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Whether it is rock climbing or mountain climbing, a climber is likely to face tough conditions. This itself triggers the need to keep diverse tools using which you can handle each situation, such as a climbing knife.
Knives are, indeed, extremely useful for a myriad of outdoor activities. However, did you know that it is essential to have one while climbing? Sadly, not many climbers feel the need to have one such knife.
Having one such knife that you can instantly access will make a big difference when stuck high up on the trail, like clearing some junk at a rappel station or facing a self-rescue situation.
Such knives are designed with the motive of improving your safety at the time of climbing. They are not just any sharp tools but climbing-geared knives that help to instantly adjust your cord in between or cut through a hurdle and route.
2023’s 5 Best Climbing Knives
Trango Piranha Climbing Knife
The Trango Piranha is a micro climbing folder that is small enough to hang from a keychain ring but robust enough to endure the rigors of a huge climbing trip. It is one of the tiniest tools for minimalist climbers who keep a knife for just-in-case times.
Small but strong, the Piranha proves that even a small blade can do wonders in the vertical field. Its shortest blade makes it an exceptional tool that feels like the compact X-Acto knife. A small divot at the blade’s base facilitates pinching while cutting. The handle is also shorter than most climbing knives.
The little Piranha clips to a carabiner or key ring so that you can carry it wherever you go. The blade is locked well, and you can open it easily. However, you cannot open it when attached to a carabiner, which is a plus. Although a bit bulky to use, it is suitable to use once you get familiarized. The purely serrated 1-inch blade made using 440C stainless steel is effective in an emergency. It can easily rip through old tat.
Even the handle is of stainless steel, due to which the knife becomes somewhat bulkier, but this is hardly recognizable.
The knife is quite comfortable on a keychain. Further, the handle’s big carabiner hole makes it simple to carry the knife safely on tracks. The small handle, although effectively clipped to the harness back, makes it harder to hold well with a gloved hand.
Thus, instead of winter, consider the Piranha for summer use. The smallest knife also has a bottle opener to keep you going with some chilled drink.
- Small and compact
- Super light
- Purely serrated
- Easy to attach to a harness or keyring
- Bottle opener included
- Too small blade for some
Spyderco Snap-It Salt Folding Knife
Okay, this folder is not meant specifically for the climbers. However, the esteemed brand, Spyderco, has made it so well that the knife exceeds the expectations of climbers. With a totally rust-proof 2.96-inch blade made using the renowned H1 steel and a simple clip attachment, the Snap-It Salt knife is a reliable pal of a climber.
The recently redesigned model has a blade of H1 steel that is known to hold a great edge even after years of use amidst the mountains. This amazing alloy replaces carbon with nitrogen to make the edge 100% corrosion-proof.
Further, the brand’s signature round hole on the blade makes it easy to open with one hand while climbing. Together with the broad, hollow-ground blade, you are ensured of right-hand opening. The serrated edge makes it a breeze to cut ropes and cords on the way.
An included snap shackle replaces a pocket clip. It is attached to the handle’s pivot-pin end to allow clipping the closed knife to a carabiner or a D-ring. The bright yellow handle is made using fiberglass-reinforced nylon (FRN), a strong and grip-ensuring material.
Inside the handle, a solid back-lock mechanism takes care of secured opening. Further, there are textured Kraton panels in black to ensure a firm grip, especially when wet.
- Fully serrated
- Easy to open with one hand
- Grip even for a wet hand
- Highly visible in dark due to colored handle
- Single-hand opening only for right-handers
PETZL – Spatha
This is a popular knife among ice, alpine, and other climbers for whom a glove-friendly knife is indispensable. It has been updated with some new features, including a longer blade, lock, longer textured handle, cut-out on the blade for opening, and lighter design.
It is the lightest as well as the largest non-micro knife. The stainless-steel blade is long but it allows to accommodate both a serrated area and a fine area. This combo edge can cut any material, including a variety of webbing in just one or two hits. The high-quality steel and clip point deliver a sharp and versatile blade whose edge is held well for long-term use.
It also has a user-friendly locking mechanism to guard in stressful situations. It allows opening the blade with bare hands. The textured wheel or notch in the blade allows opening with bare hands.
Another distinct ability is to open the blade via the textured grip flanking the grey pivot point. Just tweak the pivot and twist the handle. Only the handle will move to open the blade. This is handy while wearing icy gloves.
For safe operation, the lock keeps the blade firm when opened. This averts it from shutting even if the highest pressure is put on it.
A big hole makes it simple to attach the knife to a harness by using a carabiner. The handle itself has a bright textured finish for good grip.
