Accessorize Tactically With The Best Neck Knives Of 2022


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Imagine you need a knife immediately — let’s say you need to cut a seatbelt in a car accident or free a turtle stuck in a fishing net. Heck, maybe you just need to whittle right now. Joking aside, the last thing you want to do in a time crunch is fish through your pockets to find your folding knife (then open it, then use it). But you don’t have to use a pocket knife; the best neck knives solve a myriad of tactical or everyday problems.

Put simply, a neck knife is a fixed blade knife worn around the neck on a cord, often concealed under the shirt. A good neck knife can be a potent everyday carry (EDC) item, a tactical asset, and an outdoor accessory all in one. I rounded up and tested the best neck knives of 2022 to prepare myself for whatever the future holds in store.

Best Workhorse: SOG Instinct Mini Neck Knife

  • Total length: 4.8 inchesSOG Instinct Mini Neck Knife
  • Blade shape: clip point
  • Blade length: 1.9 inches
  • Blade material: 5Cr15MoV steel
  • Handle material (scales): G10 (high-pressure fiberglass)
  • Sheath material: hard molded nylon

Pros

  • Durable build
  • Good edge retention

Cons

  • Heavy
  • Abrasive against skin

SOG is a tough guy’s brand, and the Instinct Mini is a tough guy’s neck knife. The brand builds the Instinct Mini to withstand the most demanding conditions, with a thick blade, robust edge, and stout fiberglass components.

I’ve owned several SOG products: I always have one of their key knives on my ring, and I also have a discreet bottle opener/multitool. I’ve never experienced a product failure or had a complaint in several years of experience with SOG. At a reasonable $35 MSRP, the Instinct Mini’s heavy-duty construction and solid feel were no surprise to me.

The small knife was noticeably heavy — that’s because it’s a substantial chunk of steel, even with its aeration hole. Its full-tang blade is thick, and its secondary bevel is robust. The lightweight G10 handle helps mitigate the knife’s weight.

The SOG Instinct Mini uses 5Cr15MoV steel, which is corrosion-resistant and relatively soft. The steel retains an edge moderately well and resharpens easily, but I found I had to give the SOG’s low-angled edge a lot of attention to make it as sharp as I wanted.

A dog-tag-style chain and stout, serrated sheath (fitted with adjustable-angle clip) complete the Instinct Mini package.

I found the SOG Instinct Mini to be a little more heavy-duty than I needed: it weighs enough that I never really forgot it was around my neck, and its rough textures tended to catch my attention. However, its stout profile and sturdy construction encourage repeated heavy use. Read the in-depth review here.

See SOG Instinct Mini Neck Knife on Amazon

See SOG Instinct Mini Neck Knife on SOG

 

Best EDC Neck Knife: CRKT Minimalist Bowie Neck Knife

  • Total length: 5.13 inchesCRKT Minimalist Bowie Neck Knife
  • Blade Shape: Bowie
  • Blade length: 2.13 inches
  • Blade material: 5Cr15MoV steel
  • Handle material (Scales): polypropylene
  • Sheath material: polypropylene

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Non-abrasive materials (easy on skin)
  • Fine edge

Cons

  • Point blunts easily

Lightweight and comfortable to carry, I found the CRKT Minimalist Bowie to be a top-neck knife and an easy EDC option. It held an edge respectably well and resharpened easily. Its sheath, handle, and lanyard felt smooth and comfortable even against bare skin. Its $40 MSRP ($28 street value) seemed fair.

The CRKT performed well out of the box, cutting paper smoothly and handling household tasks. Its 0.11-inch-thick blade bevels to a pretty fine edge, so I was concerned it would be fragile. However, this Bowie knife held up well under regular use — up to and including batoning firewood.

I tested the playful “Cthulhu” design, featuring baby blue plastic and a kooky sci-fi illustration. It sounds gaudy (and it is), but it turns out the embellishments aren’t superficial. Much like its namesake outer space/underwater humanoid squid, the CRKT Cthulhu glows in the dark. This feature could be pretty helpful, especially in outdoor settings.

