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Pocketknife and multitool buying guide

A quality knife or multitool is one of the handiest things you can carry in your pack. It’ll help you spread peanut butter, carve a tent stake, fillet a rainbow trout, maybe even save your life. But you have to pick the right tool for the job.

Outdoor survival expert Peter Kummerfeldt will show you how.

Pocketknife and multitool buying guide

The lowdown

There are several types of knives. Kummerfeldt’s favorite, fixed blades, are no-nonsense knives with a beefy handle and stationary blade.

“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,” he says. “And 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.

Then there are all-purpose folding pocketknives. 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, Kummerfeldt says a downside is the knife blade doesn’t lock into place, so it may fold up on your hand while you’re using it.

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.

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.

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.

Price and quality

You don’t have to spend a fortune to get a quality tool.

“My $15 knife does everything I want it to do,” Kummerfeldt says.

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,” Kummerfeldt says. “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.

Carry it

Kummerfeldt says 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.

What’s hot (updated November 2014)

You did it! You finally earned your Whittling Chip or Totin’ Chip, and your parents gave you the green light to get a new knife. Now’s the really tough part: figuring out which one you should get. There’s a dizzying number of options out there, but your Gear Guy did the shopping for you to bring you eight great and affordable knives and multitools.

BSA Supply Four-Inch Multitool

The BSA Supply Four-Inch Multitool ($40; scoutstuff.org) includes a nifty LED flashlight and 11 different implements, including two knife blades, a couple of screwdrivers, a saw and pliers. This cool tool also features the BSA logo on its rubberized handle. Weight: 10 ounces.

Nite Ize Doohickey

While not exactly a knife or a multitool, at just five bucks and less than half an ounce, this tiny little tool packs a lot of punch. The stainless steel Nite Ize DoohicKey ($5; niteize.com) includes a screwdriver, wrench, box cutter and more, and is a great key chain. Weight: 0.4 ounces.

Sog Autoclip

A simple, high-quality lockback folder, the SOG AutoClip ($30; sogknives.com) features a 3.5-inch-long straight-edge stainless steel blade with a grippy nylon handle. Weight: 3 ounces. For about $7 less, you can get the AutoClip Mini with a shorter 2.68-inch blade. Weight: 1.7 ounces.

Gerber Bear Grylls Compact

The Gerber Bear Grylls Compact II ($21; gerbergear.com) has a 2.6-inch fine-edge locking blade with an extra grippy and durable rubberized handle that’s easy to hold on to even in wet conditions. And it’s so lightweight, you won’t even notice it in your pack. Weight: 1 ounce.

Morakniv Classic Scout 39 Safe

Many outdoorsmen swear by sturdy fixed-blade knives, but Mom and Dad might not always agree. That’s why the birchwood-handled Morakniv Classic Scout 39 Safe ($28; moraofsweden.se) is a good choice. It has a rounded tip and finger protection for safety and stays put inside its black leather sheath. Weight: 2.4 ounces.

Spyder ClipItTool

The Spyderco Clipitool Serrated Blade ($40; spyderco.com) is a handy stainless steel folder with a pair of 2-inch-long blades: One is plain-edged, while the other is serrated for easy cutting of cords and strings. Weight: 1.8 ounces.

Biologic Fixkit Multitool

If you’re a bike lover, then you’ll love the BioLogic FixKit Multitool ($35; thinkbiologic.com). This lightweight tool includes 20 tools for fixing bicycles, including lots of wrenches and screwdrivers. Comes with a neoprene cover and fits in your saddlebag or pocket. Weight: 5.6 ounces.

LL Bean Double L Pocket Knife

This classic compact folder looks a lot like a knife that my grandfather always seemed to have in his pocket. The L.L.Bean Double L Pocket Knife, One Blade ($20; llbean.com) is equipped with a rosewood handle and a 2-inch stainless steel clip blade. Comes with a leather sheath. Weight: 3 ounces.

BSA Hobo from W.R. Case

Come mealtime, you’ll be glad you carry the BSA Hobo from W.R. Case. In addition to a Tru-Sharp surgical steel knife, you also get a fork and spoon, all easily detachable for use and cleaning. The Navy Blue Bone model ($95; wrcase.com) is aimed at collectors, but you can find models that retail for around $55. Weight: 7.7 ounces.

