Not Carrying a Knife for Wilderness Survival

On a recent walkabout, one of the students asked where my knife was. I paused the walk, turned towards the group and said, “I don’t have one”

“You mean you forgot it?” the student asked

“No, I mean I don’t carry one.” I replied, while I noticed his riding on his hip. As I looked about, I noticed others had their knives on them as well, not all but some.

“Not even when you’re in the outdoors?” another asked

I guess I must not be following the mold of what an outdoors person is supposed to have or not have when hiking along.

“Actually, no. Outside of teaching classes which involve the use of a knife, like carving, cutting and sharpening, I don’t carry a knife at all.” I responded. “I really have no use for one on walkabouts of this nature. We’re just out looking at plants and exploring the area. When I hike on my own, I’m not going out with the purpose of cutting things or whittling sticks.”

“What if you get into an emergency?” The student who first noticed I didn’t have one asked.

“Therein is the difference in philosophy, between the survival community and me.” I said. “My idea of survival does not turn the situation into a wood whittling opportunity. If I truly have an emergency, I will press the button on my tracker and notify the authorities I need help. I then settle in and wait for help to get to me. I’ll use my lighter to start a fire and do my best to keep warm. Hopefully I’m not injured to the point I can’t.”

I think the idea started to resonate with a couple of people, as I saw some heads nodding.

“Survival situations are already bad enough. There’s no reason to continue sitting there further endangering your life by prolonging the situation. Knives are useful tools for wilderness living and bushcraft. In all honesty, a hiker will never likely need one and backpacker will seldom use one, other than maybe open packages of food. In fact, many ultralighters cross the PCT and AT without a knife. I know some folks in the survival community will disagree, but that’s okay. They and I look at wilderness survival situations through a different set of goggles. If they want to sit and play mountain man that’s okay. I rather be home by five eating pizza and drinking beer.”

They all chuckled, but I knew it had connected with some of them.

“What about just on a  self-defense level?” one asked.

I nodded, turned and walked and said, “a knife is not the only way to defend oneself.” I left it at that and started pointing out some of the flora.


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8 comments on “Not Carrying a Knife for Wilderness Survival
  1. Ben Leucking says:

    If you, or someone in your group, had a broken bone, how would you propose to make a splint without a knife? Just curious…

    • Stephen says:

      Find a tree branch, break it to length. Take off your shirt. Rip your shirt into strips. Use strips to bind broken sticks to broken limb. Now you have a splint with no knife used.

    • admin says:

      Ben, Stephen is absolutely correct. It’s not complicated.

      I’m a certified Wilderness First Aid instructor and we teach students how to improvise all the time.

      The survival community has created a culture of people who follow its doctrine. Part of its doctrine is must have a knife to survive. As such, the community dismisses anything that does not follow its doctrine. It is very much cult like behavior. And when you’re on the outside looking in, one is left scratching it’s head at some of the ideologies. Just look at some of the doctrine from other groups or religions or whatever you’re not involved in whose beliefs are bizarre to you. However, to those in those groups they are gospel and anything to the contrary is heresy.

    • Wilderness says:

      He will use his teeth to cut a piece of branch.

  2. Nikki says:

    Two essential things to survive out there: a sharp knife and a lighter. That’s always true!

    • admin says:

      That’s actually not true at all, Nikki. In fact it is a logical fallacy.

      Survival situations can be just as varied as the foods you eat. I’ve spent many a night under the stars without so much as a campfire perfectly warm in my sleeping bag. The fact of the matter is, I don’t really like campfires. The idea of them sounds fun, but I don’t like the work involved with them. When i backpack I don’t carry a knife. There’s no need for it. I have no intention to live off the land if I am in a survival situation. I will use my plb to get a call out to help and wait for their arrival

  3. Shanel Perez says:

    I personally believe that a knife should be respected and the best way to do this is to only think of it as a tool, even if you have to fight with it, god forbid. I’ve never used it as a weapon and even I don’t ever plan on it. I believe everybody should carry a knife, just make sure they know how to use it before they go out into the world with one.

  4. Survival knives are very essential weapon for outdoor trip. It needs for our every work. So we need to quality survival knife. Thanks for sharing this amazing survival knife tips.

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