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How to Buy a Good Pocketknife or Multitool

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.

105 Comments on How to Buy a Good Pocketknife or Multitool

  1. darkshadyperson // November 21, 2013 at 5:52 pm // Reply

    looks like good stuff. single blade knives are good for doing the dirty work

  2. I havev my dad’s 50 year old boy scout knife and it is my sharpest knife

  3. the quartermaster // October 26, 2013 at 11:23 am // Reply

    I went to smoky mountain knife works and went out side to the blacksmiths shp an made an awsome railroad spike knife the old fasion way with a hamer and anvil

  4. I have a Kershaw burst ($20), a victorianox officer Suisse ($40-50), classic blue handled
    Scout knife ($0), a random multitool, and a random lockback knife.

  5. Off-Trail Monkey // October 22, 2013 at 10:19 am // Reply

    Swiss army knives for life! Go Scouts!

  6. doctorawesome247 // September 20, 2013 at 2:35 pm // Reply

    I found a $1 dollor locking blade at walmart the brand? ozark trail 3 in a half inch blade and it’s serated to. also has a clip & a black heavy duty handel. good knife easy to open and easy on the wallet to.

    • Knife Xpert 157 (aka Chad 101) // September 26, 2013 at 10:09 am // Reply

      No offense but those knives are junk. I own a knife restoration company and I buy those knives so I can practice taking them apart and removing rust. The blade is extremely wobbly and the locking mechanizum is very cheap and unreliable. I would get another knife if I where you.

    • Knife Xpert 157 (aka Chad 101) // October 7, 2013 at 12:21 pm // Reply

      doctorawesome247, make me.

    • I got one to I tried to cut a weed with it the knife broke.

      • Knife Xpert 157 (aka Chad 101) // October 20, 2013 at 10:01 am //

        well i dont think that they are that weak. but they are very cheap non the less

  7. Knife Xpert 157 (aka Chad 101) // August 23, 2013 at 12:08 pm // Reply

    I just got a custom S30V steel, engraved, rubber handle Buck Alpha Hunter!

  8. my dad got me a spyderco knife i want to keep it in my room but my dad says i’m not responsible enough so he keeps it his room.what can i do so my dad thinks i’m reponsible?

    • swiss army man // August 25, 2013 at 8:10 am // Reply

      You should do stuff like doing things without being asked and be extra careful with it when he is around

    • If you have your Toten Chip then show all the things you’ve learned by earning it. Also be very serious when he lets you use it and maybe after time he’ll understand that your responsible.

  9. outdoorsman // August 16, 2013 at 3:39 pm // Reply

    i found a knife while hiking and it has scratches on the blade. What should i do to fix it?

  10. #folding110hunter by buck is by far the best!

  11. The all in one tolls are great for camping.

  12. Off-Trail Monkey // July 28, 2013 at 1:09 pm // Reply

    Swiss Army Victorinox; use it for life.

  13. Knife boy // July 6, 2013 at 9:36 am // Reply

    Do not get boy scout knives they are horrible quality!

    • Why are they horrible? Mine has never eve b roken on me and what you say is hard to beleive, unless you were whittling on rebar or something.

      • The steel is low quality compared to a similarly priced knife. Though BSA does have a full replacement warranty.

  14. leatherman multitools rock ( I got a sidekick it rules)

  15. boyscout2143 // June 28, 2013 at 3:17 pm // Reply

    i like gerber knives because of the type of blade and strength of the blade

  16. knifeguy123 // June 19, 2013 at 11:22 am // Reply

    Kabar and buck are both companies that make more than one model Of knife. And also kabar is older than buck it has just had several names.

    • Knife Xpert 157 (aka Chad 101) // June 22, 2013 at 7:55 pm // Reply

      Of course they make more than one knife! Buck and Ka-Bar are equally good companies however I believe Buck has been around longer

  17. Sp1derfang // June 17, 2013 at 7:07 pm // Reply

    I like the Swiss Army Tinker Boy Scout Edition. And I also like the Boy Scout Huntsman (Swiss Army).

  18. I have a yellow & green knife which says “Venturing BSA” on the blade anybody know what brand it is?

  19. I got a mora scout knife
    its fixed bladed with a 3 and 7/8 inch blade
    it also has a nice brass studed leather sheath
    $30 new on e bay!

    • Knife Xpert 157 (aka Chad 101) // June 15, 2013 at 9:27 pm // Reply

      I found it on Amazon for $16.00. sounds like you got ripped off. moras are a good brand though.

  20. My knife is a bear grylls sheath knife and it works just fine!

  21. I have a benchmade 530 $89 at rei

  22. i like a verity of knives from my benchmade to my cammileus i love them all

  23. swiss army. period.

