Gear-obsessed editors choose every product we review. We may earn commission if you buy from a link. How we test gear.

The Best Pocket Knives to Carry Every Day

A knife is one of the most convenient tools you can carry. These are the folders worth buying.

pocket knife testing march 2021
Trevor Raab

You want a pocket knife for one seemingly simple reason: to keep on you for when you need to cut things. Still, that can involve any number of tasks, from the mundane to the gnarly. You might be looking to skin an elk or cut fruit from a tree, but a pocket knife can also open your packages, slice off a hunk of cheese for a friend, or cut a loose string that threatens to unravel the whole sweater. The best knife is sharp enough to get the job done and convenient enough to bring everywhere. These are the models worth your hard-earned buck.

Best Every Day Pocket Knives

Choosing a Knife

When considering knives for everyday carry (EDC), look for a folder that will fit easily on your belt or in your pocket when it’s closed. It should be light enough to carry comfortably but with a blade and handle that are sized to your liking. Most blades in this category measure 2 to 3.5 inches long and have a drop-point shape. Handles range from 3.5 to 5 inches.

Folding knives that lock are even better. They won’t close on your fingers during use, which makes them safer, and the stiffness of a locking blade lets you manipulate the knife at a variety of angles, like while whittling wood or opening a particularly tricky package. Plus, you can use the back of the blade for things like fire sparking rods without it closing or bending on you.

Another major factor is the kind of metal the blade is made from. The three most common categories are carbon, stainless, and tool steel. Carbon steel is easy to sharpen, holds an edge well, and is durable, but the blade takes more care because the metal is prone to corrosion. Types of carbon steel include 420HC, XC90, and 1095. Stainless steel isn’t as hardy as carbon, but with the addition of chromium, the blade is less susceptible to corrosion. Stainless blades are often cheaper than their carbon counterparts, too. Choose stainless, like AUS-8, VG-10, or 8Cr13MoV and its cousins in the 9Cr and 7Cr series if you will mostly be using your knife on the water, to process game, or to prepare dinner while camping. There’s also tool steel, which can contain titanium, molybdenum, vanadium, or other elements. The result is generally a strong blade with good edge retention and decent corrosion resistance (though not as good as stainless). Popular tool steels include D2, CPM S30V, and CPM S35VN.

Types of Locking Mechanisms

Don’t be intimidated by all the different types of locks. They all accomplish the same task but go about it in different ways.

Liner: One side of the handle’s inner liner is bent, causing it to act like a spring. When you open the blade, that springing liner slides over behind the tang of the blade to keep it from closing. Pro: Simple and inexpensive. Con: Fingers are in the way when closing.

Frame: Similar to a liner lock, this system has one side of the knife’s frame slide behind the blade when you deploy it. Pro: Secure. Con: Doesn’t work with both hands.

Lockback: A locking bar runs up the spine of the knife’s handle and springs up into a notch in the tang. To close, press on the bar close to the butt of the handle to pivot it out of the tang. Pro: Ambidextrous. Con: Can wear out, causing the blade to wiggle when deployed.

Crossbar: A steel bar passes through the knife handle and slots into a notch in the tang. It’s significantly stronger than a liner lock, and you don’t have to adjust your grip to operate it. Benchmade’s proprietary Axis was first to market, but it’s now joined by SOG’s XR mechanism and others. Pro: Ambidextrous. Con: More small parts that can break.

Collar: A circular collar around the base of the blade twists to lock it closed or open. Line up the gap in the collar with the blade for unimpeded deployment. Pro: Simple. Con: Collar can wear out over time and not operate as smoothly.

