Best Field Knife Sheaths and Accessories
A reliable and versatile field knife is an essential tool for outdoor enthusiasts, hunters, and survivalists alike. However, a knife is only as good as its sheath and accessories, which play a crucial role in ensuring the safety, longevity, and functionality of your blade. This article will discuss the best field knife sheaths and accessories on the market, to help you choose the perfect companion for your trusty knife.
- Kydex Sheaths
- Leather Sheaths
- Nylon Sheaths
- Best DIY Sheath: Armory Plastics DIY Kydex Sheath
- Upgrade Pick: Armatus Fallkniven F1 Kydex Sheath
- Qualities of a Good Prepper Knife Sheath
- Carry Methods
- Ride Height
- Attachment Methods
- Steel Hates Moisture and Corrosive Chemicals
- Sheath Materials
- Don’t Get Crazy With Sheath Accessories
- But Don’t Overlook Lanyards
- Add-Ons for Simple Lanyard Improvements
- Best Overall Pick: Kurouto Kitchenware Walnut Knife Block
A comprehensive field knife setup consists of more than just the knife itself, as a proper sheath and a means of maintaining the blade’s sharpness are essential.
The majority of high-quality knives, including those recommended in top survival field knife reviews, typically come with a satisfactory synthetic factory sheath, eliminating the need for any aftermarket upgrades.
For instance, premium knives like the ESEE blades, which cost over $100, are accompanied by a Kydex sheath that meets the needs of average preppers and serves as both a primary blade sheath and a bug out bag accessory for our writer.
However, some knives priced below $50 may be equipped with sheaths that are inadequate for prolonged emergencies. It’s also not uncommon for high-end manufacturers to include factory sheaths that do not meet the requirements of prepping, assuming that experienced buyers will replace them anyway.
If you’re purchasing a less expensive knife and have concerns about the sheath’s quality, it is often wiser to invest in a better knife from the start. Instead of spending $40 on a knife that comes with a subpar factory sheath and an additional $30 on a proper sheath, allocating $70 towards a superior knife will likely provide you with an adequate sheath.
Rather than conducting a typical gear comparison review, we will discuss the instances in which an aftermarket sheath is necessary, elaborate on the underlying theory and criteria, and provide some suggestions for popular knife models.
Key points to consider:
- Take into account the method and location of sheath attachment (e.g., belt, pack, horizontal setup).
- Avoid storing your knife in its sheath for prolonged periods as it can result in blade rust and dullness.
- Never store a knife in a leather sheath, as leather retains moisture and the tanning chemicals used can corrode the blade.
- Synthetic materials like Kydex are suitable for most individuals, while those with experience might prefer leather.
- Wrist lanyards are recommended and using paracord is preferable over leather.
- Steer clear of complex sheaths that come with attached “survival kits.”
1. Kydex Sheaths
Kydex is a popular choice for field knife sheaths due to its durability, lightweight design, and resistance to moisture and other harsh conditions. These sheaths are custom-molded to fit your knife’s specific dimensions, ensuring a secure and snug fit. Additionally, Kydex sheaths can be easily cleaned and maintained, making them a reliable choice for long-lasting protection.
2. Leather Sheaths
Leather sheaths are a classic choice for knife enthusiasts, combining aesthetics and functionality. They offer excellent durability and often come with a belt loop or clip for easy attachment. When properly maintained, leather sheaths can last for many years. However, they may require more maintenance than Kydex sheaths, as they can be more susceptible to moisture and damage if not properly treated.
3. Nylon Sheaths
Nylon sheaths are a cost-effective and lightweight option for protecting your field knife. They are usually resistant to water, abrasion, and mildew, making them suitable for various outdoor activities. However, they may not provide the same level of rigidity and protection as Kydex or leather sheaths.
1. Sharpening Stones and Systems
Keeping your field knife sharp is essential for optimal performance. There are many types of sharpening stones and systems available, including traditional whetstones, diamond stones, and guided sharpening systems. Choose a sharpening method that best suits your needs and skill level to maintain a razor-sharp edge on your field knife.
2. Fire Starters
A fire starter is a useful accessory to have alongside your field knife, as it allows you to start a fire in emergency situations or for cooking purposes. Options include ferrocerium rods, magnesium fire starters, and stormproof matches. Some knife sheaths even feature a built-in fire starter for added convenience.
3. Knife Lanyards
A knife lanyard is a simple but helpful accessory that can be attached to your knife’s handle, making it easy to access and reducing the risk of losing it. Lanyards can be made from paracord, leather, or other durable materials and can even be customized with beads or other decorative elements.
