Whether you’re hiking, camping, off-roading, overlanding, or just headed out of town for a quiet weekend away from the rat race, one of the best pocket knives is a must-have that likely lives in your console. Aside from the obvious tasks of cutting rope or carving wood, a good pocket knife makes quick work of slicing up food for those alfresco lunches, removing insulation when doing quick wiring fixes on the road, or opening a package the easy way. Often referred to as a folding knife, the pocket knife is in our opinion, an essential tool that you will begin to discover ever-new uses for and soon wonder how you ever went without.
Pocket Knife Buying Tips
Available from many manufacturers, the best pocket knives can come in a variety of shapes, sizes, configurations, blade styles, and materials. The first thing we suggest is looking for pocket knives that lock the blade in the open position. The ability to lock that blade in place will keep your fingers safe when using the knife. Look for knives that fold into a size that is convenient and comfortable to carry in a pocket. Many come with clips to secure them to the top seam of a pocket, and “clip-it” style pocket knives are among our favorites.
You’ll find a multitude of examples in the EDC category with blades in the 2- to 4-inch range. Straight or serrated edges are most common, and you’ll find some combo blades that offer both. Serrated edges come in handy for sawing through tougher materials like a rope. Straight edges make slicing objects a breeze, and they’re easier to maintain. Blade shapes range from the ubiquitous drop point to tanto (a chisel-shaped point inspired by Japanese swords), each having unique characteristics offering different piercing or slicing capabilities.
The most common blade materials are carbon steel, stainless steel, and tool steel, but there are dozens of variations of each of them. In short, carbon will stay sharp longer but is more expensive. Stainless offers better corrosion protection and a friendlier price. Tool steel is generally less expensive, has good edge retention, but with less corrosion resistance. Almost all the knives reviewed are offered in various coatings to better protect the blade steel. If you’d like a deep dive, check out this article on knife steel at our sister site GearJunkie.com.
Let’s explore some of our picks for the best pocket knives that are great for drivers.
Benchmade Bailout Pocket Knife
The Benchmade Bailout is one of our picks for pocket knives for everyday carry and was originally intended for the tactical crowd looking for something lightweight and compact. It turned out the Benchmade Bailout was so feature-rich that it quickly grabbed the attention of EDC folding knife enthusiasts. But for motorists, a bonus is that it offers a carbide glass breaker on the tip of the handle, and the Bailout’s Tanto-style CPM-M4 steel blade is stout enough to meet heavy-duty jobs head-on.
Offering a woodland green anodized 6061-T6 aluminum handle, the Benchmade Bailout comes with a reversible mini-clip for deep-pocket carry. Its open length is 8.07 inches, closed length is 4.71 inches, the blade length is 3.38 inches, and the entire package weighs just 2.70 ounces. The Bailout folding knife employs dual thumb studs to deploy, while its Axis lock system works by moving a steel bar into place to keep the knife from closing. We think the Benchmade Bailout is a great addition to our best pocket knives for everyday carry.
Coast RX357 Pocket Knife
Coast has been making knives since its founder Henry W. Brands fashioned a filet knife with a scoop on the back for cleaning salmon and began selling it on the docks along the Oregon coastline. The company has since diversified to create an assortment of outdoor products, including flashlights, headlamps, and an assortment of “cutting tools” ranging from multitools to tactical, hunting, work, and EDC knives. One of our favorites is the tactical-leaning Coast RX357. It’s a great choice for the budget-minded. It’s also a great knife to leave in your glove box for emergencies.
The Coast RX357 offers a 3.58-inch combo (partially serrated) Tanto-style blade made from 9Cr18Mov stainless steel perched inside a nylon handle with a dimpled exterior for a solid grip. It easily opens using a reversible thumb stud and has a double locking system. A liner lock allows one-handed opening and closing. We like the RX357’s Max-Lock system (a switch on the side of the handle) that locks the blade when closed and double-locks the blade when fully deployed. The Coast RX357 weighs 5.57 ounces and features a three-position clip, a closed length of 5 inches, and an overall open length of 8.46 inches.
CRKT Bona Fide Pocket Knife
One of the best pocket knives for everyday carry from Columbia River Tool & Knife (CRKT) is its new Bona Fide. The Bona Fide is a good everyday carry that offers a substantial open length of slightly more than 8 inches from the tip of its blade to the butt of its lightweight textured aluminum handle. The blade is a cross between a Wharncliffe and drop point design, good for slicing and piercing, with an upward curving cutting edge and a blade spine that drops down gradually to form the tip. Its ball-bearing system means a flip of the thumb can bring the Bona Fide to life.
Bonus points go to the Field Strip Gen II technology that allows easy cleaning when you slide a lever up to disassemble the knife’s three parts. Its blade is D2 tool steel that has a high carbon and chromium content. The Bona Fide has a liner lock, 3.59-inch blade, closed length of 4.66 inches, weighs 4.3 ounces, and a deep carry clip so it rides low in the pocket. We’re big fans of the Bona Fide.
