The Best Pocket Knives of 2023-2024

99 views 6:12 pm 0 Comments December 15, 2023

2024 Best of Pocket Knives_Group Shot

In the world of outdoor gear, pocket knives have become a staple. They’re everywhere, from the display cases at REI to the checkout lanes at your local hardware store. But with so many to choose from, it can be a daunting task to find out which one is right for you.

In 2023, we saw newer brands like Civivi and WE Knife rise up to take on the likes of Benchmade and CRKT. By coming in at a lower price point, they threw a curve ball at the industry; possibly redefining what it means to be “premium”.

So! Here we are — your headlight in the fog — with a collection of knives that we think are the best of the best available on the market today. Each one of these knives has been tested thoroughly to determine why they deserve the prestige of being considered the best of the best.

Below you’ll find a roster of blades offering the best mix of capability, construction, and value the industry has to offer. Check out our top picks at the links below or scroll through to browse for yourself. At the end of our list, be sure to check out our comprehensive buyer’s guide, comparison chart, and frequently asked questions.

Editor’s Note: We updated this article on December 15, 2023, to include several new knives that have recently impressed us in testing and lots of new buying guidance.

The Best Pocket Knives of 2024


Best Overall Pocket Knife


Benchmade Freek

Specs

  • OAL
    8.46”
  • Blade Length
    3.6”
  • Blade Steel
    S90V (Stainless)
  • Blade Shape
    Drop Point
  • Lock Type
    Axis (Crossbar)
  • Weight
    4.12 oz.


The Best Pocket Knives of 2023-2024

Pros

  • S90V Blade Steel

  • Ritter RST Blade Ramp

  • Axis Lock

Cons

  • S90V is hard to sharpen

  • Pocket clip is under-sized


Nick LeFort

Best Budget Pocket Knife


Civivi Conspirator

Specs

  • OAL
    8.11”
  • Blade Length
    3.48”
  • Blade Steel
    Nitro-V
  • Blade Shape
    Drop Point
  • Lock Type
    Button (Crossbar)
  • Weight
    3.8 oz.


The Best Pocket Knives of 2023-2024

Pros

  • Nitrov-V Blade Steel

  • Button Lock

  • Ceramic Ball Bearings

Cons

  • Pocket clip could be more substantial


Nick LeFort

Best Multitool/Knife Combo


Victorinox Huntsman

Specs

  • Dimensions (LxWxH)
    3.6” x 1” x 0.8”
  • Weight
    3.4 oz.
  • Tools:
  • Reamer, Punch and Sewing Awl
  • Multipurpose Hook
  • Small Blade
  • Toothpick
  • Can Opener
  • Small Screwdriver
  • Corkscrew
  • Tweezers
  • Bottle Opener
  • Large Screwdriver
  • Wire Stripper
  • Scissors
  • Large Blade
  • Wood Saw


The Best Pocket Knives of 2023-2024

Pros

  • Proven Victorinox build and materials

  • Excellent tool variety

  • Affordability

Cons

  • Tools do not lock


Nick LeFort

Best Hiking / Outdoors Knife


WE Knife Big Banter

Specs

  • OAL
    8.35”
  • Blade Length
    3.69”
  • Blade Steel
    CPM 20CV
  • Blade Shape
    Drop Point
  • Lock Type
    Liner
  • Weight
    4.1 oz.


The Best Pocket Knives of 2023-2024

Pros

  • Perfectly Balanced

  • Canvas Micarta Scales

  • Size to Weight Ratio

Cons

  • Needs more spine jimping


Nick LeFort

Best Tactical Knife


Benchmade CLA

Specs

  • OAL
    7.85”
  • Blade Length
    3.40”
  • Blade Steel
    MagnaCut
  • Blade Shape
    Drop Point
  • Lock Type
    Button (Crossbar)
  • Weight
    3.47 oz.


The Best Pocket Knives of 2023-2024

Pros

  • DLC Battlewash coated MagnaCut Blade

  • Size to Weight Ratio

  • OD Green + Coyote Tan = Awesome Color Combo

Cons

  • No indicator on the blade lock

  • It’s pricey


Nick LeFort

Best Dress Knife


CRKT CEO Microflipper

Specs

  • OAL
    5.50”
  • Blade Length
    2.21”
  • Blade Steel
    Sandvik 12C27
  • Blade Shape
    Sheepsfoot
  • Lock Type
    Liner
  • Weight
    1.7 oz.


