Sharp, dangerous, often illegal and honestly not very good as a weapon; I still wouldn't be caught dead without a good knife. Here's why I carry one everywhere and why you should too.
Being Handy: Equipped with opposable thumbs, we humans are pretty good at grabbing things, tearing things, chewing things, pulling things and even pushing them. One thing we can't do at all without the aid of a tool is cut things. Keeping a knife in your pocket at all times allows you to easily, immediately and one-handedly respond to virtually any cutting task. That might be something as simple as opening a blister pack (good luck getting in there otherwise!), saving yourself some time such as being able to address an unexpected cutting need while up a ladder, avoiding the need to climb down, or something more time-critical like cutting a trapped animal free of a wire tangle.
Having that cutting tool with you and immediately accessible is simply a crucial component of being prepared to handle any of the twists and turns life throws at you every single day.
Eating Food: Know what's dull? Pretty much any knife you'll ever encounter at a restaurant. Instead of hacking through a steak with a butter knife, making fingernails-on-chalkboard sounds when you hit the plate, simply carrying your own, always-sharpened knife in your pocket can make eating out a more enjoyable experience. This is less creepy than it sounds, in rural France it's customary to provide you own knife (typically an Opinel) while dining.
Obviously a knife is also going to come in handy for slicing fruit, sharing a sandwich or even standing in for a fork if you're in a pinch. If you carry a Swiss Army-style knife, it may also come with a can opener, corkscrew or similar, too.
Rescuing Rednecks: While leaving a biker bar up in the mountains, some idiot who'd been slamming whiskey all day rolled his "good truck" off a 50-foot cliff. I pulled up a few minutes after it happened and was the only person on-scene prepared to respond. I did that by shouting at the gawking bystanders to call 911, then climbed down the cliff and used my knife to smash his window, then cut him free of his seatbelt. He lived, but had a hard time learning to think of his good truck in the past tense.
Saving Lives: When a person experiences a significant injury, you may need to quickly and decisively stop their bleeding. But, that wound can often lie behind layers of clothing, making it difficult to access and treat. A knife will make short work of any item of clothing, also allowing you to turn it into bandages and tourniquets.
Obviously a sharp, pointy knife isn't going to be as ideal for this task as a blunt-nosed pair of EMT shears, but it's far more likely that you'll have a knife in your pocket than a specialty item of equipment designed to perform only a single task.
Making Fires: A good knife makes fire preparation a much easier and faster task, particularly in poor weather. Even in the wettest conditions, you'll still be able to find dry wood inside upright, dead branches and trees. A knife allows you to access it, prepare tinder and even spark a fire into life. The instances when you might need to have this ability while at the office or riding the subway are obviously limited, but if you're traveling through a rural area or during inclement weather, then the ability to start a fire in your pocket, ready to go, is a pretty good thing to have.
Security Theatre: I guess this isn't really a use case, but one of the things that carrying a knife has highlighted for me is how lax most security is at events, venues and other at-risk places. I hate Spyderco's pocket clips, so my Paramilitary 2 rides in my pocket at the end of a paracord lanyard. So, just a little bit of square-braided OD cord sticks out of my pocket. Occasionally, I've found myself unexpectedly dragged into a nightclub or event (part of being a journalist, I'd much prefer to avoid other people alltogether) where bouncers pat you down, looking for weapons. Never once have they found or questioned the admittedly large, dangerous-looking knife I'm carrying. That's me ending up at those places by accident, imagine what someone could carry in with intent?
Wouldn't Other Tools Work Better? A pair of scissors might be safer, a set of wire cutters might work faster and a dedicated seatbelt cutter might be a better tool for the job, but a knife gives you a much more diverse range of capabilities in a single package you can easily carry, then use with a single hand. That's what makes them so handy.
As I write this, I'm sitting at a café across from a truckload of firemen (who are playing with Wiley). On each of them, a knife clip can be seen riding in a pants packet. These are guys that have to quickly and decisively deal with problems ranging from cats stuck in trees to people trapped in wrecked cars to burning buildings. If a knife can help them accomplish things like that, then you can likely find a use for one in your everyday life too. Carrying one along with knowing how to use it safely and effectively is just part of being prepared.
What knife do you carry?
Top Photo: B Rosen
IndefinitelyWild is a new publication about adventure travel in the outdoors, the vehicles and gear that get us there and the people we meet along the way. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.