If you're someone who was raised around pocket knives, then you probably already have one among your camping gear. The best pocket knife can replace countless tools in your hiking or camping pack, so there's really no reason not to carry one. But if your Scout leader never taught you how to use one of these, then you might have been too intimidated by this tool in the past. There's no reason for you to hesitate in purchasing a pocket knife for your camping kit, though.
After you've introduced a pocket knife to your arsenal, you'll wonder how you ever camped without one. You just have to make sure that you are buying one that fits your needs before purchasing it.
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Everything You Need To Know About Pocket Knives
Below are some of the answers to the most frequently asked questions about pocket knives to help you choose the pocket knife for your next camping trip.
What is a pocket knife?
In the past, almost every young boy was given a pocket knife as a sign of growing up. Pocket knives are small, folding utility knives that are easily carried in a pocket, backpack, or waistband. While some pocket knives only include a blade, some, like the Swiss Army knife, has a seemingly endless collection of other tools hidden within. Although you could hypothetically use these knives for self-defense or hunting, their primary use is as a tool for cutting ropes, opening cans, and much more.
Knife regulations vary by state in the United States. Outside of the U.S., laws also vary by country. The most commonly restricted pocket knife is called a switchblade. The definition of a switchblade isn't set in stone, but most experts categorize any knife with a spring-loaded or automatic release mechanism as a switchblade. While many campers and hikers think this is the pocket knife style, some states place restrictions on allowed blade lengths or ban these knives entirely. Some states also ban concealed carrying of switchblades.
In the United Kingdom, no one under the age of 18 can purchase a pocket knife. Canada recently banned many styles of pocket knives, including switchblades. But in the United States, restrictions are much laxer. Some retailers place their own age restrictions on knife sales. And some states prohibit anyone under the age of 16 from carrying a knife. You also can't carry a pocket knife in certain businesses, schools, and offices. Outside of these and state-specific laws, pretty much anyone can carry a pocket knife.
Why should you carry a pocket knife?
The pocket knife options are extremely multi-purpose. And these tools are invaluable in an emergency. Even if you don't find yourself in an emergency situation out in the field, you'll still find yourself reaching for your pocket knife all the time.
Many hikers and campers first invest in a pocket knife for self-defense. Of course, this is a great tool if you are attacked by an animal or even another person. But remember that wielding a knife against an opponent is dangerous if you aren't comfortable with using it. Always take precautions to avoid startling large wildlife and trust your gut around fellow hikers and campers.
Pocket knives are also great for food preparation and fire building. If you typically bring packaged food with you, a pocket knife can open packages or cans and stir or cut your food. If you prefer to hunt when out on the trail, a pocket knife is excellent for easy dressing and preparation. A pocket knife is also an excellent tool for fishing. When it comes to building a fire, you can use a pocket knife for whittling down twigs, shaving, bark, and even creating sparks.
The pocket knife will also come in handy for first aid, altering clothing or equipment, and digging. Once you get your knife out in the woods, the uses you find for it will surprise you. Whether on the trail or at camp, a pocket knife is indisposable. The pocket knife can take over the roles of a can opener, a pair of scissors, ice pick, silverware, and fire starter. While you probably won't use your pocket knife for all of these, hopefully this gives you an idea of exactly how useful a pocket knife is.
How to Choose the Best Pocket Knife for You
When shopping for the pocket knife for your hiking or camping pack, consider what you'll use it for the most. There are countless options for size, blade type, and handle style. And while there's plenty you can accomplish with a single-blade pocket knife, there are also multi-blade and multi-tool styles available. Although every hiker or camper wants to travel as lightly as possible, pocket knives are small enough you might even want to carry two.
To ensure you're meeting all legal requirements, we recommend choosing the best pocket knife with a blade shorter than 3 inches. Knives clearly intended only for utility use are the best options to prevent trouble from authorities and others. You will still need to adhere to any local or private property knife restrictions, but this is a good place to start.
Pricing and Where to Buy
The price range for pocket knives is extremely wide. And a pocket knife isn't necessarily the most expensive. Many pocket knives easily exceed $ in price, but you can get away with spending much less if you're on a budget. The products we looked at in our search for the best pocket knife ranged from $ to $. Higher priced pocket knives usually feature higher-quality metal blades and better handle construction.
If you're looking for high-quality products and knowledgeable staff, your local firearms retailer will probably have a pocket knife selection. Sporting goods, outdoors, and hunting retail stores are also a great place to look. You might even find some good pocket knife options at your local hardware and agriculture store.
Pocket knives are available through online retailers but double-check that these blades meet your local regulations before purchasing. Most retailers will list restrictions directly on their websites, but it's always better to be safe than end up with a knife you can't legally carry.
How We Reviewed
Since there are so many options, we wanted to find the pocket knife available on the market today. Of course, the pocket knife for one person might not be for another. But our list of the top best pocket knife models should have something for almost everyone.
