Many of us carry a small pocket knife every day. And they certainly come in handy and are missed when forgotten. However, carrying a pocket knife while hiking is essential.
You don’t need to have been a boy scout or military officer to appreciate the need for being prepared.
So what is are the best pocket knife brands for hiking?
There are a lot of knife companies in existence. And many new companies are coming onto the scene. I’m a fan of the smaller companies who pay attention to the details and produce some fine knives.
But this article is about lightweight, low-profile knives that are inexpensive and easily replaceable if lost.
Types of Pocket Knife Steel
Please understand this is not an article about the type of steel used in knives. There are many different kinds and blends of steel used to produce blades of different quality. And I am not an expert on steel and will not pretend to be one.
The point being, very few of us require any type of specialty steel for a knife used for hiking or everyday carry. It’s easy to get caught up and descend the rabbit hole of steel types. But it’s unnecessary.
Those of you who have a specific need for a high-end blade know who you are.
Let’s be Realistic
I’m not knocking any particular style of knife, blade steel, or knife shape. I just want to point out the realistic aspects of a hiking knife. The best pocket knife for hiking will be different for each user based on his/her use.
Very few of the applications for which one will use a knife when hiking will require the hyper-expensive top-end steel.
Also, the chance of losing your knife while hiking is high. So, why not carry a blade that is not going to break the bank if you lose it in the wilderness.
Do You Really Need All of Those Tools?
There’s not a kid out there that doesn’t recognize the coolness factor of a Swiss Army Knife. Or a Leatherman Skeletool.
Those tools may turn you into MacGyver, but for hiking, they’re too heavy. If you’re backpacking over long distances, they may be necessary. Otherwise, save those for the glove compartment.
What Will You Really Use Your Pocket Knife For?
When hiking and backpacking, I use my knife less frequently than I expect.
In fact, I find my everyday carry knife most useful when I’m at home. We all know the Amazon boxes that meet their doom with your everyday carry knife.
The best pocket knife brands for hiking are ones that you keep on you and typically use for equipment repairs. I don’t know too many hikers who actually whittle with their knife. Although my kids do. Perhaps it’s a pastime lost in childhood.
Pocket Knife Weight Matters
I admit some of the larger knives are cool and aesthetically pleasing. But, again, let’s be realistic. A bulky knife on your belt or in your pocket can get annoying after a while.
Something compact and light will get the job done just as well. And it won’t weigh you down.
“Knife Feel” in Your Pocket Matters
As mentioned previously, when it comes to the “pocket” in pocket knives, lack of size matters. And weight.
Whether you’re wearing cargo pants/shorts or attire with just front pockets, a large knife is obstructive.
Smaller is more comfortable and just as capable at getting the job done.
Should You Use a Pocket Knife Sheath?
This is a user-defined preference. A positive aspect of a sheath is the protective value. It keeps your knife lint-free and clean.
But if you find a sheath to be obstructive, I suggest just clipping your knife inside your pocket.
Simple is better on hikes. Shed ounces shed pounds!
Best Pocket Knife Brands for Hiking
Why did I choose these brands and specific knives?
First, I have experience with all of the brands.
And second, They’re easily attainable at most sporting goods stores and online.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of the craftsmanship that goes into high-end custom knives, but they’re not realistic for regular hiking trips.
I have a bit of an everyday carry knife fetish, so have amassed one for every need.
1. Leatherman Pocket Knife
Leatherman makes an inexpensive middle-of-the-line knife. It’s suitable for almost all needs and if you lose it, is easily replaceable. I carry the retired C33 with the bottle opener. It’s low profile, lightweight, and has stood the test of time now for many years. It’s also held its edge better than expected.
The two most suitable Leatherman pocket knives for hiking are:
Skeletool KBX or KB: Both are lightweight (1.3 oz), have a bottle opener, are unobtrusive, and very inexpensive.
2. Spyderco Pocket Knife
Spyderco is a company that produces quality pocket knives for both civilians and the military. In fact, some of their inventory is restricted. I’m not sure why, but it’s not relevant if you’re not military. Their pocket knives start at a higher price point and are of good quality. For this article, the only relevant knife for review is:
The Astute is 2.7oz, so it has a heftier feel than the Leatherman but is slightly better quality. It still feels comfortable in your pocket and is not too expensive if lost. It lacks a bottle opener, but that’s generally not relevant on a hike. Besides, there are multiple ways to open a bottler with a blade.
3. CRKT Pocket Knife
CRKT is another reputable, middle-of-the-road company that manufactures quality hiking knives. Many of which have a named designer.
The Piet is a good inexpensive choice as a knife to carry when hiking. At 2.5 oz, it has some heft, but not enough to feel it in your pocket during your journey.
The Overland is another CRKT that is well suited for hiking. It’s on the heavier side, but some of you may prefer that since 3.6 oz won’t break the “weight bank.” It’s also aesthetically pleasing.
4. Benchmade Pocket Knife
Benchmade is a pricier knife company. If you’re in an above-average financial position, it may be a great choice for a hiking knife. I personally think their price point removes them from the relevance of this article. But I like the few that I own, so feel obligated to mention Benchmade.
The 575-1 Mini Presidio II is a great choice at 3.19 oz and small enough to avoid being cumbersome. Its price is on the higher side, so if you’re not affluent, losing this knife would hurt.
The 533 Mini Bugout is great as a hiking knife in so many ways. First, it’s light (1.5 oz), it’s colored to prevent losing it and it’s small. So you won’t even know you’re carrying it. It’s still on the higher-priced side, but if you can afford it, it’s a favorite.
5. Gerber Pocket Knife
Gerber has been around for a long time and makes a quality, middle-of-the-road pocket knife for hiking.
The Sumo Black (or grey) is inexpensive and comfortable to hold. But they’re on the heavier side at 5 oz. It’s a good-looking knife that will do the job without complaining.
The Paraframe I is another inexpensive hiking knife. It’s one I carry on occasion. And it’s lasted years without losing its edge. Not bad for such an affordable knife. It’s also fairly light at 2.8 oz. I barely feel it when it’s clipped in my pocket. Again, if you lose it, no big deal.
My Favorite Pocket Knife
The 533 Mini Bugout pocket knife is my favorite choice if cost is not an issue. Again, it’s light (1.5 oz), it’s colored to prevent losing it and it’s small. So you won’t even know you’re carrying it. Like my Benchmade knives, it will last you a lifetime too.
Best Bang for the Buck Pocket Knife
The Leatherman Skeletool KBX or KB is the best bang for the buck. For $30, you get a solid knife with multiple features. They’re light, inexpensive, last a long time, unobtrusive when carrying, and can make a great gift.
This is a shortlist of many options on the market today. And any knife enthusiast will have varying opinions. But with so many options at your disposal, you’ll have no trouble finding the perfect inexpensive hiking knife.
I hope you take away the following from this article:
- Be realistic about the use of the knife. Almost any will do for the needs of hiking.
- Blade steel is relevant only for true enthusiasts and very specific uses.
- The weight of the knife is super important when carrying for long hikes.
- How the knife feels in your pocket or clipped to your belt is important.
Stay sharp my friends!