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Home » Gear » The Best Pocket Knives and Travel Tools – EPIC Guide For 2024

The Best Pocket Knives and Travel Tools – EPIC Guide For 2024

It’s only a matter of time until a good pocket knife comes in handy. Whether you’re setting up camp or tearing it down, pocket knives will be right by your side every step of the process. Before you know it, your knife will be an everyday carry, and you’ll lose track of the benefits.

A pocket knife opens your campsite for renovations, whittles the branches for marshmallows, and preps the charcuterie board. Just don’t forget to clean your blade before the meal; rubbing it on my dirty shirt cleans it enough, right?

On some camping trips, my pocket knife helps me enjoy dinner on the beach, and on other trips, it does nothing more than open up a few beers. Whether you think you need it or not, adventurers would argue that heading into the woods without a quality pocket knife is asking for trouble.

It may be tempting to do without. I’m always looking for places to shed weight and deciding which one of my toys I’ll have to leave at home, but pocket knives accompany every trip. They weigh less than most single-use quick oats packets, so there is no reason to leave one off your packing list.

Unfortunately, It’s not easy to create a knife versatile enough for the trail that is also small enough to bring to the mountain top. Many lesser knife options have fit the bill only to snap under pressure.

Don’t trust dinner on shoddy craftsmanship. To make sure your knife is ready when it counts, you need to invest in the best. In this post, we’ll weed out the phonies and take a closer look at top pocket knives and other pocket tools that travellers will love.

Quick Answers

#1 – best overall pocket knife – benchmade bugout, #2 – best ultralight pocket knife – benchmade 533.

  • #3 – Best Multi Tool – Leatherman Free P4
  • #4 – Best Bargain Pocket Knife – Opinel Number 8  
  • #5 – Best Multi Purpose Knife – Swiss Army Camper Knife

#6 – Best Small Knife – Gerber Swagger Drop Point Knife

  • #7 – Best Multi Blade Knife – Leatherman Bond Multi-Tool
  • #8 – Best Knife With Scissors – Swiss Army Huntsman Knife
  • #9 – Best Cheap Pocket Knife – Petzl Sparta  

Benchmade Bugout

Benchmade Bugout

  • > Fits into even the most lightweight situations
  • > Comes with easy waist attachment

Benchmade 533

Benchmade 533

  • > Smallest knife out there that can still get the job done
  • > Stainless steel blade

Leatherman Free P4

Leatherman Free P4

  • > 21 toolset
  • > Totally customizable

Opinel Number 8

Opinel Number 8

  • > Hand Carved and affordable
  • > Simple and effective locking mechanism

Swiss Army Camper Knife

Swiss Army Camper Knife

  • > 12 piece kit
  • > The original camping tool

travel pocket knife

Gerber Swagger

  • > Fastest draw in the west
  • > Quality safety lock

travel pocket knife

Leatherman Bond Multi-Tool

  • > 12 tools can all be accessed with one hand
  • > Stainless steel used throughout

travel pocket knife

Swiss Army Huntsman Knife

  • > Packs 8 tools into a classic knife handle
  • > Quality blade and quality multitools

Petzl Spatha

Petzl Spatha

  • > Easily hooks onto a carabiner
  • > Same steel used in ice skate blades

About Knives and Other Tools

 how to find a good pocket knife, what are the best pocket knives and travel tools, final thoughts on the best pocket knives.

Most pocket knives and multi-tools are considered weapons and are heavily regulated. Don’t try to take them as a carry-on. Any knife will cause questions at most police interactions and all border crossings, so make sure you understand the local national or even state knife laws before you head to the airport with a knife in your pocket. 

A good knife should be more than suitable for everyday carry, but that doesn’t mean you have to bring it everywhere. Any stadium or venue with a metal detector may not allow you to bring your knife inside. You could either miss the show or lose your tool. 

Most knife laws prevent concealed carry, and if you catch a cop on a bad day, that could mean your pocket. Most of the knives on our list won’t get you into too much trouble. Just use common sense, and don’t try to hide your knife if questioned.

A knife fits perfectly into every palm in America, but it won’t be the same knife in most hands. Knives and multi-tools are just that – multifunctional. There are loads of different values in a good knife, but there is not much space to play with if you want it to fit in your pocket. You’ll find many good pocket knives for accomplishing many different tasks, but you won’t find one knife that can do it all. A knife that makes great camping gear , may not be suitable for carrying in the streets of London for various reasons of legality!

Designers have given shoppers a world of options, all with the classic quality and stainless steel that makes up a good blade. You can find knives with all sorts of handles, blade shapes, extra features, and construction quirks that make them stand out. 

Here are a few factors that go into a good pocket knife. Decide where you fit into these categories to find the knife that best fits your hand. 

When it comes to knives and tools, cheap usually means crap. Budget products from the legendary Swiss Army and Opinel are the closest things to exceptions to this rule (both of these make great gifts for backpackers ). These options provide tremendous value for their price and are the real deal, but neither one can cut through thick objects. 

Crap is OK, if you don’t need a knife to do more than cut some cheese, but crap can get costly when you don’t have all day to saw through a coiled rope. Expect to pay anywhere from 20-140 dollars for your pocket knife and get what you pay for. 

Every knife on our list can be comfortably carried in your pocket. Some of these knives are so small you might forget they’re in there until you hear them bouncing through the washing machine, and others might feel bulky in tight jeans.

Be wary of incredibly small multi-tools. There is such a thing as too much of a good time when it comes to pocket knives. Fitting 30+ separate tools into your pocket is impressive until it’s time to actually use them, and all the tools are too small to function. 

That goes double for the blade. Trying to cut and cook dinner with a Swiss Army knife alone can be mildly infuriating, at the least. We all want to keep things as small as possible for a better fit, but don’t fall for knives that take it too far. 

Opening Style

Is it a flick? A fold? What you need it for will largely influence what style you need. 

Folding knives bring with them a carefully crafted locking mechanism that holds the blade in place and must be manually unfastened. Flick knives rely on gravity to open up with one hand once a safety switch is off. This style will deploy faster but can buckle under high pressure, as the blade has no backbone.

If you expect to push your knife to its strength limits, folding knives that use a pin or other lock to hold the blade will be stronger. Flick knives are best for those who want a more convenient opening and closing style. 

How It Feels

Your opening style and your blade’s weight will have a significant impact on how each blade feels in the palms of your hand. Check to make sure the contours of the handle fit with your hand to provide optimal grip. Remember, these are pocket knives, designed to be miniature. Small knives won’t feel the same as a kitchen cleaver.

Don’t expect your knife to cut through fruits and vegetables the same as your tools at home, but don’t lower your expectations too low. You don’t want your knife to feel like it’s going to break if you meet a hard force.

If it’s too small for you to hold correctly, you may struggle to cut through tough meats or rough edges. Any knife good enough for everyday carry will have to tackle rope, wood, cords, boxes, and foods. If your blade fits into the most petite pocket but struggles to get through a tomato, it’s worthless.  

The most dangerous knife is a dull one. Putting heaps of pressure on a lousy blade to get through tough objects is how accidents happen, so find a knife that feels effortless when cutting.  

Versatility

Are you after a knife or a multi-tool?

If versatility is your primary consideration, multi-tool is the only natural choice, but it’s not an easy decision. There is no multi-tool with a blade as good as a knife. 

 A good rule of thumb is that the more a multi-tool can do, the less effective the knife blade is. Multi-tools are trying to do a lot more with the same space as a pocket knife. To fit everything in there, the edges are usually weaker, shorter, and blunter than the blade of a single knife. 

Don’t expect your multi-tool’s blade to be as good as a folding knife, which means there is no point buying a multi-tool just for the sake of it. I have a Swiss Army knife and only ever use the blade and bottle opener! A good pocket knife can be much more versatile than you think. 

The best pocket knives and tools come in all shapes and sizes, from classic designs that haven’t changed in centuries, to the latest multi-tool technology. We’ve got great blades on display that each perform a different task better than the competition. The only thing these knives all have in common is their effectiveness. 

Any good pocket knife will last for decades, so choose wisely. Check out the best-in-class across several categories to find your perfect partner. 

travel pocket knife

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Benchmade Bugout

Our top pick for best overall pocket knife is Benchmade Bugout

  • Price: $150
  • Material: Polymer + Steel
  • Folded Size (In): 4.2
  • Weight: 1.85 oz

Slip this sleek, fine-edge knife into your pocket alongside your phone, wallet, and keys, and then forget about it until it comes in handy. Our favourite overall pocket knife doesn’t waste an ounce, providing a powerful and versatile single blade while weighing less than a pack of gum. 

The knife is manually activated in seconds and is large enough to chow down on a block of cheese, small enough to finely skin veggies, and durable enough to get you through a few years on the road. 

This lightweight performance combines with a powerfully rigid blade that can handle most jobs with ease. Its all-around performance has earned the Bugout notoriety among the most passionate collectors and makes the blade frequently recommended for first-time pocket knife owners. 

Equipped with an Axis lock, you won’t waste time fidgeting with this blade to get it deployed and start slicing.

  • Fits into even the most lightweight situations
  • Comes with easy waist attachment
  • Lifetime warranty
  • No focus on looks, only practicality
  • The blade is slightly smaller than average

Benchmade 533

Benchmade 533 is our top pick for best ultralight pocket knife

  • Material: CF-Elite and Steel
  • Folded Size (In): 4
  • Weight: 1.5

Benchmade has set a high benchmark for travel tools. The company has offered up not one but two strong contenders for the best pocket knives of all kinds. If you felt like the Bugout was slightly too much knife for you, this miniature model is as lightweight as it gets. The pocketknife shaves off .3 ounces from the larger Bugout while condensing the blade down by an inch.

 It may seem like a slight difference, but ultralight hikers know every single decimal point counts when keeping track of weight over long treks. This ultralight option keeps weight down without sacrificing value, and that’s the tricky part!

There are plenty of mini blades out there that feel useless beyond spreading butter. The Bugout was already a small knife, so it’s easy to worry about the shortcomings of an even smaller shell. 

You can put those fears to rest with this little folding knife. Deploy your blade with the flick of a thumb and cut through twigs, sausages, or whatever else you feel like fiddling with at the campsite.  

  • Smallest knife out there that can still get the job done
  • Stainless steel blade
  • There are not many situations where you need a knife this small
  • Blade can struggle through thicker root vegetables

#3 – Best Multi-Tool – Leatherman Free P4

travel pocket knife

For best multi-tool, checkout Leatherman Free P4

  • Price: $139
  • Material: Stainless Steel
  • Folded Size (In): 4.25
  • Weight: 8.6

Advertising yourself as the most advanced multi-purpose tool ever made is an incredibly bold statement,  but in this case, it just might be true. A multi tool is great for long term backpacking and also makes for essential roadtrip gear in our view.

I immediately noticed that every one of the tools included in this tiny multi-tool can be activated with one hand, from the bottle opener to the wire cutter. Keeping openings organized and easy is the most challenging part of making a good multi-tool. The P4 got creative to get it done. 

Free P4 got a few upgrades from earlier models to establish itself as the best knife of the multiverse by adding a saw and another serrated knife. The new blade didn’t get rid of anything that made the line an industry leader either. These multi-tools are handmade and designed in the United States and are fully protected for 25 years.    

It’s as close as you can get to having a toolbox with you at all times. Two types of pliers, two knives, four screwdrivers, and all the usual suspects add up to 21 tools. The set makes a great gift, and you can personalize your multi-tool with design engravings or custom lettering. 

  • Design and made in the USA
  • Totally customizable
  • Expensive for a multitool
  • Several tools have sacrificed performance to stay so lightweight

#4 – Best Bargain Pocket Knife – Opinel Number 8

Opinel Number 8

Opinel Number 8 is one of the best bargain pocket knife

  • Material: Wood + Carbone
  • Folded Size (In): 4 3/8
  • Weight: 1.6 oz

No one’s going to believe your knife cost you less than 20 bucks if you show up on a camping trip with the Opinel Number 8 in your pocket. The tool is incredibly cheap, and I can’t find any corners Opinel cut in production to offer such an affordable price. 

Each blade handle is handmade from sturdy French Beechwood. The hardy wood is featured on the grips of all sorts of French culinary tools, but none is more iconic than the beechwood grip of the Opinel. The blade has been slicing through Brie cheeses since 1890, and what you see today is the exact same design as the original. 

The blade’s beauty is its simplicity. No. 8 is one of the largest options in the series but still, only 5 components complete the ensemble; hand-carved grip, X90 Steel, a pin, a collar, and a locking ring.

You won’t find a more classic all-rounder, albeit with one glaring flaw. The knife’s lack of stainless steel means the blade isn’t up to the most demanding tasks, but most adventurers will find plenty of use at an incredibly low price. 

  • Hand Carved and affordable
  • Big blade has loads of versatility
  • Simple and effective locking mechanism
  • Takes two hands to open
  • Not stainless steel

#5 – Best Multi-Purpose Knife – Swiss Army Camper Knife

Swiss Army Camper Knife

Meet the best multi-purpose knife: Swiss Army Camper Knife

  • Material: Stainless steel
  • Folded Size (In): 3.5
  • Weight: 3.2 oz

In case you forgot about one of the most famous knife makers on the planet, let me remind you: Swiss Army knives have been synonymous with boy scouts and camping trips since the days when there was no such thing as an un-broke backpacker. 

Why mess around with something as practical as a multi-tool? For a reasonable price, you can go with the most universally used knife on the planet. Their Camper Knife is the brand’s bread and butter. Beneath the classic Red Swiss exterior holds essential camping tools that can do everything from whittling down a walking stick to opening up a bottle of wine.  

An easy keychain attachment lets you clip on this lightweight attachment directly to your keys, so your pocket toolkit will never be too far away. Between the multiple knives and the sawblade and tweezers, you’ll quickly become basecamps designated problem solvers.

  • This multitool has proven itself to last for decades
  • 12 piece kit
  • The original camping tool
  • No scissors
  • Difficult to clean

travel pocket knife

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travel pocket knife

Gerber Outrigger is our top pick for best small knife

  • Price: $36.95
  • Folded Size (In): 4.3
  • Weight: 4.4 Ounches

Once the Gerber babies grow up, this company still has their back with a tactically assisted opening knife. This legendary knife manufacturer has been churning out useful miniature knives since before World War Two. This modern-day iteration has kept Gerber in the game for almost 100 years. 

The Swagger is a folding knife with a spring-loaded activation button that opens up boxes in a hurry. It may come from an older company, but this ain’t your grandpa’s mini knife. Gerber field-tested the brand new opening system in their quest to create the best mechanism for rapid knife deployment, and it’s hard to argue with the end results. 

Without a complete knife, that fast opening would be nothing more than a gimmick, but the Swagger delivers in every category. Your stainless steel blade will be out in a hurry, and the plastic coating grip feels good in your hands. 

  • One of the smallest folding knives on the market
  • Fastest draw in the west
  • Quality safety lock
  • Very small blade
  • Two-handed opening

#7 – Best Multi-Blade Knife – Leatherman Bond Multi-Tool

travel pocket knife

Our top pick for best multi-blade knife is Leatherman Bond Multi-Tool

  • Price: $59.95
  • Folded Size (In): 3.6
  • Weight: 4 oz

For adventurers who want the iconic Leatherman craftsmanship without the 21 toolsets of the bigger Multi-Tools, the company’s lighter Leatherman Bond Multi-Tool still brings plenty of value, especially considering it’s almost one hundred dollars cheaper than its high-class brother. 

This knife is slightly more white-collar, providing only 14 tools in one. Most trips shouldn’t require more than 14 tools anyways, and there is plenty to love about what the T4 has under its stainless steel. 

All of this is encased in packaging similar in size to a swiss army knife, with arguably more value, thanks to the additional scissors. Innovators and early adopters will be swearing by this blade’s fancy release system, which one day will look like a no-brainer.

  • 14 tools can all be accessed easily
  • Stainless steel used throughout
  • Folds down pretty compact
  • Not the best looking

#8 – Best Knife With Scissors –  Swiss Army Huntsman Knife

travel pocket knife

For best knife with scissors, checkout Swiss Army Huntsman Knife

  • Folded Size (In): 4.5
  • Weight: 5.5 oz

Out of a multi-tool, I really only use my scissors, knife, and bottle opener. This single blade knife checks off all three boxes while ensuring the blade stays big enough to be useful in many different situations. You’ll find 9 different hidden tools and one serrated blade that stretches out over 3 inches. Its the closest thing in the knife industry to the best of both worlds. 

All the separate tools included in this knife deploy from the sturdy body of the knife where you can get a good firm grip. There are loads of multi-tools much larger than this one that still don’t come with scissors or this level of quality.  If you are looking for one knife to solve all your problems, this baby is like counselling.

  • Packs 9 tools into a classic knife handle
  • The included Stainless steel is tough and can be sharpened
  • Quality blade and quality multitools
  • Heavy for a typical blade

#9 – Best Cheap Pocket Knife – Petzl Spatha

Petzl Spatha

Petzl Spatha is one of the best cheap pocket knife

  • Material: 12C27 Steel
  • Weight: 1.5 oz

Knives don’t have to come with bells and whistles. You won’t find an included toothpick or a sprawling collection of knickknacks inside this knife, just one blade and a plastic handle perfect for ropes and riggings. Petzl builds its products for climbers, but this particular item works across the spectrum of outdoor activities. 

Petzl had to pay attention to every ounce to make a knife for climbers – a blade that wouldn’t let down anyone hanging on the edge of a cliff. That shows itself in the spec sheet, as the entire knife weighs less than 2 ounces but packs a blade that extends up to almost 3 inches. 

That combination of lightweight and efficiency are all some knife-owners need. If you don’t want a blade to do anything more than cut, you won’t find a lighter knife with this kind of performance. A nice sized hole at the front will allow you to easily fit the Spatha into a carabiner and keep it close until it’s time to cut rope, webbing, fishing line, or sailing equipment.

  • Built for use in high-stakes situations
  • Easily hooks onto a carabiner
  • Same steel used in ice skate blades
  • Least versatile knife on our list
  • Difficult to open with one hand

travel pocket knife

Now, you  could spend a fat chunk of $$$ on the WRONG present for someone. Wrong size hiking boots, wrong fit backpack, wrong shape sleeping bag… As any adventurer will tell you, gear is a personal choice.

So give the adventurer in your life the gift of convenience: buy them an REI Co-op gift card!  REI is The Broke Backpacker’s retailer of choice for ALL things outdoors, and an REI gift card is the perfect present you can buy from them. And then you won’t have to keep the receipt. 😉

travel pocket knife

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These street legal pocket knives all pull well above their incredibly light weight. There is no adventure a pocket knife can’t help out with, so use this guide to find the blade of your dreams and start your budding woodworking career. 

A good pocket knife is a survival tool to toss in your survival bag , and the best pocket knives will help you survive and thrive in life outside. Modern technology has sharpened the stakes and allowed pocket knives to do more with less than ever before. With all the different blade shapes and steel types out there, it can be hard to narrow down the field but stick to the basics and trust in the knives on this list to get the job done. 

Fit one of these knives in your pocket, and start exploring. Let us know about a time your knife saved the day in the comments below. 

Other useful camping items? Check out our rundown of the best campfire starters to go alongside your knife.

travel pocket knife

Aiden Freeborn

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Flying with a knife SUCKS. Please add a section about how to mitigate the suckage.

Declare, pack in check in luggage or leave it at home, travelling with baby safe scissors, will do the trick for most people! I know people that have posted home knives and “sharp objects” rather than loose them to airport security!

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TSA Approved Pocket Knives – Ultimate Buyers Guide

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You’ve planned your trip, packed your bags, and you’re ready to go. But wait, what about your trusted pocket knife, you know, the one you never part with? Is it TSA approved?

I know TSA rules are confusing, and there are so many of them to weed through. Not to worry, I am here to help.

Over the years of travel and dealing with TSA, I gained a tremendous degree of knowledge about TSA, sharp objects, and, yes, pocket knives. If you want to take your pocket knife with you when you fly, this information is invaluable.

Together, let’s unpack the TSA’s rules on pocket knives, explore what makes a pocket knife TSA approved, and look at some of the best TSA approved pocket knives available.

Quick Overview Of TSA Approved Pocket Knives (Updated List)

Is the term “tsa approved pocket knives” an oxymoron.

Before we move forward with our TSA approved pocket knives buyer’s guide, it’s necessary to explain what “TSA approved” means . The term might seem like an oxymoron, given that the TSA generally prohibits knives in carry-on luggage. However, “TSA approved” in this context refers to pocket knives that meet specific criteria set by the TSA for checked luggage .

It’s important to note that even if a pocket knife is deemed “TSA approved,” it still needs to be packed in your checked luggage. Carrying a pocket knife in your carry-on bag can lead TSA taking it at the security checkpoint and may even result in fines or other penalties.

So, when we talk about “TSA approved pocket knives,” we’re referring to knives that won’t violate TSA rules or regulations. Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s dive into our buyer’s guide for the best TSA approved pocket knives on the market.

Top 5 TSA Approved Pocket Knives Product Reviews

Now that we understand what makes a pocket knife TSA approved, let’s look at some of the best options available. Each of these knives meets the TSA’s guidelines and offers unique features that make them a great choice for travelers.

Case Cutlery Yellow Handle Peanut

tsa approved pocket knives 5 white

The Case Cutlery Yellow Handle Peanut is a classic and reliable tool that combines functionality with a touch of vintage charm. Its compact size makes it a great travel companion, especially for those who appreciate traditional craftsmanship.

Product Overview

The Case Cutlery Yellow Handle Peanut features a high-quality stainless steel blade that’s designed for durability and precision. The handle, with its distinctive yellow color, is made from a durable synthetic material that provides a comfortable grip.

One of the standout features of this knife is its traditional peanut design, which includes two blades of different sizes. This offers versatility for various tasks, from opening packages to peeling fruit.

  • Compact and lightweight, making it easy to carry
  • High-quality stainless steel blades
  • Comfortable and distinctive yellow handle
  • Traditional peanut design with two blades for versatility
  • Made by Case Cutlery, a well-known brand with a long history in the knife industry
  • The traditional design may not appeal to everyone
  • The small size, while great for travel, might limit its functionality for larger tasks.

Why It’s TSA Approved

The Case Cutlery Yellow Handle Peanut meets the TSA guidelines for knives in checked luggage due to its small blade size. Remember, even though it’s TSA compliant, it still needs to be packed in your checked luggage.

In conclusion, the Case Cutlery Yellow Handle Peanut is an excellent choice for those who appreciate traditional design and craftsmanship. Whether you’re a frequent traveler or just need a handy tool for everyday tasks, this knife is a solid choice.

Spyderco Grasshopper Black Non-Locking Knife With 2.30″

tsa approved pocket knives 1 grey

The Spyderco Grasshopper Black Non-Locking Knife is a compact and reliable tool that’s perfect for everyday carry. Its 2.30″ blade is small enough to be TSA compliant, yet it can handle the tasks at hand.

This knife features a sleek, black design that you can easily have engraved. The stainless steel 3Cr13 blade resists rust and corrosion, ensuring longevity. The handle is made from durable materials that provide a comfortable grip, making it easy to use even for extended periods.

One of the standout features of this knife is its non-locking mechanism. This means the blade doesn’t lock when it’s open, which is a requirement for TSA approved pocket knives.

  • Lightweight and compact, making it easy to carry
  • Durable stainless steel blade
  • Comfortable grip
  • Non-locking mechanism for added safety and compliance
  • Made by Spyderco, a reputable brand known for quality knives
  • The non-locking mechanism may not be suitable for all tasks
  • The small size, while great for travel, might limit its functionality for larger tasks

The Spyderco Grasshopper Black Non-Locking Knife meets the TSA guidelines for knives in checked luggage due to its small blade size and non-locking mechanism. Remember, even though it’s one of the TSA approved pocket knives, it still needs to be packed in your checked luggage.

