Kayaking Knife on PFD

Hi all! I just got a Gerber River Runner knife and plan to use it on the lash tab of my PFD (Astral tempo 200). My question is, does anyone do anything extra to keep from potentially losing their knife? I am pretty confident it won’t unsheath by itself, but in the event it does, or I drop it, I don’t want to loose it and don’t want to use a leash. The best idea I heard of so far was to use a key bouy float so if it is dropped or comes loose it won’t sink and is easy to recover. Any thoughts or tried and true methods out there???

I’m actually using a leash on mine. The knife is on the left side of my PFD so I measured the length of the 1/8" line by stretching my right arm out with the knife in my hand. I figure I can cut the line if needed but there is an entanglement hazard with any line. The line stays coiled up inside the pocket right near it but comes out easily.

I attach a badge reel to it…

– Last Updated: Jun-25-07 1:38 PM EST –

Yes, one of those little thingies that holds a badge (like to get into a building) on a reel and about 22-24" of light nylon cord. I use the kind that comes with a plastic snap at the end of the cord and clip on the back. I cut off the plastic snap, leaving just the little triangle. No, they are not corrosion-proof, but keep 'em washed, and at a couple bucks each it's no big deal to replace them every year or two.

Anyway, I clip the reel onto something on the PFD and attach the little triangle at the end of the cord to the knife (sea snips, actually). So, no dangling lines. It holds pretty well, but does give way with a sharp yank on the cord, which is good if it gets tangled around your neck.

They're also good for a camera, GPS, VHF radio, chart case or just about anything you want accessible while paddling but is too valuable to lose.

There are tons of them around, but here's one place...


You can get them in 3-packs for $10 or so at Kinkos, or really cheap in bulk at places like that web site.

Here they are attached to some of my gear (a bit rusty, but still working fine).


Do not…
Do not be too confident that the Gerber River Runner will not come unsheathed. A buddy lost his during a practice(reentering swamped whitewater solo canoe)we had one afternoon.

Evidently the pressure of the knife handle being pressed against the gunwale pulled it out. It sank like a rock.

I use a small diameter loop of bungee cord(attached to knife handle), that I have measured to fit around my wrist if necessary (both hands free). When the knife is in the sheath, the bungee cord is twisted & then looped around the top of the knife sheath & the lash tab(knife & sheath are upside down on my pfd). The bungee cord keeps it snugly in the sheath. The knife is easy to remove from the sheath if you pull the knife down, away from the sheath & your body, and then up. When in the sheath, the bungee cord is not exposed, and presents little oportunity for entanglement.


The almighty knife.
The knife needs to be free when unsheathed. Being able to use a knife properly in an emergency comes from practice and experience where holding it is natural. Don’t just buy the knife and attach it to your PFD. Practice reaching for it and taking it out about 100 times.If you really want to simulate some of the real life possibilities, lie on the floor face down and get your knife out, then roll and get in every poeition possible and do it. Floaties and straps are a liability in time of crisis. Knowing that your hands are wet and that if you drop the knife someone may die should be a natural thought. Use a thin large o’ring that you can purchase at a hardware store as a back up to keep the knife from accidentally falling out of the sheath.

I have a river shorty (gerber) i’ve used for a long time – never had a problem with it ‘popping out’ – I have almost never used it although I have attempted to take it out when practicing rescues and such.

Where the heck do you put the o-ring? My first thought was that if you use it to keep it from popping out, then wouldn’t that be of major hinderance when you need it the most?

It reminds me of my dad, an old SF trooper from way back, he kept 2 sidearms at our home – always loaded and a round chambered. His thoughts were you never need a weapon 'till you need it bad and immediately.



Rubber band
One simple approach it to just use a rubber band to tether it. It will keep you from losing the knife on an accidental dislodging, but will simply break away if you need to actually use the knife.

Rubber band
The rubber band trick I took notice of on other sites. While you would need to replace it rather often with the sun and water and all acting on it, I think it sounds like the best solution. Again, a leash allows a dropped or accidentally released knife to swing around and slice you and others. A badge reel is a great idea for other equipment, but if I drop my knife, I don’t want it to be sucked back into my face by a retractable lanyard. I will probably go with the rubber band. Thanks for all your suggestions and advice!!!

