The looming threat of a nuclear attack launched by North Korea has brought about a resurgence in Cold War era anxieties about survival in a post-infrastructure America. If such an attack were to take place, it may not mean the end of the world, persay, but it could certainly mean the end of yours, and in the days, weeks, or months that followed a nuclear or EMP strike, there’s a chance help wouldn’t be on it’s way.

When you mention such a apocalyptic scenario to many people, the first thing they want to regale you with is a list of their firearms, ammunition stores, and food and water supply. That stuff all matters, and while I too maintain a laundry list of those sorts of things, many tend to forget about what I consider to be among the most important survival tools a man or woman could ever have: a good quality knife.

As I’ve written about before, knives serve a number of purposes in a survival setting. Whether you’re building a fire, preparing a meal, or fighting for your life, having a knife in your hand could mean the difference between today being an easy day, and today being your last one. Even after years of training in knife fighting techniques, armed, and disarmed defenses – I’m arguably more afraid of a skilled combatant with a knife in his hand than I am of the same man armed with a pistol in close quarters. If I can get a grip on that pistol, I’ll probably get out of a fight alive. Try the same thing with a knife, and I may lose a few fingers before he leaves me in a pile on the ground.

The most valuable part of carrying a knife, however, is that you don’t need to have trained to use one outside of the kitchen to be effective. Knives are simple, they don’t jam, they require very little maintenance, and as long as you remember which end is pointy, you’re dangerous when carrying one. For those of you who live in states that are not particularly firearm friendly, or if you’d just prefer to keep your home boom-stick free, knives offer you a legal, inexpensive and relatively safe means of defense to keep inside your home or go bag.