Similar to the carbon steel versus stainless steel debate (which is actually way more complicated), knife owners are divided over whether a knife should or should not have a lanyard.
The thing about the lanyard debate is that people aren’t usually lukewarm about the topic. It gets people riled up more than the sit versus stand debate during the National Anthem.
But is there ever a time and purpose for lanyards on pocket knives? Yes, there is.
Lanyard vs. Fob
Before the wolves come out to correct me, let me clarify something: Lanyards and fobs are different.
Although used interchangeably, lanyards and fobs look and function differently. A lanyard is a longer piece of twine like paracord that ties to the end of a knife and wraps around the wrist for more security when wielding the knife.
A fob, on the other hand, is typically a shorter piece of twine that’s tied at the end so there is no opening to fit your hand in. A fob is there to keep your knife from falling in your pocket and other things (as you’ll soon learn).
There’s also a thong, which is essentially a leather string, that serves a similar function as the fob.
Now onto the reasons to add one of these to your folder.
1. Extra Security
I won’t go into the history and origins of the lanyard, but I believe the original purpose of a lanyard was to keep an item securely tethered to yourself. For example, some in the French military even carried a pistol tethered to their arm so they wouldn’t lose it. You can see Eli Wallach from “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” attached to a pistol with a lanyard below.
Since then, people have adopted the lanyard on knives.
The lanyard is especially useful on larger knives that may fall out of your hands during use — though keeping a knife stuck to your wrist when your grip fails you may not always be the wisest idea.
It’s not as necessary on smaller pocket knives unless you’re using it in or around water, but the sentiment and reasoning still stands if you use your folders for hard-core tasks.
Knife people don’t care too much about looks… OK, so maybe a few of us do and lanyards/fobs add an extra item to accessorize your knives. This is the manly equivalent of bejeweling your smartphone case or matching your nail polish to your socks. And there’s nothing wrong with it.
With looks, we’re talking more fobs than lanyards here. Fobs allow you to color coordinate your knife, make it pop, and add a personal touch that makes it your own.
Here are a few examples from Instagram:
While this reason has nothing to do with functionality, it allows a knife user to show off their creative side. There’s no denying a fob done right can look amazing, especially when complemented by a lanyard bead, which are all the rage these days.
I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure the use of the fob as an ornament was popularized by Chris Reeve.
3. Quicker/Easier Access
The etymological origin of the word fob may come from the word pocket in a dialect of German. One of the original purposes of a fob was to deter thieves and make things like pocket watches easier to access. The fob is no thief deterrent, but it does make it easy to get things out of your pocket.
Thanks to Sal Glesser, the vast majority of pocket knives these days come with a pocket clip, but many remain clipless. Without a clip, the knife will just fall into the bottom of your pocket and commingle with your keys, phone, etc. But with a fob that just sticks up over your pocket, you’ll have easy access to the knife at all times.
This is especially true for the clipless Swiss Army Knife. In fact, Victorinox even sells lanyards.
4. Extends Grip
Here’s one many people don’t think of unless they have a knife that needs it, but a lanyard or fob can be great for increasing the grip on a smaller knife.
The CRKT RSK Mk5 is the perfect example. Although this is a fixed blade, the handle is only about two inches. But designer Doug Ritter added a lanyard specifically to add length for your hand. This image from Equipped Cat perfectly demonstrates that.
You’ll often find this on the Spyderco Bug series (the smallest of which is only 2.9 inches overall).
5. Increases Visibility
Let’s say you’re on a nighttime excursion through a dense jungle and you drop your Kershaw Blackout. You can say goodbye forever to that badass knife. But if you had a glow-in-the-dark fob or a neon lanyard, you’d have a better chance spotting it.
Sure, it may mess with the overall aesthetics of the knife, but it can also work in the design’s favor.
Some knives that are meant for boating or the outdoors come with pretty funky colors like those in the Spyderco Salt series, but with a well-designed lanyard, you can get the more versatile darker colored handle scales.
If you have any other uses for lanyards or fobs on your knives, let us know in the comments.
