Guy Gear

Pocketknives and multitools 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.



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.


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.


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.


“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.


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.


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.

WAIT! Although the following are still great knives and multitools, the Gear Guy is currently researching new models. Watch for his updated reviews in the December 2014 issue of Boys’ Life.

Comments about “Pocketknives and multitools buying guide”

  1. nasaman says:

    Benchmade knives are great. They get a little pricey, but htey do have models of $30 or less. I have a Benchmade Benchmite II knife which costs around $35.

  2. BJF227 says:

    When buying a knife, choose a Swiss Army knife with the scissor tool. It can come in a lot of handy. First of all, you can use it to clip hangnails you might get when collecting wood. Also, you can use it to cut fishing line on fishing trips and twine while camping so you do not dull the actual blade. On the topic of dulling blade, DO NOT I repeat DO NOT whittle with this knife because it will dull the blade so fast you won’t know it hit you, especially if the knife is some cheap genaric brand. Thanks for listening.

  3. Don Quixote de la Mancha says:

    I have two knives that I use a lot. One is an Old-style scout knife and one is a good quality swiss army knife that I bought at a day camp.

  4. natuer wiz says:

    I think a good survival knife should be between 4 inches and 7 inches

  5. Multitool Guru 1 says:

    This article is obviously somewhat outdated-especially the part where it says that multitool blades don’t lock. Maybe the wimpy Swiss Army knife blades don’t, but all the multitools I’ve ever bought have lockback blades, pliers, and screwdrivers.

  6. Brada Fett says:

    I have one Leatherman multi, two Gerber multis, and an El Cheapo lockblade that I picked up in Columbia. I broke the Leatherman, but you can’t beat that 25 year warranty. El Cheapo is actually my favorite, but I use multitools more often, so I carry my Gerber. The Gerber is pobably the sharpeest knife in the house- still.

  7. handyman says:

    buck knives are they way to go

  8. paintballer says:

    I have a G 96 that my cousin gave me when we were hunting

  9. D says:

    i keep a swiss camper, but prefer lockbacks. saving up for a leatherman skeletool.

  10. me says:

    leatherman is the way to go wave has a 50 year warenty

  11. mrpersonman says:

    I’m going to get an Explorer knife soon.

  12. sharpguy says:

    I got a pretty good swiss a walmart that comes with a smaller one.It’s pretty good even tho I lost the small one

  13. cheese21 says:

    I have a Buck knife that does everything I need it to do.

  14. king tut says:

    i have a pocket nife just a small one that does everything that i need.I only paid $15 for it

  15. Andre the giant says:

    I have a small bush craft knife that has always worked well I recomend one

  16. SSMM11bsa says:

    I have a one-blade $4.99 knife that I bought in the sawgrass holiday park, and it has been very sharp throughout the two years that I have had it . I do not reccomend buying cheap knives in souvenier shops, but sometimes there are some good quality knives in unlikely places. Always try to find something that you do not have to save up for years for, but still is a brand name quality knife. I never like to spend more than $30 on knives. Also, valor is a great knife company that I reccomend.

  17. DingDong says:

    Cool! Thanks for the advice, Mr. Kummerfeldt! I have a 3-blade knife. I don’t know what brand it is, as it doesn’t have a logo on it. It has a cool safety feature on it: all the blades lock in place when they’re open, so they won’t shut on my hand. It also has a compass, which is kind of annoying because the needle always points toward the blades. It’s cool, though.

  18. SPL Troop16 says:

    I have a genaric gerber and it works like a charm but can be a little lose so i have to tighen up the blades so dont get generic knifes they break like crazy. Buy name brand.

  19. Jupiter says:

    I have a little blue knife with one blade that works well but I should try a stronger one.

  20. camper says:

    i have a Columbia River lock back single bladed knife, it rocks. i personally dislike multi tools, i prefer lock backs. if you want a good quality knife for under 25 bucks, then get this one at Walmart. anywhere else it costs like 55 bucks, if you do get this knife, be sure to oil it every once in a while.

  21. j man says:

    that was good edvise!by the way,my dad has a mulitool.your edvise rocks!!!

  22. Jeff says:

    Hey are we alo

  23. sdboyscout says:

    The Buck Whitaker multitool is great. It has the perfect blade for anything that you’ll actually need to do in Scouts. It’s always in my pocket.

  24. boy scouts rule!!! says:

    Don’t buy swich-blades or single blade knives.(the more things in it the better)

  25. Joe says:

    I use a Cold Steel SRK that is a real knife not some knife for a little kid. I carry it on my belt and have never had it come in on me, that is the stupidest thing I ever heard.

  26. Corbin says:

    i suggest the benchmade 530sbk

  27. master angler says:

    i now have a geber one-handed lockback that is my constant companion

  28. Juggernaut says:

    I like Gerber (usually more expensive) Remington, and just recently i’ve been using Maxam. I love that one.

  29. rabbit says:

    i own a rambo knife(more like a machete)

  30. the game says:

    I have a leatherman that cost 130 bucks it totally does the job

  31. the game says:

    buck knives rock

  32. Anonymous says:

    frost cuttlery is the best

  33. NukeSkout says:

    Smith and wesson SWAT tactical Tanto blade… Looks really cool, really sharp, and good mechanics. Pretty cheap too, 16 at Big 5. Too bad my friend broke mine.

  34. Halaxis says:

    I use a $10 ozark trail knife. it’s amazing with a 3.25 inch blade. i bought it at Wal-mart:)

  35. digdog says:

    i have a wegner

  36. figit says:

    i got a knife from a boy scout popcorn sale a couple years back and its been doin evrything i want ever since

  37. jdog says:

    i have tried so many knife brands but i still like a good old timer

  38. mike says:

    I have a gerber mini paraframer 2.

  39. boyscoutsofamerica says:

    i own a columbia river lockblade with a saftey.

  40. Anonymous says:

    i hav an awsome duloth tradeing lock blade

  41. nicki says:

    it is cool

  42. bookworm225 says:

    i have a BSA whittling knife. it does the job good. i reccomend buying it.

  43. kidtech15 says:

    i personally believe that victorinox ( the makers of the ORIGINAL swiss army knife) are by far the best and most convenient. i carry mine everywhere- except school

  44. zakattack says:

    leatherman are a very good quality knife. Im only in highschool and i use it where ever i go except school. I purchased a leatherman wave and i think its one of the best investments i made. i also bought a leatherman squirt so i could keep it on a key chain

  45. master angler says:

    i love to collect swiss army knives.The one i probablly use the most is my huntsman

  46. Brad Pitt says:

    I have had my Wal-Mart brand knife for about 3 years now and i keep the thing nice and sharp and clean and it seems to work the best for me. i think i bought the knife for under 10 bucks so if i finally lose the thing im not out much.

  47. clide says:

    i agree

  48. CLIDE says:

    I have a Leatherman.

  49. elkhunter says:

    I collect knives. right now I have sixteen. my favorite one is a camoflouge lockback. I bought for 5 dollars about three months ago and I still haven’t had to sharpen it!

  50. surviverman says:

    Leatherman and Swiss Army rock!

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