Every guy should carry a pocket knife. No, it doesn’t mean you’re trying to get cast as a baddie in the next John Wick movie, nor does it mean you plan on using it as a weapon. A good pocket knife is all about daily utility, and a well-made, well-designed pocket knife should be a core member of your everyday carry kit for numerous reasons. Whether you use it for slicing food, opening boxes and mail, dispatching an errant thread on your shirt, or just whittling a stick to pass the time, a good pocket knife is truly a useful tool.
The best pocket knife brands can be mainstream or microbrand, affordable or pricey, but they should all be folders, rather than fixed blade knives, for the best size and portability. A good pocket knife will, of course, have at least one blade made with high-quality steel (the the exact pocket knife blade style is up to you), a reliable folding mechanism, good blade security, and solid ergonomics. A pocket carry clip isn’t required, but it certainly helps to secure your knife and make it easily accessible.
Starting with the right brand means starting with a knife that you’ll actually want to use and that will last through thick and thin.
Like many other knife companies, SOG is inspired by the military. In this case, the U.S. Spec Ops MACV-SOG unit that used a special combat Bowie knife on covert missions in Vietnam. His singular goal was to reproduce that same knife, known as the SOG Seal, but his company’s success led to a full line of knives and tools. Used by military and law enforcement, SOG knives have proven themselves in the field time and again.
Model to know: Terminus XR LTE Carbon + Graphite
The XR LTE version of the regular Terminus XR that drops weight thanks to carbon fiber liners and also adds a specially coated blade for corrosion resistance and a handsome matte finish. It has a strong XR lock and the excellent jumping on the blade permits hard use without slippage.
Off-Grid Knives is family owned and operated out of the U.S., and focuses on tough, overbuilt knives that can go blade-to-blade with more expensive brands. Off-Grid is direct-to-consumer, so its able to use excellent materials and craftsmanship to build folders and fixed blade knives at good prices. Off-Grid Knives supplies the U.S. Border Patrol, so you know the quality has to be there.
Model to know: Baby Rhino Blackout
The Baby Rhino gets all of the great features of its bigger brother Rhino Blackout V2 but in a more compact size. The flipper-style folder deploys quickly and benefits from upgraded Sandvik 14C28N steel that’s DLC coated for toughness. Couple that with the grippy and rugged G10 handle, and you’ve got the makings of a field-ready folder.
Swiss-made Victorinox knives are some of the most well-known pocket knives in the world. Founded in 1884 by Karl Elsener, Victorinox was named after his mother, Victoria, and Inox stainless steel, a milestone in blade metal. The iconic red handled knives were born out of the first set of Swiss Army knives given to the Swiss military. The rest is history, and the brand is now a global icon.
Model to know: Pioneer Alox
This is the gentleman’s Swiss Army Knife thanks to its ribbed metal scales, svelte profile, and basic knife and tool setup that includes a reamer, punch, and a can opener. It’s built so well, it will last for decades.
CRKT, which stands for Columbia River Knife & Tool Company, is based in Oregon and has a strong reputation in the knife industry because of its partnerships with top-tier custom knife makers. As a result, CRKT has one of the widest arrays of styles in the business. Started in 1994 by two former Kershaw employees, the company makes both traditional folders and fixed blades, as well as some radical designs. It also makes some great multi-tools and accessories.
Model to know: Provoke
This revolutionary folding Karambit knife is one of the coolest blades to emerge in years. It remains secure in folded form and then deploys with a simple push of the thumb. The D2 steel blade holds a great edge, and the hard anodized aluminum handles ensure easy carry and durability. This is one knife that will get serious attention.
The James Brand
The James Brand has reconsidered what an EDC blade should look like. Founder and industrial designer Ryan Coulter has used knives his whole life, but his approach is truly fresh. Clean lines, fresh colors, and unique styles make his blades sophisticated and youthful at the same time. The minimalist design has wide appeal, and it certainly helps that Coulter has done time with athletic juggernaut Nike and snow sports company Burton. The James Brand has certainly taken the knife world by storm and exhibits no sign of stopping.
