A sharp blade is one of your most valuable assets in the wilderness. Carrying backup neck knives around your neck is a great way to ensure you never have to go without a cutting tool, no matter what. While small in size, a good quality neck knife will still afford you the ability to perform many common bushcraft tasks, such as making feather sticks and skinning small game.
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As with any knife, high-quality steel is important. On top of that, when considering different neck knife options, look for solid sheath retention and ease of access. A knife that easily falls from the sheath might come lose during a hike or climb, possibly causing an injury in the process. On the other hand, a knife that is extremely difficult to remove from the sheath won’t be much good when a quick draw is important, such as during an animal attack.
Bear in mind, a neck knife need not always be worn around the neck. Many people lash them to their packs or other gear. The idea is to have a backup blade in case your primary knife becomes lost or damaged.
Battle Horse Frontier First
Backed by the Battle Horse Knives lifetime guarantee, the Frontier First is perfectly balanced to handle all common bushcraft chores. Featuring a clean, classic design, a Micarta handle and a leather sheath, the Frontier First is always available for any campsite cutting task. (battlehorseknives.com)
Cold Steel Bird & Trout
A modern version of an old classic, the Bird & Trout knife from Cold Steel offers sheer simplicity. The knife’s handle ring allows the user to dangle the knife from the little finger when not in use, keeping it available at a moment’s notice. This knife is made for making precise cuts in tight places. (coldsteel.com; 800-255-4716)
The Missile comes with a Kydex sheath with a built-in fire steel, making this a dual-purpose survival tool small enough for any trail pack or bug-out bag. The 5.5-inch knife is also available with an adapter to use it with the Crawford Survival Staff, giving you a longer-range weapon in the backwoods. (crawfordknives.com; 870-732-2452)
Columbia River Knife & Tool’s (CRKT) Small Pocket Everyday Wharncliffe (SPEW) is an ultra-slimmed-down, lightweight design for easy personal carry during a bug-out situation. Designed by Alan Folts, the knife’s G10 handle allows for a rock-solid hold while the 3-inch Wharncliffe blade provides a sizeable cutting edge. (crkt.com; 800-891-3100)
Available in black, olive, desert tan, dark earth, pink and purple, the Candiru is small in size but offers the performance and durability of a much larger knife. Only 5.13 inches in length and 1.7 ounces in weight, the Candiru is easily added to any bug-out bag. (eseeknives.com; 256-613-0372)
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KA-BAR TDI LDK
Razor thin, the LDK (Last Ditch Knife) is perfectly suited for making feather sticks and whittling in the field. Even including the sheath, the entire package isn’t much larger than a credit card, so you’ll never notice it hanging from the lanyard while you travel. This is the definition of a backup blade. (ka-bar.com)
Knob Creek Forge Fly Fisher Guide
Originally designed for a fly-fishing guide, this custom-grade knife from Knob Creek Forge has proven popular with many outdoorsmen in the field. Unique ridges along the Micarta handle offer an eye-pleasing aesthetic and a secure hold during cutting chores. (knobcreekforge.com; 865-216-1525)
LT Wright Skeleton Key
The holes in the Skeleton Key’s handle not only lessen the weight of the knife and add traction for grip, but they are useful when lashing the knife to a pole to act as a spear. Made from rugged D2 tool steel, this is a minimalist knife built for hard use. (ltwrightknives.com; 740-317-1404)
Montie Gear Ultralight Knife
The Ultralight Knife is designed to clip to a shoulder strap, a belt or a chain around the user’s neck. The device’s one-handed release works even with thick tactical gloves. The 3-inch blade features a Tanto point and CPM 3V steel construction, making it ready for any backwoods trail task. (montiegear.com; 800-722-7987)
A combination of brass knuckles and a knife, it is almost impossible to dislodge the SOG Snarl once you loop your fingers through the handle. This is a robust, solidly constructed knife with a sheepsfoot-style blade that is made to last. (sogknives.com; 888-405-6433)
Spyderco’s ARK blade is machined from H-1 steel, a nitrogen-based alloy that is 100-percent rustproof. The knife also features a fiberglass-reinforced nylon handle that is molded directly to the tang and features Bi-Directional Texturing to ensure a secure grip, even with wet hands. (spyderco.com; 800-828-1925)
Timberline 1911 Tool
This rugged little tool pulls double duty by helping maintain your firearms and serving as a neck knife. The lightweight Timberline 1911 Tool features a bushing wrench for your 1911-style pistol, a screwdriver, a push pin, a 0.25-inch bit driver as well as a 1.3-inch blade for cutting. (gatcosharpeners.com; 800-548-7427)
TOPS Crow Hawke
While the Crow Hawke is short even for a neck knife, it’s still comfortable in hand, easy to use and conceal, and works like a much larger knife than it is. This 5-inch knife is intended specifically for emergency and bug-out situations. (topsknives.com; 208-542-0113)
TOPS Mini Scandi Survival
The Mini Scandi is extremely sharp, has a comfortable grip and makes the perfect backup to other larger knives. Its light weight and durable design, featuring 1095 high-carbon steel and Micarta, make it a great everyday carry option as well. (topsknives.com; 208-542-0113)
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This article was originally published in the SURVIVOR’S EDGE ™ Summer 2015 issue. Subscription is available in print and digital editions here.