One of the most important tools in your fishing arsenal is your kayak knife. It’s an essential piece of safety equipment that has innumerable applications on and off the water. If you’re going kayaking just about any blade will work in a pinch. But you might look a little weird paddling around with a kitchen knife. A proper kayak knife is one that can withstand corrosive saltwater environments or freshwater ponds. Whether you’re chopping up bait or cutting lines you’ll never regret having a blade on the yak. Our guide lists out all the qualities you should look for on your own, as well as a few kayak knives that we think would serve you well.
Morakniv Floating Fixed Blade
We’re all guilty of dropping gear in the water; it’s a natural part of being a fisherman. Sometimes it’s your $300 rod and reel. Sometimes it’s your wedding band. No matter what it’s a tragic situation (one more so). Luckily the folks at Morakinve have a solution for clumsy anglers – the Morakniv Floating Fixed Blade Knife.
A cork handle covers this Swedish knife to ensure easy recovery. Which is great if you’re the type who fumbles a 5 yard screen pass. The bright orange sheath and blade accents stand out on the water for easy identification. The blunt tip will keep you from throwing this at your buddy’s hull and the serrated edge is great for cutting through cord. All in all this a great knife at an even better price. If you lose this kayak knife on the water don’t worry, somebody downriver will appreciate the donation.
Ok, we’re going to have to come clean on this one. We included the Gerber Flatiron knife on this list because we’re just huge fans of folding cleaver style knives. There’s something about the cleaver shape that calls to us. It’s sharp angles remind us of the fins on vintage Thunderbirds, and it just looks cool. Coincidentally the Flatiron isn’t all that bad of a choice for a kayak knife. The 7Cr17MoV stainless steel holds up to corrosion and the 3.8″ blade shouldn’t prove too big for paddlers. The large thumb-hole makes one handed opening a breeze. Most importantly though, you’ll look boss AF on the water using the FlatIron. Its sleek design and G10 scales make this kayak knife worth drooling over. With this one you’ll be cutting lines in style and looking damned good doing it.
CRKT Thunder Strike Fixed Knife
CRKT stands for Colombia River Knife and Tool. So it’s a safe bet that they know a thing or two about making knives for fishermen. The CRKT Thunder Strike Fixed Knife is an affordable, stylish, and quality neck knife. Neck knives include fitted holsters that can be worn around the neck or stowed away in your waist band for concealed carry. Technically the Thunder Strike is a tactical kayak knife, which means it can hold up in tactical situations. There are also tactical coffee mugs, so probably best not to read too much into that.
The 8Cr13MoV blade is wrapped with about ten feet of paracord for extra grip or survival situations. At 3.6 oz the Thunder Strike might be prove to be a little heavy as a neck knife for long days on the water, in which case you can check out its little cousin – the Rsk MK5. If you ever end up in a swashbuckling fight on the high seas this is the knife you want. After you slice Captain Hook you can look him in the eye and say, you’ve been…….Thunderstruck!
Victorinox Fisherman’s Knife
One of the first knives I ever owned was a Swiss Army Knife. I distinctly remember bending back my fingernails trying to get the blades out. The white toothpick faded with age and got gummy on the tip. It was one of my favorite knives and I took it everywhere. The Swiss Army Knife is ubiquitous worldwide for its versatility and utility. Sure there are plenty of multi-tools and and folding blade assortments that are better. But none of them carry the charm or nostalgia like a Victorinox Swiss Army knife.
The Victorinox Fisherman version has a few implements that make it well suited as a kayak knife. The fish scaler comes in handy if you’re doing a catch and cook. And the scissors are great for cutting off old knots from lures. A Phillips head screwdriver and small blade are great for on the fly yak maintenance. This model doesn’t have a corkscrew so leave that bottle of chianti at home. This is a fantastic kayak knife at a great price that is perfectly at home in your pocket, tacklebox, or bow hatch.
BlizeTech Survival Knife
If your idea of great kayaking trip includes more camping than fishing then a survival knife is probably right up your alley. Knife applications on a yak are mostly limited to cutting line, emergency purposes, and cutting more line. Off the water a blunt tip kayak knife won’t make cooking or fending off overzealous bunnies an easy task. The BlizeTech Survival Knife, on the other hand, will help you cook up some rabbit stew with ease.
