Traveling with a Knife: Rules of Land, Air and Sea


Self-defense, survival and swiftly opening closed things. Knives are handy in a bevy of ways. Hard to believe that there would be restrictions for such a useful tool, but alas, knives are also widely viewed as weapons, so there’s red tape you just can’t cut through. We’re here for you, though, with a few very helpful blade-toting travel guidelines—and some everyday uses that are slightly less helpful.

GROUND TRAVEL: Walkin’ around rules
In just about every state, you can’t carry flip-open knives, like butterfly knives, switchblades and gravity knives. Almost all states, however, allow other knives to be openly carried. Specifically, pocket knife laws exist only in Georgia, limiting blades to 5 inches and giving you a choice: Keep it to 4.99” or avoid Georgia. Otherwise, saddle up, Dundee. It’s time to look sharp.

When it comes to knowing the legality of carrying steel around town, you need to do the research. Or you can pay a dude on the Internet named Bernard Levine, a self-proclaimed knife expert, 10 bucks and he’ll carve up often-complex city and state laws for you. What a deal! His site also has links to every state’s laws, so that’s a good place to start.

AIR TRAVEL: Knives and overhead compartments don’t mix
Flying the friendly skies? Stow before you go. The only knives you can bring on a plane are round-tipped butter knives and plastic knives. Boring. You can pack your real knife in a checked bag, but it should be properly wrapped in case any nosy TSA officials need to pass their latex-covered fingers through your business. So what if you try to check in with a knife on your person? First off, you may want to plan a little better next time. But don’t worry, you won’t be arrested. According to Knife Depot, you’ll have four options:

  1. Take the knife back and check it in your luggage, if it hasn’t already drifted down the conveyor belt.
  2. Give the knife to someone who is seeing you off, if they were more committed than the standard curbside drop-off.
  3. Take the knife to your car, if you’re paying an arm and a leg for airport parking.
  4. Mail the knife. TSA may have mailing supplies at security. Postage required.

BOAT TRAVEL: Embracing cruise control
If you step onto your buddy’s private boat on an ocean, lake, river or fishin’ hole, grab a machete if you want. But if you’re taking to the waves on a floating island of all-you-can-eat buffets and shuffleboard, your pocket knife blade will need to be four inches or smaller. So think twice before trying to go all Captain Phillips on any Somali pirates you encounter. Going diving? You may be permitting to bring a diving knife, but you’ll have to check it in with security. Be sure to consult your chosen cruise line and read up on their regulations.

Knifing through history
In America, the importance of traveling with a blade goes back to the pilgrims, who faced many grave challenges while surveying the new world, the main one of course being, “How the heck we gonna carve up this turkey?” Attempt after attempt with a blunt hat buckle eventually taught them that a sharper object was the answer.

Dating back even further, circa 1000 B.C., the Iñupiat tribes of Alaska wielded a knife called an ulu, not just to divvy up their Thanksgiving seal, but on a daily basis to survive, from skinning muskox to chiseling blocks of ice to fighting off White Walkers. Fun fact: The unu’s tagline was, “The Ulu. Don’t Leave Igloo Without It.”

Unlike a traditional knife, an ulu’s blade is perpendicular to the handle, making it, today, illegal to carry in some countries like Canada. But whatever, that’s Canada. You’re not allowed to carry an unpeeled banana in Canada.

Although taking down and gutting caribou for dinner is typically not a problem in modern day society, traveling with a blade is still 100% essential and here are five big reasons why.

1) Difficult-to-open snack packs.
You’ve just set off on a cross-country road trip. First stop: 7-11 for munchies. Most snack packaging requires two hands for prying open, but since your hands are at 10 and 2 (or realistically, one finger is at 6:45) and your co-pilot is already in a melatonin haze in the backseat, it’s your job to open that bag of beef jerky yourself. In the interest of not causing a 15-car pile-up, you must keep eyes on the road and avoid all attempts to pinpoint the elusive “tear here” tab. Just reach for your trusty snack shiv, stick the bag dead center and tear. You’ll be eating meat within seconds. Just be sure not to puncture your dad’s zebra-skin seat cover.

2) The Knife Game. Ya know, that pastime activity where someone quick-stabs a knife between your splayed-out fingers. Also known as Pinfinger, Nerve, Bishop, Stabscotch, Five Finger Fillet or “Please Focus Because I Don’t Have Health Insurance.” Call it what you want, but when your journey takes you into the Deep South, you need to be ready to prove your manhood at any given moment. Say you just housed a guy named Zeek at pool or looked at his girl the wrong way. If he demands your “HAND ON THE TABLE!” you’d be wise to oblige. Nothing like being stuck in a Lynyrd Skynyrd song so far from home, right? Brandish your own blade as the game’s primary tool and you’ll at least earn the locals’ respect. What happens next? Well, good luck.

3) Knots. Yep, knots. No, you don’t need a knife to tie a good knot. You need a knife to cut loose the knots you screwed up. Being that you were kicked out ofBoy Scouts for rigging the Soapbox Derby, you missed most of the important knot-tying clinics, leaving you more than one clove-hitch knot away from building a successful survival shelter.

So in addition to the yards and yards of extra rope you’ll need handy to eventually get a sturdy knot right, a razor-sharp implement is also imperative if you’re to eradicate the numerous botched, garlic-knot-like attempts made thus far.

4) Whittling. And we’re not talking about shaving down a twig to roast marshmallows. It’s more like transforming an oak branch into a walking stick worthy of Gandalf. Or a Douglas Fir into a canoe. Or a Redwood into a statue of Carrot Top to scare away bears…

Leo really could have used one of those in The Revenant. Whittling your way out of problems is very American and a great way to make friends. Whittling clubs are totally trending.

5) Knives are badass. So this holiday season, think knife gifts. If there’s a blade-less man in your life, you might want to think about gifting him a Knife Making Kit from Man Crates. You’ll fill his heart by filling his sheath.

Or for a little more portability, we suggest the Folding Knife Making Kit. It slices, it dices, and of course, it folds as swiftly as a poker player holding seven-deuce.