How We Tested

Our search for the best pocket knives started with fairly strict evaluation criteria. We focused on testing single-blade, plain-edge knives, along with a few smaller multitools built with portability in mind. So far, we’ve put more than 22 test samples through their paces by slicing apples, cutting rope, busting through zip ties that were secured on a U-bolt, and using them in our daily lives. We made vertical cuts in the apples by slowly applying force until the fruit split. During the rope cutting, we wrapped a length of ⅛-inch cotton-wrapped nylon cord over the blade and pulled, carefully avoiding the urge to saw unless absolutely necessary, until the cord was cut through. Similarly, we pressed the blades against zip ties rated to 30-pound tensile strength, without sawing, to gauge how much force was needed to release the plastic fasteners from the metal U-bolt they were tightly secured to. Keep reading to learn how the best models fared during these tests and what we thought after carrying them around and using them for whatever odd jobs we encountered.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
testing pocket knives by cutting rope and apples
Trevor Raab
Editors’ Choice
SOG Twitch II

Weight: 2.6 oz | Blade length: 2.7 in. | Closed length: 3.6 in. | Blade steel: AUS-8 | Locking mechanism: Lockback

The Twitch II has earned many fans over the years, and we can see why. It’s sized just right, easy to open, and delivered consistently strong results throughout our testing. The stainless-steel blade, housed in a simple and sleek-looking aluminum handle, is substantial enough for a variety of tasks, yet the knife retains a modest, slim profile. It was comfortable to carry in our pocket and attached securely to our belt. There are a few ways to deploy the blade, including a thumb stud on each side (lefties, rejoice). But we liked the kick. Sometimes called a flipper, this triangular tab sits at the end of a knife’s tang and protrudes from the handle when the blade is closed. Pressing it down with our index finger swung the blade out nearly all the way (with help from a coil spring), and we locked it in place with a small tug upward. Once open, the kick doubled as a finger guard.

Under relatively little pressure, the knife made even, smooth cuts. The blade was the only one to slide into the apple on contact, though it needed greater force to completely slice through. It also finished among our top performers for the cord and zip tie testing, cleanly cleaving the fasteners with a modest amount of force. A small sliding lock on the handle added extra assurance that the blade wouldn’t deploy accidentally. More than once, we forgot we had engaged it because it’s so seamlessly built into the handle. After almost a year of frequent use, the knife is still in fine form, though some paint has chipped off the handle. If you’re looking for a trusty EDC that delivers quality at a reasonable cost, the Twitch doesn’t disappoint.

Read Full Review

Best Value
Opinel No. 8 Carbon Steel

Weight: 1.6 oz | Blade length: 3.3 in. | Closed length: 3.5 in. | Blade steel: XC90 carbon | Locking mechanism: Collar

The Opinel has remained virtually unchanged for decades, thanks to its low cost, effectiveness, and light weight. You can buy it with a stainless-steel blade, but the incredible affordability of the carbon model is a no-brainer. The No. 8 delivered one of the best cuts when we were slicing apples, and its especially sharp tip made quick work of zip ties and punctured packaging well. But it was only after a good deal of strain that we ripped through the cord. Although we wished there was a belt clip, the collar lock gave us peace of mind when the knife was in our pocket. There’s absolutely no chance of the 3.3-inch blade deploying accidentally. Plus, it kept the blade open when we needed additional rigidity. However, it did take some effort to rotate the collar and lift the blade with the nail nick, which made deploying this knife slower than all the others. The beech wood handle was one of the most comfortable in our test. It’s a uniform cylinder, save for a taper just before the pommel. Plus, the wood construction keeps the weight in check. That a sub–two-ounce knife can sport a blade this long and capable is impressive, making the No. 8 a worthwhile pick. Looking to make it one of a kind? Opinel offers custom engraving (for an additional fee).

