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Is a knife part of your dive kit?

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UPDATE: Hey Dive Buddies! After so many comments on this article posted on LinkedIn and elsewhere I decided to dedicate Episode 004 of the Under Pressure Divecast to the subject – check it out: Under Pressure Divecast – Episode 004

If you’ve been diving a while you may already have a strong opinion about whether or not you need a dive knife and; if you own one, which type you prefer. If you’re a new diver you may be wondering “Do I need a dive knife?”

Like many ‘seasoned’ divers Lloyd Bridges set the bar for me when it came to dive knives as ‘Mike Nelson’ in the Sea Hunt series. Nelson’s character sported what basically amounted to a short sword. So, when I was looking at display of dive knives I knew exactly what I wanted and bigger was better.

When I purchased my first SCUBA rig I was so excited about SCUBA diving! I wanted everything. No, scratch that I wanted EVERYTHING! I wanted to be the most prepared diver with the latest tech. As part of that kit I purchased a dive knife. Not a modest 2.5 inch BCD pocket type knife… no sir not me. This was the full on 5″ inch titanium blade with the super duper ankle holster (although I haven’t tested it, I think it might glow when orcs are about).

Getting to the Point

So, what is the ‘point’ of the dive knife or ‘diver’s tool’ as some agencies have taken to referring to it?

  • “To protect myself against predators!” – uh… no. It might work on TV and movies but in real life environmental awareness, understanding & respect for the environment and maintaining your composure are far better ways to avoid a negative interaction with a predator.
  •  “I’m a spy.” – I’m going to have to give you that one. If you’re the likes of James Bond you may need one.
  • “I wanted to get a souvenir.” – big NO – please leave the reef in the condition you found it for the rest of us – don’t be THAT guy (or gal).
  • “I’m hunting abalone.”  – fair enough, there are some foods that you can harvest with a blade.
  • “To escape entanglement.” – Yes!

So, unless you’re a spy, entanglement is probably the most likely reason you will use a knife underwater unless you’re an avid abalone hunter. The only time I’ve ever had my dive knife out of it’s sheath during a dive was to cut a fishing line that had caught on my dive buddy’s wet suit. Even then it was a stretch – we were in Horsetooth Reservoir in Colorado and the guy that ‘caught’ my buddy was fishing for relatively small trout using maybe 8 lbs test line that we could have broken with our hands – a far cry from commercial fishing line or netting. I’m not complaining, I don’t want to find myself in entanglement situations simply to use a piece of gear.

Since beginning my diving career I have shifted from carrying the full on, battle ready version of the dive knife, which served me well for about 50 dives or so, to carrying a simple line cutter.

Why a line cutter?

  • It is specifically designed to cut line which is the only reason I carry it.
  • It is already attached to my BCD so I don’t have to put it on when I’m getting ready or carry it separately.
  • It’s smaller and lighter for traveling.
  • I don’t like to eat shellfish anyway – too slimy.
  • The blade is enclosed so it’s very difficult to cut myself or my hoses in error.
  • Oh… it was inexpensive.

As you can see from the photos, I still have my dive knife. In fact I’ve had a few over the years. I doubt I’ll ever carry the big one again but I can’t bear to get rid of it. When I gear up it’s the simple line cutter mounted on the shoulder strap of my BCD that I’ll be diving with.

Line cutter on shoulder strap.
Line cutter on shoulder strap.

Giving Up the Knife

So why did I stop diving with the knife?

  • Mostly for the reasons mentioned above. Ironically the large knife with the sheath and rubber straps was more of a catch hazard than the simple cutter.
  • Although I never had any trouble, traveling with a knife might garner you ‘special’ attention in the airport.
  • Finally, many dive sites will no longer allow you to carry a knife citing environmental impact concerns.

Every diver should be able to help themselves and their dive buddy to get free from stray line etc. Some form of cutting tool is an important part of your dive rig. I have found the cutter to be accepted by every site I’ve been to (or at least it’s never been commented on and I’ve never taken it off my BCD); and it’s light and small.

The surface interval’s over… get out there and dive!

SKuba Steve

© 2014 Stephen Krausse. All rights reserved.