Gerber Zilch Pocket Knife
One of our favorite Gerber EDC pocket knives is the Gerber Zilch. The Gerber Zilch is an obvious choice for our best pocket knives all-day carry because of its lightweight and sturdy blade and handle, and an assisted deployment feature that can be operated by pushing up on the thumb stud or nail nick in the side of the blade. Its blade is a traditional style pocket knife blade that offers a good combination of slicing and piercing performance.
The Gerber Zilch blade is 3.1 inches long, and it’s made of 7Cr17Mov stainless steel. With an overall open length of 7.2 inches, this slender and stripped-down package weighs just 2.2 ounces. It features a liner lock, lanyard hole, exposed barrels, and a sturdy clip to make it an easy pocket carry. The Gerber Zilch can be had in three handle colors, drab red, black, and coyote brown.
Kershaw Analyst Pocket Knife
The Kershaw Analyst offers a tanto-style blade with a combo (both straight and serrated) cutting edge for versatile ability. Its serrated edge can saw through rope and fabrics, while the tanto point works great for piercing objects. The Analyst easily opens with Kershaw’s SpeedSafe assisted opening design flipper. It features a liner lock, and the glass-filled nylon texturing on the handle and jimping (notches running down its spine) on the blade makes for a secure grip.
Featuring a deep-carry pocket clip that can be swapped into four different positions, the Kershaw Analyst has an 8Cr13MoV stainless steel blade for good edge-holding capability and strength. The Analyst’s blade is 3.25 inches long, its closed length is 4.25 inches, and its overall open length stretches to 7.5 inches. It weighs in at 3.5 ounces. A lanyard hole in the handle is a nice touch. The Kershaw Analyst was an easy addition to our best pocket knife for the everyday carry category.
Leatherman FREE K2 Pocket Knife
Best known for its multi-tool that has now become generic for all others, Leatherman also makes some extraordinary knives. Its new FREE K2 knife is a perfect example of Leatherman pocket knife creativity, and perfectly fits into our best pocket knife for every day carry category. A different take on the multitool, the FREE K2 is more akin to pocketknives with its more typical handle and blade style, but it hides within its aluminum handle a pry tool, package opener, awl, bottle opener, Phillips screwdriver, medium standard screwdriver, and an extra-small standard screwdriver.
Every tool in the Leatherman FREE K2 is accessible from the outside for easy one-handed opening. It features a magnetic locking system, and all the tools and the blade lock into place when fully opened. A removable pocket clip makes the FREE K2 convenient to carry. The FREE K2 features a 3.3-inch modified-Wharncliffe style 420HC stainless steel blade, a closed length of 4.5 inches, and weighs 4.9 ounces. The Leatherman FREE K2 would a good choice for anyone looking for a pocket knife with benefits.
Spyderco Endura 4 Pocket Knife
Spyderco makes some of the handiest pocket knives, and the newly serrated Spyderco Endura 4 continues that tradition beginning with the company’s trademark round hole for easy ambidextrous one-handed opening. The serrated Endura 4 blade is a full-flat grind for low friction and is made of K390 Microclean tool steel enhanced with vanadium, tungsten, molybdenum, and cobalt for ideal use in thin high-performance edges such as the teeth of serrated blades. It’s a no-brainer for our discussion of the best pocket knives for everyday carry.
Stainless steel inner liners, a sturdy lock-back mechanism, fiberglass-reinforced-nylon (FRN) handle scales, and a four-position pocket clip make the Spyderco Endura 4 one of our favorite pocket knives for every day carry. To differentiate it from the rest of the Spyderco K390 pocket knife group, the serrated Endura 4 comes with a blue-colored bi-directional textured FRN handle. The Spyderco Endura 4 has a 4.98-inch closed length, an overall open length of 8.78 inches, and a blade length of 4.44 inches. It weighs just 3.3 ounces.
Victorinox Hunter Pro Alox
The name Victorinox may not be as immediately recognizable as the pocket knife it is famous for, commonly referred to as the Swiss army knife, but it’s one of the longest-standing knife makers in the category. Established as a knife cutler’s workshop by Karl Elsener in 1884, in 1891 it began supplying knives to the Swiss Army. Originally named for Karl’s mother Victoria, with the advent of stainless steel (Inox), the company was renamed Victorinox in 1921. A wide variety of knives and multitools are now available from Victorinox, but we are primarily interested in its Hunter Pro Alox pocket knife.
The Victorinox Hunter Pro line of folding knives comes in several colors and handle materials. The Hunter Pro Alox makes a great everyday carry because of its traditional Swiss Army Knife color, compact size, pocket clip, lanyard hole, paracord pendant, and Alox handle scales. The Alox scales are punched from aluminum and embossed, then undergo anodic oxidation to create a protective layer. The Hunter Pro Alox weighs 6.6 ounces, 5.4 inches in closed length, and sports a sturdy 5.0-inch lock-back stainless blade.
Looking to complete your collection of essential items that should be in your car or truck every day? Check out our buying guides for the Best Vehicle First Aid Kits, Best Emergency Kits, Best Portable Tire Inflators, and Best Portable Jump Starters.