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7/17/12

Prepping on $40 a Week: Survival Knife


A good knife ranks at the very top of most survival lists, especially when we're talking wilderness survival. The uses are pretty much endless--cutting, skinning, gutting, slicing, carving, whittling, batoning, chopping, stabbing. The Mora knife in its various forms is one of the most common choices among survival experts for good reason. It's affordable--almost all under $30--comes with an excellent, scary sharp blade, comfortable handle AND it's lightweight. Perhaps not surprisingly, it's also our pick for a fixed blade knife for our $40 a week series.

I've got a variety of fixed blades in my collection and have handled many more, but for just getting work done, a Mora is generally my pick. The price helps a bit, but at the root of it, they're really really functional. 

The model pictured above is the Mora Bushcraft Triflex, and from the patina, you can tell it's been used a fair bit (lots of food prep, some whittling and batoning). Moras come in a variety of shapes and sizes--I really like the Bushcraft models, which have a comfortable overmolded handles and a marginally better sheath. Cody Lundin uses a Mora Classic #2, which runs just over $15--still great steel, handles and sheath not quite as good, in my opinion.

A few words about Mora knives, because I'm sure there will be some naysayers reading this. Mora's are made with a bit thinner blade stock than your typical survival knives (just under 1/10 of an inch), which is a plus when it comes to most tasks--all else equal, a thinner knife slices and cuts more easily than a thicker one. Moras are also generally only a partial tang--the steel only extends part of the way into the handle or tapers to a "rat tail," versus most survival knives, which are full tang (google image search). The high carbon steel takes an edge really well, but it will also develop a patina with use and can develop rust if neglected.

That said, Moras are not fragile knives and they can certainly stand up to the real world. They're not a substitute for an axe or a crow bar--but no knife is. Yes, it's not as "bombproof" as a beefy 1/4-inch thick blade, but it's a heck of a lot lighter and will do many tasks better. I'm sure you can break a Mora more easily than say a Becker BK2, but realistically, a good Mora isn't going to fail on you.


And instead of trying to come up with a one-tool solution, we're going with several tools for our budget bug out bag. We've got a good multitool, are adding a fixed blade to the mix, and will be adding a big chopper of some variety down the line. You will get a lot more functionality out of three purpose driven tools than one big do-it-all knife.

Cost: About $30. The Triflex is available from a 3rd party seller on Amazon for about $29.50 shipped, but I can't vouch for them. The similar Bushcraft Forest is available fulfilled by Amazon for $34.41.
Bank: If you go with the Triflex, you'll bank $10.50.

If you've already got a survival knife...
Really, it's hard to go wrong with a Mora--unless you already have a half dozen of 'em, you probably have a place where it might be convenient to stash a solid performing knife. Good for caching, handouts and barter, too.

A couple todo's:
  • Clean and sharpen your knife
  • Use your knife during food prep--it's a good way to get some "hands on" time with your blade of choice. And if it struggles to slice up food, it's going to have a tough time performing more demanding tasks.
  • Whittle something. Trap, spoon, pointy stick...something!

15 comments :

  1. AnonymousJuly 17, 2012

    Moras are fine knives, especially for the price. I have a companion with a carbon steel blade and use it daily for work. I am very hard on it and find myself having to sharpen it often. I would not recommend it for a "survival" knife however. Everyone should have a sak or multitool already and most moras aren't much larger. My sak is only about 1.25" shorter than the mora. Its too small for decent batoning or defense / killing of wild animals. I would consider it too small for food prep (take a look at your chefs knife)or cleaning game. The small blade on your multitool can be used for whittling instead of the fixed blade. For a survival knives intended purpose, I don't see any knife with a 4" blade being as helpful as one with a 6-7 inch blade that is thicker.

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    1. Most survival experts recommend around a 4-5 inch blade length for a survival knife. Rambo knives are not necessary.

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  2. The only thing a bigger or thicker blade really does for you is allows for heavier chopper. This is a necessity for a one tool option but an axe or maybe a bocho laplander saw is going to do a much better job processing wood than any knife ever could. There is a reason lumberjacks don't use big knives to cut down trees. If you do have a specialized chopper than that relegates your knife to more fine tasks. You want something smaller and thinner--something specialized for skinning, fine carving tasks, and maybe cutting things like rope or other cordage. I'd much rather have a Mora for these tasks than a heavier blade. Don't get me wrong--I love my BK2--but its really not a very specialized tool. When I do any sort of carving, whittling, or other fine tasks I use a Mora: not a heavy, cumbersome, awkward 1/4 inch thick knife.