Victorinox Swiss Army Evogrip 11

Swiss army knives are time-tested favorites, and this new update on the classic is a good bet. The Victorinox Swiss Army EvoGrip 11 ($40; swissarmy.com) has grippy rubber inlaid handles and nine handy tools, including a 2.5-inch blade, three screwdrivers, a can opener, tweezers and more. Weight: 2.15 ounces.

841 Comments on Pocketknife and multitool buying guide

  1. sog knife is awesome

  2. I have the Morakniv knife. I would highly recommend it to an older scout only because it is a decently large blade and is very sharp. The one down side would be the “scout safe” tip only because when you are trying to pierce something with your knife it becomes very difficult.

  3. Knife Xpert 157(aka Chad 101) // January 12, 2015 at 1:30 pm // Reply

    Regarding Water Displacement- Formula 40 (WD-40): Now before anyone jumps all over me saying “Its Toxic, its toxic!” let me just say that consumption of WD-40 in small amounts, (such as a thin coating on a knife blade) while not recommended, will NOT make you ill. WD-40, while not as long lasing at 3 in 1 or Smiths Multi-purpose knife oil, will work fine as far as lubrication, and will be twice as good as the mentioned brands when it comes to rust removal. So go ahead and use it on your knives and tools. Concerning the ingredients of WD, the truth is WD-40s main ingredient is not fish oil either. If it was, it would stink really bad and would expire. As I stated before, NOBODY but the makers of WD-40 know what the ingredients are. Go to the WD-40 website and look at the WD-40 facts. All I have said is repeated there. Thank you.

    K.X. 101

  4. Roughrider404 // January 5, 2015 at 11:01 pm // Reply

    If you want a good knife that is relatively cheap, then buy the Smith and Wesson First Response, it is very durable, have had mine for 8 years, never sharpened it and it can cut through paper like butter.

  5. If you have had a spring assist-open knife, you know as well as I do that if you store it closed, the spring doesn’t open the blade as well as when it was purchased. I have found the solution to this problem is simply to store it with the blade open. (this should only be done in a safe place where the knife(or knives) have no chance of falling onto something(or someone).

  6. Scouting Dad // November 23, 2014 at 3:29 pm // Reply

    Maybe I’m out of touch, but the cost of the Case knife with the fork and spoon shouldn’t be more than $25. 00. With all that a scout needs with a uniform, handbook, and other items, the knife needs to be affordable to be able to use and not just put on a shelf because it’s too expensive to use if it breaks. Just like the 22 rifles; priced for collectors, not for scouts.

  7. too bad you didn’t feature the original multi-tool that was designed by a Scout… the legendary Leatherman. I proudly own several. Best knife and tool made.

  8. Oh one more thing even though I already have one pocket knife and a multi tool it would be nice to get a new cool pocket knife and a multitool with more tools but I don’t need it i want it but it would be nice to get that stuff

  9. my family is saving up to go to Disney-world and I won’t get a whole lot of presents but that’s fine I really don’t mind and to be honest we aren’t the wealthiest family (at all) so I thought me and my sister could share the stuff she likes and I like so it’s a win win win win for me my dad my mom and my sister

  10. gear for me to get the best of all of my favorite song on my way to the game and the rest is a good idea but I think it’s a great way to the gym with the same thing over and over again in a statement issued after I finish my work and the rest of the day before I get a follow back on my way home and sleep all night and the rest of my favorite part of the day before I get a follow back on my phone and the rest of my favorite part of the year and the rest of my life and the rest of my favorite part of a sudden it was the best of the best way to the best thing to say it was the best thing to say it is not.

  11. I think I need a new multitool any ideas

  12. At cabelas you can find them cheep at the checkout

  13. Scoutingaround // November 10, 2014 at 10:22 pm // Reply

    Just remember, even though larger pocket knifes may seem cool, they can be difficult to carry around. A smaller reliable knife is easier to carry around in your pocket

  14. Geezer Patrol // July 20, 2014 at 11:53 am // Reply

    Too bad BSA Supply Division, like Wal Mart can’t sell any USA made items. Keeping the economy going. Smokey Mountain has USA made BSA knives.

