In a previous blog, I discussed the options for a survival knife. It was concluded that it was always preferable to have a good folding knife, or even better, sheath knife with you. In the real world, this can sometimes be a problem due to laws, company rules, clothing limitations or just plain personal preference. Thus, many small survival kits include a ‘knife’ of sorts.
Some kits have a small pocket knife and a few even have a small sheath knife, but most make due with one or two #22 scalpel blades or single edge razor blades. The scalpel blades are sharp, have a very useful blade shape, can be used as arrowheads and are sterile, making having a few of them in any sized kit a good option. But they are not convenient to use, having no real grip. If you have the space, adding a scalpel handle is a good idea, otherwise you may be able to wire one to a twig as a grip to improve usability. The single edge razor blades are not as useful a blade shape, but are somewhat easier to use by themselves, making them a reasonable option in smaller kits.
I thought I had ‘seen it all’ in small survival knife options, but of course, something ‘new’ has come to my attention. You might be familiar with the ‘utility’ knife, which has a sliding carrier holding a double ended, replaceable blade. The knives are usually quite sizable, and even though folding versions are available, even these are still big and heavy. The blades would fit most anywhere a single edge razor blade would fit and have a slightly better blade shape and are thicker than the razor blades so would be a bit more durable. But they don’t have as good a grip area and tend not to have individual edge protectors, so the single edge razor blade would generally be a better choice.
However, I recently came across the Gerber EAB Lite folding utility knife. This is a folding utility knife which is not massively bigger than the blades themselves. It give the utility blade a usability unmatched by any blade alone and is a real option in small kits into which it would fit. With practice, it can be opened and closed with one hand, and has a liner lock to keep it open in use. There is a pocket clip to attach it (works well on Molle) or use as a money clip, but no lanyard hole. Gerber also offers the original EAB version, which is bigger and heavier, so the Lite would seem to be preferable.
In addition to the standard blades, you can get ‘hook’ blades, which might be useful to cut seat belts and in skinning or cutting leather. These are designed for roofing and flooring, which probably won’t be a common application in the field. There are also ‘combo’ blades available (by Seber) which have serrations in the middle part of the blade. All blades are double ended, so can be flipped around if they become broken or dull. I thought having a hook on one end and a standard edge on the other would be a wonderful option, but a search seemed to indicate I’m the only one who thinks so.
One problem is caused by the small size – the blades are not as easily installed as in bigger utility knives. The blade is held in place with a small screw. It is not too difficult to tighten and loosen the screw; even a dime or penny will do the job. In an ideal environment, that is. In a survival situation, the odds of dropping and losing the screw is quite high. It might be a good idea to go to a good hardware store and get a few spare screws. In an emergency, wire, string or anything else which would fit through the hole might maintain some knife functionality.