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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.

99 Comments on How to Buy a Good Pocketknife or Multitool

  1. A really awesome knife is the Pazorada by CRKT amazing or any big name brands are great too but i recommend the pazorda

  2. I’m not a scout but I’m really need a knife for a survival kit any suggestions on what type, I like ka bar and gerber, but any ideas

    • Knife Overlord // September 27, 2012 at 8:22 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.

    • Knife Xpert 157 (aka Chad 101) // September 28, 2012 at 3:26 pm // Reply

      I would go with a Bear Grylls compact fixed blade or a Gerber LMF II ($70 amazon)

    • it wont blend // October 23, 2012 at 4:14 pm // Reply

      a good knife is benchmade mini griptilian. it is expenseve but better than others.

  3. If you want a good knife if you are a scout get a ka-bar i own 6.

  4. i know what knife that i want, but i can’t find one that won’t fall apart… where should i buy one that wont fall apart as i’m useing my magniesem fire starter?

  5. Off-Trail Monkey // August 27, 2012 at 5:14 pm // Reply

    Hey Scouts:
    WD-40 is not an oil, it’s purpose is to loosen rusty bolts and similar items (Please read the label). 3 in 1 oil will work for knives but can be toxic to some people. Always use a knife oil as it offers superior lubrication and protection and is not dangerous if minimumly consumed. Also, never use food oils, they will gum up the pivot and can spoil like any food source item; again causing illness.

  6. Knife overlord // August 27, 2012 at 2:29 pm // Reply

    Swiss Army all the way baby!!!

  7. Their is this one great BSA multitool that is very nice for scouts, Their is a bigger simaler one that leaders would like, I have the smaller one and my dad has the bigger
    one. They are green and come in a case. I would have a hard time describeing it.

  8. Knife Xpert 157 (aka Chad 101) // August 15, 2012 at 11:39 pm // Reply

    I just finished a backpacking trip and I found a Gerber EVO jr while hiking! I oiled it up with some WD-40 and now it works good as new. It has an awesome flipper on it and is a good little tactical knife.

  9. If you are looking for a knife, then get one you really like.
    I

  10. If you want a good, quality knife then get a kershaw chive!
    I do not own one, but i have held one( in the smoky mountain knife works in tennesee).

  11. what i like is a winchester or remington or northwest trail

    • Knife Xpert 157 (aka Chad 101) // August 10, 2012 at 6:03 pm // Reply

      Both Winchester and Remington make great fire-arms, I myself have a Rem. 870 Express 12 gauge. However both companies make low quality knives. Winchester makes very junky multi-tools. Go with a Leatherman, Gerber or Buck.

  12. Leatherman Charge TTi, it is expensive but it is amazing.

  13. No Boy Scouts are allowed to carry a fixed blade knife (on troop/pack activities). Cub Scouts are not allowed to carry aknife with a blade longer than 3 inches on pack activities. (I’m pretty sure.) It is implied in the artical that you can do both of the above.

    • Knife Xpert 157 (aka Chad 101) // August 3, 2012 at 11:28 am // Reply

      How many times do I need to explain this… The BSA handbook says they PREFER you not carry a fixed blade.
      I carry a fixed on every camp out.

    • Knife xpert 157 (aka Chad 101) // August 4, 2012 at 3:08 pm // Reply

      Any boy scout can carry a fixed blade. It is up to the troop to decide if their boys are responsible enough to carry a fixed blade.

  14. i will choose the gerber dime

    • get a schrade team primos folding knife. I have one and it’s never failed me, schrade is a good American brand

  15. AppalationTrail is good

  16. ive had 2 gerbers and they fell apart
    best folding knife -buck
    best multitool-leatherman
    best small sheath -old timer

  17. Knife overlord // July 3, 2012 at 8:42 pm // Reply

    Go swiss baby !!!!

  18. scout T41 // July 2, 2012 at 3:23 pm // Reply

    Go gerber, theyre sharp and inexpensive. You can get them at walmart same place where I got my ozark trail multi-tool

  19. hippiescout151 // June 30, 2012 at 5:03 pm // Reply

    A good place to find relatively cheap and very good quality knives is a local gun show/ expo.I got a US Army Ranger folding survival knife at one and it has served me well in my years of scouting.

    • Where exactly did you get this “paratrooper” knife. If it’s not an auto or assisted knife then you probably got a cheap knock off. Also wheres it made, and by what company.
      My dad served for eight years as an elite paratrooper in the USAF and he had a genuine jumper knife. It was cool but he couldn’t keep it when he was discharged. He would know if it was real or not if you could discribe it.

  20. Buck and Gerber.

  21. my case xx really keeps its edge and is very useful

  22. my sons troop allows the use of fixed blade knives and he uses my ka bar usmc knife and I have used it for over 10 years and it works great for him

  23. Bear Gryles ultimit knife 50$ or more but worth i also recommend a cheap 5$ swiss army knife

  24. go swiss knives

  25. A mora companion, and an swiss army fieldmaster make an exelent combination for me. But for you maybe not. The knife (or knives) you carry should be based upon what you feel you should carry.

  26. Sniffinindakitchen // May 28, 2012 at 3:55 pm // Reply

    Get a Buck x tract

  27. Got my multy tool last October for $5.50. For a hunting season bonus Very sharp Saw and knife blades perfect for scouts

  28. Navy Wolf // May 23, 2012 at 9:17 pm // Reply

    Had my multy tool for since last October 4 hunting. sturdy handle and great sharp saw and blad . perfect 4 for scouter on the go!

