Best PFD Knife For Kayaking (Our Top Picks!)

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If you’re looking for the best PFD knife for kayaking, there are a few things that you might want to consider. For example, will you be using it for whitewater kayaking or are you looking for a knife that can be used for multiple tasks?

We have put together some information that you might find helpful when choosing your knife, as well as some of our favorite PFD knives on the market.

Top Picks

(these links take you to REI and Amazon)

5 Best Knives For Kayaking

1: NRS Pilot Knife (best overall)

NRS Pilot Knife
  • Length: 7.4 inches
  • Blade Length: 3 inches
  • Type: utility
  • Material: stainless steel
  • Weight: 5.5 ounces

The NRS Pilot Knife can be a great utility knife to have with you on paddling trips because it is durable and versatile. It features a 420 HC stainless steel blade with both smooth and serrated edges, so that you can easily cut a range of materials. It also features a rope cutting hook.

The blade benefits from a blunt tip and is sharpened only on one edge for added safety. The handle is made from glass reinforced polypropylene and features a bottle opener and a glass breaking tip for emergencies.

The fiberglass reinforced nylon sheath helps to protect the blade and prevent injury, locking into place. It can be quickly released by pushing down on both sides of the handle at the release point. The sheath also has a clip that can be attached to your PFD.

Features

  • Rope cutting hook
  • Blunt tip
  • Bottle opener
  • Smooth and serrated edges

2: Columbia River Knife & Tool Bear Claw (best for rivers)

Columbia River Knife & Tool Bear Claw
  • Length: 5.75 inches
  • Blade Length: 2.38 inch
  • Type: rescue
  • Material: AUS 4 stainless steel
  • Weight: 3.4 ounces

This Columbia River Knife & Tool Bear Claw is a curved rescue knife with a Triple Point serrated blade that can be ideal for cutting webbing, rope and nets. The spine of the blade has friction grooves for added safety and for improved blade control.

This lightweight knife features a molded glass reinforced nylon handle that is designed to give you a more controlled grip in river rescue situations. The finger hole in the center of the knife can also give you more control for precision cutting.

There are as many as seven lanyard holes and belt slots on the sheath for attaching to your PFD or other pieces of clothing.

Features

  • Lightweight
  • Curved blade
  • Finger hole for improved control
  • Serrated blade

3: Gerber CrossRiver Saltwater Fixed Blade Knife (best for saltwater)

Gerber CrossRiver Saltwater Fixed Blade Knife
  • Length: 7.5 inches
  • Blade Length: 3 inches
  • Type: utility
  • Material: stainless steel
  • Weight: 3.7 ounces

The Gerber CrossRiver Saltwater knife can be a great choice if you frequently paddle in saltwater conditions as the stainless steel blade has a SALT Rx coating for added corrosion resistance. This utility knife is versatile and ideal for kayak fishing trips and rescue situations.

The lightweight knife features a Hydrotread Grip handle for improved grip even when wet. The handle and sheath locking system are also designed to be optimized for use in either hand so can be easy to use whether you’re right or left handed.

The knife benefits from having both plain edge and flat top serrations for cutting various materials. It also features a blunt tip for added safety and a PFD clip.

Features

  • Corrosion resistant blade
  • Right and left handed operation
  • Good for saltwater kayak fishing
  • Smooth and serrated edges

4: NRS Neko Blunt Knife

NRS Neko Blunt Knife
  • Length: 5.75 inches
  • Blade Length: 2.25 inches
  • Type: utility
  • Material: stainless steel
  • Weight: 3.5 ounces

The NRS Neko Blunt Knife is a low profile utility knife with a 2 ¼ inch blade. The stainless steel blade has both smooth and serrated edges, offering versatility and allowing you to cut different materials easily.

The knife comes with a fiberglass reinforced nylon sheath that features a clip for attaching to your PFD. The sheath has a friction-release feature which is designed to be used with one hand only to enable a quick and easy release while it’s clipped to your PFD. Using two hands (holding both the handle and the sheath) can cause injury.

This lightweight knife also features a bottle opener in the handle as well as a valve wrench for oxygen tanks.

Features

  • Low profile
  • Lightweight
  • One handed friction release sheath feature
  • Valve wrench
  • Bottle opener

5: Gear Aid Akua Blunt Tip Paddle Knife (best budget PFD knife)

Gear Aid Akua Blunt Tip Paddle Knife
  • Length: 8 inches
  • Blade Length: 3 inches
  • Type: utility
  • Material: stainless steel
  • Weight: 5.3 ounces

This Gear Aid Akua Blunt Tip Paddle Knife can be a good option if you’re looking for a versatile freshwater paddling knife on a budget.

It features a 3 inch titanium coated stainless steel blade that has both straight and serrated edges for cutting rope or food. It also has a line cutter for cutting fishing line.

The blunt blade tip can be useful for safety and can be ideal for taking with you on an inflatable kayak. The blunt tip can also be used as a screwdriver.

The acetal molded sheath can be attached to your PFD lash tab and features a removable stainless steel belt clip. The handle also benefits from having a built-in bottle opener and the blunt end can be used as a glass breaker.

Features

  • Freshwater PFD knife
  • Smooth and serrated edges
  • Bottle opener
  • Line cutter

Why Use A Life Jacket Knife When Kayaking Or Rafting?