    • pal mowhawk // May 8, 2013 at 3:37 pm // Reply

      I agree not only are they usefull they are easy to use. End of story period.

      • Knife Xpert 157 (aka Chad 101) // May 20, 2013 at 12:07 pm //

        you cant use a swiss army to baton, or skin a deer, how bout break plexi glass! No matter how functional swisses are remember they cannot do everything. If you are headed into the wilderness, ( i dont mean to some public campground!) a heavy duty folder or or fixed blade is the way to go.

      • B-29 SuperFortress // May 22, 2013 at 9:04 am //

        agreed. i have a variaty of small knives and multitools and i find that i prefer small multitools with pliers, file, screwdrivers, a knife or two, etc. as opposed to large knives or multitools.

    • Amen

  24. i prefer Gerber pocket kines because it come with life time warranty and the trust able

  25. Try a Leatherman.They are Great!

  26. I have a rusty pocet knife and it’s rusty. My dad says it’s to expensive to buy rust remoiver.What should I do. :]

    • I say that you should ask someone who is willing to remove the rust for free.

    • Soak it in “Coke” for a few days; rub it down well with a plastic scrubber and then wash it thoroughly in warm soapy water. Dry it off and rub it down with knife oil (only) and wipe it down again. Might not get all of the rust but should remove most of it. May repeat it again for even better results.

    • Knife Xpert 157 (aka Chad 101) // February 13, 2013 at 3:31 pm // Reply

      apply WD-40 and let it sit for a minute or two. then rub it with a cloth. remove thick rust with WD-40 soaked steel-wool.

    • Try sanding it all off with a normal piece of heavy duty sandpaper. Or, if you have a wire wheel, try that, but be careful!! 🙂

      • Knife Xpert 157 (aka Chad 101) // September 11, 2013 at 12:14 pm //

        dont use heavy duty, it will scratch the blade very badly. use 240 grit or higher.

  27. Captain Scout // January 31, 2013 at 9:12 pm // Reply

    Swiss Army knives, buy it for life.

  28. Knife Xpert 157 (aka Chad 101) // January 4, 2013 at 6:30 pm // Reply

    I just got a new SOG Tactical Tomahawk. its pretty darn good.

  29. Check out the buck bravo,buck csar-t,cold steel

  30. I just got a sog autoclip mini(2.68 in blade) very light and comfortable to carry(1.7 oz) it has a coil sprig tensioned pocket clip that works well on any surface thickness. The adjustable thumstud can fit my hand nicely, my only complaint is its so light, i forget it is in my pocket, i have lost a knife because of that, but thats what the pocket clip is for. — nice to carry, easy one hand open, and reasonably priced

  31. The hamburgler // December 30, 2012 at 1:52 am // Reply

    Cold steel rajah 3 is a amazing knife, its 45$ on the Internet and has a kukri blade style for most exelent chopping.

  32. Kershaws are great knives

    • The hamburgler // January 1, 2013 at 11:34 pm // Reply

      I greatly dislike kershaw I have owned 3 all have broken within months,best one is the tremor.

      • Knife Xpert 157 (aka Chad 101) // June 15, 2013 at 9:29 pm //

        Kershaw has an ecelant warranty and will gladly replace all of your broken knives. Give them another chance!

  33. Cold Steel Recon1 is the best. It is expensive, but it is worth it.

  34. Cold Steel Recon 1 is the best. I own it. It is $60, but it is worth it!

  35. Knife Expert // December 28, 2012 at 2:46 pm // Reply

    The Kershaw skyline is an awesome knife!

  36. Kershaw volt 2 is the only way to go. 30$ at bass pro! I have it my self, I love the Assisted Opening!!!

  37. Boy scout 455 // December 17, 2012 at 7:44 pm // Reply

    The gerber para frame is a sharp small good knife all round

  38. Benchmade and Spyderco make great folding knives, and if you look online you can find them for good prices.

  39. is frost cutlery a good brand?

  40. Featherlite Fan // November 28, 2012 at 10:49 am // Reply

    If your looking for a great knife thats light,tough,and some what inexspenive. Should check out the A.G Russel Feather lite one hand knife. It’s around 35 dollars but it gets great reviews. And is really easy to open with one hand. Also if you buy it from his website you get a garuntee that you choose how long it last and what covers it.

  41. Knife Xpert 157 (aka Chad 101) // November 8, 2012 at 11:53 pm // Reply

    Whats your guys take on the SOG SEAL Pup? Looks like a solid knife to me but I would like some feed back. Please respond!

