Have you wondered why so many people have their own version of the best kayak knife? Wouldn’t it be great if choosing a knife would be as easy as ordering a Coke?
We’ve all been there which is why we decided to help our readers have a better understanding of what kayak knives should do under different scenarios.
Once you know what you need, sifting through the multitude of options becomes infinitely easier.
So let’s fire away with reviews of some of the best knives for kayaking survival and rescue scenarios. Then we’ll show you an easy-to-follow guide to make sure you always have your priorities straight.
Best Kayak Knives 2021
1. NRS Pilot Knife – Flat tip with Smooth and sharp edges
The NRS Pilot Knife is an interesting little tool. We say little because both the blade and the handle are short. It may not be the go-to choice for taller individuals but it is still quite popular among the rest.
Its compact design makes it a breeze to pack. It also comes with its own sheath so it’s easy to strap it to your PFD and have it close by at all times.
The dual-edge design makes the NRS Pilot Knife quite versatile. It has both a smooth edge and a serrated edge which means you’ll be able to cut just about anything.
One way to use your kayak knife is to stab aquatic creatures. This lets you fish, hunt, gut, and clean a proper meal. Surprisingly enough, the NRS Pilot has a slightly flat tip.
So what’s going on? Well, the flat tip serves two purposes. First, it acts as a safety measure against accidentally puncturing your PFD or inflatable kayak. Even better, it doubles as a flat-head screwdriver so you can use it for even more repairs.
But there’s more.
The unique blade and handle designs form a sweet little bottle opener. Now you’re able to use this knife for more than just emergency situations. It also means you won’t have to ruin the blade opening bottles.
2. Gerber River Shorty Knife – Great thumb grip
As you’ll soon learn, any knife you’ll want to use in water needs a solid anti-corrosion rating. It doesn’t matter if you’re in saltwater or freshwater.
The Gerber River Shorty gives you just that with its 420HC steel blade. It also comes with its own custom PFD compatible sheath, so it can be protected at all times.
The handle is very light as it’s made of a combination of nylon and glass. This should allow young kayakers to handle the blade just as well as an experienced adult.
Believe it or not, the blade gets better. Remember how we mentioned the importance of a flat tip? The same design is found in the Gerber River Shorty so you won’t have to pack an extra screwdriver for your trip.
Nevertheless, there is a minor blade design flaw. The whole main edge and the spine are serrated, though the false edge is relatively smooth.
It could’ve been better with a more smooth edge. Still, due to the highly corrosion-resistant steel, it beats the NRS Pilot in one way. The River Shorty works well in both freshwater and saltwater.
3. Gear Aid Akua Rescue Knife – Titanium coating and Line cutter
Although kayaking knives are designed to work under various water applications, not all of them are rescue knives. The Gear Aid Akua has some additional features that give it a lot of versatility whether you’re rafting, kayaking, or sailing.
First of all, it is equipped with a line cutter. Secondly, the serrated edge features a quick rip design that shreds any wire or rope that you need out of the way.
Naturally, the tip of the blade is also flat like most on this list. We find that in the case of rescue knives, a pointed blade isn’t as beneficial as an on-demand flathead screwdriver alternative.
The blade is made of 420 steel with a solid TI coating. Sounds good? – If you want good long-term protection against corrosion, well, it should.
The knife is surprisingly light at just over 3 ounces. In addition to that, it also comes with a bottle opener at the base of the handle. Honestly, it’s not needed for rescue situations but it’s still cool to have.
While on the subject of the handle, this one is larger than the blade. Compared to other models on this list, it offers a firm grip with better finger support. It also makes it easier to use by kayakers with large hands (people over 6ft tall).
Surprisingly enough, this knife also comes with a very complex sheath. And just think. It’s similarly priced, if not cheaper than some very inferior knives in terms of rescue operational potential.
The sheath has a quick release feature. It also comes with a built-in clip that can go over pockets or seams. It also features a hole at the top of the handle so you can hang it on a cord.
4. Gerber StrongArm – Ceramic coating with Modular sheath
Should all kayak knives come with flexible blades? We think it’s a matter of personal preference. Obviously, a fixed blade will have better resistance to pressure on both sides which is why the Gerber StrongArm is one of the best.
The 420HC steel blade has a ceramic coating applied for extra resistance in survival applications. The knife is quite versatile. As it has a classically pointed tip it can be used for more than just kayaking.
The blade is sharpened on the inferior side. That said, the blade features both a smooth edge and a serrated edge on the same side. The teeth are located near the handle which gives you better leverage and control when cutting ropes.
The handle is rubberized and has very dense texturing. Needless to say, the grip is very good under these circumstances. At the base, there is a striking pommel that can easily shatter debris, shells, or end a fish’s suffering quickly.
