I carry a Swiss Army knife almost everywhere I go outside of work. It comes in handy almost daily. I open packages, fix my kids’ toys, and it even once helped me performed a small surgical procedure (don’t ask).
The other day a nonclimber asked me what kind of knife I bring with me when I climb. I paused.
What did he think goes on up there?
I don’t plan on cutting my rope and splicing it back together. A knife doesn’t help me reach for the next hold. I don’t fight off beasts. At most, I might use my pocket knife to prepare or eat my meal… when I am in camp.
Oh, and I have never contemplated having to cut the rope with my partner dangling from it. To the best of my knowledge that has only occurred once in history and that makes it the singular exception rather than the rule.
My knife is well stowed when my climbing gear is out. The only sharp objects I need out are the front points on my crampons or blades on my ice axe — and that’s only on true alpine routes. I don’t use those rock climbing. The knife won’t be needed. Put it away.
At least this is generally true… A knife can remove old, excess webbing or an old rope, or help you cut an end of a damaged rope off. And there are specialty blades that are serrated and made to efficiently for that. Still, my Swiss Army knife could do it, and, if I ever had to, that is what I would saw with.
Still, it’s not something a climber should keep handy next to his/her belay device and locking ‘biner. If he/she has it clipped there, you might not want to make that person your climbing partner.