Best sailing knives: 12 of the best safety knives for emergency use

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Tech Editor and specialist in safety gear, Fox Morgan takes a look through some of the best safety knives available for use in emergencies onboard or overboard.

The safety knife is an often neglected tool, typically languishing strapped to a binnacle leg or stowed inside a lifejacket or a belt pouch. until that is, the moment comes to use one in an emergency.

It’s at this point you’ll be eternally grateful that you opted for one of the best safety knives, a good quality bit of kit rather than a cheap, flimsy piece of rubbish that is rusted and brittle and leaves you still in danger or worse, injured as a result.

There’s three styles of safety knife: strap cutters, blunt tipped fixed blades and folding blades.

I recommend you have one of each, at least. Ideally more. Alongside these I also recommend a general purpose sailing knife and multitool. 

12 of the best safety knives available today…

A word of warning though: Whichever type of knife you decide upon, do make sure the one you choose is legal, otherwise you could face a fine of up to £5,000.

It’s also illegal to carry a knife in public without good reason, (such as transporting it to or from your boat), unless it has a folding blade with a cutting edge of 3″ or less. For full guidance on knives and the law, visit the relevant section of the gov.uk website.

At a glance:

Best strap cutter: Gerber Strap Cutter UK deal USA deal
Best Fixed blade safety knife: NRS Neko blunt knife UK deal USA deal
Best folding blade safety knife: Gerber EZ-Out Rescue knife UK deal USA deal

Best safety knives: Strap cutters

gill-harness-rescue-sailing-knife

Gill harness rescue tool

Reasons to Buy: Compact, finger guard, additional shackle key built in

Reasons to Avoid: not intended for use as a regular sailing knife for general purpose.

Specifications: Titanium coated 420 stainless steel, total Length 127mm, shackle key, Supplied with a nylon sheath

This rescue tool fits into a small sleeve to attach to a belt or within a safe area of your lifejacket stowage,

Fitting neatly into the category of life-saving sailing knives is this basic harness rescue tool from Gill. Its 420 stainless steel grade blade is titanium-coated for even greater resistance to corrosion. Just 127mm long, it’s a low-profile tool designed to be slipped into any convenient pocket on your sailing suit or buoyancy aid.

The tool’s shackle key will fit many small to medium size shackles and a protective nylon sheath is included. The G10 composite handle gives a good grip regardless of whether the tool is wet or dry, and the blade itself is serrated to provide an efficient cutting edge for emergency use.

Buy it now on Amazon (UK)


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Crewsaver ErgoFit safety knife

Reasons to Buy: light weight, comes with a nicely made sheath, high visibility colour

Reasons to Avoid: for other tools and cutting options you will need other blade options or knives, this is a single purpose item.

Specifications: Bright orange plastic coated stainless steel blade,

The ErgoFit safety knife carries the highly respected Crewsaver brand name, which means it has to be well worth considering. As an item of kit specifically made for mariners, the ErgoFit has been designed with safety as its top priority.

Intended to be carried at all times when you’re on the water, this sailing knife is small, unobtrusive but highly effective as a rope or webbing cutter should an emergency situation arise.

There’s no doubt it’s a neat design and as it’s constructed from durable nylon plastic, there’s no chance of it corroding over time. The blade itself is ergonomically-shaped for fast efficient cutting, and a smart carry pouch designed to attach to your lifejacket is included in the purchase price.

Buy it now on eBay


Gerber Strap Cutter

Reasons to Buy: Light weight, very easy to grip, has built in glass hammer

Reasons to Avoid: very specific use, hard to sharpen

Specifications: One piece stainless steel blade with black oxide coating, injection moulded plastic sheath, glass breaker, lanyard hole, Length: 4.3″ | 10.9cm, Weight: 2.2oz | 62.3g

The Gerber strap cutter and glass breaker is a neat but powerful tool that can get you out of trouble fast.

Ideally worn about the person, either stowed on or near your lifejacket or for use in a liferaft or other emergency grab bag.

It has a really sturdy grip and fits well in the hand, whether you have gloves on or not.

A great bit of kit, especially if you find yourself needing to cut webbing in a hurry, or smash glass for any reason.

