Your ultimate guide to knives

Discovering the Best Pocket Knife

best pocket knifeWe’re here to help you research the best pocket knife and get the most for your money.  Use our charts to browse the best pocket knives from the top manufacturers.  Simply put, we’re the ultimate online buyer’s guide with tons of useful information for both knife enthusiasts and newbies alike.  We provide news, knife reviews, knife education and best of all we’re not a knife vendor so you can be sure to get impartial advice.  Our HUGE interactive chart of pocket knives tables all the most popular folding knives and their specs to help you compare, contrast and make informed decisions.

Recommended best pocket knives for 2014

Naturally this list of the best pocket knives may change from time to time but here are the folding knives that currently impress me the most:

Benchmade Griptilian

Benchmade Mini Griptilian pocket knifeBenchmade is a top class knife manufacturer and their Griptilian range is tremendously popular among pocket knife enthusiasts.  In fact, many will tell you this is simply the best folding knife for your money.  The Mini Griptilian is the smaller variant that excels as an “every day carry” (EDC) knife due to its excellent ergonomics and versatility.  It uses a drop point stainless steel blade which is plenty sharp and can be effortlessly opened with one hand using thumb studs. The handle is Valox which provides decent grip and durability.

The knife employs Benchmade’s impressive AXIS lock mechanism which uses a tiny spring loaded steel bar that shifts forward and back into a special slot cut into the liners and engages a notch machined into the tang section of the blade when opened. The full size Griptilian (551) will get you through most any situation you throw at it.   >> See the Standard Griptilian at Amazon.  The Mini Griptilian (556) is an excellent lightweight knife and near-perfect for everyday use.  Both the Standard and Mini Griptilian have close to a 5-star ratings on Amazon and can be had for roughly $100.>> Current pricing and reviews on the Mini Griptilian.

Here are some of my favorite knives by Benchmade:

  • benchmade-710 mchenry
    710 McHenry
  • benchmade-551 griptilian
    550 Griptilian
  • benchmade-940 osborne
    940 Osborne
  • benchmade-581 barrage
    581 Barrage
  • benchmade-275 adamas
    275 Adamas
  • benchmade-530 pardue
    530 Pardue
  • benchmade-950 rift
    950 Rift

Spyderco Tenacious

Spyderco Tenacious pocket knifeSpyderco is another tried and trusted pocket knife manufacturer which is popular with enthusiasts.  Their tactical folding knives are instantly recognizable and ergonomically sound.  The Spyderco Tenacious has been around for a few years now and represents amazing value for money.  It’s a tactical knife which can be used as an EDC and features a leaf-shaped 8CR13MOV stainless steel blade that’s somewhat broad but plenty sharp.  The Tenacious performs well in most applications including some heavy duty tasks and with very little blade play in either direction.

For such a low price point this knife has some great features – the distinctive thumb hole allows for smooth and confident blade deployment, the pivot tension can be self-adjusted and a 4-way pocket clip which can be moved to either side of the blade.  The knife handle is G-10 material with skeletonized stainless steel which minimizes weight without expensing too much strength and fits snug in your hand. Overall, it’s impressive to see just how much Spyderco has sunk into this baby for such a low price.  This knife has almost 550 reviews on Amazon with an average rating of 4.7.  The Tenacious will typically set you back no more than $40! >> Discount pricing and reviews on the Spyderco Tenacious pocket knife. 

Here are some of the best folding knives Spyderco has to offer:

  • spyderco-delica
    Delica
  • spyderco-endura
    Endura
  • spyderco-manix
    Manix
  • spyderco-paramilitary2
    Paramilitary 2
  • spyderco-tenacious
    Tenacious
  • spyderco-sage
    Sage

Kershaw Leek by Ken Onion

Kershaw Leek KnifeThere’s a reason this is one of the best selling knives in existence today. Highly regarded knife maker Ken Onion has designed this beautiful yet affordable pocket knife which is part of Kershaw’s Leek series.  It employs the patented SpeedSafe opening system which ensures a smooth blade deployment with only a single hand.

