Often looked down on in the EDC knife community, the neck knife is frequently an underrated and extremely useful knife to carry around with you. Thanks to its low-profile, lightweight, and compact build, neck knives can have your back in a pinch, or when you don’t have access to other carry knives.
These durable and sturdy fixed blade knives are worth paying attention to if you’re a fan of on-the-go utility/protection. You’ll find that the longer you have a quality neck knife, the more uses you’ll find for it. Before long, you won’t be able to imagine getting dressed without your trusty and capable companion around your neck.
Unfortunately, it’s not all this simple and there’s more to consider. Are they worth the money? Is it better to just get a pocket knife, or carry a larger fixed-blade knife? How much can a neck knife do? These are all important questions that we’re going to explore in this guide.
We’ll also cover the pros and cons of carrying a neck knife so that you know what you’re getting into before buying one. Our goal is to get you informed and ready to make a smart choice and get a knife that’s just right for you! Let’s get started!
Neck Knife Definition
A neck knife is a small fixed-blade knife that’s worn on a cord or chain around your neck. Most neck knives are worn inside a sheath and are held in place by friction, a clip, a strap, or a loop. Neck knives have thin blades, short overall lengths, and slim profiles.
They slip under your shirt and are considered a concealed carry. You’ll hang a neck knife in one of two ways: handle-down; and handle-up (also known as the mountain-man style carry). Both have their advantages and disadvantages, as well as various safety and comfort concerns.
Most neck knives are single-edged and will almost always be shorter than 4” in blade length – though you’ll usually find their blades to be less than 3” long. Neck knives are generally used for utility work, but you can buy dagger and defensive variations. Now that we know what is a neck knife, let’s take a look at its purpose.
What Is the Purpose of a Neck Knife?
At face value, neck knives might seem to struggle to find their place. Why carry a larger neck knife when you could just use a pocket knife or even a boot knife? With pocket knives being so widely and affordably available, they offer quite a lot of versatility and cover a wide range of needs.
For many people (myself included) neck knives aren’t usually your primary carry knives. I only know one person that carries a neck knife as their primary. Neck knives are excellent support knives and give you a sense of calm knowing that you always have a knife on you. Some die hard knife enthusiasts have “always carry a knife – even in the shower” as one of their rules.
This might seem a little over the top, but it’s more common than you’d think. If you’re looking for a little more peace of mind knowing that you have a knife in case you forget your primary pocket or fixed knife – then neck knives are perfect. As we mentioned earlier, there are different types of neck knives.
Most of them are focused on compact utility, with short blades, rust resistance, quality steel, and user-friendly handles. You can also find some knives for self-defense (Cold Steel Urban for example) that are typically shorter and solely focused on defense, e.g. push daggers. Neck knives are made for lighter utility work for both the indoors and the outdoors.
You’ll find them capable for their size and very sharp. Cutting through rope, material, fruit, and basic utility work like prying and cutting open boxes is quick and easy. They’re designed for users that won’t always have access to a pocket knife (e.g. mechanics and some construction workers) and need quick access to a sharp and capable blade.
Pros of Carrying a Neck Knife
As with everything you buy, there are pros and cons. There are no truly perfect knives, and there are no perfect neck knives. What matters is that you try to get a neck knife that’s just right for your needs and style. Let’s take a look at some of the pros of buying and carrying a neck knife.
Neck knives are generally cheaper than most pocket knives. You’ll find excellent quality neck knives that use top-of-the-line steel and construction for exceptionally affordable prices. A mid-upper range neck knife can cost you less than half of what you’d pay for an upper-end pocket knife – and significantly less than what you’d pay for a higher-end fixed knife.
Most people carry their neck knives hanging over their chest and under their shirt. They sit comfortably in the center of your chest between your pectoral muscles. You won’t see them bouncing around unless you start jogging and their slim profile keeps them pressed against you.
The ball chain or strap around your neck doesn’t make it clear that there’s a knife around your neck. They’re great for carrying around with you whenever you’re out of the house – but be warned that concealed carry might be illegal in your country/state.
Having a knife so centrally located gives them excellent accessibility. This is improved even further if you’re willing to wear your knife outside your shirt or jacket. There are some limits here worth paying attention to.
If you’re wearing a backpack then the chest straps might block the knife’s chain and make it harder to reach it. You also have to consider the type of sheath your knife uses. Some sheaths have an extra layer of security and require two hands to release the knife.
Lightweight and Compact
This is probably the main reason people carry neck knives. They get decent utility or protection while requiring the least amount of space and effort possible. Most neck knives are only a couple of inches in length and feature thin handles and slim blades.
Even when they’re sheathed, they’re generally quite flat and easy to carry. They’re far lighter than other fixed knives and smaller pocket knives. Once you’ve been carrying a neck knife for a while, you’ll probably stop noticing it’s even around your neck!
Strength of a Fixed Knife
Don’t let their smaller size and lighter weight deceive you; neck knives are incredibly strong and durable. Their compact build improves their structural integrity and makes them even more resistant to stabbing and twisting force.
There are fewer moving parts than pocket knives, so you’re getting quite a big advantage over them. You can get the same strength from a larger fixed knife, but good luck trying to carry it around your neck all day.
You can take a neck knife into the shower or the swimming pool. They’re also fantastic for when you aren’t wearing a belt and still want to carry a knife with you. Their light weight often means you won’t notice the knife around your neck once you’re used to carrying it. You can still access the knife while carrying a backpack with hip straps, whereas you’d struggle to get a pocket knife out as quickly and easily.
Cons of Carrying a Neck Knife
There are a couple of cons worth considering when you’re deciding whether or not a neck knife is a right choice for you. Here they are:
Not Always Accessible
Wearing the neck knife under your shirt (concealed) renders it very slow and tedious to reach. This is even truer if you’re in an office or wearing multiple layers of clothing. If you wear the knife outside your shirt then you have to risk it coming loose, catching on something, or getting in the way.
In many states around the US and many countries around the world, it’s illegal to carry a concealed knife. You need to do thorough research about whether or not your country/state/local authorities allow you to carry neck knives.
If you’ve never used a neck knife before then they can be quite annoying. If you’re out for a jog, you’ll have to deal with it bouncing up and down with every step. It can also be quite irritating having a knife hanging around your neck – not to mention the potential safety issues if the blade accidentally slips out of the sheath.
Slow to Re-Sheath
You’ll often need to use both of your hands to put the neck knife back into its sheath. One hand is used to hold the sheath steady, and the other will guide the knife into the sheath. It’s not worth the risk of getting a simple sheath that’s quick to close, but not great at keeping the knife safely tucked away.
You should have a pretty good idea of whether neck knives have what it takes to meet your needs and style. Bear in mind that there are different styles and aesthetic designs on the market, so take some time to look around and explore.
I know from experience that once you’re used to having a neck knife, you’ll find they become increasingly useful over time. You’ll find more uses for them, and who knows, they might even become an indispensable tool you can’t leave the house without!