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Choosing a knife is among the top concerns for every prepper, seasoned or newbie. And it only makes sense – knives are handy little tools that work wonders when it comes to outdoor survival or living off the grid. But most beginners tend to forget that a knife needs a knife sheath. How else can you carry it safely enough that it doesn’t stab or hurt you?
But the sheath does more than just protect you from your own blade. It protects the knife too, and allows you to mount or carry it the way that suits the purpose.
Just how difficult can it be to get a good product in that department? A knife sheath is not rocket science, I hear you sniggering. Contrary to what one might expect, finding the perfect knife sheath is a cumbersome process. It may look like a petty little accessory, but it has to be so much more than that. You’ll often get a sheath along with the knife, included in the package. While that will mean perfect fit and compatibility, it may not be the best choice in terms of performance.
So I combed through the market and here are some of the best choices I found.
But before we dig in, let’s have a look into basic considerations you should have if you want to get a good (or at least decent) knife sheath.
How Easily Can You Pull the Knife?
Most of the time, you’ll use your knife in foreseeable situations when you can take your sweet time pulling it in and out. When working with wood, skinning an animal or setting traps, there’s usually no rush.
But wilderness can throw some serious challenges your way. When you’re being attacked by a wild animal, it’s great to have a sharp dagger by your side in case you don’t manage to scare the animal away. And I’m not only referring to life-threatening situations such as bear or wolf attacks. Even a seemingly harmless creature such a raccoon can cause serious harm, especially if it’s rabid.
Well, if something like that should happen to you, even the best knife in the world will be useless if you can’t draw it in a split second. And that depends almost exclusively on your sheath.
It has to be positioned in such a way that you can handle the blade without looking at it every single time. Plus, it needs to allow you for a tight grip, which can make a difference between life and death.
How Do You Carry Your Knife?
Just like most other factors, the positioning and mounting of your knife will depend on its purpose. If bushcraft or wilderness survival is your primary consideration, you will want to carry the knife on your person, in a convenient place where it’s not an obstruction but is still easy to reach. For most people, it means carrying the knife attached to your belt on the back side, in a horizontal position.
Others prefer carrying their knife sheath vertically, attached to the belt through a loop. This method has two significant downsides though. The knife tends to get in the way. And when you want to remove it, you’ll have to get rid of the whole belt.
But if you merely need a knife for camping or a survival knife as part of your bug out plan, you can attach it to your backpack with straps.
Leather or Kydex?
One could safely say: when in doubt, go for natural materials.
While I generally agree with this assessment, it’s not a universal truth. Leather requires proper care and maintenance, with a decent conditioner, oil or beeswax to prevent cracking. You know the drill: you’d be tending it more than you tend your own skin.
Plus, it takes a true leather connoisseur to pick the right leather sheath. Especially when making your choice online, without being able to touch it and really feel the work.
Don’t even get me started on the stitching, which can fall off, rot, or get loose. It really takes a craftsperson to deal with these issues.
And it takes a person ready to splurge dozens of bucks on a sheath.
Kydex is a much more carefree option. It’s flexible plastic molded into a certain shape. So, durability won’t be a concern – and neither will maintenance.
Plus, you can mold Kydex yourself to exactly fit your blade, thus avoiding the headaches of returning a sheath that doesn’t fit. Note, however, that kydex is also known to dull the blade with time and frequent use.
Whichever material you choose, there will be times when you’ll regret it.
But if you’ve set your mind on leather, note that you should never use the leather sheath as a storage option for your knife. Since leather is a breathing thing even when it’s dead, it will release moisture, which can cause rust to appear. You certainly don’t want that on your blade!
We should also mention nylon as an option. It’s definitely more flexible than kydex or even leather, but that can easily turn into a safety issue. Nylon sheaths are also not nearly as durable as the other two types.
Best Knife + Sheath Bundles
Buck Knives 119 Special Fixed Blade Knife with Leather Sheath
This option is for those of you who are looking for a complete package, a knife and a fitting sheath included. It’s a proper bestseller as far as knives go. The product description says it’s one of those rare products that are being “handed down from generation to generation”. And they back this claim with a lifetime warranty.
It seems that they are quite confident about their product, but what about the sheath?
