Why I Don’t EDC a Knife Anymore

20160911_155718Two 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.

20160911_151343About 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.

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12 comments on “Why I Don’t EDC a Knife Anymore
  1. John says:

    Ha! Excellent…

  2. I had the exact opposite ecperience a few years ago. I realized that we’d been gentrified into believing that we didn’t need to carry a pocketknife. My Daddy carried a pocket knife, my GrandDaddy and all my Uncles. In fact, all the men I grew up admiring carried a pocket folder. I became aware of how often I had to go ask for scissors, a utility knife, etc. I slowly came to realize I did in fact want to carry a pocket knife. Fast forward a year and I witnessed a roll over accident in front of me on a 4-lane road. Of the 15 or so people on the scene I was the only man with a pocket knife. There were three children in car seats hanging upside down while fuel from the broken filler neck spilled in around them. I thank God for my knife that day. I have no doubt that had I not cut them free things could have turned horrible before the first responders arrived.

    • admin says:

      Scott, first off. Thank you for what you did at the scene of the accident. Most people, even if they had a knife, wouldn’t get involved.

      Personally, I had my doubts when I first did it. I had become so reliant on the knife, it really was a subconscious extension of me. There were times, when I would reach for my knife and it wasn’t there and I had to take extra steps to the drawer and get one. However, I was more perturbed with having things in my pocket. Even having keys in my pocket bother me, which is why I only carry a key fob. My house keys, when I am out and about, stay in my vehicle. I don’t carry a wallet and rarely my drivers license… the DL stays in the vehicle. I use a rubberband to keep my cash together, but not a money clip, because it bothers me. I don’t carry loose change, because it too bothers me.

      It really does come down to personal tastes and preferences. For some people, EDCing a knife is a big deal and feel naked without one. Other people, have gone their whole lives without, so really have no bar to compare against. Then their are those, like me, who were used to one way and are now doing different. For those of us, change can upset the status quo. Then again, I recall a time when there were no mobile phones and was perfectly okay with it, but now I would feel naked without one

      • Grindstone says:

        “However, I was more perturbed with having things in my pocket. Even having keys in my pocket bother me, which is why I only carry a key fob. My house keys, when I am out and about, stay in my vehicle. I don’t carry a wallet and rarely my drivers license… the DL stays in the vehicle. I use a rubberband to keep my cash together, but not a money clip, because it bothers me. I don’t carry loose change, because it too bothers me.”

        Now that makes a lot more sense for the reason behind this blog. That doesn’t necessarily mean that carrying a cutting edge isn’t a necessity. Just that you have personal discomforts.

    • Roscoe says:

      The author seems to assumes everyone is like him, his “outdoor” time perhaps spent in the yard of his house, or in the park. And as to anyone carrying a “$400”
      EDC? Or you nuts? Maybe you teach classes in ChiTown, where the 1st grade teacher makes 100k/a year. NOT IN THE REAL WORLD. I don’t mean to be insulting, or “dissin'”, in the current parlance, but do you or Kim K have any idea what it takes to grow a head of cabbage? Or even BUY one?

  3. Grindstone says:

    And that’s why I don’t buy into the knife-hype. My $50 LAPG folder is the most expensive knife I carry. Do I use it every day? No. Do I come across “legitimate” needs for it? Of course.
    Carrying a knife is not a “lifestyle” or a show of wealth for me, as some seem to make it out to be (which is fine, to each his own).
    In the spirit of self reliance, not needing to beg for a cutting edge falls under that list. Sure, when the chips are down you could attempt to improvise from nearly anything from scrap metal to broken rocks. But it’s much easier just to carry an inexpensive folder anyway.
    How many of those ultralight backpackers carry man-made firelighting methods? How many carry other things that could otherwise be fashioned in the woods with a knife and a bit of knowledge?
    Knives have utility, whether you look for it or not. Maybe not all the time, maybe not for everyone.

    • admin says:

      Grindstone, thank you for the comment. I suppose, in hindsight, I should have mentioned some of my thought process behind the idea.

