Built for Survival: Essential Tools and Knives for the Outdoorsman

Venturing into the wilderness is a thrilling experience, a chance to commune with nature and challenge yourself. But beneath the thrill lies the undeniable need for preparedness. When you’re miles away from civilization, the right tools can transform a challenging situation into a manageable one. This article explores the essential tools and knives every outdoorsman should carry, turning your backpack into a portable survival kit.

The Foundation: Multi-tools and Knives

A good multi-tool is an outdoorsman’s best friend. This compact powerhouse combines a variety of functionalities into a single unit, saving space and weight in your pack. Look for a multi-tool with a set of pliers, a sharp knife blade, a can opener, a bottle opener, and a screwdriver. Some even include a saw, a wire cutter, and even a fire starter.

When choosing a knife, consider your intended use. A fixed-blade knife offers superior strength and control for heavier tasks like batoning wood or building shelters. Folding knives are more compact and easier to carry, making them ideal for everyday cutting tasks and quick access. The blade material is crucial. High-carbon steel offers a good balance of sharpness and durability, while stainless steel prioritizes rust resistance.

Here's a breakdown of some essential multi-tool and knife options:

  • Multi-tools: Leatherman Wave, Victorinox SwissChamp, Gerber Center-Drive Multi-Tool
  • Fixed-blade knives: Becker BK2 Campanion, Fallkniven F1, ESEE 6

Building a Shelter: Axes, Saws, and Tarps

Having a reliable shelter is paramount for survival. It protects you from the elements, allowing you to retain heat and stay dry. An axe or hatchet is a powerful tool for splitting firewood, clearing brush, and driving stakes for shelters or signal fires. Choose one based on your needs – a hatchet is lighter and easier to maneuver, while an axe packs a heavier punch for larger tasks.

A folding saw complements your axe or hatchet perfectly. It allows you to clear smaller branches for kindling, construct shelters, and even build traps. Consider a compact, lightweight saw that folds for easy storage.

Finally, a tarp is a versatile piece of gear that can be used for a multitude of purposes. You can use it as a makeshift shelter, a ground cover, a rain fly, or even a signal device. Choose a tarp made from a durable, waterproof material with reinforced tie-out points.

Here are some examples of essential tools for building a shelter:

  • Axes and hatchets: Gransfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet, Fiskars X27 Splitting Axe, Estwing Camp Axe
  • Folding saws: Silky Pocket Boy Folding Saw, Bahco Laplander Folding Saw, Sven Saw
  • Tarps: DD Hammocks Tarp, Kelty Noah Tarp, Sea to Summit Nano Tarp

Firecraft: Fire Starters, Tinder, and Lighters

Fire is essential for survival. It provides warmth, cooks food, purifies water, and signals for help. There are several ways to start a fire, and a good outdoorsman carries multiple methods to ensure success in any condition. A reliable lighter, preferably a refillable butane model, is a good starting point. However, lighters can run out of fuel or malfunction in wet weather.

Fire starters, such as magnesium ferrum rods or ferrocerium rods, create sparks when scraped against a hard surface. They are a dependable option even in damp conditions. Finally, tinder is the crucial first step to building a fire. Carry a variety of tinder materials like dryer lint, cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly, or commercially available tinder pouches.

Here are some essential firecraft tools to consider:

  • Lighters: Zippo Lighter, Bic Classic Lighter
  • Fire starters: Light My Fire Ferrocerium Rod, Exotac FireStarter, UST SparkForce Fire Starter
  • Tinder: Tinder Quick Sticks, Wet Fire Tinder, Fatwood

Signaling for Help: Mirrors, Whistles, and Communication Devices

In a worst-case scenario, you may need to signal for help. A signaling mirror is a compact and effective tool. It reflects sunlight over vast distances, attracting the attention of search and rescue teams. A loud whistle is another excellent way to get attention, especially in situations with limited visibility.

While venturing into remote areas, consider carrying a personal locator beacon (PLB) or a satellite messenger. These devices allow you to send an SOS message directly to emergency services, even without cellphone reception.

Here are some essential tools for signaling for help:

  • Mirrors: Signal Mirror, Signaling Mirror with Compass, RescueHowl Signaling Mirror
  • Whistles: Fox 40 Classic Whistle,


In conclusion, having the right tools and knives is essential for the outdoorsman, providing solutions to a wide range of tasks and emergencies in the wilderness. From multi-tools and survival knives to axes, hatchets, and folding saws, each tool plays a vital role in ensuring preparedness, safety, and survival in outdoor environments. Invest in high-quality and reliable equipment from trusted brands to ensure that you’re built for survival on your next outdoor adventure.