There is nothing like being outdoors. But, if you plan on spending any amount of time in the wilderness, it is so important to be well-prepared. There are certain things you should have with you at all times while camping, hiking, or any outdoor endeavor, most importantly, a survival knife.
Since your survival knife is one of if not the most important items you will be taking into the wilderness with you, you should know how to care for it. Today we are going to take a look at how to care for your survival knife, including how to sharpen it when you are out in the wild.
Table of Contents
Survival Knife Care
Use Your Knife for its Intended Purpose
You wouldn’t use a kitchen knife out in the wilderness, so it only stands to reason that you wouldn’t use your survival knife for anything other than what it is intended for.
This is a specialty knife and is for use in the wilderness. Yes, other knives are used outdoors, including skinning knives, but if you use your knife for purposes it isn’t made for, it is going to dull the blade, and then you won’t be able to use it when you do need it for survival.
Keep Your Survival Knife Clean
Every time you use your survival knife, it is important that you clean it afterward. Not only should you make sure the blade is clean, but the handle should be cleaned as well.
Never soak the knife for any length of time, because you don’t want to do any damage to the blade or handle.
Moisture can cause rust, and even if it is a stainless steel blade, there is still a chance it could rust, so it is just better to not take the chance in the first place. Instead, clean it under running water, and dry it thoroughly after cleaning.
If the blade is made from carbon steel, baking soda and water can be used to clean it. Otherwise, regular dish soap and water can be used for stainless steel knives.
If you are cleaning your knife out in the field and you don’t have anything to dry it with, you can use a leaf. It is important to get into the habit of cleaning and drying your knife after every use.
Also, take care to not touch the blade with your fingers any more than necessary. Fingerprints leave behind amino acids, which can stain the knife and even lead to corrosion over time. Also, never wash the knife in a dishwasher, as the detergents are abrasive and can corrode the blade.
Keep Your Survival Knife Oiled
To prevent friction when you are using your survival knife, it is a good idea to oil it regularly. This will give the blade a protective coating that will help to prevent rust formation.
If it is a folding knife, make sure that the moving parts are oiled as well. You can use just about any oil for this purpose, including household oils and even the oil that is used on firearms.
Keep in mind that some oils can leave an aftertaste on meat, so always try to use mineral-based oil that is food-grade.
Try to avoid getting oil on the handle – this can cause it to become slippery, and then you might not be able to get a proper grip on the handle when you need to use the survival knife.
If you feel the need to treat the wooden handle, use a minimal amount of linseed oil. If the knife handle is made from rubber or any artificial materials, you don’t need to worry about using any oil on it at all. If you feel it is necessary to oil this type of handle, you can use something like ArmorAll.
If the handle is made with leather, mink oil is ideal for keeping it soft and supple. You can also use mink oil on the sheath. Handles made from bone or stag horns have crevices, and the best way to clean them is with regular soap and water.
Keep these crevices clean, as dirt can build up and draw moisture, which will cause significant damage to the knife.
Store Your Survival Knife in a Humidity-Free Environment
When you are not using your survival knife it should be stored in an environment that is free of humidity.
Always sheath the knife when it is not being used while you are in the field, but don’t keep it in the sheath for extended periods; this can lead to blade damage because there are chemicals in the leather sheaf.
The knife should be stored in a container that is non-acidic. If you are going to be storing it for an extended period, wrap it in paper, then put it inside a plastic bag with a packet of silica gel or another desiccant to keep it dry.
Keep the Blade Sharp at All Times
You never know when you are going to need to use your survival knife, or for what purpose, so it is important to make sure that the blade is always sharp. Whenever possible, before using the knife, test it to make sure that it is sharp.
The best way to test it is by using it. Try cutting through a piece of wood. It should slice through without damaging the wood fibers or leaving any visible marks.
A paper test will also work. Hold a piece of paper vertically, and slice it with the knife. If the blade is sharp, you should have no problem cutting through the paper in one smooth motion, and there should be no jagged edges or tears.
You can also test the sharpness of the blade on your arm hair, but this must be done with extreme caution so you don’t end up slicing through your skin.
Normally, you would use a whetstone or something similar to sharpen a survival knife. But there may be times when you are in the field, the knife has become dull, and you don’t have a whetstone with you.
In such cases, there are ways you can sharpen the blade. For instance, if you have a ceramic coffee mug with you, it can be used as a makeshift knife sharpener. Place the mug upside-down, and rub the blade against the surface on the bottom of the mug.
Another option is to use a leather belt to sharpen the blade of your survival knife. It won’t give you a super-fine edge, but this method, also known as stropping, will make the edge a bit sharper because it has been realigned, so you can use the knife.
One more option for sharpening your survival knife is to use a smooth stone, which you can easily find outdoors. Rub the blade against the stone until it becomes sharper. It might take a while, but it will work.
Just make sure that the rock is not rough or has any ruts because it could do more harm than good.