The importance of carrying a knife when whitewater rafting or kayaking.

When it comes to whitewater rafting or kayaking, having the right gear and equipment can make all the difference in staying safe and having a good time. One item that is often overlooked, but equally important, is a knife.

Here are some of the key reasons why you should always carry a knife on your personal flotation device (PFD) when engaging in these water sports:

  1. Safety: A knife can be used to cut yourself or others free from entanglement in ropes, lines, or other gear. In case of an emergency, having a knife readily available can mean the difference between life and death.

  2. Self-Rescue: In the event of a flipped raft or kayak, a knife can be used to cut yourself free from the gear or lines that may be holding you underwater.

  3. Equipment Repairs: Knives are also useful for making quick repairs to gear or cutting ropes and lines when necessary.

  4. Food Preparation: If you are spending a night or multiple days on the river, a knife can be used for food preparation, such as cutting fruit, cheese, or other snacks.

  5. For registered Maine guides a 3" readily accessible blade is required by law.

When choosing a knife, it is important to consider factors such as blade length, weight, and the type of blade. A blade length of 3 inches is usually sufficient for most tasks, and a serrated blade is often preferred for cutting through tough materials. Though a well maintained straight edge is just as effective, if not more so.

Weight is an important consideration because you don't want to be carrying around a big heavy object. Minimizing weight across all of your gear is essential and a lightweight knife that you don't feel the presence of will be more pleasant to carry. If the knife is a bother you'll end up leaving it in the shuttle rig more often than not and that defeats the purpose of having one. 

A thin profile is important too, the knife should not interfere with your paddling nor add bulk to your PFD. A bulky knife is easily hung up when climbing into rafts or managing gear.

Along with choosing the right knife, having a high-quality sheath that retains the knife well is just as important. A poor quality sheath that does not retain the knife securely can result in the knife becoming lost or falling out when you need it the most. This is especially common in the mass produced made in China options that are readily available.

A good sheath should be made of a durable material like Kydex and should have an adjustable retention mechanism that keeps the knife locked in place. It should also be designed to attach easily to your PFD, allowing for quick access to the knife in an emergency situation. You don't wan't to be fiddling with zippers to reach a folding knife stashed in your pocket when your hands are cold and seconds are valuable. 

Additionally, a good sheath should also protect the blade from damage, as well as keep it from accidentally cutting or injuring you or others. Having a quality sheath that retains the knife well is just as important as choosing the right knife. A good sheath will ensure that the knife is always readily available and secure, providing peace of mind while on the water.

In conclusion, carrying a knife on your PFD when whitewater rafting or kayaking is a crucial safety measure that should not be overlooked. With its numerous uses and ability to provide peace of mind in emergency situations, it is a must-have item for any water sports enthusiast.

At Walker Knife Co. we hand make knives for river runners of all types built on more than a decade of professional whitewater experience.