We here at KPL think everyone should carry a pocketknife. Knives were one of mankind's first tools, and are perhaps one of the most enabling EDC (every-day-carry) items a person can keep with them on a daily basis.
A pocketknife turns tasks like opening packages, removing tags, trimming bushes, and whittling tools from near-impossibilities into simple feats.
If you plan to carry only one pocketknife, we recommend you pick a medium-sized blade with a length between around 2.5 and 4 inches.
This makes for a discretely pocketable knife that's easy to carry but large enough to handle most tasks. Also consider picking a stain-resistant steel capable of holding an edge for long periods.
Finally, since a quality pocketknife is capable of serving you for a lifetime, consider saving for a knife with a price tag of 50 USD or more. Knives in this price range typically feature better-performing steels, are carefully heat-treated, and are manufactured to exacting tolerances that make for a much better ownership experience.We find that knives priced between around $50 USD and $500 USD tend to be priced fairly to match quality of manufacture and materials with price point and are likely serve you well.
With those qualifications, here are some of our top picks:
Tactile Knife Company, based out of Garland, Texas makes some of the best EDC pens and knives in the business and they've only just recently released their newest design, the Maverick.
Featuring a crossbar lock, titanium frame, and a Magnacut blade hardened to 63-64 Rockwell C, the Maverick will stand up to even saltwater environments with minimal care.
Best of all, unlike many knife manufacturers, Tactile makes virtually every part of their knives in-house to their own exacting specifications.
Spyderco Paramilitary 2
One of Spyderco's most popular and renowned knives, the Paramilitary 2 (or PM2) combines a slicey 3.4 inch flat-grind with a leaf-shaped blade that's an ideal compromise enabling both piercing and slicing tasks.
The robust handle on the PM2 is both slim, and hand filling, making the PM2 a true workhorse. Even better, the PM2 is regularly released in an assorted variety of exotic steels, but you can't go wrong with a mainline super-steel like S35VN or SPY27.
Demko AD 20.5
Designed by a small US company owned by the Demko Brothers, the AD 20.5 embodies yet another knife engineering breakthrough with its inclusion of the newly invented Shark Lock. This insanely strong locking mechanism is also one of the most enjoyable to use.
Demko offers the 20.5 in both clip point blade featuring a decent belly and a sheepsfoot "sharkfoot" blade with a completely straight edge. The knife is also offered in the easy-to-sharpen AUS-10, the all-around great S35VN, or the insanely tough CPM-3V steels.
Chris Reeve Inkosi
The Rolex of Knives - Chris Reeve makes knives that are both incredibly robust tools, and marvels of precision and perfection.
These knives come at a higher price point (typically north of $400 USD) which buys you a capable S45VN supersteel and out-of-the-box quality exceeding most anything else on the market. Handling a CRK knife is a truly otherworldly experience. Tolerances on these knives are held to truly absurd limits giving the knives a hydraulic feel and making the knives look like artifacts of an advanced alien civilization.
Note that CRK knives can be difficult to find in stock due to high demand.
Hinderer is another manufacturer of extraordinarily high quality knives designed by a former firefighter for first responders. Their XM-18 flagship is an extremely robust pocketknife design featuring a large diameter pivot and very beefy standoffs and hardware.
Accenting the tool-like feeling of this design is a stout blade offered in several different shapes and grinds and in an assortment of steels including M390, Magnacut, CPM-20CV, and occasionally other unique choices.
XM-18s are easily disassembled for modification or part swapping and feature a large and easily accesible flipper tab that serves dual duty as a finger-protecting hilt once the blade is deployed.
Benchmade Mini Adamas
Benchmade is a well-known American knife maker that has been making knives in the hard-use Adamas pattern for years. Typically these knives came with wide grips in an extremely large folding design or as a military-style fixed blade.
The newly revamped Mini Adamas scales down the original design and swaps in highly regarded and very tough CPM CruWear steel. The result is a very pocketable knife that fits the hand just right while retaining the stout lines and hard use capabilities of the original. We think its the perfect Benchmade for 2023.