5 survival features housed in a lightweight and durable package will keep you secure and warm on any impromptu overnight. A detachable flashlight and magnesium firestarter will help you get the campfire started with ease. the emergency window breaker and seat belt cutter will come in handy during vehicular emergencies to and fro the river. A coated stainless steel blade an aluminum handle will withstand over-water use, but probably best to skip diving with this one.
NRS Co Pilot Kniffe
Northwest River Suppy (NRS) is a well known brand among paddlers. They specialize in gear ranging from boats to shoes all specially designed for going downstream. We’ve detailed several of their products before because of their high quality and affordable prices. The NRS Co-Pilot is one of the most popular life jacket knives used by yakkers today. The sheath has a fastening clip and fits nicely on the NRS Chinnok PFD, which happens to be one of the most popular PFD’s (imagine that). The combination of the Chinook and Co-Pilot knife make for a convenient and comfortable safety setup. Made out of 420 HC (High Carbon) the Co-Pilot will easily hold up to regular wear and tear. A blunted tip will keep you from accidentally stabbing yourself. And most importantly the bottle opener on the bottom will keep things from getting too dry.
CRKT Hunt’N Fisch Knife
This one is for all the dapper gentlemen out there who won’t stop catching prey. You know the type: experienced, wise, and infuriatingly good at catching fish. The CRKT Hunt’N Fisch is the blade that man wants to carry. This fixed kayak knife measures 7.25″ long with a 2.9″ long blade. G10 scales cover a tapered tang to form a superb handle with an incredible fit and finish.
The Hunt’N Fisch is technically a hunting knife and it was designed for dressing kills. But we think it would make a pretty fantastic kayak knife as well. The 8Cr13Mov blade will provide great corrosion resistance and it looks handsome in the included leather sheath. It’s not the most secure, but if you’re wearing this out on the kayak it’s because you know you’re not going to tip. We suggest this knife for a mature and austere fisherman. If that’s not you (yet) then maybe pick one up for your Dad’s next birthday.
Gerber Bear Grylls Ultimate Pro Knife
Ever seen a kayaker’s knife hanging from their pdf and thought, that’s not a knife. Well now you can finish that Crocodile Dundee tribute with the Gerber Bear Grylls Ultimate Pro Knife. This monster measures 10″ long with a 4.8″ blade and comes with a built in fire-starter rod on the sheath. The 9CR19MoV stainless steel is considered by many to be superior to 420C and will provide more than adequate protection against the elements.
The sheath includes a pull through sharpener and emergency whistle for when you’re ready for the production team to helicopter in ala Grylls style. In all seriousness this blade is a great all around knife. It might be a tad big for a kayak but you’ll power through bait and dinner better than any other knife on this list. Consider the Ultimate if you’re looking for a great all purpose knife on the boat and around the tent.
SpyderCo Salt 2 Knife
Spyderco make some of the best knives out there. Started in 1976 by a few bladesmiths in Colorado Spyderco has grown to become one of the most recognizable quality knife brands today. The Salt 2 builds off the success of its progenitor and does so with style. The newer Salt is made out of H1 steel in Japan. H1 is renown in knife-making as one of the “Super” Stainless Steels we mentioned earlier. H1 steel uses nitrogen rather than carbon, and is non magnetic, but most importantly its virtually impervious to corrosion.
This super blade is complimented by a fiberglass reinforced nylon handle held together with non-rusting hardware. Although the Salt 2 won’t to your PFD as easily as other knives it will still fit nicely in your pocket with a closed length of just 4.25″. The Salt 2 might be a little pricey but we think it’s worth every cent.
Benchmade H2O Dive Knife
Dive knives are designed specifically for underwater applications. Diver’s typically aren’t using knives to fend off the kracken, but moreso to get themselves out of compromising situations. That’s why they often have blunted tips and a secure holster – which happen to be great for kayakers as well.
Benchmade is known for making really good steel and the H20 Dive Knife is no exception. The blades’ forged out of extremely corrosion resistant N680 steel and features both a smooth and serrated edge. A line cutter on the backside of the blade will make short work of any tangled lines and the lanyard hole provides an option for additional security. The sheath has a snug fit and two side slots that permit wearing the holster around the thigh or calf. This kayak knife is great for anglers who like to hop out of the boat and wrastle their catch.