4. Multi-Tool Attachments
Some field knife sheaths offer integrated multi-tool attachments, such as a pouch for a small folding multi-tool or built-in tools like a small saw or bottle opener. These attachments can be a convenient addition for those who need more than just a knife during their outdoor adventures.
Best DIY Sheath: Armory Plastics DIY Kydex Sheath
One of the reasons Kydex is widely favored is its suitability for do-it-yourself (DIY) enthusiasts who can purchase a basic kit and create their own sheaths at home. The process involves heating the Kydex material, wrapping it around the knife, and holding or pressing it until it cools, resulting in a custom sheath. While it may be assumed that DIY methods yield sheaths of inferior quality compared to commercially available models, our findings indicate that creating a DIY Kydex sheath that rivals off-the-shelf options is neither challenging nor costly. Ultimately, the decision between DIY Kydex sheaths and ready-made ones boils down to personal preference.
Upgrade Pick: Armatus Fallkniven F1 Kydex Sheath
Numerous individuals who purchase our top-rated knife, the Fallkniven F1, opt to replace the original sheath with a more resilient leather or Kydex alternative. Due to the knife’s immense popularity, there is a wide array of options available, including skilled custom leather craftsmen who may not be easily discoverable online. For instance, you can reach out to JRE Industries via email, as they offer excellent service and are even featured in our 2018 Christmas prepper gift guide. Alternatively, you can explore the selection of Patriot Leather designs.
For those who prefer the recommended Kydex material, Armatus offers a Fallkniven F1 Sheath priced at $50, available in various colors. This fully ambidextrous sheath also includes a pair of laminated nylon soft loops equipped with mil-spec Pull-the-Dot™ snaps.
Price: $45.00 – $50.00
Qualities of a Good Prepper Knife Sheath
When selecting a sheath for your knife, there are two primary factors to consider: the material and the preferred carry method. The choice of material is generally objective, while the carry method tends to be more subjective and based on personal preference.
In addition, there are some additional criteria to keep in mind:
- Tough and durable construction to withstand rigorous use.
- Securely holds the knife in place to prevent accidental slippage.
- Allows for convenient carrying or mounting options suitable for emergency situations (e.g., attaching it to the exterior of a bug out bag).
- Minimizes noise generation when drawing or sheathing the blade, as well as when it comes into contact with other gear.
- Bonus feature: Some sheaths may include extra pockets designed to accommodate items such as sharpening stones or fire starters.
When it comes to carrying your field knife, there are three main options to consider: attaching it to your waist, chest, or pack.
It’s important to note that despite the visual appeal of G.I. Joe-style drop-leg sheaths and boot knives, these carry methods are generally not suitable for a primary field knife.
For waist carry, there are three options available:
- Belt carry: This is the traditional method where the knife is vertically positioned on the belt, with the tip pointing downwards.
- Horizontal carry: Preferred by some bushcrafters, this method involves carrying the knife behind the back in a horizontal sheath. It helps to free up space on the belt for other gear and enhances concealment, which can be beneficial in certain social situations.
- Inside waistband carry: Often overlooked but effective for larger knives, this method involves tucking the knife and sheath inside the waistband on the hip. It allows for the concealment of even sizable fixed-blade knives, although accessibility and speed may be slightly compromised.
In terms of chest carry, it is a convenient option when you want to keep the knife easily accessible without occupying precious belt space. It is also compatible with most backpack straps and vests.
In modern military movies, you may have observed a depiction of soldiers holding a blade upside down near their left armpit, an area that typically has limited gear. This positioning allows the soldier to swiftly grip and draw the knife with their right hand, even in close-quarters combat situations or when restrained.
While every item in an emergency bag holds significance, the field knife is particularly essential and requires convenient accessibility. If you choose not to carry the knife on your person, consider strapping it to the outside of your pack rather than burying it deep within your belongings.
To accomplish this, you will need a sheath with suitable holes that allow you to securely fasten it to your pack using cordage. Whenever possible, position the sheath in a location that allows easy access without the need to remove the entire pack. Some sheaths are designed to securely hold the knife even when it is upside down, enabling you to mount the sheath at unconventional angles or on the flat bottom of your pack.
In addition to selecting the attachment location for your sheath, when purchasing an aftermarket sheath, it’s worth considering the ride height, and attachment method: Explore options such as loops, clips, or cordage that are used to secure the sheath in place.
