Best sailing knives: 12 of the best safety knives for emergency use

Best sailing knives: 12 of the best safety knives for emergency use


Tech Editor and specialist in safety gear, Fox Morgan takes a look through some of the best safety knives available for use in emergencies onboard or overboard.

The safety knife is an often neglected tool, typically languishing strapped to a binnacle leg or stowed inside a lifejacket or a belt pouch. until that is, the moment comes to use one in an emergency.

It’s at this point you’ll be eternally grateful that you opted for a good quality bit of kit rather than a cheap, flimsy piece of rubbish that is rusted and brittle and leaves you still in danger or worse, injured as a result.

There’s three styles of safety knife: strap cutters, blunt tipped fixed blades and folding blades.

I recommend you have one of each, at least. Ideally more. Alongside these I also recommend a general purpose sailing knife and multitool. 

12 of the best safety knives available today…

A word of warning though: Whichever type of knife you decide upon, do make sure the one you choose is legal, otherwise you could face a fine of up to £5,000.

It’s also illegal to carry a knife in public without good reason, (such as transporting it to or from your boat), unless it has a folding blade with a cutting edge of 3″ or less. For full guidance on knives and the law, visit the relevant section of the website.

At a glance:
Best strap cutter: Gerber Strap Cutter
Best Fixed blade safety knife: Wichard rescue knife

Best safety knives: Strap cutters


Gill harness rescue tool

Reasons to Buy: Compact, finger guard, additional shackle key built in

Reasons to Avoid: not intended for use as a regular sailing knife for general purpose.

Specifications: Titanium coated 420 stainless steel, total Length 127mm, shackle key, Supplied with a nylon sheath

This rescue tool fits into a small sleeve to attach to a belt or within a safe area of your lifejacket stowage,

Fitting neatly into the category of life-saving sailing knives is this basic harness rescue tool from Gill. Its 420 stainless steel grade blade is titanium-coated for even greater resistance to corrosion. Just 127mm long, it’s a low-profile tool designed to be slipped into any convenient pocket on your sailing suit or buoyancy aid.

The tool’s shackle key will fit many small to medium size shackles and a protective nylon sheath is included. The G10 composite handle gives a good grip regardless of whether the tool is wet or dry, and the blade itself is serrated to provide an efficient cutting edge for emergency use.

Buy it now on Amazon

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Crewsaver ErgoFit safety knife

Reasons to Buy: light weight, comes with a nicely made sheath, high visibility colour

Reasons to Avoid: for other tools and cutting options you will need other blade options or knives, this is a single purpose item.

Specifications: Bright orange plastic coated stainless steel blade,

The ErgoFit safety knife carries the highly respected Crewsaver brand name, which means it has to be well worth considering. As an item of kit specifically made for mariners, the ErgoFit has been designed with safety as its top priority.

Intended to be carried at all times when you’re on the water, this sailing knife is small, unobtrusive but highly effective as a rope or webbing cutter should an emergency situation arise.

There’s no doubt it’s a neat design and as it’s constructed from durable nylon plastic, there’s no chance of it corroding over time. The blade itself is ergonomically-shaped for fast efficient cutting, and a smart carry pouch designed to attach to your lifejacket is included in the purchase price.

Buy it now on Amazon

Gerber Strap Cutter

Reasons to Buy: Light weight, very easy to grip, has built in glass hammer

Reasons to Avoid: very specific use, hard to sharpen

Specifications: One piece stainless steel blade with black oxide coating, injection moulded plastic sheath, glass breaker, lanyard hole, Length: 4.3″ | 10.9cm, Weight: 2.2oz | 62.3g

The Gerber strap cutter and glass breaker is a neat but powerful tool that can get you out of trouble fast.

Ideally worn about the person, either stowed on or near your lifejacket or for use in a liferaft or other emergency grab bag.

It has a really sturdy grip and fits well in the hand, whether you have gloves on or not.

A great bit of kit, especially if you find yourself needing to cut webbing in a hurry, or smash glass for any reason.

C-SHARK Safety Knife


Rooster safety knife

Best safety knives: Fixed blade blunt tip emergency knives


Gerber River shorty

Reasons to Buy: Light weight, safety tip, really strong handle

Reasons to Avoid: may be a little short for some tasks


The Gerber River shorty has a blunted tip and is a fixed blade with a sheath ptotector. This knife is ideally suited for being a reach for in case of emergency kind of boat knife.

You’d strap this to the binnacle leg or attach it to a safe point within reach of the helm or alternatively keep it in a grab bag or emergency pack.

The handle is grippy with extra lips to gain purchase when sawing away at something urgently.

The holes in the handle lend themselves perfectly for attaching a lanyard to avoid this being lost over the side.

A big thumbs up from me on this knife as it’s visible and easy to use with or without gloves on.



NRS Neko blunt knife

Reasons to Buy

Reasons to Avoid


It might sound daft, but a blunt knife – blunt at the tip, that is – makes a lot of sense for a product primarily intended to be mounted onto a lifejacket’s accessory tab, making it one the best sailing knives for this particular job.

The Neko features a friction release sheath which is designed for single hand release – simply grip the handle, pull, and off it comes.

The hybrid blade includes a serrated section for quickly cutting webbing and rope, and there’s a sharp smooth section for finer cutting.

The blade’s contoured handle has a rubberised grip for maximum control and there’s an integrated bottle opener which is bound to come in handy!


Buy NRS rescue knife from Amazon


Mac Resuce Knife with Hook Tip

Reasons to Buy

Reasons to Avoid


Wichard Rescue Knife

Reasons to Buy

Reasons to Avoid


Best safety knives- Best folding safety knives

Gill personal rescue knife

Reasons to Buy

Reasons to Avoid


Offered on Gill Marine’s eBay store is this personal rescue knife which we regard as a big brother to the Gill rescue tool described above.

Like the rescue tool, this product also has a serrated blade, enabling webbing and rope to be quickly cut in an emergency. When not in use, the blade folds away into the handle leaving you with a compact, safe knife to clip to your belt or buoyancy aid.

The handle has been designed to provide excellent grip in the dry and the wet and its bright orange colour ensures this knife will be easy to spot even in low visibility conditions.

Buy it now on Amazon

Gerber EZ-Out Rescue knife

Reasons to Buy: Light weight, easy to open, very powerful cutting blade

Reasons to Avoid: some may find the blade a little too aggressive


This is a single blade with a rounded tip and no other tools or features. Although the blade remains safely sprung closed, it is easy and safe to open one-handed.

The 7.8cm-long blade is serrated, but not so heavily that the knife grips a rope when it should be cutting it. We found the EZ-Out Rescue the most effective cutter in our test. Whether faced with the tough Dyneema halyard, the webbing or the awkward polypropylene line, this blade scythed through in a few seconds at most.

The blade locks well and is easily returned via a push point on the rear. At 73.7g, the EZ-Out Rescue is very light and there is a lanyard point as well as a pocket clip.

That bright yellow, reinforced thermoplastic handle is mottled for grip and Gerber has boosted this with a raised black rubber lip on each side. The overall unit is relatively thin but perfectly comfortable to use.

This knife comes with a lifetime warranty.


Reasons to Buy

Reasons to Avoid




If you enjoyed this article, you may enjoy further reading

Eight multitools tested

Tested –  Wichard Rescue Knife

Tested – Palm folding knife

If you enjoyed this….

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