We cannot stress enough that every man should have, carry, and use a pocket knife. Literally as often as legally permissible and reasonable it is to do so. That being said, we wouldn’t encourage anyone to just go out and buy a knife without doing any sort of research. The unfortunate truth is this: there are far too many unworthy blades on the market today. We live in a world where, for some, the mighty dollar reigns over all. And those types of people will take advantage of the uneducated consumer.
Thankfully, there are also a lot of pocket knife brands that take a tremendous amount of pride in their work. These are the organizations that we hope to steer you toward. Whether you are picking up your first or your fiftieth folder, these 15 brands are the cream of the crop when it comes to pocket knives. In the following write up, we’ve endeavored to illustrate to you a little bit about each company and have picked out one of our favorite knives which, we believe, represents what they’re all about.
Benchmade Knife Company
Our Pick: Benchmade Griptilian
Started in 1988 with one goal in mind – to create and craft the best knives in the world – Benchmade is a company that has stayed absolutely true to their roots. Headquartered in Oregon City, Oregon they continue to make what some people believe to be the best overall folding knives available on the market today. Probably their most popular knife thus far, the Griptilian is highly lauded in the everyday carry community for its dependability and long working life. If you don’t mind their relatively high starting price, it’s pretty hard to do better than a pocket folder made by Benchmade.
Our Pick: Boker Anti-Grav Knife
Boker is kind of a dark horse in the folding knife community – or so it would seem. They make some pretty amazing blades, but we think they don’t get the credit they deserve. They’ve also got a pretty rich and lengthy history. This brand has roots that date back as far as the 17th century, when it was just a small-end tool shop in Germany. During WWII, their factory in Sölingen was actually destroyed and wasn’t rebuilt until the 1950s. Now, they make a wide array of cutting tools that range from EDC knives, to hunting blades, to kitchen cutlery. They were also one of the first brands to make ceramic bladed folding knives, as can be found on their Anti-Grav knife we’ve featured here.
Our Pick: Buck Knives 110 Hunting Knife
It was in 1902 that the first Buck knife was created by Hoyt Buck as he endeavored to invent a better way to temper steel. You see, Hoyt wasn’t happy with the way that knives of the time held an edge. It would seem that his techniques and quality products struck a chord with his fellow hunters and outdoorsmen, because Buck Knives remains to this day one of the best American heritage hunting knife brands out there. Their 110 model is one of their oldest and most successful for its usability, quality of materials, and understated elegance. It may not be flashy, but this knife is as reliable as they come.
Cold Steel Knife & Tool Company
Our Pick: Cold Steel Spartan
Cold Steel has a reputation for being a little odd, thanks in part to their wide product range – which includes everything from broadswords to woodcutting axes – and their promotional materials. But that doesn’t mean that they make a bad product. In fact, their dedication to innovation is near unmatched. Founded in 1980, this Ventura, California brand has managed to put themselves at the forefront of modernization with knife technology like their patented Tri-Ad lock. And, judging from their constantly evolving catalog, they’re looking to keep things that way.
Columbia River Knife & Tool Company
Our Pick: CRKT Homefront
Easily one of the top dogs in the folding knife community, CRKT has earned their place amongst the elite. Not only do they have a wide array of products that cover every venue from the most hardcore outdoors to the all-day-every-day EDC, but they’re no slouches in regards to technical innovation, either. In fact, we’re pretty sure that their tool-free field strip technology – which was designed in conjunction with lauded designer Ken Onion and can be found in their Homefront knife featured here – is going to be the next big evolutionary step in the world of pocket knives.
Our Pick: DPx HEAT/F
One of the lesser known brands, DPx (which stands for Dangerous Places Extreme) was started by one of the most badass dudes alive. Robert Young Pelton has, on purpose, embroiled himself in 30 years of conflict, wilderness, and hard-use environments. And he designed his brand around that. These knives aren’t your grandad’s Boy Scout blade. They are designed to see you through the absolute toughest of times and come out on the other side unscathed. If you find yourself in an emergency, trust us, you’ll want one of these knives in your pocket. Plus, they’re headquartered out of San Diego, California, which earns them a special place in our hearts.
Our Pick: Emerson Sheep Dog
This brand has one of the most loyal fan bases in the entire folding knife community. And it’s with good reason, because their blades are of an incredibly high quality. They also have a price tag to match. But, you get what you pay for: every Emerson knife is proudly made in the USA – a fact of which they are viciously proud. What began as a custom knife garage brand in 1979 has grown into one of the all-time best tactical knife making companies in the world. Another lesser known fact: the brand’s founder, Ernest Emerson, is also one of the world’s most respected and sought-after hand-to-hand combat instructors in the world.