The attachment methods utilizing belt loops offer the highest level of security but can be challenging to remove. These types of sheaths are typically more difficult to fasten onto a vest or pack.
On the other hand, clips provide a less secure attachment but offer greater convenience for removal. For instance, if you need to quickly reposition the sheath from your 2 o’clock position to your 5 o’clock position, a clip allows for easy adjustment without the need to partially remove your belt.
Certain specialty clip designs, such as Tek-Lok, strive to combine the advantages of both loops and clips by providing a balance between security and flexibility.
Steel Hates Moisture and Corrosive Chemicals
Knives, typically made of steel, are susceptible to rust and corrosion when exposed to moisture and harmful substances.
However, it is inevitable that a knife used in emergency situations will come into contact with moisture and various chemicals present in our environment. Even a simple task like chopping wood exposes the blade to the natural moisture present in wood, except for extremely dry wood. When cutting processed wood, such as old furniture or decking, the knife is also exposed to varnish and other treatments.
Experienced knife users often express surprise at how rapidly a blade can rust. We personally encountered a situation where we unintentionally left a blade in the car for a week after a camping trip, only to discover significant rust formation caused by minimal moisture.
While many modern blades feature protective coatings or metal treatments that inherently resist corrosion, the very edge of the blade itself is often exposed, particularly after being sharpened once or twice.
Field knife sheaths are commonly available in three primary materials: leather, plastic (typically Kydex), and nylon. Each material has its own advantages and disadvantages.
For individuals seeking a convenient and low-maintenance option, synthetic materials such as Kydex are recommended. These materials provide a straightforward set-and-forget approach to sheath usage. On the other hand, leather sheaths may be more suitable for advanced bushcrafters who frequently utilize and properly maintain their field knives, as they can overcome the inherent drawbacks of leather. Leather sheaths may also be preferred by those who prioritize noise reduction.
In summary, synthetic materials like Kydex offer an easy and hassle-free solution, while leather sheaths cater to experienced bushcrafters who are willing to manage the disadvantages associated with leather or value noise reduction as a key factor.
Experienced field knife users highly appreciate and recommend leather as a superior and time-tested material. High-quality leather offers a remarkable combination of toughness, lightness, and structural integrity. Additionally, leather can be repaired in the field if necessary, provided one has the appropriate materials.
Another significant advantage of leather, particularly evident in tactical knife sheaths designed for military use, is its ability to maintain “noise discipline.” In simpler terms, leather is considerably quieter compared to harder synthetic materials. Drawing the blade from a leather sheath produces less noise, and leather doesn’t create disruptive banging sounds when in contact with other gear on your person or pack.
While it is unlikely that sheath noise will be critical in most situations, there are instances where it can make a notable difference.
However, leather does have its drawbacks. One major downside is its durability. Prolonged exposure to the elements can cause leather to deteriorate over time, similar to a sun-damaged living room sofa. Nevertheless, numerous products are available in the market to aid in maintaining and preserving leather, and the required maintenance is not overly complex or burdensome.
Another significant concern, particularly with larger or extremely sharp knives, is safety. A poorly constructed sheath made of cheap materials and inadequate stitching can result in undesirable outcomes, as illustrated in the accompanying image.
Lastly, it’s important to note that storing a knife in a leather sheath is not recommended. Leather has the tendency to retain moisture, and most leather sheaths have been treated with tanning and dyeing chemicals, which can lead to corrosion of the blade.
Kydex serves as the primary alternative to leather. This plastic material offers notable advantages such as stiffness, durability, and cost-effectiveness. It is also safe to store your knife in a Kydex sheath for extended periods, especially when the blade is cleaned and coated with silicone or a moisture-repellent oil.
However, a significant drawback of Kydex is its tendency to generate noise. The sheath can produce rattling sounds when it comes into contact with other hard items in your kit, and drawing a blade quietly from a Kydex sheath can be challenging.
Another complaint regarding Kydex is its potential to mar the knife blade or dull its edge if the sheath is poorly designed. If sand or grit finds its way into a Kydex sheath, it can become lodged in undesirable locations, leading to scraping against the blade during insertion and removal, which can result in finish damage. While modern coatings on carbon steel blades may be more resistant to such damage, it is still important to consider.
Many popular knife models offer molded plastic sheath options that are similar to Kydex in most aspects. However, these sheaths are often proprietary and may have different names. The characteristics and considerations discussed about Kydex sheaths apply to these alternative plastic sheaths as well.
Nylon is another commonly used material for sheaths, but it is not a preferred choice. Nylon sheaths lack the necessary stiffness and structure, increasing the likelihood of the blade bending in unexpected ways and potentially cutting through the sheath.