The Best Pocket Knives of 2023-2024

Pros

  • Sandvik 12C27 Steel

  • IKBS Ball Bearings for fluid deployment

Cons

  • Aluminum scales can be slippery when wet.


Nick LeFort

Best of the Rest


Arcform Slimfoot

Specs

  • OAL
    7.875”
  • Blade Length
    3.5”
  • Blade Steel
    Böhler M390
  • Blade Shape
    Sheepsfoot
  • Lock Type
    Liner
  • Weight
    4.63 oz.


The Best Pocket Knives of 2023-2024

Pros

  • Böhler M390 steel

  • Sheepsfoot blade profile with fuller

  • The refined design

Cons

  • The flipper tab is a little far forward and can be tricky


Nick LeFort


Kershaw Iridium

Specs

  • OAL
    7.9”
  • Blade Length
    3.4”
  • Blade Steel
    D2
  • Blade Shape
    Spear Point
  • Lock Type
    DuraLock
  • Weight
    3.3 oz.


The Best Pocket Knives of 2023-2024

Pros

  • Old-school D2 steel

  • KVT Ball Bearing System

  • Balance between form and function

Cons

  • It’s a very sharp fidget spinner. Ouch.


Nick LeFort


Benchmade Auto Immunity

Specs

  • OAL
    5.95”
  • Blade Length
    2.49”
  • Blade Steel
    Cerakoted CPM M4
  • Blade Shape
    Wharncliffe
  • Lock Type
    Auto Axis
  • Weight
    3.3 oz.


The Best Pocket Knives of 2023-2024

Pros

  • Cerakoted M4 Blade Steel

  • Small, but capable.

  • Auto Axis Lock w. Built-In Safety

Cons

  • Expensive for its size


Nick LeFort

Pocket Knives Comparison Chart

Pocket KnifePriceOALBlade LengthBlade SteelBlade ShapeLock TypeWeight
Benchmade Freek$3508.46”3.6”S90V (Stainless)Drop PointAxis (Crossbar)4.12 oz.
 Civivi Conspirator$948.11”3.48″Nitro-VDrop PointButton (Crossbar)3.8 oz.
Victorinox Huntsman$50NASmall blade among other toolsStainlessStandardNone3.4 oz.
 WE Knife Big Banter$1328.35″3.69″CPM 20CVDrop PointLiner4.1 oz.
Benchmade CLA$4007.85″3.4″MagnaCutDrop PointButton (Crossbar)3.47 oz.
CRKT CEO Microflipper$605.5″2.21″Sandvik 12C27SheepsfootLiner1.7 oz.
Arcform Slimfoot$2797.875”3.5″Böhler M390SheepsfootLiner4.63 oz.
Kershaw Iridium$1007.9”3.4″D2Spear PointDuraLock3.3 oz.
Benchmade Auto Immunity$3255.952.49″Cerakoted CPM M4WharncliffeAuto Axis3.3 oz.

How We Tested Pocket Knives

How a knife carries is an important factor in picking the right one for you; (photo/Nick LeFort)

Out of all of the things we test around Gear Junkie, pocket knives seem to get easier and easier every year — because everyone wants one. Suffice it to say, the knives we’ve recommended on this list weren’t just tested at a desk or in some random workshop in the Midwest, they were used, abused, loved, and carried for extended periods of time.

From an industry veteran like Sean McCoy to a knifemaker like Nick LeFort, and knife aficionado Josh Wussow, all of the knives you read about here within were toiled over and picked apart. All three of these testers are great people. Fun to have around. Heck, last year’s Christmas Party was kept off of our social media pages, by the request of HR, because of these three guys in particular. But when it comes to breaking down a knife’s features, materials, and intended uses, there aren’t three better people suited for the job.

So what did they do?

Where you can find YouTube and the internet peppered with people cutting rope and cardboard in their garage, you’re more apt to find Sean, Nick, or Josh out in the woods, down by a river, or wherever their day takes them. Heck, you may see one of them wandering around Whole Foods with one of these knives (in their pocket of course). To them, testing isn’t a 9-5 job, these knives are part of their lives. And they brought their experience and their attention to detail along with these knives in their day-to-day lives.

Having a keen sense of how a particular knife steel would perform, or how a certain handle material’s grip would be impacted by inclement weather, as well as a vast knowledge of what’s going on in the market, they were able to act and react accordingly. On these few aspects as well as many others. The end result is the purest form of product testing: in the moment.

