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Tips & Tricks #2 - River Knives

A river knife is a must-have piece of gear for anyone spending time on the water. This is an item that can be essential in performing a multitude of tasks and should always be included. It doesn’t have to be a huge survival knife, and in fact the more compact the better. The following is some friendly advice pertaining to how they should be worn or carried, types, and different uses.

Types of River Knives

Generally there are two types of river knives: folding and fixed blade. The folding one does just that and folds back into itself. A fixed blade is set and holstered in a sheath. If using a folding blade I prefer to use one with a thumb slide for quick usage and convenience. The folding blade I use on the water is a CRKT K.I.S.S. knife that is super sharp and great for a quick cut. It’s also all stainless steel so no worries about corrosion. With a fixed blade, I have always used the Gerber River Shorty knife. It has a straight edge, a serrated edge, plastic handle and sheath, and a flat tip (screwdriver) with no point. I’ve used it for cutting rope ends, fixing screws, and more often than anything, slicing tomatoes on lunch trips. I carry both of these items in my PFD at all times.

Securing Knives

A lot of river guides have their knives fixed to their PFD’s at an outer attachment point so that it is within reach at all times and convenient. Others prefer to keep them in the pockets of their PFD’s and more out of the way. I personally adhere to the second option. The reasoning is when I first started I was taught to have it on the outside of the PFD at the attachment point but found out very quickly that this can get snagged on ropes and other items easily. One early career swim was so violent it pulled the knife out of the sheath yet the folded knife in my pocket was just fine. I prefer to minimize the items on the outside of my PFD to prevent anything getting caught and putting myself or others in harm’s way. While it might look cool with all that glittery gear dangling on your PFD, each item is one more way to potentially snag you and any way to minimize that is essential. Both of my knives fit just fine in my front pocket of my PFD (which is an Astral Green Jacket for reference). If you DO decide to attach a knife on the outside of your PFD, the lash tab is the best place for this. Almost all PFD’s come with these and have options for either vertical or horizontal placement. This is also for only knives with sheaths since that is the part that will connect to the tab. It is not advised to clip foldout knives to these to prevent loss. In the example of the Gerber River Shorty I use, I also tie a piece of elastic cordage on the back through the sheath then bring the knot back through the handle to keep it secure (see pics below). In addition to this, I also keep a spare folding knife in my dry bag.


To summarize, it all comes down to personal preferences and what is the best tool for the job while minimizing any hazards. Whichever combination of knife and how to secure it should be based on these factors. Again, we would love to hear your comments on what works best for you and why so please let us know!


*Disclaimer - Any of the products mentioned by brand name are merely reference and have no affiliation to us.



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