Microtech Ultratech Knife
In traditional fashion we’ve saved the best for last. Every knife on this list is capable and will serve you well on the water. The Microtech Ultratech though, well, it’s in a league of its own. This knife is more of a functional piece of art than it is a tool and we were reticent about putting it on this list. The reason being that, if you drop this one into the drink, we’re not sure you’ll ever recover, emotionally that is.
The Ultratech is a compact Out the Front (OTF) knife. A spring mechanism assists the blade deployment from the hilt with a satisfying click. Slight pressure on the trigger backwards and the blade retracts. The ergonomically designed handle feels great in the hand and its slim profile is barely noticeable when it’s pocket holstered. The Ultratech is available in a wide variety of blade types and handle colors. If you want to spring for an Ultratech be prepared to invest around $300.
Qualities to Look For in a Kayak Knife
The type of steel a kayak knife is made of is the largest determinant of its characteristics. A knife’s ability to sharpen, hold an edge, and withstand stress depends almost entirely on the makeup of its steel alloy. High carbon steels are typically used for knives because of their superior edge holding abilities, but they don’t have the best corrosion resistance. Rust on a blade will compromise the edge and increase your chances of injury. A safe knife is a sharp kayak knife. And rusted knives are not sharp. For that reason corrosion resistance is the biggest priority for a kayak knife and no steel does that better than the Stainless variety.
Stainless Steel derives its corrosion resistance properties from the chromium. These alloys have at least 11% chromium by mass and typically include other elements such as molybdenum for additional fortifying properties. In general the higher the chromium the better the corrosion resistance, however it’s not quite that simple. Metallurgy is a complicated and closely safeguarded trade; steel companies put a lot of time and effort into developing better alloys. Several companies have developed proprietary “Super” Stainless Steels that sport chromium content as high as 45% without sacrificing edge retention or sharpening qualities.
When you’re shopping for a kayak knife you should accept nothing less than stainless. Most knife makers will readily advertise the alloy their blade is made out of. Any knife made out of 400 series steel, for example 420 HC, 425 M, or 440A, are all great options. Super Steels like X15, Vanax 75, or M390 are higher quality, and higher priced. These super stainless alloys include more expensive elements and can be extremely difficult to work with. There are plenty of great resources for learning more about steel grades and their application if you want to nerd out some more. Just remember that most Stainless steel does just that – stains less. That’s not the same as Stain Never, so proper care and maintenance are a must if you want it to last.
Get a Grip
The best steel in the world won’t make much of a difference if you can’t hold on to it. Great kayaking knives, and really just good knives in general, have well equipped handles. A good handle is all the more important on a kayak because your knife is only ever a few inches from taking a permanent dip. Synthetic materials, such as rubber and plastic, will give you the best purchase on your blade.
Along with a grippy handle an easy access sheath is crucial. Some of the better kayak knives feature sheathes that can easily attach to your PFD or belt. 99% of the time you’ll be fine with having your knife on the belt or floating around your deck. It’s when you capsize in whitewater and get tangled up in anchor line that you’ll want your knife in a place you can reach quickly.
Shape and Size
Modern kayaks may be more spacious than ever but they’re still fairly small as far as watercraft go. Real estate can be severely limited depending on your make and model. Unlike on a bigger boat you’re not going to be chopping up tuna to chum for hammerheads, so there’s really no need for a big blade. At most you’ll probably be cutting a few lines or chopping up some squid. Bigger blades are great for bigger cutting; you just don’t need that on a kayak.
A lot of knives made for small vessel use feature a blunted tip. Sharp tips are great for piercing/stabbing, whereas blunt tips are better for prying. Unless you’re paddling off the east coast of Somalia we don’t think there’s a good chance you’ll encounter pirates, so a blunt tip makes a lot of sense. It reduces the odds you’ll accidentally stab yourself and can double as a flathead screwdriver in a pinch. We highly recommend buying a blunt tip knife if you run an inflatable kayak for obvious reasons.
Overview on The Best Kayak Knife
At the end of the day any sharp implement is better than nothing. So whether you head out fishing with a mall-ninja sword or antique machete the important thing is that you’ve got something. The kayak knives on our list will serve you well during your outdoor adventures. We’re confident in their reliability and application for paddle sports. They’ll also work a smidge better than just any piece of sharpened steel. Tag us on insta with a picture of your favorite blade on the boat!