Some Would Argue The Boot Knife Is Obsolete…Is It Really?
Depending on who you ask, they will either tell you how much they love the boot knife, or how impractical/useless it is in this day and age. I agree with both sides of the argument. In my opinion, boot knives are useful for some things, and quite bad for others. In the end, it all comes down to application.
Something else that often gets overlooked is comfort. Not everyone is comfortable carrying a knife inside/outside their boots…heck not everyone wants to even wear boots to begin with! Irrespective, I still think the boot knife has a place for certain applications (more on this below). Upon reading this post, you’ll have a better understanding of:
- A list of things you ought to consider before buying a boot knife.
- The best boot knife in my humble opinion, followed by an honorable mention.
- How to wear and maintain your boot knife, so that it lasts a lifetime.
Before we start talking about what to consider, I’d like to discuss a few scenarios where boot knives could prove very useful:
- When carried as a backup to your EDC—Having a backup knife is always a good idea. Some may argue it’s not necessary, and takes up extra storage space, to which I disagree. If your primary knife has ever failed on you, you’ll know exactly why we need a backup. Boot knives make for awesome backup blades.They’re small, light, and sharp enough to easily get the job done. As far as application is concerned, I think boot knives as a backup would be perfect for campers, hunters, hikers, and even fishermen!
- For Long Road Trips—If you drive long distances (especially in remote areas), a boot knife may come in handy one day. Ever hear the quote by Benjamin Disraeli “I am prepared for the worst, but hope for the best”? This quote applies perfectly here. In the event of an unforeseen accident, having a boot knife on your person could be useful to cut free from your seat belt. The key here is being able to quickly and easily access a knife when you need to. Again, this is all precautionary. Hopefully the situation never arises to begin with!
What You Ought To Consider Before Buying!
Below is a list of 6 things I would personally consider before buying. Some folks may have varying preferences, and that’s alright. Go through the list, and pick what you think is applicable to you!
Just like credit card and butterfly knives, boot knives may also be deemed illegal depending on where you reside. How do you know if they’re legal/illegal? Simple. Read up on the knife laws/legislations applicable to your city/state. One thing to keep in mind:
Legality on these knives is not black and white, and there’s a lot of factors that come into play!
For example, a boot knife may be considered illegal if its blade exceeds a certain length. Similarly, if it’s concealable, it may be illegal. If it’s a certain edge type (double edge), it may be illegal. My point is you should do your due diligence and confirm legal implications. Knife laws in the US and Canada tend to vary, and what is allowed in one state may not be the case for another!
#2 Boots! Boots! Boots!
Always a good idea to buy a boot knife that fits your boots! At this point, you should be thinking about how you intend to wear the knife (more on this later), and there’s really quite a few ways to do this. There are boots that come equipped with sheaths to fit your knife in, and if you haven’t considered them…..you probably should! It’s much less of a hassle when you have boots that are already customized for knife storage, instead of having to alter your boots by adding a sheath/storage compartment.
Something else you may wanna think about: knife size in comparison to boot size. If you’re boots are only slightly above the ankle for example, you should avoid knives with longer blades. If you have taller boots, then obviously this is a non issue!
#3 Blade Length/Size
Another very important thing to consider is blade length/size. Some prefer long blades, while others prefer short blades. It really comes down to preference, comfort, and what you’ll be using the knife for.
I personally prefer a shorter blade especially given that it will be stored inside or outside my boot.
I guess it’s more of a comfort thing for me! However, you should give it some thought prior to buying. Same thing with weight by the way. The lighter the knife, the happier I am. Having said that, most boot knives don’t disappoint when it comes to weight. The blades and handles are designed to be lightweight. Let’s face it, no one wants to walk around with a limp!
#4 Have You Thought About A Sheath Yet?
You definitely want to store your boot knife in a sheath! There’s no 2 ways about it. Why is a sheath so important? It keeps your knife protected from dirt, debris, sweat, water etc. If this were an EDC that you store in a backpack, or clip to your pocket, I’d have said you can get away without having a sheath. That’s not the case here, simply because of where a boot knife is worn. It’s close to the ground, and if you’re in the boonies, you’re likely walking over all sorts of crap (wet mud, grass, poop!?).
If your boot doesn’t already have one, you’ll need to get a sheath (unless it’s already included with the knife). Also, depending on how you choose to wear your boot knife, you may or may not want to consider an ankle wrap/strap. Some people like them, others don’t…..again, it’s one of those things that boils down to preference.
#5 Blade Steel
It doesn’t matter whether you’re buying a kitchen knife, pocket knife, or survival knife, blade steel will always be paramount. And that’s precisely why I preach about it time and again. What are some of the things you should be thinking about?
- Corrosion Resistance—Some steels resist corrosion better than others.
- Edge Retention—How long a steel is able to retain its edge over time.
- Hardness & Toughness—Generally, the harder the steel, the less tough it is (inverse relationship). Both hardness and toughness are important. Hard steels typically retain an edge for longer. Tough steels are less susceptible to chips and nicks.
One could write an entire book about blade steel, simply because it’s such an involved topic!
