Whether you need a knife to open a package of skin moisturizer or finish off that grizzly you just beat into submission, it’s always a good idea to be prepared for any situation with a folding pocket knife on hip or near at hand. There are countless options when it comes to this category of knives, so if we miss your favorite brand we apologize in advance. We selected a group of knives that are up to the task of executing a wide range of applications.
One term that gets thrown around often when talking about knives is EDC. EDC stands for Everyday Carry which refers to items that are carried consistently. These are items that are kept on one’s person often and are used to assist in dealing with normal everyday tasks. Having the right EDC gear prepares an individual to successfully tackle and solve most problems encountered on a day-to-day basis.
There are a couple broad categories to keep in mind when searching for your next knife. The main ones to consider are pocket knives (which are on the smaller end of the spectrum) to survival knives (which are on the larger end). The key distinction is that a survival knife is made to be a heavy-duty tool while a pocket knife is for daily tasks around the house. In this article, we look at some of the best options in the folding pocket knife category.
If you’re in a hurry, get our favorite everyday foldable knife that will serve you well for most applications.
What Pocket Knives are not Good for
With a little logic, you’ll be able to find a suitable knife to match your purposes. Obviously, you’re not going to buy a samurai sword to chop up fruits and veggies in the kitchen—there’s an app for that. By the same token, you’re not going to try and saw through thick branches and complete other heavy-duty tasks with a pocket knife. If you’re planning an extended hunting trip into the wilderness, for example, a survival knife will probably best suit this task. Fileting, kitchen tasks, sawing through branches, self-defense, and cutting thick material such as heavy rope are some of the obvious examples of what pocket knives are not used for.
What a Folding Pocket Knife is Good For
The only limiting factor of pocket knives is their size which also happens to be their best benefit. Their mobility and folding mechanism mean you can take them just about anywhere and always be prepared. Some are extremely sturdy and sharp, but some tasks are outside the scope of their abilities. However, the fact of the matter is that this scope is very large, and there is a wide range of situations in which a pocket knife comes in handy. A good knife has a nearly endless amount of uses including:
- Setting up and maintaining a campground
- Help prepare food
- Open packages, boxes, envelopes
- Aid in fishing
- Cut rope, wire, or cords
- Assisting someone who has been the victim of an auto accident by cutting their seatbelt
- Help farmers complete a variety of tasks
What Qualities to Look for in a Folding Pocket Knife
Design: This quality pretty much encompasses all the other ones together. The blade, handle, and locking mechanisms are all intrinsic parts of the knife. Additionally, you want something that satisfies your preference for how the blade looks and the handle feels. The best knives in this category as a rule of thumb uphold a high grade of simplicity and durability to avoid malfunctions when performing everyday duties.
Features: If you desire a knife for tackling a variety of tasks and has multiple tools built-in there’s a compromise. The bulk and weight will make it feel like a brick in your pocket. But the functionality may serve every need you could possibly come across. In general, a simple blade with a partial serrated edge will serve you well and cover about three-quarters of the common problems you run into.
Blade: The most important quality of a knife is the blade. Good blade steel is not only going to cut better and more efficiently, it is also going to last longer. Less frequent sharpening means a lot of saved maintenance time in the long run. Stainless steel is one of the most popular blade materials for its anti-corrosive properties.
Locking Mechanism: A locking mechanism is an essential part of any good knife. To keep it from unfolding when you’re not using it, and to keep it from folding when you are is a critical component of a well-designed knife. There are large drilled opening mechanisms that make it easier to use when wearing gloves than say a thumb stud. Also, liner locking mechanisms require minimal force to actuate, unlike frame locks.
Handle: You want something that provides you with a good grip to prevent any slippage. Other than the locking mechanism, this is the second most important part of a knife in preventing injuries. Some handles, for example, use a textured material so even when used by sweaty hands risk is minimal.
Clip: Some knives will include a clip to attach to the entry of your pocket. This makes for quick access and prevents the knife from bouncing around in your pocket.
Size: Like a phone, your knife is only useful when it is with you. Keeping that in mind, you want something that fits comfortably in your pocket or on your hip. If it is annoyingly bulky, you’re not going to want to keep it on your person at all times. Most of the best pocket knives have a blade length between 3 and 4 inches.
Price: Expensive is not always better. While a decent indicator of quality, there are definitely some rip-offs out there. Usually, you’re paying a premium for a name brand, but hopefully most of your extra dollar is going towards getting good steel. High-quality steel requires less sharpening and provides better performance. A good rule of thumb is that knives $30 or more will generally hold up a lot better than the sub 30 offerings.
The 10 Types of Outdoor Knives
- Pocketknife. Back in the old days known (and still by a select few) as a jackknife. Generally features one to three blades that fold into the handle.
- Clip Folder. A close relative to the pocketknife. However with one main distinction, it features a clip for the user to attach to belt or pocket.
- Swiss Army. Multiple implements fold into the handle. Perhaps the most well-known and authentic Swiss Army brand is Victorinox. Originally commissioned by the Swiss Army in the late 1800s.
- Multi-tool. What comes to most people’s mind are Leatherman multi-tools. There are specially implemented designs for nearly every outdoor activity.
