Survival is a state of mind. If a man does not let himself become defeated, he will survive. In order to prepare a plan to survive any type of catastrophe, you need to become aware of just what is needed to survive. For this article, I’m going to use some images from the movie “Rambo: First Blood.” I know it’s Hollywood, but for the sake of this article, what he does with only a knife goes to show you how versatile it can be, whether it’s a fixed blade or folding knife. The single most difficult thing to reproduce in a survival situation is a knife.

I felt using my SOG Bowie 2.0 knife in this article was appropriate since the movie is based on a Vietnam veteran Special Forces guy using his knife to survive.

So what do you need to survive at a bare minimum, and how can a knife help accomplish that?


You need to cover your body in order to regulate your core temperature and prevent heat loss. If you can’t find clothing, then you need to make some from animal skins, vegetation, or whatever else you can find. In “Rambo: First Blood,” one of the first things he did during his escape and evasion was to find some type of clothing. He found an old tarp and some cordage, and fit them to his upper body to provide protection from the elements. Keep your knife sharp, because the edge of your knife needs to be able to cut through these types of materials.

Sylvester Stallone as John Rambo fashions a poncho out of found wire and stiff canvas.
Sylvester Stallone as John Rambo, fashioning a poncho out of found wire and stiff canvas.


This, too, will act as barrier between you and the elements. This will also provide a place for protection from predators—both human and animal. Shelter can be anything, from a house, to a tarp or similar primitive shelter. With your knife, you can cut and gather foliage, sticks, and fashion tent stakes for an improvised shelter.

Meanwhile Rambo is living off the land, he hunts and kills a wild boar using his knife attached to the end of a makeshift spear.
Rambo is living off the land. He hunts and kills a wild boar using his knife attached to the end of a makeshift spear.

In order to survive, you need the minimum necessary knowledge, resources, and tools. The key is to have the bare essentials that are necessary to provide for each of the categories. With these essential items, you can. A little knowledge, ingenuity, and common sense can provide for your needs in each category mentioned above.

These essentials may change according to a specific type of disaster environment. For example, your essential and specific needs in the Arctic will be different from those needed in the desert. Your needs in a flood will differ from your needs in an infectious epidemic. However, the ability to effectively address the three categories—water/food, clothing, and shelter—are common to every disaster-survival scenario.

The knife can help you fulfill all those categories. It is one of the most essential tools to gather food and provide clothing. You can build a shelter, start a fire, and if necessary, use it as a weapon to defend yourself. Your knife can be used to create primitive spears and traps for anything from small game to human attackers. As a last resort, you could attach your knife to the end of a stick to use as a spear (I don’t recommend this, as you take the chance of losing your blade).