Overall, the Spyderco Grasshopper is a great choice for those in need of a compact, reliable, and TSA compliant knife. Whether you’re a frequent traveler or just need a handy tool for everyday tasks, this knife is a solid choice.

Kizer Mini Bay Pocket Knife, 1.9 Inch, Non-Locking

tsa approved pocket knives 2

The Kizer Mini Bay Pocket Knife is a compact and versatile tool that’s perfect for those who need a reliable knife on the go. With a blade length of just 1.9 inches, it’s small enough to be TSA compliant, yet robust enough to handle a variety of tasks.

The Kizer Mini Bay features a high-quality stainless steel blade that’s designed for durability and precision. The handle is made from lightweight materials that provide a comfortable grip, making it easy to handle even for extended periods.

One of the standout features of this knife is its non-locking mechanism. This means the blade doesn’t lock when it’s open, which is a requirement for many jurisdictions, including being TSA compliant for checked luggage.

  • Traditional design
  • High-quality stainless steel blade
  • Made by Kizer, a well-known brand in the knife industry

The Kizer Mini Bay Pocket Knife is one of our top picks as TSA approved pocket knives as long as you place it in your checked luggage. It meets the TSA guidelines due to its small blade size and non-locking mechanism.

In conclusion, the Kizer Mini Bay is an excellent choice for those in need of a compact, reliable, and TSA compliant knife. Whether you’re a frequent traveler or just need a handy tool for everyday tasks, this knife is a solid choice.

Spyderco Bug Non-Locking Knife With 1.27″

tsa approved pocket knives 32

The Spyderco Bug Non-Locking Knife is a testament to the saying, “good things come in small packages.” With a blade length of just 1.27 inches, this compact knife is perfect for those who need a reliable tool that’s also travel-friendly.

The Spyderco Bug features a high-quality stainless steel blade for durability and precision. Despite its small size, this knife doesn’t compromise on functionality. The handle, while compact, provides a comfortable grip, making it easy to handle for various tasks.

  • Extremely compact and lightweight, perfect for travel
  • Comfortable grip despite its small size
  • The extremely small size, while great for travel, might limit its functionality for larger tasks

The Spyderco Bug Non-Locking Knife meets the TSA guidelines for knives in checked luggage due to its small blade size and non-locking mechanism. Remember, even though it’s TSA compliant, it still needs to be packed in your checked luggage.

In conclusion, the Spyderco Bug is an excellent choice for those in need of a super compact, reliable, and TSA approved pocket knives. Whether you’re a frequent traveler or just need a handy tool for everyday tasks, this knife is a solid choice.

Spyderco Roadie Non-Locking Lightweight Knife With 2.09″ Blade

tsa approved pocket knives 4

The Spyderco Roadie Non-Locking Lightweight Knife is a compact yet versatile tool that’s perfect for those who value functionality and portability. With a blade length of 2.09 inches, it’s small enough to make the list of TSA approved pocket knives. Put it to the test to see well it handles many small tasks.

The Spyderco Roadie features a high-quality stainless steel blade that’s designed for durability and precision. The handle is made from lightweight materials that provide a comfortable grip, making it easy to handle even for extended periods.

  • Made by Spyderco, a well-known brand in the knife industry

The Spyderco Roadie Non-Locking Lightweight Knife meets the TSA guidelines for knives in checked luggage due to its small blade size and non-locking mechanism. Remember, even though it’s TSA compliant, it still needs to be packed in your checked luggage.

In conclusion, the Spyderco Roadie is an excellent choice for those in need of a compact and reliable, knife that meets the requirements of TSA approved pocket knives. Whether you’re a frequent traveler or just need a handy tool for everyday tasks, this knife is a solid choice.

What Makes a Pocket Knife TSA Approved?

TSA approved pocket knives are those that meet specific criteria set by the TSA. These criteria mainly revolve around the design and functionality of the knife.

Blade Length And Sharpness

The length of the blade is a critical factor for TSA approved pocket knives. TSA regulations stipulate that the blade of a pocket knife should not exceed 2.36 inches . The sharpness of the blade is also considered – certain types of blades may be deemed too dangerous for travel.

Knife Design

The design of the knife also plays a role. Some designs are considered safer and more suitable as TSA approved pocket knives than others. For instance, knives that feature a locking mechanism may not be allowed as they can be used more effectively as a weapon.

Other Factors

Other factors that can affect whether a pocket knife is TSA approved include the material the knife is made from and its overall purpose. For instance, utility knives may be allowed while combat knives are not.

How To Travel Safely With Your TSA Approved Pocket Knives

Even when you have experience with TSA approved pocket knives, it’s essential to follow certain guidelines to ensure a smooth travel experience.

Packing Your Knife Properly

Your pocket knife should be securely wrapped and placed in your checked luggage. This not only adheres to TSA guidelines but also ensures the safety of baggage handlers.

Checking In Your Knife

When checking in your luggage, it may be a good idea to declare that you have a pocket knife in your bag. This can prevent any potential issues or delays.

Handling TSA Inspections

If your bag is selected for inspection, cooperate fully with the TSA officers. Remember, they are just doing their job to ensure everyone’s safety.

tsa approved pocket knives 16

Frequently Asked Questions – TSA Approved Pocket Knives

Navigating the world of TSA regulations can often lead to questions, especially when it comes to items like pocket knives. To help you better understand these rules and make your travel experience smoother, we’ve compiled answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about TSA approved pocket knives. Let’s dive in.

Are pocket knives TSA approved?

Technically speaking, no, they are not. The term TSA approved means an item can go in a carry on bag on a plane. Pocket knives can go in your checked luggage only, but no knives are allowed in the cabin of an airplane in any bag.

What size pocket knife will TSA allow?

TSA regulations say that a pocket knife with a blade 2.36 inches or less may be in your checked luggage only. No knives are permitted in a carry on bag. In addition, the knife cannot have a locking open mechanism.

What happens if TSA finds a pocket knife?

When it comes to knives in carry on luggage, TSA is not playing around. They strictly adhere to the rules regarding knives and will confiscate them when they show up on the security scanners.

Additional Resources

If you are looking for more tutorials, walkthroughs, and troubleshooting on TSA, here are some additional posts about TSA:

Global Entry Application Form – Practical Clear Cut Steps

What Is Transportation Security Responsible For?

Best Disposable Bottles For Travel – TSA 3-1-1

Navigating the world of travel regulations can be a daunting task, especially when it comes to items like TSA approved pocket knives. However, with the right knowledge, it doesn’t have to be. The key is understanding what makes a pocket knife TSA approved and choosing a knife that meets these criteria.

Finding TSA approved pocket knives is a challenge in itself. Most pocket knives have blades greater than 2.36 inches and a locking handle. We’ve explored several options for you, such as the traditional peanut, Spyderco Grasshopper, the Kizer Mini Bay, the Spyderco Bug, and the Spyderco Roadie. Each of these knives offers unique features and benefits, making them excellent choices for travelers.

Remember, even though these are TSA approved pocket knives, they still need to be packed in your checked luggage. Always follow TSA guidelines and cooperate with TSA officers at the airport to ensure a smooth and hassle-free travel experience.

Happy travels, my friends.

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Laura Fuller

Hello, I am a luggage and travel fanatic. With a vast knowledge of TSA regulations, I am here to assist you on your journey. Please join me, and together, we will navigate the world of travel. From TSA and air to cruising the high seas, we will explore the best accessories and tips for smooth travel.

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  • Outdoor gear

The Best Pocket Knife

Doug Mahoney

By Doug Mahoney

Doug Mahoney is a writer covering home-improvement topics, outdoor power equipment, bug repellents, and (yes) bidets.

The more you carry around a pocket knife, the more uses you’ll find for it. Everything from opening delivery boxes to fishing little objects out from between floorboards can be accomplished without having to search around for a specific tool.

After researching pocket knives for over 60 hours and talking to two people who have reviewed at least 450 knives between them, we tested nearly 30 knives—by slicing up 20 cardboard boxes and peeling 30 apples—and found that the Columbia River Knife and Tool Drifter is the best knife for most people to carry every day.

Everything we recommend

travel pocket knife

CRKT Drifter

The best knife for everyday carry.

The Drifter offers a compact size and a butter-smooth blade deployment. The grip area works with all hand sizes and remains comfortable even during tough cutting.

Buying Options

May be out of stock

travel pocket knife

Blue Ridge Knives ESEE Zancudo

A little larger and more heavy-duty.

The robust metal build of the Zancudo, combined with the excellent ergonomics, makes this the knife of choice for tougher work.

Budget pick

travel pocket knife

Sanrenmu 710

Solid quality, very inexpensive.

The 710 has many of the same high-quality touches as our main pick, but the all-metal body can be slippery. Often available for around $20, it’s a steal.

Upgrade pick

travel pocket knife

Benchmade Mini Griptilian

A luxury knife.

The Mini Griptilian has a steep price tag, but it’s better than the others by nearly every measure. The distinctive blade-locking system and movable pocket clip make this knife fully ambidextrous.

travel pocket knife

Buck Knives 55

For a traditional style.

The 55 has none of the modern convenience features of the other knives we tried, but it does have a timeless feel, a comfortable handle, and a durable build quality.

The CRKT Drifter shares the two basic characteristics of most of the knives we tested: The blade is about 3 inches long, and you can open and close it with one hand. On paper, the Drifter offers nothing unique, but it excels at all of the small elements that make for a successful knife. The most impressive of these is the smoothness of the blade’s pivoting action, which is among the nicest we tested and on a par with that of knives costing four times as much. The Drifter’s handle is contoured to fit both big and small hands, and it has a light texturing that improves the grip. This model has excellent fit and finish, and it doesn’t have a cheap plastic feel like many of the knives in its price range—usually costing around $30, it’s a bargain.

If the Drifter isn’t available or if you’re looking for a real workhorse of a knife, we also like the Blue Ridge Knives ESEE Zancudo . 1 Compared with the Drifter, the Zancudo has a larger handle, a stronger blade lock, and a lot more metal in the body. Those features, as well as the unusual and comfortable teardrop-shaped handle, make this model a great knife for tougher work and more aggressive cutting. We think that this added durability and performance are unnecessary for standard everyday use, and that the Drifter, with its adequate strength, lighter weight, and smaller footprint, is the better option for most. Still, in our tests the Zancudo was our choice for tougher jobs, such as when we headed into a DIY project.

If you’re new to knives and want to make the smallest investment possible to see if you like carrying one, we like the Sanrenmu 710 (aka 7010) . It’s similar in a lot of ways to our main pick—it has roughly the same size and the blade pivot is almost as smooth. But the all-metal handle is less comfortable and can become slippery in damp or sweaty hands; we noticed this problem when holding the knife and when flipping the blade out. The good news is that the 710 is typically sold for around $20. This pricing is impressive seeing as the overall quality in our tests was better than that of many of the $30 to $50 knives we tried.

If you have a larger budget and want a knife that nails all of the little details, we recommend the Benchmade Mini Griptilian . Compared with our other picks, it’s simply a better knife—better pivot, better blade steel, better ergonomics, and better locking system. Because of the lock and the reversible pocket clip, this model is a fully ambidextrous knife. We believe that most people will be more than satisfied with the CRKT Drifter, but if you take good care of your knives and want one with premium touches, the Mini Griptilian is a great investment.

We also tested two traditional knives, and if you prefer a more classic look and style, we recommend the Buck Knives 55 . Its design has an unquestionably age-old feel, but that comes at the expense of more modern touches such as a pocket clip, a one-handed open and close, and a textured handle. Still, the Buck Knives 55 has a very sturdy body and nice overall construction, which is evident in how the lock snaps open and closed. To us, the biggest drawback is that you need two hands to open and close this blade, but if you’re okay with that, this Buck model is a fine choice.

The research

Why you should trust us, who this is for, how we picked, how we tested, our pick: crkt drifter, flaws but not dealbreakers, runner-up: blue ridge esee zancudo, budget pick: sanrenmu 710 (7010), upgrade pick: benchmade mini griptilian, also great: buck knives 55, the competition.

To learn more about pocket knives, we turned to two prominent blade reviewers, conversing with both via email. Dan Jackson of BladeReviews.com has been running his site and reviewing knives since 2010. In that time, he has reviewed “a couple hundred” knives ranging in price from a few dollars all the way to $800. We also corresponded with Tony Sculimbrene of  Everyday Commentary , who has been reviewing blades since 2011; he told us he has personally reviewed “probably more than 250 knives” and handled at least a thousand. He also writes about knives and other EDC gear for AllOutdoor.com , GearJunkie , and Everyday Carry . To round out our knowledge, we also spent hours combing through knife-enthusiast forums such as BladeForums.com,  knife retailer websites, and YouTube knife reviews.

I’ve also been a daily knife carrier for nearly 25 years. I spent 10 of those years in the construction industry, in work that entailed heavy daily knife usage. My knife experience also extends into woodcarving, which I do as a hobby.

At its most basic, an everyday carry (EDC) knife is a practical tool that helps you tackle small, routine problems. To fit comfortably in a pocket, it should be a relatively compact knife. It won’t bushwhack a trail, but it will spare you countless trips to the kitchen drawer to get something to break down the recycling or open a package. While you can easily spend over $100 on a quality knife, and it can be well worth that price, for this guide we focused mostly on entry-level knives that you can get for less than $50, so that you can try out the utility of an EDC knife without breaking the bank.

Blade reviewer Tony Sculimbrene told us that a good EDC knife “should be able to do general utility tasks, like package and box opening, and, if you go outdoors, outdoor/camp tasks like food prep and light whittling/carving.” While these are the foundational reasons to carry a knife, their usefulness is far more universal. In a three-week span, I’ve used pocket knives to sharpen pencils, retrieve Legos from between floorboards, cut twine, remove an event wristband, open a bag of chicken feed, trim the odd thread hanging from a shirt, and remove ticks and splinters when no tweezers are available.

But EDC knives are not for everyone, and you have certain considerations to take into account if you’re looking to carry one. First, even though EDC knives are typically small, they’re still dangerous, so you need to handle them responsibly. Second, you need to maintain them, which means sharpening them.

You also have legal considerations. Knife laws vary from state to state and often from city to city. Some areas, such as New York City, have extremely prohibitive knife laws. We found the American Knife & Tool Institute , a knife-advocacy group, to be the most reliable source of information on this topic, but we also recommend checking in with local law enforcement to get the most up-to-date information.

But if you’re really after functionality in your pocket knife, we recommend a multi-tool, which we cover in much more detail here .

Choosing a knife is a personal decision, and 10 different people are likely to have 10 different favorites. But after speaking to experts and drawing from our own experience, we decided to focus on knives with the following common features and attributes.

Folding blades (as opposed to fixed blades): Most folding knives (known as folders) are small enough to fit in a pocket and have a general nonthreatening sense of utility about them. In social situations they’re likely to be more acceptable than a fixed-blade knife on a belt sheath. Fixed blades do have their place, particularly among outdoor enthusiasts, but we believe they aren’t the best option for a simple, discreet EDC blade.

Roughly a 3-inch blade length: Blade reviewer Dan Jackson called a 3-inch blade the “sweet spot” for size and explained to us that a 3-inch blade is “a functional size and provides plenty of cutting edge and plenty of handle to hang on to.” Tony Sculimbrene, writing at his site , says he doesn’t see the point of going larger than 3 inches for an EDC blade. In a number of reviews on his blog , he refers to “3:4:7” as the “golden ratio” of a folding knife—a 3-inch blade, a 4-inch handle, and a total length of 7 inches. In one review Sculimbrene refers to a length of 2½ to 3 inches as being his “[ideal] size for an EDC knife.”

Bigger blades have a few drawbacks. Sculimbrene told us, “A knife has to be VERY well designed to be 3.5 inches and not feel unnecessarily bulky or clumsy in the hand.” Jackson also acknowledged the awkward optics of a larger blade, saying that a knife shorter than about 3¼ inches “won’t be misinterpreted as a weapon.” 2

Lightweight: A consideration somewhat similar to blade length, weight is an important factor for anything you carry with you all day. We focused on knives that wouldn’t significantly weigh down most pockets, but didn’t sacrifice build quality or utility.

A drop-point blade shape: For blade shape, we focused our search on the classic drop-point style. With this design, the top edge of the blade arcs slightly downward toward the tip. The edge of the blade has a curve at the tip and then straightens out as it heads back to the handle, similar to what you can find on many chef’s knives. According to Jackson, this design is “a well-rounded blade shape” that offers “a good cutting edge, some belly (the curve to the edge towards the tip), which is good for slicing into things, and a fine tip for detail work." He also noted that the drop point is not a threatening shape. “A clip point blade is very practical for the same reasons, but it can look more aggressive, especially in a larger knife.” Drop-point shapes are easier to maintain, too. Sculimbrene told us, “One issue that a lot of people don't think about is the more complex the blade shape is, such as with a recurve or a tanto, the more difficult it is to sharpen and maintain.”

Three pocket knives with different blade shapes sitting on a wooden background.

One-handed opening: Seeking the convenience of a one-handed open, we focused on knives with thumb studs, thumb holes, or flippers. Thumb studs and thumb holes provide a grip on the blade so that your thumb can flip it open. A flipper is a small tab that sticks out the back end of the handle; when you give it a quick flick, the blade pops open and locks. Jackson told us, "I like thumb studs, flippers, and thumb holes for deployment methods. Done properly, these allow for easy one-hand opening."

Three pocket knives with different opening styles sitting on a wooden background.

Liner locks, for one-handed closing: This style of lock secures the blade in the open position and offers easy closing with one hand. When you open the blade, a strip of the metal handle lining springs to the center of the knife and engages with the back end of the blade, locking it in place. To unlock the blade, you use your thumb to move the lock to the side while simultaneously shifting the blade forward with your forefinger. It’s an easy maneuver to master. It’s also doable with either the left or right hand, although easier with the right. Sculimbrene told us, “In terms of locking systems, the liner lock … is probably my favorite.”

Frame locks are essentially the same thing, except they’re a thicker piece of metal that engages with the blade. Experts consider frame locks to be the stronger design of the two, but both are plenty durable for everyday use. 3 As Jackson told us, liner locks “work great for daily utility tasks, but don't try to chop down a tree with them." In a review , Sculimbrene writes, “[In] the role of an EDC knife I think a liner lock is more than strong enough.”

A pocket clip: Most inexpensive knives have a single-position pocket clip, but more expensive models often give the option to move the clip to either side of the handle, as well as to either end. This is a nice feature to have, but it’s not an essential one, particularly if you’re new to knives and haven’t yet developed a preference. Sculimbrene told us, "A good pocket clip is a huge plus for a knife. I don't think it is required, but a good one is a treat. If you have a good handle design four position clips aren't necessary.”

Acceptable blade steel: Blade steel determines a blade’s strength, its corrosion resistance, and how often you’ll be sharpening it. Cheaper steels are softer and prone to dulling quicker, but are easier to sharpen than more expensive steels. We found that, depending on the steel, knives fell into a series of price ranges. For instance, the majority of knives from reputable manufacturers in the $15 to $50 range, where we spent most of our time, are made of either 8Cr13MoV or AUS-8, both of which are considered decent, but not great, steels. As Benjamin Schwartz writes in a review Jackson’s site , “For me, 8Cr13MoV is the baseline for modern steel, setting the bar for acceptability in every area, but impressing in none other than sharpenability. I’ve never been surprised by 8Cr13MoV, but never really disappointed by it either.”

A good value for the price: To find an entry-level knife with features that would satisfy an enthusiast, we centered our research on the $15 to $50 range. Sculimbrene made the interesting point that “if you are talking under $40, the quality is pretty much the same from $40 down to about $5 if you know what to avoid.” We found this to be true—we saw a lot of terrible $30 knives, and at least one really good one for considerably less (like our budget pick ). We also looked at knives in the $50 to $100 range, where “you get a huge uptick in quality,” according to Sculimbrene. He explained, “At around $50 you can find a wide variety of knives with superior steel, handle materials, and fit and finish.” Jackson told us he didn’t “think that anyone ‘needs’ a $75 pocket knife” but recommended “venturing into this price if you enjoy knives and want a more premium product.” But ultimately, he said, “a $25 knife will open a box like a $100 knife will.”

No serrations: The primary advantage to serrations is that they offer an increased ability to cut rope. On the downside, they’re difficult to sharpen, and they don’t make as clean of a cut. Sculimbrene, at his site , writes, “I do not like serrations. I don't do enough rope cutting tasks to make the serrations worth the sharpening hassle they cause.” Jackson agreed: “If you maintain your plain edge knife you will never miss having serrations.”

No assisted open: Knives with assisted open have an internal mechanism that springs the blade to the open position once it is just barely out of the handle. 4 Sculimbrene has strong opinions on such knives, writing at his site , "I do not like assisted opening or automatic knives. If a manual knife is well designed (like a flipper or a thumb hole) it will open just as fast. As such, the assisted opening or auto just adds parts that can break with no accompanying benefit. If you have an application that needs fast and thoughtless deployment, like combat or rescue, assisted and auto knives have their place. Otherwise, they aren't worth it."

A reliable model: We kept our search to established, time-tested models. Many knife manufacturers crank out new designs on a seasonal basis, so their catalogs are constantly shifting around. Sculimbrene explained that “knife companies generally ‘retire’ about 10% or 1/3 of their knife designs a year and sort of use the knife enthusiasts as product testers, moving successful designs in their evergreen line up.”

Sticking closely to the criteria above, we selected almost 30 knives to call in for a firsthand look. Our list focused mostly on reputable manufacturers such as Benchmade, CRKT, Gerber, Kershaw, and Spyderco. We also included a few outliers: The Spyderco Delica 4 and Dragonfly 2 have the lockback system but are regarded in the knife world as two of the best models available. In addition, we looked at two traditional folders with lockbacks; these models, from Buck Knives and from Case, rely on a fingernail nick. Last, a few knives with clip-point blades made their way into our testing, mostly since their high popularity and strong reputation made them hard to ignore in a comprehensive evaluation of the category. For this review, we did not look at any multitools like those from Leatherman and Gerber (we have a separate guide for those).

a person cutting a piece of cardboard with a pocket knife, next to other knives and apples on a table.

Once we had the knives in hand, it didn’t take long for us to narrow things down to about 10 models based on fit and finish alone. We quickly dismissed knives with impossible openings or awkward ergonomics. After that, we simply spent the majority of our testing carrying the knives around and using them daily. This approach gave us the best feel for the overall combination of ergonomics, pivot design, and handling, something that no lab testing could truly zero in on.

We also used these blades to slice up about 20 cardboard boxes and peel about 30 apples. These two tasks, one aggressive, the other delicate, gave us a sense of how comfortable the handles were and how easy it was to maneuver each blade for different types of cutting.

A person sharpening a pocket knife with the spyderco tri angle sharpmaker.

During testing, we sharpened our blades with the Spyderco Tri-Angle Sharpmaker , a highly regarded sharpener among knife enthusiasts. In a review , Jackson writes, “I cannot recommend the Sharpmaker more highly. It’s a versatile no-nonsense sharpening system that almost anyone can learn how to use.” Touching up a blade on a whetstone takes skill and practice, but you can find easy-to-use systems like this (or the similar, cheaper Lansky 4 Rod Turn Box ) that can bring dull blades back to razor sharpness in minutes. 5

travel pocket knife

Spyderco Tri-Angle Sharpmaker

An excellent sharpener.

