LAST UPDATED: December 5, 2019
Best Pocket Knives: Versatile Tools for Indoors and Out
Get the best pocket knife you can use every day and even when you travel
The Review Team
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PUBLISHED ON December 5, 2019
Pocket knives are the most versatile of all knives. They can be used when camping, slicing fruit, cutting twine, or opening envelopes. A pocket knife comes in handy when you least expect it. Whether you’re planning to go backpacking or you just want a knife that you can use every day, these three are sure to fit the bill.
You can put this pocket knife in your utility belt when working indoors or pack it in your travel bag when you hit the road. Its black hue ensures it stays inconspicuous.
It is made from Nitrogen-enhanced high-performance steel and has a DLC (diamond-like carbon) coating for corrosion resistance and hardness. The SpeedSafe Assisted Opening system makes it very easy to open.
The construction quality of some models is not the best, and some users have complained that the knife breaks under minimal stress. It may also open randomly, making it a hazard.
This Swiss army camper knife features seven nifty tools you may need during an emergency. It comes in 27 different colors to fit every preference.
All of its components are made from stainless steel, are resistant to rust, and are highly durable. The knife is easy to clean. You can oil it to make its tools easy to deploy.
You cannot clean it in the dishwasher. The scissor’s spring breaks rather easily. The keyring may interfere with how you use the knife, and the knife may need frequent sharpening.
This pocket knife is designed to be used in any setting. Its razor-sharp blade and contoured handle make it a dependable tool for cutting, scaling, or whittling.
The blade is made from high-quality steel and comes sharp out of the box. Its handle is made from stainless steel and is curved for a firm grip. Its Frame Lock Safety ensures the knife’s sharp blade is not accidentally deployed.
The blade’s slight curvature makes sharpening it a bit difficult. Its blade also dulls rather quickly, especially if you use it to cut tough objects. The thumb studs are uncomfortable for people with delicate fingers.
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Benefits of Pocket Knives
- Handy: With a good pocket knife, you can slice food and open boxes. In an emergency situation, you can use a knife to protect yourself and apply first aid. There are countless times when it can come in handy.
- Use it outdoors: A pocket knife is probably the first tool on the list for anyone who’s going camping, fishing, or just exploring the outdoors. Whether removing hooks or cutting wood, a good pocket knife is ideal for the job.
- Practicality: The name says it all. A pocket knife can be easily carried in a pocket, or even hung around your neck on a lanyard. Either way, it is small and light enough to be carried everywhere, every day.
Types of Pocket Knives
Folder with a Locking Mechanism
The most popular type of pocket knife is the folder with a locking mechanism. The blade folds into the handle for portability. When it’s open, it has a locking mechanism to keep the blade in place. To close the knife, the mechanism must be released for the knife to close.
Folder Without a Locking Mechanism
Some folding pocket knives don’t have a locking mechanism for their blades. These are mainly used for light-duty work. Some of the more popular folders without a lock are multitool knives like the Swiss Army Knife and some Leatherman tools, both of which have many other functions.
Fixed blade knives aren’t the most popular for everyday carry because they can be bulky and require a sheath. Due to the fixed blade, they are generally stronger than folders and can be used for more heavy-duty work.
Kershaw was founded in Portland, Oregon. in 1974. Since then, the company has gone on to become one of the most famous knife makers. It manufactures multiple brands, including Zero Tolerance knives, Kai Housewares, and Shaun Cutlery. Some of the blades are made in the U.S., while others are imported from Japan and China. One popular product is the Kershaw Blur Everyday Carry Pocketknife.
Victorinox is based in Switzerland and is the largest pocket knife manufacturer in the world. The company was founded in 1884 and is famous for creating the multifunctional Swiss Army Knife. Over the years, more and more features have been added to the Swiss Army Knife and it has the distinction of being carried into space with NASA astronauts. One of its best-sellers is the Victorinox Swiss Army Classic SD Pocket Knife.
Columbia River Knife & Tool was founded in 1994 by ex-employees of Kershaw Knives. Over the years, it has developed a reputation for building rugged and innovative knives of various designs. Its blades are made in the U.S., Taiwan, China, and Japan. The CRKT Drifter EDC Folding Pocket Knife is one of its most popular products.
Pocket Knife Pricing
- Under $30: At this price point, the knife is probably made in China, but will still be ideal for most tasks. It might not be made of the best quality steel and might not be durable.
- $30 to $70: These knives will probably be made in the U.S. They will likely use higher quality steel and hold their edge for longer.
- Over $70: For this price, you can get a well-made knife made from premium steel that is made to last.
