There are plenty of good reasons to carry a pocket knife with you everywhere (except the airport), and there also plenty of quality knives to choose from—thousands, actually. To narrow it down, we looked for knives with blades no longer than five inches because anything bigger you wouldn’t want to carry around in your pocket. It should have a plain edge (serrated blades can serve you well, but you need a plain edge for most tasks). And it shouldn’t be overly tactical like that knife you bought at a flea market in 1983 after seeing Rambo on HBO for the 400th time. (Just us?)
These knives check off all those boxes—and they’re extremely durable, too.
This is the favorite pocket knife of Roy Berendsohn, longtime home editor of Seniorhelpline. “It’s hard to beat the classic Buck folder,” he says. “I have one my brother gave me decades ago. It’s a great knife, even if it may represent some sentimentalism for the 1970s, which is when these knives became famous. Growing up in Connecticut, I didn’t know anybody who hunted or fished who didn’t own one. This and the larger Buck 110 are truly famous knives. They have a well-earned reputation for toughness and the ability to be easily sharpened to a nearly shaving-sharp edge.”
Slim and polished, with exceptional workmanship. The hinge is smooth, the hilt is comfortable, and the blade takes a shaving-sharp edge.
The was one of the first multi-tools—a style of knife most associated with the Victorinox Swiss Army knives. It had a plain edge, a bottle opener, a can opener, and an awl or leather punch depending on how you use it. The 440-steel Böker Magnum Classic Pocket Steel is a worthy descendant of this classic knife.
Continuously made by Germany’s Mercator company since the mid-1800s, the Black Cat K55K is the oldest knife in this list. A simple lock-back, it’s as notable for its design as its performance. If you own three knives, this should be one of them.
This simple lock-back knife is made in China, but its workmanship is good. The blade is made of 440C stainless steel, so it takes a good edge.
The Ripstop I weighs in at 2 ounces, which makes it virtually invisible in your pocket. But don't let the small size fool you, as it's stainless steel construction is durable enough to withstand a ton of abuse. It's single hand opening is cinch to use and it's available with a as well.
The Spyderco Para 3 features digital camouflage and is inspired by the larger Para 2, but in a more compact package. The textured G-10 camouflage scales are patterned after the U.S. Army's ARPAT camouflage, giving it an unmatched tactical look. The ambidextrous knife is perfect for one hand opening and quick access.
A contemporary version of the classic brass Japanese Higonokami-style knife, a simple friction-holder with a case made of a single piece of folded-over brass. Like with any Higo-style knife, you open the blade by pressing down on a lever at the blade’s base. It’s more satisfying than opening up any other pocket knife.
This gorgeous wood-handled hunting knife from Benchmade is built as an adventure companion for your woodland travels. Traditional wildlife lovers will enjoy its classic style and appreciate the modern CPM-S30V stainless steel (58-60HRC) blade.
The Kershaw Cryo opens with a flick of your finger and locks in place. It only weighs 4 ounces and the blade is less than 3 inches long, an ideal size for your pocket. At 3 inches, it's also large enough that you can really put some leverage into it when cutting. The matte gray color doesn't attract attention, and best of all it's also pretty cheap.
A blade, a pair of scissors, a nail file, a toothpick, a pair of tweezers, and a ballpoint pen—all in a multitool that will fit in your fifth pocket. Buy 10 of them and place them in handy locations, including your jeans. Totally unobtrusive, yet so handy. You’ll use it at least three times a day, trust us.
Spyderco is known for its para-military knives and the Tenacious lives up to the company's reputation of no-nonsense gear. It sports a black laminate handle with steel liners tucked inside for added strength and rigidity. The 8Cr13MoV stainless steel blade has a non-reflective coating and ground flat from spine to edge for non-stop cutting.
Auto knives are an acquired taste, but it's hard not to like the new Gerber Covert auto knife. They are spring-assist operated for instant side opening, and the 7Cr17MoV titanium-coated blade, measures 3.7-inches and is backed by a limited lifetime warranty.
Seniorhelpline editor Eric Limer is enamored with his no-frills Opinel No. 8 pocket knife. In his words the knife "stands unflinchingly in the face of modern faux-tactical fare. A modest five-part construction with what you need and nothing else: a carbon steel blade, a wooden handle, a metal collar and pin to hold the two together, and a metal locking ring to hold the blade open for use."
The CRKT Squid is an ideal compact everyday carry knife. It's a wide blade made of 8Cr13MoV steel, and its drop point style provides tip strength and balance, which makes this small knife feel bigger than it is. The 4.49-inch knife won't draw attention in a front or back pocket, and at $17 you can buy more than one for different uses.
Fans of tanto shaped blades will love the SOG Aegis tactical knife. Its partially serrated blade is great for cutting through fabrics, belts, and leather while maintaining a low profile. The SOG assist opening requires little effort to spring into action.
The Leatherman Crater is almost a multi-tool, but it is first and foremost a pocket knife. The 420HC combo blade features a built-in carabiner bottle opener, phillips screwdriver, and 1/4-inch flat screwdriver. In the great Leatherman tradition, the company has added a few extra goodies to its USA-made knife.
The handy built-in flashlight adds some bulk, which gives you a more comfortable grip. This was the best knife for cutting tough plastic tubing. The base of the blade is serrated, but better to avoid that part. It's a little too coarse, requiring a lot of effort to use.
Extremely sharp and sturdy, with much more heft than the other options. The Homefront is designed to be field-stripped (disassembled) and cleaned without tools. Nice if you're gutting a fish.
SOG's knife is surprisingly light, considering how tough it looks and feels. It's a good, sharp blade with fast, spring-assisted flick-open capability. The textured sides make it easier to grip, especially in wet conditions.