Reviews You Can Rely On

The 6 Best Pocket Knives of 2022

We put pocket knives from Benchmade, Kershaw, Spyderco, SOG, and others to head-to-head testing to find the best knife for your needs
Best Pocket Knife of 2022
Some new and long-time knife favorites, from left to right: OKC RAT II, Benchmade Mini Barrage, Petzl Spatha, Benchmade Bugout, Leatherman Skeletool KB, Kershaw Leek, Zero Tolerance 0450cf.
Credit: Jediah Porter
Thursday October 13, 2022
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more

Since 2014, we've purchased and tested over 45 of the best pocket knives side by side, with 18 models in our updated review lineup. Our experts test each pocket knife while exploring backcountry terrain throughout the United States, preparing food, camping, hunting, mountain climbing, and more. In addition to field tests, we compare key characteristics that help us evaluate five metrics, such as blade integrity and portability, which we use to assign a score to each product. Using an objective approach, we have identified top performers, award winners, and products that simply don't make the cut.

Like finding the best backpack or the best tent, a dependable pocket knife is essential for any complete backpacking gear kit. If you're looking for a little extra function and versatility for your next hunting or camping adventure, our gear experts have also bought and tested the best multi-tools on the market.

Editor's Note: We updated this review on October 13, 2022, to remove a discontinued model and to check our lineup for accuracy and product availability.

Top 18 Product Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 18
< Previous | Compare | Next >
 
Awards Editors' Choice Award    Top Pick Award 
Price $190 List
$219.99 at Amazon
$200 List
$198.00 at REI
$225 List
$189.82 at Amazon
$299 List
$298.95 at Backcountry
$160 List
$85.10 at Amazon
Overall Score
77
75
71
69
68
Star Rating
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Pros Incredible blade quality, assisted open, perfect combination of compactness/functionalityGreat blade, classy wooden handleTop-of-the-line materials, tight construction, great bladeSmall, excellent materials and constructionExcellent blade quality, solid construction, great grip design
Cons Pricey, blade lock mechanism not intuitiveExpensive, no assisted opening functionSuper expensive, small handle profileShort blade, issues with opening the blade, expensiveHeavy and bulky, assisted opening requires some force
Bottom Line Immaculately constructed knife in a form-factor that is easy to carry and large enough for virtually every taskThis is one of the best knives we have ever tested with a wooden handleA high-end pocket knife that is readily available at proven retailers; we only wish the handle were a little bulkier for heavy usageCompact, carefully designed knife for the discerning user that seeks uniqueness and can forgive some usability issuesThis top performer has a large blade and ergonomic handle for big cutting jobs and all-day use
Rating Categories Benchmade Mini-Barr... Benchmade 15031-2 N... Zero Tolerance 0450... The James Brand the... Kershaw Link
Blade and Edge Integrity (30%) Sort Icon
9.0
9.0
9.0
9.0
8.0
Ergonomics (20%)
8.0
8.0
7.0
4.0
8.0
Portability (20%)
7.0
7.0
6.0
8.0
5.0
Construction Quality (20%)
9.0
9.0
9.0
9.0
8.0
Other Features (10%)
2.0
0
0
0
2.0
Specs Benchmade Mini-Barr... Benchmade 15031-2 N... Zero Tolerance 0450... The James Brand the... Kershaw Link
Weight 3.4 oz 3.2 oz 2.4 oz 2.8 oz 4.7 oz
Blade Length 2.8 in 2.9 in 3.2 in 2.7 in 3.2 in
Blade Material 154CM stainless steel S30V stainless steel S35vn stainless steel S35vn stainless steel CPM 20CV steel
Handle Material Plastic Stabilized wood Carbon fiber 6al4v titanium Anodized aluminum
Blade Style Drop point, straight Drop point, straight Drop point, straight Drop point, straight Drop point, straight
Blade locks closed? Yes Yes No No No
Opening Style Assisted, ambidextrous thumb stud Ambidextrous thumb-stud Back of knife finger tab Thumb stud Assisted, flipper
Lock Mechanism Proprietary (Axis) Proprietary (Axis) Frame lock Frame lock Liner lock
Carry Style Pocket clip and lanyard hole Pocket clip Pocket clip and lanyard hole Pocket clip Pocket clip, Lanyard hole
Closed Length 4.0 in 3.9 in 4.1 in 3.8 in 4.4 in
Overall Length 6.9 in 6.9 in 7.4 in 6.5 in 7.6 in
Thickness (w/o pocket clip) 0.6 in 0.5 in 0.4 in 0.3 in 0.5 in
Other Features or Functions Lanyard hole, modular clip None None None Lanyard hole, modular clip


Best Overall Pocket Knife


Benchmade Mini-Barrage 585


77
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Blade and Edge Integrity 9.0
  • Ergonomics 8.0
  • Portability 7.0
  • Construction Quality 9.0
  • Other Features 2.0
Weight: 3.4 oz | Blade Length: 2.9 inches
REASONS TO BUY
Legendary blade construction
Assisted opening
Compact-yet-usable size
REASONS TO AVOID
Expensive
Blade-closed lock mechanism requires a learning curve

Built for precision with a design that has helped it maintain its top status for years, the Benchmade Mini-Barrage 585 has a blade that arrives razor-sharp, and its LifeSharp sharpening service sweetens the deal even further. If you cover shipping costs, Benchmade will return the edge to factory specifications throughout the life of the knife. The handle fits in the palm well and tucks easily into a pants pocket. Pocket clip carry is modular; you can wear it on either side. An assisted opening system, deployable by either hand, reliably pulls the blade to ready status. One can safely lock the blade in the closed position while carrying it in a pocket or purse.