November 14, 2017 at 10:41 am
All the reasons FOR are outweighed by the main reason AGAINST; it could catch on something and get pulled out of your pocket and you might not notice or it might fall in deep water or down a cliff.
December 2, 2018 at 8:31 am
Umm biggest reason for me wasnt mentioned. If you practice you can get that knife out of your pocket and flung open in a heartbeat WITH a lanyard. You dont have to look down you just place ur hand where you knife usually is and grab the lanyard pulling up
August 27, 2020 at 8:21 am
Everyone is missing a big point. If you carry a knife for self defense. A lanyard wrapped around your hand can keep your hand from sliding forward over the blade and giving you a nasty cut ! Go try it and you will understand. Mike Allen PI
October 17, 2020 at 7:32 pm
Not a reason against at all. In outdoors or on the water the lanyard is very useful, actually on the water is practically a must, for offshore sailing best practice is to have a fixed blade on the person secured with a lanyard long enough to allow holding the knife with the arm extended. Sailors have used lanyards on their rigging tools, marlinspikes and knives from centuries and those are some of the best examples of decorative ropework.
One of the easiest ways is to keep the lanyard tucked in between the handle of the knife and the sheath for fixed blades and just folded under the flap of a belt sheath for folders (its a bad idea to be outdoors or on the water with anything just thrown into an open pocket). The same thing is normally done with all the zillion strings and straps that are on backpacks and clothing (starting with the shoestrings) so its not a weird habit to have.
Some lanyards can be even made to fully secure the tool to its sheath by doubling around the sheath and back on the handle of a knife or around the flap of a closed pouch, the lanyard on ferro rods is an example when carried in an holder of the knife sheath. And this system does not slow down drawing the knife.
The other easy solution is a lanyard with a sliding bead: with the bead pulled out towards the ends of the string you have a closed loop lanyard, and with the bead pulled against the knife handle the lanyard becomes just two open strings that don’t catch on anything.
December 28, 2020 at 5:23 am
These are all dumb reasons
November 18, 2017 at 4:37 am
I don’t have anything on any of my knives except my CRKT Minimalist because, as anyone who has one or has seen one knows it has a fob to allow the 3rd and 4th fingers to grip it and thus serves as a handle extension. It’s amazingly functional.
I think I would create a lanyard that attaches to my belt or slips over a shoulder and clips onto any knife I am using. This way, if I fear I might loose the knife, I can secure it and then detach it to avoid the potential problems with a long lanyard. Otherwise I don’t feel shorter lengths of rope pose a danger or increase the possibility of loosing the knife or getting it hung up or stolen. It’s just as easy to get the strings of a hoodie , fringes or shoe laces caught up in something. If you’re that fearful of loss then stay home and never venture out.
December 9, 2017 at 11:32 am
I have an orange key-ring-fob on my Scout knife, on the off-chance that I lay it down somewhere instead of reattaching it to the clip on my uniform. My name’s on the back side.
January 9, 2018 at 9:55 am
Having A lanyard with a belt loop clip on you knife or pocket tool, is by far the most secure method of carrying . If it pops out of your pocket it is still attached to your belt, If you are working at heights the lanyard is around your wrist. What can be safer then that.
February 5, 2021 at 8:38 am
Best answer yet. I’ve been a professional mariner for over 40 years and to protect from loss by dropping while working on the water or at heights the lanyard is indispensable. I connect to my belt loop when not in use or wrist
to keep near to grasp.
January 9, 2018 at 3:55 pm
29 Ducane Road
January 9, 2018 at 4:00 pm
I use my ZT pocket clip for the first time the other day in my garden. Took about 30 minutes before I brushed against something which snatched the knife from inside my pocket. Took another 30 minutes to find it. From now on I’ll continue to carry it in the bottom of my pocket.
January 9, 2018 at 7:11 pm
Just goes to show… something. I’ve carried knives with a pocket clip for nearly fifty years, and nothing remotely like that has happened.
I’m trying to catch my fob on things around the house, tempting the fates… nothin’ doin’!
