river Knife and safety? - Mountain Buzz

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Old 11-06-2013   #1
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 373
river Knife and safety?

I am contemplating switching from the traditional river shorty style that attaches to the outside of your PFD to a folding knife that is kept in a pocket. Has anyone ever seen or heard of a situation where someone cut them self out of a rope that would not have been possible with the knife in a pocket? I'd love to hear some opinions from some swift water instructors.

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Old 11-06-2013   #2
LochsaIdaho's Avatar
Missoula, Montana
Paddling Since: 1993
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Posts: 77
Stick with the fixed blade. Do you really want to be fiddling with a folding knife in a pocket in the "what if" situation? What if it is a hand that is entrapped in a rope? Can you get your knife out of a pocket and opened one handed? How about off handed? If safety is your number one concern, the choice is simple.
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Old 11-06-2013   #3
peterB's Avatar
Join Date: Nov 2003
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I carry a folding knife in pocket for a couple reasons.

1. I did a test in 1991 with several sheath knives and a gerber folding knife to see which blade could actually cut someone out of a kayak. The fat blades of the sheath knives where useless while the thin Blade of the gerber could stab in and pull through the kayak like butter. That said only a saw could get through the combing of the kayak.

2. As a kayaker, I have never liked having a knife in my way when paddling. I think knives that stick out pose a hazard with being caught, pulled out of the sheath, and then you have a knife falling who knows where.

3. I have fed the river enough $40 sheath knives. Admittedly, not the newer generation like the copilot.

I am more nervous about being entrapped when I am rowing or teaching swiftwater courses. I keep a folding knife in the knife slot/pocket on the pocket flap of the Green Jacket. It is covered so that the knife can not get caught in ropes but I have a piece of cord that sticks out and I can grab and pull.

Just my opinion and mostly based on personal preference instead of facts.
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Old 11-06-2013   #4
Jenks, Oklahoma
Join Date: Oct 2004
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For a lot of reasons, I switched over to one of the stainless steel EMT type scissor set in a fabric holder on my pfd.

Some years ago there was a situation on the Ocoee River in TN where there was an attempt to cut the boater out of a spray skirt. They ended up cutting a blood vessel in the process and the boater bled out and died before the EMT's got there.

If you do use a knife, I recommend one with a blunt tip.
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Old 11-06-2013   #5
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BZN, Montana
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I've always considered knife situations to matter on the order of seconds and if entrapped underwater the reality of panic is real, so simple has been my approach. I've had the same sheath knife for 4 years now held on with a elastic hair tie. It's fallen out a couple times when climbing into a raft which I don't do regularly. Blunt tip serrated accessible and useable every time without being able to see in about a second.
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Old 11-06-2013   #6
Boulder, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2000
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Get the CRKT bear claw. It is the best option I have seen. I have owned several other knives that all sucked. Get the blunt tip version with the serrated edge.
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Old 11-06-2013   #7
kayakfreakus's Avatar
Steamboat, Colorado
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This post had me switch to a bear claw and I have been using them ever since, I do carry a folding knife backup in the PFD that is not a blunt tip.


Only had to cut a rope once in an emergency and will not go out without something on the outside of my vest.
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Old 11-06-2013   #8
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 373
There are two other issue that makes me think about switching to the folding knife. I have had the sheath get caught on the chicken line while pulling someone back in the boat. The second is if you end up entangled with you leg in a rope (the most likely appendage) in current, is there anyway you could even get a knife to the rope. I am picturing having to do a sit-up against the force of the water while getting the shit beat out of you. It seems unlikely that any knife would help you in that situation.
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Old 11-06-2013   #9
Salida, Colorado
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Oarboatman read the linked post above about Roy on bailey, it might make you rethink the folding knive.
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Old 11-06-2013   #10
cataraftgirl's Avatar
Sandy, Utah
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Originally Posted by Claytonious View Post
Get the CRKT bear claw. It is the best option I have seen. I have owned several other knives that all sucked. Get the blunt tip version with the serrated edge.
This is what I use. Never had to use it in an emergency yet, and never had it fall out of the sheath by accident yet either. I think some of the issue with a knife on the outside of the PFD has to do with where the lash tab is located. Mine is on the left side, right below my clavicle. Very easy to reach with my right hand, low enough not to poke me in the chin, but high enough not to get caught on stuff. I use a Kokatat MsFit PFD.
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