The Mini-Barrage 585 is pricey, but you will undoubtedly realize its value over a long lifespan, especially with Benchmade's LifeSharp service. However, the initial investment may be too much if you are someone who easily misplaces items like this. Also, its slightly down-sized stature will be noticeable for heavy tasks and frequent usage. It is better than our other top award winner but is still a little more compact than ideal for super-extended use. Any bigger pocket knife will likely be too heavy to carry daily and everywhere. As long as you aren't using it for hours and hours a day and as long as you can keep track of it long enough to realize the investment, the Mini-Barrage earns our strongest endorsement. This is the knife we recommend most for everyday carry.

Read more: Benchmade Mini-Barrage 585 review

best overall pocket knife
The slightly down-sized, fully functional, Benchmade Mini-Barrage 585.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Best Lightweight Pocket Knife


Benchmade 535 Bugout


70
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Blade and Edge Integrity 8.0
  • Ergonomics 7.0
  • Portability 8.0
  • Construction Quality 8.0
  • Other Features 0.0
Weight: 1.9 oz | Blade Length: 3.0 inches
REASONS TO BUY
Light weight
Full function
Smooth hinges and lock
REASONS TO AVOID
Flexy handle
Thin handle

The Benchmade 535 Bugout is the best knife we know of for self-propelled outdoor adventures. Long-time top manufacturer Benchmade made this knife precisely for this environment. The Bugout is lightweight and low profile while holding a good quality full-size blade. It opens, closes, and locks with predictably smooth and reliable Benchmade design and hardware.

The low weight comes with a few minor concessions. The handle is a little flexy; it is entirely plastic for most of its length. You won't find great confidence in this tool for regular, intense use. At the same time, you likely won't encounter extended, super intense use in your day-to-day life or outdoor adventures. This low-profile, lighter-weight handle feels a bit small in hand for extended use. If you know you'll use your knife extensively in your day-to-day, we will point you towards the Mini-Barrage. But if you want the best quality knife adapted for outdoor applications in your backcountry kit, we recommend the Bugout, hands down.

Read more: Benchmade 535 Bugout review

best lightweight pocket knife
The Benchmade Bugout is optimized for outdoor and adventure use. If you're looking for an outstanding full-sized, lightweight knife to add to your backpacking kit, this is it.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Best Bang for the Buck


Kershaw Leek


65
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Blade and Edge Integrity 7.0
  • Ergonomics 6.0
  • Portability 8.0
  • Construction Quality 8.0
  • Other Features 0.0
Weight: 3.1 oz | Blade Length: 2.9 inches
REASONS TO BUY
Constructed like a work of art
Assisted opening
Excellent blade, for the price
REASONS TO AVOID
The handle doesn't allow a significant transfer of pressure to the blade
The thinner blade is fragile

At roughly half the price of other high-end knives, the Kershaw Leek packs a pedigreed blade into a compact, assisted-opening tool. The blade is made of high-grade steel and comes sharp from the factory. Like the Mini-Barrage's assisted opening, the Leek can be opened with either thumb and can be locked closed. Kershaw has also engineered a tab on the blade's rear that allows you to deploy the blade with your index finger. The blade and handle hold up well for handy carry and light to moderate use.

The narrow handle profile is the primary compromise with the Leek. Compared to the Mini-Barrage, the Leek is similar in many dimensions, but both the blade and the handle are thinner. Some users will appreciate the lower profile for carrying, though edge and handle thinness requires tradeoffs. The thin blade is excellent for soft and light cutting but can deform in heavy use. We had this happen early in testing. The slim handle doesn't comfortably support heavy pushing. Still, this is a beautiful and functional knife; quality steel at a steal.

Read more: Kershaw Leek review

pocket knife - best bang for the buck
Compared to other models this high-quality knife isn't cheap. But for the durability offered by its full-stainless steel construction, and overall functionality, it can't be beat at its price point.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Great Value for a Keychain Knife


Victorinox Classic SD Swiss Army


52
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Blade and Edge Integrity 4.0
  • Ergonomics 3.0
  • Portability 9.0
  • Construction Quality 5.0
  • Other Features 6.0
Weight: 0.8 oz | Blade Length: 1.4 inches
REASONS TO BUY
Tiny and portable
Well-made
REASONS TO AVOID
Not suitable for heavy usage

Significantly more compact than your car's key fob, the Victorinox Classic SD Swiss Army is discreet and ready for action. When needed, the small blade rises to most occasions. Our lead tester's first pocket knife 30 odd years ago was a Victorinox Classic. His whittling, prying, and poking never bent or broke the blade. Adults love the Classic for its grooming tools and compactness. The scissors appear toy-like but can cut things as stout as rock climbing webbing. For light tasks like paper or fingernails, the scissors excel.

