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How to Buy a Good Pocketknife or Multitool

A good blade is essential to Scouting. Whether you’re camping, backpacking, fishing or simply preparing for your next outing, a good knife or multitool will give you an edge in the outdoors.

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 five knives that are best of class.

VICTORINOX SWISS ARMY knives come in many models, but for functionality, simplicity, weight and price, it’s hard to beat the HIKER ($26, swissarmy.com). It gives you 13 functions, including large and small blades, a Phillips screwdriver, bottle and can openers, a reamer, a wire stripper, tweezers and a wood saw. There’s a reason this small folding knife has been a classic for more than a century.

KNIFE 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.

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.

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.

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.

The title “king of multitools” might belong to the LEATHERMAN WAVE+ ($100, leatherman.com). Just 4 inches long when closed and barely more than a half-pound, the Wave boasts 18 tools that all lock quickly into position. The lengthy list includes many that Scouts need often: two knives (straight and serrated), a saw, spring-action scissors, can and bottle openers, a medium screwdriver, regular and needle-nose pliers, and wire cutters. While pricier than other options, this stainless-steel tool, built with top craftsmanship, will likely last a lifetime.

FOLDING OR FIXED KNIFE? KNOW THE POLICY

Knife policies vary among packs, troops, councils and camps when it comes to what blade types and lengths are allowed. Learn your unit’s policy before buying a blade of any kind. When it comes to types of knives, the Guide to Safe Scouting recommends “choosing the right equipment for the job at hand.”

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.

Not all folding knives demonstrate the quality of construction of the GERBER FASTBALL ($100, gerbergear.com), which becomes clear the first time you deploy it — and every time after that. Opening with a flip of the finger and locking securely whether open or closed, the 3-inch blade made of S30V steel has a consistently smooth opening and closing.

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.

The SOG POWERPINT ($45, sogknives.com) offers rare versatility for a such a lightweight package. Just 5 inches long and weighing barely more than 4 ounces — small enough to be unnoticeable in your pocket — it sports 18 tools, including a stainless-steel blade, a file, a hard-wire cutter, bottle and can openers, scissors, two screwdrivers and needle-nose pliers. Every tool has a locking mechanism, and most open without having to open the pliers.

CARRY IT SAFELY

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.

TREAT YOUR KNIFE WITH RESPECT

Treating pocket knives with respect not only ensures your safety, but also keeps others safe. Here are a few major no-no’s:

  • Throwing a knife
  • Using a dull or dirty blade
  • Handing a knife to someone blade first
  • Cutting while others are within your “safety circle” (arm’s length)
  • Carving into something that doesn’t belong to you
  • Cutting toward your body

Using a knife requires responsibility. Bear Scouts can start carrying a pocketknife after completing the Whittling Chip requirements. Members of Scouts BSA must earn their Totin’ Chip, which also gives them the right to carry and use axes and saws.

When the job is bigger than a conventional pocketknife can manage, step up to the BSA KICKSTART BROWN CANVAS
LAMINATE MID-FOLDING HUNTER KNIFE
($152, caseknives.com) from Case Knives. Made with a high-carbon stainless steel that holds an edge longer than conventional steel, this knife will cut, slice, carve, chop and pare — no task is too great. It also sports Case’s Kickstart technology, which lets you open the knife with one hand by simply pressing on the thumb stud. At 4 inches closed, it’ll still tuck inside most pockets.

45 Comments on How to Buy a Good Pocketknife or Multitool

  1. Swiss Army Knife …. the best never gets dulll
    high quality and practical

  2. The knife i would reccomend is the Victoriax Swiss Army Spartan. has all of your basic stuff and is 20 bucks.

  3. Another random guy // June 21, 2019 at 11:32 pm // Reply

    I have multiple knives but two favorites I got a Swiss Army knife withe one blade saw and can opener (getting a better one soon) and one of the most useful which helps proves the point you don’t need to spend a fortune on a multi tool is a cabelas brand multi tool with pryers wire cutter sicors both types of screw drivers can and bottle opener blade and saw that I found in a drop box for 6.37

  4. I have the victorinox fieldmaster. It’s about the same as the huntsman but has a phillips screwdriver instead of a bottle opener.

  5. I great knife brand is Bench Made. I have many of their knives and they work great.

  6. XxknifeloverxX // January 24, 2019 at 7:57 pm // Reply

    I have the Gerber mp-600, and the , and it works awesome for opening a can to fixing a drawer.

  7. I do reccomend something like a swiss army and/or maybe a 3-inch knife for a scout that is starting out

  8. I do reccomend something like a swiss army and/or maybe a 3-inch knife for a scout that is starting out

  9. WD-40 is not an oil, it is a degreaser. It will work very well to clean the hinges of your knife. However, it dries really quickly. A better alternitive would be to use a light weight oil, like what you would use on a bike chain.

  10. I like a Swiss army knife for everyday use, the Handyman is perfect for me. For camp stuff I have the Mora 511, inexpensive and outstanding quality.

  11. I have the Victiorinox Huntsman which has 13 tools it works really for leather work or fixing a backpack or tent pole

  12. Seahawks fans // September 2, 2017 at 1:52 pm // Reply

    Sog tactical knives are actually really good if you are looking for a folding knife go with the salute. Fixed go with the seal pup.

  13. Seahawks man12 // September 1, 2017 at 7:52 pm // Reply

    DearXxleathermenwavex,
    As it turns out yes you can as long as the blade is under 3inches

  14. nife kcritic // April 4, 2017 at 12:19 pm // Reply

    i want a wenger giant nife

    • I’m a fan of the Gerber Paraframe (two sizes, each with a clip). It has a partially serrated blade. I also found a decent three blade Imperial Schrade knife on Amazon for less than $20.

  15. WalMart: Victorinox Super Tinker Knife with Leather Clip Pouch ($27)

  16. lol

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

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

  19. when do we need the pocket knives

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

    • Jeff - Former Cubmaster and Asst SM // September 4, 2019 at 9:00 pm // Reply

      Only allowedto carry a folding knife in Cub Scouts, with their wittlin chip which comes as Bears.
      Boy Scouts can carry fixed blade knives.

      Check the guide to Safe Scouting to check this or any other safety related questions.

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

    Leatherman wave is my favorite.

  22. 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

  23. 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.

  24. 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

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

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

  29. 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.

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

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

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

    • Jeff - Former Cubmaster and Asst SM // September 4, 2019 at 9:04 pm // Reply

      The leatherman is far and away superior to any folding knife. The folding knife is pretty much obsolete unless you cannot carry a multitool.

      Carried one every day and used it every day in Afghanistan. Folding knife was in my pocket as a backup but never really used it.

  33. 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.

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

  35. 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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