The Ultimate Guide to the Best Pocket Knives – 2020 Top Picks Compared
A pocket knife, from its name alone, has to be compact enough to fit in your pocket. Generally it therefore means it has to be a folding knife, to make it smaller and so that you don’t cut yourself rooting it out of the pocket when you want to use it. Besides, a smaller knife is much more likely to be legal in your state especially when you want to carry it to work and on urban streets.
It should be lightweight, since you probably don’t want to weigh down your outfit with a bulky and heavy knife. This is also typically a general purpose knife, and it’s meant for opening mail and packages and cutting cords (or stray threads in your outfit) rather than for dealing with hunting or fishing tasks.
Finally, if possible it should look good. A good-looking knife simply goes better with business attire. The best pocket knife is actually supposed to be non-threatening and unassuming. You don’t want to alarm people (especially cops) every time you whip out your pocket knife. A pocket knife is supposed to make life easier for you—and that means you want to obey the laws regarding knives in your city so you don’t get arrested.
Table of Contents
- 8 Best Pocket Knives - Comparisons
- Best Pocket Knives - Reviews
- 1. Spyderco Chaparral Carbon Fiber/G-10
- 2. Boker Plus 01BO296 Kwaiken Flipper Folding Knife
- 3. Boker Plus 01BO734 Urban Trapper 3 1/2 in. Blade
- 4. Boker Boker Plus Subcom F
- 5. Benchmade - Mini Barrage 585 Knife
- 6. Benchmade - North Fork 15031 Knife, Drop-Point
- 7. Victorinox Swiss Army Classic SD Pocket Knife
- 8. Zero Tolerance 0350TS; Folding Pocket Knife
8 Best Pocket Knives - Comparisons
CTS XHP Steel
154CM Stainless Steel
Best Pocket Knives - Reviews
So how do you pick one? Here’s one simple way: just look over our list of superb pocket knives and pick the one that seems to best fit your needs and preferences!
Spyderco is one of the most recognized brands in the pocket knife industry. Ever since they were established in the late 1970s, their knives have been favorites of law enforcement officials and military servicemen.
They’re renowned for their innovative approach, and in fact many of the most useful features you see in pocket knives these days were actually introduced by Spyderco.
While the company does offer several different series of folding knives, the Chaparral is perhaps their most prestigious line. One model is this SP152CFP, which uses CTS XHP steel for the 2.8-inch blade while the G-10 laminate handle is made from handsome carbon fiber. This is 3.6 inches long when closed, and when open it goes to 6.4 inches.
- This looks quite elegant when you take it out, and people won’t feel threatened when you take it out to use it. It also seems more appropriate with suits, unlike other dinky knives.
- The blade length is also just short enough that it’s legal to use and to carry in many places. At the same time, it’s still long enough that it’s still useful for many everyday tasks.
- The blade and the handle are extremely slim, and that’s a good thing for your pocket. It comes with a clip that allows you to carry it in your left or right pocket.
- This uses CTS XHP steel for the leaf-shaped blade, and this steel is renowned for its good anti-corrosion properties and excellent edge retention. It’s sharp when you get it, and it stays sharp for a long time.
- It offers a very nice grip when you use it, and it helps that you have non-skid jimping on the spine. There’s also a lock back for the blade so that it doesn’t open accidentally when you’re trying to get it out of your pocket.
- Like all the other Spyderco knives, it features a large home on the blade so you can open it quickly.
- You have to carry this tip-up in your pocket. There’s no tip-down carry option.
- Some people may feel that this is too nice-looking, so that it doesn’t feel right using it for everyday household chores.
In the old days before Japan modernized, the men and women of the samurai class carried a dagger called the kaiken. It was short enough to be more useful for self-defense when they were indoors.
The famous knifemaker Lucas Burnley used this knife as inspiration for the Kwaiken series of knives that Boker know makes in its factory in Solingen, Germany.
This is a slim knife with a streamlined design, and it offers a clean and minimalist look. The blade measures 3.5 inches long, and when open the knife measures 8⅜ inches overall. With the Japanese artistry combined with the reliability of old-school German engineering, you have a knife that’s both a collectible and a tool you can carry every day.
- The design is quite sleek and minimalist, and it’s great to look at as it really doesn’t look alarming. It’s a perfect look for the office. When you open it, the spine is even perfectly level with the handle. When it’s closed, the blade is completely hidden.
- This is a flipper knife that opens very smoothly due to the use of the superlative IKBS ball-bearings. It opens with a nice “snap”. There’s also a new detent that keeps it from opening accidentally.
- The size is nice and modest without being too small, and the weight is also just right at 5.4 ounces.
- The blade uses VG-10 steel from japan. It’s renowned for performing well in a wide variety of ways, so it’s easy to sharpen and can be really sharp, it retains the edge nicely, and it’s also good for corrosion resistance.
- The titanium scales on the handle look great, and it also offers a nice grip.
