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The 13 Best Pocket Knives, Tested and Reviewed

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Photo by Hayley Helms for Gear Patrol

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A decent pocket knife can be practical but a great one will be indispensable.

There’s no questioning the utility of a good pocket knife. You don’t have to be a wilderness survivalist or a working handyman to appreciate one, either. A sharp blade has a broad range of everyday applications, from opening packages to harvesting herbs from your backyard garden.

But pocket knives number in the tens of thousands, and choosing one that balances features with your needs can be tricky. Is the knife for work? For camping? For collecting? Is it a gift? The answer will determine which pocket knife is right for you.

To compile this guide, we tested knives for months on a range of tasks that included opening delivery boxes to making fires in the backcountry.Photo by Scott Seiver for Gear Patrol

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with buying one for looks, though you’ll still want to consider its size, weight, blade shape and the characteristics of its steel. You’ll also want to research local laws, which regulate what type of knife you can legally carry where you live.

How We Tested

Our testers combine for decades of experience reviewing pocket knives. Before any update to this story, they test knives for months on tasks that range from opening packages to shaving wood chips in the backcountry to simulate a survival scenario.

Testing the CRKT Pilar III, our pick for the best overall pocket knife in 2024.Photo by Hayley Helms for Gear Patrol

Factors they looked at when determining the best pocket knives include the size of both the overall knife and the blade itself; the difficulty of maintenance (like sharpening and cleaning); overall practicality; and even ergonomics.

Learn more about our testing process and methodology for evaluating products.

Best Overall Pocket Knife

Blade HQ

CRKT and knife designer Jesper Voxnaes named the Pilar after the boat that Ernest Hemingway used to monitor German U-boats in the Caribbean during World War II. But it’s not its backstory that makes it a fantastic pocket knife for nearly any application, it’s the well-balanced combination of materials and form.

The original Pilar had a cleaver-like blade, which CRKT smoothed out on newer variations to finer points. If you’re looking for the newest version of the Pilar, the CRKT Pilar IV is the latest generation. That said, we like the Pilar III, which boasts the same D2 steel for the blade, as well as a combination G10 and stainless steel handle — for a 30 percent discount.

The difference between the Pilar III (pictured) and Pilar IV is mostly aesthetic, which makes the former a great overall option that won’t break the bank.Photo by Hayley Helms for Gear Patrol

Our testers found the Pilar III can withstand a ton of abuse before it needs resharpening. Other features they discovered worth highlighting include a thumb slot for one-handed opening, a frame lock for safe usage and a G10 handle plus an oversized choil for a solid grip.

No, it’s not the most affordable pocket knife out there but go any cheaper and you’ll start to sacrifice the characteristics that make it a great one.

Read our in-depth review of the CRKT Pilar III.

Best Upgrade Pocket Knife


The James Brand The Carter

Start seeking higher-quality pocket knives and you’ll quickly find yourself confronted with very expensive steel. High-end knives can cost hundreds of dollars, and while many of those blades are great, you don’t have to pay so much to get something premium that’ll last for years. That’s what makes The Carter a great upgrade and a gateway into the world of luxe knives.

The Carter is a gorgeous combination of design and quality material, without the mega price tag some higher-end knives come with. Photo by Hayley Helms for Gear Patrol

So what do you get for a little extra chas? For one, sleek, styled-out aesthetics are a result of a clean form factor and machined handle scales available in materials like G10 and micarta. Then there’s the drop-point blade, which opens with a thumb disc and secures with a smooth sliding switch lock.

The Carter is also made of VG-10, a high-end steel that’s low maintenance thanks to excellent corrosion resistance and edge retention, which means you can use it freely without fear of messing up something you just spent a wad of cash on.

Best Pocket Knife for Camping

Blade HQ

Benchmade Bugout

Backpackers and serious campers prize ultralight gear but it has to stand up to heavy use. The Bugout makes that grade. Benchmade has made it in various constructions over the years, but the standard is with a Grivory handle and CPM-S30V drop-point blade that operates on the company’s sliding AXIS lock.

The whole thing weighs just 1.85 ounces and yet the 3.24-inch blade is plenty hefty to handle any number of trail tasks. If you want to go even lighter, check out the 1.5-ounce Mini Bugout, which has a 2.8-inch blade.