Model to know: The Palmer
The brand’s coolest blade this year is also its most affordable and most practical. The Palmer uses standard utility knife blades and changes are a cinch with a patent-pending mechanism that doesn’t require tools. Anodized aluminum handles in six color choices and an included lanyard top off the look, and it’s compact enough to keep in your front pants pocket.
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Kershaw is a veteran knife maker, and it shows. Started in 1974 by a former Gerber Knives employee, Pete Kershaw, the brand has since grown into a titan. He based his company in Oregon and used his knowledge of the outdoors and his experience from Gerber to create a vast line of fixed-blade, folding, tactical, and chef’s knives that range from affordable to truly premium. The award-winning company continues to innovate with excellent automatic folders, assisted-open blades, and some truly futuristic designs that push the envelope without abandoning practicality.
Model to know: Kershaw Launch 1
This automatic folder is truly for every day use. The easy push-button deployment authoritatively unleashes a drop-point CPM 154 BlackWash powder-coated steel blade. The slightly curved aluminum handles are ergonomically excellent and allow for excellent blade dexterity.
Ernest and Mary Emerson started Emerson Knives in 1996, and it honed in on the tactical knife segment hard and fast. Emerson is considered one of the pioneers in the tactical knife style, and it is often thought of as the benchmark. The fact that law enforcement and military special forces use Emerson knives in the harshest of conditions and situations means Emerson’s knives bear impeccable quality and top-notch materials.
Model to know: Mini CQC-8 Horseman
The Horseman knife is a smaller version of the original CQC-8, and has a 3.4-inch blade. The tough G10 handle is designed for forward or reverse carry, and the upswept 154CM steel blade has a thumb stud with Emerson Wave jimping and an anti-slip finger guard underneath. Its a tough EDC folder that can easily see years of heavy use.
Benchmade Knife Company
When it comes to premium knives that can take punishment and look good all the while, it’s hard to beat Benchmade. Founded in California in 1979 and formerly known as Balisong and Pacific Cutlery, the company settled on the now widely recognized Benchmade in 1988. The original name stemmed from its butterfly (balisong) knives, but then the company expanded to include an expansive range of knives including hunting, tactical, survival, and survival blades.
Model to know: Bugout
There are many iterations of the Bugout, but each version of becomes a best-selling folder primed for excellent everyday carry. The Bugout is light, thin, handsome, and impeccably crafted. The axis lock actuates easily but firmly, and it’s so svelte you might forget you’re carrying it.
Opinel is steeped in French tradition that makes you want to break out one of its wood-handled beauties and cut some sausage and cheese. The company dates back to 1890 as a manufacturer of peasant-style knives for everyday use. Not much has changed over the years, and the brand still makes wood-handled knives and high-carbon steel blades. Innovations like its famous locking ring were introduced later and have become widespread in the lineup. Today, the brand makes camping folders, kitchen cutlery, and even field knives with rugged plastic and rubber handles. They have an excellent reputation for making affordable, high-quality, practical knives for indoor and outdoor use.
Model to know: No.06 Carbon Steel Folding Knife
The No.06’s 2.87-inch blade is just the right size for everyday use. The XC90 high-carbon steel holds a great edge, and the Virobloc ring secures the blade in the wood handle. You’ll want to cut apple slices and whittle sticks all day long.
Buck Knives are part of American cutlery history, dating back to 1902 when it was founded by Hoyt Buck. He trained as a blacksmith at a young age and took that skill set to his handcrafted knives, making them out of old files for lack of material. He made knives for the U.S. military and went on to handcraft 25 knives a week until he passed away in 1949. The company later remained in the Buck family and moved toward large-scale production. Its famous and longstanding Folding Hunter pioneered the segment, and it remains an icon that’s still in the Buck lineup today. The brand continues to make its knives in Post Falls, Idaho.
Model to know: 110 Folding Hunter
This is the knife that started the company, and it’s no less worthy today than it was over a century ago. The clip point blade provides precision usage, and the ebony wood and brass bolsters imbue the Folding Hunter with a classic look. Don’t treat it gently because this knife was meant to be used hard and often.