I’m an outdoorsy person, and survival gear is absolutely necessary to safely enjoy the wilderness. You never know what might happen and where, and having the right gear can make a life-and-death difference. One of the most important pieces of equipment you can have is a good knife. You generally don’t need to use your knife as a weapon in the backcountry (if you’re that close to a dangerous animal you’re screwed anyway); it just needs to be a useful and effective tool.
Buck Knives has a great reputation of providing quality knives for several purposes. In the search for a great survival knife I inquired at Buck, and they provided me with the new TOPS/Buck CSAR-T Liaison to try out. I’ve since used it for many purposes in different outdoor environments, and I am very pleased with this product.
The CSAR-T Liaison was designed to be a backup tactical weapon for military and law enforcement, but its lightweight skeletal design and durable construction make it an excellent survival knife. The kydex sheath is designed to hang from a lanyard around your neck, as your survival knife should (a knife in your pack is worthless when you become separated from your pack), and makes it an easy one-handed quick-draw tool. It comes with an appropriate length ball chain lanyard, but after a moderate day hike with it hanging under my shirt and pulling on every little hair on my chest, I swapped out the ball chain for a lanyard of strong lightweight cordage (which could serve other purposes in a survival situation). I also wrapped the sheath in several feet of lightweight cordage, letting me carry more necessary survival gear without noticing the weight.
Perhaps my favorite thing about this knife is its weight; a mere 2.3 ounces. It was not uncomfortable on my neck at all; I barely felt it. The skeletal design loses unnecessary material, making the knife nothing more than what you need it to be. Believe me, ounces count when you’re backpacking and even day-hiking. One thing you do lose with such a design though is comfort. The grip of the knife is about as comfortable as you can get with a skeletal design. It fit in my hand very well, and I was able to put a lot of force behind it without my hand becoming uncomfortable. This knife is not meant to be used every day or for long periods of time. For a survival knife it’s just fine, and if you want some added comfort you could wrap the handle in paracord or even duct tape for a slightly more comfortable but still ultralight grip while adding some useful survival equipment.
The factory edge on the blade was plenty sharp to carve wood into stakes or spears and make rodent traps, and the spine of the blade took a light beating as I drove it into seasoned oak logs, hammering on it with other pieces of wood. I even dug in the dirt with it (which you should never do with your knife), digging up deep-growing wild onions, and the blade was plenty sharp afterward to cut paper, cordage, and even meat and vegetables back at home. The rounded tanto tip makes the knife easy to jamb into trees and logs, and would be a suitable as a spear tip if you needed to hunt game in a survival situation.
Your survival knife needs to be four things: full-tang fixed-blade design, sharp, durable, and with you at all times in the wilderness. This knife meets every necessity, and is ultra-lightweight to boot. I think it is a great all-around knife to accomplish many tasks in a survival situation. I will be carrying it as my personal survival knife on my outdoor outings and while working on the helicopter from now on. It retails for about $60, and is available from your favorite outdoor sporting goods store including Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s, or directly from Buck.
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Written content © Jake Schulke