Best Pocket Knives

Updated September 2021
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

32 Models Considered
8 Hours Researched
2 Experts Interviewed
125 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best pocket knives

Whether you’re cutting a line during a fishing trip or slicing a particularly hefty block of cheese during a park picnic, a pocket knife is nice to have on hand. Indeed, it can serve you well in a multitude of situations.

We’ve been using various forms of pocket knives since 600 to 500 BCE. They’ve saved the lives of countless adventurers, and we can say with confidence that pocket knives aren’t going to fall out of use in the next millennium or two.

We mapped out everything to consider when you’re shopping for a pocket knife.

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Boy Scouts follow special guidelines for handling knives that promote good manners as well as good safety practices.

Types of pocket knives

There are more variations of pocket knives than most people could possibly imagine, which makes it easy to find one perfectly suited for your tasks. Here are some common types of pocket knives.

  • Camper Knife: A camper knife is what you picture when you think of a “Swiss Army” knife. It features additional tools such as a screwdriver and tweezers.

  • Canoe Knife: This handy double-bladed knife features blades on both sides, which make it resemble a boat.

  • Congress Knife: A slightly curved knife, this variation usually has four blades.

  • Elephant’s Toenail: This knife is double-bladed with one of the blades shorter and thinner than the other.

  • Laguiole Knife: Here’s a basic, thin knife that occasionally holds a corkscrew.

  • Penknife: One of the most recognizable pocket knives, a penknife is a thin folding knife that lacks sturdiness but offers convenience.

  • Sodbuster: This is a folding knife with a wide handle for a comfortable grip, which makes it ideal for extended use.

  • Sunfish: Like an elephant’s toenail, this knife is double-bladed, but both blades are of the same width.

  • Trapper: This common jackknife with a clip boasts both a master blade and a spey blade.

  • Whittler: A pocket knife with one large blade on one side and two smaller blades on the other, a Whittler is used (as the name suggests) for carving wood.

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Did you know?
You can use a toothpick or a can of compressed air to gently remove dirt from the locking mechanism on your pocket knife.

How many blades do you need?

An important factor to consider when purchasing a pocket knife is the number of blades you want or need the knife to sport.

If you prefer to keep things compact and simple – and you need a durable knife that can withstand lots of pressure – a single-blade knife is the right choice. The construction distributes weight well to give you a sturdy frame and also allows for a spring-loaded opening. This comes in handy should you need to open your knife quickly.

Multiple-blade knives typically feature two to four blades with varying edges, widths, and lengths that give you more versatility but less durability.

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Pocket knives are not screwdrivers (but sometimes they come with one), and you run the risk of hurting yourself and your blade if you attempt to use yours as one.

Types of handles

A modern-day pocket knife folds into a slot on the handle. These handles come in a wide range of materials that impact more than just the knife’s aesthetics – even if some of these options are as elegant as they are tough.

  • Plastic: Knives with plastic handles are often the most affordable options. If you plan to use your pocket knife extensively, however, bear in mind that a plastic handle can slip and cause blisters.

  • Stainless Steel: Rust-resistant and strong, stainless steel is a durable option for a knife handle. It is heavier than some other materials, and it can be slippery if not textured or ridged.

  • Bone: Animal bone is a standard, inexpensive pocket knife material that can be dyed a wide array of colors. Its porous nature does make it susceptible to wear over time.

  • Wood: A traditional and inexpensive option, wood handles can come from hard woods, soft woods, and wood injected with plastics. These options can be very porous and thus are not a good option for fishers.

  • Titanium: Lightweight and incredibly durable, a pocket knife handle made of titanium resists corrosion from acids but can still scratch. Some premium models feature titanium handles.

  • Aluminum: A bit weaker than titanium but also much less expensive, a pocket knife handle made of aluminum is a durable and corrosion-resistant option, albeit slightly slippery and scratch-prone.

  • Carbon Fiber: This is another popular handle option for premium models, as the reinforced polymer is stronger than steel while also being lightweight with a rugged look. They’re somewhat brittle, though. These knives can crack on impact if, for example, you drop them onto concrete.