While we never had issues with the Classic SD's durability, it is not as robust as the more substantial and heavier knives we test. Similarly, the tiny blade is a few definite steps down from something like the full-sized knives. If this is okay with you, and you have room on your keychain for another little piece of equipment, the Victorinox Classic SD will find daily use in your world.

Read more: Victorinox Classic SD Swiss Army review

pocket knife - great value for a keychain knife
The Victorinox Classic is a favorite among testers for its keychain portability.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Best for Professional Use


Kershaw Link


68
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Blade and Edge Integrity 8.0
  • Ergonomics 8.0
  • Portability 5.0
  • Construction Quality 8.0
  • Other Features 2.0
Weight: 4.7 oz | Blade Length: 3.2 inches
REASONS TO BUY
Long and sturdy blade
Solid construction
Modular pocket clip
Comfortable grip
REASONS TO AVOID
Heavy and bulky
Expensive

The Kershaw Link features a long and thick blade made of high-quality steel and an ergonomic grip that makes big cutting jobs easier. Whenever we face a big cutting job like preparing a camping meal for a large group or opening tons of packages of more gear to review, this is the knife we prefer to use. The blade stays sharp and doesn't bend or flex under pressure. The grip feels secure, safe, and ergonomic, and the construction is bomber. If you need a knife to carry on the construction job site or just want a large blade for your camping or outdoor kit, this is a great option.

The major downsides to the Link are bulk, weight, and cost. This is a large and heavy pocket knife that is easily noticed in a pocket or backpack, so if you are looking for a smaller knife to carry around for occasional or random use, the Link is overkill and a smaller knife would be a better option. And with a high price tag, only serious cutters should consider this product.

Read more: Kershaw Link review

pocket knife - best for professional use
The Kershaw Link stands out for its excellent blade quality and ergonomic handle, making it perfect for large cutting jobs or professionals on the job.
Credit: Jeff Dobronyi

Best for Rock or Ice Climbing


Petzl Spatha


56
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Blade and Edge Integrity 6.0
  • Ergonomics 5.0
  • Portability 8.0
  • Construction Quality 6.0
  • Other Features 0.0
Weight: 1.5 oz | Blade Length: 2.7 inches
REASONS TO BUY
Light
Full size blade
Hybrid straight/serrated blade
REASONS TO AVOID
Hybrid straight/serrated blade
Primitive hinge and lock technology

The Petzl Spatha is a unique offering in our test lineup. Most of our tested knives are made by traditional knife makers. Petzl is better known as a climbing company. Their knife, though, is great. It has surprisingly good steel, like a knife from a dedicated knife company. On the other hand, Petzl isn't bound by convention or tradition in other design matters. They built this thing specifically for climbing. We like the serrated portion of the blade for cutting rope and webbing but don't like the difficulty of sharpening serrations.

The hinge of the Spatha is unique. It is a huge diameter with a big hole in the middle for carabiner attachment. That hole is lined with a ridge-textured ring that you can use with gloves on to deploy the blade. This is cool. On the flip side, the huge hinge holds the blade closed with just friction. While our testing has shown no issues, we fear the friction could degrade with time, allowing the blade to open inadvertently. Finally, the primitive "lockback" blade lock makes sense but is a little outdated and prone to degradation. If you're looking for a purpose-built climbing knife to keep on your harness that you'll likely use for more than just cutting rope and cordage, this model is a fantastic find.

Read more: Petzl Spatha review

pocket knife - best for rock or ice climbing
The Petzl Spatha's carabiner hole does exactly what it is made to do.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Great for Hunting


Havalon Piranta Original


61
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Blade and Edge Integrity 7.0
  • Ergonomics 6.0
  • Portability 7.0
  • Construction Quality 7.0
  • Other Features 0.0
Weight: 1.9 oz | Blade Length: 2.3 inches
REASONS TO BUY
Interchangeable blade
Razor-thin blade
Open profile cleans easily
REASONS TO AVOID
Blade rattles a bit
Slightly narrow handle

Hunters need a darn good reason not to use the Havalon Piranta Original for field dressing and home skinning. Processing of any but the smallest of wild game will dull any blade at least once partway through the process. You can, and many do, forge on, working with a duller blade. Or you can carry multiple sharpened knives. Or you can bring a full sharpening kit. Or, much simpler than all the above, you can carry a Piranta and a few extra blades. This knife comes with 12 spare blades, and more are available as accessory purchases.

There isn't anything like a well-done factory-honed blade edge. You won't match the edge on a fresh blade no matter how good you are with your home sharpening system. You certainly won't get a narrow blade repolished to a narrow edge angle. With the Piranta's scalpel-style interchangeable blades, you can have an edge way finer than any reusable blade and swap it in much easier than any sort of effective resharpening. It's this simple; the interchangeable blades of the Piranta change the game of dressing game.

