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The Best Pocket Knives to Keep on You Every Day

You want a pocket knife for one seemingly simple reason: to keep on you for when you need it at a moment’s notice to perform any number of tasks, from the mundane to the gnarly. It might be able to skin an elk or cut fruit from a tree, but it’ll also open your packages, slice off a hunk of cheese for a friend, or cut a loose string that threatens to unravel the whole sweater. And the knife doesn’t need to be complicated, just convenient enough to bring everywhere (and have a decent blade). After we grab our phone, wallet, and keys, we reach for one of these to stow in our pockets next.


Choosing a Knife

When considering knives for everyday carry (EDC), mostly look at folders. We want something on the smaller side, and since folding knives, well, fold, they fit easily in your pocket when closed. And we considered almost exclusively single-blade folders, rather than multitools like a Leatherman, since they weigh less, further boosting the portability. Since folding knives don’t have the rigidity of fixed blades, we focused mostly on locking knives. They afford the ease of folders with the added safety of not closing on your fingers while you use them, plus the stiffness of a locking blade means you can manipulate the knife at a variety of angles, like while carving or opening a particularly tricky package. Plus, you can use the back of the blade for things like fire sparking sticks without it closing or bending on you.

Another major factor is the kind of metal the blade is made from. Our favorites are carbon or stainless steel. Carbon steel is easy to sharpen, holds an edge well, and is durable, but the blade takes more care, as it’s more prone to corrosion. Stainless steel is the more common choice for pocket knives. It isn’t as hardy as carbon, but with the addition of chromium, the blade is less susceptible to corrosion. If you want to dive deeper into the different classes and qualities of common sub-types of knife steels, Knife Informer has this handy primer.


Types of Locking Mechanisms

Don't be intimidated by all the different types of locking mechanisms. They all accomplish the same task, but go about it different ways.

Liner
One side of the handle’s inner liner is bent, causing it to act like a spring. When you open the blade, that springing liner slides over behind the tang of the blade to keep it from closing. Pro: Simple and inexpensive. Con: Fingers are in the way when closing.

Frame
Like a liner lock, but this system has one side of the knife’s frame slide behind the blade when you deploy it. Pro: Secure. Con: Not ambidextrous.

Compression
A Spyderco technology where a piece of the liner springs into the tang and wedges between a notch and a pin. It unlocks with a push button. Pro: Easy to operate. Con: Small parts can wear out over time

Lock Backs
A locking bar runs up the spine of the knife’s handle and springs up into a notch in the tang. To close, press on the bar close to the butt of the handle to pivot it out of the tang. Pro: Ambidextrous. Con: Can wear out, causing the blade to wiggle when deployed.

Axis
This is a proprietary Benchmade design: A steel bar passes through the knife handle and slots into a notch in the tang. It’s almost three times as strong as a liner lock, and you don’t have to adjust your grip to operate it. Pro: Ambidextrous. Con: More small parts that can break.

Collar
Here, a circular collar around the base of the blade twists to lock it closed or open. Line up the gap in the collar with the blade for unimpeded deployment. Pro: Simple. Con: Collar can wear out over time and not operate as smoothly.


How We Rated

We researched expert sources and more than 10,000 consumer reviews, as well as relied on our own testing and previous experience, to pick some of our favorite pocket knives. To determine our Total Expert Score, we calculated the ratings from dedicated knife and gear review sites, such as Knife Informer, Outdoor Gear Lab, Reliable Knife, and The Truth About Knives. We found multiple reviews of each knife, took their ratings and averaged them on a 100 point scale. For some of the very newest options, many lacking expert scores, we got our hands on the blades for testing ourselves. And our Consumer Score represents the percentage of people who rated the product at least four out of five stars on retail sites like Amazon, REI, and Drop. We relied on multiple consumer marketplaces and averaged the number of positive reviews for each blade across the various sites.


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