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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.

50 Comments on How to Buy a Good Pocketknife or Multitool

  1. 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. 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 // December 19, 2008 at 6:14 pm // Reply

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

  5. Multitool Guru 1 // December 11, 2008 at 10:13 am // Reply

    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. 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. buck knives are they way to go

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

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

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

  11. I’m going to get an Explorer knife soon.

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

  14. 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 // November 4, 2008 at 10:19 am // Reply

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

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

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

  22. Hey are we alo

  23. 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!!! // September 17, 2008 at 8:56 pm // Reply

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

  25. 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. i suggest the benchmade 530sbk

  27. master angler // September 8, 2008 at 9:34 pm // Reply

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

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

  29. i own a rambo knife(more like a machete)

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

  31. buck knives rock

  32. frost cuttlery is the best

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

  35. i have a wegner

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

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

  38. I have a gerber mini paraframer 2.

  39. boyscoutsofamerica // August 3, 2008 at 9:37 pm // Reply

    i own a columbia river lockblade with a saftey.

  40. i hav an awsome duloth tradeing lock blade

  41. it is cool

  42. bookworm225 // July 5, 2008 at 7:26 pm // Reply

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

  43. kidtech15 // July 5, 2008 at 6:24 pm // Reply

    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 // July 2, 2008 at 5:47 pm // Reply

    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 // July 1, 2008 at 9:21 pm // Reply

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

  46. 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. i agree

  48. I have a Leatherman.

  49. 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 // June 26, 2008 at 10:31 am // Reply

    Leatherman and Swiss Army rock!

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