It’s a simple black leather sheath with a snap-on and a belt loop, allowing you to carry it vertically. As long as you don’t mind it bouncing against your thigh as you walk, it should be a nice beginner’s sheath. Plain enough, without bells, whistles and straps. The only serious downside a couple of users have faced is that the snap seems to break easily. It’s an easy fix though.
Later on, if you dislike the sheath for whatever reason, you can buy an aftermarket one – such as some of the sheaths we’ll recommend and review below.
Norse Tradesman Viking Knife With Raven’s Head Hilt & Leather Sheath
This beauty could be a great gift idea for a history buff or any prepper who’s in love with medieval designs.
But it’s far from being just a glossy artefact to decorate a collector’s room. The knife is forged from a single piece of carbon steel and is relatively sharp right out of the box. If you intend it for heavy use, you’ll have to sharpen it fully. Both the balance and the grip are decent for such a reasonable price.
We’re not here for the blade, though, so let’s proceed with examining the sheath. It’s a cowhide piece of leather, simple in design and will fit with almost any width belt. One could criticize the sturdiness of the leather, but it should be durable enough for light, occasional use. If you need a product that will outlive its user, scroll down for more options.
Best Leather Knife Sheaths
CFK Cutlery Company Custom Handmade Sheath
This robust piece of work will accommodate Becker BK-2 and ESEE 5-6 knives. But it will also work with other brands as long as the blade doesn’t exceed 6.25 inches in length and 1.75 inches in width.
The leather is even stronger than it looks. Made of buffalo hide, it should easily withstand years of wear and tear. And that reflects on the price tag too, which is within the upper range.
Another great benefit is that the sheath comes with a whetstone included. I guess the seasoned survivalists among you will already have more than one tool for sharpening your knives, but this is an absolute win for newbies.
The whetstone is tucked into the small pocket on the side.
Unfortunately, this sheath isn’t without downsides. A user complains that he received a poorly made item, with loose and uneven stitches. If you use your knife on a daily basis, fixing and maintaining the stitches would probably be a nuisance. Maybe even a deal breaker for some!
Triple K Knife Plain Sheath
If you haven’t bought a sheath with your knife or are looking for a replacement, take a look at this simple but well-made piece of craftsmanship.
Accommodating knives from four to six inches in blade length, this sheath is basically a carefully crafted piece of leather with a top snap and a welted knife pocket. It attaches to a 2 ¼ inch belt through a loop, which means you will carry it vertically. If your handle is up to one inch in diameter, this might just be a decent sheath for you. Not only is the leather beautiful, but it’s also very sturdy, so you needn’t worry about durability.
It will fit with Western L66, Mtech, Mora Robust, Tanto, Cold Steel 3V SRK, Cold Steel 3V Master Hunter.
Best Kydex Knife Sheaths
Armory Plastics LLC Do It Yourself Kydex Sheath – Editor’s Choice
Say hello to the most versatile option on our list.
Kydex is basically a piece of processed plastic, so you can’t really expect it to look nearly as sexy as leather. Plus, if you opt for this DIY kit, you’ll be molding it yourself. Which, I guess, will look pretty sloppy, at least until you manage to do it right.
However, the reason why we recommend this option to all serious preppers is that you can mold the kydex to get the exact fit, which is often hard to accomplish with ready-made sheaths. The kit comes partially assembled, with an AB3 clip and a bunch of BB eyelets. You’ll receive detailed instructions but the process is simple enough as it is. Just heat the kydex in the oven until it softens enough so that you can wrap it around the knife like a glove. Press it on all sides until it assumes the knife’s shape. Cut off the residual scraps and you’re good to go!
The downside of this option is obvious: you need to be a bit crafty. Another minus concerns the material itself, which is noisy and clattery. Not the best choice for hunters!
SOG KYD-M40 Kydex Sheath
This one will fit the SEAL Ops, Pentagon S14, and most SEAL Pup models. It comes with a removable belt loop. Which means you can but don’t have to carry it vertically. If you prefer the horizontal position, there are handy eyelets that you can connect with a cord or a strap and fixate the sheath horizontally. And if you don’t need it regularly, you can easily mount it to your pack or MOLLE thanks to its velcro closure strap. Overall, it’s a durable yet lightweight knife sheath.
On the flip side, the sheath doesn’t accomplish a snug fit with all of the mentioned models, and will rattle when in use.