- Super light
- Combo edge
- Easy to attach to a harness
- Easy to open with gloved-hand or bare hand
- Non-metallic handle
With the goal of anytime performance, this light knife is designed to serve outdoor enthusiasts including climbers. The name RockJumper was given to indicate that this knife is specially designed for fulfilling the cutting needs of climbers.
It has the basic but powerful features found in other Spyderco’s folders made in Japan, which are full-flat VG-10 blade, a plain or serrated edge, accessible signature round hole, skeletonized liners, four-position pocket clip, robust back lock, Fiberglass Reinforced Nylon (FRN) handle, and highly-tractional texture.
Whether serrated or plain edge, the broad and 3-inch long blade is made using VG-10 stainless steel and has a full-flat grind. VG-10 is cutlery-grade steel that is known for its corrosion resistance power, superb edge retention, and sharpening ease.
Made to ensure lasting reliability under pressure, the blade’s Wharncliffe shape contributes to intense cutting power and dagger-like precision. The FRN handle fits well in hand, consists of stainless-steel liners, and holds a stout back lock for a powerful close utility. The bi-directional texture promotes a non-slip grip.
For admirers of lanyards, the knife comes with a jumbo lanyard hole. Mounting holes at both ends of the handle facilitate its four-position clipping for discreet carry and easy access.
- Super sharp
- Solid lock
- Ergonomic handle
- Bit pricey
EDELRID Rescue Knife
The Oasis is a rescue and rope knife designed to be used while canyoning. This sport also includes jumping and climbing activities, which means this Edelrid knife is definitely for climbers. Although originally geared towards canyoneering, the tool cuts through rope and webbing easily. However, it is a fixed-blade tool that appeals to those who do not prefer the hassle of a folder.
Although compact, this rescue knife is capable of defending you in any rescue situation by cutting a rope. With a simple harness holster, the tool is always ready to be with you, even in the toughest situation.
The compact harness holster secures the blade while using proceed on a hard rock while ensuring that the tool is accessible at any time.
The blade is fully serrated and is made using high-quality stainless steel. The handle is not of metal but is ergonomically shaped to make you feel secure while using it. With the finger hole, you are ensured of secured grip even with a wet hand.
Other features include a rounded point for extra safety and a working plastic holder for attaching to a harness.
- Blunt tip
- Ergonomic handle
- Friendly harness holster
- Plastic handle
Salient Features of Climbing Knives
Knives for climbing are different from knives designed for other outdoor pursuits. This is why there are different types of knives such as camping knives, hiking knives, and bushcraft knives. Moreover, serious climbers will just not carry any old knife on the upcoming adventure.
Rather, they focus on purpose-built tools designed specifically for cutting climbing cords or ropes and carrying on a harness. Just carrying any knife will not cut these things.
As you look for the best climbing knife, consider the following salient features to identify them and distinguish them from other knives:
- Lightweight: Climbers appreciate lightweight gear, as climbing with heavy stuff is stressful. They are weight conscious when it comes to tools, due to which they will take all actions to lighten their backpack. Thus, climbing knives are often those having the lowest weight. However, several models are so due to the use of plastic in the handle, which raises the concern of durability. So, you may consider getting some more weight by choosing a strong, durable handle.
- Short Blade Length: This is another factor that sets apart climbing knives from other knives. Size is what you will be noticing first while buying any knife. Even pocket knives these days are available in a variety of sizes. However, climbing knives come with a blade length of 4 inches or less, as users need to carry around on a harness. Thus, they are more compact than other knives and instantly useful outdoors. Many knife users believe that a larger blade is better. However, a smaller blade has lots of benefits, particularly at the time of climbing. For instance, a 2.5-inch blade is compliant with knife laws of most countries across the globe and is easy to carry when affixed to a harness. On the flip side, it will be unable to perform well under high pressure. However, this is not a concern while climbing where its use will be mostly for cutting cords and ropes. Apart from smaller blades, the best rock-climbing knives can have full-length blades. These longer blades make the knives easier to handle, versatile, and stronger. These knives are capable of performing a variety of tasks such as slicing veggies and cutting the glove tape. The smaller blades, on the other hand, are ideal for smaller jobs like rope cutting. Most of them have only serrated edges.
- Serrated Blade: Until a few years ago, there was only one type of blade, the plain or smooth edge. However, today, with the advancement in technology, you can also find other blade types namely serrated edge and partially serrated or combo edge (serrated-cum-plain). Each of these edges works best in a couple of situations. The plain one is ideal for those who wish to keep their blades sharp, as it is easy to sharpen even at home. A nicely-sharpened plain blade can cut almost anything but takes additional effort to cut tough materials like ropes and wood. On the other hand, a serrated edge can cut even tough materials easily, although it is tough to sharpen it at home. A combo edge means it is half serrated and half plain to give the best of both. For climbing, the ideal choice is a knife with a serrated edge. True climbing knives have a serrated or combo edge.