The compact and easy-to-use Tri-Angle Sharpmaker can bring a dull knife back to life in a matter of minutes.

We didn’t do any specific tests on edge retention. It is well documented that the better steels found on more expensive knives hold an edge longer than their less-expensive counterparts. We didn’t feel the need to rehash this information. But beyond that, we also believe that while edge retention plays a role in a knife’s quality, it doesn’t play a critically important one. As Benjamin Schwartz writes in one review , “I think that, in our spec-obsessed modern age, we forget that poor edge retention in any modern steel is [still] pretty decent: I cut through a lot of cardboard with the [very inexpensive] 710, more than I could reasonably expect to deal with in a month of standard use, before I noticed any real performance issues. I still prefer better steels, don’t get me wrong: I just think that we tend to hyperventilate when it comes to comparisons that, in 90% of the situations we find ourselves using blades in, don’t matter.”

Many of the knives we tested have at least 8Cr13MoV steel, which is the specific steel that Schwartz talks about in that review. In the end, even the so-so steels will be fine for day-to-day use. If you’re rough on your knives, you’ll need to sharpen them more often, but if you’re just cutting packing tape, trimming butcher’s string, and opening the mail, you should be able to go quite a while between sharpenings.

Through our testing, we found that the major differentiators between the knives were the handle ergonomics, the ease of unlocking, and the smoothness of the blade pivot. All of the knives we tested could open, close, lock, and cut—but not all of them could do those things equally well. In fact, we were surprised at the quality differences between similarly priced models that looked identical on paper. As Sculimbrene told us, there are some really good cheap knives, but we could determine which were which only after handling them. At a certain point, the stats fail and only hands-on experience works.

After handling so many knives, we developed a number of preferences. We preferred thumb studs and thumb holes over flipper mechanisms like those on the popular Kershaw knives we tested . Flippers can open only one way: extremely fast. Thumb studs offer a slower option, as well as a quick flip. During testing, I attended a number of family gatherings, where we used the knives for cutting rope for a kid’s swing, shaving off an aggressive splinter on a dock, and opening a few boxes. Some people have a strong reaction to a blade deploying at lightning speed, accompanied by the distinctive swooshing click of the blade lock engaging, so you’ll certainly have situations where a slower blade deployment is more appropriate.

We also found that knives with all-metal bodies can get slippery. We much preferred the sure-handed grip of carbon fiber or G10 (a fiberglass laminate).

The crkt drifter pocket knife sitting open on a wooden stump.

After all of our research, conversations, slicing, dicing, apple peeling, and cardboard cutting, we believe that the best knife for most people is the Columbia River Knife and Tool (CRKT) Drifter . Of all the knives in our test group, the Drifter offers the best overall proportions: It has a blade long enough for common tasks, a handle that can fit all sizes of hands, and a folded length that doesn’t take up too much space in a pocket. The fit and finish on the knife is excellent, and the blade opens with a smoothness common to more expensive knives. Once open, the blade locks with a liner lock that is secure yet simple to disengage. The G10 fiberglass laminate handle offers a light grippiness, and all of the edges are nicely machined and rounded over, which wasn’t the case with many of the other knives we tried.

The Drifter has a 2⅞-inch blade, a folded length of 3⅝ inches, and a total length of 6½ inches. The blade is long enough to slice up an apple or cut a sandwich in half. In our tests, we also liked that the underside was long enough to accommodate a sawing action if necessary, such as when we were cutting twine from hay bales; it was harder to do the same with shorter blades.

Although the Drifter’s handle is small, it’s comfortable in both big and small hands. Small and medium hands will be able to get a full four-fingered grip on the handle, while larger hands will get only three. But even with the three-fingered grip, the contoured back end of the handle tucks right into the base of the thumb and remains comfortable. In our tests, knives with even slightly larger blades—anything over 3 inches—had handles that started getting big for smaller hands.

The Drifter’s small size also meant we could easily shift the knife around in the hand. The shape of the grip naturally placed our fingers for good control over the blade, such as when we sharpened pencils or skinned apples. The back of the blade, at the handle end, has some grooves (called jimping), which gives the thumb a little traction during tougher cuts.

A hand holding a crkt drifter pocket knife.

With the knife folded, it’s a good size for a pocket —big enough to find easily yet small enough that it can share the space with a set of keys, a wallet, or a small flashlight.

We found that the smoothness of the Drifter’s thumb-stud deployment was better than that of any other knife in the under-$45 price range and on a par with that of knives costing three or four times as much. While opening, the blade offers a smooth, even resistance, and once the liner lock is engaged, it holds firm with no blade movement at all, either back and forth or side to side. With a little practice, you can easily pop the blade open by flicking your thumb like you’re flipping a coin.

The handle is made of G10, a durable fiberglass composite, and CRKT has given it a very light texture. Even with damp or sweaty hands, it’s easy to hold and grip. Unlike knives with all-metal handles, the Drifter never felt slippery to us.

We found that it was those smaller touches, such as the feel of the handle and the ease of the blade deployment, that made the Drifter such a winner. Other knives with the same overall dimensions weren’t anywhere as nice as the Drifter. For example, the Gerber Mini Swagger, on paper, is the same as the Drifter, but the thumb stud is difficult to use, the lock is way too stiff, and it’s not as comfortable in the hand.

The blade of the Drifter is made of 8Cr14MoV steel. In a  review of the knife , Dan Jackson writes, “I like it because it’s easy to sharpen, holds an edge reasonably well and has decent corrosion resistance.” The Drifter’s steel is very similar to 8Cr13MoV, a standard midgrade blade steel found on the majority of brand-name knives priced under $45. During testing we had no issue with it at all, and we liked how easily we could get a shaving-sharp edge. All knives need maintenance, and while the Drifter may require a tune-up more often than a $80 knife, it still offers a solid amount of performance. After we used it for small daily tasks over the course of two weeks, the Drifter’s blade was still able to make a clean slice through a sheet of newsprint.

The crkt drifter and zancudo pocket knives next to each other, showing their slight size difference.

The praise that the knife community has heaped on the Drifter is unanimous. Across all the professional reviews of the Drifter, we couldn’t find a bad one. Among many knife aficionados, the Drifter consistently pops up in conversations about the best inexpensive EDC knife. Jackson and Sculimbrene include the Drifter on their respective best-of lists and have given the knife fantastic individual reviews.

On his best-of list , Sculimbrene names the Drifter the “Best Budget Folder” and writes, “This is my favorite CRKT and one of the best knives out there under $30.”

A closed crkt drifter pocket knife next to a sharpie and a quarter to demonstrate its small size.

Jackson  writes in his review that the Drifter is “both well made and inexpensive” and that it offers “[e]verything you would expect from a much more expensive knife.” He also makes the point that it’s a “great ambassador for the knife world.”

The Drifter is a bargain, and during our use it felt more like the $80 to $100 knives we tested. It far surpasses many of the others in its price range, which commonly have cheap materials, too-tight pivots, or locks that are hard to disengage.

For all of the positives of the Drifter, we wish it were better in two areas: the single-position pocket clip and the slight recurve of the blade shape. Both of these shortcomings are well-documented in other reviews, as well.

The Drifter’s single-position pocket clip is set in the right-handed, tip-down configuration; you get no other options. Some of the other nice knives we found in this price range, such as the Zancudo ( our runner-up ), the Kershaw Chill , and the Ontario RAT II , all have multi-position pocket clips that either cater more easily to left-handed users or at least offer the right-handed tip-up position. It’s unfortunate that the Drifter doesn’t provide such customization, but we don’t think that’s an essential feature. In his review Sculimbrene calls out the lack of positioning options but still refers to it as “a very good clip for the money.”

The other ding against the Drifter is the slight recurve of the blade edge as it heads back toward the handle. Recurves are designed so that they can “grab” better, particularly with a sawing cut, but the downside is that they’re harder to maintain. The unfortunate thing here is that the Drifter’s curve is enough to make sharpening a little more difficult but not enough to really aid in cutting. The sharpening system we used for testing, the Spyderco Tri-Angle Sharpmaker, is designed to deal with recurves, so we didn’t have a problem, but if you’re sharpening on a traditional stone, it will be a little trickier.

The zancudo pocket knife, open on a wooden stump.

If the Drifter is not available or if you tend to take on more aggressive tasks with your knife, we recommend the Blue Ridge Knives ESEE Zancudo . With a full 4-inch handle, it’s a little larger than the Drifter, so it’s ideal for medium to large hands (although still workable for smaller ones). The Zancudo has a nice, smooth pivot and a frame lock that’s stronger than the Drifter’s liner lock. The teardrop handle shape is a little unusual, but in our tests it was among the most comfortable to hold, especially when we were really bearing down on it. Due to the amount of metal in the body of the Zancudo, it’s heavier than the Drifter, but that metal also gives the knife a sturdier feel. We’re convinced that the more-compact Drifter is the better option for most people, but if you beat on your knives, the Zancudo is a great choice. As blade reviewer Dan Jackson writes , “the Zancudo isn’t a particularly sexy knife, but it is practical, robust, and well made.”

The handle of the Zancudo looks a little odd, but it fit our hands perfectly. We found it comfortable during aggressive cutting and easy to shift around for more delicate tasks. In their respective reviews, both Dan Jackson and Tony Sculimbrene call out the Zancudo for its unusual aesthetics but overall success. Jackson writes, “While on paper the handle of the Zancudo looks a little goofy, in hand it all makes sense.”

A hand holding the zancudo pocket knife.

The construction of the handle is also unusual, with each side sporting a completely different look: The clip side is entirely metal, while the other side is scaled with a lightly textured fiberglass-reinforced nylon. We liked this design because the smooth metal side reduced friction while we moved the knife in and out of a pocket, but at the same time, the nylon side offered more than enough grip for a secure hold. In addition, the body of the Zancudo is very thin (thinner than the Drifter). Jackson writes that he “found it very pocketable.”

The pivot is also nice, although not as smooth as the Drifter’s. The Zancudo opens with a good, grippy thumb stud, and with a little practice, you can flick open the blade without any issue. It’s a frame-lock knife, so it requires more finger strength to disengage the lock, but we never thought that created a problem.

The Zancudo has a two-position pocket clip, both right-handed but with a tip-up option and a tip-down option (or you can remove it altogether).

A close up of the zancudo pocket knife's handle with pocket clip.

The Zancudo’s blade steel is AUS-8, another of the solid midrange steels. Jackson writes that AUS-8 “offers a good balance of toughness, edge sharpness and corrosion resistance.” Experts consider AUS-8 as being on a par with, if not a whisker better quality than, 8Cr13MoV steel. We see no practical difference between this steel and the Drifter’s 8Cr14MoV.

Like the Drifter, the Zancudo gets high marks from knife reviewers, including both of the experts we interviewed. Jackson told us that he was especially fond of it and that it’s “one of his favorites” in the sub-$40 price range: “I still use and enjoy my Zancudo several years after purchasing it.” Sculimbrene, in his review , writes that he isn’t a fan of the sizable pocket clip or the aesthetics of the handle. But he goes on to say, “I LOVE the Zancudo blade shape. It is simply sublime. Simplicity in a Shaker sense--pure, unadulterated functionality.” He also writes, “It has a few drawbacks, but man is the blade shape awesome.”

Overall, the Zancudo offers a great feeling of utility, and as our testing wore on, it really won us over. We believe that the Drifter, due to its smaller size and smoother operation, is the better pick for most people, but in our tests, when we knew we would be working a knife extra hard, like heading into a house project, we preferred having the Zancudo with us. Sculimbrene also picks up on this general sense of durability in his review, writing, “Go buy this knife. Go thump on it. You'll be surprised how much it can do. It will be the knife you reach for when you don't want to mess up that $1000 custom.” Jackson, in a similar fashion, writes that the Zancudo is “sure and comfortable, and the knife is ready for work.” He told us that the Zancudo “will provide years of service with proper care and maintenance.”

We tested the black-handle Zancudo with the stonewashed blade, but the knife is also available with a brown, tan, or green handle and a black blade.

The sanrenmu 710 pocket knife sitting open on a wooden stump.

If you’re new to knives and want to spend as little as possible but still get something decent, we recommend the Sanrenmu 710 (aka 7010) . Usually priced around $20, this model was the least expensive knife we tested—and also one of our favorites. In spite of the knife’s low cost, the pivot and thumb-stud flipping action have a smoothness similar to that of the Drifter. The overall size is almost identical as well, consisting of a 2¾-inch blade, a 3¾-inch handle, and a total length of 6½ inches. 6 The drawbacks: The all-metal body can get slippery, and we found the company to be very unresponsive to our queries, which raised some red flags about customer service and warranty support.

Like the Drifter and the Zancudo, the 710 has a thumb stud, so you can deploy the blade slowly or, with the flick of your thumb, quickly. In our tests the pivot had an even resistance, better than that of some of the $30 knives we tried. The blade locks in place with a nice, flexible frame lock that you can easily move out of the way to close the blade.

The 710’s blade is made of 8Cr13MoV, which is what we found on a lot of sub-$45 knives. In a guide to blade steels , reviewer Dan Jackson writes that it is “actually excellent steel for the money.” Jackson continues: “Like AUS-8, it lacks the edge retention of the higher end steels but can take a wicked edge and is reasonably tough and corrosion resistant. For EDC knives in the $35 and under bracket 8Cr13MoV is really tough steel to beat.” Discussing the 710's blade steel at Jackson's BladeReviews.com , Benjamin Schwartz writes, “Yes, 154CM or N690Co or S30V are better steels by a long shot, but in a regular week of use I certainly wouldn’t appreciate the difference.” As with the Drifter, we believe that the bottom line is that all knives need maintenance, and given the low cost of the 710, it’s unreasonable to expect this knife to have a high-end steel. In fact, if you’re unfamiliar with knife sharpening, 8Cr13MoV is a great steel to learn on, because restoring an edge is so easy.

In Schwartz’s review of the knife, he also writes, “Sanrenmu helped to establish the budget knife archetype, and here we have as distilled a representation of that archetype as possible. The 710 is a very, very good knife.”

The sanrenmu 710 and crtk drifter pocket knives set next to eachother, showing their comparable size

But the Sanrenmu 710 has a number of drawbacks.

Functionally, the all-metal body tended to be slippery in our tests, especially when we tried to get purchase on the thumb stud. If your hands are damp or oily, forget about it. The knife handle also seemed to twist slightly while we were gripping it, something that didn’t happen with the Drifter. The handle has a light amount of texturing, but as Schwartz writes in his review, “it doesn’t help with the grip during deployment, which this knife could use.”

The 710 also has only one pocket-clip position (right-hand, tip-down). It would be nice if this model offered more options, but again, we didn’t see many under-$45 knives with multiple clip options, and we don’t think it’s a critically important feature. For a knife typically priced around $20, that’s an expected sacrifice.

We’re also not impressed with Sanrenmu’s customer service, so we question the company’s stated warranty. The box of the 710 says that Sanrenmu will replace any knife with a quality defect, but we’re skeptical. We sent numerous emails to the company while researching this article and never got any response. Blade reviewer Tony Sculimbrene also raised the point that with Sanrenmu, as with other Chinese manufacturers, “we don’t know who they are.”

The last drawback is that Sanrenmu is a topic of controversy among knife aficionados, and the 710 is a perfect example of why. The body design of the 710 bears a significant resemblance to that of the highly regarded Chris Reeve Sebenza , which retails for $350 to $500 depending on the features and blade steel. Sanrenmu isn’t trying to pass its knife off as a Sebenza, so the company is not counterfeiting (which is a huge problem in the knife world), but the similarities are difficult to deny. Jackson told us he didn’t see a huge problem with the 710: “[It’s] nothing like the real [Sebenza]. It does share a similar profile, and both knives have frame locks, but that’s about it in my opinion.” He told us that “no one would confuse the two” and distinguished this situation from those where “there are people making counterfeit clones that are designed to look like a real Chris Reeve knife.” Sculimbrene expressed a different opinion—although he told us that he did like a number of Sanrenmu knives, he “refuse[d] to buy the rip off Sebenza,” saying that “there are enough good cheap knives out there that there is no good reason to buy a knock off.” We are more inclined to agree with Jackson, but we understand why some people might avoid the 710.

The Benchmade Mini Griptilian 556 sitting open on a wooden stump.

If you appreciate the finessing of all the little details (and have a larger knife budget), we recommend the Benchmade Mini Griptilian . In nearly every way, the Mini Griptilian is superior to our other, less expensive picks. It has a smoother release, which results in the fastest blade deployment you could ever ask for. The blade unlocks with Benchmade’s proprietary Axis lock, which is fully ambidextrous and very easy to use. The grip is contoured and heavily textured, so it will stay in your hand. The blade is made of high-end steel ( CPM-S30V) , and the lightweight handle offers good balance. All of that comes at a cost, though, as the Mini Griptilian typically retails in the $150 range. Anyone in the knife world likely won’t be surprised to see this recommendation, as the Mini Griptilian has a long-standing reputation as one of the premier folding EDC pocket knives.

As with the Drifter, you deploy the blade of the Mini Griptilian using a thumb stud. The difference is that with the Mini Griptilian, flicking the blade open is nearly effortless. The Drifter is easy and smooth, for sure, but the Mini Griptilian is like silk. Closing the blade has an equal smoothness. Once the blade is past a certain point, it lightly snaps back into the handle (with a very high-quality and satisfying sound). Anyone who owned the Drifter would be unlikely to covet either of these subtle touches, and they’re by no means essential features, but they are nice, and they are the marks of a high-quality knife.

One unique element of the Mini Griptilian is Benchmade’s Axis lock. This design consists of a spring-loaded bar that sits across the body of the blade. Once the blade is fully open, the bar pops forward to lock in place. To unlock it, you pull the ends of the bar away from the blade (the ends look like small thumb studs in the body of the knife).

The Axis lock has a number of advantages over the standard liner lock of the Drifter or the frame lock of the Zancudo and 710. For one, it makes the knife completely ambidextrous. You can operate liner locks and frame locks with either hand, but those designs are unquestionably easier for right-handed people. The Axis lock makes no such distinction, and coupled with the Mini Griptilian’s multi-position pocket clip, it results in a knife that remains fully accessible regardless of your hand dominance.

A second benefit of the Axis lock is that it allows for an additional open/close option. With the locking bar pulled back, the blade sits loosely enough for you to snap it open or closed with a slight flick of the wrist. You don’t even need to touch the thumb stud. Again, this is a great touch, but not essential to the operation of the knife.

A close up on the hilt of the Benchmade pocket knife.

The handle of the Mini Griptilian is another high point. Most pocket knives, like our other recommendations, have flat sides, but the Mini Griptilian’s are slightly rounded to fit the hand. It’s a small touch, but noticeable when you’re using the knife. The grip area is also heavily textured along the sides and edges of the handle. We found that once the Mini Griptilian was in our grip, it took a lot for this knife to come out. In fact, if there is a downside, it’s that the handle is too grippy: During our aggressive cardboard-cutting session, the texture along the edges of the knife became uncomfortable.

The handle is made of fiberglass-reinforced nylon. It’s very light, and at first we thought it felt a little cheap for a $100 knife. After having the Mini Griptilian in our pocket for a week or so, we came to like the handle for its overall feel, which was light and durable.

The benefits of the Mini Griptilian don’t stop with the knife itself. Benchmade , the manufacturer, will “clean, oil, adjust and re-sharpen your Benchmade knife to a factory razor sharp edge” at no cost (you’re responsible for the shipping to Benchmade, but not the return shipping).

A hand holding the Benchmade Mini Griptilian pocket knife.

At around $150 usually, the Mini Griptilian can be a little hard to justify, especially when you can get the perfectly good Drifter for under $40. As reviewer Tony Sculimbrene told us, “Knives are not commodities like milk, so five times the price won't give you five times the stuff.” But still, he added, “You are probably more likely to keep and use a good knife than a cheap one. You are also probably less likely to buy a series of upgrades if you buy a nice knife.” Jackson told us that a cheaper knife and an expensive knife will “both cut the same more or less,” but pointed out that “most people would be able to feel the difference between an $80 Mini Griptilian and a $25 Zancudo.”

In the knife community, the Mini Griptilian is a popular and very highly regarded knife. In a  review , Jackson writes, “The Mini Griptilian is an absolutely fantastic EDC option. It’s lightweight, sturdy, and very well made.” He later notes, “Perhaps the only issue is the price. This isn’t a cheap knife, but it is wonderfully made (in the USA) and I think you get what you pay for.”

The Buck Knives 55 pocket knife sitting open on a wooden stump.

If you simply prefer a more traditional-looking knife, even if that comes at the expense of perks like a one-handed open and close, a textured handle, and a pocket clip, we recommend the Buck Knives 55 . The Buck 55 is a small knife, less than 6 inches fully open, but it has a comfortable handle given its size. The brass portion of the frame is thick and sturdy, and the wood accents, made of American walnut, are attractive. We tested ours for about a month as we were writing this review, and the brass bolsters (the protective metal ends of the handle) took on a nice used patina, further enhancing the age-old feel of the Buck 55’s overall design.

The blade of the Buck 55 is under 2½ inches, so it’s not a large knife (it’s actually a half-size version of a classic design, the popular Buck 110 ). But in this case, the size is a distinct advantage, because without a clip to secure it, the 55 is destined to roam free in a pocket, so it’s nice that this knife doesn’t take up a lot of room, especially when it works its way to the bottom of the pocket and ends up resting across the curve of your leg. The blade size is about as small as we’d want to recommend, but there’s no question that it can cut string, open a package, or free a toy from a blister pack.

A hand holding the buck 55 pocket knife.

The small handle has a simple arcing design that provides a nice grip and is easy to hold in a variety of ways. The texturing is minimal and consists of a light amount of wood grain and three small brass studs per side, but in our tests the knife held firm in our hands. The Buck 55 didn’t have the grab of the Drifter’s G10 handle, but it wasn’t as slippery as the Sanrenmu 710’s polished metal.

The Buck 55 has a clip-point blade, which, functionally, is very similar to a drop-point blade. It has a fine tip for detail cutting, a belly up front for slicing, and a flat edge for dicing and chopping. For the most part, we avoided clip-point blades in our research and testing, because as reviewer Dan Jackson told us, they can appear threatening in a larger knife. But with a total length of 5¾ inches and a cutting edge of barely over 2 inches, the Buck 55 is not a menacing knife. Clip-point blades are also common on this style of traditional folder, and are what many people have come to expect. Because of those reasons, we don’t think blade shape is an issue here.

The Buck 55 opens and closes with a pronounced (and satisfying) snapping noise as the back lock falls into place. The lock itself, positioned at the rear end of the handle, takes two hands to disengage. You could maneuver the knife around and do it one-handed by pressing the lock and folding the knife closed against a leg or some other solid object, but that’s awkward. The Case Mini Copperlock, the other traditional knife we tested, positions the lock at the middle of the handle, so this one-handed operation is easier but still awkward.

The buck 55 and case mini copperlock pocket knives sitting next to each other on a wooden block.

The Buck 55’s blade is made of 420HC steel, which is on the lower side of the steel spectrum, but Buck applies a heat treatment that by all accounts puts it up in the range of 8Cr13MoV and AUS-8. Knife Informer’s guide to knife steel says of 420HC: “Still considered a lower-mid range steel but the more competent manufacturers (e.g. Buck) can really bring out the best in this affordable steel using quality heat treatments. That results in better edge retention and resistance to corrosion.”

The buck 55 pocket knife next to a sharpie and a quarter to demonstrate its size.

