In the film 127 Hours, Aron, the character played by James Franco, finds himself in a terrible predicament. During a hike in Utah, Aron falls through a shaft, getting his arm wedged in between a boulder and the canyon’s wall. His knife proves to be lifesaving, although the price he has to pay is extreme. The film is based on a true story, and while you may never find yourself in a situation that dire, having a knife can prove lifesaving during emergency situations.
Using the Versatile Knife as a Survival Tool
Staying warm: A knife is the perfect tool to collect tinder for a fire by cutting bark and smaller branches from dead trees. You can also gather longer, thin branches which can be taken back to the campsite and cut up when you need more tinder. If you have to move your campsite, smaller pieces will be easier to carry. The knife itself can also be used to help start the fire when you do not have matches or a lighter. Striking the blade on the sharp edge of a rock will produce steel shavings, which sparks fire. The rock needs to be hard and strong enough to produce the sparking effect. Flint, granite, obsidian, and quartz are all good choices.
Creating shelter: Use a knife to cut branches for the frame of a DYI tent. Sharpening the ends of these sticks will create stakes to drive into the ground. Cut thin strips of wood to use as ropes, carve notches into the frames, and tie the sticks together. The last step is to cut and gather underbrush to form a roof.
Making DIY rope: As already mentioned, a knife is handy for making your own rope. You can do so by cutting two horizontal lines all the way around a tree trunk. Cut a third line vertically between the first two cuts. Peel the piece of bark off the tree, cutting the piece into smaller strips. You can weave these pieces together to make your own rope. If you are in a forested area, there is an endless supply of materials to make as much DYI rope as you need.
Creating DIY tools: The end of a knife can be used as hammer. The knife can also be used to whittle other tools, such as a spear tip. Choose a branch from a hardwood tree like ash, walnut, or oak that is one to 1.5 inches in diameter. Whittle down one end of the branch gradually and carefully until you have a sharp point. Hold the sharpened end above a fire until it darkens without burning it. When done correctly, this will make the end harder by removing moisture from the wood. Another option is to fashion your own arrowhead and place that into a notch you have cut in the end of a branch.
Finding water: A knife can come in handy to locate water sources, which typically occur downhill at the base of trees, at the bottom of gullies, or in dried riverbeds. Dig a two foot hole in the dirt and wait five minutes to see if water begins to seep into the hole. Carving into some types of trees and plants may also yield water.
Hunting and cleaning prey: While you are likely not going to use the knife itself to kill prey, you can make tools to go hunting. You can carve sharp sticks or bones to make fishing hooks or bow tips. Once you have trapped small animals or caught fish, you can skin and gut the animals and debone the fish with the same knife.
Sending out an SOS: Hold the blade of the knife in front of your face and move it to catch and reflect the light of the sun, thereby creating an SOS signal. Once you spot the rescue party, such as a helicopter or small plane, adjust the angle as needed to point the reflective light in the right direction.
A knife is the most versatile and important tool to have on hand when you find yourself without any of the modern conveniences of home. In emergencies, a high quality knife can be a real lifesaver.