Its textured thermoplastic handle and deep finger grooves were also helpful. The knife was easy to grip but non-abrasive. The sheath is the same material. The parachute cord lanyard adjusts with a spring stop, and overall, the whole rig was very comfortable to wear.

Treat the CRKT Minimalist Bowie right, and it will perform under the pressure of everyday carry. In my testing, it held an edge well, resharpened easily, and carried unobtrusively.

It’s worth noting that the CRKT Minimalist series features a variety of blade shapes, including self-defense specialty karambit neck knives. Read the in-depth review here.

See CRKT Minimalist Bowie Neck Knife on Amazon

See CRKT Minimalist Bowie Neck Knife on Walmart

See CRKT Minimalist Bowie Neck Knife on Blade HQ

 

Strongest Steel: ESEE Izula Neck Knife

  • Total length: 6.25 inchesESEE Izula Neck Knife
  • Blade shape: drop point
  • Blade length: 2.63 inches
  • Blade material: 1095 high carbon steel
  • Handle material (scales): optional
  • Sheath material: molded polymer

Pros

  • Solid manufacture
  • Strong steel

Cons

  • Blade requires regular maintenance

The ESEE Izula embodies utility. A thick, full tang 1095 coated steel blade is the heart of the knife. Various scales (or handle covers) are available through ESEE, and the kit includes a molded polymer sheath with a detachable clip plate. The Izula is named after the world-famous Bullet Ant (“Isula” in Peruvian), which ESEE explains enthusiastically: “The Bullet And is known to be independent, tough, light on its feet, and a real aggressive survivor — the Izula knife is built the same way.”

I’m not sure how a knife can display “independence,” but I think I get the gist: the Izula is a tough, utile EDC knife designed to do every job in the harshest environments. Its 1095 steel is renowned for edge retention and ease of sharpening, and it’s tough to snap a thick blade (like on the Izula).

It’s worth noting that 1095 steel can rust if not cleaned and maintained, but ESEE coats the Izula with a textured protectant and offers detailed product care recommendations. The Izula is big for a neck knife, at over six inches long. However, its size and bulletproof construction make it a great EDC choice for hunters, outdoor people, or anyone who needs their knife to do heavier work.

See ESEE Izula Neck Knife on Amazon

See ESEE Izula Neck Knife on Blade HQ

 

Best for Slicing: CRKT S.P.E.W. Neck Knife

  • Total length: 6.25 inchesCRKT S.P.E.W. Neck Knife
  • Blade shape: Wharncliffe
  • Blade length: 3 inches
  • Blade material: 5Cr15MoV steel
  • Handle material (scales): G10
  • Sheath material: molded polypropylene

Pros

  • Good slicing
  • Easy to maintain point

Cons

  • Not ideal for skinning

The CRKT SPEW (or Small, Pocket, Everyday, Wharncliffe) neck knife leverages the Wharncliffe blade shape to deliver an uncommonly effective cutting tool in a small EDC package. I can’t go too far into blade shape science because a) it’s not pertinent here and b) even after a lot of research, I don’t fully understand it, but the Wharncliffe shape means pressure gets applied evenly down the edge during a cut. As well, dulling and resharpening the tip won’t reshape the blade.

Knife aficionados will find that the SPEW delivers a unique cutting experience. The blade is bead blasted to reduce glare. A lightweight yet sturdy G10 handle, molded sheath, clip hardware, and paracord are included with the package. With a 6.25” overall length and 3” blade, the knife is big enough to handle various tasks.