We tested the Buck 55 against the Case Mini Copperlock , another well-regarded traditional knife, and each has its high points. The two knives are very similar, with nearly identical handle lengths (the blade of the Case is about ¼ inch longer). The Case is a very nice knife, but we preferred the Buck due to the more robust body design and the blade steel. In the end, this comparison was the one instance where the blade steel played a role, as the steel on the Buck held an edge noticeably longer than the Case’s. With all other aspects being so similar, we decided that the Buck was the better option. It’s also typically priced around $10 to $15 less than the Case.

In 2024, we tested new knives from Uco (the Ingalls , the Ingalls Switch-Lok , the Nason , and the Tinkham ), a company known for their camping gear. The knives, made of sturdy D2 steel, are definitely tailored to the outdoor crowd with their zesty colors and the topography design on the grip. Our picks have better ease of use and are safer (The Ingalls Switch-Lok is the only one with a locking blade), but if you’re looking for a lightweight blade to toss in the hiking backpack, these aren’t a bad choice. Our personal favorite is the diminutive Tinkham which comes with a pocket clip and is only 4-inches long unfolded.

CRKT also sells a version of the Drifter with an all-metal handle , but both Dan Jackson and Tony Sculimbrene write in their Drifter reviews that they prefer the version with the G10 handle. During our testing, we found all-metal handles slippery.

The Gerber Assert (available in black , grey , or fully customized ) is a very nice knife, typically costing around $175. It has the same steel as the Benchmade Mini Griptilian, but it is lighter and thinner. It draws comparisons to the well-regarded Benchmade Bugout and Mini Bugout . While out of the price range we focused on, this is a knife to consider if you’re looking for nice high-end knife.

There is no denying that Spyderco makes excellent knifes. We tested the (now discontinued) Spyderco Dragonfly 2 and Delica 4  (the Dragonfly 2 tops reviewer Tony Sculimbrene’s recommendation list ). The handles are extremely comfortable, the knives have good blade steel, and they open easily with a thumb hole. Both models have back locks, though, and as nice as they are, we prefer the liner locks and frame locks of our recommended knives, which are easier to use one-handed especially for someone who might be unfamiliar with knives.

The blade of the Ontario Knife Company's RAT II and RAT I knives are aligned slightly above the handle, and we thought the finger notches on them were too far away from the blade, so we preferred the ergonomics of the CRKT Drifter and Blue Ridge ESEE Zancudo. On the positive side, the RAT II is the best of the sub-$50 knives with a four-position pocket clip, so if that feature is important to you, this knife is a solid option.

CRKT’s Pazoda and Squid are typically less expensive than the Drifter, and both models have robust all-metal bodies and frame locks. But we found the blade deployment on both knives much harder than the buttery feel of the Drifter. With only a few dollars separating them, we think the added investment in the Drifter is worth it.

We can say the same for the Kershaw Atmos , Skyline , and Chill : Each are nicely made, lightweight—the Atmos is under 2 ounces—thin knives with great handles, but we thought thumb-stud designs offered better opening options.

We liked the carabiner clip on the Kershaw Reverb , but in our tests that feature wasn’t enough to offset the difficult open or the awkward liner lock.

Kershaw’s CQC-5K has a small notch at the top of the blade that is designed to catch and deploy the blade as you remove the knife from a pocket. It’s a cool feature, but not an essential one. While the CQC-5K is a durable knife, it has a wider, heavier body than our picks.

Although the Milwaukee Tool Hardline is a smooth flipper, its robust metal body made it really heavy compared with the rest of our test group. It’s built by a tool company, so that heavy-abuse build quality is not surprising, but we don’t think the added weight is necessary for an EDC knife.

The carabiner/bottle opener of the Leatherman Crater C33 came in handy, but overall the handle wasn’t as comfortable as those of our picks, and the blade pivot was not as nice.

The Coast FDX302 feels durable and has a secondary blade lock, but at over 7½ inches it’s a larger knife, and we much preferred the smaller CRKT Drifter.

Aside from the Buck 55, the Case Mini Copperlock was the only other traditional knife we tested. It’s very similar to the Buck and is available in a wide variety of “looks,” but the steel is softer and it’s usually more expensive, so we preferred the Buck.

Reviewer Tony Sculimbrene is a big fan of the  LA Police Gear TBFK S35VN , as he named it his best budget blade of 2017. But the blade is over 3 inches and the overall length is 8 inches, so we think it’s on the large side, particularly considering that the CRKT Drifter is so compact.

We dismissed a number of popular knives—including the Kershaw Blur , Cryo , Leek , and Scallion , plus the SOG Flash II —for having an assisted open.

We did not look at the Opinel N°6 for a couple of reasons. First, as Tony Sculimbrene told us, “in general [wood handles] should be avoided” due to the natural swelling and shrinking of the material. In a recommendation roundup at his site, Sculimbrene writes, “I have an Opinel as a camp cooking knife and it is great, but if you leave it out over night, even the dew will make the handle very hard to use.” The Opinel N°6 also has a collar lock, which takes two hands to engage.

The Zancudo is manufactured by Blue Ridge Knives but designed by ESEE, a popular maker of fixed-blade knives. Most knife reviewers as well as the retailer Blade HQ call it the ESEE Zancudo, but a few other retailers, such as Amazon, call it the Blue Ridge Zancudo.

The larger the blade is, the larger the handle needs to be. Every ¼ inch of blade adds ½ inch to the total length of the knife, and there is a significant overall size difference between a knife with a 3-inch blade, for example, and a knife with a 3½-inch blade.

Knife retailer Blade HQ did a comparison stress test of liner locks, frame locks, and lockback knives, and found that liner locks, on average, could hold 243 pounds of weight before failing, while the frame locks held 277, and the lockbacks held 370. So while liner locks are the weakest of the three, they can still withstand a significant amount of force with a strength that far exceeds your needs for everyday tasks.

Assisted-open knives are not switchblades, which is a common misconception. While switchblades are button operated, assisted-open knives are manual, because you have to open the blade before the spring kicks in. Assisted-open knives are not illegal by virtue of the opening system, but in many cities and states, switchblades are.

We have a separate guide for knife sharpeners , but those picks are geared toward kitchen knives. Due to the handle design, pocket knives are often not compatible with the pull-through sharpeners we recommend there.

The similarities are such that blade reviewers Dan Jackson  and Tony Sculimbrene have both raised the possibility that Sanrenmu may manufacture the Drifter for CRKT (but in our interviews, neither claimed to know that for sure). As Jackson noted, “[The] construction [of the Drifter and the 710] is very similar. Same screws, finished the same way - it just looks like it was made by the same company. It’s just a theory, but I would not be surprised to learn if SRM made the Drifter.”

Meet your guide

travel pocket knife

Doug Mahoney

Doug Mahoney is a senior staff writer at Wirecutter covering home improvement. He spent 10 years in high-end construction as a carpenter, foreman, and supervisor. He lives in a very demanding 250-year-old farmhouse and spent four years gutting and rebuilding his previous home. He also raises sheep and has a dairy cow that he milks every morning.

Further reading

The two utility knives we recommend.

The Best Utility Knife

by Doug Mahoney

The Milwaukee 48-22-1502 Fastback Utility Knife with Blade Storage is an ideal utility knife.

A Milwaukee fastback utility knife with it's blade storage area open, holding a spare blade.

Don’t Open Boxes With Your Kitchen Knives Ever Again! This Utility Knife Breaks Them Down With Ease, And It Helps Tackle DIY Projects, Too.

The Milwaukee Fastback combines safety and function like no other utility knife.

Different kinds of carving knives pictured with a plated turkey.

The Best Carving Knife and Fork

by Tim Heffernan

We carved five turkeys, two beef roasts, a pork roast, and a ham to find an attractive, effective, and reasonably priced carving set.

travel pocket knife

The Best Knife Sharpener

Easy to use, reliable, and able to put a razor edge on almost any type of knife, the best knife sharpener for home cooks is the Chef’sChoice Trizor XV .

BEST WEEK EVER

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The Best Knives and Multitools for Outdoor Adventures

14 testers vetted 18 blades and tools. these eight are a cut above the rest..

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! >","name":"in-content-cta","type":"link"}}'>Download the app .

There’s a lot more to knives and tools than a sharp edge and a bottle opener attachment. And whether you’ll be slicing trail cheese or cutting through stubborn rope on a packraft, it pays to use a discerning eye when choosing a tool for your trip. Our testers waded through a sea of stainless steel and gimmicky folding contraptions to find the very best pocket knives and multitools for cutting, splitting, wilderness repairs, and more.

At a Glance

  • Lightest: SOG Ultra XR ($130)
  • Best All-Around: Benchmade Bugout (From $180)
  • Most Customizable: Gerber Assert ($175)
  • Sturdiest Folding: Emerson Junebug ($220)
  • Best Fixed Blade: Buck Selkirk ($75)
  • Best Multitool: Leatherman ARC ($230)
  • Lightest Multitool: SOG Powerpint ($39-50)
  • Best Atypical Multitool: Outdoor Element Firebiner ($15)

How to Choose a Knife

How we test, meet our testers.

All gear in this guide was tested by multiple reviewers. When you buy through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission. This supports our mission to get more people active and outside. Learn more .

SOG Ultra XR

SOG Ultra XR

$130 at SOG $80 at Amazon

Weight: 1.2 oz

Pros and Cons ⊕ Extremely lightweight ⊕ Extremely thin ⊕ Holds its edge ⊗ Light duty

At 1.2 ounces and 6.5 millimeters thick, the Ultra XR is one of the lightest, slimmest knives we’ve ever used. SOG upgraded the original version with a higher-quality stainless steel that prolongs the 2.8-inch blade’s edge without sharpening and resists chipping and corrosion. During six months of use, which included cutting kindling, food prep, and box opening, the Ultra XR never dulled and proved adept at detailed work.

An XR lock (SOG’s proprietary mechanism) allows single-handed opening, and doesn’t budge under up to 1,500 pounds of pressure (so claims the product manual; we leaned hard on it without feeling it flex). The thin carbon-fiber handle provides a comfortable grip, and the pocket clip doubles as a credit card and cash holder.

Benchmade Bugout

Best All-Around

Benchmade bugout.

$180 at Amazon From $180 at Benchmade

Weight: 1.85 oz

Pros and Cons ⊕ Holds its edge ⊕ Very light ⊕ Packable ⊗ Expensive

It might weigh no more than a candy bar, but the Bugout is built to last. A chromium nitride coating adds a durable layer of rustproof protection that’s uncommon on knives in this weight class. It also has a unique spring-bar lock, which is not only safer than a traditional metal liner lock (which wears out quicker) but also helps trim grams. Our tester cut through zip ties, nylon rope, and thick sticks, but this blade never lost its edge thanks to its premium steel and coating. Despite its slender profile, the grippy handle offers precision when slick. “Even though the grip was covered in grease from a trailhead car repair, deployment was still easy because the studs near the blade produce a secure thumbhold,” said one tester.

Gerber Assert

Best Customizable

Gerber assert.

$175 at Amazon $175 at Gerber

Weight: 1.87 oz

Pros and Cons ⊕ Lightweight ⊕ Customizable ⊗ Customizable knives take several weeks to produce

Gerber’s new Assert model is hard to beat for finicky backpackers who want a knife that isn’t too large or heavy, fits their hand exactly, and can hold up to abuse at the bottom of a pack. Coming in at just under 2 ounces, the 3-inch blade offers a functional length, doesn’t sacrifice material quality or ergonomics, and can be customized to a minute degree.

For $10-$25 more, you can cherry-pick the knife’s aesthetic and layout, choosing from six handle colors, three blade finishes, and multiple color options for hardware like clips, barrel spacers, thumbstuds, and lock caps—plus an option for a deep carry or standard pocket clip. For knife nerds, Gerber also offers a “lasermark,” which allows you to upload an image or text to be etched on your very personal blade. Our favorite part about this knife? The curved design of the handle, in combination with that adjustable thumb stud. According to Virginia-based guide Jason Boyle, the grip allowed “enough rigidity to press down hard while making shavings for a fire.” And with high-end S30V stainless steel and glass-filled textured nylon for the handle, it’ll keep its edge and withstand years of heavy use.

Emerson June Bug

Sturdiest Folding Pocket Knife

Emerson june bug.

$220 at Emerson

Weight: 2.5 oz.

Pros and Cons ⊕ U.S.-made ⊕ Lightweight ⊕ Deep pocket clip ⊗ Expensive ⊗ No serrated blade option

The Emerson June Bug performs way above its weight class in terms of blade size and sturdiness. One tester called the June Bug “battle-ready,” and was blown away that a knife of this size could deliver such results. Fully extended, the June Bug measures 5.5 inches long and easily fits into the palm of a hand when folded.

The Wharncliffe-style stainless steel blade is only 2.3 inches long, but very thick and incredibly sturdy. One tester praised its ability to cut through various thick cords, ropes, and tie-downs that were holding his kayak to his roof after they proved too stubborn to untie. The fiberglass laminate grip has a rough surface that makes it easy to handle, even with sweaty hands or in the rain. It has a deep pocket clip, a lanyard hole, and round thumb button for easy one-handed opening. One tester summed up the June Bug in a nutshell: “Sometimes you want the utility of a slightly larger knife in the body of a small pocket knife.”

Luminox Bear Grylls Mountain Watch

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As with many Luminox watches, the inner workings are crafted from Swiss quartz, making these some of the most reliable timepieces on the market. The hands and hour markers feature tiny gas lights—which use a self-powering technology to remain constantly lit. The intricate inner workings are protected by a case made from Carbonox™️, a carbon-based material that’s six times lighter than steel and three times lighter than titanium while maintaining comparable durability. Plus, the watch is water resistant up to 200m / 20 ATM / 660 feet. And the integrated band seamlessly connects to the case, eliminating a weak point that’s often been the downfall of many other hard-wearing watches. Bonus: the inner ring of each watch comes emblazoned with a Bear Grylls motto learned during a lifetime of extreme adventure: Never Give Up.

Buck Selkirk

Best Fixed Blade

Buck selkirk.

$75 at Amazon $75 at BladeHQ

Weight: 7.6 oz.

Pros and Cons ⊕ Burly for its size ⊕ Tough handle ⊗ Relatively heavy

If you want a knife that can do a lot more than just whittle, pick up the fixed-blade Selkirk. Its 4.6-inch, full-tang steel blade with a thicker-than-average point excels at heavier tasks. One wildland firefighter praised its weight-to-function ratio after he used it to tear through thickets of alders and thorn bushes. The Selkirk’s plastic-composite handle proved equally durable when we pounded in tent stakes with the butt end, and the grippy material kept our sweaty hands from slipping. “Even though this knife is bombproof, I was able to use it for delicate tasks such as fileting a cutbow trout,” reported our firefighter tester.

Leatherman ARC

Best Multitool

Leatherman arc.

$230 at Moosejaw $230 at Leatherman

Weight: 8.6 oz.

Pros and Cons ⊕ One-handed open/close ⊕ Plentiful tools and bits ⊕ MagnaCut steel ⊗ Expensive

Leatherman’s “Free” tech—a magnetic one-handed opening mechanism that stays secure when folded—first debuted in smaller, simpler multitools back in 2019. Now, that hands-free tech is being used in a truly versatile Leatherman, with 20 tools, a 9-piece, double-ended drive set, and full-handle pliers. The ARC takes it up a notch with its 2.76-inch blade, made with high-end MagnaCut steel. Category manager Justin La Vigne tested its hardiness and stability while prying open a crusted-over paint can with the ease of a flathead screwdriver. The blade also has a handy thumb stud for simple deployment.

Noah Eckhouse, a retired engineer tester from Massachusetts, relied on this palm-sized tool instead of his home tool box to test how well it worked. “I was able to unscrew a corroded motor connector, clip off the fastener, file down the terminal to bare metal, and strip the wire.” The nylon sheath with snap closure and belt loop is a bit bulky for backcountry travel, but does fit the tool and bit set, with a separate compartment for each.

SOG PowerPint

Lightest Multitool

Sog powerpint.

$39 at Amazon $50 at SOG

Weight: 4.2 oz

Pros and Cons ⊕ Very light ⊕ Many attachments ⊕ Great pliers and bit driver ⊗ Side tools are underpowered

Ounce for ounce, the PowerPint is one of the most useful tools we’ve tested. It stuffs 18 functions into a package that weighs less than a magazine, and pairs them with smart design: locking mechanisms for each individual tool and access to the file, can opener, screwdrivers, saw, and blades without opening the pliers. Testers also praised the PowerPint’s strength. “I put a lot of pressure on the pliers while I was repairing a stove, but they held up,” one reports.

“This tool has the smoothest action I’ve ever seen,” says another tester. “While fashioning a hasty fishhook out of barbed wire, I was able to open, operate, and close the pliers with just one hand while I held the rod with the other.”

Outdoor Element Firebiner

Best Atypical Multitool

Outdoor element firebiner.

$15 at REI $15 at Amazon

Weight: 1 oz

Pros and Cons ⊕ Very lightweight ⊕ Reliable firestarter ⊗ Best for casual use

Backpackers like carabiners. Backpackers love carabiners that make fire. The stainless-steel Firebiner will bring out your inner caveman: It has a built-in spark wheel with a 2,000-strike capability. It also has a flathead screwdriver and bottle opener, plus a safety blade in a notch that cuts through cord and fishing line. The biner isn’t rated for climbing, but can easily support a full multiday pack. “The Firebiner is basically foolproof, and it always throws a spark with the first spin,” one tester says. “It’s easier than most dedicated firestarters I’ve used.”

Fixed or Folding?

The biggest question for any backpacker in search of a new blade is choosing between folding pocket knives—made with moving parts to open and close the blade from the handle—and fixed blade knives—typically a single piece of steel or carbon fiber kept in a sheath. Folding knives are, on average, lighter and occasionally come in multi-tool bundles that are helpful for some, but offer too much for others. Fixed blades are heavier and less compact, but are stronger and tend to last longer. In emergency situations, a heavy fixed blade has the added benefit of being able to split wood for a fire .

Blade shape

A drop point blade (a convex curve following a straight spine) is the most common shape among backpackers for good reason—its utilitarian slope is more versatile and keeps the blade cleaner than the sharp angles of a tanto, and is less likely to break (or accidentally cut you) than a clip point. Unless you are climbing or packrafting—which potentially involves cutting ropes in unstable positions, the domain of a sheepsfoot blade—or hunting on your backpacking trip, a drop point blade is probably the one for you.

Accessibility

Folding knives sometimes come with one-handed or assisted openings to make it easier to release the handle (very helpful when you have your hands full). They can be more expensive and dangerous if you’re not careful, but many folding knives also include a lock to prevent the blade from folding in on itself.

Ultimately, consider how you’re most likely to use a knife on your adventures. If you’re a camp chef and whittler around the campfire, or you want to be prepared for a greater range of survival situations, a folding knife won’t serve you as well as a heavier fixed blade. If you’re looking to add more function but less weight to your ultralight kit, consider a compact folding knife.

Types of Stainless Steel

All the blades in this test are some type of stainless steel. Chromium is the magic element that gives this iron-carbon alloy an edge up on resistance to rust and corrosion, and the caliber of stainless steel affects how well the blade’s edge holds up.

S30V This stainless steel is found in most knives, including various Gerber models. It is resistant to corrosion, tough and holds its edge quite well.

S35VN With a slightly different composition to the S30V steel, S35VN offers more toughness and can take a little more stress without breaking.

CPM-M4: This superhard steel has very good edge retention. Common in Benchmade knives.

Magnacut: This stainless steel is newer to the market. It comes at a premium price and has the highest wear-resistance of the bunch. The Leatherman Arc features this steel.

  • Number of testers:  14
  • Number of products tested:  18
  • Number of miles logged:  525 miles
  • Number of states tested in: 13
  • Toughest task: Moose butchery

From Virginia to Alaska, our 14 testers put 18 products to the test. Between car camping, backpacking, fishing, and hunting, the knives and tools whittled, spliced, and diced until the blades were dull. We looked at things like durability, ergonomics, weight, sharpness, functionality, edge retention, and aesthetic in choosing this year’s winners.

With more than two decades of experience in the outdoor industry, Justin La Vigne has served as Backpacker’s category manager of knives and tools for seven years. Living in a small cabin miles from Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska, he prides himself on his nontraditional work. When not writing, he is a professional backcountry guide, taking people hiking and backpacking all over Alaska. He is only four parks away from achieving his goal to explore all 63 National Parks.

Virginia-based Joel Nyquist , Backpacker ’s former knife category manager, has been testing product for more than 13 years, giving him a long-term perspective on gear trends and features. Although currently in America, he has split the last six years living between Europe and Asia, testing gear in far-flung locales such as Myanmar, Kyrgyzstan, and Mongolia. He loves analyzing and researching gear, and enjoys spirited conversations with his wife about just how many knives and sleeping bags one truly needs.

When you buy something using the retail links in our stories, we may earn a small commission. We do not accept money for editorial gear reviews. Read more about our policy.

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Table of contents

7 Best Pocket Knives of 2024

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Closeup of a man holding the Kershaw Leek out in front of him with a tree-lined lake in the background

A trusty pocket knife is handy for both the every day and the unexpected. Whether you need a quick blade while on trail, a handy way to open packaging, or have to act fast in an emergency, you’ll feel confident knowing you’re equipped with a reliable knife.

Our team has tested over 30 pocket knives in real-world situations to determine the best of the best. Accounting for price, size, sharpness and ergonomics, we’re confident you’ll find the best new pocket knife that will compliment your lifestyle and needs.

If you want more than just a single blade, you’ll find what you’re looking for in our  review of the best multi-tools . We’ve also  tested the top first-aid kits  so you can be prepared for the unexpected, and we’ve also carefully reviewed  GPS watches  when the trail ahead becomes a little less clear.

Quick Picks for Pocket Knives

Check out this quick list of our favorites if you’re in a hurry, or continue scrolling to see our full list with in-depth reviews.

Best pocket knife overall:  Kershaw Leek ($84.99)

Best ultralight pocket knife:  Benchmade Bugout 535 ($171)  &  Mini Bugout 533 ($162)

Best budget pocket knife:  Opinel No. 8 ($19)  &  No. 6 ($16)  (smaller)

Best premium pocket knife:  Spyderco Para Military 2 ($288)

Workhorse pocket knife with an ergonomic handle:  Kershaw Blur ($72.70)

Small, stout & affordable pocket knife:  CRKT Squid ($39.99)

Small & quick-opening pocket knife:  SOG Twitch II

Durable & affordable pocket knife:  Paraframe Mini ($17)

The Clever Hiker team has been whittling, chopping, and splicing with some of the sharpest new pocket knives to hit the market, and comparing them against our long-time favorites. As a result, this list has seen some major changes:

  • The Kershaw Leek leads the pack as a sharp, easy-to use blade with a durable and sleek profile that can be opened with one hand.
  • We’ve added the Benchmade Bugout 535 , a very lightweight steel workhorse with a slim handle and comes with a deep pocket carry clip.
  • The  Opinel No. 8 rounds out our top 3 as one of the most budget-friendly and gorgeous knives on this list, featuring a wooden handle that makes for a lightweight and tough blade for any situation.

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  • Kershaw Leek

Best pocket knife overall

Price: $155

Weight: 3 oz.

Blade Length / Closed Lenght: 3 in. / 4 in.

Mini Version: n/a

  • Slim and compact
  • Assisted one-hand open
  • Reversible pocket clip
  • Blade tip is a bit thin for rugged jobs

Whether you’re a knife enthusiast or a novice, the  Kershaw Leek  has an excellent chance of becoming your favorite knife: it’s tough to beat when it comes to an ultra-portable, high-quality knife at an outstanding price point. The parts are fit with expert precision for a svelte knife that practically disappears in the pocket. The razor-sharp blade and dramatic point are ideal for slicing, piercing, and fine detail work. To top it all off, this knife springs fully open and into a locked position with a pull from a single finger. If you want a beautiful and capable knife you’ll be inspired to use frequently, look no further than the Leek.