The Sandvik 14C28N stainless steel blade is extremely sharp and will stay sharp for a long time but do note the blade tip is somewhat delicate as compared to other knives so we don’t recommend this for heavy duty applications. The Kershaw Leek is compact, lightweight and comes in variety of colors in both serrated or smooth blade types.  There are almost 600 reviews for this knife at Amazon with an average rating of 4.7.  At under $50 this is clearly a contender for being the best folding knife.  >> Best pricing and reviews on the Kershaw Leek Ken Onion pocket knife.

Buck 110 Folding Hunter

Buck 110 pocket knifeWithout doubt one of the most iconic and popular hunting-style knives which dates back to 1964 and considered to be one of the very first lockback knives.  Created by Buck Knives, this masterpiece is copied the world-over and is admired by both knife-newbies and long-time knife collectors.  The reason?  For a start, Buck’s 420HC rust-resistant stainless steel is considered to be among the best and will take an edge relatively easily.  The knife is very well made and the lock is top-class with no blade play in either direction.

It’s damn sturdy too, able to carry out heavy duty tasks without succumbing to much wear-and-tear.   Most are surprised how large it is at first glance too – it’s almost five inches closed and the blade three and a quarter inches long. Over 250 reviews at Amazon with an average rating of 4.9 (yes, 4.9 out of 5.0!) can’t be wrong.  Sure, this is not going to hold up against your Spyderco’s or Benchmade’s if you need a tactical knife but for most campers and general outdoorsmen this is a very affordable knife that won’t disappoint.  >> Current pricing and reviews on the Buck 110 pocket knife. 

SOG Flash II

SOG Flash IISOG is a leader in knife manufacturing and their pocket knives have won praise with many in the industry.  The SOG Flash II is an excellent affordable choice for the every-day-carry knife and looks similar in appearance to the Benchmade Griptilian.   It’s razor sharp with an AUS-8 stainless steel blade which is partially serrated and very durable.  The Flash II uses spring assisted opening technology which ensures a fast, smooth opening  and the handle is glass-reinforced nylon which results in a lightweight yet strong design.  For added safety the knife includes a locking switch which will ensure the blade does not accidentally deploy.

Again, this knife is a solid all-rounder which is well built and insanely sharp.  The SOG Flash II has gathered over 200 reviews on Amazon and reviewers have given it an average rating of 4.6.   It may not hold its own against some of the more expensive knives but for under $50 it’s a great buy. >> The best pricing and reviews on the SOG Flash II knife. 

Benchmade 940 Osborne

benchmade 940If you have a little more cash to invest I highly recommend the Benchmade 940 Osborne.  The is one of the finest mid-sized EDC knives I have ever used and it regularly comes with me most everywhere I go.  The 940 Osborne has a 3.4 inch blade forged from the excellent S30V stainless steel and weighs only 2.9 ounces.  It measures just less than 4.5 inches when closed so it’s far from being considered a large knife.  In fact the size is near perfect for me.

Like the Griptilian the 940 Osborne uses the solid AXIS lock mechanism which is one of the best in the business.  The anodized 6061-T6 aluminum handle performs exceptionally well and stands up to the most extreme conditions without any sign of deterioration.  Design and ergonomics are top notch and this knife feels like an extension of your hand once you get used to it.   I think you get the idea!  The only downside here is the price but if you’re serious about knives you should check it out.  >> See the 940 Osborne at Amazon. 

And if you can really afford it…

Chris Reeve Sebenza

Chris Reeve SebenzaIn the knife community Chris Reeve is synonymous with quality and innovation and no discussion of best pocket knives is complete without mentioning the Sebenza.  The Chris Reeve Sebenza has long been regarded by the industry as one of the best folding knives money can buy.  It has a titanium frame lock design that combines simplicity with durability and a blade made from S35VN stainless steel that forever retains its edge.  Once opened and locked the knife feels as solid as a fixed blade and holds comfortably in the hand. The quality is truly second to none and it’ll shave the hairs on your chin right out of the box! Here’s a useful video we found discussing the Sebenza:

The Sebenza is available in large or small and dedicated right or left handed models.  This really is considered by many to be the cream of the crop and the price is accordingly steep.  This one will set you back around $450.