Buy it now


C-SHARK Safety Knife

Reasons to Buy: carbon fibre body, titanium blade, rubber rip cord

Reasons to Avoid: very specific use, hard to sharpen

Specifications: Cuts up to 6mm rope. titanium cutting blades designed specifically to cope with Dyneema, Carbon fibre body/handle, Inbuilt shackle key, 2 Year warranty

This back-cut knife has been designed withy a titatnium blade to swiftly slice through webbing and in particular dyneema lines (up to 6mm)

A bright rubber rip cord is fastened to the finger loop and makes it easier to pull out of a pocket.

C-Tech are best known for their construction of state-of-the-art carbon masts and sail battens in skiffs and America’s Cup boats but also work on a great number of side projects delivering trickle-down innovations to benefit watersport enthusiasts (sailors, kite surfers etc) all over the world. This fancy little safety knife is a nice bit of kit to keep stowed within your lifejacket pocket or belt pocket.

Buy it now from wetsuit outlet


Spinlock Safety cutter

Reasons to Buy: very lightweight, comes with a nice little pouch, ergonomic

Reasons to Avoid: the handle is a bit on the spindly side

Specifications: Stainless steel blade, wax covered for protection,

With a guarded razor edge and stowed in a simple pouch worn on a lifejacket harness, the cutter is designed for severing safety lines under load
Provides the best protection against the risk of a safety line becoming un-releasable under load
By providing a reliable ‘means of disconnection’ anyone wearing the cutter satisfies ISAF and ORC recommendations, for all types of safety lines and all clips

buy it now


Best safety knives: Fixed blade blunt tip emergency knives

Gerber River shorty

Reasons to Buy: Light weight, safety tip, really strong handle

Reasons to Avoid: may be a little short for some tasks

specifications: 

The Gerber River shorty has a blunted tip and is a fixed blade with a sheath ptotector. This knife is ideally suited for being a reach for in case of emergency kind of boat knife.

You’d strap this to the binnacle leg or attach it to a safe point within reach of the helm or alternatively keep it in a grab bag or emergency pack.

The handle is grippy with extra lips to gain purchase when sawing away at something urgently.

The holes in the handle lend themselves perfectly for attaching a lanyard to avoid this being lost over the side.

A big thumbs up from me on this knife as it’s visible and easy to use with or without gloves on.


nrs-neko-blunt

NRS Neko blunt knife

Reasons to Buy: blunt tip for safety, built in bottle opener, single handed operation,

Reasons to Avoid: the bottle opener might be a bit of a novelty

Specifications: length ‎25.4 x 7.37 x 2.03 cm; weight 117.93 Grams, features a bottle opener, stainless steel blade, rubber sheath

It might sound daft, but a blunt knife – blunt at the tip, that is – makes a lot of sense for a product primarily intended to be mounted onto a lifejacket’s accessory tab or for weilding in the cockpit of a boat when it’s luching around and you need to cut a line in an emergency.
This makes this style of knife as essential must-have on any boat and if you have space for it, on a belt or within your lifejacket knife pocket.

The Neko features a friction release sheath which is designed for single hand release – simply grip the handle, pull, and off it comes.

The hybrid blade includes a serrated section for quickly cutting webbing and rope, and there’s a sharp smooth section for finer cutting.

The blade’s contoured handle has a rubberised grip for maximum control and there’s an integrated bottle opener which is bound to come in handy!

Buy NRS rescue knife from Amazon.co.uk

Buy it now on OutdoorPlay.com


Mac Rescue Knife with Hook Tip

Reasons to Buy: combined blade for webbing and flat blade, includes shackle key, strong sheath

Reasons to Avoid: lanyard hole is quite small,

Specifications: Blade: Stainless steel – W 1.4116, Weight: 140 g – 4.94 oz, Handle material: PP with TPE overmold, Knife length: 21 cm – 8.26″, Blade length:10,5 cm – 4.13″, Sheath: ABS, 66 g – 2.33 oz

The Mac Coltellerie Tekno Rescue X Dive Knife is specifically developed to meet the requirements of divers but it will also serve more than adequately as a rescue knife too.