  15. Bear is awsome // July 20, 2014 at 3:41 am // Reply

    Are sheath knifes legal in scouts

    • Yes. Fixed blade knives are completely legal and authorized by BSA. Check with your local troop to see if they are authorized at the local level.

    • philmont crew 2 // October 5, 2014 at 4:21 pm // Reply

      Yes it’s ok to carry a sheath knife
      (Some people will however try to tell you otherwise )

      For an excellent sheath knife I would recommend any mora knife
      They make great knives that are very affordable around $10-$30

  16. Owned a leatherman sidekick for almost a year, best knife I ever had. the only reason I don’t own it todsy is it fell into a latrine on a campout

  17. I hear all the talk about leathermen… I prefer the gerber multitools instead. they are easier to open and close one handed and with the locking handle, you don’t have to worry about the knife closing on your hand

  18. The 20$ Smith & Wesson Oasis knife is a pretty good knife.

  19. Odd…no official BSA knives? Still have my Camillus BSA knife that I got in 87…great knife at a good price….

  20. I carry an Ontario RAT 1 in my pocket and I’ve got a Leatherman Wave on my hip in a belt sheath.

    • I love the Ontario Rat 1. It is pretty fast, and has AUS-8 steel. This steel is a budget steel, but a regular steel, like S30v steel can run you over 100 bucks. AUS8 steel has an okay rust resistance, has pretty good edge retention and is a softer steel, resulting in easy sharpening. I am also thinking about getting a Leatherman Wingman. I would also recommend the spyderco tenacious, but I feel that 8Cr13Mov steel is just a little bit lower grade than AUS-8. The spyderco tenacious is around 35 bucks and the Ontario Rat 1 has a 3.5 inch blade, weighs around 5 ounces and is around 27 dollars on amazon

  21. Personally, I’ve had better luck getting knives at either Bass Pro Shops or Cabelas.

  22. Shotgun Scout // June 7, 2014 at 10:14 am // Reply

    Alright. I own around 30 knives (not including kitchen knives). I never leave home without my gerber paraframe tanto(at least) and/or my buck bantam lockback (at most). Thats pocket knives. On outings of hunting,hiking,camping or more depends on what kind of blade you should use.

    • Shotgun Scout // June 7, 2014 at 10:21 am // Reply

      Also on outings you are gonna wanna have a coleman (or a durable brand like that) utensill pack. It has a food knife,spoon,fork,and bottle opener all compact in 1 tool. Also you should get a little case for it. I have a case for mine. I have used the coleman for 4 yrs and never replaced it (its a really helpful tool). Tell me if this helps.

    • Knife master // December 7, 2014 at 3:15 pm // Reply

      Buck bantam bbw is good

  23. I have the ll bean multitool

  24. Personally, I love my P.E.C.K. single blade titanium knife best of all (Owned 7 different knives over the years) it’s light, stays sharp a long time and sharpens easily. That’s what you want anyways. You’re not going to stop a bear with it (2″ blade) but that’s why I have a 4# axe.

  25. Buy a leatherman Rebar It’s a Good all around tool

  26. the cuttin' cubmaster // February 23, 2014 at 5:03 pm // Reply

    I have a Kershaw Ken Onion pocket knife and a Gerber Scout multi-tool. Thats all i ever need. They’re both about $50, and they have a lifetime warranty. And FYI, WD-40 is NOT oil, it is a lubricant that removes oil. The best lubricant that I have found is 3-in-1 oil. If your tired of searching for the perfect pocket knife, just go ahead and get you a Kershaw.

  27. Swissarmy knives are great and long lasting.

  28. I have the leatherman Skeletool and I think it is pretty good I just wish it had saw blade on it

  29. I’m thinking of getting the spyderco tenacious. Does anyone have any experience with this knife?

  30. I’m thinking of either getting the spyderco tenacious, the spyderco resilience or the leather man crater c33L

  31. does anyone have any experiance with the bg folding scout knife?????