Why I built this website

Our motto is that nobody should be without a pocket knife.  Still, choosing the right one can be a challenge as you’ll find literally hundreds of folding knives available to purchase from a bunch of different manufacturers ranging from a cheap $5 penknife to well over $500 for top of the line models.  The information you need is out there but it’s generally strewn all over the place.  As a pocket knife enthusiast for over 20 years I wanted to create the best online knife resource with everything in one spot.  My team and I have gathered all the information you need to make life easy for you.  We consider it our mission to help you find the right knife that meets your needs.  As we’re not a knife vendor so you can be sure to get impartial advice.

Still unsure which pocket knife to buy?

We know what you’re thinking: “Look, I need to buy a knife but there are way too many to choose from so please just tell me which is the best so I can go and buy it.”  We hear it all the time and to be honest, it’s really, really hard to simply tell you what the ultimate pocket knife is.  That’s because there are so many different knives on the market today and each one is suited to a different user and application.  Of course there is a bunch of crap out there which we will endeavor to ensure you steer clear of but even after weeding those out you’re left with literally hundreds of choices from top quality manufacturers. Well don’t despair.

Check out our massive interactive chart of pocket knives which has all the key data points to help you choose.  We know the choices can often be overwhelming to the uninitiated: single blade, 2, 3 and 4-blade, Swiss Army knives, jack knives, barlow, camper, canoe, lock-blade, multitool, etc.   Even when you may have figured out what type of knife you want there are a multitude of choices to sift through: tactical or traditional, blade size, type of steel, locking blade or not, natural or synthetic, etc… and the list goes on.  So check out the chart and reviews which will help a great deal.

What I look for in the right pocket knife?

You may be wondering what are some of the things we consider in choosing the best knife.    Here’s the main ones:

The pocket knife blade

logocircle-smallAs you’d expect the blade is the heart and soul of the knife and above all else it needs to be sharp.  Razor sharp!  A dull blade is like having an unloaded gun, it defeats the purpose of having a pocket knife in the first place.  Of course, knife makers know this and they put a lot of emphasis on the blade – what it is made of, how it reacts under stress, how easy it is to sharpen if needed, how it will resist corrosion and how strong it is.  You’ll typically find the best pocket knives are using the best steel suited to the main application the knife was designed for.  The steel will determine properties like toughness, strength, hardness, wear resistance, corrosion resistance and edge retention.  Our guide to knife blade steel explores more about the science of knife blades but for now simply know that the blade is numero-uno when choosing a knife.

The pocket knife handle

logocircle-smallA quality knife handle should be tough, resilient and should not absorb any moisture.  A good example of a material that exhibits these properties is G-10 which is a fiberglass based laminate that demonstrates minimal water absorption.   Other popular handle materials these days are Titanium, FRN and Zytel.  Bear in mind, however that you can have the best materials in the world and still have a poor knife.  What’s more important is the design.

Knife design and ergonomics

logocircle-smallNothing else matters if the knife is poorly designed and getting the right ergonomics is a key part of the design process.  In basic terms, ergonomics refers to how comfortable the knife feels in your hand.   A quality knife designer can create something that feels like an extension of your hand.  Also the locking mechanism is very important – whether it’s a liner lock, frame lock or axis lock for example.

Overall value for money

logocircle-smallSure if we were all filthy rich our knife buying experience would be a whole lot easier.  The reality for most of us is that we are limited to a budget and want to get the maximum performance within these limits.  This is why we pay particular attention to value for money.  Many knives on the market today are simply overpriced for what they are.  The good news is that there are also plenty of excellent value for money options and if you look hard enough it’s possible to find a number of top quality knives without breaking the bank.