Best Spring-Assisted Knife
Kershaw Link

Weight: 4.3 oz | Blade length: 3.3 in. | Closed length: 4.4 in. | Blade steel: 420HC | Locking mechanism: Liner 

If you like a blade that deploys as fast as possible, you’ll want a spring-assisted knife. And we haven’t found one better than Kershaw’s Link. The blade popped open as soon as we pulled down on the kick with our index finger and stopped at full extension with a satisfying click. In fact, it was so pleasing to open, we had to stop ourselves from popping it in and out just for fun to avoid wearing out the mechanism. What’s more, the one-handed operation was just as easy with our non-dominant side, making the Link a decent ambidextrous choice. As for the performance of the blade itself, the carbon steel didn’t disappoint, providing an even cut for whatever we needed. It wasn’t as well suited to finer detail work, like coring apples, but we wouldn’t expect that from a blade with this full a belly.

Best Small Pocket Knife
Benchmade 533 Mini Bugout

Weight: 1.5 oz | Blade length: 2.8 in. | Closed length: 3.7 in. | Blade steel: CPM-S30V | Locking mechanism: Axis 

In 2020, Benchmade released this pint-size version of its popular Bugout folder. The Mini is lighter (by about three-tenths of an ounce), shorter (the overall lengths differ by just more than one inch), and features a blade that’s nearly a half-inch smaller. Still, the pint-size knife packs explosive cutting power. The CPM S30V blade quickly and cleanly cut through food, cardboard, and rope of all sizes during our test period, and the textured Grivory handle felt comfortable and secure even when we laid into it. We’re big fans of crossbar locking mechanisms, and in the Mini, Benchmade proves its Axis is the one to beat. The spring that disengages the lock had a healthy yet smooth resistance, letting us neatly tuck the blade away. There’s nothing subtle about the neon orange, but we didn’t mind, especially when we threw it into our hiking pack. The bright color was easy to spot even in low light. But if it’s not your style, pick the 533BK-1 model, which has a white handle and black blade. Given the knife’s 1.5-ounce build, we frequently forgot we had it in a pocket or holstered on our belt, making it a convenient option to carry everywhere. This is one featherlight EDC that doesn’t slouch on performance and, in our view, is worth the expense.

Innovative Design
CRKT Bona Fide

Weight: 4.3 oz | Blade length: 3.6 in. | Closed length: 4.7 in. | Blade steel: D2 | Locking mechanism: Liner

Among CRKT’s 2021 releases is the Bona Fide. It’s a simple enough folder, save for the sliding button on the handle that’s part of the newly redesigned Field Strip technology. CRKT first debuted this tool-free disassembly, designed by knife maker Ken Onion, in 2016. That wheel-based system made thoroughly cleaning a knife dead simple, but it required two steps—disengaging the pivot by moving a lever and spinning a release wheel—before each side of the handle separated from the blade. In Gen II, the Oregon company simplified the process further. All we had to do was slide the oblong button up and to the left. Thankfully, that required conscious effort and a bit of muscle, so we weren’t worried about the knife coming apart in our pocket or pack. We had to press down pretty forcefully on the somewhat small kick to open the knife, but once we did, the D2 blade deployed smoothly and quickly. Better still, we were pleased that it locked securely in place without any play or wiggling. In our cutting tests, the Bona Fide earned average marks. The knife is on the larger, heavier side for an EDC, but that makes it well-suited for light-duty outdoor tasks. If you prefer something slightly smaller, consider the CRKT Cottidae.

Sharpest Blade
Gerber FlatIron

Weight: 5.2 oz | Blade length: 3.6 in. | Closed length: 4.8 in. | Blade steel: D2 | Locking mechanism: Frame

A lot separates the FlatIron from the other knives on our list. Most obviously, Gerber bucks the classic drop-point shape for a cleaver style. But there’s also the fact that the blade is made from D2, a tool steel that boasts excellent hardness and is known for its edge retention. Practically speaking, the FlatIron was also the sharpest in our test, delivering an exceptionally smooth cut into the apple and busting through the rope easily. It was also really nice for the most common task of a pocket knife: opening packages. Pinching the front of the blade and using our index finger and thumb as a depth gauge worked great for not damaging what laid inside. The rectangular shape was a bit more awkward for the zip ties. We had to reposition the blade before it was able to snap the plastic in two. But for larger jobs, we have every confidence in the FlatIron. Just beware that the massive blade adds weight and made it more challenging for us to grab our wallet when both are in the same pocket. Our test sample was the version with a half-Micarta, half-aluminum handle. We liked the textured fabric, but you can save some money by choosing either the aluminum or textured G-10 handle models. Even so, the FlatIron delivers a premium feel at a reasonable cost.

