Knives

Knives

A knife is the single most important survival tool for a scout to have. It enhances the outdoor experience and allows a scout to learn many vital lessons on their journey to adulthood.

There is also something very special about this tool and symbolizes a Scout's ability to Be Prepared in the Wilderness. Because of this, it is important to have a good knife and learn how to properly and safely use one.

"The Knife of a Thousand Uses"

Image: 1930s Remington Ad

Types of Knives

In Scouting, a scout should have a basic pocket knife. Other knives have there place, but may become more of a distraction than a useful tool.


Basic Types of Knives

  • Non-Locking Folding Knife (Swiss Army Style)

  • Lock-Blade Knife

  • Fixed Blade Bushcraft Knife

  • Fixed Blade Military Style Knife

  • Apocalypses Knife

  • Dagger

  • Chopper


Knives in Scouting

Per the Safe Guide to Scouting:

Knives A sharp pocketknife with a can opener on it is an invaluable backcountry tool. Keep it clean, sharp, and handy. The BSA believes choosing the right equipment for the job at hand is the best answer to the question of what specific knife should be used. We are aware that many councils or camps may have limits on the type or style of knife that should be used. The BSA neither encourages nor bans fixedblade knives nor do we set a limit on blade length. Since its inception, the BSA has relied heavily on an outdoor program to achieve its objectives. This program meets more of the purposes of Scouting than any other single feature. We believe we have a duty to instill in our members, youth and adult, the knowledge of how to use, handle, and store legally owned knives with the highest concern for safety and responsibility.

Remember—knives are not allowed on school premises, nor can they be taken aboard commercial aircraft.

Some knives are specifically designed for scouts while other may not be suitable for all or sometimes any scouting activities.


  • Swiss Army Style Excellent utility and classic knife for scouts

  • Locking Knife Excellent and Safer to use than basic folding knife

  • Fixed Blade Bushcraft Knife Outdoor use only - excellent tool for wilderness/outdoor use

  • Fixed Blade Hunting Style Knife Questionable Suitability - depends on knife, scout and intended use

  • Apocalypses Knife NOT Suitable for Scouting

  • Dagger NOT Suitable for Scouting

  • Chopper/Hacker NOT Suitable in Scouting


Our Recommendation

We recommend a small pocket knife with a non-serrated blade. This will allow a scouts to perform most tasks they will need a knife for.

General Use Recommendation


Wilderness Survival and Bushcraft Recommendation


Most other knife styles are excessive or in some cases inappropriate. Knives that are determined to be inappropriate due to design, use, or age/maturity of individual scout will be confiscated and/or banned on a case by case basis. If you have questions, please come and see our Wilderness Survival Team.

Non-Locking Folding Knife

A simple folding knife will satisfy 95% of what a scout may need a knife for. Traditional Boy Scout Folding knives have multiple uses and are hard to beat. We discuss these in greater detail in our Classic Folding Knives and Scout Folding Knives pages.

Advantages:

  • Traditional knife used by Scouts

  • Great utility

  • Many options

  • Relatively inexpensive

  • Non threatening


Disadvantages:

  • Non-locking blade can collapse on fingers

  • Not as durable as locking knives


Example:

Victorinox Pioneer Alox

Image: swissarmy.com

Lock-Blade Knife

A locking-blade is much safer for whittling and carving wood and therefor preferred for these tasks over a traditional folding knife. There are also MANY quality options to choose from as popularity of locking-blade knives has surpassed other knives.

We discuss these in our Locking Blade Knives Page.

Advantages:

  • Great utility

  • Safer than non-locking knife for whittling and carving

  • Thicker and more durable blade than most traditional folders

  • Many options

  • Easier to find a good quality lock blade than non-locking knife

  • Relatively Non threatening


Disadvantages:

  • May be illegal in some cities and countries

  • Some adults fear locking blade knives

  • Not good for battoning like a fixed blade knife


Examples:

Gerber Paraframe

Image: gerbergear.com

Fixed Blade Bushcraft Knife

A fixed blade knife is much stronger than a folding knife and allows you to use your knife to make notches, split wood and even cut down small trees with a technique known as battoning.

It is hard to beat the utility of a good fixed blade knife for bushcrafting. In fact, in a wilderness scenario, a Fixed Blade Knife is the MOST important tool you should have in your possession. It is vital that Scouts understand how to safely use this type of tool.

The problem with fixed blade knives is that many adults don't understand how to use them properly and are scared of them. Some scouts will also view them as forbidden, which can lead to problems.

With proper training and supervision, Scouts should learn how to use these basic outdoors tools before they become adults. That said, Fixed Blade Knives are banned in many Scout Camps and by many Troops.

We discuss these in our Bushcraft Knives Page.

Note: if you use a Fixed blade knife, you MUST have an adequate sheath. Flimsy ones can be easily cut with a sharp knife and cause severe injury.

