuk
  • Dagger
  • Chisel Tip
  • Cleaver
  • Leaf
  • Needle Point

So, yeah… plenty of types out there. The drop point is the easiest to sharpen, used for a wide range of survival skills (including batoning, drilling, and feathering), and is geometrically strong.

The other considerations are blade width, length, and serration. With folders, the width and length will be limited since you are expecting to have it fold to a manageable size. Serration should usually be avoided since a saw can cut with serration much better anyway. Let your knife be a knife, not a worse saw. Pick up a folding survival saw if you haven’t yet.

Size & Weight

Survival and EDC battle each other in the size department. You want your knife to be hefty enough to get stuff done, but you also don’t want to add a ton of weight making it unwieldy to carry every day.

Our suggestions settle in a sweet spot with full handles (no pinky hanging off) and over 3″ blades. When it comes to preparedness on the go, ounces matter. You’ll also notice that the knives get lighter as you go up in price since they use stronger and thinner steel and better composites for handles.


Shoddy quality isn’t what you need in a survival situation. ‘Mall ninja’ knives continue to sell like hotcakes on Amazon but if you understand knives and what you are getting for that $20, you wouldn’t trust your life with one.

Knives out of China don’t even necessarily have to be bad quality- take a look at WE Knife and CIVIVI. With attention to detail and quality, they consistently put out quality knives at great prices.

How to Use a Folding Survival Knife

Quick Note: Always use caution when using a knife, and be aware of your surroundings. Keep the blade sharp for maximum effectiveness and safety.

Using a folding survival knife is pretty straightforward:

  1. Open the Knife: To open the knife, use your thumb to push the blade out of the handle or use the flipper mechanism if your knife has one.
  2. Secure the Blade: Make sure the blade is locked into place so it won’t close on your fingers while in use.
  3. Cut with Caution: Hold the knife securely and apply steady pressure as you make the cut. Keep your fingers clear of the blade’s path. If you need a saw, get the correct tool!
  4. Wipe the Blade: Get any gunk off of the knife blade- don’t jam it back into the handle dirty or let dirt build up in the washers.
  5. Close the Knife: Once you have finished using the knife, close it carefully and securely lock the blade back into the handle.

Besides sharpening, you will also want to get comfortable with disassembling the knife and reassembling it so you can clean and replace parts.

Here is a fast demo of our budget pick going through the paces sparking a ferro rod, feathering, etc:

Who Needs a Folding Survival Knife?

A survival knife can save your life, and folding one lets you take it along with you anywhere. I was gifted my first knife early on in grade school and learned how to use it, maintain it, and respect it. Everyone can make use of a folding survival knife regardless of how experienced they are with one.

A folding survival knife is considered essential for this kit:

We do not suggest folders for our other kits though, because full-tang survival knives are clearly superior in every other kit. If you are stashing a folding knife as a spare in a mobile survival kit like a bug out bag, we would just caution you about adding too much weight- especially if you have multitools and bushcraft knife redundancies.

How We Review Products: We research thoroughly before selecting the best products to review. We consult experts in the field for a better understanding of what makes the gear great. Hours on end are spent field testing gear in stressful conditions. We assign performance criteria and impartially rate each tested item. You can support us through our independently chosen links, which can earn us a commission at no extra cost to you. After our review process, some of the items reviewed end up in our giveaways.

Sources and References

All of our experience and the testing we do to determine the best folding survival knife is useless without listing our research sources and references. We leaned on these for the book knowledge that we paired with our hands-on testing and practical military and prepping experience:

Davenport, G. (2006). Wilderness Survival. Stackpole Books; Mechanicsburg, PA. (Source)

Horsfall, I., et al. (2005). The effect of knife handle shape on stabbing performance. Applied Ergonomics. Volume 36. Issue 4. Pages 505-511. (Source)

Smith, S. (2006). What To Look for When Buying a Folding Duty Knife. Police: The Law Enforcement Magazine. Volume 30. Issue 4. Pages 36-46. (Source)

The Final Word

Knives are at the top of everyone’s mind when it comes to survival and EDC but marrying the two together can be a task for a folding knife. Luckily, we have a few knife junkies around that helped select the best options and explain why.

Here are some more articles our readers have also found helpful:

We presented quite a lot of information, but as always: if you have any questions let us know and we would be happy to help. Our research and testing found the Benchmade Bugout to be the best option given its value, blade, type of steel, profile, and quality.

If you pick up one of our suggested folding knives- make sure you are familiar with it and know how to use it. Don’t ditch in a kit- keep it on you as an EDC and use it often.

Keep exploring, stay prepared, and be safe.

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The Best Survival Folding Knife

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