So how do you protect yourself from the pointed tip? The trick is to make good use of the MOLLE sheath. Since you can place it both horizontally and vertically on the vest, belt, or on to a leg strap, it’s up to you to make a good judgment call.
Since the sheath is designed for high-stress situations, the knife won’t slide out no matter how you hold it. This means there’s very little chance of accidental punctures unless you simply can’t handle a knife.
5. Gerber Bear Grylls Ultimate Knife – Ergonomic grip with Firestarter and sharpener included
Without going too much into Bear Grylls’s style of survival shows, we can’t help but notice that this knife has a pretty well-rounded design. Although it’s more of a survival tool than a must-have kayaking knife per se.
One of the first things we noticed and enjoyed was the inclusion of a fire starter in the sheath. It sure beats rubbing wood to start a fire and get warm after tripping over your kayak.
And just think, you also get a whistle attached to the bottom of the handle so you can make your way back to your party if you got separated.
The drop point blade has a serrated edge which should perform well when cutting rope or even carving some food. Although this design may not be the best for kayaking knives, we have to appreciate the HC stainless steel used for the blade.
It may not have any special coating but it’s still good enough for most freshwater applications.
Of course, you’ll need a good handle since you’re dealing with a pointed tip. That’s where the ergonomic handle fits in. Not only do you have great finger placement but you also get a textured rubber grip to avoid any slips and accidental punctures in your raft or your PFD.
The addition of a pommel is quite nice as it gives you something to bash with when needed. However, it’s not as great as the one on some other knives.
The pommel is not connected to the blade but instead just to the plastic at the bottom of the handle. Bang it too much and it might pop out.
6. Promate Scuba BC Knife – Single-button sheath lock with Line cutter
If there’s one type of knife that will always do justice to any kayaker, it’s a diving knife. Whenever you can find that extra bit of anti-corrosion protection, it’s worth trying out.
A word of caution – Even if you don’t get your knife wet all the time while kayaking, it’s still a good idea to invest in something that doesn’t rust after just a few weeks.
The blade features a quick rip serrated edge on one side and a smooth edge on the other side. Even better, there’s also a line cutter on the side with a smooth edge so you’re equipped for just about any situation.
The sheath is nothing special. It comes in four different colors although the handle of the knife remains black regardless of which color sheath you pick. The cool thing is that the sheath has a single button lock and release system.
The handle has some ergonomic features but it is missing any distinctive grip texturing.
7. NRS Captain Kayak Rescue Knife – Folding blade and Ergonomic handle
At first glance, this looks like a really mean kayaking knife, to say the least. But there’s one small catch. That rope-cutting hook at the end, it’s not as great in reality as it is on paper.
The serrated edge still goes faster through rope than that hook any time. Still, you can make it a line cutter, although we would prefer the traditional small opening at the bottom of the blade.
So the hook is not that impressive except visually. Nevertheless, the flat tip means that you’ll be able to work some screws in case of an emergency. Even better, you can do this without damaging your blade.
The bottle opener is a nice touch even though we’re sure the hook would be able to remove some caps just fine. Still, the bottle opener is built into the handle so it is quite durable.
The 3” blade is made of 420 HC stainless steel, which is what you want for knives that come in contact with water often. The one downside is that for the price it would’ve been cool to see an extra coating.
The handle is slim but has an ergonomic design and should feel just as smooth whether you’re a lefty or a righty.
Kayak Knives - Buyer's Guide 2021
Before you buy a knife for kayaking, consider this – As handy as these tools are, they’re also very dangerous, especially if you’re in an inflatable kayak.
Choose wisely according to your level of experience or the other gear you’re using. Sometimes a flat-tipped blade is better even if you can’t drive the knife through a critter or a piece of wood.
Sharpness is not Overrated
You know that a dull chef’s knife is very dangerous, right? So why assume that the same doesn’t apply to kayaking survival and rescue scenarios?
Although a lot of kayaking knives come with serrated edges, you have to check the sharpness of those teeth too. Otherwise, you might find yourself getting stuck in a piece of rope instead of cutting yourself loose within moments.
By now you’ll have realized that the best kayak knife is not an easy distinction to make. Sure enough, different scenarios require specific features.
Inflatable kayaks benefit more from dull flat-head blades, while long journeys may demand a pointed tip so that you can catch a meal or two on the way.
It has the right balance between survival and rescue features and its durability is on par if not better than most of the knives we reviewed.
The fire starter, the diamond sharpener, the whistle, the textured ergonomic grip, and the presence of both smooth and serrated edges; are all features worthy of a number one spot on any list of kayaking knives.