- Stainless-steel Blade: Each knife blade is different. This is because it is made using unique build material. Pocket knives nowadays are made using a myriad of metals, each having its benefits and limitations in terms of cutting power, edge retention, and durability. When it comes to climbing knives, their blades are perhaps made using some kind of steel. In the blade industry, this material is considered among the most reliable ones. The blades of most climbing knives are made using stainless steel, a highly flexible material that works in almost any situation. Several stainless-steel alloys are used in making these blades, each with its pros and cons. However, a type of steel that you should avoid choosing for a climbing knife is carbon steel. While this steel delivers a lightweight knife that is a boon while climbing, its blades chip and crack more easily than those made using stainless steel. While carbon-steel blades also corrode, you can easily find an anti-rust coating on them, which is commendable. These blades also retain their edges well but durability issues do not make them reliable for climbing expeditions.
- Strong Handle: Climbing knives tend to have handles made from metal or plastic. However, the plastic handles are less durable, although lighter than their metal counterparts. Likewise, the more-durable metal handles may add to the overall weight of the knife. Thus, it truly depends on what you value the most in your knife. The best climbing knives will also ensure you a strong grip even if your hands are wet or cold or are in gloves. They are not over-smooth at all. Usually, the handle material varies as per the knife’s length. The full-length ones have plastic-molded handles admired for improved grip and lightweight finish. On the other hand, smaller knives have metal handles. As their blades fold easier in less space, they are folded to lay atop or under the handles.
- Fixed or Folding: Most climbers prefer a folding blade design, as it makes a knife more compact for harness carrying and allows the handle to guard the blade when not at work. On the flip side, the moving parts make the knife less durable in the sense that they can break prematurely. A fixed climbing knife has no such parts, due to which it is more durable than its folding counterpart. Nevertheless, its big size makes it challenging to keep it safe while climbing.
- Locking Mechanism: A folding climbing knife is an extremely useful tool, but it can also be quite harmful. Thus, you need a strong locking mechanism to keep the risk of any harm at bay while climbing. This mechanism averts the blade from inadvertent closing while in use or opening while not in use. Well, this is required, especially if your knife will be pressing much pressure. Thus, a folder with a durable lock that will not break easily after using it for some time is ideal.
- Harness Attachment System: The main feature of a climbing knife is its knack to easily affix to a climbing harness so that you can easily carry it en route. The best climbing knife will typically come with a carabiner-sized hole so that you can easily attach it to your harness. The remaining models need you to use an accessory cord via a smaller hole before affixing it to the harness. In short, the best models are easy to carry.
Using A Climbing Knife
There are two ways to affix a climbing knife to a harness. You may use either a carabiner and affix it to your harness or a lanyard that passes through a hole on the handle and affixes to your harness via a micro carabiner. The carabiner’s size will depend on the knife in use. Ideally, the knife should move effortlessly around the carabiner.
How does a climbing knife differ from a standard outdoor knife?
A climbing knife usually is lighter, has a secured blade with a serrated edge, and is capable of attaching to a harness easily. These features set it apart from other outdoor knives.
Is a folding climbing knife a better option?
Mostly, yes! A folding knife that you can close securely is ideal. A fixed knife with a guarding sheath is surely a safe option but is clumsier to unlock. It is up to you, what you want.
Is it more beneficial to get a climbing knife with a combo edge?
A combo edge means having both smooth and serrated edges in one climbing knife. Well, this is beneficial if you want the most versatile tool that can do different things, right from smearing an avocado to cutting a rope.
Can I convert my existing folding knife into a climbing tool?
Yes! It is easy to do so if you are a DIY enthusiast. If your existing folding knife has a handle of plastic and cannot clip to a harness, just drill a small hole into its handle for passing a lanyard via it.
A climbing knife is typically short, serrated, and harness-friendly. As designed to cut ropes and webbings easily, it is essential to have one for your next climbing trip. We recommend PETZL – Spatha to all.
Hi, I am Jay. I am the creator of Knife Guides, your one-stop site for everything related to knives. I am a computer engineer by profession, knife aficionado by passion. Here I work with a group of people who’ve always had a passion for knives and blades. Over the years we’ve kind of become experts and decided to share our knowledge and ideas. I am also an avid hiker and enjoy offshore gamefishing.