I don’t presume to know whats right or not, I think that this solution works best for the type of paddling I am doing. Happy paddling guys. Thanks!

The o’ring
goes around the sheath and over the top of the handle. When you grab the handle your thumb or little finger can push or roll the o’ring over the handle. Old dive knives had these until they came out with the lock buttons. I was given one of the nice lock button Wenoka knives as a gift so I used it 1 time. When I reached for it the knife was gone. I use my old knives. BTW I keep my knife on the inside of my right leg (old habit)

Leashed Knife
I have a Schrader I bought years ago thathas a 4-inch leash which clips onto my PFD. The knife end has a slide-in clip which allows you to release the knife with one hand.

Any day on the water is a great day,


Knife on pfd

– Last Updated: Jun-26-07 8:43 AM EST –

I knew a guy that secured his with a zip lock tie. What's wrong with that picture? I've used one for years and have never lost it. Several co's make knives that have a locking device that can be un-locked with one hand. Check out a knife made by BENCHMADE. It's expensive but it's the best rescue knife i know of. Vaughn Fulton

Spring reels…
On my fly fishing vest I keep a knife (swiss army classic) and a fly holder clip thingy, both attached to their own tiny spring reels. I don’t know what they are called but you see them with ID cards sometimes. I’ve found them for free.

Like this: (not free but cheap)


I’ve never broken one and use them for walkie talkies, my PDF knife (as a safety…the knife attaches with it’s own clip), etc.

Just an idea.

Sounds like you and i have been in some of the same Bars. Good advice. Vaughn Fulton

Orientation on PDF?
Read all the discussions over the safety value of having a knife handy, so I picked up one. Question: vertical or horizontal orientation? Any suggestions?

Just came in the mail today … got a Benchmade 100SH20. Attaching to the clip on the PDF (mine is on the right side), I can orientate the knife horizontal or vertical … tried horizontal with the handle to the outside, then vertical with the handle down. The sheath has a great locking mechanism that snaps into the groves on the top of the blade, so it won’t fall out UNLESS I don’t snap it in place.

I had one horizontal for a while, but it caught on things. Also, the torque of the handle weight caused the lash tab to twist on the pfd which I thought might wear out the attachment eventually. Now it’s vertical with the blade pointing up so you grab naturally, press tab with thumb, pull down. At the moment, I have a lanyard on it, but with all that’s been said above I may take it off and use a little floaty keychain that I have (if it has enough buoyancy).

custom mounted
I sewed a wide/heavy nylon strap on my Mildwater PFD a little bit above the right pocket. Then, I mounted my Benchmade river knife, handle down, to this “lash strap.” I can tuck the handle in the pocket when not seeing a need to have it available in a moments notice (which is most of the time.) Because the pocket is elastic I can still get the knife out pretty easily if I need it. Even if the lock mechanism fails it can’t slip very far out of the sheath. That said, why carry it on the PFD to begin with? It’s more handy that way for -whatever- from cutting fishing line to lunch duty. I’ve carried a knife since I was a Cub Scout and can’t see being without one.

Keep in mind
I have seen in other posts any modification, such as sewing, to your PFD voids the certification it has from the coast guard. That said, I don’t see how sewing your own lash tab would put you in danger. And I really like the idea of having the handle tucked in a pocket. Easy to get to, protected from catching on things, and won’t go real far if it does release.

Just like drilling a hole in a piece of electrical equipment voids its UL listing. I doubt anyone is going to check real close unless a lawsuit is involved. Whether they like it or not, sometimes we grunts know better than the engineers.

Not to high jack the thread - - but - -
I can understand the need for a PFD mounted knife in White Water, but do a lot of the sea kayakers do this also??

Just kinda wondered

tow ropes
deploying the tow line increases your chance of entanglement. those are about the biggest risk.

the whole scissors vs knife thing is another can of worms, but yes, if you are going to be using a tow line then you really need something to sever the line in case of entanglement…you don’t want to be tangled up in any line that’s potentially attached to a loaded boat in a bumpy sea.

personally, i’ve had to use a knife ONCE on the water (as a knife and not a screwdriver, etc.) and that was to cut monofilament line off of an entangled cormorant…and sea scissors woulda been a better tool. guess what i carry now?

anyways, you need something.