I know and appreciate that the readership of TK and of this column are among the most sophisticated and knowledgeable knife enthusiasts and survival practitioners to be found. Of this I am certain. I have camped with some of you, correspond regularly with others and always come away enriched from these meetings and conversations. So, kind readers and friends, please indulge me in asking the time-worn question once more: If you were out there, truly beyond what Kipling called “the edge of cultivation,” and had to choose just one knife, which one would it be? Why? What is that one element, that one definitive quality that separates that knife from all the others?

A few days ago I was looking through an old “National Geographic.” I was drawn to an article about life on the Siberian taiga. The story was about the Even, a nomadic people who live almost exclusively from their herds of reindeer. The hides that provide fur cloths and shelter for the Even, the meat and milk that sustain them—all are from the reindeer. The picture that grabbed me was of a tribal elder with a big smile on his face and a hefty knife in his hand. He was crouched over a reindeer. The caption explained that the elder had just slaughtered the reindeer and was about to skin and butcher it with a “strong knife.” Aha! That’s it. Of all the qualities of a survival knife, strong may be that one definitive quality.

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