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  • Benchmade Bugout 535

Best ultralight pocket knife

Price: $180

Weight: 1.9 oz.

Blade Length / Closed Lenght: 3.24 in. / 4.22 in.

Mini Version: Mini Bugout 533

  • Very lightweight
  • Premium steel quality
  • Lock keeps fingers clear when closing
  • Inconsipicuous (deep pocket carry clip)
  • Handle is a bit long

The  Benchmade Bugout 535 is one of our all-time favorite pocket knives since it’s both exceptionally lightweight and has a very sharp blade made with premium steel. The marriage of such high-quality blade steel and a slim, ultralight handle is perfect for everyday carry and anyone who wants to keep weight to an absolute minimum. Our only complaint is the handle is a bit long, making the knife a bit more bulky for storage, but we’re splitting hairs – the longer handle offers more control and precision. If you’re looking for a knife that’s incredibly sharp, light in the pocket, and easy to wield, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better option than the Bugout.

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  • Opinel No. 8

Best budget pocket knife

Weight: 1.5 oz.

Blade Length / Closed Lenght: 3.25 in. / 4.25 in.

Mini Version: No. 6

  • Very affordable
  • Secure collar lock
  • Comfortable handle
  • Inconspicuous
  • Customizable engraving available
  • Not as sharp as some
  • Slower two-handed open (nail nick and collar lock)
  • No pocket clip

The  Opinel No. 8  is an affordable, utilitarian knife that was originally designed for farmers and railroad workers over 130 year ago. It’s the lightest knife we tested, so it’s extremely portable and well-suited for on-the-go activities like hiking, foraging, picnics, and working in the garden. The No. 8’s carbon steel blade isn’t as sharp as those on some modern knives, but it’s really tough for how thin it is and it’s excellent for slicing meats, cheeses, and produce. The No. 8 may take slightly longer to open and lock, but it’s a beautiful knife at an incredible value that feels like a connection to a simpler time.

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  • Spyderco Para Military 2

Best premium pocket knife

Price: $265

Weight: 3.9 oz.

Blade Length / Closed Lenght: 3.42 in. / 4.82 in.

  • Large hole for easy one-handed open
  • Excellent grip
  • Ergonomic handle
  • Four position pocket clip
  • Unique blade shape
  • Heavier and bulkier than some
  • Size isn't inconspicuous

The  Spyderco Para Military 2 is considered a staple among knife collectors, and for good reason. It’s a high-quality knife with thick, premium blade steel, burly steel liners, and a strong compression lock. When it comes to a hefty, burly knife that transitions easily from precision woodworking to opening packages, this knife is a beast in every sense. The PM2 also has a large hole on the blade to make it easy to open with one hand and an ergonomic handle with great texture for grip. The downside of the PM2 — it’s a whole lot of knife. Meaning, it may be a bit overkill for the everyday needs of some people. That said, the PM2 is an incredibly cool, rugged knife. If the zombie apocalypse comes, it’s the pocket knife we’ll grab first.

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  • Kershaw Blur

Workhorse pocket knife with an ergonomic handle

Price: $160

Blade Length / Closed Lenght: 3.4 in / 4.5 in

  • Large blade
  • Ergonomic thumb studs
  • Havier and bulkier than some

The  Kershaw Blur  is a big, sturdy pocket knife with a wide blade that’s excellent for carving and cutting with minimal effort. The handle is comfortable and has unique rubberized inserts for outstanding grip. We love the smooth action on the Blur too. It’s easy to operate with a single hand and quick to put away when you’re done. Because it’s so strong and easy to handle, the Blur is a great choice for anyone who needs a large blade they can count on for years of daily use.

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Small, stout, & affordable pocket knife

Weight: 3.5 oz.

Blade Length / Closed Lenght: 2.16 in. / 3.48 in.

  • Durable (extra corrosion-resistant steel)
  • Inconspicuous (deep pocket carry clip)
  • Sleek, simple profile
  • Thick blade
  • Tough to open with one hand
  • Slightly heavy for its size

We think of the  CRKT Squid as the bulldog of pocket knives. It’s extremely tough for such a little guy and has a short, stout blade made with high-quality steel that will last for years, if not decades. The Squid may feel a bit small in hand for some, but we haven’t come across any jobs that it couldn’t tackle. It’s an excellent box cutter and rips through tough materials like butter. The Squid’s small size also means it stays out of the way of keys and other objects in your pocket. If you’re looking for a high-quality, yet affordable knife – this one is a Budget Buy because at $32, the value can’t be beat – the Squid is very well made and is a joy to use, even if the blade is a bit short.

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  • SOG Twitch II

Small & quick-opening pocket knife

Weight: 2.6 oz.

Blade Length / Closed Lenght: 2.65 in. / 3.55 in.

  • Safety lock
  • Takes two hands to close

If you want an inconspicuous pocket knife that’s sharp, fast to deploy, and comfortable to carry, the  SOG Twitch II  might be your jam. It’s very small and compact, so you can barely feel it in your pocket. The Twitch has assisted open, so it’s fun to unfold, and it works well when you need to use your blade frequently. Our one gripe is that the lockback locking mechanism takes two hands and requires a change of grip. That said, the Twitch is a high-quality knife for the price and an excellent choice for anyone who needs a small knife for everyday carry.

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  • Gerber Paraframe II

Durable & affordable pocket knife

Weight: 4.1 oz.

Blade Length / Closed Lenght: 3.5 in. / 4.75 in.

Mini Version: Paraframe Mini

  • Slim design
  • Durable (all-steel construction)
  • Open design is easy to clean
  • Mediocre blade quality
  • Thumb studs are a bit long

The  Gerber Paraframe II  looks cool and is easy to clean due to its open all-steel frame, but it’s not a knife you buy to admire or collect. It’s an affordable tool you can put to hard use without having to worry about messing it up, which can be a real asset while camping or on the job. The Paraframe has a sturdy barebones design, and it’s really slim for a knife with such a thick blade. The  Paraframe Mini  is significantly lighter, and is a good budget option for times when weight savings is important. The Paraframe stands out for it’s budget-friendly price, simplicity, and durability.

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What’s Most Important to You in a Pocket Knife?

Great quality is often worth paying for when it comes to a high-quality knife you’ll use every day, from backyard to backcountry. That said, you don’t have to pay a lot for an effective and versatile blade that’s also built to last. We’ve found outstanding knives in every price brackets.

Best budget pocket knives

Best value pocket knives

Best high-end pocket knives

The best pocket knives for everyday carry are compact enough to be comfortably stashed in a pocket without feeling bulky or getting in the way. But, the longer the blade, the more leverage you’ll have when working with your knife. We prefer knives in the 3-4 inch blade range because they offer a solid balance of cutting power and portability for most situations.

Best small pocket knives

  • Benchmade Mini Bugout 533
  • Opinel No. 6
  • Gerber Paraframe Mini

Best mid-size pocket knives

Best large pocket knives

OPENING STYLE

If you know you’ll be using your knife a lot throughout the day, make sure it’s easy to grab and quick to deploy. A few knives on our list have spring-assisted opening and can be quickly opened and closed with a single hand, although they have more parts that can fail. Others are manual and may require two hands – they have fewer moving parts that can fail and are less likely to accidentally open.

Assisted open pocket knives

Manual open pocket knives

  • CRKT Squid  

A SHARP BLADE

Stainless steel blades are the most common in pocket knives. They’re corrosion resistant and low maintenance, which means they’ll stay sharp for a long time. Knives with premium steel blades tend to be more expensive, but they’re sharper, more finely-tuned, and hold their edge for longer.

Sharpest knives with best quality steel

A great knife is more than just a good sharp blade. The handle plays a big role in how effective a knife, how easy it is to hold and grip, and how comfortable it is to use for an extended period.

Knives with the most ergonomic handles

Knives with the best grip

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THE SPYDERCO PARA MILITARY 2 IS A HANDSOME & CAPABLE POCKET KNIFE THAT CAN TAKE ON THE WORLD

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THE BENCHMADE BUGOUT 535 IS AN EXCELLENT CHOICE FOR ACTIVITIES LIKE HIKING & BACKPACKING, WHEN SIZE AND WEIGHT MATTER

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THE KERSHAW LEEK IS THE PERFECT SIZE FOR MOST TASKS AND FITS COMFORTABLY IN A POCKET

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THE CRKT SQUID MAY BE A SHORTY, BUT IT’S BLADE IS SUPER SHARP & HIGH QUALITY FOR THE PRICE

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WE LOVE THE KERSHAW BLUR BECAUSE IT’S EASY TO OPEN, IT HAS AN ERGONOMIC, GRIPPY HANDLE, & IT’S A GREAT VALUE FOR THE PRICE

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YOU CAN’T BEAT THE AFFORDABILITY & LOW WEIGHT OF THE OPINEL NO. 8 POCKET KNIFE FOR BASIC CUTTING TASKS

Critical Pocket Knife Considerations

A good pocket knife will certainly come in handy in all kinds of unexpected situations, but consider what you intend to use your knife for most often. If you see yourself sawing through rope or skinning rabbits, you may want to consider a more specialized blade made for climbing or bushcraft. On this list, we focus mostly on well-rounded pocket knives for everyday carry, whether you’re pulling weeds in the garden, repairing gear before a day hike, or starting a fire in the backcountry.

SERRATED VS. PLAIN EDGE

Serrations are handy for sawing through rope when a knife is dull, but they’re nearly impossible to sharpen at home and eat up valuable real estate on your blade. That’s why we prefer a simple plain edge. If you keep it sharp, it will almost always perform better and be more versatile than a serrated one.

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A sturdy lock mechanism on your knife makes them  safer to use  during rigorous cutting tasks. All of the knives on our list are equipped with strong frame, liner, compression, or collar locks to keep the blade safe and securely fixed in position when open.

SIZE AND WEIGHT

A pocket knife should be compact and light enough that it won’t bother you to carry it in your pocket, but large and robust enough to fit comfortably in your palm and be effective for the task at hand. A good ballpark range for an everyday carry knife size is about 4 inches long when closed and no more than about 4 oz. in weight.

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BLADE SHAPE

The knives on our list are equipped with a range of blade shapes, but most are some form of the classic drop-point, which offers excellent versatility for various cutting and slicing tasks. To learn more, check out this  Knife Blade Shapes Guide .

BLADE STEEL

There’s a lot to learn about knife blade steel, but the basics come down to these five elements: hardness, toughness, wear resistance, corrosion resistance, and edge retention. All of these factors play into a knife’s cutting performance and ease of maintenance. Check out the  Essential Guide to Knife Steel  if you want to know more about a specific blade.

HANDLE MATERIALS

The handle is an important part of the pocket knife equation: too heavy and bulky, the knife is cumbersome, but too light and flimsy, the knife will feel weak. The best knives have handles that are ergonomic, comfortable, grippy, and durable. G-10, a type of laminate commonly used in knife handles, is a good all-around material for its light weight and texture, but you might prefer materials like anodized aluminum or wood.

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Once you’ve gone over the considerations above, you can narrow your search to knives that appeal to you aesthetically and fit your style. You might want a tough-looking tactical blade, a sleek knife that won’t scare people at the office, or a traditional, old school design.

POCKET CLIP

Most people carry their knives in their pants pockets. The knife should rest inside the pocket with the closed blade flush with the front or back seam so you can grab the knife easily and prevent the blade from accidentally falling open. Some knives have pre-drilled holes so you can choose the position that suits you best. If you prefer to be inconspicuous and not draw attention to the fact that you’re carrying a knife, look for a deep carry pocket clip that keeps the blade hidden – some knives include this.

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Honorable Mentions

The following pocket knives didn’t make our final list, but they’ve still got a lot of good things going for them. You never know, one of these knives might be perfect for you:

ULA Alpha Knife – A ridiculously lightweight fixed blade knife that was designed specifically for backpackers and thru-hikers doing everyday trail activities like food prep and opening packaging. Read our  full review here.

Gerber Sharkbelly – Affordable, slim, and lightweight pocket knife with a large sheepsfoot blade and great pocket clip

CRKT Razelcliffe – Stout and budget-friendly mini knife with an easy open hammer and a unique chizel-like blade shape

Milwaukee Fastback Utility Knife – Affordable folding box cutter with disposable blades

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Why trust us?

We understand how tough it is to find trustworthy gear advice, and that’s one of the main reasons we built CleverHiker. We live for outdoor adventure, and we take these guides very seriously.

  • Our recommendations are completely independent and based on hands-on experience.
  • We test outdoor gear for a living – we’ve logged over 20,000 trail miles and 1,000 nights in the wilderness.
  • Our team has thru-hiked some of the most iconic long trails, including the Continental Divide Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, Appalachian Trail, Colorado Trail, Long Trail, Oregon Coast Trail, Arizona Trail, Pinhoti Trail, Superior Hiking Trail, as well as extensive peak bagging, and international treks.
  • We field test every product we recommend, which is sadly not the norm.
  • We travel to industry trade shows to stay up-to-date on product innovations.
  • We continuously update our guides throughout the year and when new products launch.
  • We treat recommendations to our readers as if they were for our family and friends.
  • We’re lifelong learners and we’re always open to feedback. If you think we’ve missed a worthy product or got something wrong, we’d love to know about it.

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The Best Lightweight Pocket Knife: A 2024 Buyer's Guide

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Every item you add to your everyday carry is essential, and each has a role. Each part of your everyday carry also has a size and weight; eventually, those aspects can add up. And at the end of the day, including a pocket knife in your everyday carry tends to add a lot of weight to your pockets. A hefty, full-size knife can give you the confidence to take on big tasks, but if it’s so heavy that you don’t even lug it for daily use, it’s not doing you much good. Conversely, a bad lightweight knife can feel too flimsy and thin and incapable of helping you tackle your daily tasks.

A lightweight knife must be carefully designed in many ways because there’s usually less material and space to work with. That’s why it’s crucial to pick the right one. In this guide, we’ll focus on the benefits of considering lightweight knives for everyday carry. We’ll review the aspects that make for an excellent lightweight pocket knife and why choosing the right one for your everyday carry kit is crucial.

The Best Lightweight Pocket Knives of 2024

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The Best Overall Lightweight Pocket Knife: Benchmade Mini Bugout Carbon Fiber

Since its introduction a few years back, the Benchmade Mini Bugout has been near or at the top of the community’s favorite picks for the best overall lightweight pocket knife for everyday carry. Benchmade’s formula for the Mini Bugout is simple, but it’s hard to execute as perfectly as they have. With a 6.5” overall length and a 2.82” drop-point knife blade, you have a compact knife capable of carrying out all your everyday tasks. Benchmade goes a step further by using premium blade steel with CPM S90V stainless, making this a knife that you can get sharp and keep sharp for quite a long time.

Benchmade pioneered the ambidextrous AXIS lock concept, and it makes for an ergonomic knife that you can open and close with either of your two hands. And because it weighs just 1.48 oz in this carbon fiber variant, it doesn’t weigh down your pockets much. Not only does the carbon fiber add a nice touch of class, but it also brings this version of the knife down in weight to its lightest yet by 0.02 oz. Carbon fiber handles also provide better rigidity in hand compared to the standard Grivory handles, which many users tend to complain about. That may not seem significant to a newcomer to lightweight knives, but any savings without compromise is an important plus, and that’s why this knife is at the top of our list as the best overall lightweight pocket knife for everyday carry.

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The Best Lightweight Pocket Knife on a Budget: Ontario Knife Company Wraith

You might think that with all the craftsmanship required to make a knife lightweight yet good enough for everyday carry, you will have to pay more to get what you want. But knives like the Ontario Knife Company’s “Wraith” attack that thought with full force. The Wraith accomplishes a 1.50 oz weight by minimizing the amount of metal in the handle as much as possible. It relies on a reliable lockback mechanism sandwiched between semi-transparent glass-filled nylon scales to keep the compact 2.6” 4116 stainless steel blade secure and locked into place during use. It’s an idea taken from old-style lockback folding knives, but unlike those knives, it doesn’t use heavy wood, bone, or brass for the rest of the design.

It’s also made in Taiwan, keeping costs down while still being durable enough for most everyday carry users. In my experience with the knife, it lacks a smooth and snappy deployment due to the nature of its lockback mechanism. In spite of that, it still slices exceptionally well for its price. With all of the changes and uncertainty at Ontario Knife Company, it’s better to grab a Wraith for yourself sooner rather than later if you are interested in having one for your everyday carry.

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The Most Premium Lightweight Pocket Knife: Kershaw Launch 4 Ultem

The Kershaw Launch 4 is one of the most compact and lightweight automatic knives you can carry today at 1.62 oz. It’s also a knife made in the USA, featuring two community-favorite materials originating here: Ultem polymer handle scales and CPM MagnaCut stainless steel in the blade itself. Ultem features superior durability and heat resistance, but for the most part, it’s the alluring yellow translucent glow that gets many everyday carry enthusiasts into it when used as a handle scale. It contrasts nicely with the black MagnaCut spearpoint blade at a California-friendly 1.9” length.

Remember that despite the shorter length of the Kershaw Launch 4, carrying automatic knives and sometimes assisted opening knives can generally be more restricted depending on where you are. It’s essential to do your research about your local rules and regulations before making your own decision about whether carrying an automatic knife is suitable for your daily use.

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The Best Keychain Lightweight Pocket Knife: Victorinox Classic SD Alox LE 2024

At 0.6 oz, the Victorinox Classic SD Alex LE 2024 is a nifty way to add a backup knife to your keychain, ensuring you always have a cutting tool on hand when needed. This year’s special edition of the knife features a new anodized aluminum Terra Brown colorway that makes it a bit more low profile than the standard shiny silver or red tones of the standard Alox designs. Note here that “Alox” refers to the anodic oxidation process Victorinox uses to construct their aluminum scales and not “aluminum oxide” which has been mistakenly used elsewhere.

And because the Classic SD is a Swiss Army Knife, you can take advantage of the spring-loaded scissors for tasks better suited than the thin knife. Plus, a SAK tends to be more discreet, and its placement on your keychain makes it easier to carry around where you might get strange looks if you bring a full-size blade regardless of the weight.

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The Best Lightweight Pocket Knife for the Outdoors: CIVIVI Mini Elementum Fixed Blade

You might think that a fixed-blade knife is heavier than a folding knife for lightweight everyday carry, but sometimes that’s not the case. While a fixed-blade knife tends to have a full-tang construction, eliminating the need for a folding mechanism can improve overall when ounces and grams matter. The CIVIVI Mini Elementum is an excellent example of this in practice: the original folding version of the knife is already highly lightweight at 1.29 oz, but its fixed blade version brings things down to a featherweight 0.79 oz that you’ll barely notice until you need it for your daily tasks.

You do lose the pocketable convenience of the folding mechanism of the original Mini Elementium, but CIVIVI has included a secure Kydex sheath and lanyard for the knife that allows you to wear the knife discreetly and safely around your neck. Better still, the 2.24” drop-point blade is always ready for use, improved in the fixed blade edition with ergonomic Micarta inlays and Nitro-V stainless steel hardened a bit more than the original Elementum’s 14C28N stainless blade.

Our Other Recommendations

Spyderco Lil’ Native Lightweight: The Lil’ Native Lightweight is a sized-down version of Spyderco’s original Native back lock knife. By swapping the handle scales to fiberglass-reinforced nylon and cutting things down to a 2.42” blade, the Lil’ Native Lightweight tips the scales at 1.5 oz. The wire pocket clip allows for completely reversible left or right-handed carry, and you can choose between tip-up and tip-down orientations for your carry convenience. The trademark Spyderco eyehole cutout in the CTS-BD1N stainless steel blade is very easy to identify without looking, and if you are wearing gloves, you can still easily open the knife compared to a traditional knife with thumb studs only.

Kansept Mini Korvid: The Kansept Mini Korvid is a compact folding cleaver-style knife with a flipper mechanism that weighs in at just 1.38 oz. It features black TiCn-coated 154CM steel with a flat ground edge that takes full advantage of its wider cleaver shape. With its beefy yet compact 1.45″ blade secured within G-10 handles, you can take on small food prep, chopping, and slicing tasks. The lack of a spear point makes it difficult to pierce with the tool, but if you’ve been on the lookout for a unique pocket cleaver with plenty of variety, the Mini Korvid makes the cut.

Deejo 37g: Many knives classify themselves as lightweight, but Deejo tells you that their folding knife weighs just 37 grams (1.3 oz) in the very name of their product. The hallmark of the Deejo knife is its unique skeletonized frame. That design keeps things light while providing a firm frame lock for the 3.75” Z40C13 stainless steel blade. In its blacked-out colorway mated with the moon phase laser engraved art, this edition of the knife is a useful full-size cutting tool and a bit of flair that will add a touch of elegance to your overall everyday carry gear loadout. You can also look through Deejo’s other offerings because you can customize the knife to the desired materials and look.

Bestech Tulip: The unique utility-oriented blade shape of the Bestech Tulip is reminiscent of a traditional Japanese Kiridashi cutting tool. Custom knife designer Ostap Hel made this knife in collaboration with Bestech, adding several improvements over the traditional original. Unlike the rust-prone carbon steel of those traditional fixed blade tools, the Tulip features a premium stainless Böhler M390 folding design. At just 4” long overall and sporting a compact 1.34” cutting edge, this is a tiny knife, but the milled edges on the titanium handle give you more comfort during the cut. At 1.5 oz, it’s one of the lightest knives you can carry featuring M390 steel.

SOG UItra XR: SOG’s XR lock eliminates blade play, and their Ultra XR knife combines it with carbon fiber scales in the handle and a premium S35VN stainless steel blade that’s been treated with a CRYOgold finish that contrasts nicely aesthetically. The beauty of the XR lock in the handle also means that a one-handed opening is easily achieved by actuating the lock and flicking the knife open, making for a smooth opening that’s faster than most non-assisted opening flipper style designs in actual practice. Eliminating the need for a large frame lock or liner in the handle gives you the performance of a full-size knife while only being 1.2 oz in weight in your pockets.

How to Take Care of Your Pocket Knife

Like all knives, lightweight knives require regular maintenance to keep things in tip-top shape. It starts with keeping the edge of your knife sharp. A dull knife will slip instead of slice and, in the worst case, slip right onto your fingers. It’s also a good idea to dry your knife after it gets wet because even stainless steel knives will rust, given enough time and exposure to the wet elements. Adding oil to the blade will give it a nice shine and help prevent rust. It also can help the pivot on a folding knife work more smoothly for a more satisfying opening and closing experience during daily use.

What Makes a Good Pocket Knife?

Lightweight knives have many of the same considerations that make for an excellent overall everyday carry knife, with additional emphasis on the weight of the knife itself. An excellent lightweight pocket knife has a quality blade of good steel that can get sharp even after extended daily use. The design of the handle is essential, but more so for its looks. A well-designed handle helps a lightweight knife overcome the limitations of a smaller size if present. It also helps make the knife more lightweight overall if intelligent decisions are made to reduce heft without compromising safety and comfort. The locking mechanism influences usability and weight because it’s essential to ensure a knife blade is locked into place no matter how light it is for your safety.

Blade Quality

A lightweight knife should not come with a ‘lightweight’ blade. Like all good everyday carry pocket knives, a lightweight knife should have a well-suited blade for daily use. It pays to choose blades made with premium materials for lightweight loadouts. That’s because premium steels can do better in smaller, more compact designs that tend to dominate in the lightweight space. It also means you’ll worry less about damage to your knife over time via rusting, chipping, and other breakage. A lightweight knife made of a good quality blade will also get sharp and stay sharp for longer.

