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Best Pocket Knife of 2020 (Review and Buying Guide)

Best Overall Choice
Benchmade North Fork

Benchmade North Fork

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Best Premium Choice
Zero Tolerance ZT0462

Zero Tolerance ZT0462

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Best Budget Choice
Gerber FlatIron Micarta

Gerber FlatIron Micarta

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Joe Appleton by Joe Appleton Updated on September 22, 2020. In Reviews

Any outdoor enthusiast worth their salt will be armed with the best pocket knife they can afford. A good knife is more than a drop point blade and comfortable handle: it’s a versatile tool that can cut, slice, whittle, saw, and chisel. And in some cases, the right knife could save someone’s life.

Since knives are becoming an important piece of EDC, it’s not just bush veterans that are keeping them on their person. Today, knives are carried by a large demographic, from craftsmen, delivery dispatchers, first responders, climbers, anglers, and more. They’re an essential piece of equipment.

Here, we’ve put together a list of our favorite knives on the market. This selection looks at a broad range of knives that are available to help ensure that you’re carrying the right tool for your needs in your knife pocket. Let’s take a look.

1. Smith & Wesson SWMP4LS

Smith & Wesson SWMP4LS pocket knife

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Smith & Wesson’s SWMP4LS is one of the best pocket knife options for those looking for a solid package with rugged, reliable performance. Featuring an edge-retaining 4034 black oxide high carbon stainless steel blade, a black aluminum handle, and a spring-assisted opening, closing, and locking system, the SWMP4LS is ideal EDC for outdoor enthusiasts.

This a sturdy, practical, and affordable pocket knife, though it could be argued that it’s a little too bulky and heavy for every day carry. Sure, it’s not as sleek as others on this list, and it does tip the scales at a mighty 7.6 oz, but it’s heavy for a reason: it’s there to tackle heavy duty challenges.

It’s a bit rough and ready, but it has a long blade, with serrated features, and a nice weight, which makes it an ideal rugged outdoor knife. Plus, it can be folded down into a pocket-sized shape. This is a great knife for those who plan to be carrying it in the great outdoors rather than to and from work in the city.

This knife is also covered by Smith & Wesson’s limited lifetime warranty scheme.

Pros

Blade Material: 4034 black oxide high carbon stainless steel
Blade Length: 3.6 in.
Overall Length: 8.6 in.
Weight: 7.6 oz

Cons

The pocket clip is sharp and can scratch surfaces

2. CRKT CEO

CRKT CEO EDC Folding Pocket Knife

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CRKT is a brand synonymous with quality. Their CEO model is a knife that upholds all of CRKT’s qualities, but wraps it into a sleek and upmarket product. It’s a sharp-looking knife with a sharp blade to match, and while it’s more than capable of outdoor adventure, it wouldn’t look out of place in the top pocket of a suit jacket. It might look more like a fountain pen than a practical knife, but don’t be fooled.

Designed by Richard Rogers, the CRKT CEO is constructed from a glass-reinforced nylon handle, with a sturdy 8Cr13MoV steel blade. The blade is sharp and strong, and it can cut through a wide range of materials with ease. Thanks to the slim blade profile, it’s ideal for cutting difficult to reach areas.

The blade is deployed using a fast-opening thumbstud mechanism, with an IKBS ball bearing system. It’s easy to deploy, comfortable to hold, and it features a trust-inspiring grip. Long and light, the CEO can slip into any pocket with ease, and it won’t weigh your pocket down in the process. It’s the best pocket knife for someone looking for a subtle, refined, and capable knife for an affordable price.

Plus, the CRKT CEO pocket knife comes with a limited lifetime warranty that covers manufacturing defects and other details.

Pros

Blade Material: 8Cr13MoV steel
Blade Length: 3.125 in.
Closed Length: 4.5 in.
Weight: 2.1 oz

Cons

May need sharpening upon unboxing
Difficult to open one handed

3. Nagao Seisakusho Higo-no-Kami Pocket Knife

Higonokami pocket knife

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Japanese Higo-no-Kami knives are great little blades that can handle everyday tasks. They’re inexpensive, lightweight, and capable. However, when stacked up against modern blades they do fall quite short. But when you buy a Higo-no-Kami pocket knife, you’re buying more than a blade. You’re buying a piece of history.

First appearing in 1896, these unique Japanese knives might be cheap to buy, but each one is handmade. In fact, genuine Higo-no-Kami knives can only be made by authorized craftsmen. The model listed here is made by craftsmen from the Nagao Seisakusho maker—the last remaining authorized manufacturer.

These knives are friction knives, and they don’t have any kind of locking system apart from the friction of the swivel. This can be quite dangerous since these blades are seriously sharp. Also, these blades are made from carbon steel rather than stainless, so you will have to perform regular maintenance to prevent rust and corrosion.

