Big knives have always fascinated me and I know they have the same effect on a lot of other people as well. They bring up images of Jim Bowie, Davy Crockett, mountain men, and the Long Knives. Small knives are useful, practical, and handy, but they just don’t fire the imagination like large knives do. Both are necessary for the wilderness, especially if you don’t carry an axe or tomahawk. The definition of a large knife varies, but most people have it in the 7-9″ and up range.
Big knives can be used for the big jobs that a Fallkniven F1 or similar size knife just can’t do with any facility, but can still handle most of the smaller, finer jobs that the small knives do. They can be used for any kind of heavy work, such as chopping, batonning, clearing branches, and such. Batonning (splitting small to medium chunks of wood by driving the knife through the wood with a wooden baton) is made easy by a longer blade, especially if the grind is suitable. A longer, heavier knife makes chopping a breeze. Sure, it may not be as easy as chopping with an axe, but a knife is a lot easier to carry! An accomplished worker can do most all of the small jobs as well. A Busse may not clean a fish as well as a Buck Vanguard, but it will still do the job and works immensely better for shelter building and procuring firewood. The best option is to just carry a folder or a small fixed blade along with a chopper.
Big knives can be found in any configuration desired. There are the more traditionally shaped bowies like the Cold Steel Trailmaster and Recon Scout. Ka-bar’s Becker line is excellent quality for for a low price. The Becker BK-9 and BK-7 are great choices and the favorites of many outdoorsmen. The Ka-bar USMC and related knives aren’t quite the large chopper-type of knife, but they are still large enough to do some chopping and splitting and have a great history. The Ka-bar Large Heavy Bowie in both its sizes has a good reputation for an inexpensive large knife. Busse knives, Ferhrman, and such companies are very good quality, but you definitely pay for what you get. If you can afford them, though, there aren’t many knives better. Another option for the large knife category is a short machete. A 10-12″, maybe even 14″ machete from a good company like Condor, Tramontina, or Ontario will do the job well and for very little money, especially the Tramontina.