What Makes Chris Tanner Tick? : The Popular Prepper and Knife Designer Shares His Thoughts

What Makes Chris Tanner Tick? : The Popular Prepper and Knife Designer Shares His Thoughts

Go on social media or turn on the television, and you will find no shortage of survival “experts.” While there are some who are really good at what they do, nobody knows everything. All of us are always learning, and we can often acquire new and valuable skills from those who know more than we do.

Some of these so-called experts are those preparing for the “zombie apocalypse” and the end of the world. Many spend way too much time trying to sell you gear you might or might not need as opposed to teaching you the skills you need to know.

Many are reactive, telling you what you should do after something happens, as if it is some sort of forgone conclusion that you have to endure the hardship to begin with.

Then, there are those who try to give you the skills you need to survive if something dire does happen. This last group describes the people I tend to gravitate toward, because nothing in life is guaranteed—good or bad. But it is always good to be prepared.

Chris Tanner is one of those people I respect and trust.

Chris Tanner is well-known for putting gear through its paces. Here, he is surveying the scene before testing the JX5 Vengeful-1, made by Bark River Knives.

I first got in touch with Chris while working on the Jessmuk knife review I wrote for [[American Survival Guide]]. Because I don’t follow social media, I had never heard of Chris Tanner until then. I did discover that Chris is a well-known prepper/survivalist blogger with a highly watched program on YouTube called PreparedMind101. Chris and I conversed a great deal via e-mail while I was working on the Jessmuk article, because he is the designer of that knife. The more we communicated, the more I realized that we seem to think a great deal alike. It was through that contact that the idea for this article was born.

“As far as being a prepper is concerned, I’m a ‘prep for likely problems’ kind of guy rather than a ‘doomsday prepper’ type … ”

Navy SHTF Technician

Like me, Chris did his time in the military. In his case, it was the U.S. Navy, in which he served as a damage controlman and was qualified as a shipboard fire marshal. According to Chris, a damage controlman is the “SHTF technician.” In this position, he had to be able to quickly process emergency situations.

Chris explained, “As DC men, we are mostly preventative in the day-to-day basis. We spend a lot of time inspecting and looking for real or potential problems.”

Chris Tanner designs all his knives for practical purposes; the JX5 Vengeful-1 is no different.

I asked Chris, “How much of your background in the military has influenced you in what you do today?”

“As far as being a prepper is concerned, I’m a ‘prep for likely problems’ kind of guy rather than a ‘doomsday prepper’ type,” Chris clarified. “I would say the mental aspect of my time as a damage controlman is what I took most with me; thinking ahead for potential issues before they happen.

“When something does happen, the mind speeds up so that perception of the situation slows down. For example, when a kid gets hurt and the mom is freaking out, you are calm, because your mind is racing ahead, analyzing the problem and the steps needed to remedy it.”

Real-World Critical Analyst

 According to Chris, he never had the goal of being a “TV survival hero.”

“The last thing I wanted to do was to become a ‘survival expert.’ I just wanted to be a ‘gear expert.’ I’m good at analyzing things, and I am into gear and ‘stuff.’ That’s how I came to be mostly a reviewer-tester of items. I wanted to try things out, look for the pros and cons and then figure out how they can be best used.”

Chris Tanner is in deep thought, contemplating his next test with two of his best knives—the JX5 Vengeful-1 (stuck in a log) and the JX2 Jessmuk (in his hand).

From my conversations with Chris and by watching his presentations on YouTube, I found that Chris tends to think outside of the box. He is always questioning the “norm,” and his mind tends to be on the artistic side. I asked him how much of the artistic side plays into his knife designs.

“I believe that thinking outside of the box is my biggest attribute. It is how I grew my YouTube channel. If everyone is huddled on one side of the room, trying to stand out, I’m walking to the far side and doing my own thing. I like to ask, ‘Why?’ [[Why]] does it have to be that way? A lot of people tend to follow the rules, look for the biggest expert and just emulate whatever that person says. I hate rules, and I am very intuitive and imaginative.”

Knife Design Process

Chris pointed out, “When I do anything, I like to start from scratch. I’ll wipe the slate clean of everything that is out there. I start with the problem and then ask, ‘How do I fix it?’”

Chris admitted that sometimes, the fix turns out to be the old, standard way of doing things—but sometimes it is not. This process is especially true when it comes to his knife designs.

“My knife design process was born from several years of testing knives. I’d test a knife and think, ‘If only someone would change it this way’ or ‘If only someone would invent one like this.’ Eventually, you start doing it yourself.”

The JX5 Vengeful-1 is a formidable and intimidating blade that can serve a number of purposes.

As a follow-up question, I asked Chris, “What makes your knife designs different?”

He responded, “I think a lot of people are limited by making their knives [[look]] a certain way. I don’t worry about how they look. I worry about how they [[work]]. I begin with an idea about what I want to create. I then outline exactly what I want to be able to [[do]]. Then, I simply draw it the way it needs to be in order to do that. My knives are different, in that everything in them is that way for a reason. There is no ‘filler.’ I stick with companies such as Bark River and L.T. Wright Knives (LTWK), because they’ll make them (the knives) exactly the way I designed them.”