SOG Ultra XR

Weight: 1.2 oz | Blade length: 2.8 in. | Closed length: 3.6 in. | Blade steel: Cryo CPM S35VN | Locking mechanism: XR

This past summer, SOG released the Ultra XR, a compact yet powerful EDC that replaces the earlier Ultra C-Ti. The streamlined design makes the new Ultra even sleeker. Meanwhile, installing premium features, such as higher quality blade steel and the easy-to-operate XR crossbar lock, lend great performance (and account for the $25 price jump). Barely over one ounce, the ultralight, thin build and semi-rectangular closed shape are more reminiscent of a credit card than a pocket knife. That’s fitting considering the Ultra’s large belt clip doubles as a cash holder. This knife nearly disappeared in our pocket. Weight savings come in the form of the carbon-fiber handle, which retains a finger guard but no grooves like the C-Ti had. The clip point blade is cryogenically treated for better edge retention. We haven’t had our test sample long enough to comment on that, but we can say it’s particularly sharp. The Ultra sliced into the apple easily under light pressure, cut through our rope and zip ties fairly well, and handily deconstructed cardboard boxes. Our one complaint is minor: Compared to other thumb holes, it was slightly harder to find purchase on the Ultra’s. The hole is short and, given the narrow strip of metal above it, we ended up using it more like a nail nick. Still, operating this ambidextrous knife is much easier than many EDCs we’ve tested. Even if you’re not worried about weight, there’s plenty to like in the Ultra.

Secure Grip
Spyderco Delica 4 FRN Flat Ground

Weight: 2.3 oz | Blade length: 2.9 in. | Closed length: 4.3 in. | Blade steel: VG-10 | Locking mechanism: Lockback

The Delica has been a staple in the Spyderco lineup for more than 30 years, and the fourth generation includes styles with different blade steels, edges, and shapes, as well as different handles. The standard model we tested features a sharp VG-10 blade that excelled at slicing—due to its fully flat-ground design—and ripped through materials, particularly our rope, without hesitation. Deploying the blade was simple thanks to Spyderco’s hallmark circular thumb hole, measuring a nice and large 13 millimeters here. We also appreciated the fiberglass reinforced nylon handle that has textured molding for better traction, a finger guard, and subtle finger grooves. Add in the jimping notches on the blade’s spine, and we never worried about our grip slipping. Lastly, the handle’s stiff belt clip is reversible—a nice feature for lefties—and can be reinstalled for tip-down carry, if that’s your thing. Altogether, the Delica 4 is a very capable EDC and an especially great option for people who regularly get their hands dirty and need a knife that will stay put.

Midsize Model
Kershaw Terran

Weight: 3.5 oz | Blade length: 3.1 in. | Closed length: 4.0 in. | Blade steel: 8Cr13MoV | Locking mechanism: Frame

There’s nothing flashy about the new Terran, though we dig the monochromatic stainless-steel construction. But when you want a midsize folder that does what you need it to without fuss, it’s a good pick. The spring-assisted blade flipped quickly out of the handle once we depressed the kick. In our cutting tests, it proved decently sharp and adept enough for carving tasks. The 3.1-inch blade was also long enough to cut through larger apples in one go, something not every knife we tested could do. Still, the knife isn’t so large or heavy that it feels awkward to carry everyday. Yes, there are sharper, more feature-rich models out there. But by forgoing those qualities, Kershaw delivers an affordable and, most importantly, dependable EDC in the Terran.

This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses. You may be able to find more information about this and similar content at
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below