Moreover, nylon sheaths have a tendency to retain grit within their fibers, leading to the same issue of potential blade damage as observed with Kydex sheaths.
Don’t Get Crazy With Sheath Accessories
Certain high-end bushcraft sheaths available in the market offer a range of holders, pockets, and straps, allowing for an all-in-one survival kit to be carried on your belt.
However, we are not particularly fond of this approach for a couple of reasons. Firstly, if you happen to lose the entire bundle, you would lose your entire kit along with it. Secondly, the bundled kit tends to be bulky, making concealment more challenging.
While it is acceptable to have a sheath with loops or pockets designed to accommodate small sharpening stones or fire-starting materials, we advise against going overboard with excessive sheath attachments. In this case, simplicity is often preferable, as having fewer attachments tends to be more practical.
But Don’t Overlook Lanyards
Utilizing a wrist lanyard for a field knife proves to be beneficial as it enhances retention, safety, and reduces fatigue. We consider lanyards to be an integral part of the overall knife system.
Imagine finding yourself in a winter emergency without heat and needing to chop furniture into firewood. While a good field knife can serve this purpose, you are likely to experience muscle fatigue more quickly compared to using a proper axe.
Similar to the wrist straps found on ski poles, a knife lanyard allows you to relax your grip on the blade without the fear of it slipping out of your hand and causing harm.
Although the slight relaxation of grip may seem insignificant, the difference becomes noticeable even after just 15 minutes of work. Furthermore, it provides the added safety of preventing potential injuries at the most critical times.
The majority of knives with lanyard holes feature an attachment point at the bottom of the handle. However, higher-end knives often have a lanyard hole positioned at the front of the knife, directly under the blade.
By placing a lanyard through the top hole and looping it around the wrist, it becomes easier to perform long, sweeping cutting strokes away from the body, such as when sharpening a stick into a spear. The lanyard creates a pivot point, allowing you to trade grip strength for wrist strength. Consequently, you can rely more on your grip and less on your wrist while executing the same stroke, reducing strain on the wrist.
Add-Ons for Simple Lanyard Improvements
The preferred choice for lanyard material in field knives is the reliable 550 paracord. To enhance your preparedness, you can opt for the $6 UST ParaTinder, which contains an inner strand of flammable material that can be utilized for fire starting. We strongly recommend using paracord over leather, which is another popular option for lanyards, as leather has a tendency to stretch and retain moisture. While leather straps may look appealing and serve well in daily use, they are not suitable for a survival knife.
In addition to the lanyard material, it is essential to have a lanyard bead for adjusting the lanyard to different circumstances. Titanium lanyard beads are affordable enough to consider purchasing a box. We prefer larger TI-EDC beads for knife lanyards as they provide more length (14mm compared to 10mm for shorter ones), resulting in increased surface area and friction with the paracord, thus ensuring a tighter hold.
While experts typically advise against storing a knife in its sheath, it is common practice for many individuals, including some of our writers, who prefer keeping their knives in the sheath as part of their emergency bags.
Among various sheath materials, leather sheaths are particularly unsuitable for storage due to their moisture retention and the chemicals used in the tanning process, which can be detrimental to knife blades.
A cost-effective alternative is to create a simple sheath using folded cardboard and tape. In fact, some custom or high-end knife manufacturers even package and ship their blades in this manner. Cardboard provides sufficient breathability to allow moisture to escape while still offering protection to the knife’s edge.
If you opt to store your knife in a synthetic sheath, you can minimize potential issues by applying oil or silicone as part of your regular maintenance routine. This helps to mitigate any adverse effects and maintain the knife’s condition.
Best Overall Pick: Kurouto Kitchenware Walnut Knife Block
An excellent storage option for field knives is a wooden magnetic knife holder, commonly used by chefs. These holders offer a secure storage solution that keeps knives safely in place without causing any scuffing, while also serving as an attractive display. One highly recommended choice is the $35 Kurouto Kitchenware Walnut Knife Block, which stands out for its stylish design, reasonable price, and exceptional five-star rating.
Choosing the right sheath and accessories for your field knife is crucial to ensure its longevity, safety, and effectiveness. By selecting a suitable sheath material and investing in practical accessories, you can enhance your field knife’s overall performance and reliability in various outdoor scenarios. Whether you prefer the durability of Kydex, the classic look of leather, or the affordability of nylon, there is a sheath and accessory combination that will perfectly suit your needs.