“A lot of people tend to follow the rules, look for the biggest expert and just emulate whatever that person says. I hate rules, and I am very intuitive and imaginative.”

Of all Chris’s knife designs, which one do you think is his favorite?

When I asked him, he said, “That’s a hard one! It is like asking someone who their favorite child is. If I had to choose, I’d probably say the Jessmuk—and only because I flipped a coin and it was tails. It is so versatile, and it proved a major point I was trying to make; my point was that everything has not been done before and there is still room for new ideas. It is the knife I carry and use the most as a primary knife in the woods. Had the coin landed on heads, it would have been the JX5 Vengeful-1.”

My next questions for Chris were pretty straightforward and were designed to get his opinion on things that apply to all people looking to keep themselves and their families safe in a time of emergency. Whether you call yourself a “prepper,” “survivalist” or just “mom and dad,” this is important information to know.

Chris Tanner demonstrates the usefulness and versatility of his knife designs.

I asked Chris, “In your opinion, what are the biggest issues facing people when the SHTF?”

“That is a hard question, because I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about doomsday stuff,” Chris told me. “I prepare more for the common stuff that does happen rather than the things that [[might]] someday happen. I think the biggest issue is, and always will be, people. People can barely handle getting on the Internet and reading a political post without getting their emotions triggered. How are they going to handle the end of everything? I don’t think people really know just how crazy other people can get when you pull the rug out from under them. I have a strong spiritual foundation, so although I am not in any kind of hurry to die, I’m not really afraid of dying. I think at the core level, the fear of death and change is what drives a lot of people into prepping. I prefer to focus on positive things, so I don’t spend much time delving into doom stuff,”

That said, these are the items Chris recommends that everyone should have on hand to see them through an emergency situation:

  • A quality knife
  • A high-quality multi-tool
  • Water filtration device and a water bottle
  • A good first aid kit
  • A good handgun—chambered in a popular round so there is always ammo
  • Freeze-dried food
  • Tactical flashlight that can be recharged
  • Renewable power source, such as a portable solar panel
  • Basic fire-starting materials, such as a ferro rod and a few lighters
  • Duct tape—[[lots]] of duct tape
  • Cash

I asked Chris, “In your opinion, how many days of food and water should someone have on hand?”

“I generally have about a month’s worth of food,” Chris offered. “It is stuff that isn’t going to take up a lot of space if I need to leave my home. As I said, I prepare for common problems more than doomsday scenarios. I don’t store a lot of water, but I know where all the fresh water sources are and how to collect and purify it.”

Chris Tanner compares the JX2 Jessmuk and the JX3, two knives that are designed to handle most chores you might have.

So, what is next on the horizon for Chris Tanner? Well, with almost a quarter-million subscribers, PreparedMind101 will continue on, and he will continue to design knives. In fact, a new model is in the works as we speak. There are also other projects happening that Chris was not at liberty to speak to me about.

No matter what the future holds you can rest assured that Chris Tanner will be prepared for it.

Schrade Jessica X

 This knife measures 17.5 inches with a 9-inch blade. The 8.5-inch handle works well to offset the long blade. The blade is made from 1070 steel and has a hollow grind. The curved handle and the barong hook at the end provide some flexibility for how this knife can be used.


LTWK JX2 Jessmuk

I have to admit that I am a bit biased when it comes to the Jessmuk, because I own one. It was the first bushcraft knife to incorporate the sweeping blade design of the ulu into a typical fixed-blade knife. Made with 01 tool steel and having a Scandi grind, this knife will do just about anything.



The JX3 is a smaller knife and is the perfect companion for the JX2. It has an overall length of 6 3/8 inches and has a convex-grind edge that measures 2 7/8 inches. The blade is made from 1/8-inch A2 tool steel.


Bark River JX4 Bushbat

The Bushbat combines the aspects of a great bushcraft knife with a karambit handle. It has an overall length of 7.75 inches and a blade length of slightly more than 3.5 inches. Blade steel is A2 tool steel. Weighing in at a bit more than 4 ounces, it is the perfect EDC knife.


Bark River JX5 Vengeful-1

If you are looking for a great chopper, this is the knife for you. It is a heavy knife, weighing a little over 1 pound. Tanner designed this knife for heavy work, as you can imagine. The blade is made from CPM 3V steel and measures a little more than 9 inches.


Bark River JX6 Companion

The JX6 is similar to the JX4 but without the karambit handle. The point is lower, making it closer to the centerline of the knife. The edge is ground higher to maximize cutting power. Its overall length is 7.5 inches, with a blade length of slightly more than 3.5 inches. The blade is made of A2 tool steel.



Chris Tanner has taken full advantage of social media and created his program, PreparedMind101, which can be seen on YouTube. Not being a social media person, I watched my first PreparedMind101 episode with a bit of skepticism, but I soon realized that Chris was not just another “wannabe.” He actually knows his stuff. He shows the viewer different products and how to properly use them in real-life situations. You should check it out.



Bark River Knives
(906) 789-1801

Chris Tanner

L.T. Wright Knives


Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the April 2019 print issue of American Survival Guide. 

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