Gear Review: Halcyon Explorer Knife

Halcyon has built a solid reputation for making top-of-the-line gear, primarily for technical divers. All of their gear is built around the standard technical setup of wing-and-backplate BCD rather than a typical jacket BCD. Quite often, divers using this setup will put their knives on the waist belt, similar to how you’d carry a normal knife. This placement is advantageous because it’s unlikely that the knife will get tangled up in something, and you can easily reach it with both hands, almost regardless of which part of your body becomes entangled. Knives meant for this placement need a sheath that accommodates being threaded onto the belt.

Halcyon makes two knives, both meant for this specific placement, and both made of titanium, which is lightweight and corrosion resistant. The H model is a traditionally designed knife, though smaller than most dive knives. The Explorer model, however, is even more minimalist. It consists of a single piece of 5.75-inch titanium, which makes up both blade and handle. This makes its profile beyond slim, and reduces the weight to only 2.2 oz, with the sheath. The Explorer’s blade is 2.5 inches long, making this one of the smaller knives on the market.

To further reduce the profile of the knife while sheathed, Halcyon has omitted the traditional closure system that locks the knife in place in the sheath. On their H model, this is done via a nylon strap with a Velcro closure, which more minimal than the integrated locking systems featured on many knives. But on the Explorer, it is removed all together, with only the friction between the blade and the simple nylon sheath holding the knife in place. This means that the entire thing (knife and sheath) weighs in at only 2.2 oz and 1.2 oz for the knife alone, and measures only 0.12” in thickness at the thickest point.

A feature that may seem fairly inconsequential, but one that I’ve come to appreciate about the Explorer, is the slanted sheath design. The knife sits at about a 50-degree angle (from horizontal), designed to make it easier to reach the knife when placed opposite the diver’s dominant hand. So right-handed divers would place this knife on the left side of their body, while left-handed divers would put the knife on the right side. While a small slant might seem that important, I was actually quite impressed with how much easier it made deploying and replacing the knife.

While I had some misgivings as to whether or not the knife would stay in place during a dive, I put it through the ropes during a recent wreck dive, where I found myself in pretty much every angle imaginable (including completely inverted upside-down), and it never budged. The combination of the friction and the knife’s negligible weight means that the knife won’t be pulled from the sheath by gravity.

No doubt the diminutive size and minimalistic design of the knife will put some people off, but as anyone reading my articles on dive knives will know, I’m a big proponent of small knives. I like to put a knife on my gear and forget it’s there until I need it. And this one definitely fit the bill. You don’t even have to worry about rinsing it after diving, as the titanium won’t corrode. And if you’re a traveling diver, counting every ounce, this knife will definitely not weigh you down.

It rest fairly well in the hand, though for my hand (I’m a fairly average-sized guy) it felt a little small to get a really good grasp, particularly if you need to cut through a tough material. Cutting through fishing lines and nets was a breeze, as the blade is very sharp, and maintains its edge well. Getting it out of the sheath and replacing it was easy, helped along by the angle mentioned earlier.

The simple sheath’s design means that the Explorer is pretty much only suited for carrying in the belt of a tech wing BCD; there’s no real way of attaching it to the leg, jacket BCD, or on the low-pressure inflator hose.

All in all, the Explorer is an excellent knife for travelers and for people (like me) who aren’t fans of large dive knives. Anyone who regularly uses his knife to cut through serious stuff, such as marine rope for cleanup purposes, will probably find it lacking. I probably wouldn’t take it kelp diving, for example, but for the absolute majority of my dives, it’s a great choice.

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