The hook is useful for pulling a cut line through webbing, while the serrated section is good for slicing through a rope or other fabric. The yellow handle gives high visibility and the rubber textured handle gives good grip in wet conditions or with gloves on.

The blade is idroglider-coated 4116 stainless steel. It is supplied with a locking plastic sheath with additional safeguard and leg straps which can be used around a binnacle column.

Buy it now from Ocean Leisure

Buy it now from Andark


Wichard Rescue Knife

Reasons to Buy: high reputation of Wichard branded gear, High visbility, Good quality sturdy sheath

Reasons to Avoid: high price point

Specifications: Blade Length: 72mm. Weight: 119g. Shackle key. Stainless steel blade

Wichard’s Rescue Knife with Fixed Serrated Blade has been specially developed for rescue operations and extreme sports such as offshore racing, catamaran and white water sports. As the blade is stainless steel and resistant to corrosion.

The sheath can be secured to the binnacle to the deck or just about anywhere where you can strap it in place in easy to reach places like the cockpit, steering wheel, mast foot, trampoline and catamaran cross beams.

This premium branded knife is pricey but you do get a quality bit of kit.

Buy it now from Pirates cave


Best safety knives- Best folding safety knives

Gill Folding Personal Rescue Knife

Reasons to Buy: single handed use, good grip, non-snag blade

Reasons to Avoid: hard to use on a flat surface

Specifications: Folded Length 95mm. Open Length 165mm. Blade Length 70mm. Liner lock to prevent accidental closure. Thumb stud for one-handed opening. G10 Composite handle for wet and dry grip. Serrated blade edge for quick and effective rope cutting. Comes with moulded nylon pouch.

The Gill personal recue knife has a rounded serrated blade with a  curve to aide line cutting

It slices through webbing and rope easily, but isn’t easy to use against a cutting mat due to its shape.  When not in use, the blade folds away into the handle leaving you with a compact, safe knife to clip to your belt or buoyancy aid.

The handle has been designed to provide excellent grip in the dry and the wet and its bright orange colour ensures this knife will be easy to spot even in low visibility conditions.

Buy it now on eBay


Gerber EZ-Out Rescue knife

Reasons to Buy: Light weight, easy to open, very powerful cutting blade

Reasons to Avoid: some may find the blade a little too aggressive

Specifications: Textured handle with SoftGrip, One-hand opening, Full serration with blunt tip, Overall Length: 7.91″, Length Closed: 4.51″, Length of Blade: 3.51/8.9cm”, Weight: 2.6 oz., Blade Material: High Carbon Stainless, Handle Material: Glass-filled nylon with Softgrip Inserts

This is a single blade with a rounded tip and no other tools or features. Although the blade remains safely sprung closed, it is easy and safe to open one-handed.

The 7.8cm-long blade is serrated, but not so heavily that the knife grips a rope when it should be cutting it. We found the EZ-Out Rescue the most effective cutter in our test. Whether faced with the tough Dyneema halyard, the webbing or the awkward polypropylene line, this blade scythed through in a few seconds at most.

The blade locks well and is easily returned via a push point on the rear. At 73.7g, the EZ-Out Rescue is very light and there is a lanyard point as well as a pocket clip.

That bright yellow, reinforced thermoplastic handle is mottled for grip and Gerber has boosted this with a raised black rubber lip on each side. The overall unit is relatively thin but perfectly comfortable to use.

This knife comes with a lifetime warranty.

Buy it now


Palm River Folding Knife

Reasons to Buy: bite grip to help open this knife single handed, comes with a lanyard, locking mechanism is easy to operate.

Reasons to Avoid: a basic blade with one main function. for shackle keys and more you’ll need additional tools

Specifications: 70mm blade,

This Palm branded 70 mm locking blade has a serrated rope-cutting edge and a safely rounded tip.

Its low profile knurled handle fits neatly in a PFD knife pocket, and the bite pull-tab will make you feel like Rambo deploying a grenade, or just make life a bit easier and enable you to open this knife one-handed.

Given this small sized knife and it’s budget price, it’s an ideal knife to have knocking about in the chart table.

buy it now


If you enjoyed this article, you may enjoy further reading

Eight multitools tested

Tested –  Wichard Rescue Knife

Tested – Palm folding knife


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