How to Choose the Best Pocket Knife
The best pocket knife is something hard to define, but when you really need one, the best pocket knife is the one that is actually in your pocket. Pocket knives varies in material, size, weight, purpose, price and many other important features.
Pocket knife is a general tool which can be used in many occasions, regardless if you are at home, on the boat, in the port, or somewhere in the wilderness.
As a tool, pocket knives can't do job as well as dedicated tools - their blades are not as strong as an ax, LED flashlights hidden in the handle can't match purpose built flashlights, etc.
But, being small, lightweight, ready to be used within seconds, coming at the very acceptable price, makes them very nice to have around. After all, when you really need them, you will appreciate to have them.
And they are also a great gift for fishermen, campers, hikers, hunters and other people who like outdoor activities or simply like to have a very versatile tool in a lightweight and small package.
Pocket Knife Material
In order to prevent rust, most blades are made using various stainless steels, with blade made out of aluminum or plastic.
Carbon steels offer better blades in terms of edge holding and similar, but they are prone to rust, even with various coatings.
Modern stainless steels don't leg behind, at least not much, regarding edge retention and edge sharpness, but they are stainless and will last for a long time.
Aluminum or plastic handle holds the blade and often other tools hidden and protected from mechanical and other damage.
Features and Types of Pocket Knives
Pocket knives range from small pocket knives suitable for most basic tasks, to outdoor, multi-purpose, survival pocket knives.
Survival pocket knife can be 5-6 inches (12.7-15 cm) long, can fit any backpack or even pocket, but can have many function and is always ready to be used. Some of the common features of pocket knives are:
- blade - ordinary blade for every day activities or high-tech combination of common and serrated edge, capable of slicing through smaller branches or car seat belt. Some survival pocket knives even have dedicated car seat belt cutters - personally, I never had the need for something like that, but people that did need them and did use them in emergency, praise such knives ... Some blades are manual, and some are spring assisted, but they should all have some sort of lock system, when deployed.
- bottle and can opener - this is a must-have feature. Bottles and cans can be opened using common knife blade, but why bother :)
- scissors - personally, this is not a must-have feature, but can come handy in many situations.
- saw - some pocket knives have dedicated saw capable of cutting through the small trees and branches, while some knives have part of the blade's edge serrated.
- LED flashlight - these days, small LED flashlights are cheap, waterproof and often can withstand serious punishment in the form of mechanical impacts and similar. Having one more such light is, personally, not so important. However, survival pocket knives often have small LED flashlights, which can help one find the way out in the dark, start the fire, find the shelter and similar.
- magnesium alloy fire starter doesn't require much space, is easy to use (after few trials and errors) and can be difference between life and death. If you prefer fishing in the wild or you like hiking, dedicated magnesium fire starter is recommended, but having another one as backup is smart idea - remember that things get lost, broken etc.
- window breaker, combined with the seat belt cutter, can be of great help when getting out of the vehicle or even boat, in emergency. Breaking car window is not the easiest thing to do, not even when additional adrenaline is giving you extra strength. So, if you really want to be prepared for something like that, go to some scrapyard and try to break car window from inside the car, using your weaker hand and then pull yourself out of that car. BTW, whatever you do, it is your own responsibility :)
List of possible tools and features of pocket knives can be quite long, especially for Swiss Army Pocket Knives and Multi-Tools. Survival pocket knives often have less features, but are built sturdier, with survival in mind, not extra versatility.
Long story short:
- Swiss Army Pocket Knives - they have many features and very usable tools, and their width depends on number of tools. They are light, require little space, come at affordable price, but they are also not as sturdy as multi-tools and dedicated survival pocket knives.
- Multi-Tools - if you need set of tools for quick, less demanding tasks, pocket-multi tool is excellent choice. They are less sturdy than full size tools, but they can be kept in the pocket or strapped to the belt or even on the key chain, at least smaller models.
- Survival Pocket Knives - much sturdier built items when combined with Swiss Army pocket knives, but with less features and tools. However, their features are optimized for survival and if you like to roam around (on your feet, on the boat, horse, bike, quad etc.), having one of these adds one more security layer. Better safe than sorry :)
Author's Pocket Knife Choice
Personal view - Author of this article is 40+ year old fisherman and outdoor enthusiast. Pocket knife of my choice is 'old' German Army pocket knife (photo above) - it was standard issue in German Army in the 1980's (given to me by my father when I was in high school - and yes, I am that old! :) and it was later replaced by newer and better(?) models.
It serves me for almost 30 years. It has blade with ordinary edge (not serrated), a dedicated and extremely sharp saw, a toothpick, bottle and can opener. Enough for me :)
It is ~4 1/2 inch long (~11 cm) and weighs around 3 ounces (little less than 90g) - excellent companion on my trips :)