- Assist Opening. A lot of people like to call these switchblades but there are many knives that use assist-opening tech. The idea is the blade flicks open using spring action. Some of the knives that made our list include this feature.
- Concealed weapons. This is a category of knives that are intended for self-defense. Generally they come with a sheath that helps hide the knife or are foldable to take up minimal space.
- Survival. Usually a fixed blade and are made for a number of survival scenarios in the backcountry wilderness but are also good for dedicated backpackers and campers. Many of the blades found in these knives are thick enough for fashioning shelter and cutting wood.
- Bowie. These are larger knives that typically rest on the hip in a sheath. They are named after the 19th century American pioneer Jim Bowie.
- Machete. The pocket knife of the tropics. Everyone’s got one because you never know when you’re going to run into some thick vegetation that needs to be wacked into submission. Long and not effective for detail work.
- Dagger. Daggers aren’t purposed for purposes outside of self-defense and combat. These are double-edged with a central spine and extremely sharp edges.
- Throwing. Throwing knives are their own niche category. They are weighted and finely tuned with blunt-end handles. Many of these knives come as a set for a sequence of throws.
In this article, we are going to be looking at knives that mostly fall under the first three categories.
The 8 Best Folding Pocket Knives of 2016
Here are the best mini to small sized knives of this year. These are all the best foldable knives from some of the most respected brands in the knife forging business.
Kershaw is a US based company located in Oregon. The all silver stainless steel Ken Onion Leek from Kershaw is an elegant looking knife. Better yet, it is easy and safe to use. It features an ambidextrous assisted opening system, so you can actuate the blade in either hand. A pocket clip can be configured to let the user carry it tip-down or tip-up. The blade itself measures about 3 inches, for a total of 7 inches when unfolded. The slim, sharp tip gives the knife excellent piercing capability. It weighs 3.1 ounces making it a great go to for an everyday carry knife. The Leek is one of Kershaw’s best-selling knives.
2. Kershaw Blur
This is another great option from Kershaw. It is a slightly bigger knife, weighing about an ounce more than the Leek (a notch over 4 ounces). As expected, it is also slightly more expensive than its little brother. Like its brother, it comes with SpeedSafe tech for quick opening and the blade locks firmly with a liner-lock mechanism. The blade is a higher-end S30V steel variant. This is a beautiful American made knife. You can also customize it to your liking. Kershaw offers partial serration, a tactical model, and black blade option.
3. SOG Trident
The Trident is a great knife for the hiker or outdoorsman. This is a badass looking knife. All black, a heavily textured contoured grip, and a nearly 4inch, partially serrated blade give it a wicked appearance. This is a versatile, multi-purpose knife that has a groove in the handle for cutting cables and cords. Open assist technology allows the user to quickly open the blade with one hand. The fitted large clip prevents it from slipping around even during strenuous physical activity. This superb Trident is up to mastering any task you throw at it with ease.
No best pocket knife list would be complete without a Swiss Army Knife featured on it. If you’re looking for a multi-purpose tool, the Swiss made SwissChamp is one of the best options. It has 32 tools, which as you can imagine is enough to take a bit of time to get handy with and memorize all the locations. When you do master the knife, you’ll be prepared for just about anything on fishing, camping, and hiking trips. The case is branded with the standard white and red Swiss logo; and it comes in three color options beside the standard red, and also a hardwood option for another 20 bucks. The tools are all stainless steel and are built to last.
We are particularly fond of Spyderco’s large eyelets built into their blades. This is a plain knife that is not offered is partial serrated edge option. The handle material is G-10 laminate and a black color. The blade is leaf-shaped and slightly over 3 inches. The 4-way pocket clip lets the user personalize to their own carry and draw preference. The weight is 4oz and when taking the size into consideration, is the ideal composition for a pocket knife.
This is a great go-to for yard and house work. The large eyelet that is a common feature of many Spyderco knives makes the knife a breeze to open with either hand even with thick gloves. The lock is a frame lock, which was modified from a lining lock that was found in the SAGE 1 (an excellent everyday carry pocket knife option). In practice, this actually makes it easier to actuate with gloves on. The titanium handle is very comfortable for extended yard work, and the spear-point blade allows the user to accomplish most tasks including precision ones.
Benchmade is another high end knife manufacturer located in Oregon. They have a patent on AXIS lock technology, which makes their foldable knives feel just as sturdy as fixed blade knives. If you’ve got a hole to burn in your pocket, the 940 Osborne is just the designer knife to assist you in your mission. Arguable perfect, the 940 is lightweight package featuring a S30V stainless steel blade. For it’s size, we don’t know how it manages to stay under 3 ounces. It’s given the Benchmade special treatment which contributes to why their blades hold their edge for such a long time. It is a premium everyday knife on the larger side, measuring 7.9 inches when open. Classy and deadly, the 940 Osborne is a finely crafted knife.
The Griptilian also implements the AXIS lock and has been a favorite of knife enthusiasts ever since its release a few years back. The impeccable thumb-studded, 154CM stainless steel blade is complemented well by the textured Noryl GTX handle. This is one of the best EDC knives for under $100, simple, lightweight, yet still big enough to accomplish everyday tasks. It is a pragmatic balance of quality and price. Additional features include the rib covered spine of the handle and a reversible carry-clip.
This also comes in a mini option model 556.