This knife would not be available in 20 different variations if it weren’t damn good. Photo by Sean Tirman for Gear Patrol

Our tester, who loved this knife for its impressive balance of durability and portability, thought it worth pointing out that, even if you don’t intend to go hiking with it, the Bugout is still an exceptional EDC knife that never ceases to impress.

Best Urban EDC Pocket Knife


WESN Allman

One of the most unique EDC knives to come out in the last few years, the minimalist WESN Allman stands out from the crowd thanks to its wide blade silhouette — an extremely unusual but welcome diversion from the typical point-favoring designs of other blades.

The Allman is stout but nimble. Photo by Sean Tirman for Gear Patrol

Along with that instantly recognizable profile, this stout knife also benefits from a sturdy and reliable frame lock, your choice of titanium or G10 handle scales, and a high-end S35VN blade steel.

Best Budget Pocket Knife


Opinel No. 8

Opinel’s folding No. 8 is about as simple as a pocket knife gets. It has a 3.25-inch steel blade, a wooden handle and a signature rotating collar that locks it open or closed.

Nevertheless, the knife has become an icon since its release in 1890 and it’s remarkably handsome despite an apparent lack of over-the-top features. You can get one with a carbon steel blade or with premium wood handles — all of them are nearly as affordable.

The No. 8 is the ideal companion for a picnic or lunch post-hike. The blade is thin but incredibly sharp. Photo by Hayley Helms for Gear Patrol

According to our tester, this knife proves time and time again that you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to get something you’ll return to time and time again. They loved it and think you will too, especially with such a small investment.

Read our full review of the Opinel No. 8.

Best Keychain Pocket Knife


The James Brand The Elko

The best pocket knife in the world is no good to you if you don’t have it on you, and that’s the best case for owning one that can fit on a keychain. That doesn’t mean tiny knives are always useful but the elegant Elko sure is.

Yes, it’s teeny — but TJB designed the Elko to be just as useful as a full-sized knife. Photo by Steve Mazzucchi for Gear Patrol

Its Sandvik 12C27 stainless steel blade is notable for its hardness, wear-resistance and edge retention, while the keyring loop is cleverly designed for prying, scraping, twisting screws and opening bottles. These features add up to a knife that feels much larger than something the size of a flash drive.

Our tester found that the Elko really does fit comfortably on a keychain — which meant for him, it was on hand whenever he needed to tackle any little cutting or prying (or bottle opening) jobs. While it is a non-locking blade, it does “tighten” at 90 degrees and 180 degrees (fully open), providing a bit of extra security. What really stands out, though, is that he machining is precise and the materials are solid, instilling a lot of confidence in a blade that’s less than two inches long.

Best Multi-Tool Pocket Knife


Leatherman Free K4

Leatherman’s known for multi-tools that put pliers front and center, but its relatively new Free K tools put all emphasis on the blade in a way that other multi-tools just don’t.

The K4 boasts a 3.3-inch sheepsfoot blade made of 420HC steel. Embedded in its handle are some smaller, highly useful functions that fill in on jobs where a knife’s not enough — the list includes a pry tool, package opener, awl, bottle opener and three screwdriver heads. All of them swivel open smoothly with one hand thanks to magnetic integration.

Our tester fashioned his own custom-made clip after the original K4’s gave out.Photo by Linda Mazzucchi for Gear Patrol

Our tester keeps his K4 on his belt, so it’s ready whenever he needs it. He does a lot of handyman work — hanging off ladders and such — and the K4 makes it easy to have one hand free. It’s great for small jobs; the scissors work well, and the serration on the blade is good for thicker materials that need a bit of sawing.

One downside is that Leatherman doesn’t offer replacement clips on its website, so when our tester’s gave out, he had to make his own. He said it would be easy enough to replace if Leatherman offered the clip for customers to make their own repairs.

Best Swiss Army Knife


Victorinox Mountaineer

All Swiss Army Knives are classic in their own way, so picking a favorite is a bit like splitting hairs. The prize goes to the Mountaineer, which packs 18 functions in half as many implements.