The 3 things above are what I would think about before buying, but just know there’s a whole whack of variables out there! To conclude this section, I’ll leave you with a link to an incredibly resourceful post dedicated to knife steel. It’s worth a read!
#6 Blade Type/Shape
There’s tons of different blade types, and each one has its own strengths and weaknesses. For example, double edged blades are particularly good at piercing actions, as trailing points are good at slash cuts. Having a basic understanding of the different blade types will help you decide which one is best for you. Here’s a short, easy to read article from Lansky that does a great job explaining blade types.
Important: when considering blade types, always think long term!
When I say long term, what I really mean is think about how you’re going to sharpen and maintain the blade. Some blade shapes are easy to sharpen, and some are an absolute pain. I personally prefer the simple “v style” blade. It’s pretty easy to sharpen and maintain. Having said that, a simple blade is what I would recommend to anyone who is new to knives.
The Best Boot Knife: Gerber Ghoststrike
A knife that puts every other competing product to shame! Yes, there are some things I don’t like about it which I’ll share below, but overall this is the best boot knife bar none!
What I Love About It!
It Has Been Sized Perfectly!
It’s the small details that go a long way. Pretty much every other boot knife I looked at was a little too large for my liking. I mean 9”…that’s quite a lot to be carrying on your boot! I’m happy to say this isn’t an issue with the Ghoststrike. A decently sized 3.3” blade length and 6.9” overall, means this bad boy is not too small, nor too large. It hits the sweet spot of being both comfortable and effective!
Doesn’t Weigh Much Either!
Size is definitely important, but weight is equally important! As I said earlier, you don’t want to be walking around with a limp. How does a measly 3.6 ounces sound to you?
Comes With Both A Sheath & Ankle Wrap
What I love about ankle wraps is that they allow you to carry your knife, irrespective of shoe wear. You don’t need to wear tall hiking or cowboy boots, and that to me is a game changer! The sheath system that’s part of the ankle wrap is also pretty neat. Not too bulky, so it’s perfect if you’re looking for a concealed look!
420HC Blade Steel
Some will disagree, but 420HC to me is a very good choice of steel for boot knives in particular. Why? Because 420HC is awesome at resisting corrosion, and incredibly easy to sharpen. The best boot knife for me must be able to resist corrosion well. Why is corrosion such a big deal? Because boot knives, unlike other knives are worn on the boot and are therefore more susceptible to muddy water splashes, sweat, grime and dirt. As a result, there is a much higher potential of rust formation.
What I Don’t Like About It!
I’d Have Preferred A “V” Style Over A Drop Point
If given a choice, I’d pick a “v” style shape over a drop point. I find “v” styles are generally easier to maintain and sharpen.
Honorable Mention (2nd Best Boot Knife)
Now that you know what my best boot knife is, let’s talk about my second choice: SOG NB1012-CP. With an overall length of 5.9”, this measures even smaller than the Ghoststrike above. It also weight quite a bit less. 1.7 ounces for the skeletonized handle, or 2.3 ounces for the G-10 handles. Overall, a much more compact solution compared to the Ghoststrike we spoke about earlier.
While I absolutely love how compact this knife is, there’s 2 things I dislike:
- Not a fan of 5Cr15MoV—Mostly because of its low carbon content, which thereby results in poor edge retention. If you get this, be ready to sharpen frequently!
- No ankle wrap—It doesn’t come with an ankle wrap, but you can still clip the sheath to a boot.
How To Wear A Boot Knife
We’ve talked about the best boot knife and what you should consider before buying one, so now let’s talk about the different ways to wear one!
#1 On The Inside/Outside Of Your Boot By Using A Clip
Remember the part where I talk about how important it is to always have a sheath? The reason is it not only protects your knife, but without one storage would be impossible, unless you’re crazy enough to store an exposed knife inside your boot! You can’t carry/equip a boot knife on a regular boot, if you don’t have a sheath.
If you own boots specifically designed to carry knives, then that’s a slightly different story because those may have built in sheaths. I’m assuming you own a regular pair of boots. If that’s the case, you’ll want to ensure you buy a sheath that comes with a clip (like the SOG knife above).
There’s 2 options for clipping onto your boot:
- Clip with knife resting inside the boot
- Clip with knife resting outside the boot
I prefer when the knife rests outside the boot. For one, you’re less likely to seriously injure yourself if you tripped and the knife came apart from the sheath. And two, it’s more comfortable because the knife isn’t inside your boot. This is a big deal for anyone who walks long distances!
#2 By Using An Ankle Wrap
This is by far my favorite way to wear a boot knife. It’s quick, easy, versatile, and incredibly comfortable. Just strap on the ankle wrap, and away you go. Check out the short video from Geber Gear below! (all credit to Gerber Gear)
Final Words On Maintenance
In the not so distant future I will write a post dedicated to knife maintenance. There’s a lot to consider, but everything can be broken down into 5 main topics. Check out the info graphic I created below! (courtesy of Venngage)
You’re Good To Go!
And with that you should be good to go. I’ve shared with you pretty much everything I know about boot knives. If there’s something you feel I missed, please let me know by leaving a comment below. Lastly, thanks for reading! If you got some value out of this, please consider sharing on the socials!
Now that you know mine, what’s your best boot knife? Let’s get a discussion going!