Other considerations

Here’s a summary of some of the additional things you ought to consider before making your purchase:

How do you intend to use the knife?

You wouldn’t buy a machete for slicing tomatoes in the kitchen and the same logic goes for how you choose your pocket knife.  Think about how you plan on using the knife.  Is it for skinning deer, cutting boxes, self-defense or just an all-round everyday knife?  All folding knives are not made for the same purpose so be sure to have this in mind before taking the plunge.

Single vs multi-blade knives

single multi bladeToday’s folding knives come in all shapes and sizes and range from a single blade to a multitool style knife.  Heck, there’s one multitool with 87 different implements!  My advice here is don’t overdo it.  Your default assumption should be that a single blade is all you need. Now, if your intended knife usage calls for some markedly different applications then do consider a multi-blade knife.  These tend to be in the classic style from renowned manufacturers such as Case, Buck or Old Timer.

For example, you’ll find two or three-blade pocket knives which include a standard clip or drop-point blade accompanied by a spey or sheepsfoot blade.  These are particularly useful for hunters or fisherman who need to carry out a variety of tasks at once.  Then you have Swiss Army knives and Multitools which throw in a whole bunch of other ‘tools’ that you may or may not need.  Remember, these all add bulk so again I recommend starting simple unless you really need the extra options.

What’s the size of the knife?

knife sizeI generally categorize pocket knives in to three categories: small, medium and large.  Small sized pocket knives typically have a blade length of under 2.5 inches.  These are perfect for slipping in your pocket and serving as simple utility knives.  Sure you won’t be cutting down trees but they’re ideal for those handyman jobs around the house and garden.

Medium sized pocket knives typically have a blade length of between 2.5 and 3.75 inches.   It’s the sweet spot that most EDC knives will fall into and the most popular size category.  For real heavy duty applications you should consider a large sized pocket knife which has a blade of over 3.75 inches.  Larger knives in this category are not too common but ideal for mammoth tasks.  Note that with larger knives you need to pay close attention to state laws which may prohibit you from carrying them.

What type of blade do you need?

serrationAs discussed in our blade types guide, there are plenty of variations on the market to fit every possible usage.  This is certainly something you want to consider against your intended usage.  If it’s general purpose I recommend going with a drop point or clip point blade.  In addition to blade type you should consider whether you want a plain, serrated or partially serrated edge.  Naturally a plain edge will be unable to perform any sawing cuts but excels at all forms of precision cutting.  Rarely will you need a fully serrated edge unless it’s for specific heavy duty work.  You may consider the combo edge (with partial serration) and these are getting more popular these days particularly on the tactical knives.

Is the knife brand reputable?

We’re fortunate here in the USA to have some of the world’s finest knife brands on our doorstep.  Trusted manufacturers like Spyderco, Benchmade, Kershaw, SOG, Buck, Gerber, Case, Emerson, Victorinox, CRKT and Schrade are all competing to provide us with the best possible quality.  Check out my guide to the different pocket knife brands to learn more about these brands.

What style of knife do you need?

You’ll notice the tactical folding knife style becoming more popular these days, especially with younger knife enthusiasts but there will always be a place for the more classic knife designs such as with the Uncle Henry and Old Timer knives.  In addition, the Swiss Army pocket knife style is a category all unto itself and continues to be pressured by the multitool category too.  Again, think about how you intend to use the knife which will help determine the best knife style for you.

You’re a step closer…

With everything I’ve put into this site you cannot go wrong.   Whether you need a knife for camping, hunting, self defense of simply an EDC you should be able to find a solid recommendation.  Hopefully you’ve learned about knife types and the different steels in our Education section.  No doubt you’ll have read through a bunch of detailed knife reviews in our Reviews section.  You should have familiarized yourself with the various different pocket knife manufacturers in the Brands section and finally you’ve reviewed a complete detailed listing of most all the knives you’ll ever need to consider in our unique Comparison Chart.  Now go grab your pocket knife today! If you still have questions, do not hesitate to get in touch.