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  3. AnonymousJuly 18, 2012

    Wonderful choice! Many will spout out a need for a more expensive knife or a larger knife.. but in my opinion a thin sharp knife is a better all around tool. They process meat well and are better for all "detail" tasks with wood. Gentleman above hit the nail on the head.. Combine this with a saw and a hatchet or axe of some sort and you can do just about anything. Also cheap is the Becker/ESEE Eskabar. Mine hasn't left my dominant hand pocket since I bought it! Smaller knives are also much less likely to be confiscated by LEO for any reason they see fit.

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  4. Gosh, I think that comparing a $20ish Mora to a $50 buck 119 Special or Ka Bar, let alone a $75 Ontario RAT 3/5/7 or something even more expensive is really not a fair contest. A Mora is a lot of knife for the money but they are an inexpensive knife. Of course bigger and more expensive knives can do more and be treated rougher, it is part of the reason they are more expensive. The utility of the Mora depends a lot on what you want it to do.

    Historically as a video posted here noted folks tended to carry a small belt knife, a bigger knife for game processing and defense, then something to process wood. I think a Mora would be a darn nice small belt knife for the cost.

    If folks want a big strong knife for not a lot of coin the Cold Steel Bushmen or (maybe discontinued) long hunter are worth a hard look. Also the short 12" "Machete's" Cold Steel makes.

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    1. The Bushman is indeed a pretty good choice for big n' cheap. The G.I. Tanto is another one for less than $30. Condor makes some other very good knives in the price range too.

      But really, grab a Bushcraft Mora and other knife of choice and do some knife-related chore. Head to head, for doing actual work, a Mora is generally going to come out on top--especially when we're talking low priced knives. Except for serious prying, heavy batoning and chopping, the Mora is great performer. I generally prefer it to my $120 ESEE-5, and certainly over something like the Bushman and that's not even getting into the cost and weight savings...

      Completely agree though if I could only have ONE tool, then something a bit more robust than a Mora would probably be the pick. But, as we've noted, having several purpose-driven tools gets us better overall performance.

      For defense against wild animals, the difference between a 4.5 inch mora and a 6 or 7 inch other knife isn't going to do that much. Man vs. Bears or wolves or cougars doesn't go well unless you have some time to carve up a spear...or you've got a firearm, spray, etc.

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  5. It may sound dumb as all git-out, but my knife-recommendations for a 'camper' are a 2.5 inch Mora "Sloyd" knife for fine-work/carving/paring/trimming/cutting paracord/opening packages - my EDC fixed-blade, and a Cold Steel "Canadian Belt Knife" for about 80% of what you may need to do, ever, and a Cold Steel "Bushman" for the chopping/heavy work. If you match the Bushman with a hardware store hoe-handle walking staff (same taper), you can also trim 'widowmakers' overhead and have an improvised spear for most critters smaller than a T-rex (if you're really lucky). Get at least one good sharpening tool.

    Total cost is a little above $40 - closer to $60 or so.

    For long-term survival, get a real axe and hatchet, a real machete, a real butcher's cleaver, a real chef's knife, a real fillet knife, a set of sharpening stones and some oil.

    For a hiking/camping/hunting/fishing trip, or a 72+ hour kit, those will put you about 200% above 'average'. On my last (very close to town) camping trip with "an experienced outdoorsman" and his inexperienced gf, the only tools sharper than plastic picnic tableware were with me. I consider this odd, and a bit tragic. The good news is that he is gone, and she has begun prepping....

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  6. AnonymousJuly 20, 2012

    Moras are great knives for the price, Ragweed Forge is my Swedish knife place to shop. Inexpensive enough to buy several knives at once, in different sizes as well.

    The only place Moras fall short (at least the older ones) are the tube style sheaths with stapled leather belt tab. The plastic is somewhat fragile and will crack (probably why wrapping is so popular). The newer sheathed models are definitely worth looking at, as are aftermarket sheaths - I like JRG sheaths.

    If you need a chopping implement, there are better tools. In my locale, I prefer a short machete than a hatchet or short axe.

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    1. The sheaths that come with the bushcraft moras are actually pretty decent.

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  7. I love Moras and carry one all the time (Yeah, I have one in my briefcase as we speak!) The sheaths are a weak point, so here is how I modified mine:http://www.survivalcommonsense.com/fix-your-clipper-sheathfeed-video-fix-your-mora-clipper-sheath-for-safety-and-security/

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  8. Really enjoy your Blog. Is the handle of the standard Clipper model very much different from the Triflex? I guess I'm asking if its worth the money?

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  9. Are you banking the $40.00 from each of the last two weeks or did you give up on this series?

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  10. Nope, just delayed. New entry out tonight.

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  11. @survivalsense That's such a common problem in the Moras line, great mod though, my wife has a Moras that i should try that on.

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  12. I agree with Wyzard - you've got to talk about survival knives in terms of what you will use for chopping wood and what you will use for self-defense/hunting. I would argue that a hatchet would be my first instinct for survival - since food/warmth/shelter will probably be some of one's first considerations, not self-defense etc.

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