As a backpacker, when you head into the wilderness the gear you carry must meet two basic criteria: 1) it must get the job done reliably; and 2) it must not be too heavy. That includes the gear you carry for emergency and survival situations. In fact, since most trips go pretty smoothly and don’t turn horribly epic, the survival gear you carry should especially meet the requirement to be lightweight, since you might not even need it.
On the other hand, when you do need it, it’s got to work right.
A knife is the essential tool you need in a survival situation. Aside from that, knives are handy for dozens of tasks in the backcountry, from preparing food to repairing gear to making kindling. So you want a versatile, tough knife that you can rely on in an emergency or for an unexpected problem, as well as a knife that handles the routine chores on a backpacking trip.
The knife that meets the above criteria is the Gerber Bear Grylls Paracord Fixed Blade Knife.
Backpacker magazine placed this knife on its list of 10 essential wilderness survival tools that backpackers should carry with them. It functions well as a knife and yet is very light — ideally meeting the need for practicality, performance, and lightweight carry.
The Bear Grylls Paracord Fixed Blade is a full-tang, fixed-blade knife with an overall length of 7.75 inches. The blade length is a legal (should you want to use it for everyday carry) 3.25 inches. The weight of the knife alone is 3.5 ounces (incredibly lightweight). The handle is wrapped in 45 inches of orange paracord. A versatile, rugged, and adjustable sheath is included. With the cord and sheath, the knife weighs just 5.75 ounces.
The blade is made of 5Cr15MoV steel and comes with a lifetime warranty from Gerber. This is definitely a knife that you can confidently include on your list of essential survival equipment. And it is not expensive.
There are a couple of reliable outdoor gear retailers where you can buy the Gerber Bear Grylls Paracord Fixed Blade Knife for around $30 – $40. You can click here to get the Bear Grylls Paracord Fixed Blade from REI.
And you can click here to order the knife from Bass Pro Shops.
Here’s what the editors at Backpacker magazine had to say about this knife in their review:
Looking for a burly survival knife that won’t double the weight of your emergency kit? At only 3.6 ounces, this fixed blade can handle all of your basic survival needs, from fashioning a feather stick to building a shelter. “Short of gutting an elk, this blade should be able to do the trick,” says our tester. The included paracord around the handle provides ample cushion for heavy-duty tasks and it ensures you’ll always have the means to fix tourniquets, snares, splints, or shoelaces. Our tester even re-wrapped the handle, which nearly doubled the 45 inches of cord the knife came with.
Additional professional reviews and customer reviews of this knife are running 95% positive — that is, most are 5 stars, with a few 4 stars. On some blade forums, some who engaged in a discussion on the merits of the Bear Grylls Paracord Fixed Blade were of the opinion that a knife from Mora could also meet your needs. On the other hand, in my opinion, Mora knives are very inexpensive and you might not want to rely on one for survival tasks under demanding conditions where a broken knife could mean the difference between surviving and a very dicey outcome.
I believe for the very reasonable price you cannot find a much better lightweight survival knife for backpacking, especially when you take into account the quality of the multi-tasking sheath. The sheath can be set up for vertical or horizontal carry, and left- or right-handed draw. Or the belt slot can be removed and the sheath can be lashed to a pack, or worn around the neck.
One of the more complete customer reviews for the Gerber Bear Grylls Paracord Fixed Blade stated:
The knife itself is perfect in my opinion. I wouldn’t change anything about it. It comes with a decent edge from the factory but isn’t razor sharp by any means. A few runs across a coarse then a fine sharpener changes all that and it is exactly what you want. (Works great with the BG Field Sharpener).
The handle has 5 carefully placed holes built-in to lash the knife to a staff/pole to form a spear (like the LMF II or the BG Ultimates). The best part is the sheath…when the knife is inserted you will hear the blade LOCK into it and get that feeling of security…. It also has plenty of mounting options — there are 2 holes with screws, the screws can be removed and relocated with a 2.5mm hex tool and it makes the sheath wearable and comfortable for lefty’s and righty’s.
The grey part in the middle of the outside of the sheath that sort of looks like the knife blade is a nice grippy rubber, which is what rests against your belt or backpack, providing traction and making it more secure on your body. The grippy rubber is on both sides so if you switch the clip over you’ll still get that feature. It also comes with the [Bear Grylls] Pocket Survival Guide, which Gerber has also incorporated a way to carry the pocket guide inside the clip on the sheath, making the whole thing a very well-made and complete knife.
“Very well-made and complete.” That about sums up not only the review of this knife from the testers at Backpacker but also the vast majority of the customer reviews.
Below is a video review that covers the main points of the Gerber Bear Grylls Paracord Fixed Blade Knife. If you’re looking for a versatile, reliable, and lightweight survival knife to carry into the wilderness with you on your next backpacking excursion, backcountry skiing adventure, or hunting trip, for the price the Bear Grylls Paracord Fixed Blade is hard to beat. And when you’re in town, it can even be your EDC knife.
If you’d like more information about survival knives that can be used under the most demanding conditions (where weight might not be such a prime consideration), see my review of the best all-purpose survival knives here.
There is a reason the knife is mankind’s oldest tool — when you need one, it can keep you alive.