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How To Sharpen Your Survival Knife In The Outdoors

How to Sharpen Your Survival Knife in the Outdoors

If you’ve ever been a fan of Man vs. Wild, then you’re probably obsessed with survival knives.

They are, after all, an essential survival tool for all daring adventures in the wilderness.

You can use these knives to hunt and skin your prey. You can even use it to cut firewood or carve messages in tree trunks.

However, a dull blade is as useless as is an inflated balloon hammer.

Here, we will give you essential tips on survival knife sharpening so you can enjoy your trips.

Whether indoors or outdoors, you can effortlessly use one of these natural and human-made tools to get that perfect razor-sharp blade.

How to Sharpen Survival/Hunting Knives Outdoors?

Keeping your blade in cutting shape should always be a priority, especially if you’re wandering into possibly dangerous situations.

Sharpening a knife is a skill that can be mastered over time.

To get that cutting edge blade, you need to develop the proper sharpening technique.

Essentially, when sharpening, you rub the edge of your blade against a sharpening stone.

You go from bottom to top and make sure to apply pressure only to the edge of the blade.

You will have to switch sides to get the blade even on both sides.  

You can use various surfaces to sharpen your knives against, including:

The Blade of Another Knife

The thickness of the second blade acts as the perfect sharpener for the first knife.

It is a hard surface with a rounded edge that can give your blade the rub it needs.

The Back of a Ceramic Mug

Sharpening Knife On Mug

While there are ceramic sharpeners available in the market, you don’t have to worry if you don’t have one at hand.

Use the back of a ceramic cup instead. The rim of the cup presents the perfect surface to refine your knife against.

Leather Strap

While leather straps don’t necessarily sharpen the blade, they realign and refine the edge.

You can even use your leather belt to restore your knife to optimal working condition.

By rubbing the blade toward the edge, you can make it keener so you can make the best use of it as is.

A Smooth and Round-Edged Stone

In the absence of a sharpener, the next best thing is a smooth stone.

You can rub the blade against the side of the stone, and it will work perfectly fine.

Plus, whether you are in the wilderness or at home, you can effortlessly find a decent-sized stone lying around in your yard.


Sharpening Knife With Sandpaper

Sandpaper is another excellent alternative to sharpening tools.

It is the perfect amount of coarse, with just enough roughness in its texture to refine the knife.

If you are going on a trip, we suggest you keep some sandpaper with you. It can prove incredibly helpful in tough situations.

A Nail Filer

A nail filer works like sandpaper.

However, it is quite small in terms of surface area and is not as useful for sharpening hunting or survival knives.

Car Window

Desperate times call for somewhat desperate measures.

While many car enthusiasts will advise against it, your car window can serve as a knife sharpener.

Its rounded edge is the perfect surface for you to work with.

While your heart may bleed at the idea of damaging your vehicle, your car window can make survival in the wilderness so much easier.

Traditional Knife Sharpeners

Using Outdoor Knife To Cut Wood

The tools mentioned above are unconventional and aren’t what people use to sharpen their knives on a day-to-day basis.

In critical situations, you make the best out of what you have, and you may need to resort to one of the options mentioned above.

However, you don’t have to do that on a day to day basis.

When going on trips to the wilderness, like trekking, camping in the forest, or overnight fishing trips, it is best always to go prepared.

Make use of one of the traditional sharpeners mentioned below for your survival knife sharpening before you leave for your next outdoor adventure.


Whetstones are probably the oldest tool to put life into a dull blade.

They have a coarser texture than sandpaper and can help you get the razor-sharp edge you desire.

They may be natural or artificial stones, but they are probably the best survival knife sharpening tool you will ever come across.

Sharpening Outdoor Knife With Whetstone

Their longevity is proof of this claim.

While whetstones aren’t as hard as a diamond or ceramic sharpener, they work incredibly well.

In fact, if you are a beginner to blade sharpening, then this is the tool for you.

However, when using a whetstone, make sure to keep it well lubricated with either oil or water.