The bottom line is that our approach to testing is to make sure a product and its parts perform as expected. With marketing being what it is, with the intent to sell one particular knife above all of the others, it’s easy to buy into the hype. In this case, we look at that hype and see if it’s all just talk or the real deal.

Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose a Pocket Knife

Benchmade’s Axis lock is a crossbar-style lock that is extremely reliable; (photo/Nick LeFort)

Knife Steel

The amount of knife blade steel and handle materials out there is pretty impressive. But, where the handle materials seem to have stabilized, there’s new steel coming out every year. As you can see from the above selection of eight knives, there are seven different knife steels. Our recommendation is to consider each steel on a case-by-case basis. But they should still meet or exceed the following requirements:

Corrosion Resistance

The last thing you want is your knife turning orange on you out in the field. Especially if you’re planning on using it to prepare food. All of the steel mentioned in this guide either has exceptional corrosion resistance or has been coated to eliminate the occurrence of rust.

Abrasion Resistance

Some people consider this property to be more form than function. But in all reality, if your blade can easily get scraped up that can lead to chipping, which then could lead to blade failure.

Edge Retention/Ease of Resharpening

No matter what knife you carry, the worst knife you could carry is a dull one. That being said, you want to look for knife steels that either excel in edge retention or can be easily resharpened.

You can learn more about specific knife steels here.

Handle Material

When it comes down to handle material it’s all about grip. Ergonomics play a part in this as well, as you could have great handle material in a weird shape that will cause fatigue. In the end, you won’t want to use the knife and you’ll have wasted your money. These are some of the more preferred materials on the market today:

G10 & Micarta

G10 and Micarta are both extremely strong materials. Both excel in grip whether your hands are wet or dry which is why those two materials are so popular with EDC, Survival, Tactical, and Bushcraft-style knives.

Nylon & Plastic

Nylon and Plastic also make for great handle materials because they’re durable and lightweight, but they’re also generally textured. It’s this texturing and styling that increases the grip on a knife with these materials.

Note: Nylon and Plastic handle scales can be called a litany of names. Some of the more popular names are: FRN/Zytel (Fiber Reinforced Nylon), GRN (Glass Reinforced Nylon), GFN (Glass Filled Nylon), and Grivory (Injection Molded).

Carbon Fiber

A lot of folks think Carbon Fiber is just pretty to look at, but in all reality, this woven material is lightweight and strong. Depending on its composition, it could be considered the perfect balance between strength, weight, and durability. You can bet your bippy you’ll pay more for a knife with Carbon Fiber, but it’s worth it.

Aluminum & Titanium

Both Aluminum and Titanium are incredibly strong and lightweight materials which make them great for knife handle scales. But where Aluminum has become relegated to budget knives, the use of Titanium is usually saved for premium and ultra-premium knives. The only drawback to both of these materials is that they can be slippery when wet.

The Benchmade Freek with a carbon fiber handle, out here living its best life; (photo/Nick LeFort)

Ease of Use

Ease of use is a big deal when considering what knife is right for you. It can come in many forms from ergonomics, to lock design, to the hardware used to keep the knife together and in good functioning order. All in all, the last thing you want to do is struggle with or be uncomfortable using your knife.

Ergonomics

A good knife will feel right in your hand. From the shape of the handle scales to the overall thickness, and even texturing, ergonomics can be the difference between you being confident with your knife or leaving it in your drawer at home. When you consider a knife, put it in your hand and give it a good squeeze. Then, push down hard on a hard surface. If everything feels right, that’s your next knife.

Lock Mechanism

Without fail, you will find yourself in a position where you need to rely on the lock on your knife more than you expected.

Some of the more common lock types are liner/frame locks that use a bar that indexes into the back of the blade. There are also button-style locks that use a steel barrel to keep the blade engaged. However, the most popular lock type is the crossbar lock which also uses a steel bar to hold the knife in place.

In my time and experience, I have never seen a crossbar-style lock mechanism fail without some outside force creating a major disruption in how the knife functions. Like a truck running it over.

Pocket Clip

The right pocket clip will keep your knife in place in your pocket and will be easy to insert and remove. Generally, pocket clips are made from steel or Titanium, are designed to retain their shape, and are around half the length of the knife when they are closed.

However, there are wire pocket clips that can deform over time. There are also shorter pocket clips that, depending on the size of the knife, can cause it to float around in your pocket, or even come out of your pocket.

