Where did the widespread idea about surviving in the bush “with only a knife” come from? I can tell you that it didn’t come from people experienced with living in forested regions. If I could have only one tool for a trip of a 1-100 days, it would be an axe, not a knife.
But this idea of “only a knife” seems to be the benchmark by which survival episodes are judged by the general public, whose views on the subject have been created mostly by hollywood and adventure novels, not long-term experience in the bush. I’m saying it here, now, that it’s a flawed idea. The first tool of the woodsman is the axe.
An axe makes a better knife than a knife makes an axe. Any survival or bushcraft trip in a forested region that isn’t a backpacking trip, meaning where you’re not traveling self-contained and are using fire for cooking or warming, will entail working wood. An axe is a more efficient wood working tool than a knife.
I don’t claim that this is a universal truth applicable in all environments. The desire to derive context-free generalizations from what works in a given environment is what writers of bad outdoor books excel at. I can only speak to my experience, which is in forested regions of the world.
You can file this post under the heading of “pointless hypothetical speculation”, because a rational person carries both a knife and an axe. In the real world you don’t have to choose.