- With the right pocket knife close at hand, you'll always be prepared to handle the tasks before you, from cutting apple slices on the trail to slashing through your seatbelt after an accident.
- The Victorinox Swiss Army Fieldmaster Pocket Knife is our top pick, thanks to its carefully curated tools and its lifelong dependability.
The word pocket knife (also called a jackknife or folding knife) is something of a blanket term. It might be applied to a single-bladed implement or to a unit with multiple blades, tools, and accessories all housed in a single handle. The primary defining characteristic of a pocket knife is that its blade or blades, tools, and so forth can all be folded away for safe storage in one's pocket, purse, pack, or anywhere else.
In keeping with a family tradition, I received my first pocket knife on my 10th birthday — a classic red Victorinox Swiss Army Knife. Now having a child myself, I'm not sure I'll keep the 10th birthday knife tradition going, as Swiss Army knives are frighteningly sharp, especially when brand new. We'll have to see about that in a few years. Regardless, as an adult myself, I can attest to the convenience and utility offered by a good pocket knife. When away from home (especially if hiking or camping) I use one almost every day of my life.
Whether you choose a single-bladed knife or a pocket knife multitool, life will always be a bit easier when you have your pocket knife close at hand. We've chosen five great pocket knives based on their range of function, size to weight ratio, quality of materials.
Here are the best pocket knives:
- Best overall: Victorinox Swiss Army Fieldmaster
- Best customizable pocket knife: Keyport Pivot Everyday Multitool
- Best for tactical use: Smith & Wesson Extreme Ops SWA24S
- Best multitool on a budget: Cerberuso OddJob Pocket Knife Multitool
- Best compact pocket knife: SOG SlimJim SJ33-CP Assisted Folding Knife
- Best single blade on a budget: Opinel Single Blade Pocket Knife
Prices and links are current as of 11/12/20. We also updated formatting.
The best overall
The Victorinox Fieldmaster is a true classic, it features a selection of tools you will find useful, and it comes with nothing superfluous.
Pros: Lifelong durability, excellent blade sharpness, thoughtful curation of tools
Cons: No bottle opener, awkward Phillips screwdriver placement
Victorinox has been in business since the 1880s, so more than 130 years of experience and refinement goes into every iconic Swiss Army knife the company constructs. For the record, they actually do distribute knives to the Swiss army — in fact, they've done so since the 19th century. Made from genuine Swiss steel and with that instantly recognizable red casing (which is fabricated from high-impact ABS resin), the Fieldmaster Swiss Army pocket knife is my favorite of the many Swiss Army knives out there.
The Fieldmaster packs eleven tools into its 3.5-ounce body to provide fifteen total functions. The bottle opener doubles as a wide flathead screwdriver, while the can opener features a compact flathead. While you'll probably use the razor-sharp blades, scissors, screwdriver, and the bottle opener more often than the wood saw, reamer awl, or parcel carrier, it's still nice to know all those tools are at the ready any time you need them.
I've brought my Fieldmaster on dozens of camping, hiking, and mountaineering expeditions and I have used it to cut wood for fires, prep meals by the camp stove, attend to minor first aid needs, and of course, to open a bottle or two. When I'm not out in the field or traveling, the Fieldmaster lives in the glove compartment, so it's always nearby when I'm on the road.
My only complaint about this knife is its lack of a corkscrew, a common feature on so many Swiss Army pocket knives. But frankly, most of the time I don't haul bottles of wine along on backpacking trips anyway, and adding the corkscrew does mean a bit more bulk and less sleek, compact shape.
Do watch out when folding those blades shut, as they are sharp enough to be dangerous in careless hands. Fold with your palm against the back of the blade, and keep your Swiss Army knife well-oiled. The tools should open and close smoothly, never requiring notable effort.$37.60 from Amazon
The best customizable pocket knife
The Keyport Pivot is fully customizable, so it can hold multiple knives, keys, a mini flashlight, a USB drive, a screwdriver, or pretty much whatever else you want.
Pros: Amazing versatility, lightweight and durable, suitable for a variety of users
Cons: Price adds up with multiple modules, slightly tricky to set up
The cool thing about the Keyport Pivot is that you and your friend could each have one in your pocket, but you could essentially be carrying tools that are completely different. The Pivot is nothing more than a readily updated shell before you start adding your chosen modules. Once carefully curated to meet your personal needs and preferences, the Keyport Pivot becomes a true one-of-a-kind pocket knife.
Many people use their Keyport Pivot to actually keep house, office, and car keys all in one place. Most standard keys can be easily connected to the Pivot's base unit. You can also add several Keyport modules to the Pivot, which include a bright LED flashlight, a sharp 2.2-inch blade, a ten function multitool insert, and even a USB flash drive, among others.
Truth be told, it took me a while to get around to assembling my Keyport Pivot when I first got one, as the process seemed daunting — which it's not, after a slight learning curve. The handle feels a bit bulkier and less natural in the hand than does a Swiss Army knife or an ergonomic blade only jackknife, but a Keyport, of course, offers adaptability other folding tools can't match.$34.99 from Amazon
The best for tactical use
The Smith & Wesson Extreme Ops SWA245 lock back folding knife is part utility tool, part self-defense weapon, and it's well-made and ready for regular use.