- It comes with a liner lock to secure the blade when you’re using it, and you also get a pocket clip.
- It’s so durable it comes with a limited lifetime warranty.
- The relatively smooth handle is great for the pocket, but some people may wish for a bit more grip.
Here’s another minimalist-looking knife, designed by knifemaker Brad Zinker and now inspired by the classic Trapper knives. It’s not surprising that this has become one of the brand’s most popular models, as it offers a classy look with a slender build and premium materials.
The clip-point blade uses premium VG-10 stainless steel that’s rust-resistant and able to hold its sharpness well, while it’s also easy to sharpen.
Opening the knife is easy and smooth due to the IBS ball-bearing pivot. The handle is made of elegant cocobolo wood, with a deep-carry pocket clip and a titanium frame lock. The blade measures 3.5 inches, and when closed it’s just 4.25 inches long with a width of only 0.39 inches.
- The look is fantastic. It’s elegant yet functional, and totally unintimidating. It’s like the perfect letter opener that you can use to cut cords and loose threads.
- With the deep-carry pocket clip, no part of the knife really sticks out so you don’t scare people around you in public.
- The weight is also unbelievably light. It’s simply amazing that it only weighs 1.89 ounces.
- It opens nicely and smoothly, without any sort of hassle.
- It comes with a very sharp edge as well, and it can cut things very easily.
- It also comes with a limited lifetime warranty.
- This is meant mostly for light duty and various office tasks, so the looks come with some sacrifices over ergonomics. The straight lines of the handle look great, but there aren’t any finger grooves and choil jimping.
If you have too many slim pocket knives in your collection and you’re longing for a change, you may want to take a look at the affordable Boker Plus lineup.
These are well-made knives that have proved quite popular over the years, and that’s partly because of its distinctive appearance.
Instead of long and slim, this is short and stout. It’s 4.625 inches long, and that’s when it’s already open. The blade is only 1.875 inches long, and when it’s closed the blade shortens to just 2.75 inches. Even the weight is insubstantial at just 1.96 ounces.
This comes with several different variants, and the Subcom F variant comes with AUS-8 steel for the black, partially serrated blade. The fiberglass-reinforced nylon handle can be black or gray, and it comes with a frame lock.
- You’ll hardly notice this when you carry it in your pocket, as it’s so compact and lightweight. This is a true pocket-sized knife.
- The width of the blade allows you to exert some force into your cutting, so it’s quite effective for light and medium-duty tasks. In other words, it’s perfect for an office and household setting.
- The AUS-8 Japanese steel excels in how easy it is to sharpen. You can sharpen this so that it’s really sharp. It’s a bit more resistant to rust than 440C steel.
- It looks nice and functional, and the size hardly makes it look like any sort of weapon at all.
- The pocket clip works great, but in this case you can actually use this knife as a sort of money clip for your bills.
- You can also just remove the pocket clip and put some paracord through the lanyard hole in the handle.
- With the Plus lineup, you have your choice of blade steel. This Subcom F comes with AUS-8 that doesn’t quite hold its edge that well.
- You also need to understand that the size of the Boker Plus makes it unsuitable for heavy duty work especially for extended periods of time.
Many consider this compact model in the Benchmade Barrage lineup as among the best pocket knives to carry for everyday use. It has been crafted with precision, and the makers of this knife have really succeeded in offering a great deal of value for your money.
When closed, this knife is only 4 inches long and the weight is lightweight at 3.4 ounces. The blade adds just 2.91 inches to the overall length.
It uses 154CM steel for the blade along with a Valox handle that offers nice ergonomics and grip.
- The 154CM steel used for the blade is considered an upgrade over the usual 440C steel you see in other knives. It’s great in retaining its edge, yet it’s relatively easy to sharpen. It also holds up against rust quite well.
- The blade cuts through things efficiently, whether it’s a stick, a rope, or even soft items like tomatoes.
- The size of the knife is optimal. It’s small enough to fit nicely in your pocket. You can just put it along with your keys in one pocket, and you can balance your trousers with the smartphone in the other front pocket. At the same time, it’s still big enough for just about every task you may need to use it with.
- It’s very easy to open with its assisted-opening mechanism, and the blade lock that secures the blade works smoothly.
- This can be configured for left or right pocket carry. This also comes with dual thumb studs for opening the blade, so it’s ambidextrous.
- It does come with a lock when the blade is closed. However, this lock doesn’t quite work intuitively, so you’ll need to practice with it to learn how to use it well.
If there’s one word to describe this superb pocket knife, it’s smooth. It’s not just its smooth and cool look that’s accentuated by the elegant wooden handle.
It’s also about how this thing works. It opens very smoothly with no hiccups, it locks smoothly into place, and then it cuts anything smoothly with a single swipe. While you can use this as your EDC knife, it also works well for hunting.