Despite its outdoorsy name, this SAK is among Victorinox’s most versatile: it has two knife blades, can and bottle openers, multiple screwdrivers, a sewing tool, scissors, file, toothpick, tweezers, corkscrew and more.

Other SAK models can get remarkably bulky but this one is still small enough to remain practical for your pocket.

Best Classic Pocket Knife


Case Mini Trapper

Let’s be real: a lot of modern pocket knives are ugly. They’re overly tactical or practical, sacrificing looks for fully-loaded function. Case Knives, a company that dates back to the 1800s, continues to produce patterns that reflect that heritage.

The Mini Trapper is a perfect example — its side-by-side, double-blade construction includes a 2.75-inch clip-point and spey-point blades (the latter a shape not often produced in new designs). It’s available with a variety of handles, from bone to colorful synthetics.

Each one comes with Case’s unique tang stamp, denoting the year it was produced in for an added element of collectibility.

Best Super-Steel Pocket Knife


Quiet Carry Waypoint G10

Quiet Carry built this deceitfully straightforward folding knife with some of the best materials available. That includes a blade made of Vanax SuperClean, a type of steel that’s highly resistant to corrosion and wear and is considered among a distinguished category known as “super steel.”

Quiet Carry also gave it marine-grade hardware to match that rust resistance too, and handles made of G10 or steel are available in multiple colors and finishes.

This knife might seem expensive at a glance, but it should be a good deal more expensive based on what it can do and what it’s made of.

Best Premium EDC Pocket Knife


Benchmade 940 Osborne

For most folks, carrying a $200+ pocket knife around is a non-starter. After all, these are tools meant to be used and not simply fashion accessories to be carried for the clout. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t workhorse knives in that price range that beg to be used, and the Benchmade Osborne is exactly that.

Despite the high price tag, the Benchmade Osbourne begs to be used.Photo By Scott Seiver for Gear Patrol

This legendary cutting tool, designed by the late Warren Osborne, is certainly high-end, but it also has the durability and reliability to survive just about any punishment you can toss at it. With a reverse tanto S30V blade and a rock-solid AXIS lock-equipped anodized aluminum handle, this is the kind of EDC knife that just makes you feel powerful and unstoppable. Our tester found that it’s a true joy to carry, so long as you can swing the investment.

Most Satisfying One-Hander Pocket Knife


SOG Knives Kiku XR Blackout

Even if you never actually use this knife to, you know, cut stuff, you’ll derive endless pleasure from opening and closing it with just one hand. A forefinger on the tab and deft flick of the wrist flips the blade out cleanly, while a forefinger and thumb sliding the XR lock brings it back into place with a smooth click. Oh, and the CTS-XHP steel blade boasts excellent corrosion resistance and edge retention, so actually cutting stuff with it is pretty damn delightful, too.

The Kiku XR Blackout has excellent edge retention. Photo by Steve Mazzucchi for Gear Patrol

Our tester loved how this knife looks and the fact that it comes with clips on both sides, making it super easy to carry. The three-inch tanto blade made of CTS XHP steel can cut through just about anything, and the overall folded length of 4.3 inches and weight of 5.6 ounces means it’s hefty, but not too hefty to slip in a pocket.

Let’s not kid ourselves though: the coolest thing about this knife is how satisfying it is to deploy and close — about as fidget friendly as they come.

The Holy Grail of Pocket Knives


Chris Reeve Sebenza 31

The Sebenza 31 is the latest version of a pocket knife that was first released in 1987 and is widely considered among blade enthusiasts as the best pocket knife ever made.

Chris Reeve Knives is known for its precision manufacturing, and the Sebenza has won the Manufacturing Quality Award at the annual Blade Show 16 times. It was also the first knife to incorporate a frame lock, a mechanism in which a piece of the handle falls into place behind the butt of a blade to secure it open.

History and iconic status aside, the Sebenza 31 is a fantastic albeit expensive pocket knife. It’s available in two sizes — a small model with a 2.99-inch blade and a large one with a 3.61-inch blade — with various wood or micarta inlays. The base, however, is a premium CPM S35VN drop-point blade, a titanium handle that includes a pocket clip and a knotted lanyard.

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