Oil tends to accumulate on the surface, which can damage its sharpening properties, which is why many people prefer water.

As long as the surface has some moisture to it, you should be fine.

A dry surface is challenging to rub against and may damage your knife.

Previously whetstone was quite chunky and heavy.

You now have smaller, portable versions that you can take on your trips in case you realize your knife isn’t as sharp as you prefer.

Ceramic Sharpeners

Sharpening Knife With Ceramic Sharpener

After whetstone, ceramic sharpeners are the next best tool for your survival knives.

They feature metal rods that are ideally positioned for blade sharpening.

The rods are encased in ceramic powder, leaving only the essential part exposed.

To sharpen your knife using a ceramic sharpener, you place your knife in between the metal rods and drag it toward you while applying pressure from the top.

Doing so sharpens both edges at the same time, so it saves you quite a bit of time that you would otherwise waste on grinding each side individually.

Diamond Sharpeners

A diamond sharpener is the best tool to sharpen a knife and gives the quickest results.

You’ve probably seen that rough textured rod with a handle in movies that chefs rub their professional blades against. That is a diamond sharpener.

Out of all tools, it is the most compact and easy to carry.

Because it is the toughest material found naturally on Earth, it also produces the best results.

What if You Didn’t Have Any Type of Above Sharpeners?

Sharpening Knife On Car Window

Sometimes, people make spontaneous plans and don’t have the time to prepare in advance.

You may forget to sharpen your knife or keep a sharpener with you, but that’s not that big a deal.

You can always utilize either your car window or any smooth stone you find lying around.

The idea is to find a smooth, rounded surface that will create enough friction to realign and refine the blade.

You can even make it a habit to keep sandpaper in your hiking or travel bag at all times.

You can use it for survival knife sharpening anytime, anywhere.

Things to Consider When Sharpening Your Survival Knife

Hollow Handle Knife

Just as all five fingers aren’t identical, all blades aren’t the same either.

Their angle and thickness vary depending upon the intended use.

Kitchen knives aren’t meant for hunting and won’t be able to penetrate through the skin as quickly as hunting knives.

In fact, hunting knives often come with a rough front edge for easy penetration into the flesh.

They are also way sharper and have to be covered for safety reasons.

Before you begin the knife sharpening process, first identify the angle of the knife and its intended use.

If you sharpen at the wrong angle, you could end up ruining the blade forever.

Here are some tips to ensure you are following the right procedure for knife sharpening.

  • Use a whetstone first – Using a diamond or ceramic sharpener may look more attractive but is not the ideal way to start. With a whetstone, you can better view the blade and determine what angle to place your knife on. It is ideal for beginners as it will help them get a good idea of what to do and how to do it so they can move on to other tools.
  • Proper preparation is essential – Survival knife sharpening isn’t an easy task. While the process may not be extensive, it is quite tricky. If you don’t prepare your tools properly, you may not be able to get the best results.
  • Clean the Stone Cleaning is the most important step of the entire process. If there is any residue on the stone, then it will hinder the sharpening process and won’t provide the blade that it needs.
  • Add Water on the Surface – Moisture on the surface is essential to add just the right slip to the surface. Whetstones, in particular, need to be soaked for a good five minutes before you use them. Lack of moisture significantly affects their performance.
  • Apply Oil – You only need about one tablespoon of oil. It helps reduce heat produced by friction and also catches all metal shavings in one place. Just make sure that you wipe away excess oil before storing away the sharpener as it can collect residue otherwise, which will be harder to clean.
  • Use a Stable Surface – Because you have to be extra careful about the knife’s blade, you must make sure to place the sharpener on a stable surface. If it wobbles, it can not only be dangerous to you but is also counter-productive as it can ruin the angle of the blade.


Survival knife sharpening isn’t as difficult as it sounds.

All you need is a tough, round-edged, and smooth surface, and you can refine your blade anytime, anywhere.

In fact, if you are outdoors, you will have access to multiple stones that can work as an ideal knife sharpener.

Just make sure to lubricate them well and use the right pressure and angle for the process.

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