We started our search for the pocket knife by narrowing down some of the most popular and highest rated pocket knives currently available. We then looked at product specifications, notable features, customer ratings and reviews, and pricing. Our product reviews are not affiliated in any way with the brands mentioned within.
Our Picks for the Best Pocket Knife
On the surface, most pocket knives seem pretty equal. But material quality, craftsmanship, and special features can all play a huge role in how these knives perform in the field. The last thing you want to deal with when on the trail or at camp is a broken or dull knife. This is why choosing the pocket knife that also meets your specific needs is so important.
Our list of the top five pocket knives is in no particular order, but you'll find our final thoughts at the end. If any of these pocket knives interest you, we've included links to purchase them at the end of each product summary. As we said before, always make sure a pocket knife is legal in your country or state before purchasing online.
Off-Grid Knives Hawkbill Hybrid Folding Knife
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This pocket knife features a 3.25-inch blade constructed with thick Japanese steel. The blade folds out from the right or left, so is suitable for left-handed and right-handed users. The pocket clip is also adjustable for multiple different carrying positions. Off-Grid Knives uses a cryogenic treatment on their knife blades. This special treatment brings the blade's steel far below freezing, adding strength and resistance against dulling. Hawkbill manufactures its knives in California.
The Hawkbill Hybrid Folding Knife is rated 4.9 out of 5 stars by Amazon customers. Positive reviews mentioned that the knife was lightweight but felt sturdy, featured high-quality craftsmanship for the price, and that it rivals much more expensive knife brands. Some reviewers said that the pocket clip didn't match the construction quality of the rest of the knife. This pocket knife retails for between $80 and $95. You can purchase this pocket knife at Amazon and the Off-Grid Knives website.
Kershaw Clash Folding Knife
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This pocket knife features a 3-inch blade with a secure locking system and one-handed SpeedSafe flipper. Keep in mind that this flipping opener makes this pocket knife qualify as a switchblade. The pocket clip on this knife is reversible for carrying on either side. Kershaw manufactures their knives in China.
Positive reviews mentioned the knife's strong SpeedSafe opener, durability, and value for the money. Negative reviews mentioned the locking mechanism failing, the tip of the knife breaking off, and rust developing on the blade. You can purchase this pocket knife at Amazon and the Kershaw website.
Benchmade Griptillian 551 Folding Knife
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This pocket knife features a stainless steel blade just under 3.5 inches. You can open the blade one-handed, with either hand. The pocket clip is adjustable, and the knife's handle includes a lanyard hole. You can string a cord through this hole to create a wrist strap for extra safety and peace of mind. Benchmade constructs all of their knives in the United States.
Positive reviews mentioned the knife's unique locking mechanism, sturdy weight, and durability out in the field. Negative reviewers struggled with the locking mechanism not working properly, experienced chips in the blade's edge, and said the handle felt cheap. You can purchase this pocket knife at Amazon and the Benchmade website.
Spyderco Tenacious Folding Knife
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This pocket knife features a non-reflective blade just under 3.5 inches long. The blade also features a finger hole for extra grip when unfolding the knife. The pocket clip is four-way adjustable for plenty of different carrying positions. Spyderco constructs their pocket knives in China.
Positive reviews mentioned the high-quality for the price, the unique blade shape, and the blade's ability to hold a sharp edge. Negative reviewers were unhappy that the clip screws easily stripped and that the knife was a bit bigger than they preferred. You can purchase this pocket knife at Amazon and the Spyderco website.
Outdoor Edge RazorLite Folding Knife
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This pocket knife features either a 3- or 3.5-inch Japanese steel blade, but it doesn't just include one blade. This pocket knife comes with several replacement blades that you can easily swap in and out of the handle. The handle includes rubberized inserts for extra grip. Outdoor Edge appears to manufacture their products in China.
Reviewers mentioned the metal pocket clip, the spare blades, and the light weight. You can purchase this pocket knife at Amazon and the Outdoor Edge website.
The Pocket Knife for You
Finding the best pocket knife for your camping kit is an important choice, but hopefully our list of the top five knives has helped. Of the knives we reviewed, our favorites were the Off-Grid Knives Hawkbill Folding Knife and the Outdoor Edge RazorLite Folding Knife. For the Hawkbill knife, one downside is the weight. If you prefer a pocket knife that is lighter and smaller for your camping pack or pocket, then this might not be the knife for you.
However, some reviewers preferred this weight and thought it gave the knife a sturdy feeling in-hand. Our least favorite thing about the RazorLite knife is that it's not made in the United States. The origin of your knife is ultimately a personal choice, but many prefer to support American companies and manufacturers.
Whichever knife you choose for your next hiking or camping trip, we're sure that you'll find it extremely useful out in the woods. Remember to check local regulations before purchasing or carrying a pocket knife, especially one with a switchblade, and always use proper safety precautions. With the right care, a pocket knife is one of the most useful tools you can bring out on the trail.