See CRKT S.P.E.W. Neck Knife on Amazon

See CRKT S.P.E.W. Neck Knife on Walmart

See CRKT S.P.E.W. Neck Knife on Blade HQ

 

Most Affordable: MTech MT-673 Neck Knife

  • Total length: 5 inchesMTech MT-673 Neck Knife
  • Blade shape: tanto
  • Blade length: 2 inches
  • Blade material: 440c stainless steel
  • Handle material (scales): G-10
  • Sheath material: Kydex

Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • Compact
  • Unique stonewashed look

Cons

  • Unproven brand
  • Questionable steel

The MTech MT-673 is a diminutive workhorse at a bargain price point. It’s far from the flashiest knife on our list, but it’s hard to argue with a cheap neck knife that has a positive reputation. The knife’s black blade is stonewashed finished (an acid bath etching process). It’s cut from 440C stainless steel, a longtime industry standard that’s fallen out of favor due to a perception that it can be fragile.

MTech builds the MT-673 with a full tang blade for added resiliency. The handle scales are G-10 fiberglass, and the sheath is Kydex, a common molded holster material. It’s too bad there are no reliable weight stats for the MT-673 because it’s minuscule and probably competes among the lightest in our lineup. A 2-inch Tanto-style blade may be irritating to use; a sharp corner on such a short edge could effectively separate the blade into two very short segments. Still, it’s hard to argue with a cheap EDC neck knife with a bundle of good reviews.

See MTech MT-673 Neck Knife on Amazon

 

Smallest: Boker Magnum Lil Friend Micro

  • Total length: 3-⅜ inchesBoker Magnum Lil Friend Micro
  • Blade shape: drop point
  • Blade length: 1-⅜ inches
  • Blade material: 440 stainless steel
  • Handle material (scales): G-10
  • Sheath material: Kydex

Pros

  • Very compact
  • Easy concealment
  • Short blade is difficult to snap

Cons

  • Short blade may be challenging to use

When we think of the word “magnum,” we think “big” — for one reason or another. The Boker Magnum Lil Friend Micro is anything but. Executed by time-tested German knife maker Boker, the Lil Friend micro is just 3 ⅜” long and weighs 1.3 oz., making it by far the smallest neck knife on our list. That’s both an asset and a liability: it’s hard to imagine snapping the Boker’s 1 ⅜” 440 stainless steel blade, but it’s equally hard to imagine chopping vegetables with it. (But, you’d never have to worry about bending the blade by opening a bottle. And so on).

It may take some trial and error to get used to using the Lil Friend Micro as a tool for EDC, but its concealed-carry efficacy is evident right off the bat. Its G10 scales give it a bit of a thick handle, so it may not hide under skin-tight clothing, but otherwise, it’s minuscule — and its sturdy stature could prove to be a tactical advantage in a fight. The Boker Magnum Lil Friend Micro’s tiny size and curious shape make it an interesting entry in the neck knife field. Buyers can take confidence in its established brand pedigree.

See Boker Magnum Lil Friend Micro on Amazon

See Boker Magnum Lil Friend Micro on Blade HQ

 

Biggest: KA-BAR BK11 Becker Necker

  • Total length: 6.75 inchesKA-BAR BK11 Becker Necker
  • Blade shape: drop point
  • Blade length: 3.25 inches
  • Blade material: 1095 Cro-Van steel
  • Handle material (scales): N/A
  • Sheath material: hard plastic

Pros

  • Long blade and handle
  • Legendary brand

Cons

  • QC problems in the sheath
  • Manufacturer does not make handle scales
  • Expensive

If you’re in America and you’re aware of tactical knives, you’ve heard of KA-BAR knives. The brand achieved immortality with its WWII-era design for the Marine Corps, and the rest is history. It’s so historical that the company offers up a 50-minute documentary about itself on its website (with a prompt to “read about our full history” immediately below the video player).

Now that we’ve established that, we can talk about KA-BAR neck knives. The KA-BAR BK11 “Becker Necker,” named for its designer, is a drop point neck knife with a 3.25” 1095 Cro-Van Steel blade (why it’s not a Bowie, like the original “KA-BAR,” is beyond me). KA-BAR appears to manufacture no compatible handle scales for the BK11. You can either be a true American pioneer and make your own or order this set.