Razor sharp, inexpensive, and incredibly cool, the Higo-no-Kami is a great pocket knife for every day carry.

Pros

Blade Material: Warikomi steel
Blade Length: 3 in.
Closed Length: 4 in.
Weight: 1.58 oz

Cons

No locking mechanism
Each knife is handmade, and may arrive with small defects

Best Overall Choice

4. Benchmade North Fork

Benchmade North Fork

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When it comes to crafting high quality blades, you can trust in Benchmade. The company has been making some of the most celebrated knives on the market since 1988, and the North Fork is one of their best products. Ideal for those working outdoors, the North Fork is strong, sturdy, razor sharp, and comfortable to handle.

Featuring a CPM-S30V stainless steel blade, the North Fork holds a very sharp edge. It’s also easy to sharpen and maintain. Unlike many small knives, this one can compete with larger knives, and can cut through tougher materials than you’d think.

The knife is equipped with Benchmade’s axis lock mechanism. This features a spring-loaded lock bar that allows you to open and close your knife with one hand. It’s a very practical lock mechanism, and it can easily be used by right- and left-handed users. With that in mind, the knife also features a pocket clip that can be adjusted, so you can wear it however you need it.

Lastly, the Benchmade North Fork deserves extra points because it features a number of warranty and guarantee options, including the brand’s own LifeSharp Service.

Pros

Blade Material: CPM-S30V stainless steel
Blade Length: 2.97 in.
Overall Length: 6.97 in.
Weight: 3.16 oz

Cons

The finish can be a little hit and miss

5. Böker Plus Panchenko Brass Lancer

Böker Plus Panchenko Brass Lancer

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Böker is a brand with a long and illustrious knife-making history. This German company has been creating blades since the 19th century. When it comes to making practical EDC pocket knives, they know what they’re doing. The Böker Plus Panchenko Brass Lancer is an excellent example of the brands manufacturing skills.

Designed in collaboration with knife-maker Serge Panchenko, the Brass Lancer features a minimalist look and a unique style. It has an S35VN stainless steel blade with excellent edge retention properties, that can cut through a wide range of materials with ease.

The rest of the knife is made from machined brass. The brass looks great, but it also hides a titanium locking liner that allows for smooth deployment. The titanium components will also stand the test of time, with superior longevity when compared with stainless steel. Plus, the brass will form a nice patina as it ages. In years to come, this knife will have aged incredibly well, and still be just as capable as it was on the day you bought it.

This model is also available with a configuration that’s more budget-friendly, with a G10 handle and 440C blade.

Pros

Blade Material: S35VN stainless steel
Blade Length: 3 in.
Overall Length: 7 in.
Weight: 4.2 oz

Cons

Make sure you’re buying the right model when purchasing to avoid disappointment!

Best Premium Choice

6. Zero Tolerance ZT0462

Zero Tolerance ZT0462

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For those with larger budgets, we recommend the Zero Tolerance ZT0462 pocket knife. This blade was designed by Dmitry Sinkevich, a famous custom knifemaker. The result is a slender knife can cut and slice with surgical precision. It’s not a cheap knife, but it’s high in quality, and a work of art too.

The blade is made from 20CV steel—known as “super steel” to knife aficionados—with an upswept point and a curved cutting edge. The blade’s length is almost 4 inches in length, which is quite long for standard every day carry pocket knives. The closed length of the whole product is 5.7 inches.

There’s more to this premium knife than a premium blade. The handle is made from carbon fiber, and it houses a smart deployment and locking mechanism. The system is made with KVT ball bearings on the pivot, which allows for easy and smooth one-handed deployment.

The Zero Tolerance ZT0462 is an excellent blade for those who want something tough, hardwearing, and sharp. But it’s also a great choice for those with a more discerning eye that also want to own a piece of art!

Pros

Blade Material: 20CV steel
Blade Length: 3.7 in.
Closed Length: 5.2 in.
Weight: 3.7 oz

Cons

It is quite expensive
This knife is quite long and might not be suitable for all users

7. Leatherman FREE K4X

Leatherman FREE K4X

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Leatherman is a brand famous for manufacturing quality multitools. The Free K4X is a pocket knife that’s suitable for everyday carry, with plenty of extras and unexpected surprises that you’d expect from a Leatherman-branded tool.

This locking knife features a 3.3-inch carbon steel blade that can cut through a wide range of materials with ease. But if that wasn’t enough, it also includes a fold-out bottle opener, pry tool, package opener, awl, three types of screwdriver, and spring-action scissors.

Access to the multi-tool parts requires two hands. However, opening and closing the knife section can easily be done with one hand. This is down to a cool magnetic lock system, which allows for smooth knife-opening action in a safe and practical way. The magnetic lock is tough, durable, and won’t break easily.

