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.