Nota bene: If you buy through the links in this article, we may earn a small share of the profits.
I’ve carried a pocket knife nearly every day for about a decade. You may think that’s a little weird and unnecessary, but try carrying a knife every day for even just a week — once you get used to having it, you realize just how incredibly useful it is.
When I look for an EDC (everyday carry) knife I consider price, materials, and features. The knives on this list come in a range of prices, but almost all of them have assisted openers, blades around three inches in length, and clips so they attach easily to my pocket. They’re also all folding knives. Fixed-blade knives certainly have a place in your cutting arsenal, but I have yet to find one that’s slim enough to carry every day.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Pocket Knife
Straight Edge Knives: Knives with straight edges are easy to sharpen and work for most uses. It’s the most popular blade type. A straight edge doesn’t saw, but it cuts or slices.
Serrated Edge Knives: Serrated edges are like small saw blades and excel at, well, sawing. A serrated edge knife is a great choice if you regularly need to cut rope or small tree branches. The most annoying thing about serrated blades is sharpening, which can be time-consuming and difficult.
Combo Edges Knives: As the name implies, this style includes both a plain and serrated edge. Most combo knives have a straight edge near the tip and a serrated edge near the handle. While many people like them, personally I find combo knives to be bad at slicing and bad at sawing. I would much prefer to have two separate knives.
Manual Opening: This is the most traditional opening method and it involves simply opening a knife blade with two hands. Many knives have a small nail nick in the blade, which helps open the blade. Other knives have a thumb stud, which lets you flick open the blade with your thumb.
Automatic Opening: Auto knives open with the press of a button. They’re quick and fun. Auto opening mechanisms are most frequently seen in tactical knives.
Assisted Opening: I love assisted open knives. They’re a little slower to open than auto, but faster than a regular manual openers. To open, simply put pressure on the blade, and the spring-assisted mechanism will do the rest.
The Best Pocket Knives In 2023:
Best Assisted Open Pocket Knife: Kershaw Scallion
The Scallion has been my go-to pocket knife for a decade-plus. It’s small and sleek, and the assisted opener helps the blade flick open faster than most other knives on this list. The 2.25-inch blade may be smaller than most people want, but I’ve found it’s the perfect size for the odd tasks I use my EDC knife for like opening packaging or slicing rope. I also prefer knives with pocket clips and the Scallion’s is one of the best.
Best Automatic Pocket Knife: Kershaw Launch 11
Kershaw Launch series knives are known for their snappy actions and quality construction. The Launch 11 is my favorite due to its futuristic design. Two “windows” in the handle look cool and lower the weight. It has a push-button automatic opener and an integrated lock that prevents the blade from closing accidentally. A 2.75-inch drop point blade and a beautifully stone-washed steel handle make it perfect for pocket carry.
Best Folding Pocket Knife: Benchmade Bugout
Both of the previously listed knives are technically folding knives, but unlike the Launch and the Scallion, the Bugout opens manually with a thumb stud. It comes in a few different handle material options (all different types of plastic) so you can choose the design and look that best fits your style. No matter which one you chose, the Bugout is the consummate pocket knife. It has a smooth action and 3.2-inch steel, drop-point blade that locks automatically upon opening. A deep pocket clip keeps it hidden and secure. Overall the Bugout is a very versatile knife that is capable of 99% of everyday tasks. If you like the design but want something a little smaller, check out the Mini Bugout.
Best Budget Pocket Knife: CRKT Drifter
Most budget knives are garbage but the Drifter feels and operates like a knife twice the price. It doesn’t do anything spectacularly, but it checks off all the boxes and is way better than most other $20 knives. It has a three-inch stainless steel blade, a liner lock to keep the blade secure once it’s open, and a clip to keep it in your pocket. The handle is made from G10, a fiberglass composite, that doesn’t feel particularly high quality, but is durable and grippy. The Drifter won’t make your friends jealous, but it makes for a great starter knife, or as a spare to keep in your car. And when you need to use it, you won’t be disappointed.
Best $50 Pocket Knife: Civivi Elementum
$50 is a sweet spot for someone who is just getting into knives but still wants a quality blade. Whenever someone asks me what knife to gift a friend, I recommend the Civivi Elementum. Civivi is still relatively unknown, but they’re the budget brand of high-end knife manufacturer, WE Knives. The Elementron’s design is nearly perfect for EDC. $50 gets you a three-inch D2 steel blade, a liner lock to keep the blade in place once opened, and grippy handles that’s stylish enough to consider it a gentleman’s knife. And it’s a flipper, so not fully assisted, but it still opens faster than a thumb stud. It also comes in 22 different blade and handle combinations so you can keep it classic black or mix it up with materials like wood or jade.
Best OTF Pocket Knife: Microtech Ultratech
When most people think of OTF (out-the-front) knives, they think of the Microtech Ultratech. Microtech is probably the most well-known automatic knife maker and the Ultratech is their flagship product. It’s been around for years and gets frequent updates. The Ultratech sports a 3.40-inch blade in high-end Elmax steel, which comes in drop point, tanto, and dagger blade shapes. It has an aluminum handle and a deep carry clip that is secured to the knife on the butt of the handle by a carbide-tipped glass breaker. This knife is a prime example of how the best things aren’t always the newest.
Best Pocket-Sized Pocket Knife: WESN Microblade
Many knives claim to be pocket-sized, and while most are not technically wrong, a 13-inch behemoth can sometimes feel excessive for a standard EDC. Enter the WESN Microblade, a true “pocket-sized” knife that packs quite a punch. Clocking in at just 2.25″ when closed, the Microblade is snug is any pack or pocket (we’ve attached ours to our keychain using it’s nifty lanyard hole), but a high-carbon, high-chromium D2 tool-grade steel blade works just as well as counterparts twice it’s size, making short work of tape, cardboard and even wood. It’s discrete, safe and oh-so handy.
Best Tactical Pocket Knife: Gerber 06 Auto
Big and bulky, the 06 Auto isn’t the prettiest knife, but it can handle just about anything. The beefy, oversized aluminum handle is contoured for grip and has a stainless strike point on the end for smashing open a window. The knife features an over-sized release button for easy use with gloves, a slide safety that engages in both the open and closed positions, and a blade made using S30V, a premium stainless steel that stands up to incredible abuse while holding it’s edge like no other.
Best Looking Pocket Knife: The James Brand The Chapter
If the Scallion or Elementum is your Timex watch, the Chapter is your Rolex. The James Brand makes some of the nicest and best-looking knives out there, but the Chapter is my favorite for EDC. It has a 2.81-inch drop point D2 steel blade, and a stainless steel handle that’s durable and stylish. It’s all black, except for a lime green thumb stud, and looks beautiful both open and closed. A recessed thumb grip is comfortable (and looks cool) and a nice clip keeps it at the top of your pocket.
Best Penny Pocket Knife: Opinel No. 7
A penny knife is incredibly simple—no springs or assisted openings, just a blade that friction folds and opens. Because of the simplicity, I find that the Opinel pairs better with a cheese plate in a picnic basket than in my pocket. That said, it’s a handsome knife with a lot of practical uses. I like the wooden handle and unique ring-style locking mechanism. Plus, at $17, you can’t beat the price.
We've put in the work researching, reviewing and rounding up all the shirts, jackets, shoes and accessories you'll need this season, whether it's for yourself or for gifting purposes. Sign up here for weekly style inspo direct to your inbox.