The rest of the knife is manufactured from lightweight aluminum, and available in four different color options. Even with the aluminum body, the whole package is a little heavy—but you do get a lot of bang for your buck. With a 25-year guarantee too.

Pros

Blade Material: 420HC steel
Blade Length: 3.3 in.
Closed Length: 4.5 in.
Weight: 5.2 oz

Cons

It’s quite heavy for EDC

Best Budget Choice

8. Gerber FlatIron Micarta

Gerber FlatIron Micarta

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The Gerber FlatIron isn’t a conventional pocket knife. Rather than follow the usual trends, the FlatIron features a blade with a cleaver shape rather than a drop point blade. It’s an unorthodox folding knife, but it’s an ideal piece of every day carry that looks stylish and handles incredibly well.

The secret to the Gerber’s success is the use of top-quality D2 steel, a material that can really hold an edge. It’s sharp, strong, and surprisingly practical. While it doesn’t have the usual drop-point knife shape, this cleaver can do everything a conventional knife can and more.

This exceptionally strong blade cuts through string, rope, and sturdier materials with ease. There aren’t many downsides to this knife, but if you’re looking for something with a sharp end, then this isn’t it. Also, the wide blade adds size and weight to the overall package, which can make it awkward if you’re carrying it in your pocket alongside other items.

Pros

Blade Material: D2 steel
Blade Length: 3.6 in.
Closed Length: 4.8 in.
Weight: 5.2 oz

Cons

The larger blade adds weight and takes up pocket space

9. Opinel No. 8 Carbon Steel

Opinel Carbon Steel Folding Pocket Knife

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Opinel is one of the most recognizable knife brands of all time. The simple and timeless nature of their products has turned the humble Opinel pocket knife into a design icon. The brand is famed for its simple, effective, sharp, and affordable blades. There’s a wide range to choose from, but for this list, we chose the No.8 Carbon Steel.

The Opinel No.8 is available with different blade types. Stainless steel may benefit some users, but we prefer the carbon option. The carbon blade is sharp enough. It will cut through fruits and soft objects with ease. However, when it comes to heavy duty tasks, such as cutting thick rope, the Opinel will struggle.

One issue that many first-time Opinel users have is with the locking system. Most Opinel pocket knives use a simple collar locking mechanism. It’s safe, reliable, and keeps the blade locked up when not in use. The collar can be very stiff to open and close. This goes away with use, so don’t be put off by it.

It’s a cheap and effective knife. It’s so affordable that everyone should own at least one!

Pros

Blade Material: XC90 Carbon
Blade Length: 3.4 in.
Closed Length: 3.5 in.
Weight: 1.6 oz

Cons

No belt clip
Not ideal for heavy duty tasks

10. Kizer Mini Sheepdog

Kizer Knives Pocket Knife with Clip

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The Kizer Mini Sheepdog is a smaller version of the largely successful Sheepdog XL model. It’s smaller and easier to transport, but it doesn’t lose any of the larger Sheepdog’s qualities. The result is a pocketable and practical blade that’s perfect for your EDC needs.

The blade is made from 154CM stainless steel. This material is perfect for those looking for a sturdy blade. It’s a hard and tough material, with impressive corrosion-resistance. The blade is held in place and activated with a caged ceramic ball-bearing pivot, for smooth and responsive blade deployment.

Kizer offers the Mini Sheepdog in a range of styles, with different construction materials. The low-cost option features a sturdy G10 handle that’s available in different colors. If you want to treat yourself to something more exclusive, you can choose premium materials like copper or titanium. Whatever you choose, you’ll get a strong and robust knife with a smooth action.

Pros

Blade Material: 154CM stainless steel
Blade Length: 2.6 in.
Open Length: 5.77 in.
Weight: 3.17 oz

Cons

Pocket clip has been known to fail
Handle may be too small for users with large hands

The Best Pocket Knives: A Buying Guide

Buying a pocket knife should be a straight forward task: you want something strong and sharp, with a sturdy locking mechanism, that’s small enough to fit in your pocket. Unfortunately, there are so many decent products on the market that choosing a knife for your every day carry needs is more complicated than you’d think. We are literally spoiled for choice.

To make sure you find the best pocket knife for your needs, we’ve put together a few things for you to think about before hitting the buy button. There’s no one-size-fits-all knife because different knives have different strengths and weaknesses. Keep the following points in mind, and you’ll match up with the best EDC pocket knife for your needs.

Materials

The type of materials used a knife’s construction should heavily influence your purchase. The materials that the handle and blade are made from should be appropriate to your needs. Let’s talk about blades first.