  • Mother of Pearl: Here’s a beautiful option. These handles are popular more for their style than their functionality.

  • ZYTEL®: As a FRN (fiberglass-reinforced nylon), this material is inexpensive and almost indestructible. These handles can feel cheap or plasticy to some, however.

  • Stag: As the name would suggest, these handles are made from shed deer antlers. Since they’re such beautiful pocket knives, stag handles make great gifts.

  • G-10: This material is a laminate composite made of fiberglass and soaked in resin. It’s lightweight, water-resistant, and works well in extreme weather conditions, making it a good piece of survival gear.

Types of locks

You obviously don’t want your pocket knife shutting or opening accidentally and hurting you, which is why pocket knives often feature some form of locking system. Here are a few common options.

  • Liner Lock

This common lock system uses an angled lockbar to push against the blade and keep it in place.

  • Lockback/Spinelock

Two notches pop out of the handle to secure the blade, and the user must press on the bottom of the spine to close the knife again.

  • Frame Lock

The frame positions itself beneath the tang of the blade when it’s opened, and it must be pushed back in to close.

  • Lever Lock

This lock uses a pin fitted into a hole in the tang of the blade to secure it. Pressing down on a lever locks or disengages the knife.

  • Clasp Lock

One of the oldest forms of locks (it dates all the way back to the Vikings), this system can use a metal ring or clasp you push or pull to lock and disengage the blade.

  • Mid Lock

This is similar to a lockback, but you push a spot in the middle of the handle instead of the bottom to release the lock.

  • Ring Lock/Collar Lock

You open and close this lock by twisting a ring on top of the handle.

  • Slip Joint

Created in the 1660s, this if the lock form on most utility knives. A backspring keeps the blade in place by putting pressure on a spring to hold the blade up.

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For your safety
Never use a knife with a broken lock, as you risk the blade falling or snapping closed on your hand.

Pocket knife prices

$3 to $30

You can get a simple, one-blade folding knife with a plastic or aluminum handle for only a few dollars; just don’t expect a warranty or any lasting guarantees. Swiss Army knives are also readily available in this price range, but these work better for casual use, as the blades can be thin and dull. There are definitely some great simple knives at the higher end of this range if you’re watching your budget.

$30 to $70

Here you begin to see lifetime warranties, thicker steel, and special coatings on blades with handles made out of steel, wood, and bone. This price range includes many durable knives that are great for everyday use.

$70 to $250

Knives in this price range will have better-quality steel and more dependable locking systems with upgrades and special features, such as assisted-opening systems and glass crushers on the bottoms of handles.

$250 to $500

You can expect to pay this much for premium knives with titanium or carbon-fiber handles and speciality steel blades.

$500 and up

There are pocket knives that retail for almost $20,000, but you will probably never need one unless you are a serious collector. Some speciality work and survival knives from smaller companies will also top the $500 mark.


  • Consider how you want to carry and store your knife before you buy, as mistakes like storing your knife in a leather case for extended periods can leave oil residue and damage the piece.

  • A good knife can last a lifetime, and quality knife makers often offer a warranty with their products. These companies sometimes allow you to send in your knife for sharpening, shining, and repairs either free of charge or for a small fee.

  • If you are going to carry your pocket knife every day, some states legally require you to use a clip. A clip attaches your knife to your pocket so it is always visible and thus not a concealed weapon. Some users complain about the aesthetics or feel of clips.

  • Want more information on an obscure brand or model? There are tons of passionate knife devotees in online forums out there who will be happy to talk to you about it.

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Be sure to check your state’s laws on knife sizes before making a purchase.


Q. Is it legal to carry a pocket knife?

A. States and municipalities have varying laws about visibility, blade length, and where and when you can legally carry a pocket knife. Check your local laws before making a purchase, and always be sure to leave your pocket knife at home when entering an airport or similarly restricted area.

Q. Is it safe to carry a pocket knife?

A. As long as you are responsible and careful, it’s perfectly safe to carry a pocket knife. For the safest possible situation, use a well-sharpened knife with a dependable locking system.

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