For many years, people have mislabeled any folding knife or multi-tool as a “Swiss Army Knife.” First made in the 1890’s, real, honest-to-god Swiss Army Knives were created by two companies, Wenger SA and Victorinox AG, who combined their powers in 2005 to rule the Swiss Army Knife industry. Marked by the Swiss coat of arms (that little red and white cross) these ubiquitous pocket tools got their name from Americans in WWII who had trouble saying the German name for the knives. They’re finely constructed pieces for dealing with everyday troubles and they’re one of the best EDC items for any pocket.
In selecting the top of the Swiss Army line, we only chose those pieces that came directly from the source, foregoing any pretenders who claimed Swiss Army roots but actually were multi-tools undeserving of the title Swiss Army Knife. Each selection is similar with slight variations, but they can all be traced back to the original Modell 1890 Knife created for members of the Swiss defense forces; and they are made by the company who started it all. If you’re ready for the real deal, then you’re ready for the 8 best Swiss Army Knives.
Victorinox Swiss Army Classic SD
Pro: Small, precise tweezers
Con: Awkward key ring placement
Best Basic: Nothing frilly here, just a blade, a file with a screwdriver tip, a toothpick and set of tweezers, all topped off with a pair of small scissors. You can use this as a keychain or just clip it to your camping backpack for use in the great outdoors. Stainless steel and held to the highest standards, the Classic SD might only be 2-and-a-quarter inches in size, but you’ll find yourself pulling it out day after day for personal grooming and ordinary letter opening, not to mention those on-the-fly repairs and loads of small jobs.
Pro: Can opener is extremely effective
Con: T-screwdriver can be awkward
Outdoorsman: As the name suggests, this is the Swiss Army knife for heading into the Alps or just out for a day hik. Including a saw that is ideal for getting kindling down to size and a rear spike that can be put between your fingers for either perforating a makeshift water filter or self-defense, there’s plenty of sturdy tools meant for rugged experiences far from civilization. The inclusion of a philips head screwdriver shows the utilitarian nature where fixing and repairing are part and parcel of this knife, rather than an afterthought.
Victorinox Swiss Army Super Tinker
Pro: Very slender build
Con: Screwdrivers tend to snap down under pressure
Workshopper: Strip wires, punch holes, tackle screws, and even do some hooking, the Super Tinker is made for the DIYer or consummate fiddler who can’t help but take everything apart or put it back together. The two simple knives are high quality, but take a noticeable backseat to the multitude of high-grade tools. Cracking cans and bottles is a cinch, as is poking, pulling, and prying. The multi-purpose hook is handy for threading, separating, and dealing with bike chains or musical strings. Overall, an impressive selection of implements in a highly compact package ideal for EDC.
Victorinox Signature Lite
Pro: Holds an edge well
Con: Odd battery installation
Business Casual: Similar to the Classic SD in style and execution, there’s a few more tricks up the sleeve of the Signature Lite. First, it bears a handy little LED that is ideal for finding keys in the dark or searching the abyss between your car seat and console when you drop your phone. It also has a retractable pen for those moments when you find yourself hunting for a writing implement that isn’t out of ink. Both the light and the pen have the same quality construction as the other stainless steel tools so you can be assured that they’ll be ready for action in a pinch.
Pro: Reflective body is easy to spot in the dark
Con: Heavier than some choices
Grip and Rip: With a sleek exterior, this branches away from the classic smooth red body of most Swiss Army knives, choosing instead to give a little bit of texture to the handle in the form of slight knurling that is better for those who will be using it with greasy hands that do real work. With an awl and a saw, you’re going to want this on hand for tougher jobs where trimming the fat is more than just an expression. Made for outdoor use, The Farmer is nearly impossible to rust, break, bend, or damage without trying.
Victorinox Swiss Army Huntsman
Pro: Multiple handle styles
Con: Interior tends to get dirty
Lush: Many of the modern Swiss Army knives supplant the corkscrew for other optional tools, but since this piece of gear is meant for hunters, it focuses on the most important part of any hunting trip: The drinking. You’re sure to be able to crack your imported pale ales as easily as break into the Pinot Noir to get through a trip. In a pinch you can clean small game with this or accomplish all the basic camping tasks you’ll need for a night out under the stars.
Victorinox-Swiss Army Trekker
Pro: Locking blade
Con: A bit longer than others at nearly 4.5-inches
Quick Draw: While many knives focus on the multi-tool aspect, this puts the actual knife front and center for those who need a one-handed deployment for easier use and faster execution. Using an expanded thumb hole similar to the gap used by SpyderCo knives, you’ll be able to get the slightly serrated blade out with a quickness. When you don’t need to cut anything, the reamer, wire-stripper, saw, screwdrivers, and openers work just as you would expect without balking at the toughest of tasks.
Victorinox Swiss Army SwissChamp
Pro: Tons of tools yet slim enough for everyday carry
Toolkit: Here it is: Victorinox’s flagship model. Only the serious fixer really needs this knife with its ruler and straight edge, saw, pliers, multiple blades and drivers, file, hole puncher, hook, corkscrew, and a thing that…ok, we’re not sure what it does, but we’re betting on awesomeness. Surprisingly slender for all the tools pack into it, if you’re thinking about a Leatherman or other multi-tool, consider this first. In not making the pliers the focal point, many will actually find the grip and utility is superior to the butterfly style folding tools.