The only solvent complaint with the KA-BAR BK11 concerns the sheath. KA-BAR’s variant seems unreliable in holding the knife (which is vital if you’re wearing it neck-knife style). A quick Google search revealed multiple aftermarket options. For those who want a big, reliable neck knife that reflects the theme of successful American overseas warfare, the KA-BAR BK11 is the obvious choice.

See KA-BAR BK11 Becker Necker on Amazon

See KA-BAR BK11 Becker Necker on Blade HQ

See KA-BAR BK11 Becker Necker on Walmart

Best for Self Defense: Cold Steel Counter TAC II

  • Total length: 6.75 inchesCold Steel Counter TAC II
  • Blade shape: spearpoint
  • Blade Length: 3.75 inches
  • Blade material: AUS8A
  • Handle material: Kray-Ex
  • Sheath material: Secure-Ex

Pros

  • Spearpoint is a self-defense advantage
  • Easy-grip handle
  • Spearpoint is a self-defense advantage
  • Easy-grip handle

Cons

  • The point can be challenging to maintain

Cold Steel’s dagger-pointed Counter TAC II would make for a hell of a self-defense neck knife. Its stonewashed blade is sharp on both sides, and its deeply textured handle has an aggressive front guard so that it won’t slip out of your hand. Cold Steel makes other neck knives, but this is a weapon. The Counter TAC II can conceal in any position, with a removable clip, lashing slots, and a dog tag chain. Its Japanese AUS8A steel is relatively hard but easy to sharpen — maintain the edge, and it will perform over the long haul.

That said, you might find yourself taking it to the stone reasonably frequently, depending on your habits. A spear point blade can be difficult to maintain, especially if it’s in and out of a sheath a lot. The Cold Steel Counter TAC II may not be the most practical knife for EDC, but its spearpoint shape, lightweight, and grippy handle make it a solid self-defense option.

See Cold Steel Counter TAC II on Amazon

See Cold Steel Counter TAC II on Blade HQ

 

Simplest: Smith & Wesson SW991 Neck Knife

  • Total length: 5.5 inchesSmith & Wesson SW991 Neck Knife
  • Blade shape: drop point
  • Blade length: 2.5 inches
  • Blade material: 8Cr13MoV steel
  • Handle material: N/A
  • Sheath material: hard polymer

Pros

  • Minimalist design
  • Lightweight
  • Bottle opener

Cons

  • No handle scales available
  • No belt clip

The Smith & Wesson SW991 runs away with my in-guide award for simplicity. If there were a generic dictionary definition for “neck knife,” this little blade would be it. 5.5 inches long, a mere 1.5 oz., a 2.5-inch blade (generous for such a short knife), all cut from one piece of easy-maintenance 8Cr13MoV black oxide treated steel. Stick it in the hard polymer sheath, where reviewers confirm it clasps securely, put it on with the dog tag chain.

That’s it. There are no handle scales, and there is no belt clip. The only other thing to report about this simple drop point knife is the bottle opener machined into the blade just above the handle. It’s a worthy inclusion, but I almost wish it weren’t there — does it help open bottles? Absolutely. Is it needed? No. Still, if you want a neck knife that embodies the essence of neck knife-ness, look into the utile Smith & Wesson SW991.

See Smith & Wesson SW991 Neck Knife on Amazon

 

Why Trust Me

A good all-around knife is pivotal to the success of anyone who lives a nomadic lifestyle. I went through several EDC knives during my years of traveling, climbing, camping, living in vehicles, and performing itinerant construction work. Some got chewed up and spat out; some got stuffed into a bin or a box somewhere because I just didn’t like them; others stood the test of time and became invaluable to me. A neck knife is a step forward because it’s hard to lose, easy to locate, and designed for durability.

Who This Guide Is For

Anyone who uses a knife for EDC purposes, self-defense, or outdoor applications can benefit from a neck knife. From opening packages to splitting wood to concealed carry, the best neck knives can do it all.

How I Chose Neck Knives

Knives are ubiquitously available and relatively cheap, so the spectrum of options is overwhelming. Cool neck knives are everywhere. Essentially, there are two ways to cut the herd (pun intended): by brand and by design.

