Pocket knives have a long history dating back to about 500 BCE. And while immediate utility is the first and foremost benefit to carrying one with you, there are some quality knives out there that are meant to last a lifetime and beyond. These are investment pocket knives, and every guy should own one at some point in his life.
An investment pocket knife is one that you can trust in pretty much any situation. It’s not often one of the mini pocket knives you can whip out in a pinch, but sometimes it is. An investment pocket knife can be an everyday pocket knife, but it’s definitely an EDC you also want to show off. Often these come from the most well-known pocket knife makers out there, though there are a number of quality independent pocket knife brands.
Benchmade 4170BK Auto Fact
- Blade length: 3.95 inches
- Closed length: 4.80 inches
- Weight: 3.11 ounces
The 4170BK Auto Fact draws inspiration from Italian stiletto knives and traditional switchblades. The handle is aluminum and carbon fiber, while the blade itself is made with American-made S90V steel coated in black DLC. Whether you’re the type of guy who actually puts his EDC pocket knife to good use every day or you’re more of a weekend warrior, it’s easy to appreciate the long edge life and low maintenance. This is the type of knife that you’ll be able to put some wear on. And don’t let the price deter you from doing so, because Benchmade knives are so expensive for good reason: the brand’s SELECTEDGE process gets the perfect bevel angle on the powdered steel, and Benchmade will resharpen your knife to the factory edge at anytime for free.
Case x Tony Bose Case 6.5 BoneStag HT Trapper
- Blade length: 3.2 inches and 3.22 inches
- Closed length: 4 inches
- Weight: 3.6 ounces
The Case brand dates back to the four Case brothers who started handmaking knives in upstate New York in 1889. Today, the knives are made in Bradford, Pennsylvania, where they’ve been made for more than a century. This particular pocket knife has a connection to that outdoorsman history: the jackknife style design is reflective of the ones used by traders and trappers that used to roam Hudson Bay. The HT Trapper’s clip blade is perfect for those small tasks that make pocket knives so handy to have around at all times. The spey blade can trace its design to when farmers and ranchers would use it to castrate animals and skin game, but don’t let that stop you from finding your own tasks if you’re more prone to the indoors. And sure, you can get the same utility with a cheaper handle, but the handcrafted natural BoneStag (bone cut to look like antler) adds a classic look.
Cold Steel Large Espada (S35VN)
- Blade length: 5.5 inches
- Closed length: 6.75 inches
- Weight: 9 ounces
There are convenient pocket knives, and then there are over the top pocket knives. The Large Espada from Cold Steel falls into the latter category — so much so that the company lovingly calls it a pocket sword. Cold Steel took inspiration from Spanish navaja knives, which are traditional (and often intricately designed), folding blades made for everyday utility and, historically, fighting. The curved blade is made from edge-holding American alloy steel and has a length that’s better suited to your belt clip than your pocket at 6.75 inches folded up and more than 12 inches with the blade out. Not enough? There’s also an extra large size, but let’s be practical. As to be expected from a knife this size, it can handle quite a bit of abuse.
Victorinox Work Champ XL
- Blade length: 3.9 inches
- Closed length: 4.4 inches
- Weight: 12 ounces
The Swiss Army knife has been a go-to for many men over the years. It’s no wonder why, considering they can help out in a wide swath of situations. Victorinox is the classic gold standard in the multi-bladed pocket knife style. The Work Champ XL won’t let you down unless you’re the type of guy who thinks maybe your pricey pocket knife has too much utility. It’s capable of 31 functions, whether you need to saw some wood, cut wire, or open a bottle of wine, among any number of other things. It goes without saying that this Victorinox pocket knife is worth the investment if you need an all-in-one tool.
Zero Tolerance 0308BLKTS
- Blade length: 3.75 inches
- Closed length: 5.2 inches
- Weight: 6.9 ounces
Zero Tolerance is relatively new compared to some of the historic brands on this list. Don’t take that in a negative way, though. ZT started making knives for the military and first responders in 2006 and branched out over the ensuing decade and a half to build a fan base of anyone who used their knives hard and regularly. It doesn’t take a knife expert to know that the 0308BLKTS is one slick pocket knife. This USA-made option keeps ZT’s classic tiger stripe pattern with exceptionally hard steel, but is the first knife from the company to have a BlackWash finish. The handle has a titanium back and a solid grip, plus, you can customize with after-market clips if you want to personalize your choice. The flipper opener makes it easy to pop out when you need it while the lockbar keeps your fingers safe.
Kiku XR LTE – Blackout Micarta + Carbon
- Blade length: 3.02 inches
- Closed length: 4.29 inches
- Weight: 4.1 ounces
SOG (which stands for Studies and Observations Group) started in 1986 when the designer Spencer Frazer wanted to make a knife that paid tribute to the SOG Bowie knife that special ops units carried in Vietnam. Today, the US Special Forces approve and it’s the Navy SEAL knife of choice, as well as the option for anyone looking to have a hardy pocket knife that gets the job done no questions asked. The Kiku XR LTE can take up to 1,500 pounds of force and reliably locks when needed. It’s also just the right size and weight (a handle that swaps metal for durable carbon fiber helps here) that you know you have it on you without feeling weighed down by sagging pockets.
DPX HEST/F Urban TI Mr. DP Black
- Blade length: 2.9 inches
- Closed length: 3.8 inches
- Weight: 4.3 ounces
This knife is strong enough to stand up to just about everything you can throw at it, but you don’t have to worry if something does happen. DPx Gear certifies its Urban pocket knife for life, no questions asked — as well as the next life the knife has when you pass it down to the next person who will appreciate it. The pivot has a stainless steel cage that makes it easy to flip out or close up, and the frame and lock is made with aerospace-grade titanium. The blade is forged in the United States from martensitic stainless steel (the kind used in turbines and surgical equipment), and has a notch for when you need to crack a beer or lift a hot pot. And though it doesn’t have all the tools of a Swiss Army knife, the titanium handle does have a glass breaker and wire stripper in the thumb grip.
Boker Leopard-Damast III Collection
- Blade length: 3.82 inches
- Closed length: 5.04 inches
- Weight: 5.82 ounces
While all of these pricey pocket knives are an investment and would be a shame to lose, the German-made Boker Leopard Damast III is on another level. First of all, it’s the wallet-draining price. Second, the high-style sets a new standard that makes all other utility knives seem a bit pedestrian. This isn’t the knife that you bring on your camping trip. It’s a collector’s item with a 180-layer Damascus steel handle inlay to match the blade, which itself comes from the gun barrel of a Leopard tank and has 300 layers. Each comes with a certificate of authenticity and a serial number. Frankly, anything with Damascus steel stands out. The name comes from Damascus, Syria, which was a trading hub for knives in the Middle Ages. The look is due to the alternating layers from multiple steel bases worked into a composite for both hard steel that holds its edge and soft steel that doesn’t break as easily. Using this method for blades is not quite a lost art, but it’s a lot more rare than it was all those centuries ago.