Read more: Havalon Piranta Original review

pocket knife - everything about the piranta is slender. with the blade, this is...
Everything about the Piranta is slender. With the blade, this is only good. We do wish the handle were a little bulkier for extended and strenuous use.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Compare Products

select up to 5 products to compare
Score Product Price
77
Benchmade Mini-Barrage 585
benchmade mini-barrage 585 pocket knife review
$190
Editors' Choice Award
75
Benchmade 15031-2 North Fork
benchmade 15031-2 north fork pocket knife review
$200
71
Zero Tolerance 0450 Sinkevich Carbon Fiber
zero tolerance 0450 sinkevich carbon fiber pocket knife review
$225
70
Benchmade 535 Bugout
benchmade 535 bugout pocket knife review
$180
Editors' Choice Award
69
The James Brand the Chapter
the james brand the chapter pocket knife review
$299
68
Kershaw Link
kershaw link pocket knife review
$160
Top Pick Award
65
Kershaw Leek
kershaw leek pocket knife review
$100
Best Buy Award
65
Spyderco Delica 4
spyderco delica 4 pocket knife review
$126
63
SOG Twitch II
sog twitch ii pocket knife
$60
63
Kershaw Blur Glassbreaker
kershaw blur glassbreaker pocket knife review
$145
61
Havalon Piranta Original
havalon piranta original pocket knife review
$60
58
CRKT Drifter
crkt drifter pocket knife review
$45
57
Leatherman Skeletool KB
leatherman skeletool kb pocket knife review
$40
56
Petzl Spatha
petzl spatha pocket knife review
$30
Top Pick Award
52
Victorinox Classic SD Swiss Army
victorinox classic sd swiss army pocket knife review
$22
Best Buy Award
52
Spyderco Tenacious G-10
spyderco tenacious g-10 pocket knife review
$83
49
Albatross EDC Tactical
albatross edc tactical pocket knife
$10
44
Opinel No. 8
opinel no. 8 pocket knife review
$18

pocket knife - scenic picnic charcuterie. a sturdy, reliable pocket knife will only...
Scenic picnic charcuterie. A sturdy, reliable pocket knife will only enhance this burgeoning tradition. You don't need the absolute best knife available, but the best knife available won't hurt. Here, the top scoring Benchmade Mini Barrage.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Why You Should Trust Us


Aside from testing gear, Senior Review Editor Jediah Porter's main thing is guiding skiing and climbing in the mountains as a certified American Mountain Guide. Outside of climbing and guiding, he can be found mountain biking, canoeing, hunting, fishing, and trail running. Jed calls Wydaho's Tetons home but frequents Alaska and South America for larger mountain objectives. Jed has been testing pocket knives (and related multi-tools) for five years now and has hands-on testing experience with over 45 knives.

Our in-depth testing process of space heaters breaks down into five rating metrics:
  • Blade and Edge Integrity (30% of overall score rating)
  • Ergonomics (20% of overall score)
  • Portability (20% of overall score)
  • Construction Quality (20% of overall score)
  • Other Features (10% of overall score)

We combed through the marketplace and considered well over one hundred models before selecting 19 of the best pocket knives for side-by-side testing. Each year we reassess the market and select new options to add and some to omit. We tested with a combination of controlled tests and daily use – each model undergoes 21 individual tests across all five metrics. Daily use ranged from routine tasks like simple food preparation and opening packages to more specialized applications like home improvements and automotive repairs. Controlled tests included cutting materials like rope and webbing, whittling, and even boring holes with the blade's tip. In the end, we conducted more than 350 individual tests to help you find the perfect knife to match your needs and budget.

Some of the knives in our &quot;lab&quot;...aka testing garage.
Some of the knives in our "lab"...aka testing garage.
For exploratory rock climbing, a tiny knife on the back of your...
For exploratory rock climbing, a tiny knife on the back of your harness has some major advantages.
Action shot of the Mini Barrage being opened. A gentle flick of the...
Action shot of the Mini Barrage being opened. A gentle flick of the thumb engages the "assisted opening" spring that pulls the blade the rest of the way.

Analysis and Test Results


The pocket knife landscape is incredibly broad and deep. There are knives with single-digit prices; if you wish, you could spend five digits and more on a collectible-grade knife. We focus on the huge middle of this range. We omit unbranded, "knock-off" knives from convenience stores, souvenir shops, promotional retailers, and the deeper corners of internet retail. At the other end of the spectrum, we omit connoisseur and collector products from boutique direct sellers and custom makers.

Our test lineup includes knives that fold for easy carry, have blades between 1 and 4 inches in length, are commonly available at various retail outlets, and are optimized for daily or outdoor carry. We put a slight focus on human-powered outdoor adventure pursuits. We also comment extensively on a knife's utility in day-to-day life.


Value


Price and quality can vary, even within this range of products. Your purchase price, generally, should correlate with how much you plan on using your knife. If you use it hours a day for decades, spending more will get you better steel material for the blade and hinges. You'll also get locking mechanisms that last longer and carry options that blend seamlessly with your life. Less expensive options will probably be a better value for more occasional use or those prone to misplacing smaller possessions.