Rescue

Kayaking and rafting can throw up some dangers, especially if you’re paddling where there’s an increased risk of capsizing, such as the ocean or a whitewater river.

There are a number of things that can cause you to become trapped, such as getting tangled with your paddle leash or even a rescue rope. Being able to quickly release your knife from your PFD can mean you’re able to free yourself.

Having the knife attached to your PFD means it can be much easier to access and reach in an emergency compared to keeping it stored in your gear bag or somewhere on deck.

Some PFD knives may also have additional features, such as a glass breaker, which can be used to escape from a car or other vessel.

Kayak Fishing

A knife can be a useful tool when you’re kayak fishing and having one attached to your PFD can be even more handy since you can keep it within easy reach.

Knives can be great for cutting fishing line and carrying out other everyday fishing tasks. But even when you’re kayak fishing, your PFD knife can still be useful for rescues that can sometimes be caused by your fishing gear.

General Use

Some PFD knives can be used for a variety of things and can come in handy, for example, when kayak camping. Sometimes A PFD knife will have added features, such as a bottle opener or smooth edge that can be ideal for cutting or spreading food.

You may also find they come in handy if you need to fix something, for example, tighten a screw.

Types Of PFD Knife

Rescue

A rescue knife will generally offer less in the way of features compared to a utility knife. It is usually designed with safety and rescue in mind, so will tend to offer efficient cutting with features that are designed to enhance blade control or grip.

Utility

A utility knife will tend to have more features than a rescue knife so that it can be used in a variety of situations, such as opening a bottle at your evening camping spot. This type of knife can still be used in a rescue situation but can also be useful for camping, hiking or fishing.

What Features Should I Look Out For?

PFD Attachment Point

One of the main features of a PFD knife is that you can attach it securely to your PFD lash tab. This means that when you’re wearing your PFD you can easily access the knife when required, as it can be attached to the front of your life jacket.

Video: How To Attach A Knife To Your PFD

Usually, the sheath is designed to remain fixed to the life jacket when you release the knife.

Blunt Tip

A lot of PFD knives are designed with a blade with a blunt tip. This is for safety since you will be wearing the knife on your person. The blunt tip means it should pierce anything while the blade is protected in its sheath.

This can also be a useful feature if you paddle on an inflatable kayak or raft, as the blunt tip can be less likely to puncture your boat than a sharp pointed tip.

Corrosion Resistance

If you plan to paddle or kayak fish in saltwater, a PFD knife with a corrosion resistant blade can be beneficial. This is because saltwater conditions can affect the quality of your knife and can mean it loses its ability to cut efficiently, which could be a safety issue in an emergency.

Corrosion resistant blades are generally designed to handle harsher conditions so it can be worth opting for a dedicated saltwater knife if you frequently paddle in the ocean, for example.

Easy Release Sheath

One benefit of carrying a knife on your PFD is that it’s easy to reach but you may also want to have a knife with an easy-to-release sheath. Many PFD knives are designed to lock into their sheaths, so that they stay put when they’re not in use.

However, you need to be able to release the knife quickly in an emergency, so a quick release sheath feature can be useful. Many sheaths are designed to be released with one hand for easier operation.

Other Features

While some knives are designed simply as a rescue tool, others are designed to offer more versatility. Other features can include a bottle opener, oxygen valve wrench, glass breaker and screwdriver.

Whether you need these additional features will usually depend on the type of paddling you do and whether you want your knife to be more than just a rescue tool.

River Kayaking Knife Safety

It can be important to remember that knives can cause injuries and can be dangerous if not used or stored correctly and securely. Many PFD knives will often be designed to fit securely to the lash tab on your PFD. This is the square holder section that you’ll find on a lot of life jackets, usually on the chest or shoulder area.

PFD knife sheaths are generally designed to be fixed to this lash tab so that when you pull the knife out in an emergency the sheath remains attached to your life vest. It can be important to make sure that your knife is securely in the sheath while not in use, as the sheath is to protect you from injury as well as to protect the blade of your knife from damage.

When you’re removing your knife, you may want to check the manufacturer’s guidance on how to release it from the sheath, as this can sometimes cause injury to your hand if it’s not done correctly.

Another thing you may want to think about is the position of the knife on your PFD. Some knives might be designed to be fixed vertically, while others may be better attached horizontally. This will likely depend on your particular knife, your PFD and your activity.

Be careful that the position of your knife is not going to inadvertently cause harm to your chin if you’re jolted in rapids or waves.

You can remove the sheath from your PFD if you want to fix it to another life vest.

Video: How To Remove A Knife Sheath From Your PFD

In Conclusion

We think the best PFD knife for kayaking is the NRS Pilot Knife because it is a versatile knife that can be great both in a rescue and for using at your campsite. It also features a quick release sheath and has smooth and serrated edges.

A good runner up is the Gerber CrossRiver Knife because of its added saltwater durability. This corrosion resistant knife features a blunt tip and can be ideal for kayak fishing in the ocean. 

Remember to think about the type of kayaking or rafting that you plan to do, as this can give you a better idea of the type of knife that might be useful. If you’re going kayak camping, a more versatile utility knife can be better. On the other hand, if you’re whitewater kayaking or rafting, you may find a rescue knife is more suitable.

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