Pros: Very sharp blade, multiple cutting surfaces, locking mechanism
Cons: Hard for some users to close, sometimes requires excessive pressure to open
Whether you're using the Smith & Wesson Extreme Ops SWA245 to ward off an assailant or to slice through some knotted rope on the farm or at a campsite, you'll be glad that its super sharp blade locks in place when it's open. You'll also appreciate the blade staying securely stowed in the handle when the pocket knife is in your pocket or jacket. The blade snaps open fast and with just one hand, though, thanks to ambidextrous thumb knobs.
The Extreme Ops pocket knife features a blade made from high carbon stainless steel that has been treated with a black coating. This helps prevent corrosion and reduces any chance the knife will glint in sunshine or a flashlight's beam, helping to keep you in stealth mode, in case that's important to you.
The blade has serrations across its lower half and a blunt sawtooth back, and between the three cutting surfaces, you can make short work of most materials. Its handle is forged from rugged aluminum, reducing the weight as compared to steel. A clip can be used to keep the knife in place in your pocket or on a belt or pack strap.$13.74 from Amazon
The best pocket knife on a budget
A Cerberuso OddJob Multitool Pocket Knife offers many of the same tools as a classic Swiss Army knife at less than half of the price.
Pros: Very low-cost options, multiple useful tools, backed by a lifetime guarantee
Cons: Tools tend to wobble, blade loses edge quickly
Don't let the tiny price tag of the Cerberuso OddJob Multitool Pocket Knife make you think it's a low-quality tool. It comes backed by a lifetime satisfaction guarantee and is routinely well-reviewed by people who own and use one. That said, there are some issues here, and let's get them out of the way early.
The primary problem with this multitool pocket knife is that many of the tools jiggle slightly when folded open. This makes precision work a bit harder and could even present a danger if the blade slipped. Another issue is that when compared to the top quality Swiss steel of a Victorinox knife, this pocket knife's main blade loses its edge rather quickly. You can always sharpen it again, though.
The OddJob is indeed great for all sorts of odd jobs thanks to its eleven distinct tools, the most useful of which are the scissors, saw, and the blade itself. The Phillips screwdriver is too narrow to be useful in many screws, thus my leaving it off the shortlist. The outdoorsman will also appreciate the fish scaler, while the oenophile will appreciate the corkscrew.$22.99 from Amazon
The best compact pocket knife
The SOG SlimJim SJ35-CP Assisted Folding Knife weighs less than a quarter of a pound and is so slender it won't leave an imprint visible outside your pocket, yet it has a 3.18-inch blade that is surgically sharp when honed.
Pros: Slender and compact, very sharp blade, holds edge well
Cons: Rather expensive, too small for good grip in large hands
SOG knives (and its other tools) are respected as high-quality gear among those in the know, and you can expect to pay a pretty penny for that quality. This slender, lightweight knife costs twice as much as many single blade pocket knives, but it's worth the money several reasons.
First, the tanto-style blade is made of superlative AUS-8 stainless steel, which is a high carbon metal that's highly resistant to rusting or other types of corrosion and that holds its edge well even with regular use. At 3.18-inches in length, the blade is large enough for a variety of uses, from slicing steaks at the campsite or BBQ to cutting a seatbelt in the event of an accident. The blade easily flips into place with either a right or left hand, thanks to high-tension springs that pop the blade open.
The most notable attribute of this folding knife, however, is its size — or lack thereof, to be precise. The SOG SlimJim SJ35-CP weighs just 2.4 ounces, hardly adding any weight at all to your ensemble. And it measures only 0.08 inches thick. It's so slender that it is hardly visible even when tucked into the pocket of snug trousers or a shirt's breast pocket. A clever low-slung pocket clip keeps the knife fully tucked away down into a pocket secure and out of sight.$42.26 from Amazon
The best single blade on a budget
Opinel knives are simple, sleek, easy to use, and sharp as all hell.
Pros: Affordable, classic design, the array of blades and sizes
Cons: Carbon steel stains easily, wood tends to swell and seize the blade when wet or humid
Founded by Joseph Opinel in the French Alps in 1890, Opinel has been striving to perfect the pocket knife for over a century. These simple little contraptions come in an array of blade designs and sizes ranging from "that's-not-a-knife" to "that's-a-knife," and a host of different blades for each.
Despite Opinel's ever-broadening range, we're still fond of the basic old carbon blade, which comes sharp and is the easiest to sharpen. I use these knives for everything from hangnails and other quick on-the-fly purposes to arts and crafts and picnics. I also find them to look particularly elegant perched atop a cutting board loaded with charcuterie, cheese, or fruit.
The only drawbacks to the blade are that the wooden handle tends to swell with moisture (even a change in barometric pressure seems to do it). Sometimes worrisomely loose, other times you're left wondering whether you'll ever be able to open the blade again. Fret not, though: However frustrating this may seem, there are solutions. A little vegetable oil will often do the trick, as will a little dry heat (e.g., the oven, or radiator).
If the looks of this knife don't get you, the price might. Going for around $10, depending on size, this knife seems almost impossibly cheap. I buy a handful at a time and scatter them throughout all my usual haunts, leaving my pocket no worse for wear than if I were to buy one fancy olive wood-handled knife, which, in practice, would serve me no better. — Owen Burke
We also love Opinel's Nomad Camping Cutlery Set.$17.00 from Amazon
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