Most serious blades will be made out of either stainless steel, carbon steel, or tool steel. Each type of blade steel has different strengths and weaknesses.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is tough but it’s not as robust as carbon steel, however, thanks to the addition of chromium in its composition, it resists corrosion very well. It’s often cheaper than carbon steel too. For the best results, we recommend AUS 8, 8Cr13MoV, or 9Cr and 7Cr stainless steel. Stainless is a great blade steel option for those who plan to use their knives in marine environments.

Carbon Steel

Carbon steel is a great choice for knife blades. It’s tough, durable, can hold an edge, and is easy to sharpen. Unfortunately, it corrodes very easily and requires maintenance. The best types of carbon steel to look out for include XC90, 1095, and 420HC.

Tool Steel

Tool steel is occasionally used as a knife blade material. Tool steel can be a combination of different elements, such as titanium, vanadium, or molybdenum. This can make for a sturdy blade with excellent edge retention abilities and high corrosion resistance. Keep an eye out for CPM-S30V or D2 tool steel.

The handle material is also worth looking at. High-grade plastics, metals, and wood are popular materials for the handle. Before investing in a pocket knife, check out what the handle is made from to ensure that it will be comfortable in your hands.

Ergonomics

Not all knives are folding knives, but if you want something that fits into your pocket, you’ll want one that folds up nicely rather than a fixed blade knife. Folding knives are great, but they’re only good if you can unfold them easily. When searching for your ideal knife, make sure you look at the design and ergonomics. Some knives aren’t built for one-handed operation or left-handed users in mind. While most are ambidextrous, double-check that they are. There’s nothing more annoying than buying a knife that you can’t open and close easily, or can’t get a comfortable grip on because the handle’s designed for the wrong hand!

The opening, closing, and overall grip comfort are important but don’t forget to look at the locking system (if it has one). An annoying locking system can really ruin an otherwise excellent pocket knife.

Locking Mechanisms

Locking mechanisms come in a variety of styles. To make sure you’re getting the kind that you want, here’s a brief overview of the most popular types.

Collar

Collar locking systems are circular bands of metal that are located where the blade meets the handle. They have a gap in them to allow for the blade open and closing procedure, which is twisted out of the way to lock the knife in place. These locks are very safe and simple, but they can come loose over time.

Liner

A liner lock is a very simple mechanism. Inside the handle, where the blade is tucked away, a small piece of metal that lines the inside of the handle will spring out when the blade is opened. This prevents the blade from folding down. To close the blade, simply move the sprung metal out of the way. The downside to this method is the fact that you have to put your fingers in the way of the blade to close it.

Frame Lock

A frame lock works just like a liner lock, but rather than having a metal liner do the job, the actual frame of the knife does it. It makes a secure lock, but because half of the knife’s handle is used to lock the blade, it can be difficult to disarm, especially since it’s not really ambidextrous in design.

Lockback

A lockback locking mechanism relies on a locking bar located on the back of a knife’s handle. When a blade is opened, a spring activates to lock the blade in place. To close it, you must press on a section of the bar to safely allow the blade to close. This is a great system, but it can wear out over time.

Crossbar

Crossbar locking mechanisms are a little more sophisticated than the rest. There are a number of variations out there, but for the most part, they work by allowing a spring-tensioned bar to lock the blade in place when it’s opened. It requires a thumb-operated movement to unseat the bar, and fold the blade shut. It’s very intuitive and can be used ambidextrously. However, the complexity of it all makes it vulnerable to the effects of wear and tear.

Included Extras

Take note of any included extras. For example, some pocket knives have additional features such as a Philips head screwdriver, or a bottle opener function. If you’re looking to get the most bang for your buck out of a knife, one with additional extras could make for a better deal. However, too many extra features could be detrimental, and you might be better off buying a multitool instead!

Not all extras are physical though. Many products from the top manufacturers ship with lifetime guarantees and warranties. If you want to buy a knife that will last a lifetime, look out for products with these added inclusions.

Legality

While we’ve predominantly focused on locking knives, please be aware that there are different laws about their legality depending on where you live. In the US, local laws differ from state to state. And if you’re going further afield, take note that carrying knives of any kind, with blades over a certain length can land you in hot water in some countries. Before you invest in a new knife, make sure you’re legally allowed to carry it!

Price

Lastly, there’s the simple matter of the price. Prices for knives can range from as cheap as $10 for something fairly capable, to prices in excess of $250! The question that you should ask yourself is whether you’re happy to accept the fact that a knife will wear out or break and you’ll need to replace it regularly. Or, if you want to spend big bucks on a knife that should last you a lifetime.

In our opinion, we always think it’s a great idea to invest in a knife that will last you a lifetime. At the same time, we’d also encourage you to invest in a couple of cheaper ones too. You can never have too many knives, after all!

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