Advantages:

  • Great utility

  • Allows scouts to perform advanced bushcrafting techniques

  • Fixed Blade construction allows for repeated abuse and advanced woodcrafting knife skills

  • Great for wilderness survival training


Disadvantages:

  • A fixed blade knife isn't recommended for regular troop meetings

  • Requires a certain level of maturity to own and use

  • Requires sheath - can't just put in pocket

  • Most scout camps won't let you pack a fixed blade knife

  • Some adults don't understand why scouts would have one

  • Having knife hanging from belt draws unwanted attention


Examples:

Moraknive Companion HD

Image: morakniv.se

Sheath Knife - aka Fixed Blade Military, Survival and Hunting Style Knives

These can make for excellent wilderness survival tools. These type of knives often incorporate a point designed for stabbing. This particular feature is generally not needed in scouting. Because of their design and really bad movies depicting them as weapons, the presence of these knives will upset certain parents unaccustomed to Scout Camping and Wilderness Survival. This is important to keep in mind and scouts should avoid flashing giant Bowie Knives at meetings or outings. Giant Bowie Knives are also impractical.

Note: if you use a Fixed blade knife, you MUST have an adequate sheath. Flimsy ones can be easily cut with a sharp knife and cause severe injury.

Note: Fixed Blade Knives are banned in many Scout Camps and by many Troops.

These knives should not be brought to or worn during regular Scout meetings.

We discuss these in our Sheath Knives Page.

Advantages:

  • Great utility

  • Longer blades allow for processing of thicker wood

  • Some are very durable

  • They do look cool


Disadvantages:

  • Use of giant knives is discouraged in scouting

  • May upset certain parents

  • Some of these are designed for visual appeal and may not be very durable

  • Requires a LOT of maturity to own

  • Generally banned at camp


Examples:

  • Cold Steel SRK (Survival Rescue Knife)

    • Designed for Navy Seals

    • Depending on generation - made with good-excellent steel

    • More knife than needed for scouting

    • Affordable price

  • K-Bar Style Knives

  • Bowie Knives

  • Most "Survival" Knives

  • Most "Hunting" Knives

BSA Sheath Knife Ad

Source: 1939 E. C. Simmons Keen Kutter Cutlery and Tools Catalog

Multi-Tools

Multi-tools have been a part of Scouting since the start of Scouting. The first Official Scout Knife came with several tools, allowing Scouts to do so many tasks with this single tool. Over the year, multi-tools have become ever more popular and there are many quality options to choose from.

We discuss these in our Multi-Tools Page.

Advantages:

  • Great utility

  • Allows you to performs many tasks not appropriate for just a knife


Disadvantages:

  • Expensive

  • Complicated - greater potential for failure

  • Not always comfortable to hold/use


Examples:

Leatherman Rebar

Image: leatherman.com

Apocalypse Knife

Designed to look cool and modeled after weapons seen in our favorite B-Rated Zombie Apocalypses movies. Some of these do look pretty neat, but with limited utility and poor quality to the point they can be dangerous, these are NOT suitable for Scouting use.

Advantages:

  • Few

  • Look cool


Disadvantages:

  • Generally low quality

  • Style often hinders function

  • Design and quality can make them dangerous to use

  • Creates the wrong image in Scouting

Z Hunter ZB-020

Image: amazon.com

Dagger or Dirk

These ARE designed to look like or be used as weapons. The spine is ground down and narrowed or even sharpened to create a double edge made for stabbing.

These can be an acceptable option for knife hunting animals such as wild boar. But since Hunting is on the Prohibited list of activities for Scouts BSA, this would not be a reason to have this type of knife on a Scouting event.

When used for bushcrafting, the lack of a thick spine prevents effective and safe use of knife for battoning, striking ferrorods, or applying pressure on the back of the blade with your hand or thumb. This drastically limits utility of this knife in the Wilderness.

The combination of limited utility, safety concerns and likelihood someone will freak out if you bring it to a scout event places this design on the naughty list.

If you bring one of these to a scouting activity, we will confiscate it.

Advantages:

  • Few

  • Good for Knife Hunting

  • Cosplay?


Disadvantages:

  • Looks like a weapon

  • Is a weapon

  • Thin or sharpened spine weakens knife

  • Limited bushcrafting utility - pocket knife is likely better

  • NOT suitable of for Scout Use

  • These will be confiscated if seen at a scouting event


Examples:

Cold Steel Tai Pan

Image: coldsteel.com

Chopping or Hacking Knife

Several blade styles are designed for chopping and hacking. This has it's utility but this style of knife is generally TOO Dangerous for Scout Use. With improper technique, these can easily chop off a finger or hand or cause severe injury to yourself or someone else. Talk to our troop medics; they have seen and treated many machete injuries in the jungle.

Use of these types of tools requires adult supervision. Although our Wilderness Survival Team may teach the safe use of these types of tools, it is best to leave yours at home.

Advantages:

  • Great for chopping up wood

  • Can be used for bushwacking

  • Great for building pioneering structures

  • Invaluable jungle tool

  • Can be used to cut snow/ice blocks


Disadvantages:

  • Very dangerous!

  • Amputations and severe injuries are very possible

  • NOT suitable of for Scout Use

  • Limited utility - difficult to use for fine knife tasks


Examples:

  • Machete

  • Gurkha knife

  • Hatchets

Cold Steel Kukri Machete

Image: coldsteel.com

Questions About Knives

We are very interested in teaching scouts how to safely use outdoor tools, including knives and other sharp edges tools. We also need to do so safely with a mixed group of youth and adults. Help us help our scouts learn life skills safely.

If you have questions about knives, come talk to our Wilderness Survival Team. We have used knives professionally and can give you the real scoop on knives.