The best values will appear at various price points and functions and hinge on your intended use and budget. The Kershaw Leek is pretty spendy to most, but it comes with materials, ergonomics, and functionality well above its price range, competing with higher-end products. The Victorinox Classic, while smaller and less robust than most other folding knives in the review, provides multiple functional features at a low price and a convenient size that easily fits on your keychain. Another great value in our test selection includes the interchangeable blade of the Havalon Piranta. Even the higher initial investment of the top-performing knives listed here would become a good value over decades of use and with periodic and affordable factory maintenance.

Blade and Edge Integrity (Sharpness, More or Less)


There isn't a consumer choice more perplexing than the sharpness of a knife. You might just want to know, "is this knife sharp?" Unfortunately, it isn't that easy. Sharpness, at any point, is a function of the raw materials, material treatment, knife geometry, and blade maintenance. These things balance to deliver actual performance and sharpness.


First of all, you must re-sharpen every knife after some amount of regular use. Different materials and designs will hold a sharp edge longer, but all will eventually need some TLC. There are professional knife sharpening services and many commercially available sharpening kits for home use. Additionally, the manufacturer of Benchmade Mini-Barrage 585, the Benchmade Bugout, and a whole line of other knives will sharpen these knives for the life of the product for a small handling fee each time.

pocket knife - the factory edge on the benchmade mini-barrage easily slices through...
The factory edge on the Benchmade Mini-Barrage easily slices through stubborn rope. And with Benchmade's "LifeSharp" program, they'll tune it up as often as you want and as long as you own it.
Credit: Megan Seel

The process of designing a blade starts with the raw material. All of our reviewed knives have blades made of some variety of steel. Steel is a metal made mainly of iron. The iron is mixed ("alloyed") with small amounts of carbon and often other elements, with endless possible variations. Steel for a knife must be hard enough to resist the abrasion and deflection of the material it is cutting. However, it must also be soft enough to deflect (rather than break or crack) at least slightly in the face of significant forces and to respond to commonly available sharpening methods. Too hard, and the brittle steel would be nearly impossible to sharpen. Too soft, and the steel will lose its edge rapidly. It must resist corrosion in the face of a wide array of commonly encountered substances, and water alone is a common corrosive agent that must be protected against.


There is a dizzying array of steel types. In our review, a few knives use highly regarded blade materials. Notably, the "154cm" and "S30V" on the Benchmade knives are expensive and well-tuned blade steels. The S35VN steel of the Zero Tolerance 0450 Sinkevich Carbon Fiber and The James Brand the Chapter is truly world-class metal. Few knives in any setting have better steel than S35VN. The 20CV steel used in the Kershaw Link's blade is also top-notch, tough enough for any cutting job.

pocket knife - you know it is a high-end product when it has a serial number. the...
You know it is a high-end product when it has a serial number. The Zero Tolerance knife offers incredible steel to boost its blade integrity.
Credit: Jediah Porter

The decent knife steel is inexpensive enough that all branded knives (but not truck stop or flea market knives) are made with good enough metal. Most manufacturers of high-quality knives advertise the type of steel they use. It is a general assumption, but we've found that it is pretty safe to say that if the manufacturer is willing to tell you what the blade steel is, that steel will suffice. The opposite is often true, too; if the actual materials aren't listed, it is probably really, really poor stuff. The steel hardening method is just as important as the raw material. Once a manufacturer chooses the steel for a knife, it is shaped and then hardened in some variation of a heating-and-cooling process.

pocket knife - whittle testing the opinel no. 8
Whittle testing the Opinel No. 8
Credit: Jediah Porter

Various types of hardening result in different characteristics. The steel's edge-holding qualities are well established after hardening — provided the blade isn't exposed to enough heat to reverse (or even further) the hardening process. We especially like budget knives produced by companies that also make high-end knives. A company like this might downgrade the steel to hit a price point, but it doesn't make sense to tool up an independent heat treatment infrastructure.

pocket knife - we&#039;ve tested and retested the kershaw leek. we&#039;ve looked long and...
We've tested and retested the Kershaw Leek. We've looked long and hard for a better value in a compact, daily-carry knife for tasks that require a keen edge. We've not found any better, yet.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Once a blade is shaped and hardened, the cutting-edge receives its final grind and can be tuned for optimum performance for different tasks. The blade of the hybrid tactical Kershaw Blur Glassbreaker is also sharpened to a steeper angle. On the other hand, the Victorinox Classic SD's tiny blade starts thin and is sharpened thinner, making for a very sharp yet fragile edge. The CRKT Drifter, Opinel No. 8, Benchmade Bugout, and Petzl Spatha are similarly slender. Modern knives like the Spyderco Tenacious G-10 and the Benchmade Mini-Barrage have blade geometry that splits the difference between the above extremes. This middle-of-the-road blade geometry is, predictably, versatile and functional. The procedures, facets, and angles used to finish an edge further influence the blade's initial sharpness and edge-holding ability.

pocket knife - we have loved every benchmade blade we use. this bugout blade is...
We have loved every Benchmade blade we use. This Bugout blade is thinner than others, but otherwise shares the geometry we like.
Credit: Jediah Porter

The Havalon Piranta Original's interchangeable blade is the thinnest – with the lowest edge angle – of any knife we test here. They can do this because it doesn't need to be resharpened at home, and if it breaks in use, you can just slide on a new one.

