rescue knife -- ever use it?

Last summer at BCU training down at the NC coast some of the instructors wore scissors on their PFDs in lieu of rescue knives. Some wore no knife, no scissors. My question is, have any of you actually used your rescue knife for a rescue? Is this an important piece of safety gear? If so, what do you like?

I paddle a small touring kayak (Impex Mystic) year round on an inland lake and also down on our coastal sounds whenever I can. I mostly paddle alone but hope to do some kayak camping with others on our barrier islands. Thanks for any insights you can give. I’m a lot more serious about safety these days.


Never used while paddling…
Over 20 years, many of which guiding…

Great little boat that Mystic!

had to use the knife to free a bird fouled up in fishing line…scissors woulda been better and since then have carried scissors.

have never had to cut anything else on the water but would not paddle without something as long as i’m carrying a tow line and i’m always carrying a tow line.

Can of worms!
Ginger, you have done it now! I predict this to be a miniimum 50-response thread.

Yes, you need a knife that is accessable for the usual reasons, including cutting a monofilament line & hook that has snagged you from an overhanging tree. Of course, scissors will work well for that too. I am of the opinion that the only serious need for a “rescue” style knife is for WW boating. A small folder, preferably one that will open with one hand, is all you should need.


rescue knife
Thanks, all. Didn’t mean to open a can of worms.

Tow ropes, yes, but I hadn’t thought about getting snagged in fishing line – it’s all over the place here. (An immature eagle was found entangled a couple of years ago and I know a guy who released a great blue heron from a terrible tangle many years ago.) Especially on our slow rivers people fish by tying lines to trees – they’re a hazard.

I can’t cut with scissors held in my left hand. So maybe a folding knife with a blunt tip for me. Cheers!

The points I liked best in the previous
long discussions were:

  • You have the knife to help others and hope they do the same for you.
  • Get one with a blunt blade like a Gerber River shorty . People have been badly injured by rescuers with pointy knives.
  • If you ever plan to be cold, carry a fixed blade.Try opening a folder in the water with frozen hands.
  • roll out of your boat and practice cutting rope iin the water.

has a nice rustproof folder, the salt series, the Atlantic is the one with a blunt tip. I have one and its held up well living in my PFD for a year or so…

If I needed one
I would buy a CRKT Bearclaw. Small, accessable, blunt tip, easy to hold.


but it doesn’t take up any space so I take it anyhow.

never have
But i never used my rescue gear either.

Still, it’s nice to have it IF I need it.

Right now I use my multi-tool and PFD knife to rescue ducks and gulls and such from fish-hooks.

French Bread!
I have a Spyderco Rescue in my PFD (got a good price.)

I always believe a knife useful.

I have never used a knife for rescue (but I’m also a careful guy) - If I ever do use it, it will likely be for someone else.

It HAS been used on a loaf of French Bread that faced certain tear-apart from a famished friend.

I do not think the kinfe will open a can of worms very well.

Had many and lost most.
Besides spreading butter and loosing them, I never had a reason to use one. As a result i don’t carry one anymore but I did have use for it a few years ago when i became somewhat entangled in some line that was in mid river. I ended up untangling myself but having a knife would have been handy.

rescue knife, bread knife!
French bread! That serrated edge WOULD come in handy. I like the specific suggestions – thanks to all who have made them.


Not critical but my bow line got hooked on an abandoned fishing line. Very strong. I cut it and worked the hook out later…

Photo in profile - How?
Sorry to deviate - but -


— How did you put a photo in your profile?

Look…I have a knife!!!
No, you don’t need one unless you kill something and plan on eating it. Most have them for show which is part of the program. I never have one on day paddles. Many paddlers will tell you most knives end up lost in the river

Some of my paddling friends
carry fairly impressive knives on their impressive PFDs. I think it’s mostly macho adventurism stuff. Probably makes more sense to carry one of those shears that EMTs use to cut shoes and clothes from accident victims. They cut through anything.

saw used once
I saw the knife used once. On a rafting trip in the Hudson gorge the raft next to mine flipped and was pinned. One of the occupants wound up under it. The guide cut a hole in the bottom of the raft and pulled her out through the hole. Quick thinking.

I needed one and had none. Canoe’s painter hung up on rocks in a rapid and the canoe got stuck. We had to come back with a knife the next day, by which time the boat was ruined and the current had unzipped a pack I left tied in the boat, emptying out my wallet and a video camera. Knife woulda saved $1000, easy.

I got my foot entangled on a footpeg. Perfect situation for a knife to come to the rescue, and I carried a folder in my pfd. I twisted my head out of the water and went back under and got my foot loose. Later it occurred to me that was a knife situation, and thinking about it, that I really didn’t want to be unfolding the knife in situations like that, so I went out and got a River Shorty I now carry. I also vowed to practice cut-away rescue scenarios so that I’d think about using the knife when the time came. So far, I haven’t practiced.

One day an abandoned and long-sunk Pungo for some inexplicable reason came to the surface while we paddled nearby. It was attached to the bottom by a stout line, which I USED MY KNIFE to cut. One theorey on how it got abandoned is that somebody was fishing out of it, the anchor became jammed in rocks on the bottom, they didn’t have a knife to cut it, and ended up swimming off the river. It is unlikely I’ll ever know.

Some MCC paddlers I know saved a kayaker by cutting a spray skirt that got snared on an underwater tree. If I am remembering correctly, the kayaker was unconcious when retrieved, but fully recovered. That kayaker was on death’s doorstep and was very lucky some of the paddlers on the river that day carried knives.

As has been posted by others in response to similar questions on this board, if you are around water and ropes, you need a knife.


I have used both during rescues
and I prefer scissors, partly because you don’t get caught up comparing phalluses.

But it doesn’t do any good to carry one unless you practice with it.