    • Thank you for considering my knives.
      Perfect for a boy scout like yourself would be the sheath folding knife.
      Stay safe.
      Bear Grylls

      • Happy Gilmor // April 30, 2014 at 6:32 pm //

        I had an experience with that particular knife, own a Scharade now; enough said.

      • Knife Xpert 157 (aka Chad 101) // May 15, 2014 at 12:01 am //

        I have the knife. It’s an okay knife but I prefer a Kershaw Assisted over it.

      • I love the Gerber Dime multi-tool. Since I use it for fixing odd jobs around school and campouts. It seems mine is better than my fellow scouts with their fancy sheath blades and tools.

      • gerberguy201 // December 2, 2014 at 3:14 pm //

        gerber and bg knives are THE best

  32. you should try to get a knife made in the usa as they are usually better quality
    my choices are anything from the scout store, spyderco, and kershaw

  33. NEVER USE WD-40 ON A KNIFE BLADE!!! WD-40 is not an oil, it is light kerosene- which disperses water and is slightly corrosive, thereby stripping any protective layers of oil OFF the blade. Use a light machine oil for lawnmowers or blades instead!

    • Knife Xpert 157 (aka Chad 101) // December 31, 2013 at 12:28 pm // Reply

      I’ve been using WD-40 on my knives for years. They all work fine. The fact that Wd-40 is slightly corrosive is a good thing because that is what helps it remove rust and gunk from knife blades. It’s not corrosive enough to do any damage to your knife.

    • Knife Xpert 157(aka Chad 101) // February 12, 2014 at 11:32 am // Reply

      Actually no one but the people who make WD-40 know what the ingredients are. It’s a closely guarded company secret. So you are incorrect about the kerosene.

      • Sargesbrat // October 7, 2014 at 4:21 am //

        WD-40’s main ingredient is fish oil. WD stands for Water Displacement. Designed to spray moisture out of military radios in Vietnam. Great for loosening up old, rusted knives. It will lube ok. Feel more comfortable with real oil such as 3-in-1. Just sayin’

      • Knife Xpert 157(aka Chad 101) // January 12, 2015 at 1:26 pm //

        Wrong. The fish oil thing is a myth. go to the WD40 web and look at their “WD-40 myths”

    • Copied this from the WD-40 site in regards to weather the product is toxic or not:
      “If swallowed, call physician or poison control center immediately” Any questions now?

      • Knife Xpert 157(aka Chad 101) // September 23, 2014 at 12:06 pm //

        That Irrelevant. Nobody said anything about toxicity. But since you bring it up. WD-40 is not toxic enough to kill you if you swallow a few drops. I know because I have when cutting an apple with my freshly oiled knife. I experienced no ill effects. As long as you dont go around drinking it you’ll be fine.

      • knife guy // January 7, 2015 at 9:55 pm //

        i want a carbon fiber zero tolerance blade if u want a real knife get a ZT they are great and are made in the USA they are expensive though

  34. make sure your knife is legal

  35. my knife is a CRKT M16 01kz and i got it for $18 on sale and it’s awesome

  36. Eatingcookiedoughfereva! // December 18, 2013 at 1:00 am // Reply

    The leatherman sidekick is a pretty durable multitool. I have been able to take apart and put back together my bike for travel using just the multitool itself. I think that it could use a few more tools, but it covers all of the basics. It’s also fantastic for making arrows considering it has a saw, blade, and a file. Would recommend if you’re looking for a multitool.

  37. swiss army knives are the BEST! I never leave home without it! But my gerber lockback is awesome too.

  38. Swiss Army knives are cool, but WAY too bulky. You are way better off with a Leatherman tool.

  39. Is this a test? // November 25, 2013 at 5:42 pm // Reply

    Which one should I get?

  40. want… leatherman sidekick… but… can’t…afford

  41. shotgun scout // November 22, 2013 at 6:57 pm // Reply

    Hey delta force it sounds cool being a para rescue man. Tell me about it.

  42. shotgun scout // November 22, 2013 at 6:45 pm // Reply

    As you can tell by my name i hunt and when doing so i use a gerber dagger.

    P.S you are right delta force.

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