The blade has to be long enough for the tasks you intend to accomplish, while still being compact enough to be easily carried. Larger blades are normally stronger and more versatile than lighter blades but are also heavier. A medium-sized blade is a good compromise. It’s also worth checking what the legal requirements are in your particular area before deciding on a blade size.
Serrated or Plain Edge
Plain edges are more precise, accurate, and easy to sharpen. Their disadvantage is that they aren’t good at sawing, which is sometimes required for tougher materials. Serrated blades are better at cutting tougher materials, but are a bit less precise and are harder to sharpen. Partially serrated is a good mix of the two with the same pros and cons of each. Normally, the front of the blade is plain and the bottom is serrated.
The shape of the blade has to fit its intended purpose. Some blades are designed for piercing, some for chopping, and some for a mixture of both. There are a number of blade shapes such as the drop point, clip point, and straight-back that are versatile for most everyday tasks.
- Handle Material. Handle materials can be natural, synthetic, or metal. Wood and bone handles look beautiful, but aren’t the strongest. Synthetic materials can vary between rubber, micarta, Zytel, or G10 and are generally utilitarian and durable. Metal grips vary between stainless steel, titanium, and aluminum and are generally strong, but they don’t look as fancy as some of the others.
- Price. At cheaper price points, there are good knives that are good enough for everyday use, while still being disposable. Higher-priced knives might be better quality but could be overkill for certain tasks. Many people prefer expensive, good-quality pocket knives for their everyday use, while getting cheaper knives for tackle boxes or to keep in a vehicle.
- Blade Steel. There are many different types of steel available, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Generally, knives with better steel come at a higher price. For cutting ropes and other abrasive materials, a more wear-resistant alloy is preferable. If you live in an area with lots of rain or humidity, it’s best to get a knife with added corrosion resistance. Some steel also holds its edge better than others, while some alloys are harder to sharpen than others.
Best Pocket Knife Reviews & Recommendations 2020
The Kershaw Blur is a great all-around knife that’s ideal for every day carry as well as camping or work-related tasks. Thanks to its medium size, it can be easily carried. It also has a pocket clip and lanyard ring for practicality.
It was designed by famous knife maker Ken Onion. The blade is made from Sandvik 14C28N stainless steel and has a tungsten DLC coating for added durability. The plain edge and slight recurve make it easy to sharpen and it has a handsome, flowing shape.
The knife is easy to open with the Speedsafe assisted opening mechanism and ambidextrous thumb studs. The liner lock is strong, with little movement, and the balance is fantastic.
However, there are some downsides. There have been complaints of the blade breaking during regular use. Also, some people find the knife hard to open one-handed.
The Victorinox Classic SD is a tiny tool that packs a big punch. It might not be ideal for heavy-duty work like some other pocket knives, but when it comes to doing an unlimited amount of small tasks, it excels. The blade itself is short and slim with no locking mechanism, but it still holds its edge well and will stay tight after years of use.
The main advantage of this knife is all the other functions that are packed in, including a toothpick, tweezers, scissors, keyring, and nail file/screwdriver. All these useful tools are fitted into a lightweight package that’s hardly noticeable in the pocket or on a keychain. It also comes with a lifetime warranty.
However, the small blade without a lock isn’t ideal for serious cutting applications. Because of the small grip, it can also be difficult to get a firm hold on the knife.
For those looking for an inexpensive knife that’s ideal for everyday use, the CRKT Drifter is perfect. Some of the best things about it are its simplicity and practicality. The plain edge is easy to sharpen and it offers reasonable corrosion resistance.
This knife has a removable pocket clip, lanyard ring, and very few sharp edges, which make it ideal for pocket carry. The ambidextrous thumb studs make opening a breeze, and the deployment is very smooth for a knife in this price range. Due to the affordable price and many flat surfaces, many companies buy these in bulk, add their company logos, and use them as marketing tools.
However, this knife isn’t the most durable and it doesn’t hold its edge well. People have also complained about the locking mechanism becoming loose after little use.
Columbia River Knife & Tool's CRKT Squid folding pocket knife is a compact, everyday carry knife with a stainless steel blade and a framelock handle. It features a black stonewash finish and friction grooves on the blade for a better grip. It also comes with a low-profile pocket clip and a limited lifetime warranty.
This is a small, solid, tough, and affordable knife. The rounded edges and streamlined folding blade make it comfortable both in your hands and in your pocket. The Squid's blade tucks away nicely in its smooth round handle, which is stout and provides good control. The clip and the locking mechanism are well-designed and easy to use with or without gloves. It's great for opening packages, cutting rope, etc.