      I genuinely was prepared to dismiss the idea of not carrying one, but I wanted to really see what my life without one would be like. I wanted to be as objective as possible with my decision. To do that, I had to fight through the bias of of having carried one for so many years.

      Like I wrote, I became hyper aware of how people went about their days without one. For people like you, and me at the time, I often found it bizarre how people would walk to the kitchen drawer and pull a knife to open a letter. If only they carried a knife with them, could they be more efficient in their daily doings. Then I thought, “Really? Does it even register on their radar how inefficient it is? Are they even aware, or care? Honestly, to them, ignorance truly is bliss. I was hyper aware, because I was in the mix of sorting it out, but they couldn’t care less… It was a non issue.

      In similar fashion, we can scale this model back even further, to better fit our profiles. I know many of us, outdoorsy types, EDC a knife. But out of those, how many EDC a firearm? Not most, I imagine. However, for those that do, they certainly can’t wrap their heads around how the rest of us don’t. I feel (this is purely opinion) it’s fairly important to attempt to be free of any confirmation bias in order to objective. Scott Priestly, above, gave an excellent example of why carry one. Interestingly, of those people who didn’t have a knife during the incident, how many do you feel went home and felt compelled to begin carrying one? I would imagine none.

      You and I, along with Scott, tend to be sheep dogs protecting the herd from wolves. But in the world of survival, am I any less prepared? What is the saying… It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, rather the size of the fight in the dog.

  4. I would say its mostly psychological in that I always have a knife on my person. Knowing that civilization was built on 3 things (cutting tools, cordage, fire) and that man made everything else he needed starting with these tools, I actually carry the same. The knife separates matter, mostly tape on boxes; the cordage ends up being an impromptu dog leash more times than not; and the lighter is there just in case. Nonetheless, I will take the somewhat inconvenience of carrying those items for that peace of mind even though if pressed, I could make all from scratch.

    Perhaps if I lived in the drier southwest where sharp rock was more readily available I would think differently. But here in the humid temperate forests of the east I feel more aligned with the old Nordic proverb that a “knifeless man is a lifeless man.”

    And yet another reason to carry is that it is way too easy to get caught up in all the conveniences of our civilized lives, the reminder being that should the “fire” ever stop coming through the copper wires, you will most likely be thrusted right back into the wilderness, which in actuality was always there.

    Always great articles from you Alan, glad to see you writing again. Your friend, Chris

  5. admin says:

    Hey, Chritian, how are you, my friend?

    I absolutely agree, it’s mostly psychological. After all these years, I’m sure you understand how my mind works. I’m much more interested in the mental acrobats one goes through in regards to their survival approach, rather than the skills and gear, which is so boring I can’t see straight, unless the gear and skills are based on rationality, common sense and reason.

    I want to know what drives the intangible not the tangible. In the end, “WE” are all puppets of our own ideologies. I just want to be able to understand both sides. I want my ideologies to be based on objectiveness not biases or fallacies.

    Truthfully, in all the time I went without an EDC knife, scissors were a much more useful tool to me. Though the knife would have worked, scissors were much more versatile and often better for me.

    In all honesty, me living in the southwest and having usable rocks to create discoidal edges really mean nothing. the context is more about the day to day activities, not bushcraft activities. I suppose a career hunter would carry a knife every day, but at the end of the day, once home, may take it off. This is no different than what I wrote about mechanics and carpenters. This is no different than a fisherman leaving his rods and reels at home when not on the water.

    In the survival and preparedness community, there is an overt level of paranoia which drives everyone, sometimes to the point of absurdity. I’m not saying carrying a knife is absurd. What I’m suggesting is for one to be more pragmatic in their approach, without the influence of paranoia.

    Will I ever carry a knife again? Hard to say. But if I end up working at home depot, for instance, I will rock the box cutter, but will quickly take it off when off work.

    I’m a big fan of balance

  6. Rany says:

    A wise man prepares…any questions?

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