Handle Design

A knife can have the best steel and blade shape, but you won’t have a good time if it has an uncomfortable handle that’s slippery when wet. A handle made of heavy materials will also ruin a knife if you want to stay under 2 oz and keep things lightweight. And because handles tend to run smaller and thinner on ultralightweight designs than on full-size blades, a well-designed ergonomic knife with good handles is easier to use than one that goes for looks only.

Size and Weight

With a lightweight pocket knife, examining size based on your needs might be better. Look for an overall length and blade length that suits your needs, and then narrow it down to the knives that meet your weight requirements to keep things from getting too weighty in your pockets. With modern materials and construction, carrying a tiny knife is unnecessary if you want a lightweight option. Knives that run larger but are light will be more expensive than other options simply because of the premium materials and intelligent design details that have to go into constructing a capable everyday carry knife along those requirements.

Locking Mechanism

For the most part, when it comes to lightweight pocket knives, choosing a locking mechanism has more to do with your ergonomic requirements than overall weight considerations. With modern everyday carry knives, you don’t have to forego a locking mechanism entirely to save ounces in your pocket. So you can pick the design that keeps a knife secured in place after you open it, especially with the industry’s shift towards ambidextrous crossbar locks that require less metal than a traditional liner or frame lock design from full-size pocket knives. One interesting consideration is whether you want a folding mechanism because some of the most skeletonized lightweight fixed-blade knives have weight advantages compared to folding knives. But opting for that will require you to carry the knife differently because it has to be kept in a holster to avoid poking yourself on your knife before you need to use it.

What pocket knife do Navy SEALs use?

Navy SEALs tend to use military-issued knives that aren’t always available to the general public. However, some brands are often associated with Navy SEALs, including SOG, KA-BAR, and Toor knives.

What pocket knife does the military use?

Military knives are issued to troops, but some have been contracted for their unique use. One of the most famous examples is the venerable Swiss Army Knife, made by Victorinox and Wenger for the Swiss military and other armies and law enforcement users for over a century.

What is the best blade length for a pocket knife?

We recommend blades on pocket knives be between two and three inches long for most everyday carry tasks. Specialized blades can run longer if needed to maximize the slicing potential of a blade. And if the length is limited by requirement or statute, you can certainly go lower than that.

What is a flipper pocket knife?

A flipper pocket knife integrates a tab on the knife’s spine that juts out slightly from the back of the knife near the pivot. Combined with either spring assist or ball bearings in the pivot, it can make for a quick draw and deployment without the hassle of carrying around an automatic knife.

What are the advantages of a lightweight pocket knife?

The best thing about carrying a lightweight pocket knife is that it reduces the burden of having it in your pockets. The more stuff you carry, the more you get weighed down by gear. And if your knife weighs too much, you might not bring it.

Are expensive pocket knives always better than cheaper ones?

While expensive pocket knives tend to be made of more premium materials that can be more durable, capable (and more beautiful) than standard designs, there comes a point where you reach the limit of what money can get you. That’s where a pocket knife goes beyond practicality and becomes more of a work of art. But if you’re just looking for a capable pocket knife, you can opt for a cheaper design and save yourself some money in the process.

How does the size of a pocket knife affect its functionality?

A knife that’s too small for the task will be stiff because the handles won’t allow for a full grip, and the knife might have an edge too small. But a large knife might be too big for our daily use cases, making it too big and heavy for your pockets.

How we picked

Decades of experience and deep connections in the everyday carry industry give us a unique viewpoint on the market to inform our product recommendations. We have the depth of information for thousands of products that have come before and an extensive eye on the market to see what’s new and trending for each piece of gear. The result is a buying guide that we feel is informative and useful for EDCers of every trade, industry, and budget.

What is Everyday Carry?

Everyday Carry is both the concept of what people carry in their pockets and the process of picking out gear that thoughtfully considers what one wants or needs in their daily life. It encompasses everything from style to preparedness to utility, meaning an entire industry full of valuable tools and essentials to choose from.

Why you should trust us

Our team has decades of combined experience in all aspects of everyday men’s essentials, from wallets to pens to bags and everything in between, and we know where to find great gear ideas that you may not come across at your local stores or when shopping online. Our expertise in the industry and familiarity with design, materials, and usability help you make more informed choices when it comes to picking up your next piece of gear.

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The 13 Best Pocket Knives to Carry Every Day

A knife is one of the most convenient and useful tools you can carry. These are the ones worth buying.

While almost any knife small enough for pocket carry will give you a diverse range of benefits, it’s the design, size, style, and features that make a big difference in how it fits your lifestyle. Trust me, when you carry and wield something every day, you develop strong preferences around it.

While pocket knives of old would often fold, they didn’t necessarily lock out, meaning they were carried loose in a pocket. Today, that's changed. Many pocket knives are designed to clip to a front pocket and feature a locking mechanism to make them safer to use and carry—definitely important considering the frequency with which you’ll have it in-hand.

After a lifetime of carrying a pocket knife, I’ve developed my own inclinations—a medium-length, spring-assisted flipper that opens and closes easily, is thick and heavy enough to pry with, and is able to withstand a beating. Everyone is different, so what appeals to me might not appeal to you. Since I enjoy trying all kinds of pocket knives, I’m regularly testing the latest widely available options from the most popular brands. I’ve highlighted my favorites in a range of styles so you can find a pocket knife that’s perfect for your everyday carry.

The Best Pocket Knives

  • Best Overall: SOG Twitch II
  • Best Value: Civivi Bluetick Flipper
  • Best Mid-Size: Case XX Marilla Pocket Knife
  • Most Tactical: The James Brand Elko Pocket Knife
  • Best Spring-Assisted Knife: Kershaw Link
The Expert: My grandmother once chided me (then knife-less) that a man with a pocket knife was worth an extra dollar an hour on their dairy farm. I never showed up to her house without one after that and I’ve probably carried a pocket knife for 95 percent of the days of my adult life. My preferences for a good pocket knife have evolved considerably over those 30 years, and my collection of pocket knives has grown as well. I now have different knives for different days and activities and have tested most of the top models from the top brands over the past few years.

What to Look for in a Pocket Knife

When considering knives for everyday carry (EDC), look for a folding option that easily fits on your belt or in your pocket when closed. It should be light enough to carry comfortably but with a blade and handle that are sized to your liking. Most blades in this category measure from 2- to 3.5-inches long and have a drop-point shape.

Most handles range from 3.5- to 5-inches. Get a folding knife that locks out. It won’t close on your fingers during use, which makes it safer, and the stiffness of a locking blade lets you manipulate it at a variety of angles, like while whittling wood or opening a particularly tricky package. Plus, you can use the back of the blade for things like fire sparking rods without it closing or bending on you.

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The three most common material categories for pocket knives are carbon, stainless, and tool steel. Carbon steel is easy to sharpen, holds an edge well, and is durable, but the blade takes more care because the metal is prone to corrosion. Types of carbon steel include 420HC, XC90, and 1095.

Stainless steel isn’t as hardy as carbon, but with the addition of chromium, the blade is less susceptible to corrosion. Stainless blades are often cheaper than their carbon counterparts, too. Choose stainless, like AUS-8, VG-10, or 8Cr13MoV, and its cousins in the 9Cr and 7Cr series if you will mostly be using your knife on the water, to process game, or to prepare dinner while camping .

There’s also tool steel, which can contain titanium, molybdenum, vanadium, or other elements. The result is generally a strong blade with good edge retention and decent corrosion resistance (though not as good as stainless). Popular tool steels include D2, CPM S30V, and CPM S35VN.

Fit and Feel

Most importantly, find a knife that fits your hand and feels good in your pocket. Even if you ultimately buy online, it can be worth a trip to an outdoor store where you can handle a wide range of knives and get a sense for the size and style that works best for you.

Locking Mechanisms

Liner: One side of the handle’s inner liner is bent, causing it to act like a spring. When you open the blade, that springing liner slides over behind the tang of the blade to keep it from closing. Pro: Simple and inexpensive. Con: Fingers are in the way when closing.

Frame: Similar to a liner lock, this system has one side of the knife’s frame slide behind the blade when you deploy it. Pro: Secure. Con: Doesn’t work with both hands.

Lockback: A locking bar runs up the spine of the knife’s handle and springs up into a notch in the tang. To close, press on the bar close to the butt of the handle to pivot it out of the tang. Pro: Ambidextrous. Con: Can wear out, causing the blade to wiggle when deployed.

Crossbar: A steel bar passes through the knife handle and slots into a notch in the tang. It’s significantly stronger than a liner lock, and you don’t have to adjust your grip to operate it. Benchmade’s proprietary Axis was first to market, but it’s now joined by SOG’s XR mechanism and others. Pro: Ambidextrous. Con: More small parts that can break.

Collar: A circular collar around the base of the blade twists to lock it closed or open. Line up the gap in the collar with the blade for unimpeded deployment. Pro: Simple. Con: Collar can wear out over time and not operate as smoothly.

How We Evaluated Pocket Knives

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I frequently test and write about knives, so I make an effort to test all the new offerings from major knife brands that I realistically can. While I have my favorites, I constantly have different pocket knives in my rotation, putting them to work opening boxes, sharpening pencils, prying things open, scraping off paint, cleaning fish, cutting meat and vegetables, and doing lots of other things that pocket knives probably aren’t really designed to do.

For this roundup, I also relied on the previous work of Popular Mechanics editors and writers who, using fairly strict evaluation criteria, tested single-blade, plain-edge knives, and a few smaller multi-tools built with portability in mind. The combination of all these efforts helped us to deliver these recommendations.

SOG Twitch II Pocket Knife

Twitch II Pocket Knife

The Twitch II has earned many fans over the years. It’s sized just right, easy to open, and has delivered consistently strong results throughout testing. The stainless-steel blade, housed in a simple and sleek-looking aluminum handle, is substantial enough for a variety of tasks, yet the knife retains a modest, slim profile. It is comfortable to carry in your pocket and attaches securely to a belt.

There are a few ways to deploy the blade, including a thumb stud on each side (lefties, rejoice). Many prefer the kick. Sometimes called a flipper, this triangular tab sits at the end of a knife’s tang and protrudes from the handle when the blade is closed. Pressing it down with your index finger swings the blade out nearly all the way (with help from a coil spring), and it locks into place with a small tug upward. Once open, the kick doubles as a finger guard.

Under relatively little pressure, the knife made even, smooth cuts. The blade slid into an apple on contact, though it needed greater force to completely slice through. It also finished among top performers for the cord and zip tie testing, cleanly cleaving the fasteners with a modest amount of force.

A small sliding lock on the handle adds extra assurance that the blade won't deploy accidentally. After more than a year of frequent use, this knife is still in fine form, though some paint has chipped off the handle. If you’re looking for a trusty EDC that delivers quality at a reasonable cost, the Twitch doesn’t disappoint.

Civivi Bluetick Flipper

Bluetick Flipper

While there are plenty of cheaper knives you can buy, Civivi’s Bluetick gives you a high-end Damascus steel blade and a slick design for under $100. There are a range of blades that fall under the name “Damascus” steel, but the layered, topographical look of Damascus is undeniably attractive.

The Bluetick sits deep in the pocket and I was immediately comfortable operating it with one hand thanks to a ceramic ball bearing that holds the blade closed firmly but releases easily with one-finger pressure on the nose on the back. The longish, 3 ½-inch blade snaps satisfyingly into place held by a nested liner lock that’s secure but releases easily with thumb pressure for a one-handed close. It's smooth and natural to deploy or stow the Bluetick.

When you combine the fairly long blade and handle, you get an overall length of just over 8 inches. Since the blade narrows significantly at the pivot, it makes the blade feel rather long and thin, which might make it less sturdy for prying tasks, but it’s great for larger hands as it fills the palm, giving you a secure grip and you’re able to press the blade firmly thanks to jimping (small notches) along the spine.

Case XX Marilla Pocket Knife

Marilla Pocket Knife

Case Knives started way back in 1889 in upstate New York, where I grew up. In part because my grandfather carried one in his pocket on his dairy farm, I have a soft spot for classic Case knives. But a knife that you drop in your pocket just isn’t as practical as one with a clip, and a knife without a locking mechanism can be dangerous if, like me, you’re accustomed to modern, lock-out knives.

That’s why I was excited to see Case add lines of more modern EDC pocket knives to its lineup like the Marilla, which has won over modern knife users since its launch in 2021. This is a mid-sized knife, but feels longer than its 3.4-inch blade, thanks to a gradually tapered, almost filet-like drop-point blade that’s great for gutting fish or dressing wild game in the field.

The company’s knives use modern materials like anodized aluminum and G10 fiberglass inlay in the handle, but they’re still made in Bradford, Pa. (approx. 80 miles south of Buffalo, N.Y.), and the S35VN steel comes from upstate New York where Case got its start.

At 3.6 ounces, this knife feels substantial, and the reliable frame lock paired with the thick blade and handle mean you won’t hesitate to shuck an oyster or pry off a 2x4 with it in hand. The flipper mechanism is smooth and fast for one-handed opening and closing—there’s even a satisfying audible and tactile click into both the open and closed positions.

The James Brand Elko Pocket Knife

Elko Pocket Knife

Tactical often implies a military aesthetic, along with lots of ostentatious features and add-ons that announce themselves a mile away, much like wearing a combat helmet to a bluegrass concert. The James Brand’s Elko is small but mighty— a tactical-light option for those who want quiet capability coupled with concealment.

This knife is small yet not impractically so—sporting a 1.74-inch blade. The entire package is less than a half-inch thick. (If you want a knife with more tactical chops with “tactical” right in the name, check out 5.11 Tactical’s ESC Rescue knife which has a glass-breaker, belt cutter, and regular drop-point blade in one rugged and affordable package.)

It is suggested by the manufacturer to attach the Elko to your keyring via the scraper/prybar/bottle opener/glass breaker end, but it’s more easily deployed tucked into a fifth pocket (there’s no clip).

This isn’t a big, tough-guy knife—it’s small in the hand—so it’s easily concealed when you don’t want anyone with eyes to be able to tell you’re carrying a blade. With The James Brand’s more modern, minimalist aesthetic, it’s also a great option for city dwellers who want to carry a good-looking knife without the obvious pocket clip showing on their work slacks.

Kershaw Link Pocket Knife

Link Pocket Knife

For a blade that deploys as fast as possible, go with a spring-assisted knife. You likely won't find one better than Kershaw’s Link. The blade popped open as soon as I pulled down on the kick with my index finger and stopped at full extension with a satisfying click. In fact, it is so pleasing to open, I had to stop myself from popping it in and out just for fun to avoid wearing out the mechanism.

What’s more, the one-handed operation is just as easy with your non-dominant side, making the Link a decent ambidextrous choice. As for the performance of the blade itself, the carbon steel doesn't disappoint, providing an even cut for whatever is needed. The Link isn't as well suited to finer detail work, like coring apples, but that shouldn't be expected from a blade with this type of design.

Opinel No. 8 Carbon Steel Pocket Knife

No. 8 Carbon Steel Pocket Knife

The Opinel has remained virtually unchanged for decades, thanks to its low cost, effectiveness, and light weight. You can buy it with a stainless-steel blade , but the incredible affordability of the carbon model is a no-brainer. The No. 8 delivers one of the best cuts when slicing apples, its sharp tip makes quick work of zip ties, and it punctured packaging easily.

Although there is no belt clip, the collar lock affords peace of mind when the knife is in your pocket. There’s absolutely no chance of the 3.3-inch blade will deploy accidentally. Plus, it keeps the blade open when additional rigidity is needed. However, it does take some effort to rotate the collar and lift the blade with the nail nick, which makes deploying this knife slower than all the others.

The beech wood handle, one of the most comfortable in this roundup, is a uniform cylinder, save for a taper just before the pommel. Plus, the wood construction keeps the weight in check. That a sub–2-ounce knife can sport a blade this long and capable is impressive, making the No. 8 a worthwhile pick. Looking to make it one of a kind? Opinel offers custom engraving (for an additional fee).

Begg Knives Diamici

Diamici

Begg Knives is a California-based knife manufacturer that creates a mix of limited-run and production knives in modern designs. While they offer plenty of higher-end, intricately designed blades, the Diamici is a more affordable option with a high-end feel from its Steelcraft series.

Picking up the Diamici, the first thing you notice is the heft. While only about 4 ounces, the blade and handle are mostly steel and I personally like the rigidity of an all-steel flipper. I appreciate the look of the satin finish that’s consistent from handle through blade, but for a few bucks more, you can get a Damascus steel blade that still matches the handle well.

Though it’s a production knife, albeit one designed by the accomplished Canadian knifemaker Jared Van Otterloo, the price tag is quite reasonable. The ball-bearing assisted action is smooth and it feels like a much pricier EDC blade in the hand. The black and green G10 inlays are smooth but provide superior grip compared to what plain steel would offer.

Still, this wouldn’t be my first choice for a hunting or backpacking knife where I’d want a more textured handle for wet or muddy conditions. But as a general EDC, this feels like a step up from cookie-cutter production designs, and the robust build has me reaching for it more often than lighter weight options.

New West KnifeWorks Glory Folder Pocket Knife

Glory Folder Pocket Knife

I was first introduced to Victor, Idaho-based New West KnifeWorks through the brand's impressive American-made kitchen knives. The brand's Glory Folders feature the same hand-assembled quality and attractive designs as their cutlery. (For over 15 years, New West KnifeWorks has exhibited and won awards at the fine art shows across the country, including the Smithsonian Craft Show, Crafts Park Avenue, Sausalito Art Show, Cherry Creek Arts Festival, Park City Kimball Arts Festival, and many more).

The Saddleback blade on the Glory folder that I own (the company also offers a more traditional drop-point blade) lets you put a little more pressure on the blade when, for example, pushing it through a particularly dense salami.

The blade itself is American S35VN steel from Crucible Industries (a Syracuse, N.Y.-based company— and in business since 1876), and it’s the same raw material used in their kitchen cutlery that provides high-end durability and edge retention. The hardness makes sharpening a little more difficult for amateurs, but New West provides free tune-ups along with its lifetime warranty.

This is a mid-sized folder, and it’s thick thanks to a robust titanium liner lock that inspires confidence but doesn’t feel bulky. The slightly rounded handle means it doesn’t lay as flat in the pocket, but I love the classic feel, especially with the solid Ironwood handle on my model. (You can also get handles made from G10 composite or carbon fiber in a variety of colors.)

The action is incredibly smooth and makes for easy one-handed operation with the flipper mechanism, and the liner lock is also one-hand operable, both must-haves for me in a knife I want to carry every day.

Spyderco Delica 4 FRN Flat Ground Pocket Knife

Delica 4 FRN Flat Ground Pocket Knife

The Delica has been a staple in the Spyderco lineup for more than 30 years, and the fourth generation includes styles with different blade steels, edges, and shapes, as well as different handles. The standard model features a sharp VG-10 blade that excelled in our tests at slicing—due to its fully flat-ground design—and it ripped through materials—particularly our rope— without hesitation.

Deploying the blade is simple thanks to Spyderco’s hallmark circular thumb hole, measuring a generous 13 millimeters. The fiberglass reinforced nylon handle has textured molding for better traction, a finger guard, and subtle finger grooves.

Add in the jimping notches on the blade’s spine, and you won't ever have to worry about slipping with your grip. Lastly, the handle’s stiff belt clip is reversible—a perk for lefties—and can be reinstalled for tip-down carry, if that’s your thing.

Altogether, the Delica 4 is a capable EDC and an especially great option for people who regularly get their hands dirty and need a knife that will stay put.

Benchmade 533 Mini Bugout Pocket Knife

533 Mini Bugout Pocket Knife

In 2020, Benchmade released this pint-size version of its popular Bugout folder. The Mini is lighter (by about three-tenths of an ounce), shorter (the overall lengths differ by just more than 1-inch), and features a blade that’s nearly a half-inch smaller.

Still, the pint-size knife packs explosive cutting power. The CPM S30V blade quickly and cleanly cut through food, cardboard, and rope of all sizes when tested, and the textured Grivory handle felt comfortable and secure even when laid into.

If you're a fan of crossbar locking mechanisms, the Mini proves its Axis is the one to beat. The spring that disengages the lock has a healthy yet smooth resistance, letting you neatly tuck the blade away. There’s nothing subtle about the neon orange case, but that can be a bonus when this is in your hiking pack. The bright color is easy to spot, even in low light.

If that's not your style, try the 533BK-1 model , which has a white handle and black blade. Given the knife’s 1.5-ounce build, you may, as our testers did, frequently forget it's in your pocket or holstered on your belt, ultimately making it a convenient option to carry everywhere. This is one featherlight EDC that doesn’t slouch on performance and is worth the expense.

Leatherman Skeletool

Skeletool

Multitools are great if you need easy access to more tools than just a simple blade, but most are far too heavy and bulky to be considered true pocket knives. Swiss Army Knives provide more functionality in smartly designed packages, but most don’t pocket clip, and the more functional ones get bulky and heavy quickly.

While I love my Leatherman Free P4 , it’s also thick and heavy, and I find I only reach for it when I’m facing a day with enough jobs to warrant the bulk. Leatherman’s Skeletool CX trims functions, weight, and size for a simple multitool that’s light enough to replace your traditional pocket knife.

Leatherman claims seven distinct tools in the Skeletool CX, but there’s some padding. What you get: a drop-point blade, pliers, wire cutters, bit driver, and bottle opener. The most valuable and most-used for me are the pliers, and I’d probably be happy if the Skeletool only had these and the blade. The bit driver comes with two Phillips and two flat head options, and while it’s not as good as an actual screwdriver, I’m happy to have it when I need it.

Unlike the generally small and unsatisfying blades included in Swiss Army Knives and other multitools, the 2.6-inch drop point made from 154CM stainless steel is capable and sturdy thanks to the substantial liner lock. Thankfully, you don’t have to go through multiple actions to get to the blade, as it’s placed on the outside and can be opened one-handed via the thumb hole.

While I’m able to close the blade one-handed in a single motion with some effort, it usually ends up being either a three-step one-handed or two-handed close, though this is probably my only gripe with the design.

CRKT Minnow

Minnow

It’s hard for pocket knives to stand out in a crowded marketplace with so many knife manufacturers making a wide-range of well-made knives in various styles, but Columbia River Knife and Tool managed a unique option with its new automatic Minnow. This stumpy design fits in the palm of your hand but is still 4 ounces thanks to a thick 1.79-inch cleaver blade that’s nearly as wide as it is long.

Designed by Phillip Booth and modeled after his custom Minnow knives, the CRKT Minnow feels gimmicky at first glance, but it excels at certain tasks. The long straight edge of the blade has only the slightest curve upwards near the point, so it performs much like a box cutter and is great for opening packages and straight-line precision cutting tasks. The point is nearly a right angle so it’s not much for any kind of digging tasks.

The other distinctive feature of this Minnow design is the push-button automatic opening, which zips the blade into its open position. The same button releases the lock, though you need to close it manually, which is easily done one-handed with thumb and forefinger.

Automatic knives aren’t legal in some states and jurisdictions, but the short length means that it’s permissible in more places than most automatics, including California. Check local and state regulations to make sure the Minnow doesn’t run afoul of any laws before ordering.

Case Bridgeline Smooth Rosewood Longhouse

Bridgeline Smooth Rosewood Longhouse

Case Knives has a long history in pocket knives. While the brand still produces classic multi-blade farm-oriented pocket knives like the Stockman , it has started producing more modern pocket-clip, locking single-blade knives. The excellent Marilla knife is a great hunting flipper, but I love the Bridgeline Longhouse pocket knife because it brings some of the heritage design into a modern flipper.