Our Pick: Gerber Manual Combat Folder
Not to be confused with the baby food brand, Gerber Gear has been making quality tools, knives, and more for literal decades. Started in 1939, this Portland, Oregon based brand prides themselves both on their heritage and their unabashed desire to constantly be innovating. By combining high quality materials and forward-facing designs – which are made to stand up to a lifetime of use – Gerber has solidified themselves not just in the pocket knife world, but in the greater hard-use tool world. Whether you’re a weekend warrior with a penchant for fishing or you’re a dedicated long-term everyday carry enthusiast, this brand has something for you.
Our Pick: Kershaw Cryo
In 1974, knife salesman Pete Kershaw started his own cutlery company after leaving his previous employer, Gerber Legendary Gear – now known as just Gerber Gear. That company became the pocket blade brand we know of today as Kershaw Knives. This brand specializes in high quality relatively low priced folding blades. And most of them feature a proprietary assisted-opening deployment known as SpeedSafe. They also have a penchant for working with custom knife designers and makers like Ken Onion, Rick Hinderer, and Ernest Emerson – to name a few. If you’re looking for a high quality blade at an incredibly reasonable price, you’ll be hard pressed to do better than a Kershaw, especially if you pick up a Cryo.
Ontario Knife Company
Our Pick: Ontario Rat
OKC, which stands for Ontario Knife Company and not Oklahoma City, have been making a wide range of quality products – including knives, cutlery & kitchenware, and tools – for over 125 years out of upstate New York. A big part of their business, in fact, has been making some such products for the United States military. So, as you might imagine, OKC is extremely proud both of their heritage and of the fact that their range of merchandise is made here in the USA, as well. They may not be a household name when it comes to pocket knives, but they’re certainly not anything short of masterful in their creations. Grab one of their products and we’re sure you won’t be let down.
Our Pick: Opinel No. 8 Trekking Knife
Not only does Opinel make some incredibly reliable, unique, and inexpensive folding knives, but they’ve been doing it for over a century. Started in Savoie, France in the 1800s as a family owned and operated working man’s knife making brand, Opinel popularized the peasant’s knife. Now they offer a full range of folders – which are still styled like their original predecessors – kitchen cutlery, and a number of specialty tools. Their blades are on the simpler end of the spectrum, but for the price you will absolutely not find anything that’s better quality than their offerings. Their No. 8 Trekking Knife featured here is an excellent companion on hiking trips and is a superb all-purpose outdoorsman’s folder.
SOG Specialty Knives & Tools
Our Pick: SOG Trident
During the Vietnam War, there was an elite highly classified special ops unit known as MACV-SOG. This company of soldiers carried a specialized combat knife with them on their covert missions. It was the recreation and production of this knife in 1986 that gave SOG their name and their start as a company. Now, they continue to produce superb tactical blades – including the Navy SEAL’s knife of choice – but also have a full and evolving line of all-purpose folders for everyday carry, hunting and the outdoors, and industrial use. If you are looking for a pocket knife with a more aggressive edge, SOG might just be the brand for you.
Our Pick: Spyderco Techno
Based in Golden, Colorado, Spyderco is perhaps most famous for their unique leaf-shaped blades. This, however, is an oversimplification of their value as a company. Even without their exclusive silhouettes, the quality of this brand’s knives are superb. They also have a penchant for experimenting with new blade steels and were, in fact, the first company to use powder metallurgy in a production knife. Spyderco also has a long history of working alongside some of the leading names in pocket knife design, including (but not limited to) Jens Anso, Ken Onion, Bob Terzuola, Ernest Emerson, and Tim Wenger. But, to give credit where credit is due, Sal Glesser – the brand’s founder – is a brilliant knife designer in his own right.
Our Pick: Victorinox Swiss Army Cadet
If not for their name, Victorinox is certainly a world famous and recognizable knife making brand for their most popular product, the Swiss Army Knife – a knife which earned its name for being the official knife of the Swiss military. Their name is a portmanteau of the name of the founder’s mother, Victoria, and an abbreviation of the French word for stainless steel, “inox.” Founded in 1884, this brand’s hybrid pocket knife multitools are still a staple amongst the everyday carry community. And they’re proof that, sometimes, if something isn’t broke, there’s no need to fix it. Another interesting fact: the other brand famous for making Swiss Army Knives, Wenger, was acquired by Victorinox in 2005, leaving them the sole official producers of SAKs.
Zero Tolerance Knives
Our Pick: ZT 0095BW Titanium Flipper
Sharing a parent company with another brand on this list, Kershaw, Zero Tolerance exclusively makes their pocket knives here in the United States. Started in 2006, Zero Tolerance quickly became one of the most highly lauded blade makers in the world for their incredibly quality, good design, and overall reliability. Truly, it’s hard to do better than a knife by this brand. Between their premium steels, master craftsmanship, and uncompromising attention to detail, it’s no wonder they claim that their products are “proudly ‘overbuilt.'” But, if you want the kind of quality offered by this Tualatin, Oregon-based brand, you also need to be prepared to pay an appropriate amount.