The components that come when you buy the Havalon Piranta. The...
The components that come when you buy the Havalon Piranta. The silver "envelopes" each hold a factory-tuned spare blade. The orange thing is the blade changing tool.
Changing the blade on the Havalon Piranta requires pliers (as shown...
Changing the blade on the Havalon Piranta requires pliers (as shown here) or Havalon's special tool.

As with steel hardness, there is no single perfect edge finish. Too narrow of an angle, and the blade's leading edge is too thin to resist deflection and dulling, while too steep of an angle on that leading edge doesn't feel nearly as sharp in actual use. Rest assured that knife manufacturers have this largely figured out. Follow their instructions for proper care, and your knife should serve you for years and years. You probably don't need this review if you know edge angles better than the knife manufacturer.

pocket knife - ontario knife company&#039;s taiwan-made blade is modern in shape and...
Ontario Knife Company's Taiwan-made blade is modern in shape and materials and pretty average in size for a daily pocket knife.
Credit: Jediah Porter

In summary, knife sharpness is a function of a wide array of variables. A user's long-term experience with the pocket knife depends as much on its maintenance as it does on the materials and initial manufacturing. The pocket knives we tested demonstrate more-than-adequate edge integrity and sharpness, as the manufacturer has balanced numerous conflicting criteria at every step in the process.

pocket knife - simple whittling would be &quot;beneath&quot; the capabilities of the north...
Simple whittling would be "beneath" the capabilities of the North Fork if it weren't just so enjoyable to shave precise curlicues with the razor sharp blade.
Credit: Jediah Porter

All the knives we tested have some type of drop-point or clip point shaped blades; these two are the most versatile blade shapes, similar but subtly different. Also, note that many blades in our test and elsewhere can be straight or serrated. Serrated blades cut tough materials more efficiently, especially rope and webbing, while straight blades are easier to sharpen. The GearLab team generally prefers straight blades. Hybrid blades, partially straight and partially serrated, can address various needs or be the worst of all worlds. The one setting in which we approve of serrated blades or hybrid blades is for climbing use. The Petzl Spatha has a hybrid blade, which we appreciate on that tool. Use and sharpen the straight portion regularly and save the serrated portion for tougher tasks like cutting carpet or rope. There are many common blade shapes. Some are utterly more general, and some are quite specific.

pocket knife - the long-tapered point and overall dimensions of the skeletool blade...
The long-tapered point and overall dimensions of the Skeletool blade are great. In the case of the Skeletool KB, the handle is a little small to do the blade justice. That bent metal handle is familiar from the multi-tool, but unnecessarily limiting, in terms of ergonomics in a dedicated pocket knife.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Ergonomics


Regardless of the blade shape or sharpness, heavy cutting requires a sturdy handle that doesn't pinch or pressure the user's hand. In many ways, portability and ergonomics are direct competitors. The most ergonomic knife has an elongated rounded-profile handle that fills a loosely clenched fist, while the most portable knife is the smallest and thinnest. Our scoring reflects that tradeoff. The most user-friendly knives were the least portable, and vice versa. It is up to you to evaluate your needs and choose a blade that strikes the balance you seek. The tool needs to be easy to open and smooth to deploy and stow. The locking mechanisms should be intuitive and straightforward, and one-handed blade deployment is best.


So-called "assisted opening knives" are even easier to use. In most cases, we prefer the assisted opening blades of knives like the Mini-Barrage and two Kershaw products, among others. Backcountry use might be the one exception to our preference for the assisted-opening function. More accurately, we recommend that if you intend to carry your knife extensively somewhere other than clipped to your pants pocket, steer clear of assisted opening function. An assisted opening knife is more likely to come open inadvertently in any setting – unless you deploy its lock-closed function, but doing so, of course, negates any of the convenience of assisted opening. Clipped to the edge of your pants pocket, the likelihood of an accidental opening is very low. In that very common carry mode, we can't think of a reason not to choose an assisted opening knife. If, on the other hand, it will float around extensively in your favorite backpacking backpack, assisted opening function is more of a liability than it is worth.

pocket knife - keep a pocket knife on you and you will be surprised just how often...
Keep a pocket knife on you and you will be surprised just how often you use it, especially when its ergonomics made it easy to pick up and use.
Credit: Jediah Porter

The assisted opening function requires at least a bit of a learning curve. For instance, deploying an assisted opening blade is best done with one hand. Opening one with one hand is easier than opening the same knife with two hands. Further, some prefer that their assisted opening knife be equipped with a locking mechanism. Most have this, but not all. The only assisted opening knife we tested that doesn't lock closed is the Kershaw Blur.

Local Laws & Regulations


Note that assisted opening is a knife qualifier that frequently appears in local knife regulations. Some of the knives we have reviewed are illegal to carry or possess in some jurisdictions. Check state-by-state laws on knife possession and carriage.

