If there’s one tool to never hit the trail without, it’s a knife. A sharp, well-made survival knife can be one of the most important implements in the backcountry.
From cutting materials to cleaning game and everything in between, knives are usually the first item on a camping checklist. There are more than a few uses for your knife that you may not be aware of, however. The following are five lesser-known ways to use your knife that could make all the difference in a survival situation.
Cauterize a Wound
A knife is basically a flat piece of steel that you can heat up rapidly. In a situation where you’re wounded you may have to cauterize your wound, and heating your knife’s blade in your fire is the easiest way to do this. The necessity of this use will really depend on the type of injury you have, as well as where you are in relation to medical care, but if you’re in the backcountry and the potential for infection is a reality, cauterizing your wound with a hot knife blade can mean survival.
It’s quite common for campers to completely forget or misplace their tent stakes. If you can’t find your stakes and need to secure your tent, it’s time to take out your knife. Obviously, this isn’t the most ideal solution for some, but a survival knife with a blade length of over five inches will work just fine as a makeshift tent stake. You can also use your knife to carve tent stakes from sturdy tree branches.
Chop a Few Trees
Obviously, an axe will be the preferred method to chopping small trees, but if you don’t have an axe on hand then your knife will do in a pinch. You’ll need to make sure the knife you’re using has a full-sized tang—the unseen steel that extends into a knife handle. Also, target small, dead trees if you’re using a knife; lively ones will make for a tough work. To do this, rest the blade of your knife horizontally on the trunk of the tree. Then, use a strong long as a hammer to pound the blade into the tree, alternating sides of the trunk. Check out this video to learn how to chop down a tree with your knife.
Start a Fire
While this is definitely not the easiest way to start a fire, you can use your knife in conjunction with a rock and tinder to spark a blaze if the need arises. Keep in mind, though, that unless your life depends on a fire, using a bow drill or any other technique is easier, and won’t risk chipping or breaking your knife. In fact, you may want to keep an old knife on hand just for this technique so you don’t risk ruining a newer, more expensive one. Watch this demonstration how to start a fire with a knife.
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