  42. Gerber daggers are the best! they are so much better then ka-bars! My dagger could tear your ka-bars apart!

  43. Knife Overlord // October 28, 2012 at 8:41 pm // Reply

    I’d go with swiss Army with 2 blades and a mini saw/ file combo (Fireman). It has 2 blades in case one breaks missusing it in a survival circumstance, the file can be used as a sparker and the saw to cut tough things like animal bones.

  44. get a scharade or an eye brand. both german made with carbon steel

  45. Knife Overlord // October 23, 2012 at 11:54 pm // Reply

    Go swiss Army with 2 blades and a mini saw/ file combo. 2 blades in case one breaks missusing it in a survival circumstance, the file can be used as a sparker and the saw to cut tough things like animal bones.

  46. I have a kabar. I use it for skinning and gutting coons and rabbits.

    • Knife Xpert 157 (aka Chad 101) // October 17, 2012 at 12:24 pm // Reply

      A ka bar will work for skinnig, but that is not what it was designed for so it will not do it as well as a Buck knife

      • Ninjaman123 // October 25, 2012 at 6:51 pm //

        ka-bars are way awseomer than that buck whatever

      • Sharpshooter 68 // November 7, 2012 at 1:08 pm //

        BUCK ROCKS!!!!

      • Sharpshooter 68 // November 8, 2012 at 11:40 pm //

        chad is right in this case… a buck is superior to ka-bar when it comes to skinning. Buck is a renowned company that his been in business a lot longer then Ka-bar. if I was to take a ka-bar and a buck and compare how well they did skinning a deer, the Buck would be sharper,and could do the job quicker then any ka-bar. Buck has and will always remains the number one hunting knife company, and one of the top 5 knife companies.

    • Sharpshooter 68 // November 5, 2012 at 11:17 am // Reply

      You have no idea what you are talking about dude.

  47. Knife Xpert 157 (aka Chad 101) // October 13, 2012 at 3:53 pm // Reply

    Just shot two ducks today. Used my Buck 110 to dress them(which by the way ninja works way better then a Ka-bar) Time to make them into duck jerky!

  48. Knife Xpert 157 (aka Chad 101) // October 10, 2012 at 9:32 pm // Reply

    Look ninjaman123 ka-bars are good fighting knives. but for hunting/skinning a Buck knife is the BEST choice.PERIOD. And please stop insulting Gerber they are a great company.

    • ka-bars can do everything and gerber cannot

      • Delta Force // November 9, 2012 at 1:47 pm //

        I had a Ka-Bar for a while when I was a Para rescue man. But I switched it out for a Gerber dagger. I still use that dagger today…almost seven years after I was discharged. I’m afraid you’re wrong, Gerbers can do just as many things as Ka-bars. Take it from a Veteran.

      • Boy scout 453 // December 17, 2012 at 7:40 pm //

        A ka-bar is a killing knife designed for the military it is a knife ment for stabbing ever noticed the uncomenly sharp point on it plus it’s a fixed blade knife so if you triped and fell on it you would probably die. The point is it is a dangerous knife to carry and I don’t suggest it ninga.

  49. If you want a good knife. Get the Bear Grylls folding sheath knife. Its sharp and it cuts wood like heck. Iive in Alaska, I should know.

    • that knife is terrible it broke and the blade snapped when i was whittling

      • Knife Xpert 157 (aka Chad 101) // October 14, 2012 at 9:12 am //

        The blade om that knife is a 1/4 inch thick! what where you whittling… re-bar??

    • gerber knife fan // July 19, 2013 at 10:19 am // Reply

      If you want a smaller version of the Bear Grylls folding sheath knife, try the folding scout knife. I have one, and it is lightweight, has a pocket clip and lock back, plus dual thumb-stud. Its awesome!

  50. Knife Xpert 157 (aka Chad 101) // October 4, 2012 at 11:52 pm // Reply

    Duck season starts in TWO days!!!!! I’m so pumped!!!=)=)

    • the answer is a ka-bar you can use them for everything i always carry one when hunting or fishing

      • Knife Xpert 157 (aka Chad 101) // October 11, 2012 at 4:54 pm //

        KA-BAR is not the best knife company in the world ninjaman! It is a great company but it is not the best! And I already have the answer… The Buck 110 Hunter! it can beat a Ka-bar a hundred times over when it comes to skinning!

    • Knife Xpert 157 (aka Chad 101) // October 12, 2012 at 10:45 pm // Reply

      A Buck knife is the ONLY answer when it comes to hunting! USMC Ka-bars are not designed to be skinning knives. They are designed to kill people (Which they do well)

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