How to safely use an outdoor knife?

How to safely use an outdoor knife?

If you frequently use knives when camping or bush crafting, you know that it is important to pay attention to your safety. Especially when you are in a place where medical help is hard to find. Therefore, prevention is better than cure! As a result, we have listed a couple of practical tips and techniques that will decrease your chances of an accident.

Make sure your knife is sharp

You might think that a sharp knife is more dangerous, but the opposite is true. When using a dull knife, you have to exert more effort to use it, so the chance of slipping is even greater. Also, with a sharp knife, a neat and clean wound is achieved that can be easily sutured. So make sure you always carry something to sharpen your knife in the field .

Use the right knife for the right task

A machete won’t help you carve wood, and a small bushcraft knife won’t help you remove blackberries. But you also have to pay attention to the solidity of the knife. It’s not a good idea to go crazy with the knife if it’s not full-tang. Also, a knife with a blade thickness of 2 mm is usually not robust enough to handle the most demanding tasks. At the same time, a thick ESEE 5 is not fine enough to fillet a fish or carve wood.

Take care of the safety of the environment

One is capable of paying attention to one’s own limbs and fingers, but if an unsuspecting camper comes along at the wrong time, you could end up with a fountain of blood. In different survival and bushcraft courses the blood bubble is often talked about. This is the area located 360 degrees around oneself to one or two arm’s lengths. When using your knife, make sure no one is near or in your blood bubble. Children should know not to get close and if someone decides to join you stop using your knife. You can be very careful when it comes to your own fingers, but if someone else decides to get close and you slip, all the effort you put into being careful will have been wasted.

Beware of the triangle of death!

The triangle of death sounds pretty dramatic, but if not taken into account it could become so. The triangle of death is the area between the knees and the crotch. That is, the inside of the thighs and the groin. There are so many major veins in this triangle of death that you definitely want to stay away from this area. If you hit one of these veins you can bleed to death in a few minutes. Not a place you want to risk hitting.

It is better to make sure that the elbows rest on the femurs. After all, when you do, the object in question and your knife will be in front of your knees. You can also decide to work on the left or right side of the femur, well away from the legs. If you make sure that the edge of the knife is always pointing in the opposite direction, little can happen.

Always keep the knife in its sheath

Just as important is to re-sheath the knife immediately after use. You don’t want to look for a knife that is sharp by touch. Either sit or stand on it. And we haven’t even talked about the possibility of losing your knife: a knife is perhaps the most important tool you don’t want to lose when you’re taking care of yourself in the woods for a week. Just pop it back into its case to make sure you always have it when you need it. Also key: never walk around with a knife that isn’t in its sheath. Let’s say you trip over a tree branch or trunk. Trust us, you definitely don’t want to fall on your knife.

Carefully remove the knife from the sheath

Here we are talking about fixed knives. You carry them with you or keep them in a cover or case. One of the things that usually happens is that you cut your fingers when taking the knife out of the sheath. Does it seem stupid to you? Maybe it is a bit, but it happens more often than you think, which is why we would like to explain it.

What happens is that you use one hand to pull the knife out of the sheath while you use the other to hold it. At this point it is key that you hold the base of the holster and not the top, where the edge could cut your fingers.

Try to have enough grip

When it comes to bushcraft or woodworking, your basic grip would be the simple hammer grip. Imagine you’re holding a hammer: just wrap your fist around the handle, with no fingers sticking out. This is also how the knife is held when it comes to outdoor use and bushcraft. Usually, the thumb or forefinger is not placed on the spine of the blade, unless performing a specific cutting technique for which it is required. With this grip you make sure you don’t slip easily and end up on the edge. Teach yourself to always use this as a starting point.

For some cutting techniques the reverse hammer grip can also be used. Exactly the same, but with the edge pointing up.

Move the object in question, not the knife

When working with wood, it is always a good idea to move the wood rather than the knife. There are different handles and techniques that will allow you to keep the knife still and move only the desired object along the edge.

When you first hear this, you might think we’ve gone a bit too far in our advice. However, when you trust survival and bushcraft instructors with years of experience you will know that it is the best way. As soon as you have got the hang of it, you will understand that this is the way to control the cutting movement. By not moving the knife there is no risk of slipping. The only thing that could slip is the piece of wood. However, a piece of wood that flies around is better than a sharp knife.

Select a suitable base

Always choose a suitable base for cutting work. The wood is fine, your femur is not. Don’t think: I’m just going to put this board on my knee, I just have to cut a little hole. After all, that little hole could turn into a huge skin wound. Using a knife on a concrete floor is also not a great option. Both for the knife and for the people around you trying to catch the bouncing knife.

A couple of practical cutting techniques for bushcraft

Many books have been written on bushcraft cutting techniques. Many more than we could put here for you. Still, we’ve outlined a couple of basic handy techniques that can help you practice to improve your bushcraft skills.

The first and most important thing to know is that a knife is made to cut. This means that just pushing it won’t do you any good – a knife needs a cutting motion to work. Therefore, try to enrich the cutting movement with small cutting nuances to cut cleanly instead of pushing.

Lever grip on the chest

This is a very safe cutting technique that will allow you to easily remove a large amount of material. For this grip, you want to hold the knife in an inverted hammer grip. With the pommel against the chest and the blade pointing to the elbow. In your other hand you hold the piece of wood. The arms are close to the body and the knife is placed on the wood in front of the chest. Pulling your shoulders and elbows back you will make a pulling chop motion into the wood. As a result, you will use your back and chest muscles, allowing you to apply a lot of force in a controlled way. The worst that can happen is that the piece of wood will slip. After all, the knife does not move: nothing can happen.

Lever grip on the knee

By placing the back of the knife against the front of your knee you can apply a lot of pressure simply by pulling on the wooden object with a lot of force. The worst that can happen is that the wood shifts. Much better than a knife flying around.

scissor cut

With the scissor cut, the knife is held in the hammer grip with the side of the fist against the outside of the femur. If you’re doing it right, the knife will now be pointing up. The desired object is then held in the other hand. The following should be done with a little tact: pull the wooden object towards you along with the knife. Adjusting the position and tilt of the knife controls the amount of material that is removed. The scissor cut name comes from constantly changing the angle of the knife as if it were a scissor. You scrape it off. When you try it yourself you will realize how easily you can influence the cutting process.


When making tent pegs, or finding a spot to attach your tarp with rope or paracord, cutting a notch will be a practical skill to master. This is done by working closely on the workpiece. You hold the knife with one hand and use the other to hold the base of the branch you want to notch. The hands work closely for this cutting technique, so watch your fingers. Place the knife where you want to make the notch. Now place your thumbs on the back of the cutting edge to push the knife into the wood in a controlled manner. If this isn’t too much of a problem, you can push the knife diagonally into the wood to cut a bit more than just push.

use common sense

Ultimately, this is perhaps the most important piece of advice we can give you: use your common sense. If you start something that doesn’t feel right to you, don’t do it. Consider Murphy’s Law:

If it can go wrong, it will. Always make sure you carry a first aid kit and know how to apply a tourniquet.

Leave a Comment