When wearing a knife around your neck is a good idea

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Wear a knife around your neck.


That sounds like a ridiculous proposition in everyday life, but on some outdoor escapades, the logic of a neck knife sells itself.

On some adventures, the chores never seem to end. Campers frequently need a string cut or some tree bark shaved. Anglers constantly need to cut off the tag ends of their fishing knots or trim their bait to make it easier for the fish to gulp bait and hook in one go.

Even the humble picnicker will have food packaging to slice open, cheeses cut down to bite size, and a dozen other food preparation tasks.

The annoying thing about these tasks is that they manifest themselves when you are already engaged in them; you are already holding the item when you realise you need something to cut it with.

The tedium of putting down what you are doing halfway and getting the knife ready at camp or on a boat can erode your mental fortitude.

That is when a small, sheathed neck knife becomes wondrous.

The primary advantage of a neck knife is accessibility. Just bend your elbow to your chest, and your knife is in your hand. It does not matter if you are right or left-handed because you can wear the knife to match the hilt’s direction to your dominant hand.

Anglers on boats and kayaks will especially appreciate this, since a belt knife can be hard to deploy and return to the sheath when one is in a seated position with one hand no doubt holding the rod.

There are only a few activities where a neck knife will likely get in the way, such as cave exploring when one might need to belly-crawl through crevasses or cross-country trail running with the neck knife bouncing around as you run.

Neck knives are typically small, with blades ranging from 5cm to 10cm in length and weighing no more than 100gm.

Some popular models even weigh under 50gm, and the reason is obvious: you will not want to wear something heavy around your neck all day.

Neck knives tend to be low-cost, and the main reason is that knife makers see no reason to make them with premium steel.


These blades tend to be made with softer stainless steel, not unlike the ubiquitous kitchen knife.

No one will be chopping wood or tearing through brush with these little blades, so there is no sense in using tough steel to make them with.

In a tropical environment, such stainless steel is ideal because neck knives are worn so close to the body that they become exposed to the condensation of your salty sweat, which can lead to the blade rusting.

Some neck knife handles are designed to let you hold the blade to make fine, precision cuts, such as a large finger choil right behind the cutting edge for your index finger so that your thumb will rest right over the blunt spine of the blade on the opposite side of the edge, affording you maximum control over your cuts.

Reflect on the blade shape before buying. The typical drop or clip points are good general-purpose blade shapes, while “specialist” shapes like the tanto, spear point or hawkbill will either be novelties or more suited for specific slicing, piercing or tactical use.

Neck knife blades in the sheepsfoot or wharncliffe designs, which do not have pointed tips, might be best for outdoor work since they greatly reduce the risk of users accidentally poking themselves. These knives are typically secondary cutting tools, and campers in the wild, especially, will have a primary knife on the belt for heavy duty work.

Make sure the neck knife you choose has a thumb ramp on the sheath, so that when your fingers wrap around the hilt, your thumb naturally rests on this part of the sheath.

Then all you have to do is exert a little pressure with your thumb, and the knife snaps free from the sheath in a one-handed operation.

If there is no thumb ramp on the sheath, the only way to free the knife is to yank it out (possibly with the other hand gripping the sheath), and if it is dark, you are exhausted, and you are trapped in a storm, this yanking of a knife hanging off your chest near your belly can result in Murphy’s Law, which states that if anything can go wrong, it will.

Always wear a neck knife with a ball chain or lanyard looped with a breakaway plastic clasp, which are cheaply available. These are designed to break when too much pressure is exerted.

If you use knotted cordage with your neck knife and something snags the cord, you risk getting choked.

Seasoned outdoor enthusiasts tend to have more than one neck knife since they are inexpensive, so they have different ones to suit their needs on different outings.

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