I would pick a wire pocket clip over a shorter clip any day.

Ball Bearings

Ten years ago, you needed to pay $300 to get a knife with ball bearings in it, but now you can find them for under $100.

Ball bearings assist in the opening and closing of a knife. In fact, there are some knives out there that are so fluid in operation, due to ball bearings, that they’re just as fast, if not faster than an automatic knife. They’re also legal in more places when compared to an auto.

Some of our favorite pocket knives laid out for testing; (photo/Nick LeFort)

FAQ

Why should I carry a pocket knife?

From opening packages to slicing up food, pocket knives offer a wealth of utility. Rather than using your fingernails, a car key, or half of a pair of scissors, pocket knives are a natural piece for people with a lot of tasks on their hands. This is especially true for outdoor enthusiasts, who deal with materials like rope, wood, and canvas all the time.

One reason you won’t see on this list is self-defense. Despite what some industry marketing material would lead you to believe, carrying a pocket knife doesn’t turn you into a commando or modern-day gladiator. Unless you’re a trained weapons expert, you’re just as likely to injure yourself as any would-be attacker. If you feel the need to carry something for protection, you’re far better off with a can of pepper spray. Pocket knives are best treated as tools — not weapons.

What’s the best size for a pocket knife?

Although there’s no right answer that fits everyone and their needs, a folding knife with an overall length of 8-8.5” with a blade length between 3-3.5” is ideal. At these lengths, you can expect the knife to be balanced, able to complete most daily tasks and be carried comfortably.

That said, we always recommend you test fit the knife to make sure it fits your hand and you feel safe and confident using it. Beyond that, keep in mind that each state, and even cities, have specific laws and regulations regarding knives. Make sure to read up on your local laws before making a purchase.

Should I get a plain edge or serrated edge knife?

Plain edge blades are generally one continuous edge and they can be great for cutting, chopping, shaving, and slicing.

Generally, a serrated blade is a combination of a plain edge and serrations, usually towards the back of the blade near the pivot. The benefit of serrations on a blade is that it can be used for sawing through limbs and rope.

Overall, when choosing between a blade with a plain edge and one with serrations you need to take into consideration if you really need it. Serrations take up space on a blade edge and are more complicated to sharpen.

How do I maintain my knife?

Your knife is only going to benefit you if it’s in good working order. With a fixed-blade knife, maintenance is generally focused on keeping the blade edge sharp and free of knicks or chips as this can lead to failure. With a folding knife, it can get a little more complicated as there are moving parts that need to be maintained to make sure the knife is safe to use for years to come.

Here are some basic tips that you should get into a routine of doing to make sure your knife is reliable and ready for your next adventure.

Make sure it’s sharp!

A dull knife isn’t any good to you. In fact, a dull knife can be dangerous. Thankfully, most knives on the market have steels that you can easily sharpen with the right sharpener and a little practice. That said, if you ever have any questions about the blade steel on your knife and how to sharpen it, we recommend contacting the manufacturer.

Pro Tip: Some knife manufacturers, like Benchmade, offer free knife sharpening for life.

Keep it clean and lubricated!

Water, dirt, and debris can all lead to your knife failing on you. Make sure to wipe your blade down and that the handle cavity is dry and free of debris.

It’s perfectly fine to wash down your blade with dish soap and water, making sure to wipe it down and let it air dry. We also recommend coating your blade with any type of food-grade lubricant.

Additionally, you want to make sure that the lock mechanism and pivot are free of debris and in working order as well. These can be cleaned with a Q-tip soaked in rubbing alcohol, or canned air. You should always re-lubricate these areas after cleaning your knife.

If the knife manufacturer recommends a specific lubricant, it’s always best to use that.

Are automatic knives good for everyday carry?

There was a time when we would have told you no, but as more and more automatic knives arrive in the market, they can be.

Though they tend to be more expensive and can be a hassle to maintain, the stigma surrounding automatic knives is legality. Generally speaking, automatic knives are relegated to military and law enforcement personnel. Depending on where you live and where you plan on carrying an automatic knife, as a civilian you could be breaking the law.

That said, we recommend you check your local laws and regulations before carrying an automatic knife.


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The Benchmade Raghorn is one of the best hunting knives on the market; (photo/Sean McCoy)

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The post The Best Pocket Knives of 2023-2024 appeared first on GearJunkie.

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