The clip is ideally oriented for pocket-clipped knives so that the tool can be pulled from the pocket and thumbed open without regripping. This tip-up carry is the fastest to deploy. Tested Benchmade and Zero Tolerance knives are made this way and can be arranged to work that way in either the left or right pocket. Why other manufacturers do not employ this simple strategy is mystifying. The only reasonable argument against tip-up pocket carry is that the blade can be more likely to fall open in your pocket with gravity. An open or, worse yet, partially open knife in your pocket is terrifying but unlikely. We have never, ever, had this happen. The Spyderco Tenacious G-10 and the Spyderco Delica 4 both all have a pocket clip that can be manipulated to hang in your pocket in one of four different configurations: tip-up or down and left or right thumb activation. This attribute alone can favor a Spyderco model for those unclear about how they wish to carry their blade or can't find a knife to match their preference.

pocket knife - the gerber lst is truly tiny. it is as small as we&#039;d recommend for...
The Gerber LST is truly tiny. It is as small as we'd recommend for adult hands to manipulate.
Credit: Jediah Porter

The Victorinox Classic SD Swiss Army has multiple tools. While you can't open any of the features with one hand, you should be able to engage them with even the most closely trimmed fingernails. The Opinel No. 8 also opens with a fingernail slot. All other knives have some form of one-handed opening.

pocket knife - opening the opinel requires two hands. this is a little more...
Opening the Opinel requires two hands. This is a little more primitive than some of the newer offerings.
Credit: Jediah Porter

One-handed opening options include a thumb stud, thumb hole, and index finger pull. All have their pros and cons. Thumb stud is the easiest to work with but adds bulk and protrusions that can snag. Also, two thumb studs need to be affixed to the blade for ambidexterity. A thumbhole, as on the Delica 4 and Petzl Spatha, is inherently ambidextrous and removes material and weight from the blade. It is just a little less ergonomic to deploy. The Petzl Spatha opens with an ambidextrous thumbhole or a unique ribbed ring inside the hinge, with gloved or bare hands. The Leatherman Skeletool KB is the only knife we have tested that has a one-handed opening but is not ambidextrous. Its thumb hole is only accessible from one side. Right-handers will have no problem with it. Lefties will have to adjust. Finally, finger flick opening is unique, inherently ambidextrous, and a little less intuitive than the others. Find a finger-flick opening on the Zero Tolerance 0450CF and as an option on the Kershaw Leek.

pocket knife - you can open the spatha a variety of ways. that grey circle moves...
You can open the Spatha a variety of ways. That grey circle moves with the blade; you can use it to open the blade, which is especially handy with gloves on.
Credit: Jediah Porter

The Opinel No. 8 has unique ergonomics. The wooden handle, nearly perfectly round, feels nice in hand and is more than adequate for light-duty tasks like cutting food. A more oval-shaped handle profile, like that of the Benchmade 15031-2 North Fork, is preferred for more substantial use, like extended whittling or cutting of rope and webbing. We also love the grip shape of the Kershaw Link, which is perfectly shaped to fit the user's hand for comfortable all-day use.

pocket knife - whittling isn&#039;t a common task, but it is one that we use in testing...
Whittling isn't a common task, but it is one that we use in testing to draw out certain attributes in a knife. Mainly, it displays how a knife responds in strenuous applications.
Credit: Jediah Porter

The diminutive James Brand Chapter has a simple design that opens with one hand. The user's thumb is a little vulnerable to cutting on the blade while opening due to a slightly sticky blade and the overall dimensions. Users learned to deal with this concern, but our test team had some trouble while riding the learning curve.

pocket knife - this image shows the chapter proportions. the blade is quite a bit...
This image shows the Chapter proportions. The blade is quite a bit shorter than the handle.
Credit: Rosie De Lise

With a somewhat outdated shape, the Spyderco Delica 4 is a long-time player on the market. The handle is narrower than ideal, while the wide blade sticks out and takes up pocket space. The wide blade accommodates the thumbhole, which assists in opening the blade. While this is a convenient and ergonomically friendly way to open the knife, it feels more substantial than necessary in our pockets.

pocket knife - this tester&#039;s thumb is opening the blade using the hidden hole in...
This tester's thumb is opening the blade using the hidden hole in the blade.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Portability


A pocket knife is only as good as it is handy. Will it be there for you when you need it? You will probably leave a knife that is too bulky or heavy at home from time to time. Small knives floating around in a glove box or crowded jeans pocket will be too time-consuming to dig out. The most portable knives in our test were either relatively small and equipped to hang on a keychain easily or had a low profile and a tight pocket clip that was, or could be, configured in the user's ideal arrangement.


The Victorinox Classic SD Swiss Army Knife is the most portable knife we have tested and stands out for its tiny stature while weighing under a single ounce. The Spyderco Tenacious is bulky and cumbersome in comparison. However, bulk and weight can be justified by some in these cases for their function and versatility.

Eminently portable, the Classic knife virtually disappears on most...
Eminently portable, the Classic knife virtually disappears on most key chains.
You regularly need a knife while backpacking. You seldom need that...
You regularly need a knife while backpacking. You seldom need that knife to be large, and you definitely don't want it to be heavy. The Gerber LST Fine Edge is a great choice.