Notably, the Bridgeline Longhouse locks out via a liner lock, setting it apart from traditional Case designs with no lock. Not having a lock-out on a pocket isn’t inherently dangerous, but since most people are accustomed to locking folders these days, it requires some adjustment. It can be a problem if you’ve used locking knives your whole life and try to switch to one without.

The blade flips open via a flipper tab that’s placed on the blade end of the handle instead of the back of the knife. Compared to the more-common flipper noses on a handle’s back, this requires a bit of a reach and pull motion with the forefinger to flip open, but I found it came naturally after a day of carry. The Longhouse feels light for its size thanks to the aluminum frame, but the CPM20CV drop-point blade feels substantial and has a nice patina out of the box.

My favorite part about this excellent all-around flipper, however, is the boxy build that emulates classic Case patterns, setting it apart from the glut of lookalike flippers on the market. I particularly like the Rosewood handle on my Bridgeline Longhouse, but it’s also available with more modern Micarta scales.

Length, Sharpness, and Cost: Our Expert Justin Park Shares His Blade Buying Tips.

bets pocket knives

How long of a blade should I carry?

Blade length is a personal preference, but there are a few factors to guide you. First is legality. Most states have some kind of restrictions on what knives you can carry on your person.

Even in wild west Colorado where I live, it is illegal to carry a blade longer than 3.5 inches “concealed” which would include “in your pocket.” In New York state where I grew up, switchblades are illegal and you must be a U.S. citizen to even own a knife, but there are no concealed carry restrictions. Check your state laws here .

Outside of local laws, consider how a knife fits in your hand. A knife that feels tiny and awkward to someone with large hands might be perfect for someone else. If you’re not already a regular pocket knife carrier, stop into an outdoors store where you can handle a wide range of knives and see what feels good. Most people will feel comfortable with blades in the 2.5- to 3-inch range, though folks with larger hands may want something bigger.

How should I keep my pocket knife sharp?

I’ll start with a caution—that you may not want a surgically sharp pocket knife. Because I use my pocket knife so frequently and casually, I don’t like to be as cautious as you have to be with an ultra-sharp blade.

I experimented with carrying a replaceable blade knife for a few months and I ended up giving myself several minor but annoying slices. That said, any knife will eventually require sharpening. Most pocket knives have a fairly obtuse 20-degree or higher blade angle, which makes them less challenging to sharpen yourself.

Knife sharpening is a skill that’s not easy to master ( learn how here ), but there are tools available to help. While whetstone sharpening is soothing in a Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance sort of way, you probably already have a pull-through sharpener somewhere (check kitchen drawers).

These sharpeners aren’t the perfect sharpening solution, but they’re relatively idiot-proof and good enough to perk up your blade. I personally have started using the Work Sharp Ken Onion Edition Knife and Tool Sharpener which lets you adjust for blade angle and uses a series of electrically driven belts for a fairly quick sharpen, though it does require a bit of practice to use well.

If all of this sounds like something you’ll never bother with, there are lots of mail-in sharpening services such as The Sharp Brothers , who will professionally sharpen your blades for a fee. Many manufacturers offer similar services. Benchmade, for example, has a LifeSharp program that gives you free sharpening for any Benchmade knife. Some manufacturers such as Kershaw also offer blade replacement (often for a fee) if you’ve broken or otherwise damaged your blade beyond repair.

How much should a good pocket knife cost?

This is both a surprisingly common and difficult-to-answer question. Obviously personal budget comes into play, but so do your preferences. Despite considering myself a pocket knife enthusiast, I carried a cheap pocket knife from Walmart for years that cost me literally $1. The company raised the price to $2 at some point. Those knives would rust at the hinge, but they did the trick and were great for putting in my checked luggage. I wouldn’t worry about losing it at my destination and wouldn’t cry if TSA took it.

While I can’t recommend buying $2 knives in good conscience for most circumstances, quality options such as the Opinel No. 8 recommended above can be had for under $20. If you’re new to knives, start out with something cheaper, definitely under $50, until you develop strong opinions about the pocket knife you prefer.

*Editor’s Note: Adrienne Donica and James Lynch contributed to this article.

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The Savvy Traveler’s Guide to Carrying a Pocket Knife

Travel is an adventure, and in the spirit of the great travelers of old, a trusty pocket knife has always been a part of the essential kit . But in today’s world, where airport security is tight and the term “everyday carry” is peppered with terms like “TSA compliant,” the matter of pocket knives — especially when traveling can be a contentious one.

Is it still relevant to carry a knife on your trips? How do you ensure you’re within legal boundaries? What are the obvious and not-so-obvious uses of a pocket knife while traveling?

This article serves as a practical guide for the savvy traveler on carrying a pocket knife.

TSA and international air travel

Regional laws and customs, uses of a pocket knife in traveling, blade type and size, handle material and durability, additional tools, tips for bringing a pocket knife on trips, conclusions, know the laws.

Pocket knife use outdoors

Before traveling with a pocket knife, it’s crucial to do research on the laws and regulations regarding knife carry in your destination. Laws can vary significantly between countries, states, and even cities. What may be legal to carry in one place could be illegal in another.

Specifically, you should look up specific restrictions on blade length, locking mechanisms, and concealed carry.

For U.S. travelers, the TSA rules are clear — pocket knives must be checked in your luggage, not carried onto the plane. However, international regulations vary greatly, and it’s not safe to assume that what’s allowed in one country will be permissible in another.

A good rule of thumb is that blades should never be more than 2.5 inches in public and preferably not spring-loaded or automized. Be vigilant and adaptable when it comes to transportation security.

Checking the local regulations upon arrival is a smart move. Some regions may prove more pragmatic than others, where a casual “Sorry, I forgot it was in there” might be met with a roll of the eyes, rather than a day spent explaining the incident in a foreign language to local enforcement. In some countries like Hong Kong, carrying a pocket knife is met with a “lock it up” policy.

A pocket knife is a multipurpose tool that can come in handy in numerous situations.

Here are several reasons to have a pocket knife on hand during your travels:

Campfire cooking

  • Food preparation : When enjoying a picnic or preparing a meal while camping, a pocket knife can be used to slice fruits and vegetables, cheese, or bread. It’s especially handy when you don’t have access to kitchen utensils.
  • Outdoor activities : If you’re hiking, camping, or engaging in other outdoor adventures, a pocket knife can assist in cutting rope, trimming branches, and even preparing kindling for a fire.
  • Emergencies : A pocket knife is useful in unforeseen situations, from fixing a malfunctioning zipper to opening containers, cutting tangled ropes, and cutting seatbelts when you experience a car breakdown.
  • Compact companion : The pocket knife serves as a knife, screwdriver, bottle opener, and more, in a single pocketable form. When you’re short on space in your suitcase, having a tool that compresses a whole toolkit into the dimensions of your palm is invaluable.

The multi-faceted nature of this tool makes it highly versatile, and as such, it should be weighed in the balance of any traveler’s “to pack or not to pack” debate.

Choosing the Right Pocket Knife for Traveling

Not all pocket knives are created equal, and the perfect travel companion must be chosen carefully. Here are some factors to consider when selecting the right blade for your escapades.

Opt for a simple, non-threatening blade that is easy to both store and use. A non-serrated, drop or clip point blade is versatile and suitable for most tasks. The ideal size should be middle-of-the-road — anything too long and you’ll have unnecessary trouble, anything too short might not be practical for all your needs.

The handle should be comfortable and durable, as it might be in your hand for longer than just the occasional cut. Lightweight, water-resistant materials like aluminum or G-10 are sturdy without being cumbersome.

Additional tools, while potentially useful, also add weight and complexity. Multi-tools can be great if you anticipate needing the extra features, but for most casual travelers, a good steel blade on its own should be sufficient.

Pocket knife for traveling

  • Know the local laws . Before packing your pocket knife, do a little research about the local laws of your destination to avoid trouble. It’s way better to be in the know than in the no-go.
  • Fly friendly . Remember to stow your blade in your checked luggage unless you want to donate it to airport security.
  • Stay sharp . Like any good traveler knows, keeping your gear in top condition is key to a smooth trip. Make sure your knife is sharp enough to handle tasks but not so sharp that you risk cutting yourself while slicing that impromptu picnic apple. A well-maintained knife is a traveler’s best friend.
  • Use discretion . Be mindful of where and when you use your pocket knife, especially in public spaces or crowded areas. If traveling with companions, make sure they are aware that you have a pocket knife and educate them on its safe handling and use.
  • Consider buying on the spot . If you do not want the cost of checking in a bag, consider buying a pocket knife where you’re going and giving it away before you leave. There are plenty of good pocket knives costing $20 or less.

Does the average backpacker or jetsetter really need a pocket knife  in modern times? The answer is a resounding “maybe.” For some travelers, having a pocket knife is essential in doing various tasks and also represents preparedness and self-sufficiency. A pocket knife definitely still has a place among explorers — the kind who loves cooking with a campfire or slicing an apple atop a windy cliff.

In the end, the decision to carry a pocket knife is a personal one, subject to legality and one’s comfort level.

This article is contributed by an expert guest author.

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Pocket Knife

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Technically, You Can Still Fly with a Pocket Knife. Here’s How

Want to bring your favorite knife on vacation, too? You can! Just follow this advice.

black pocket knife

By Sean Tirman

For many everyday carry enthusiasts , a pocket knife is an essential part of their loadout — so much so that some won’t go anywhere without one. While incredibly useful for numerous everyday tasks, knives do come with some baggage. After all, they’re not just tools. They can also be used as weapons.

There are some occasions and activities in which you might want to reconsider bringing a knife at all — or at least be careful of how you choose to bring your knife along.

One of the major ones is air travel. And while the USA’s TSA (Transportation Security Administration) has brought the hammer down on safety ever since 9/11, you can technically bring a knife on a plane. Here’s how.

1. Don’t try packing in your carry-on

First off: under no circumstances should you try to bring a knife through any TSA security checkpoint on your person. End of story.

The TSA has very strict guidelines regarding any and all sharp objects , and not for no reason . Essentially, it boils down to this: if it’s sharp, you’re not allowed to pack it in your carry-on.

It boils down to this: if it’s sharp, you’re not allowed to pack it in your carry-on.

At the very least, trying to bring a knife through a TSA security checkpoint will get that knife confiscated. However, the surrounding circumstances and the appraisal of the agents (and potentially law enforcement personnel involved) could lead to detainment — and you could even be arrested and charged .

2. What about multi-tools?

“But multi-tools aren’t knives,” you might say. Yes, that’s technically true. But the TSA’s guidelines apply to anything with a sharp edge, and that includes any blade (or sharp implement) that might be attached to, you guessed it, a multi-tool.

red swiss army knife

Furthermore, the rules are up to the interpretation of whatever TSA officer you happen to be dealing with. If your multi-tool (or any other implement) has an awl (a pointed tool traditionally used to pierce holes in leather), a saw, large scissors (those under four inches long are considered okay) or a gut hook (used for fishing purposes), it’s going to be at risk of confiscation.

If the TSA is playing a game of better-safe-than-sorry, so should you.

3. So how then? Just check it

There’s a very simple means of bringing your favorite bladed tools along with you whenever you fly: stashing them in a checked bag .

Because the bags are taken by airline agents and put through separate TSA security checks and not returned to you again until you reach your destination, the rules for what you can stash are different.

leatherman mutli-tool

For instance, you can’t bring alcohol with you through a TSA security checkpoint on your person or in a carry-on. You can, however, put a bottle of booze in your checked luggage. The same goes for knives, tools, and anything other everyday carry implements with sharp edges on them. This includes corkscrews and box cutters, even ice axes, meat cleavers, swords and throwing stars ( you can see the full list here ).

Even if you do bring your knife along with you to wherever you travel, you’re also still at the mercy of the laws local to that area.

You might successfully fly with your favorite automatic OTF knife to California. But if you’re carrying it around with you are breaking the law, and running the risk of escalating whatever interactions you may have with the local police.

Make sure you know the local laws before trying to bring your knife on a trip.

4. International travel is especially tricky

Just as you should know the local laws when traveling between states, that’s doubly true for international travel. Customs, both in the US and when entering other countries, functions much like an extra layer of security.

When traveling into other countries and returning home, you’re required to make certain declarations — ranging from foodstuffs to automobiles and tons in-between. Generally, the rules for what you can bring in and out are even stricter than those upheld by the TSA.

This is all to say that, not only should you know what you can and can’t bring with you, but it may just be better not to try and bring your knife along with you on international travel at all, even in a checked bag — unless you’re absolutely certain that no trouble will come of it.

Just like local travel between states, the risk of being caught with a bladed tool when going through customs can be as light as a slap on the wrist or as severe as indefinite detainment. And that’s a pretty hefty risk vs. reward situation.

5. Buy a TSA-friendly EDC tool

We’ve got one last piece of advice: skip the sneakiness, rule-bending and potentially extensive research and instead pick up some everyday carry gear that was made specifically with travel in mind. Read our full list of TSA-friendly EDC tools .

a hand holding a small black pocket knife

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The Best Pocketknives, According to Experts

travel pocket knife

While you can do a lot with a multi-tool , there are good reasons, in both emergency and everyday settings, to have a dedicated pocketknife . “It tends to be a personal preference,” says John Ramey of the prepper site The Prepared , but many people find that a knife is easier to use when it’s not part of a bulky tool. The Michigan YouTuber known as Prepper Potpourri likes her pocketknife for everyday tasks such as “opening Amazon packages, removing clothing tags, and slicing an apple at work” as well as in a “ survival situation where you have to cut cordage, make tinder for a fire, or even use it for self-defense.” It’s a good addition to your preparedness kit , says Stephanie Fox of the American Red Cross , as long as you follow the safety instructions and keep it away from children. Also, before you carry any kind of blade around, be sure to familiarize yourself with the laws in your area.

There are two basic kinds of pocketknives: folders and fixed blades, with folders being more commonly associated with the classic pocketknife and fixed blades more often used for heavy-duty stuff in the field. Again, it’s a matter of personal preference, but “for everyday carry,” says Ramey, “a folder is fine.” Beyond that, they’re generally categorized by blade (length, shape, and material), locking mechanism (if it is what’s called a “folder”), and handle. Anything less than 2 ¾ inches is considered a small knife, which, if it’s a folder, typically won’t have a locking mechanism and can therefore fold in on itself unexpectedly if used for a heavy task. Since unexpectedly is not a word you want to associate with your knife, a better bet is a medium (2 ¾-inch-to-four-inch) blade. (Anything longer than that is probably more knife than you need.)

Blades are typically plain (for cutting), serrated (for sawing), or a combination (for both) and come in a vast array of shapes, with the most popular being “drop point”: when the blade’s spine slopes down to a point. Stainless-steel blades are easier to sharpen and less likely to rust than carbon-steel blades, which stay sharp longer but rust more easily. Opening mechanisms are either manual, assisted (with a spring), or automatic (like a switchblade, which, again, is probably too much knife for you). Locking mechanisms keep the knife from closing in on itself. There are many types of those, and even more kinds of handles, which are often chosen for aesthetic reasons, but you’ll probably want to look for one that is weather resistant, like aluminum or titanium, or comfortable, like rubber. But all this information only — forgive the pun — scratches the surface, so to help you navigate the vast world of pocketknives, we had six experts, including a couple of our own contributors, point us to their favorites.

Best pocketknives under $50

Coast DX318 Double-Lock Folder Knife

If there’s one thing that Strategist contributor Steven John, an experienced camper, hiker, and mountaineer, has learned it’s that “ you have to have a really good knife .” He thinks you should have several, in fact, and that the Coast DX318, which he calls “one damn sharp knife,” should be one of them. And that goes for both the straight and serrated parts of the blade, which, he reports, have stayed sharp even after heavy use. This nicely priced folder has dual locking mechanisms, so there’s “next to zero risk of its folding shut by accident.”

Buck Knives 286 Bantam BHW Folding Knife With Removable Clip

“The No. 1 issue when using a folder,” says former U.S. Army Special Forces captain and survival expert Mykel Hawke , “is cuts to oneself,” which is why he considers a blade that locks essential. He’s a fan of Buck Knives and prefers one that you can fold back with one hand. This one ticks all those boxes and comes with a lifetime warranty.

Gerber Gear 30-001495N Flatiron Folding Pocketknife Cleaver

Prepper and homesteader Morgan Rogue of Rogue Preparedness uses her pocketknife for “such an array of things.” She advises you to get any “folding knife that speaks to you” but personally carries this Gerber Flatiron pocketknife. Its unique, clever-shaped locking blade is great for both heavy-duty chopping and slicing and close-up, detailed work, like whittling. The thumbhole in the blade makes it quick and easy to open and close with one hand, and the textured handle makes it comfortable to use.

Gerber Gear 31-003941 Ultimate Knife With Fire Starter, Sharpener, and Knife Sheath

Another of John’s must-have knives, the Gerber Bear Grylls Ultimate knife is no longer available, but the newer version, the Gerber Gear 31-003941 Ultimate knife, has all the same features and costs less than half as much. A fixed-blade knife, the Gerber Gear Ultimate has a 4 ¾-inch partially serrated blade, which technically makes it a long knife, but it does double as a fire starter and has a whistle and an integrated sharpener. Plus its rubber handle is easy on your hands.

Kershaw Leek Pocketknife

Prepper Potpourri, or PP, as she’s known, always carries the Leek pocketknife by Kershaw. “I like a thin design that fits easily in my pocket without much of a bulge,” she says. This folder has a three-inch blade made of extra-hard stainless steel as well as a frame lock and assisted opening.

Best pocketknives over $50

Morakniv Garberg Full-Tang Fixed-Blade Knife

Another fixed-blade favorite of John’s, this knife is what’s called “full tang,” which means the metal blade goes all the way through the handle, thus making the knife stronger and more balanced. He likes how sharp it gets — and how sharp it stays through all kinds of tasks, like shaving wood or slicing rope — and its squared-off spine works well with a fire starter. “While this knife looks lovely and all,” he says, “it’s a rugged workhorse of a tool that you can treat as roughly as you want.”

White River Model 1 Knife

Hawke also likes knives from White River, which he calls a “solid brand.” Its ATK (“Always There Knife”) is small, but since it’s a fixed blade, there’s no need for a lock, hence no danger of it folding in on itself. It’s designed to be carried around your neck or attached to your belt, and it’s so light you might forget it’s there. Also, its special sheath allows for drawing and resheathing in either direction.

Benchmade Mini Griptilian Knife

Our contributor Michael Easter loves this knife that a Special Forces operator told him about so much he wrote an ode to it. He carries the Benchmade Mini Griptilian every day and uses it “in tasks both mundane and epic” — everything from slicing apples to “butchering 400-pound caribou on the Arctic tundra,” all while being light enough (three ounces) for everyday carry. He also loves the comfortable, super-grippy handle, which comes in bright colors that are easy to see if you drop it in the field. If it ever dulls, he says, just ship it to Benchmade and it’ll clean, oil, tune, and resharpen it for free.

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Tips for Traveling with Knives in Europe

Tips for Traveling with Knives in Europe

“Can I Bring My Knife to Europe?”

Since I write about travel, and about knives, I receive many emails from readers asking this question. I understand. You always have a knife handy. It’s your basic tool. How do you open packages, or cut anything? How can you get through your day without a knife? What if you need your knife to punch out the window of an overturned bus, or escape from a burning building?

What about that picnic next to the Canal du Midi, or on the train? You don’t want to be reduced to ripping and tearing at salami, cheese and baguettes with teeth and nails. You need your knife. But you don’t know laws and regulations in Europe and you’re a law-abiding person. So can you take your knife with you?

Yes, you can. But there are some things you need to know. In the United States, laws and regulations concerning knives are a confusing patchwork that varies from state to state, town to town, and which sometimes make no sense whatsoever. It is not possible to travel from California to New York with any kind of knife without violating a law or regulation in some place along the way.

Few of those laws and regulations are actually enforced. Enforcement is up to decisions made by an individual police officer. Those decisions will vary from officer to officer, and most importantly, according to his perception of you and the situation.

European Knife Regulations: A Primer

Folding knives legal in Europe

It is similar in Europe. The European Union is made up of almost 30 countries, each with its own laws, customs and regulations, which like in the United States, can seem confusing and senseless. As in the Unites States, enforcement of those laws and regulations is dependent upon the decisions of the individual police officer or security person.

I’ve worked and traveled in Europe for decades, and lived there for the past 10 years. I’ve written for BLADE Magazine and for the KNIVES annual book for almost 20 years, and have written two books on knives: The Tactical Knife and Survival Knives . As a result, I’ve met many folks in the European knife community—knifemakers, bushcraft enthusiasts, and so on.

I know many people who work in the security services and police departments in many European countries, and have talked with them about travelers carrying knives . What follows are my personal experiences and opinions based on traveling and living in almost every country in the European Union, and some that are not members of the Union. I am not a lawyer. I offer no legal advice.

German Knife Laws

Some examples of regulations concerning knives in Europe: In Germany a person may not carry on his person any folding knife with a locking blade. He can, however, carry a fixed blade up to 3½ inches long.

French Knife Laws

Legal knives in France

In France a person may not carry on his person any object that can be, or is, used as a weapon. That includes France’s famous Opinel or Laguiole knives, which are national icons and are in the pockets of every third Frenchman.

Spanish Knife Laws

What knives are legal in Spain?

Spain has considerable history as a knife culture and has knives of all kinds available for purchase pretty much everywhere – including village bars, and a confusing morass of regulations that my friends, who are Spanish police officers, cannot understand or explain.

UK Knife Laws

What knives are legal to carry in the UK?

In the United Kingdom, there was a recent attempt to prohibit chef’s knives from having a point. That regulation did not pass.

My understanding of the current UK laws is that you must have a reason to have a knife, such as being a carpenter. Locking folders are not allowed. Bushcrafters carrying fixed blades while on the way to do some bushcraft seem to get a pass.

Danish Knife Laws

In Denmark a person may not have any folding knife with a blade lock, or that opens with one hand. Wait! That regulation was just changed. Locking folders are OK now, for today.

European Knife Laws by Region

Attitudes about knives also vary by region. Eastern Europe, the Balkans and Turkey are much more liberal about knives than in Western Europe. I’ll delve more into that later.

European Knife Law Tips

Legal European knives

What’s a European traveler to do? How could anyone know or conform to all of the different laws and regulations while traveling through four or five countries? You cannot. So, you have two choices:

  • Choose not to carry a knife.
  • Use some common sense.

You can stop reading now if you select choice number one.

ML (my wife and companion of many adventures) and I always travel in Europe (and every place else) with knives, carrying at least two each, and often more. We frequently rent holiday apartments and live for a month or so in various places where we shop, cook and settle in to experience local life. The kitchens in those apartments never have usable knives.

Common Sense and European Knife Laws

We also teach survival and bushcraft classes during which we make shelters, primitive tools and so on. During the past year I’ve been attacked twice by feral dog packs in the Balkans. On one occasion I had no stick and my knife was my only defense. Often I’m toting a half-dozen or so knives that I’m reviewing for various publications. We need our knives.

Many Americans we meet traveling in Europe also need their knives, the ones who have knives. In addition to the practical everyday uses of a knife and its indispensable use in disasters, a blade can provide steely comfort in a dark and lonely place, and not only from dog packs.

A young American woman, a solo world traveler I wrote about in my recent book, Essential Survival Gear , used her J.A. Henckels paring knife for daily camp chores while hiking in coastal mountains in Turkey, and was glad to have her little blade one night when a crowd of drunken men made her very uncomfortable.

