Two days ago, I made a pretty bold statement—A knife is likely the least important tool for a wilderness survival kit. That statement wasn’t exactly made in haste. It’s something that had been brewing inside of me for quite some time.
For several years, I, too, carried a knife—always a folder and sometimes a fixed blade too. At the same time, however, I was fairly observant of my daily doings, along with those of others who carried knives. I began realizing many people, myself included, would hardly use a knife at all, save for the occasional need to cut up food, or a piece of cord.
“How odd,” I thought, “that person has a four hundred dollar knife and the entire time we’ve been out here, several days mind you, the only thing he’s done is open a package of salami, a bag of nuts, and a cut a hank of rope. That makes about as much sense as driving a tank to the convenience store to buy a bag of chips.”
Too a lot of people, those reasons are justification enough. They are the ever prepared, ready to save the day by opening a bag of chips for a damsel in distress. Now, now! Don’t get your feathers ruffled. I do realize some of you have real legitimate reasons and I do respect them[but I digress].
I was becoming more intrigued, as I read through musings of Ultralight Backpackers. Really? In all their time on the PCT or AT, did many really not find the need to carry more than a simple single edge razor blade, and in many instances nothing at all? I decided to finally see if what I was observing was all bull, or had I, for all these years, been filled with bull.
About a year and a half ago, actually a little longer, I opened up the cigar box, where I keep all of my EDC, and set my knife in it for the last time. I admit, at first, it felt a bit strange, not having my Spyderco riding in my pocket, but I soon got used to it. For about a week, I found various times I felt I needed my knife, but I quickly realized they were no more than excuses I created to carry my knife.
There were times I reached for it when I wanted a sharper knife than what the restaurant provided. There were times I wanted to open my mail. Oh, I can’t forget the time I wanted to cut some loose threads on my jeans, never mind there were some sharp scissors in front of me.
Slowly, my brain began to adapt to the idea of not carrying a knife. Before you knew it, I didn’t miss my knife, at all, or really found myself in a situation where I sure wish I had it. Yeah, sure, I still had a knife when I taught classes, but it’s only because we did knife specific tasks—carving trap triggers, teaching how to sharpen knives, etc., but that is no different than say a mechanic or carpenter having his or her tools when he or she is doing a job. Outside of their job, you certainly don’t see them walking around with a crescent wrench in their pocket, or carpenters with a hammer in theirs.
Over the next year and a half, I became hyper aware of people in my surroundings, up to and including friends, family and strangers. You know, the general populace. How many of them actually seemed like they had any less of a complete day for not carrying a knife? Though I can’t say for sure, the fact they go through life not carrying one and I don’t hear them bitch about it is a pretty good indicator how little important it is for them to EDC one. But what about me? I make part of my living in the outdoors. Truth be told, I’ve spent more time in the outdoors this past year and a half than I have in the last couple of years combined. Not even fishing and teaching, or on any other occasion I can recall, not even camping, have I felt the need to EDC a knife, let alone any less prepared because I wasn’t carrying one in my pocket. It simply just didn’t happen. When I was fishing, I had a knife in my fishing kit. When I was cooking, I had a knife in the camp kitchen, etc.
I guess one of the upsides to not EDCing a knife anymore is my pants are saved. No more are there wear and tear on the pockets from the knife clips, or the bulging points of a knife who set itself wrong at the bottom of my pocket. Plus, I admit, the silhouette of a suit looks much nicer without the printing of a knife, keys, or phone pressing against the fabric.