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Pocketknife and Multitool Buying Guide

Getting your first knife is one of those cool life events that makes you feel grown up. But knives are more than self-affirming pieces of personal property. You’ll use one in the backcountry for everything from slicing cheese to cleaning fish (and so much more).

The size and design of your knife — whether its blade is fixed or folding — should be determined by how you’ll use it. Here is some advice, along with seven knives that are best of class.

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THE BASICS

There are several types of knives.

All-purpose folding pocketknives are common in Scouting. Most come with tools such as a can opener, screwdriver, tweezers and, of course, knife blades — all in one compact package. Though they can be extremely handy, a downside is the knife blade doesn’t lock into place, so it may fold up on your hand while you’re using it.

Swiss Army Hiker

There’s a reason for the enduring popularity of lightweight folding Swiss Army knives: They do a lot. The Swiss Army Hiker ($30, swissarmy.com) gives you 13 tools, including two steel blades, three screwdrivers, bottle and can openers, tweezers and even a small wood saw. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better value in a small folding knife. 2.7 oz.

Lockbacks are simple folding knives with a single blade that can be locked. So you get the benefits of a sturdy fixed blade-style knife but in a convenient pocket-size package that can be folded open with just one hand.

Outdoor Edge Razor-Lite EDC

For a folding knife, the heat-treated interchangeable 3.5-inch blade on the Outdoor Edge Razor-Lite EDC ($35, outdooredge.com) is as sharp as a straight razor. The molded Grivory handle’s rubberized inserts and forefinger groove provide a secure, natural grip, and the blade opens with one hand, locks with a reassuringly loud click and closes securely. When the blade becomes dull, replace it with one of the five additional blades that come with the knife. 3 oz.

Fixed blades, are no-nonsense knives with a beefy handle and stationary blade. If you need a knife to accomplish the everyday tasks you come across in the outdoors, from whittling on things and cutting materials to spreading peanut butter on your sandwiches, a short, no more than four-inch-long, fixed-blade knife will accomplish all of that. Avoid large sheath knives; they are heavy and awkward to carry.

Ruger Cordite Compact

Made with high-quality steel, the Ruger Cordite Compact ($60, shopruger.com) has a 2.5-inch fixed blade for cutting and chopping. The paracord-wrapped handle is full tang, meaning the part of the blade that extends into the handle (the “tang”) runs the length of the handle, making it stronger and more durable. 4 oz. (with sheath, not shown)

You’ll also find specialty knives such as river rescue knives with serrated blades for slicing rope, whittling knives designed for carving wood, and multitools, which are compact, handheld tool boxes. Most are built around a pair of folding pliers.

Leatherman Leap

Some multitools are designed for experts, but the Leatherman Leap ($50, leatherman.com) aims squarely at newbies. Safety locks prevent accidental finger injuries. Its 13 tools include scissors, two kinds of pliers and three screwdrivers, wire cutters, a saw, and a sharp knife installed by Mom or Dad when the user is ready for extra responsibility. 5 oz.

FOLDING OR FIXED? KNOW THE POLICY

Before you buy a new knife, you should be familiar with state and local laws related to knives, as well as any restrictions imposed by your Scouting unit or council. When it comes to types of knives, the Guide to Safe Scouting recommends “choosing the right equipment for the job at hand.”

Outdoor Edge Le Duck

As a lightweight multipurpose utility knife, the Outdoor Edge Le Duck ($35, outdooredge.com) sports a razor-sharp heat-treated 2.5-inch fixed blade and a handle shaped like a duck head with a comfortable feel. The hard sheath’s removable clip rotates 360 degrees and has a locking feature to prevent accidental deployment — perfect for clipping to a backpack strap. 3 oz. (with sheath)

BLADES

Most blades are made from strong and durable stainless steel. Blades are available in straight edge, serrated (jagged like a saw) or both. Bigger is not always better. A small, sharp four-inch-or-smaller blade can cut just as well as bigger knives but is much safer to handle and easier to maneuver in tight spots.

BSA Case Peanut

The BSA Case Peanut ($53, wrcase.com) weighs barely more than an ounce and isn’t quite 3 inches long, but this folding knife’s quality outshines its size. With two surgical-steel blades and a handle curved in the shape of a peanut — a great fit for smaller hands — this is a solidly built, durable and safe first cutting tool for learning to handle knives responsibly.

PRICE AND QUALITY

You don’t have to spend a fortune to get a quality tool. Often, an inexpensive knife will do everything you want it to do. As prices go up, you’ll see small improvements in the quality and size of the blade.

