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Even if you never have to use it underwater, a knife or some kind of cutting tool is an important part of anyone's save-a-dive kit. I was about to shore dive the other day and had to use mine to cut a zip-tie. If I didn't have my little knife I would have had to call the dive. For a zip-tie!
I should have clarified it when I said shouldn't. A cutting device should be carried. Although I have seen a young open water diver playing with his knife in the parking lot. Needless to say he ended up with a few stiches and didn't get to finsh his cert. I suggest shears and or a z-knife. It always seems that the students put them in their pockets and can't even fish them out with their thick gloves. It is a requirment to carry a cutting device for the advanced open water course but not for the open water course.
That reminds me (thanks Mitchell)... if you're diving in New England, don't put anything you might NEED in a pocket until you're sure you can use that pocket with gloves on. I had a BC that had pockets I loaded up with useful stuff, and I found quickly that:
I couldn't get a grip on the tab I needed to lift to open the velcro if I was wearing thick gloves.
After I put a large bead on the tab, I found I couldn't get things in or out of the open pocket if my BC was inflated.
I haven't used a BC pocket for anything I'll need underwater ever since, although I do get some use from the large bellows pockets I put on my suit. Not for cutting tools though... my Knife is on my waist band, and my shears are on my right shoulder strap.
Thanks for all the advice.
I'm getting the feeling that, just like on land, it's good to have at least one cutting tool.
You shouldn't need it but you don't want to be missing it if you do.
That said it seems like the top three criteria for a knife are (in no particular order).
1) It's easy to cut lines with it.
2) It's easy to get into your hand and keep it there.
3) It's hard to hurt yourself/your equipment with.
So it sounds like a good combination would be one of those line cutters with an extra big handle and a blunt tip knife with one of those line cutter notches. Both attached where they won't fall off but I can reach them blind and with one hand. Does that seem reasonable?
I am from the "train how you dive" school of thought. If you do everthing the same way every time there is less likelyhood of a mistake.
I'm not a SCUBA instructor, but I've trained a few soldiers back in my days. Train as you fight and fight as you've trained applies to train as you dive and dive as you've trained.
Granted that the OW student would be executing dives in a well picked area that hopefully clear of entanglement, but it doesn't hurt to have them gear up with some sort of cutting device.
Also, there's this nifty cutting device called the Trilobite. It is kind of like a Z-knife. Cheap and cuts through lines & cords like butter. However, the openings are small, so the size of the cord would be the limitation (8mm opening).
I carry two knives and a pair of shears strategically located to cover all my bases in case of entanglement.
One on the wing inflator hose, one on the leg and one on the waist (opposite side of the one on the inflator hose).
They've saved my life on more than one occasion.
The last time I NEEDED them was on a simple shore dive in less than 20 feet of water.
I got tangled in a bunch of mono and crap that wrapped up my fins and one arm.
I couldn't reach the knife on my hose so I managed to cut myself free with the shears on my belt.
Get the knife and if you can afford it, buy titanium. Stainless is a pain to keep from rusting.
I've had the same steel knife for 20 years of diving, and all I do for maintainance is rinse it and keep it sharp. Yeah, it has some tarnished spots, but it's no less effective than it was the day I bought it. If you buy Ti, understand you're paying for looks.
Speaking of knifes. I was on a dive the other day with a few folks. One of them had a large knife attached to his leg. Within minutes he had about five pounds of eel grass attached. I couldn't believe how quickly it snagged. He said at the end of the dive that he thought he caught something just didn't think it was that much.