This comes with a closed length of just 3.9 inches, while the blade is only 2.97 inches long. The wood handle also makes it a bit lighter than the G10 handle variant, as it now weighs only 3.16 ounces.
- Benchmade uses the premium CPM S30V steel. This is noted for its excellent sharpness and edge retention, the ease of sharpening, and resistance to corrosion.
- The well-balanced qualities of this blade make it eminently suitable for just about any everyday task. At the same time, it’s also an ideal pocket knife for hunting as you can use this for an entire large game field dressing.
- The handle is quite handsome, and it uses stabilized wood which deals better with environmental damage than regular natural wood.
- The size is just right for convenient use. The hinges work smoothly, you can handle this knife easily with just a single hand, and the lock is unmatched in how it efficiently and reliably it works.
- Perhaps the main drawback of the North Fork is its lack of assisted opening. Yes, it can still open very smoothly so you can flip it open with ease. But it has just the standard Axis lock folder, so you don’t really have springs to help you open it.
In many ways, the Victorinox Swiss Army Classic SD Pocket Knife is the ideal everyday knife. It’s small yet it offers a wide range of functions for a very low price.
Just about everyone who wants to buy a new knife these days once owned one of Swiss Army knives. It’s still among the most popular and the most highly regarded pocket knives of all time.
It’s named “Classic” not just for marketing purposes but because it really is a classic.
- This is like a Zippo lighter—it can have just about any sort of color or design. It’s not unusual for online retail sellers to offer this with almost 40 different colors and designs. You can get it in many color hues, with the US flag design, or with a National Park Foundation design.
- This is the ultimate in compactness and portability. It’s only 2.25 inches long and about 0.354 inches thick, while it weighs just 0.74 ounces.
- This offers 7 functions, and one of them is to use it as a key ring. You can also fold the knife open to show the 1.25-inch blade, as well as scissors, a screwdriver with a nail file, tweezers, and even a toothpick.
- You may think that the blade may be flimsy, but that’s not really the case. It’s very well-made and the quality control is so good that it’s highly unlike that you’ll ever experience a failure with these blades. It uses a proprietary-formula steel that can consistently hold its edge while you can also sharpen it very easily.
- The tools fold out and close very smoothly, as it has fingernail grooves.
- This is the ultimate in unassuming knives, and it’s legal to carry virtually everywhere. It’s also the perfect pocket knife for those people who don’t really feel all that comfortable in carrying a knife in public. This doesn’t feel like a knife—it’s a miniature toolbox.
- This isn’t designed for heavy-duty tasks, nor is it for many hours of continued use.
Pocket knives can be mild-mannered everyday carry knives, or they can by scary tactical knives. The Zero Tolerance 0350TS Tiger Strip Knife combines both types into a neat little package.
You might want to regard it as a heavy-duty EDC knife, and it’s so good that no one seems to have anything bad to say about it. Yes. It isn’t perfect, but its drawbacks are so minor compared to what benefits you get that it seems silly to complain about anything.
Let’s take a look at the 0350TS with its Tiger Stripe finish. This comes in with a length of 4.625 inches closed, while the blade is 3.25 inches long. It uses excellent S30V steel for the blade and it comes with DLC (Diamond-Like Carbon) coating, while the G-10 handle is matte black with a textured surface.
- It comes with an assisted-opening mechanism along with a liner lock, and you can get it open with the flipper or with the blade stops that can work as thumb studs.
- The pocket clip lets you carry it in one of four ways: left or right handed, and tip-up or tip-down.
- The grip is actually quite broad at half an inch, and it fits in your hand nicely. It’s actually quite comfy in your hand when you’re using it. With its coil and finger guard, you can hold securely whether you’re using a forward or a reverse grip. Even when you need to use this for 10 minutes straight it won’t feel weird in your hands.
- The blade is extremely sharp, and it can hold its edge for a very long time. It has no problem with newsprint whatsoever. The plain-edged blade was actually tested with box cardboard and for the first 100 feet it was like cutting through water. It only started to catch on the cardboard after cutting though straight for 170 feet! In fact, this may not even be the blade’s fault, as the tester was quite tired at the end.
- You can use this for self-defense too. Just make sure you know the legal issues, okay?
- The durability of the knife is outstanding. There’s no play on the blade, and nothing will cause it to have any. The Tiger Stripe coating on the knife doesn’t even dull or fade any bit even after continued use.
- With the way the pocket clip is designed, there’s way too much of the top of the knife showing. While the pocket clip does help to retain the knife without damaging your pockets, you may wish it was just a bit more discreet. It’s not exactly configured for deep-carry.
When it comes to pocket knives, it’s probably best to apply a simple rule: it’s better to have it and not need it, than to need it and to not have it. So why not go for the best pocket knife you can get?
If you’re going to bring this with you every time you go out, you’ll want something that actually does the job and keeps you safe. Pick any of the pocket knives on our list, and you’ll get the reassuring feeling that you’re more ready to face what life throws at you each day.
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