Everyone loves knives. Well mainly blokes. Divers definitely love knives though, so much so that a dive knife is often an early kit purchase. It’s not that often you get a legitimate reason to own a weapon and an excuse to wear it concealed about your person (that last bit isn’t true).
But amongst the shiny array of lethal weaponry available at your local dive store what is the best option for a budding frogman? And what does your knife purchasing decision say about you?
First off let’s talk about the awkward area of over-compensation. This is a predominantly male trait where an imagined (or possibly real) inadequacy in a certain area leads to compensatory behaviours like owning a sports car, becoming a Course Director or buying a very large knife.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that everyone who owns a large dive knife is overcompensating some may just be misguided, you may think that having a large serrated bread saw strapped to your leg looks cool but you are wrong and you also have an impractical entanglement hazard attached to your body. The very thing you’ve purchased to deal with possible entanglement is the cause of it. Can you even begin to imagine the irony! Well I can: Imagine that in an attempt to avoid both entanglement and accusations of overcompensating you purchase the smallest cheapest knife you can afford. The result is that you end up looking like you’re overcompensating anyway with your ‘smug, I can take care of myself’ attitude and then you end up becoming entangled underwater and realise that the dive knife is so small you cannot operate it with gloves and it’s too blunt to deal with the problem anyway. Now THAT’S ironic!
The best sort of dive knives aren’t massive and have a sheath that can be mounted in a variety of locations. The sheath should be operable with one hand and good enough that the knife won’t fall out and embed itself either in your drysuit or femoral artery (both bad, one for financial and the other for fatal reasons).
Other no-no’s include naming your knife. Calling it ‘Pig Sticker’ and smiling distantly whilst you recall dreams about snails crawling along the edge of the blade probably won’t endear you to other divers on the liveaboard.
Where should you mount your new weapon? If the leg is out then where? As a general rule you should be able to reach a cutting tool with either hand. The BCD mounting option is a good idea or on the wrist or in a pocket. Somewhere that it’s easily accessible without creating an entanglement risk in itself.
So besides a knife of goldilocks style perfection, neither too big nor too small, what material should the knife be made of? Most traditional blades are made of either stainless steel or titanium. There are various grades of stainless. Cheap stainless will rust up easily and then when you need to use the knife it either won’t come out of the sheath or it will be so corroded it might as well be made of chocolate. Get a decent quality one. Alternatively titanium is super light and won’t ever corrode.
The other decision is what style? Should you buy a knife or a tool of some description. Now, no-one can guarantee that you won’t need to plunge the knife into the head of an attacking shark or that you won’t be involved in an underwater battle but it’s much more likely that you will need the knife as a tool of sorts or to cut line. Besides if you do need to cut the air hose of a henchman then a line cutter will probably do a better job. Some people elect to carry shears or a divers tool. There’s a fantastic little product called the eezycut that can be mounted in all sorts of ways and is razor sharp to boot.
The best option is to have a small to medium sized knife and then something like a line cutter as a backup. I have a knife in my drysuit pocket and an eezycut mounted on the bungee of my liquivision dive computer. The main thing that can probably be guaranteed is that as long as you have a knife you will never need it. Therefore always make sure you have a dive knife….