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Tech has overhauled our everyday carry (EDC), but one item has stuck around: a trusty pocket knife. The best pocket knife is as useful as ever, whether we’re camping, taking action in emergencies or just opening an Amazon box.
As any long-time pocket knife owner can attest, having a blade close at hand is convenient more often than you might expect: cutting tags off clothes, slicing food at the park and prying apart LEGO pieces are just a few of the many uses we regularly encounter. If you’re buying your first pocket knife, prepared to be surprised by how often you pull it out.
Because pocket knives are something you’ll carry and use every day, it’s good to shop around before making a purchase. Below is our guide to finding the best pocket knife, plus seven of our favorites to order right now.
What are the Best Pocket Knives?
The best pocket knives come in all shapes, sizes and materials. Here are a few things to look for while shopping.
Size: The best pocket knife is small enough to stash in any pocket yet big enough for real jobs. Tiny pocket knives can be convenient, but they’re difficult to grip (especially for arduous jobs like whittling) and the small blade limits its usefulness. Big blades are effective, but they’re cumbersome and weighty for EDC. For this reason, most of our favorite knives have a blade around three inches long and a closed length of around three to four inches.
Blade: Pocket knife blades are usually made of stainless steel, but the best pocket knife brands use upgraded steel that integrates things like carbon or powder coating. This ensures longer-lasting blade integrity, not only lengthening the time between sharpening, but also protecting against drops and scrapes.
Ergonomics: Pocket knives should be comfortable at all times: They should fit nicely in your pocket, open easily and handle smoothly. Some knives have a spring-loaded or torsion bar opening which is good for fast access, but most are manual. The best pocket knives also feature an ergonomic design that can be opened with one hand. The handle should also be sturdy and shaped to the palm for especially arduous jobs (think, sawing thick material).
Tools: Some pocket knives feature extra tools. These can come in handy, although they will make the knife a tad bulkier.
Style: Function should be the first concern with a pocket knife, but, as something you’ll pull out often, it should look good too. That might differ from person to person, as some of us like classically styled knives while others prefer a more tactical look.
The Best Pocket Knives
We review some of the best pocket knives to pick up online, whether you’re heading on a hike, to the campsite, or just need a do-it-all multitool at home.
1. Benchmade Mini Bugout
Benchmade is the gold standard of accessible, high-quality EDC knives. This Mini Bugout, measuring 3.7 inches when closed with a 2.82-inch blade, is our top pick for versatility and portability (the slightly larger full-size Bugout is also excellent). Weighing in at just 1.5 ounces and boasting a super slim build, you’ll barely notice it in your pocket. What you will notice is the sharpness and durability of the knife’s drop-point CPM-S30V blade. Its hardness is rated at 58-60 HRC, and the blade is finished in diamond-like carbon (DLC). In plain English, that means the knife tough as nails, corrosion-resistant and sharp enough for almost any job.
2. Leatherman FREE K2
If you want a few extra tools without sacrificing too much size, go for this Leatherman FREE K2. In addition to a sharp, corrosion-resistant blade, you get seven other tools including a pry tool, a package opener, three screw drivers and a bottle opener. All of this is fit into a slim handle that measures 4.5 inches long and weighs 4.9 ounces. With a removable clip, it’s compact enough to fit nicely in your pants pocket but can also be stashed in a bag. Thanks to the inclusion of Letherman’s FREE magnetic locking system, all the tools are easy to access (even with one hand) and lock in place when open.
3. Opinel No.08 Carbon Pocket Knife
The Opinel pocket knife’s iconic shape has earned it a reputation as a design masterpiece with exhibitions in major museums including New York’s Museum of Modern Art. But, despite its beauty and age (it was first introduced in 1890), Opinels are still fantastic EDC pocket knives. This model, the No.08 Carbon, is our favorite with a 3.25-inch carbon steel blade and a classic beechwood handle. It’s extremely lightweight, coming in at just 1.6 ounces, and makes a perfect companion for picnics or campsite meals.
4. CRKT CEO
This CEO pocket knife from CRKT is designed to go under-cover in any office or urban setting. With a low profile build, a light 2.1-ounce weight and a clip, it can easily pass for a pen while stored in a shirt or pants pocket. It’s also quite elegant with a glass-reinforced nylon handle and a sleek blade. Speaking of the blade, it’s made of a high carbon stainless steel that quite strong despite its slim build. Unfolding the blade is also very easy thanks to an IKBS bearing system that lends switchblade-like speed.
5. Spyderco Para 3 Maxamet Signature Folding Knife
For a tactical look and feel, check out this Spyderco Para 3. The brand is known for top-of-the-line quality, and the Para 3 is no exception. Instead of stainless steel, the blade is made of Maxamet, a hardened, powder steel with incredibly long-lasting sharpness (the only downside is it’s more difficult to sharpen). The handle is made of G-10 textured fiberglass that’s thin, durable and grippy. We’re also big fans of Spyderco’s signature round hole on the blade, as it allows easy one-handed opening and closing.
6. Buck Knives The 55
Another great pocket knife with classic looks is the 55 from Buck. The handle is a real eye-catcher with genuine ebony (sourced from Taylor Guitars) and brass bolsters. These materials lend a nice feel, and they aren’t too heavy either as the knife weighs a mere 1.9 ounces. It is on the small side with a 2.38-inch blade, but we think the knife is suitable for almost any day-to-day job. If you need a bigger blade (say, for hunting) we recommend Buck’s larger 110 Folding Hunter knife.
7. Kershaw Leek Folding Knife
This Leek pocket knife from Kershaw does two things very well: minimalism and efficiency. It features a tactical, no-frills design and a unique modified three-inch drop-point blade with a slim tip. This is great for piercing and making exact, detailed cuts. The blade is constructed from 14C28N Sandvik steel, which offers excellent corrosion resistance and toughness. Unlike many pocket knives, the handle is also made of stainless steel, lending a very solid feel. It is on the heavy size, though, at 3.2 ounces, but some users like the substantial feel. The knife also features a torsion bar opening, meaning the knife can be whipped open very fast with a one-handed flick.