Just like any pocket knife or camping saw, a boot knife is super useful as a ready tool in situations where your primary implement has broken or otherwise inoperable. Many of the tasks required at a backcountry campsite can be accomplished with a pocket knife or survival knife, and if you want to have one handy for any occasion, having it strapped to or tucked into whatever pair of boots you’re wearing is a great use of space.
While it’s simple to attach a boot knife or insert a pocket knife or fixed-blade knife into the sheath of a pair of specifically designed boots, many inexperienced campers experience discomfort and can even be putting themselves in dangerous situations by incorrectly strapping on a boot knife.
The way campers wear a boot knife will depend on many factors, such as what pair of boots they wear, what kind of knife they have, and what purpose the boot knife is intended to serve around the campsite. Different knife styles can be used more effectively in certain situations. A folding knife is great for jobs like whittling or repairs that require attention to minute details. They are also more concealable, but folding knife owners should take special care to research the local laws in their area regarding possession of concealed weapons.
A fixed-blade knife is more frequently used by survivalists and backpackers who want to have quick access to a weapon for self-defense. Dangerous situations in the backcountry like run-ins with small wildlife or emergency situations like falling tree limbs might necessitate a high-quality knife on a moment’s notice.
A well-placed knife on the side of your boot can get you out of some sticky situations if you’re clever enough with it. Modern boots often have integrated sheaths for boot knives and there are several methods for attaching knives to classic cowboy boot and steel-toe boot styles as well.
Popular outdoor equipment retailers and online shops like Amazon have lots of options for sheaths, holsters, and boots with integrated pockets for boot knives. There are also some DIY methods that campers can use to attach just about any type of knife to their boots.
Knowing how to use a given type of knife can be helpful when cooking, clearing, or searching for firewood at a campsite. The best boot knife will fit snugly on the side of your boot where you can quickly reach it when the time comes.
Read on to find out everything you need to know about everyday carry (EDC) knives and how you can keep one close at hand all around the campsite for quick access and easy use.
What is an everyday carry knife?
An EDC is not intended to be a primary tool or self-defense weapon but rather a backup in case your primary implement is broken or out of reach. Many survivalists and preppers preach the gospel of EDC, touting the potential for emergency situations where quick access will make all the difference.
The construction of the knife you choose for self-defense or utility around the campsite should be sturdy enough to get the job done and stay in its best condition with minor amounts of upkeep. It shouldn’t outshine your other equipment, but it should be just as convenient to carry around with you as possible.
There are many styles of knives that can be suitable as EDC tools. The choice is up to the keeper. Popular brands like Gerber make a variety of high-quality boot knives and pocket knives that serve well for the small tasks that tend to arise during the course of a normal day at a campsite.
Imagine cooking and needing to cut off a quick bit of meat or vegetable, or trimming down some smaller branches from firewood for a camping stove. Whittling, a calming pastime commonly enjoyed around the campfire, can be readily done with your EDC knife, even if it’s only for a minute or two.
Styles of boot knives
Utility shapes the various kinds of knives campers prefer. Depending on how you want to use your boot knife, you might like to have one of these styles over the other:
Pocket knife: The standard folding knife that likely comes to mind first; a swiss army knife or something similar, the blade folds in one direction down into the handle. The advantages of the standard pocket knife are its small size, which makes it great as a concealed weapon or tool. Disadvantages to a standard pocket knife are the action time, meaning how fast one can unsheathe the blade and have it ready for action, as well as the need for two hands to pull the blade out.
The blade length will almost always be shorter for folding knives to prevent them from being too unwieldy for use. For just about every normal non-emergency situation campers will run into throughout a day in the backcountry, a folding knife will do fine. For survivalists or folks who worry about having to quickly have a ready blade in hand, a different model might work better.
Hunting knife: This variety is more like a bowie knife, a fixed-blade knife with a longer handle. Imagine the knife carried by famous Aussie Crocodile Dundee if you’re not yet familiar with different knife models off the top of your head. This is a far more sturdy blade than a typical pocket knife and will work great for small tasks like whittling or larger tasks like food prep and animal dressing. Using a large hunting knife is preferable to those who can get used to the extra weight in their boots.
Attaching a larger knife should be undertaken with more care to prevent inadvertent injury on the sharper blade. It won’t be as concealable as a smaller knife, but the larger size makes it more useful in different applications, which makes it more desirable for many campers. Remember that a hunting knife is not the same thing as a hunting dagger, which is generally used as a weapon to kill an animal. This variety serves better as a backup tool in case you need to cut up the meat or do some dressing.
Parts of a boot knife
There are many small stylistic and utilitarian design features across the boot knife market. Very few of these features have been added in without some use in mind. A folding knife with many extra tools may be more desirable for some while a straightforward blade might work better as a survival knife for others. It all depends on what you want out of your backup knife.
The shape of the blade and the overall length can go a long way in making a knife more or less useful around the campsite. A longer blade length will act as a longer lever when more torque is needed, like plying through some wood or some tough game. A shorter blade length will be more concealable and potentially easier to whip out of a boot holster or integrated pocket. Some of the different blade shapes are as follows:
Spear point vs. drop point
A spear point knife has the tip of the blade equidistant between the spine of the knife (that’s the back, the side that isn’t sharp) and the razor side. The tip is stronger with this knife shape, which makes it great for thrusting or stabbing into things. A drop point knife has an angled spine that meets the edge of the knife at the end of a convex line. Drop point knives are often sturdier and the inclined edge can give a better grip or make applying pressure slightly easier.
