Best Rescue Knife – How to Choose a Great River Knife?

Best Rescue Knife – How to Choose a Great River Knife?

Whitewater paddlers should always have a river knife with them when they're on the water, whether kayaking, canoeing, or rafting. When performing a rescue in moving water, a high-quality river rescue knife guarantees that people do not become tangled in ropes, among other things. A rescue knife is a multifunctional tool, so it's important to have the right one. The rescue knife can be used for cutting through seat belts and other objects and being a self-defense weapon in an emergency. Therefore, you want to make sure you choose a rescue knife with a blade made from high-quality steel - preferably with both stainless and non-stainless options available.


I'd like to quickly go over the distinction between a utility knife (i.e., a pocket knife or multi-tool) and a river knife before going into more detail about river knives. A river knife is designed to be used as a rescue knife and has unique characteristics. River knives and utility knives are not interchangeable.


I always bring a utility knife with me on each wilderness excursion, whether or not there is whitewater. A utility knife, like a pocket knife or multi-tool, is designed to be simple and do various jobs well. So a utility knife may be included.

  • Knife Blade
  • Saw Blade
  • Screw Driver
  • Awl
  • Can Opener & Bottle Opener
  • Pliers

A utility knife can be used for various tasks, including slicing food, cutting sticks, and as part of a first-aid kit.


River knives, on the other hand, have a limited number of functions yet excel at them. A rescue knife will typically have a sharp, serrated edge explicitly intended for cutting rope. In addition, a sheath will be included with a rescue knife. The sheath is usually designed to be attached to a rescue PFD. This ensures that the rescuer has constant access to the knife.

A rust-resistant metal, such as stainless steel will be used to make a river knife. It'll also have a gripping handle that's comfortable to carry even when wet. They could also have other functionality like a glass breaker or a bottle opener.

A more detailed description of the characteristics of a river knife may be found further down in this post.

I only bring a rescue knife on a whitewater trip because the function is so unique to cutting the rope in wet situations. Note that this style of a sharp knife is also known as a "rescue knife," "kayaking knife," or "river knife" – all of these terms refer to the same thing.

Do You Need a River Survival Knife?

When you're out in the bush, you should always have a survival knife with you. In most circumstances, though, a good utility knife will suffice. However, if you're paddling in whitewater, you'll need a river knife.

What are The Uses For a River Knife?

Here's an example of why you might want to use a river knife.

Let's imagine you've pinned a canoe or kayak in the middle of a rapid to a large boulder. Two of you are at the boat, fastening ropes to it in the hopes of freeing it from the rock. The rest of your company is on the beach, clutching the rope's other end. They'll pull the boat to shore once it's free.

Because you've been trained in whitewater rescue, you're taking extra precautions with rope management. However, something goes awry, and one of the rescuers becomes entangled in the rope and is dragged underwater.

If the other rescuer cannot untangle or reach them, the ropes may need to be cut to free the trapped rescuer. Therefore, a rescue knife should always be carried whenever there is a rope involved. A river knife's primary function is to cut a rope. However, as your whitewater rescue and outdoor first aid skills improve, you'll discover many more uses for your river knife. If you're on search for the best budget survival knife for your outdoor and river adventure, we have here at Ape Survival.

Who Should Carry a River Knife?

There's some discussion on whether or not everyone in the group should have a river knife. In any event, there should be more than one member in the group holding a river knife.

Should persons who haven't been trained in whitewater rescue carry a whitewater rescue knife?

I don't believe it is required. I didn't have youngsters carry survival pocket knife on river trips when I guided them because they wouldn't know how to use them. We didn't paddle huge whitewater, though, because they didn't have the experience or training to manage it.

How Should You Carry Your Best Rescue Knife?

There are a few different perspectives on where a best rescue knife should be carried.

Many people will fasten it to the exterior of the lifejacket's body. Most whitewater rescue life jackets have a square attachment (called a Lash Tab). I enjoy my lifejacket, but I wouldn't say I like how the lash tab is placed or designed, so I haven't been wearing it there.

I learned to carry it on the strap of my PDF in my whitewater rescue school. This allows me to use either my right or left hand to reach it. However, this places the point of my knife so close to my jaw. I've decided to quit carrying it there.

I keep the knife in the large front pocket of my life jacket on occasion. The advantage is that the knife is at the safest possible location; however, it is more difficult to access in a rescue emergency.

Features to Look For in a River Knife

A river knife should have the following characteristics:

  • Sharp, serrated edge: For quickly cutting through materials (such as rope).
  • Non-folding, full tang
  • Stainless steel with a textured, gripping handle
  • The sheath is strong and dependable.
  • Finger hole and blunt tip are optional.


A serrated blade is found on almost all whitewater rescue knives. This facilitates rope cutting and fastening.

On the other hand, some knives will be serrated just on one side of the blade material and smooth on the other. Because part of the knife is smooth, it can be used in various ways (i.e., preparing lunch on the river).

Whitewater Rescue Knives with a Blunt Tip: Many whitewater rescue knives have a blunt tip. This is in case the knife is accidentally dropped or pops out of its sheath — a blunt point is less likely to puncture a raft or a person's leg.


Many utility knives are folding knives, which means the blade folds into the handle to save size and protect the blade.

A river rescue knife, on the other hand, should not be a folding knife. They are less durable and dependable for starters due to an additional point of failure (the hinge where the knife folds). In the following section, I'll go through this in greater depth.

Another reason you shouldn't use a survival folding knife is that you'll be using your rescue knife in or near water, which means your hands will be wet. I'm not sure about you, but I'd prefer not to have to unfold a knife with damp, slick hands. I'd much prefer to take a non-folding knife out of its sheath.


A "full tang" knife comprises a single, solid piece of metal from tip to end. A plastic overmold is created around the metal in the handle. This makes the knife more durable and reliable; you won't have to worry about the handle breaking away from the blade while you're using it. Knives with a full tang are not designed to be folded.


Because you'll be using the knife in water, you should choose a rust-resistant metal. The stainless steel blade is used to make the great majority of river knives. Stainless steel is corrosion-resistant and performs well in water.


Finally, a sheath protects you from the blade while protecting the knife and securing it to the PFD. River knife sheaths come in a variety of styles, some of which are more secure than others.

Because kayakers move in and out of moving water much more than whitewater canoeists, a kayak knife, for example, requires a very strong sheath. (This is because they often paddle larger, more technical rapids and can flip over and right themselves regularly.)


Prepare for the most likely eventuality on the river by purchasing the best survival knife. Many boaters can readily afford most knives, and they should always be carried, especially when using lines in the water. You must assess the hazards of carrying a knife and make appropriate plans.

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