December 2, 2018 at 8:33 am
Agreed! Good luck a branch snaging my Heeter M.O.W out of my pocket!
January 9, 2018 at 10:39 pm
A fob with a metal bead or pendant on it seems like a great way to scratch up the scales and exposed metal on your knife.
February 25, 2018 at 12:06 pm
February 16, 2022 at 6:55 am
You win the internet today!
April 12, 2018 at 1:45 pm
I use 2 pieces of paracord and a fishing snap swivel. The first attached via a boline or small key chain caribeaner to your belt. It is as long as you want it. Call it belt side. I thread the swivel to the other,knives side. I then tie it to the belt side with a nail knot using 4-6 coils. I adjust the swivel so it is 1/2 inch below coils. I leave about an inch of cord on the other side of coils so I can periodically snug them up. I slide the coils towards the boline and attach knife with swivel snap. It hangs just at the bottom of my pocket. When you pull the knife out a firm pull will slide the coils down the belt line. Cut that to whatever length you want. 8″ works for me. Tie a knot in end so coils don’t slide off. You can unclip the knife from swivel or unclip caribeaner if needed. This works well with a heavy knife like a sak huntsman or old solid bolstered sak.
May 18, 2018 at 12:42 pm
A fob makes it easier to conseal your knife by keeping it in your pocket in public places, whilst still making it possible to grab it within a second. When I for instance carry my PM2 in public places, there is no way that I’m securing it by means of the pocket clip. It sticks out way too much and might draw attention. When the fob hangs slightly out of my pocket, no questions rise because the knife is invisible, while is it still easy to grab the knife in case it is required.
Just my 2 cents.
October 12, 2018 at 9:08 am
I just put a lanyard/fob on my knife because I can completely conceal it in my pocket without sacrificing accessibility. I prefer this setup to the clip because I don’t really like the feeling of people noticing that I have a knife on me. My knife looks like, and is, as much a weapon as it is an EDC. Even the small portion that stick out of my pocket when clipped is noticeable and intimidating.
It’s also legal for me to conceal a weapon, so nothing to worry about there.
December 16, 2018 at 7:30 pm
Thanks to each person who wrote in their opinions on Fobs and Lanyards. I’d like to try my hand at putting some coordinated fobs or lanyards on some of my knives and see what it does for their character, although the fear is that some will judge my character in some negative fashion if I screw up the lanyard’s looks and coordination with the knife, kind of like some people appear to be unable to dress well for the occasion. As it is, I see that many people have taken lanyards and fobs to the enth degree in terms of decoration, beads, complexity, etc. Some people prefer more for more’s sake and some people believe that, “less is more.” Like so many things, it’s personal and it’s also a matter of taste (interesting expression for what you like, not necessarily related to the taste buds). AF
September 3, 2019 at 3:37 pm
Let’s pose our knives and take pictures of them. #socontrived
November 9, 2020 at 8:22 pm
Best lanyard is a curly telephone handset cord – minimal length at rest, expands as needed, more than enough strength for the application.
December 5, 2020 at 9:53 am
I think lost of people are missing the fact that in a survival situation your lanyard can be used to fix the knife to a stick for use as a spear for hunting or fishing.
June 8, 2021 at 7:57 pm
Having A lanyard with a belt loop clip on you knife or pocket tool, is by far the most secure method of carrying .
March 15, 2022 at 11:35 am
This is all interesting but the truth is whatever works for you is correct. A lanyard attached to your wrist will stop you from dropping your knife or having it taken from you. A shorter lanyard or fob helps you know instantly which way round your knife is and gives you a “second chance” to catch hold if it should slip out of your hand. Sometimes its better to stay out of its way if it does fall – there is no right or wrong. Try all options there will be one that suits you nine times out of ten.
July 20, 2022 at 5:40 pm
I was wondering why there was a rope on the knife that I recently purchased. I’m still going to take it off for now because I have a set up that works for me but now I have practical knowledge for different uses of the lanyard in the future. Thanks to everyone for their input, it’s useful for people like me.