With both large and small knives in the review, the middle of the line Benchmade Mini-Barrage is our overall favorite. For most users, the size is manageable while still being functional. The Benchmade Bugout has a blade similar in size to that of these mid-sized options but is much lighter than them all. The SOG Twitch II has a similarly small stature for everyday carry, with a reliable blade.


Also on the smaller end of the spectrum is the Opinel No. 8. It is similar in overall volume to the Kershaw Leek but differs in shape. Both are easy in the pocket, but the Leek is longer and thinner, while the Opinel No. 8 is super lightweight. Both have very thin blades. The Leatherman Skeletool KB is relatively small. Further, its handle is disproportionately small compared to its blade.

pocket knife - the pocket clip of the chapter is secure. it is also large...
The pocket clip of the Chapter is secure. It is also large, befitting the statement the knife wishes to make. You want others to know you are carrying this unique tool.
Credit: Rosie De Lise

Construction Quality


The manufacturing quality of everything but the blade varied far more than the blade's quality in the models we tested. Our evaluation of these knives' construction quality was mainly subjective but equally applied across the board. Does it feel sturdy and confidence-inspiring? When this assessment came up short for a given pocket knife, it inevitably followed that some aspect of the knife's mechanical function would act finicky.


Handle, hinges and locking mechanisms revealed the attention paid to detail. Sturdy parts and materials, tight design, close manufacturing tolerances, and carefully thought-out construction stood out immediately and only increased how much we noticed as time and usage wore on. Overall, construction quality was adequate, with no outright failures or breakages during testing.

pocket knife - benchmade&#039;s pocket clip. this spring-steel clip can be removed if...
Benchmade's pocket clip. This spring-steel clip can be removed if you like. And replaced to the same side or the opposite side. This means that, whether you are lefty or righty, you can configure the knife to hang in a pants pocket and be readily accessible.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Locking mechanisms are the best window to construction quality. Well-made knives like Kershaw's Leek and Link open and close smoothly every time. Some less expensive options cut just fine, but the locking mechanism can be difficult to disengage.

It is generally more difficult to optimize construction quality with a small knife. The miniaturized components don't leave much room for error. A testament to our high selection standards, the small knives we test are better than average for their size. The Victorinox Classic SD seems to escape some of the other small knives' issues — all its components work well and smoothly. None of the features on the Classic lock, which likely saves some hassle. The Leatherman Skeletool KB is right in here too; small but well made.

pocket knife - some texture and contouring lends a little stability to holding the...
Some texture and contouring lends a little stability to holding the Gerber, but it will never work like a much bigger knife.
Credit: Jediah Porter

The Opinel No. 8 has a unique construction. With only five parts (handle, blade, hinge pin, and two collars that serve as the locking mechanism), it's super simple, and its overall build is very clean. The result is light and reliable but a little uninspiring. Opening and locking require two hands.

pocket knife - here the &quot;virobloc&quot; ring of the opinel is turned to allow the blade...
Here the "Virobloc" ring of the Opinel is turned to allow the blade to close and open through its slot.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Other Features


In our test, only the Victorinox Classic SD, Leatherman Skeletool KB, Kershaw Blur, and Albatross EDC Tactical have functions besides a primary blade.

pocket knife - the suite of features on the classic is just right for daily use in...
The suite of features on the Classic is just right for daily use in most settings. Note the tiny tweezers and toothpick in the foreground.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Tactical knives are designed for rescue usage. Paramedics and firefighters use the stout blade, seatbelt cutter, and glass-breaking punch. The rest of us may fear the need to cut our seatbelts and bash through the window of our car, but we'll probably tire of carrying such a burly pocket knife long before using these features. The Kershaw Blur is a hybrid tactical knife with just a hardened and pointed glass breaker, and the Albatross EDC Tactical has both a seatbelt cutter and a glass breaker.

pocket knife - the bottle opener on the skeletool kb is functional, but not super...
The bottle opener on the Skeletool KB is functional, but not super easy to use.
Credit: Jediah Porter

The tiny Classic Swiss Army knife packs a versatile punch in a small package. The combination of little tools on this knife could be almost perfect for the day-to-day user. From office tasks to personal grooming to light home maintenance, the Victorinox Classic SD's simple features will get the owner through most of life's challenges.

The only additional feature on the Skeletool KB is a bottle opener. The bottle opener is sufficient but slightly more fiddly than your typical opener. It works just fine for the first few drinks of your evening.

pocket knife - the havalon piranta features one handed opening, an interchangeable...
The Havalon Piranta features one handed opening, an interchangeable blade, modern materials, pocket clipped carry, and a two-digit price tag. Modern knives have come a long, long way and we're glad to be at the forefront.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Conclusion


The spectrum of available pocket knives is immense. We have carved out the important features of knives that fall in the middle of this spectrum and always work to organize our findings better. Hopefully, what we have found and shared has helped you make your eventual selection and make it confidently.

Jeff Dobronyi & Jediah Porter


You Might Also Like

Ad-free. Influence-free. Powered by Testing.

GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.

Learn More