Brand credibility means a lot in the knife-making world. There is value in tradition because manufacturing and material quality are critical. At the same time, quality knife makers must keep up with the evolving state of the art. I chose knives that respond to modern needs, from brands old and new.

Another way to choose a knife is by design preference according to use. I looked for neck knives suitable for a wide range of applications. For instance, mini neck knives are easy to conceal and draw and thus offer a tactical advantage. Spearpoint knives are suitable for self-defense, and lightweight knives with drop points are useful for all-around EDC.

How I Tested Neck Knives

The most important qualities of any neck knife are wearability and durability. If you can’t wear your neck knife because it’s too bulky, heavy, uncomfortable, etc., then its purpose is defeated. So, I wore knives for extended periods in various settings: casual, outdoors, while working, and just around the house.

It’s just as important that your neck knife holds up to the challenges you give it. Everyone gets sick of an EDC blade that dulls, chips, or bends too easily. I wanted to make sure my knives handled burlier tasks like batoning wood, cutting rope, and opening bottles while remaining sharp enough to effortlessly cut into packages and peel the occasional fruit or vegetable.

Features To Look For in Neck Knives

Size

The best neck knives conceal and carry easily. Neck knives range from less than 4” total length to 6-7”. Weight and bulk are also important factors. A neck knife can feel heavy and look obvious when worn under clothing. It can also be so low-profile and lightweight that you can forget it’s there until you need it — and nobody will know you’re carrying it.

Utility

Neck knives have a range of applications: household tasks, EDC, tactical, and self-defense. What is your particular neck knife useful for? Very short blades or dagger point knives perform best in self-defense applications. Longer blades with bowie or drop point shapes function more like pocket knives: they’re useful for a wide variety of everyday tasks.

Quality

Neck knives range enormously in price and quality since they’re so small and widely available. Think before buying: what do you need your neck knife to do? It’s probably not a good idea to buy a $7 knife to take on major camping or backpacking adventures, but the same knife might work just fine for household chores like opening packages.

 

a neck knife

Neck Knife FAQ

Q: Are neck knives practical?

A: In my experience, neck knives have been incredibly practical. They attract no attention when worn under a shirt, require no pocket space, and good ones can handle a wide variety of tasks. If you don’t want to carry a neck knife around your neck, you can usually clip it to your clothing or just stuff it in a backpack.

A: Short answer: no. According to the American Knife and Tool Institute, “It is unlawful [in California] to carry concealed upon the person any dirk or dagger which is defined to include essentially any fixed blade knife.” Yes, neck knives are “dirks or daggers.” However, you can carry a knife on your person in plain sight (such as in a sheath clipped to your belt).

Q: What is a neck knife?

A: A neck knife is a knife suspended on a cord worn around the neck. Tactically speaking, a neck knife hangs vertically, with the line attached to the sheath, and is generally small (6 in. or less total length). All neck knives are fixed-blade.

A: It’s complicated. Open and concealed carry laws vary by state. Go to www.akti.org/state-knife-laws/ to educate yourself on your state’s laws. My visit revealed that it’s legal to carry any knife, openly or covertly in Nevada, where I live, except for a machete — and only concealed carry of those is prohibited.

Concealed carry prohibitions severely limit tactical neck knives. Knowledge is power!

Q: What is the point of a neck knife?

A: A neck knife is a tactical, EDC, or self-defense tool. Neck knives conceal beneath clothing, draw quickly, and suit a wide range of purposes.

Sources:

  1. State Knife Laws – AKTI
Sam Anderson

Sam Anderson

Sam Anderson has followed a passion for well-told stories and nature's beauty from university classrooms to mountain adventures. After earning a bachelor's degree in literature, he leaned into a life fueled by road tripping, rock climbing, coffee and beer, and renegade camping. He has worked as a chainsaw operator, house carpenter, and window cleaner, at one point running his own window cleaning business. He has finally settled with his girlfriend and small zoo in the western American desert, trading his tool belt for a keyboard.