How to pick between a serrated knife and a plain-edged blade

There are advantages and disadvantages between serrated knife blades and plain blades. The most sensible answer is to carry a folding knife that has both types of blades, or to get one with an integrated blade that has serrations for a portion of the blade’s length. There are situations (when you can’t afford to have multiple knives laying around, for instance), when you’re going to wind up having to pick one or the other.

The first and most sensible thing to ask is how you plan to use the knife. Serrated knives are clearly better for cutting through wood and rope. On the other hand, they’re difficult to sharpen and and are much more difficult to use in some survival instances (i.e. doing something simple like cutting your fingernails).

If you plan to cut through anything substantial, you’re probably going to want those serrations. If you want the knife for more general purposes, pack a small straight-edged blade, as it will cut through small branches, small rope, allow you to prepare fish and be easy to sharpen.

Integrated blades also feature advantages and disadvantages. They’re versatile, but they’re also like having half a knife if you need your blade for a particular purpose. To carry something that’s large enough to give you both types of blades, you’re probably going to need a sheath, and you’ll be packing some extra ounces on your trip. Depending on your local laws, you’ll be required to keep blades of certain lengths in plain view (perhaps on a belt loop), which can hinder your mobility.

If you simply can’t afford to buy or carry two knives, though, you’re probably going to have to go with a small, integrated blade. At some point, I’m certain, you’re going to wish it were longer, but that’s always better than wishing you had a knife.

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