The definition of a neck knife pretty much begins and ends with it being a blade worn on a lanyard around one’s neck. Rather than in a belt sheath, pocket, pack clipped anywhere else, the neck knife offers a deployment option and carry strategy that opens some doors especially during specific activities and positions. Neck knives can be tiny and as small as an index finger, usually carried tip-up. Or they can be near full sized and carried tip-down on a substantial neckstrap. Those are the small size can take many additional forms depending on anticipated use from EDC to the edges of survival.
The larger end of the spectrum are more for daily use and easy access during general outdoors and bushcrafting tasks. The particular reason I wear a neck knife is two-fold; first as a sport-specific knife, and second, for survival applications when things might-could get dark (using some small-town parlance).
Four situations I wear a neck knife over a knife in my pocket (or in addition to) include skiing, mountain biking, watersports like paddleboarding, and backpacking and hunting. A main reason I got into neck carry is because I either am not wearing any pockets, or I may need to deploy the knife in a partially immobilized or even inverted state. And I have different neck knives for each activity. For downhill skiing, I wear a Boker Magyar. It’s a stout little beast with a large finger hole and a thick drop point blade. The 440-C stainless steel is a must, like the mountain biking knife, because it will be soaked in salty sweat. I like the finger hole to keep the Boker Magyar under control when hands are cold or a drop in the snow might as well be overboard in the ocean.
For mountain biking, I like the Boker Grasshopper. It has more handle than blade and is of a more traditional look as if just a small belt knife missing its scales. The Grasshopper has a titanium-coated 440-C stainless clip point blade that can drill and stab better than drop points. It can also be held comfortably in a reverse grip as needed even though it weighs less than an ounce. And it’s near weightlessness makes it almost invisible even when bouncing down the trail.
Backpacking is another matter. I prefer a workhorse of a neck knife because I will be using it often. The previous two are more for emergencies, or for that occasional extra-strength food wrapper. For camping trips I want a neck knife that will get some daily if not hourly use. I prefer the ESEE Candiru with G-10 scales. It’s a tiny little critter, both the knife and its namesake, but the tales of it swimming up your, well, private part (the critter not the knife) are overblown (pun intended). However, as a carbon steel the Candiru will rust if left alone, but the powder coating protects all but the very edge of the edge. After a day of wear, tiny orange flowers start growing on the shiny metal. But the quality ESEE 1095 tool steel touches up beautifully with little effort to kiss the oxidation goodbye until next time. Of all my neck knives, the has the best grip, but also the thickest footprint.
Also Read: Fallkniven Jarl Knife Review
And for paddleboarding and sea kayaking, I like the Boker Gnome. Why? Well, partially I just like the Boker Gnome and am always looking for a reason to wear it. It’s a funny little knife with an apt name. The Gnome has a very thick blade for it’s size and two of the cutest little micarta scales you’ve ever seen. It is the best prybar of my neck knives and it’s 440-C steel resists rust better than most, even in salt water. The knife is held only between the thumb and index finger because that’s all there is to hold. So you could say that this is not a high leverage knife even with a 2 ⅛” long and ¼ inch thick blade. But where the Gnome does shine is in brute strength if you have to pound on it like a piton.
…And Eat It Too
The question as to why a tiny fixed blade instead of a robust folder is a good one. Especially since folding knives today are better and stronger than ever. But not at under two ounces, or even under one ounce. Hinged blades require robust parts and dual reinforcement in the handle. Locking mechanisms, by nature, can never be as strong as as a solid shaft of steel for the same weight. And even given the added weight, deployment still requires gravity, muscle or a more complex spring system. The simplicity of a tiny fixed blade cannot be argued within those parameters.
A neck knife has only three parts: a knife, a sheath, and a loop of cord that allows the sheath to be worn around the neck. There are no size or weight restrictions. The blade can point up or down. And the sheath can be molded Kydex, or elegant leather or even bland plastic. In my case, I prefer the uneventful durability of nylon-like scabbards. A durable, but breakaway neck cord should be a must, but we put many strong cords around our necks quite often, so I’m not really worried that my last breath will be a swear word directed at a loop of paracord around my trachea. Especially when the point of a neck knife is a rapid and convenient deployment of a blade that will easily cut through paracord.
Chains of small balls like the pull-chains on floor lamps are popular neck knives lanyards. They will break away before killing you. At least that’s the plan, but I haven’t personally tested it in all cases. So use your brain. But more important that lanyard strength is blade retention. While easy extraction is important, should unintentional deployment happen you will find a sharp blade wandering around your belly region just looking for something to cut. There is no happy ending to that story except relief when you find it before it finds you.
Related: Benchmade Adamas Knife Review
As neck knives gain popularity it becomes clear that the design is still in its crude phase of evolution. Not that the knives are rough, but like early days of powered flight, the designs are all over the place. From mostly handles to almost no handles. From full-bellied blades to narrow scalpels. From finger holes to featureless grips. And from skeleton to scaled. All of these differences give the wearer plenty of options for job-specific carry even when the particular feature set seems oxymoronic like the Boker Gnome.
All Photos By Doc Montana