One downside is that it may take a little while to get used to opening the blade, and it can be hard to open with one hand. Also, the handle may be a little small if you have large hands.
Gerber's Exchange-A-Blade (EAB) pocket knife is compatible with both standard and contractor-grade utility blades, which are easy to replace. It is 4.1-inches long when open and has a closed length of 2.4 inches. The blade screw is raised to make it easy to open, and the pocket clip can also be used as a money clip.
The body is made of stainless steel, and it has a liner lock for stability. It's ideal for cutting up boxes and other packages and features an ergonomic design, which makes it comfortable to use. Nearly your whole hand can hold onto the knife without risking contact with the blade.
However, you must regularly replace the blades with those you buy online or at your local hardware store. You also can't apply as much pressure with this item as you can with a standard pocket knife. In addition, the pocket clip is a little stiff and can be hard to slide onto your pocket.
This multitool has a knife as well as six other tools, including pliers, a bit driver, wire cutters, a carabiner/bottle opener, and an extra bit in the handle. It weighs only five ounces, which makes it light enough to use as an everyday carry. These knives come with removable pocket clips, are built in Portland, Oregon, and are backed by a 25-year warranty.
The best thing about this tool is that it's compact enough to fit in your pocket, yet is sturdy and tough enough to do multiple tasks. You only need one hand to open and use the tools in the Skeletool. The knife is nice and sharp out of the box, and it feels like a standard pocket knife, not just a blade sticking out of a multitool. Also, the blade is accessible without opening the tool.
One problem with the Skeletool is it may be prone to rust or the finish may peel off prematurely. There have also been some complaints that the grip is not particularly comfortable, and the blade may break if you put too much pressure on it.
This carbon folding pocket knife is made in France and features the same design from 1890. It cuts extremely well due to the blade's hard carbon steel construction. The handle is made of Beechwood, and it has a two-section stainless Virobloc safety ring, so you can lock the blade both when it's open and closed. The blade is 2.87 inches long, and the knife is a total of 6.5 inches when open.
This is an affordable knife that's lightweight yet sturdy. The blade has a narrow profile, which makes it great for everyday tasks, such as cutting apples, boxes, or string. The blade is also tough enough to carve wood and carry out small jobs on a campsite. In addition, the handle is very smooth and ergonomic, so it's comfortable to carry in your pocket.
However, it doesn't unlock or lock very quickly, and it can take two hands and a good amount of force to do so. Also, if the wooden handle gets wet, it can swell, making it difficult to open and close the blade.
This folding knife from Smith & Wesson has a 3.1-inch black oxide, high carbon stainless steel blade and an overall length of 7.1 inches. It weighs just 3.5 ounces, and the handle is made of aluminum. It features a pocket clip, liner lock, finger flipper, and thumb knobs.
The knife is solidly constructed but lightweight, making it a really good pocket knife. When you open the knife, the weight is perfectly balanced towards the center. The edges are razor sharp, it feels very comfortable in your hands, and it fits well in a jean pocket. You can use it for cleaning small game, cutting rope, or whittling sticks.
However, the blade only opens halfway when you use the assistance method, which can be bothersome to some users. There have also been some complaints that it can be difficult to close, and since it's so inexpensive it's not as high-quality as some of its rivals.
- It may be tempting, but avoid using WD-40 to clean your knife. It can gunk up the pivot over time, rendering the knife almost unusable. Gently wipe the blade to keep the knife clean.
- Use rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer to sanitize your knife if you want to use it to cut food. It is sharp enough to cut most foods and is very useful to campers.
- If you have a leather sheath, avoid putting your knife in it for long periods of time. Leather contains oils that could make your knife susceptible to rusting. Use a cloth sheath instead.
Q: Are pocket knives dishwasher safe?
A: Pocket knives should not be cleaned in the dishwasher. You can wipe your knife with a damp cloth or use a blower to blow away lint. Also, make sure the knife is well oiled at all times.
Q: Can I carry a pocket knife on a plane?
A: The TSA (Transportation Security Administration) forbids carrying pocket knives in carry-on luggage. Some states such as California also have a policy on openly carrying a pocket knife in public.
Q: Are pocket knife clips replaceable?
A: Most sellers will replace the clip if it comes off. However, it is advisable to check the warranty and replacement parts policy before buying the knife.
The Kershaw Blur 1670 Everyday Pocket Knife is a favorite among campers because it resists corrosion and is made of tough steel.
However, the Swiss Army knife has stood the test of time, so the less expensive Victorinox Swiss Army Classic SD Pocket Knife is also a great choice.