CARE AND MAINTENANCE

The only good knife is a sharp knife. A blunt knife requires you to put so much force on it that it could slip, and you could drive the blade into your leg.

As needed, run the edge of your blade across a sharpening stone a few times. Wipe the tool clean after every use and lubricate any hinges with a light oil like WD-40.

Buck Metro

When all you need in a knife is, well, a knife, get the tiny folding Buck Metro ($25, buckknives.com). Safely and unnoticeably carried in any pocket, it locks open and has a sharp blade slightly longer than an inch that can handle basic duties from slicing pepperoni to cutting cord. 1.5 oz.

CARRY IT

The smartest, safest place to stash your knife is in an easy-access spot in your backpack. You’re asking for trouble by wearing a fixed-blade knife on your belt. If you fall, the knife could rotate inward and you could land right on the blade.

JUST FOR FUN

Here are two multitools that totally break all the rules, but still, they’re really awesome.

Leatherman Tread

With 29 tools and an optional watch, the Leatherman Tread ($165 – $220, leatherman.com) combines fashion and function. Weight: 5.9 ounces.

Wenger Giant Knife

With 87 implements and 141 functions, the Wenger Giant Knife ($2,150, wengerna.com) is too unwieldy to be very useful. But it would totally impress your friends! Weight: 2 pounds.

23 Comments on Pocketknife and Multitool Buying Guide

  1. lol

  2. wow! the Wenger giant knife is HUGE! it must be hard to carry that around!

  3. Why are one set of knives shown here described as “…unnoticeably carried in any pocket.” Is that relevant for cub scouts?

  4. when do we need the pocket knives

  5. I thought the boys were only aloud to carry locking folding knifes in scouts. Is this wrong?

  6. XxLeathermanWavexX // December 27, 2016 at 9:33 pm // Reply

    Leatherman wave is my favorite.

  7. Theburntbiscuit123 // November 12, 2016 at 10:12 pm // Reply

    Dear gear guy,
    I am looking for a new multitool what are your tips about the brands of multitool

  8. A very sturdy folding knife is the Cold Steel Spartan and With a 4.5″ locking Blade it can handle just about job big or small.

  9. the blonde bomber // September 6, 2016 at 8:50 am // Reply

    the multitool bracelet also comes in black and you can also add a watch face

  10. Lyonsdigital // August 16, 2016 at 1:56 pm // Reply

    I carry a Leatherman Freestyle. It has one blade with a liner lock and a pair of pliers with a wire cutter. I find that in the real world, I often need to hold something still or cut it loose. Compact tool kits are great and I keep one on my bicycle where I might need it, but my Freestyle is the tool I keep with me.

  11. Funny, Scouts for decades carried a slip joint knife—-that is, one without a locking blade—-with no problems. It all comes down to keeping in mind how to use the knife safely. I guess a lock would be better for some but don’t forget—any lock on a blade can fail, don’t depend too heavily on them.

  12. Snipa-X-Killer // April 27, 2016 at 10:19 am // Reply

    Hey, I’m looking for a new knife. My old one is worn down, and isn’t of much use anymore. Anybody know any good places to look? Thanks in advance!

    • Anonymous // May 20, 2016 at 8:04 pm // Reply

      A knife that i would recommend is he CRKT M16-01KZ. it is an inexpensive but durable knife from a great company

      • go to cabellas and get a buck 110 folder or if that is to bulky get a standard swiss army champ knife at Walmart whitch would roughly be around 30$ and on the one ten folder it would be 40 dollars roughly.

  13. The Gerber gator is the best knife ever I just kneed to sharpen it

  14. For general eveday carry to meetings and outings, we recommend our youth be able to core an apple with their knife. When did BSA approve a fixed blade sheath knife for carry? I have seen these promoted in BL and Council Camps.

  15. Spyderco Manix 2, best knife I have ever owned, had it for 3 year and still going strong.

  16. they should have more leathermans they are such good tools to have

  17. the leatherman freestyle is a wonderful tool, with just a locking blade and pliers it isn’t bulky but is very handy!

  18. Actually I have a Ka-bar and it is not awkward to carry, in fact it can double as an ax and is a great tool.

  19. the Leatherman Tread is the coolest multitool i have ever seen

  20. Hockey_Moo // July 30, 2015 at 7:39 pm // Reply

    Well, these are all great knives, except for the Morakniv. (No tip on a knife? Really?)But they don’t really compare to some of the classics. I’m not seeing any Case knives or Bucks, which are the classics. I carry my good o’l custom Buck 110 and a custom Swiss. (Hey, i like costom outdoors gear.)

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