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Knives, the law and the outdoors

Updated: Nov 25, 2023

UK legal knife

One of no-mad Adventures learners asked the question "What is a nice legal knife I can buy for my partner?"

This is a really good question.

A knife is a fantastic bit of kit to carry in the outdoors, it is a tool and can make your day nicer. I mean, what would you cut your Sticky Jamaican Ginger Cake, or Wensleydale Cheese with, without a blade.

Knife crime in the UK has, for all the right reasons tightened the law on what is acceptable to carry as an every day carry (EDC).

With the maximum penalty for an adult carrying a knife or weapon illegally is either 4 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both, it's worth knowing what the law says.

The basic laws are that it's illegal to:

  • Use any knife or weapon in a threatening way.

  • Carry most knives or any weapons in public without a ‘good reason’ - this is discussed beneath.

Two exceptions to this are that a folding knife:

  • With a cutting edge no longer than 7.62 cm (3 inches)

  • That is not lock knives (they do not have a button, spring or catch that you have to use to fold the knife)

Even if the knife is one of the exceptions, if someone feels threatened by it, then it is still illegal.

A few other points worth knowing when it comes to knife law and the outdoors:

  • The person carrying the knife must know and understand the law – ignorance is not a defence

  • Access land and public footpaths are also public places

  • The law in Scotland and Northern Ireland are slightly different to in England and Wales.

So, what does this mean, really.

A good folding knife, like a swiss army knife is "likely" to be accepted to carry if it's not used in a threatening way.

Carrying a fixed blade knife, or a lock knife for a wander up Cader Idris is "likely" to be considered illegal.

Why "likely", well as with all law, it is up to interpretation of reasonable at the time. I believe there are times when carrying a knife other than a non-locking, 7.62cm folding knife is a 'good reason'. For example, good practice for a knife used for canoeing is to have a locking blade. This is so that when cutting ropes, or webbing tape the blade doesn't cause an injury to the user, and if a person is being rescued, this isn't interrupted. So, there's, I believe, a "good reason" - however, if I leave the Mawddach Estuary and wander into Barmouth for chips, I no longer have a "good reason" and so the knife is not a legal carry. For the same reason when climbing, I like to have a locking blade, but again, it's only for the time when I am doing that activity I would have it anywhere near easy access.

My EDC knife, pictured, has a 6.6cm non locking blade. It's beautiful for nearly everything I could want a blade for. But even though it conforms to knife law, it is never ever on display. It's always discretely carried and because it is so thin, often on the inside of my waist band, and the clip covered by my belt.

Most reputable knife sellers in the UK now have a section that is "UK law friendly" or similar. My recommendation is to speak to them if you're knowledgeable. I have always had really good service from Welsh retailer Hennie Haynes - here's their EDC UK Friendly selection.

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2 comentários

Wil Stockford
Wil Stockford
24 de nov. de 2023

Nice article. I carry a leatherman daily which has two locking blades, does this mean I’m in double trouble!!! My life jacket has a Spyderco Atlantic salt (also from hh) fixed permanently as a just in case.

My only question is by carrying your EDC out of site, is not then classed as concealed?🤔

25 de nov. de 2023
Respondendo a

Double trouble - sounds like you know what you're doing. I *think* my EDC is legal and therefore it's being carried with 'lawful authority' which is one of the main tests for a concealed weapon.

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