  29. awesomeness // May 20, 2012 at 7:39 pm // Reply

    Yay for Swiss army knives!!!

  30. Check out Schrade’s carbon knives. Sharp, inexspencive and tough. Made in USA too.
    I prefer the “Leader”.

    • Knife Xpert 157 (aka Chad 101) // May 2, 2013 at 11:21 pm // Reply

      The bad thing about carbon steel is that it cannot hold its edge and will rust very quickly.

  31. Swiss army knives are really awesome, so if you don’t have one, you should get one.

  32. someone needs to make a survivle gear guide.

  33. get a good one that you think is perfect. if you do not know or are sure which than get a good one that is nice and sharp,easy to handle,and has lots of functions.

  34. Get a cold steel machete

  35. 3 in One oil is better choice for lubricating a knife. (It is made by the same company that makes WD-40).

    WD-40 is a lubricant and a solvent – it breaks things down. It can ruin a lock or the inner workings of delicate equipment. It can also remove finish or paint. It can also irritate the skin.

    • way to go

    • Delta Force // May 2, 2012 at 3:13 pm // Reply

      hmmmmmm… well how come all my knives and machetes are in great shape and I have been using WD-40 on them for 20+ years?!

      • Off-Trail Monkey // May 13, 2012 at 12:45 pm //

        WD-40 is not an oil, it’s purpose is to loosen rusty bolts and similar items (Please read the label). 3 in 1 oil will work but can be toxic to some people. Always use a knife oil as it offers superior lubrication and protection and is not dangerous if minimumly consumed. Also, never use food oils, they will gum everything up and can spoil like any food source item; again causing illness.

    • WD-40 can lubricate and clean a bike chain, too.

    • Knife Xpert 157 (aka Chad 101) // May 2, 2013 at 11:25 pm // Reply

      Your totally wrong dude! Yes WD-40 is toxic and i wouldn’t go around drinking it. But it is perfectly fine to use on knifes… It works especially good when sprayed into the locking mechanizium

  36. A leather man sidekick is your best bet

  37. Off-Trail Monkey // April 12, 2012 at 6:00 pm // Reply

    Hurray for Swiss Army Knives!!!!!!!

  38. Attention: I am changing my name to Delta 8 since that was my squad’s call sigh while I was a Special-ops paratrooper.

  39. my troop alows fixed blades and the hand book discuregis them

  40. SPEEDY GONZALES // April 5, 2012 at 7:26 pm // Reply

    The best knife you could possibly ever get is a swiss army knife. I had my Tinker for 3 years know and its still like it has just been took out of the package. (With some scratches on the handle, of course).

  41. Delta Force // April 3, 2012 at 8:17 pm // Reply

    I agree, an ax is the ultimite camping tool.

  42. Ax Xpert 666 // March 14, 2012 at 10:51 am // Reply

    An 3/4 ax is the ultimite campers tool; you can chop, cut, and hammer most anything with it. My ax also has a knife in the handle for little things. Best thing about an ax is it’s better for staring down a bear; we’ve had to do that once.

  43. Knife Xpert 157 (aka Chad 101) // March 12, 2012 at 10:59 am // Reply

    A Gerber Bear Grylls Parang machete can beat an ax 100 times over! I have one and it rocks! The razer sharp blade can hack thru a 8 inch thick log in half the time an ax could! I am comparing it to my Gerber pack Pax which has lasted me 5 years now but the parang is much better and can clear brush as well while an ax cant!

  44. Axes are awesome but a good knife will never let you down

  45. Any knife less then $30 and made in china is not worth buying.

  46. backpackin dude // February 27, 2012 at 8:50 pm // Reply

    a swiss army knife is what I have and it has lasted me for a long time without dulling, get one with a lot of attachments though

    • Swiss knives are handy but most do not lock and me and my thumb have a grudge on non locking blades! Sure some of them lock but those cost a TON!(up to $240)

      • Sly Fox // March 9, 2012 at 3:03 pm //

        Time to buy a swiss army knife at new location. I bought a new S.A. Fireman – lockblade
        w/ additional surrated blade, sissor and saw for $28.00 on e-bay. I then bought a second in a store for $36.00 for my son. The avarage swiss army lock blade cost around $44.00.

      • Kilcannon // March 31, 2012 at 12:57 pm //

        My SAK trekker has a one handed open lock blade, and only set me back 31 dollars. It comes with a free classic on Amazon, and is a quality tool.

      • Delta Force // April 3, 2012 at 11:10 pm //

        Ok ok! I was wrong! BUT… your average every day Swiss knife does not lock. e.g. Spartan, Tinker etc… I even carried one in my kit bag while a para-trooper! But I cut myself more with that knife then with any other knife.

  47. Smith and Wesson extreme ops CK105H knife is really great, and less then $15.

  48. i want to buy one off those but my mom said i cant by one and i read the hole thing and
    i relly want it

  49. Off trail monkey // February 21, 2012 at 11:21 am // Reply

    Carry an ax, knives are for wimps. You can open anything with an ax. If sharpened correctly you can whittle with it too.

  50. Get a Kershaw!!!

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