Clip point blades
A clip point blade is kind of like a cross between a spear point and a drop point blade. This style has a crescent-shaped line that meets a straight or slightly descending line, making the front of the flat side of the knife curved and the back of it straight or nearly so. This gives it a little more grip that a drop point knife, generally speaking.
This blade has a rounded edge just above the tip. It has a background in animal husbandry, but around the campsite, it is sometimes preferred because the rounded-out edge makes it more difficult to accidentally cut oneself or inadvertently jab the tip into your ankle when you try to return it to its sheath.
This is the strongest type of blade there is, which makes it a great choice for camping and EDC. The thickness of the back edge of the knife has the same thickness from the base of the blade to the tip, which means it can withstand more pressure than other blades without bending or breaking. The thickness can be less concealable, but many campers still prefer this style of knife as a dependable blade to keep stowed in their camping boots because they rarely have to worry about it wearing out on them.
Where to attach a boot knife
Whichever style of blade you choose can affect where you attach a boot knife. It also depends on which hand is your dominant side. Right-handed people usually keep their boot knife on their right boot, making it easier to grab with the right hand. Left-handed people generally prefer the left boot for the same reason.
A boot knife can be simply slipped into the ankle of your hiking boot if it will rest snugly there and not shift around while you move. The worst thing a boot knife can do is move around, causing discomfort and potential injury.
For that reason, many campers choose to either purchase a sheath or buy hiking boots or trousers with an integrated pocket. Additionally, some kind of string or other cordage can be used to secure the handle of the knife against the wearer’s shin to prevent it from shifting.
Some wearers put their boot knife on the inside of their leg while others wear it on the outside. The outside of your boot is much more common because it will be more readily accessible in a wider variety of situations. Strapping a holster or a boot knife directly to the inside of your boot can prevent it from getting caught on stray branches and coming loose, but it can also impede your tread and turn into more of a nuisance than a helpful camping tool.
Find a boot knife with a sheath included
Many of the most popular brand names in the knife industry like Gerber, CRKT, and SOG come with or at a minimum can be outfitted with a knife sheath. A holster or knife sheath can turn any knife into a concealable or at least portable EDC knife that’s ideal for a camping trip. Usually, a holster has some cordage that can be wrapped around the leg and passed through a loophole at the top to make it more secure.
The knife is then simply slipped inside. A second strap for the handle of the knife may also be included or added by the wearer to make sure the knife won’t budge. A high-quality sheath or holster will both protect your knife and keep is safely out of the way until you need it.
Customizing your boot knife
How you wear your boots or shoes and the way you position your EDC knife can vary depending on how frequently you change up the situations when you use it. People who always or almost always wear the same pair of boots to go camping can have an integrated pocket sewn into the side of the boots.
If you alternate between hiking boots and shoes, or if you occasionally prefer to wear flip flops, then the holster is essential because it will enable you to quickly put on your EDC knife no matter what your choice in footwear.
Having a high-quality knife at hand whenever you need it can make camping much more simple. Tasks like foraging for firewood or clearing space for a tent or a hammock can be much easier with a knife. Many survivalists have an everyday carry, or EDC, knife on them at all times for dangerous situations with wildlife or treacherous outdoor accidents. There are many smaller tasks around the campsite that a knife can be handy for such as food preparation or setting up a tent.
The key characteristics of an EDC knife are that it be lightweight enough to carry without additional exertion, small enough to be concealable, and sturdy enough to accomplish any task you may need it for. Always remember that this blade is not meant to be a primary tool or weapon for self-defense but rather an alternate in case your primary tool breaks or gets lost.
Carrying a boot knife does count as a concealed weapon in just about every state in the United States, so research your local laws before you go out in public. A police officer is unlikely to mind except in the worst-case scenario, but always be vocal about the presence of the weapon to prevent accidental injury or a surprise that will make the situation even worse.
Attaching a boot knife is really very simple. Despite all the developments in the shape and overall length of knives meant to be carried on the ankle or in a boot, there really is no beating the simplicity of sticking the knife in the top of the boot or tying it around the bottom of your leg for quick access. A simple string, shoelace, or other type of cordage will do just fine, but there are also more sophisticated models of knife sheaths and holsters that make transporting a boot knife even easier.
To make sure you don’t keep jabbing yourself or getting cut on your blade accidentally, make sure you have a holster that’s made of a durable enough material that the knife won’t cut through it. You should also take care to practice removing the blade from the holster or your boot quickly in an emergency situation. Remember to keep it on your dominant side and in a place where you’ll be able to reach it if you suddenly encounter wildlife or get pinned down under a branch that needs cutting.
A stainless steel blade will get you through anything you need it for around the campsite and many big brands like Gerber also offer finished like Diamond-like Carbon (DLC), stonewash, and protective paint to make the blade even more durable and keep it looking like new after a long time of use.
Bonus tip: Looking for a hands-on project? Watch this video for instructions on making your own DIY knife sheath for your boots and shoes!