I remember some years back that quite of lot of paddlers were wearing large PFD’s with multiple pockets for this and that, back pockets for 30m throw bags and more straps/buckles than you could shake a stick at. One of the must have add on features for any self respecting river runner would be a large knife fastened (usually to the shoulder) on the PFD.
If you carry out quick search on most kayak forums for topics around knives for river use and you will also find topics turning into heated debates about where to wear the knife, entrapment/entanglement issues etc etc….. The rule however is very simple – if you carry a rope/sling you should also be carrying a knife.
Personally I prefer the PFD to be as clean and as uncluttered as possible. This really comes from years of WW rafting and having to climb back into a raft after a flip. The more cluttered the PFD the harder it was to climb back in.
I currently have two PFDs 1) Astral 200 and 2) Palm Extrem RV. So I need a knife that is compact, super sharp, very reliable and can be swapped between the PFDs easily. I am a big fan of Spyderco knives and have started to acrrue quite a collection, so I turned to Spyderco to source my river knife. I have for the moment settled on the Spyderco Delica 4.
From Spyderco –
Spyderco Delica4 FRN
In 1990 Spyderco shook things up by introducing two knives, the Delica and Endura. First of their kind on the market, both folders opened up the knife market to lightweight performance, one-hand open pocketknives that just about everyone could afford. They settled as Spyderco’s top two bestsellers and their improvement hasn’t slowed since.
Refinement has been so ongoing and continual Spyderco tagged the updating/upgrading process with the term CQI- Constant Quality Improvement. During the Endura and Delica’s CQI journey Spyderco tweaked ergonomics, refined blade steels and fine-tuned their performance countless times. They are an evolutionary work in progress and the next level is here with the new Endura4 and Delica4. Both models now have screw construction making cleaning and adjusting easier.
The fiberglass reinforced nylon handles come molded with Bi-Directional Texturing® for preferred traction and improved ergonomics. Inside the handle dual skeletonized stainless steel liners make the knife stronger without adding weight and make an anchor for all external and internal components to attach through adding sturdiness and rigidity.
Their VG-10 blades are flat saber-ground with a stronger tip and larger 13mm opening hole. Added to the blade’s spine is slip resistant jimping. Phosphor bronze washers smooth out the open/close action and the clip is upgraded to a four-way tip-up, tip-down, left- or right-handed clip.
The version I have has the partially serrated blade. It can handle cutting even tough climbing rope. It fits very well in the hand and the FRN grip works well even in the wet. The blade can be opened one handed and has a positive locking system. Although I have the clip attached for right hand use I have never actually used the clip. The knife does have a good sized hole for paracord and I am currently waiting on some cord to arrive. I plan to add a fairly short length in a fairly bright colour to help spot the knife if it were ever to be dropped.
The knife is the perfect size for the smaller front pockets of the new Palm Extrem PFD. They seem very well matched. It will obviously also fit into the much larger Astral pocket.
Thankfully it has never been used in anger. At around £50 it’s not cheap but then again it’s not the most expensive. In fact the Delica has a quality feel that is more often found on more expensive offerings. The blade will corrode over time if not looked after so the knife is always looked after and stored in the dry rather than left in the PFD. I expect it to be a regular companion on all my future trips.