A retired American who I met in Romania used his Benchmade 710 to cut the fuel line on his BMW motorcycle while doing some repairs, and for frequent picnics, and one dark night to confront two muggers, who then decided to find easier prey. Potentially violent incidents like this are rare. Europe in general is safe for travelers, arguably more so than in the United States. But hey, you never know.

So how do I and other folks travel in and through European countries with knives and not run afoul of the law? We do so by using common sense and being sensible in our selection of knives, and by not doing stupid things such as going to a sketchy bar, getting drunk, hitting on a local girl, and when her boyfriend, also drunk, forcefully objects, waving a knife around and threatening him.

In Spain I saw three guys passing a bottle of wine and a folding knife around, cutting bread and cheese while picnicking at the beach. It was all good, except they were talking loudly, arguing with each other and annoying the folks around them. When one fellow politely objected to their behavior, one of the idiots grabbed the knife, shook it at the follow and yelled, “Allahu Akbar!” Then he collapsed laughing, as did his friends.

This incident didn’t end well. Personal demeanor, behavior and appearance affect how a person is perceived and treated by security people, and everyone else.

Choosing Knives to Bring to Western Europe

As to knife selection, attitudes in Western Europe regarding knives and security have changed considerably in recent years due to many terrorist attacks, some of which have been carried out with knives. As a consequence, although not yet common, there are security checks in some Western European train and bus stations, and of course in all airports.

We’ve never encountered a security check at an Eastern European train or bus station. If you encounter one of these security checks and have a black, 10-inch blade with “Zombie Killer” etched in steel and stuffed into your waistband, it will not endear you to the security people.

When ML and I travel, in Western Europe or elsewhere, we each always have a tiny folder with a locking blade of about 2 inches on our persons and a small fixed blade in our bags. These knives look inoffensive and have caused no alarms with security people, or anyone else. Probably folders with blades a bit larger, single blade or multi-bladed, such as small Swiss Army Knives, would also be seen as inoffensive.

Most regulations address carrying a knife on the person, with knives in bags being considered differently. Security people also seem to see a difference between carrying on your person and in a bag. Maybe not in all instances, but this has been our experience. I’ve never seen a knife in a day bag with bread and cheese and other picnic things, whether my knife or someone else’s, cause scrutiny.

Our tiny folders are for everyday tasks, sometimes including food preparation when we don’t care to get out our fixed blades. ML can girdle a baguette and reduce it to slices in less than a minute with her Spyderco Cricket . My Spyderco Dragonfly will slice salami, cheese, tomatoes and so on about as well as my fixed blade. They will also serve in an emergency, if you know what you’re doing.

These little folders and others in the same size range or a bit larger are convenient everyday carry knives. We use the fixed blades in our kitchens, for field work and in emergency situations. I also carry a small red-handle Swiss Army Knife (SAK) with a locking main blade and the all-important corkscrew. We add to this selection if needed, say, a machete in the tropics.

Our day bags are also our ready bags, or bug-out bags, and are always with us. Our fixed blades have much daily utility and will serve in an emergency, such as having to cut through a locked steel fire door to escape a high-rise fire, serve as a climbing aid to escape freezing water, or fend off a pack of feral dogs.

I’ve done all of these things and know that, if needed, our fixed blades will provide us with a measure of protection.

Western European Security Checks, Police Searches and Knives

We’ve only ever been questioned about our knives during a few security checks. Before boarding a high-speed train in Barcelona, we put our bags through the X-ray machine and walked through the metal detector. One of the security officers asked if I had a knife. I said I did. He asked to see it. I first took out my Spyderco Dragonfly, intending to next get my Fallkniven F1 out of my bag. The security guy looked at the little Dragonfly, smiled, and said, “Oh never mind. It’s so little. Just put it back in your pocket.” He waved us through and said nothing about my F1, or ML’s Sypderco Cricket and Fred Perrin Street Beat.

Knives Legal in Western Europe

Clearly, he made his evaluation based on our appearance and behavior, as well as our choice of knives. On another occasion, while disembarking from a bus in Lyon, France, we encountered an intensive security check due to an alert that a terrorist suspect might be on our bus. Results were the same as in Barcelona, as they have been on other occasions. European police, like American police, evaluate the person and the situation when making a decision. We do not appear to be a threat, nor do our knives. When asked, we give a straightforward explanation of why we have knives, and have had no problems.

Carrying Knives in Eastern Europe, the Balkans and Turkey

In Eastern Europe, the Balkans and Turkey, attitudes concerning knives are very different. Full-size tactical folders are popular for everyday carry, and no one seems alarmed by them. Fixed blades that are 6 to 10 inches long are preferred for field activities, hunting, backpacking and so on, and for use in villages to do everyday village things, such as killing pigs and goats.

Traveling with knives in Eastern Europe

I asked a friend, who is a Bulgarian undercover cop, what the laws were governing carrying knives in Bulgaria, and what the police attitude was. I also explained the regulations in Western Europe. He said, “We don’t concern ourselves with such silly things as that. We don’t care what kind of knife you have. But, if someone attacks and harms another person with a knife, or any weapon, then we do care.”

A former Czech special forces officer now in a civilian security service said much the same thing.

Tactical folders in Europe

We’ve only been questioned about knives in the East once, at Ataturk Airport in Istanbul. Going through first layer security at the entrance to the airport, I tossed a bag on the counter containing a kindjal, a yatagan, a 10-inch bowie , and a half-dozen or so tactical folders and fixed-blade survival knives, all for field work and photography for articles and books.

The security guy said, “You have quite a few knives in your bag.”

“Yes,” I replied, “I do.”

“You’re going to check them, not carry them on, right?”

“Of course.”

“Have a nice day.”

Obviously we check all knives before boarding a commercial aircraft.

Trust Your Internal Compass

If you like to drink and hang out in sketchy bars and clubs, leave your knife in your room. Don’t try to use your knife as a weapon, except in extreme circumstances when your own life is actually at stake. Doing so is considered lethal force everywhere, and you will have to defend your actions. Again, use common sense. You have an internal compass that points in the right direction. Pay attention to it. This approach has worked for us. Your results may vary. No guarantee is offered or implied.

Get the Most Out of Your European Trip

Before your trip, use the Internet to locate knife shows. There are many all over Europe. Attend one.

Perhaps visit one of the famous knife-producing towns: Thiers, France; Solingen, Germany; and Maniago, Italy. You’ll meet friendly people with a common interest. Do go. You’ll have a great time. Bon voyage.

Keep Learning About Knife Laws — in the United States

Knife Laws of the United States

NEXT STEP: Download Your Free KNIFE GUIDE Issue of BLADE Magazine

Copied on the police’s website and Google translated a bit about what applies in Sweden. “It is forbidden to have knives, stabbing weapons, cutting weapons and other dangerous objects in a public place, within school grounds or in a vehicle in a public place unless the possession is justified. The prohibition applies to objects that are intended to be used as weapons in crimes against life or health. ”

“Examples of exceptions to the ban: (when can possession be considered justified)

Military carrying knife for uniform Craftsman using knife at work Mushroom pickers who carry a suitable knife during hiking”

If you are traveling in Europe, take the opportunity to visit one of the knife events. On the European Blades website there is a list of some ( http://www.europeanblades.com ). As I work with Knife Expo 2024, Vadstena, Sweden, I know how much fun it is with long-distance guests. Therefore, I welcome everyone both to us and to all other events.

I wish that had been my experience flying in Turkey! I bought a beautiful Turkish dagger with a Damascus steel blade and a carved wooden horse head as the hilt at the Grand Bazaar, and an airport security officer confiscated it for being “too sharp” — even though of course I was checking it, not attempting to carry it on. He really just stole it but I had no recourse to get it back.

You are completely wrong for Germany. For normal daily carry :- Fixed blade knives up to 12cm are allowed except daggers and karambits (knives specifically classed as weapons by law or by the federal police BKA). Locking (and of course non-locking) folding knives have no restriction on size at all as long as they do not have any kind of one hand opening aid. Other knives not allowed as daily carry are allowed with good reasons such as the massive daggers used by hunters which otherwise fall in the weapons category.

Heathrow City Transfer is your ideal solution if you’re concerned about traveling from the airport to your final destination during your visit to London. They are a professional company specializing in airport transfers and port transfers for cruises.

The short summary of German laws near the beginning are false.

GERMAN KNIFE LAWS: LEGAL CARRY

Knives that can be legally possessed and carried:

Fixed blades with blade length under 12 cm (4.72 in.) can be carried visible or concealed. The measurement is taken from the tip to the most forward parts of the scales, the length of the sharp edge is not important. Folding knives that can be opened with one hand and do not lock the blade. Folding knives that ca be opened with two hands only and lock the blade.

I will be in Switzerland this summer and want to buy some knives while there. Will they cause a problem in my carry on or should I have them shipped?

To leave certainly no problem, the knives offered in stores are legal to buy and carry in Switzerland. Exceptions are automatic knives, butterflys, fixed daggers, but these are not offered. Klotzli in Bern is a good adress.

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The 6 Best Multi-tools for Travel, Tested and Reviewed

We put 30 multi-tools to the test to find the best ones you can take on the go.

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In This Article

  • Our Top Picks
  • Others We Liked

Our Testing Process

  • Tips For Buying
  • Why Trust T+L

Travel + Leisure / Brian Kopinski

Whether you need a pocket knife to whittle sticks on a camping trip, a hex wrench to adjust your seat on a bike trip, or a screwdriver for a quick fix at home, nothing beats having a good multi-tool on hand. We tested 30 multi-tools to search for the best ones to travel with — testing for performance, ease of use, features, value, and durability. We even performed a drop test to make sure there was no damage after the multi-tools fell onto a concrete floor from hip height.

“The type of multi-tool you choose will vary greatly depending on what you need to use it for,” says Kevin Boyle, senior design editor at Wood Magazine , noting there are specialty multi-tools for everything from gardening to camping. But, while multi-tools are indeed multi-talented, they are meant to complement your toolbox, not replace it. “Multi-tools aren’t made to be comparable to regular full-size tools,” Boyle says. “They are best for simple, everyday tasks.”

Out of the 30 multi-tools we tested, our favorites featured a variety of tools in pocket-size formats to take on the go. We found tools that would be best for camping, cycling trips, keychain attachments, and more. No matter where you are traveling, these multi-tools will help you be prepared for anything.

Best Overall

Leatherman wave+.

It offers an excellent range of tools that are intuitive and effective.

Although it is small in size, it’s too bulky to actually tuck in a pocket.

Leatherman has long been known as a leader in multi-tool manufacturing, and the 18-tool Wave Plus continues this trend. Even with 18 tools, nothing seemed unnecessary or out of place. We found the handles to offer a good grip, and while we wouldn’t exactly call it a comfortable grip, it’s easy to use in one hand. We found the tools and blades are easy to open and use, including the locking mechanisms. We did notice that to access some of the tools you have to open others, which can seem a bit unwieldy at first, but it’s easy to get used to. The tools are mostly intuitive, though we needed help from Google to ensure we were using the bottle opener properly. The pliers were particularly effective, though for some of the other tools, we’d prefer to reach for a full-size, stand-alone tool instead.

While it is indeed pocket-size, we found it too heavy and bulky to keep in a pocket, so it’s better to hang from a belt. It survived our drop test with flying colors, so you can feel confident about carrying it during travel . We thought the quality and performance were well worth the price; in fact, we might consider paying more for such a sturdy and useful multi-tool.

The Details: 1.2 x 0.7 x 4 inches (closed length) | 8.5 ounces | 18 tools

Travel + Leisure / Henry Wortock

Best for Camping

Gerber gear truss.

It’s a compact tool that has 17 features for various camping uses and can be stored safely.

It doesn’t have a corkscrew.

Packing for a camping trip requires careful strategy, so your multi-tool needs to be as light and compact as possible. Even with an impressive 17 tools to its credit, the pocket-size Gerber Gear Truss more than fits the bill. This multi-tool is built for travel: one of us that participated in testing even keeps one in our car for easy access while on the road. But packability isn’t its only superpower. The tools are the main star, and they are as intuitive as they are effective. The pliers are sturdy and the blades are quite sharp on the saw, knife, wirecutter blade, and scissors, which all stow easily. The “titanium-like” finish made the tools survive our drop test without a scratch, and while the knives did come out a little bit on impact, there was no danger or damage.

Even if you’re just an occasional camper, this is a worthy tool to have on hand. The 17 tools are curated well — including a bottle opener for drinks, though we would love the addition of a corkscrew — and are a great value for the price.

The Details: 1.75 x 0.5 x 4.35 inches (closed length) | 8.4 ounces | 17 tools

Best for Cycling

Topeak mini 18+ multi-tool.

It’s got everything you need for quick fixes on a bike trip.

Non-cyclists should look to other multi-tools for more features and functions.

A compact yet well-stocked tool bag is a must-have for every cyclist, which is why the right multi-tool comes in clutch for those long rides. With this 20-function multi-tool from Topeak, you need not worry about fixing a flat tire or adjusting your seat and can just focus on the open road. We found that each tool opened and closed easily, though none lock in place. While it doesn’t have blades, scissors, or pliers, it has enough hex wrenches to save a cyclist’s day . There’s also tire level and a chain repair tool so you can keep on riding. It’s compact enough to fit in a front pant pocket, but it’s made to stow in a bag beneath your bike seat. It’s also quite durable, with no discernable damage during our shock test.

This is indeed a tool made for cyclists: in fact, if you’re not a road warrior, you won’t get much use out of this except for the screwdrivers and bottle opener. It’s a good option for beginning riders still getting the hang of certain tools, though we noticed the manual is small enough to pack along with the tool.

The Details: 3.2 x 1.7 x 0.8 inches (closed length) | 6.4 ounces | 20 tools

Best Splurge

Leatherman free p4 multi-tool.

It has a great variety of tools that are sturdy enough for home improvement projects.

The longevity isn't as great as we would hope for a tool this expensive.

Another Leatherman multi-tool makes our list — and for good reason. The tools are easy to lock and unlock, though we observed that it’s better to use both hands to open and close it completely. The tools are sturdy and sharp: there are two blades sharp enough for sawing, a pocketknife perfect for whittling, and two sharp scissors. We found that the pliers grip well and can easily snip through plastic and wire. We also liked that there are both flat and Phillips screwdrivers.

The Leatherman name speaks for itself and so does this particular multi-tool, which we think is durable enough even to use for home improvement projects. If you’re handy at home or need to be while on the go, this is a great tool that’s worth the price. All told, we were impressed with the variety and effectiveness of the tools. Yes, this is the priciest selection on our best multi-tools list, but we definitely think it’s worth the splurge, especially if you travel often.

The Details: 5.38 x 7 x 1.25 inches (closed length) | 12 ounces | 21 tools

Wetols 21-in-1 Multi-Tool

With 21 tools to choose from, you’ll be hard-pressed not to find a feature you need.

The plier cutters aren’t as sharp as we’d like.

Don’t let the budget-friendly price fool you: we found this 21-feature multi-tool to be sturdy and useful yet compact for travel. We prefer to keep it in a pouch — which can hold additional screw bits — on the belt strap, but it can fit in a front pocket as well. Take your time exploring all the features of this multi-tool, which felt heavy yet comfortable in our hand during testing. Among the numerous fold-out tools are a blade for cutting wood, flathead and Phillips screw bits, and a bottle opener. We found most of the tools effective, though the rope threads got stuck in the plier cutters when we attempted a cut. It survived our shock test without any damage, so it’s as durable as some of the pricier ones on our list. It’s hard to believe this nifty little gadget is so affordable, and it’s totally worth buying one to have on hand for fixing things in a pinch.

The Details: 4.88 x 2.44 x 1.65 inches (closed length) | 11.8 ounces | 21 tools

Best Keychain

Gerber gear dime multi-tool.

It’s compact and the tools stow very easily.

The blades could be sharper and there’s no Phillips screwdriver.

We were impressed with the overall effectiveness and durability of this mini multi-tool from Gerber Gear. It might be one of the smallest tools on our list, but it’s mighty, having survived our shock test without a scratch. While this tool is compact and lightweight enough to keep on a keychain, the tradeoff is that some of the tools are so small that they don’t offer enough leverage to be truly effective. There’s no Phillips screwdriver, so keep that in mind if you plan to use your multi-tool mostly for driving screws. There’s no locking mechanism, but everything stows away easily without any sharp edges (in fact, we found the blades and the wire cutter to be a bit dull). At just $29, it’s a budget-friendly tool to keep handy, though those who reach for a multi-tool more often might prefer to use this as a backup option rather than the primary tool.

The Details: 2.75 x 4 x 0.6 inches (closed length) | 2.2 ounces | 12 tools

Other Multi-tools We Liked

There were some other multi-tools we found useful during testing, although we found some minor issues that prevented them from being on our main list.

Rak Hammer Multi-tool : If you’re in the market for a multi-tool with a hammer, this is a budget-friendly option. However, the very feature we love makes it too large to store easily, making this a poor option for air travel — but it could work for a road trip.

Leatherman Skeletool Lightweight Multi-tool : This multi-tool is super light at just five ounces. It scored well during testing, but it didn’t have as many useful tools and features as some of the others on our list.

RoverTac Camping Essentials 14-in-1 Survival Tool : While we appreciated the hatchet for use during camping and other outdoor activities, this feature made it far less portable than the other travel-friendly multi-tools on our list.

Our team of experts tried out 30 multi-tools. First, we evaluated the design and ease of access, noting the arrangement of each tool, how safe it was to open/close any blades or knives, and how easy it was to engage/disengage the locking mechanism. For pocket-size tools, we paid attention to how easy or challenging it was to tuck them away in an actual pocket. When testing larger ones, we clipped them to keychains, backpacks, and tool belts as alternative storage options.

We then put each device through its paces, trying out each tool for its dedicated task: for example, we used the screwdrivers on the multi-tools to tighten a screw into a piece of wood and the pliers to snip a piece of wire. Next came the shock test, in which each multi-tool was dropped from hip height to simulate it falling out of a pocket. We then noted whether each multi-tool’s construction or function was damaged in any way.

We made our final selections for this best multi-tools list based on performance, ease of use, features, durability, and overall value.

Tips for Buying

Be mindful of size and weight.

Comfort of use is important when choosing a multi-tool, so you don’t want yours to be too large or heavy. If it hurts your hand to use it, it’s not the one for you, says Boyle of Wood Magazine . He also recommends looking for features like spring-loaded pliers that make it simple for you to operate with just one hand.

Think about the features you’ll need

Your multi-tool will only be as useful as you find the individual tools to be, so keep in mind what features and functions you’ll want yours to have. Boyle recommends choosing a multi-tool at least with a knife , pliers or wire cutters, and a screwdriver (both Phillips and flathead). “Some multi-tools have way too many tools that are not necessary or useful for everyday use,” Boyle says.

Above all, make sure the blade locking mechanism is easy to use and that the rest of the features are intuitive. Boyle says it’s a good thing if you can figure out how to use each tool without consulting the manual.

Pay attention to materials

Boyle recommends stainless steel-constructed multi-tools to prevent rusting, though plastic is another good option. Proper storage is key to ensure that your multi-tool is protected from the elements and impact.

Frequently Asked Questions

It depends on the multi-tool’s design. The TSA prefers that you don’t keep any sharp objects in your carry-on bags, which will preclude you from boarding a plane with a multi-tool that has a knife or blade of any length. However, if your multi-tool has scissors instead of a blade, you can keep it in your carry-on as long as the scissors are four inches or shorter in length. In general, you can pack multi-tools in checked bags, which might be your best bet to avoid any delays in the security line, or worse, having your multi-tool confiscated.

While no state (at the time of writing) will bar you from owning a multi-tool, the carry laws will vary, particularly if your multi-tool has a blade. Typically, you can carry a multi-tool if it has a blade that’s four inches or shorter in length. You’ll need to check with your own state’s laws regarding open vs. concealed carry of multi-tools, as some features are perceived as weapons and can indeed be used as such. Above all, common sense prevails if you plan to carry your multi-tool.

Why Trust Travel + Leisure

For this story, Barbara Bellesi Zito reviewed insights from our Travel + Leisure editors with an eye toward the most user-friendly and travel-friendly options in multi-tools. For professional insight on the most effective features, she consulted Kevin Boyle, senior design editor at Wood Magazine .

Love a great deal? Sign up for our T+L Recommends newsletter and we’ll send you our favorite travel products each week.

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Years after Idaho college students were stabbed to death, judge eyes 2025 trial for suspect

Image

FILE - Bryan Kohberger, right, is escorted into a courtroom for a hearing in Latah County District Court, Sept. 13, 2023, in Moscow, Idaho. Attorneys for Kohberger, the man charged with stabbing four University of Idaho students to death, are expected to ask a judge to move the trial away from the rural college town where the killings occurred. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, Pool, File)

FILE - A flyer seeking information about the killings of four University of Idaho students who were found dead is displayed on a table along with buttons and bracelets on Nov. 30, 2022, during a vigil in memory of the victims in Moscow, Idaho. Attorneys for Bryan Kohberger, the man charged with stabbing four University of Idaho students to death, are expected to ask a judge to move the trial away from the rural college town where the killings occurred. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

FILE - A private security officer sits in a vehicle on Jan. 3, 2023, in front of the house in Moscow, Idaho where four University of Idaho students were killed in November 2022. The house was demolished in 2023. Attorneys for Bryan Kohberger, the man charged with stabbing four University of Idaho students to death, are expected to ask a judge to move the trial away from the rural college town where the killings occurred. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

FILE - Sunlight breaks through trees as heavy equipment works to demolish the final pieces of the foundation of the house where four University of Idaho students were killed in 2022 on Thursday, Dec. 28, 2023, in Moscow, Idaho. Students Ethan Chapin, Xana Kernodle, Madison Mogen and Kaylee Goncalves were fatally stabbed there in November 2022. Attorneys for Bryan Kohberger, the man charged with stabbing the four students to death, are expected to ask a judge to move the trial away from the rural college town where the killings occurred. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

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It could be another year or more before a man accused in the 2022 stabbing deaths of four University of Idaho students goes to trial.

A judge and attorneys discussed Thursday starting Bryan Kohberger’s trial sometime in June 2025, nearly three years after the killings shocked the small university town.

Idaho Judge John Judge said he wants to set aside two weeks for jury selection, two months for the trial and two weeks at the end for sentencing and other matters if Kohberger is convicted.

“I think already we’re about 13 months from the arraignment, and I think at this point ... we’re getting to a point of diminishing returns,” Judge said after he sent a proposed schedule to attorneys last Friday.

Lawyers for both sides generally agreed with the schedule.

A motion to move the trial from Moscow, Idaho — the small college town where students were killed — was tabled until August. Kohberger’s attorneys fear publicity would prevent a fair trial in Latah County.

Kohberger, a former criminal justice student at Washington State University in nearby Pullman, Washington, faces four counts of murder in the deaths of Ethan Chapin, Xana Kernodle, Madison Mogen and Kaylee Goncalves.

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They were killed sometime in the early morning hours of Nov. 13, 2022, in a rental house not too far from the University of Idaho campus.

Police arrested Kohberger six weeks later at his parents’ home in Pennsylvania, where he was spending winter break.

Investigators said they linked Kohberger to the crime using DNA found on a knife sheath at the scene, surveillance videos and cellphone data .

Kohberger’s defense lawyers have said in court documents that he was out driving alone the night of the killings, something he did often. They also intend to call a witness in cellphone and cell tower data to show that the night of the deaths, he did not travel east of the main road connecting Pullman and Moscow.

Prosecutors said they will seek the death penalty if Kohberger is convicted.

Thiessen reported from Anchorage, Alaska.

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