Knives for 'Hiking Purposes'

Knives for 'Hiking Purposes'

Legality of carrying a knife for 'Hiking Purposes' in the UK

Knives for 'Hiking Purposes' 

Legality of carrying a knife for 'Hiking Purposes' in the UK

The Question

A question was posed on Twitter (@MountainSafety) on 1 June, relating to the legality of carrying a knife in the UK for 'hiking purposes'. The questioner later clarified he meant a Bear Gryll type knife.

The Answer

The answer is not straightforward, and the information given below relates to England & Wales only (and specifically for this article, check terms of use of this site).

The Law: In England & Wales, you cannot have with you in a public place any anything that has a blade, i.e. a knife. However, you can have a folding type knife so long as the cutting blade is less than or equal to 3 inches (7.62cm). This does mean that a folding knife could be, say, 4 inches, so long as the bladed part, i.e. the sharpened bit, is 3 inches or less.

Illegal Knives

All lock knifes are illegal as they are not foldable at all times, and flick knives have been illegal in the all of the UK for many many years. The knife in the image above is illegal in a public place in the UK, unless you can prove... (see 'defence' below)

Incidentally, a 'butter knife' that has no point or sharpened blade is classed as a blade for the purposes of carrying knives (case law defines this).


But... if you could prove (ultimately, in court) that you had good reason or lawful authority; had the knife for the purpose of work (e.g. you're a chef); it was for religious reason (e.g. Sikh kirpan); or, it was part of a national dress; then you may not be convicted of any offence. You may have to be arrested, charged and go to court first though.

Offensive Weapon

And there's another but! ANY knife, even one with a folding blade of 3 inches or less, could be determined to be an offensive weapon, and you could be arrested. However, that scenario is more likely to be associated with an urban gang type situation, thus extremely unlikely to be an issue for a walker, unless threatening passing walkers with it!

Bringing to UK

So, for the purposes of bringing a fixed blade Bear Grylls type knife into the UK; don't. Just don't! There is the possibility that a visit could start with being arrested, as being searched at entry to the UK is quite possible. 

Legal Knives

The safe route; take only a folding pocket knife with a cutting blade of 3 inches (7.62cm) or less. But remember, any knife can be an offensive weapon, see above.

     The blade on this Petzl Spatha knive is approx 6cm (2.25 inches)
     and it does not lock, thus this knife is legal in the UK.

Police Powers

In practice, police only have the authority to search you for a knife if they have reasonable grounds to suspect that you have a knife. And, unless you get a knife out and give someone cause to phone the police, thus suspicion, you are unlikely ever to be searched in an outdoor type situation, i.e. rucksack on back and in an appropriate place for such activity.

If you choose the non-folding knife option, you may be able to rely upon the statutory defence that 'you had good reason...'. It all depends on the circumstances. You could possibly have a good reason, but I'm not the police officer or judge that you would have to convince.

Ask your self: why do I need a knife in the first place? Why do I need a knife for hiking (or camping) with a non-folding knife, or folding knife with sharpened blade longer than 3 inches?

Safe option: If you have to carry a knife, carry a folding knife with sharpened blade of 3 inches (7.62cm) or less.

Scotland & Northern Ireland

In relation to Scotland & Northern Ireland, I've had a quick look on Wikipedia, and a skim read shows that the laws are pretty much UK wide, but I'm no expert on laws there. See below.



There are further laws on selling knives: cannot be sold to someone under 18; and knives cannot be marketed as being 'combat' knives, thus giving the impression that their use is to injure people. A quick look on shows some lock knives for sale, some folding knives with blades of 8cm and fixed knives. Just because it's on sale does not mean it is legal for the situation in which you will carry or use the knife. The vendor may or may not be breaking the law by selling it, and you may or may not do for having it.

The laws on knives equally apply to 'sharply pointed objects', but such detail has been omitted above as it's not really relevant for an outdoor situation.