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How to Buy a Good Pocketknife or Multitool

A good blade is essential to Scouting. Whether you’re camping, backpacking, fishing or simply preparing for your next outing, a good knife or multitool will give you an edge in the outdoors.

The size and design of your knife — whether its blade is fixed or folding — should be determined by how you’ll use it. Here is some advice, along with five knives that are best of class.

VICTORINOX SWISS ARMY knives come in many models, but for functionality, simplicity, weight and price, it’s hard to beat the HIKER ($26, It gives you 13 functions, including large and small blades, a Phillips screwdriver, bottle and can openers, a reamer, a wire stripper, tweezers and a wood saw. There’s a reason this small folding knife has been a classic for more than a century.


There are several types of knives.

All-purpose folding pocketknives are common in Scouting. Most come with tools such as a can opener, screwdriver, tweezers and, of course, knife blades — all in one compact package. Though they can be extremely handy, a downside is the knife blade doesn’t lock into place, so it may fold up on your hand while you’re using it.

Lockbacks are simple folding knives with a single blade that can be locked. So you get the benefits of a sturdy fixed blade-style knife but in a convenient pocket-size package that can be folded open with just one hand.

Fixed blades, are no-nonsense knives with a beefy handle and stationary blade. If you need a knife to accomplish the everyday tasks you come across in the outdoors, from whittling on things and cutting materials to spreading peanut butter on your sandwiches, a short, no more than four-inch-long, fixed-blade knife will accomplish all of that. Avoid large sheath knives; they are heavy and awkward to carry.

You’ll also find specialty knives such as river rescue knives with serrated blades for slicing rope, whittling knives designed for carving wood, and multitools, which are compact, handheld tool boxes. Most are built around a pair of folding pliers.

The title “king of multitools” might belong to the LEATHERMAN WAVE+ ($100, Just 4 inches long when closed and barely more than a half-pound, the Wave boasts 18 tools that all lock quickly into position. The lengthy list includes many that Scouts need often: two knives (straight and serrated), a saw, spring-action scissors, can and bottle openers, a medium screwdriver, regular and needle-nose pliers, and wire cutters. While pricier than other options, this stainless-steel tool, built with top craftsmanship, will likely last a lifetime.


Knife policies vary among packs, troops, councils and camps when it comes to what blade types and lengths are allowed. Learn your unit’s policy before buying a blade of any kind. When it comes to types of knives, the Guide to Safe Scouting recommends “choosing the right equipment for the job at hand.”


Most blades are made from strong and durable stainless steel. Blades are available in straight edge, serrated (jagged like a saw) or both. Bigger is not always better. A small, sharp four-inch-or-smaller blade can cut just as well as bigger knives but is much safer to handle and easier to maneuver in tight spots.

Not all folding knives demonstrate the quality of construction of the GERBER FASTBALL ($100,, which becomes clear the first time you deploy it — and every time after that. Opening with a flip of the finger and locking securely whether open or closed, the 3-inch blade made of S30V steel has a consistently smooth opening and closing.


You don’t have to spend a fortune to get a quality tool. Often, an inexpensive knife will do everything you want it to do. As prices go up, you’ll see small improvements in the quality and size of the blade.


The only good knife is a sharp knife. A blunt knife requires you to put so much force on it that it could slip, and you could drive the blade into your leg.

As needed, run the edge of your blade across a sharpening stone a few times. Wipe the tool clean after every use and lubricate any hinges with a light oil like WD-40.

The SOG POWERPINT ($45, offers rare versatility for a such a lightweight package. Just 5 inches long and weighing barely more than 4 ounces — small enough to be unnoticeable in your pocket — it sports 18 tools, including a stainless-steel blade, a file, a hard-wire cutter, bottle and can openers, scissors, two screwdrivers and needle-nose pliers. Every tool has a locking mechanism, and most open without having to open the pliers.


The smartest, safest place to stash your knife is in an easy-access spot in your backpack. You’re asking for trouble by wearing a fixed-blade knife on your belt. If you fall, the knife could rotate inward and you could land right on the blade.


Treating pocket knives with respect not only ensures your safety, but also keeps others safe. Here are a few major no-no’s:

  • Throwing a knife
  • Using a dull or dirty blade
  • Handing a knife to someone blade first
  • Cutting while others are within your “safety circle” (arm’s length)
  • Carving into something that doesn’t belong to you
  • Cutting toward your body

Using a knife requires responsibility. Bear Scouts can start carrying a pocketknife after completing the Whittling Chip requirements. Members of Scouts BSA must earn their Totin’ Chip, which also gives them the right to carry and use axes and saws.

When the job is bigger than a conventional pocketknife can manage, step up to the BSA KICKSTART BROWN CANVAS
($152, from Case Knives. Made with a high-carbon stainless steel that holds an edge longer than conventional steel, this knife will cut, slice, carve, chop and pare — no task is too great. It also sports Case’s Kickstart technology, which lets you open the knife with one hand by simply pressing on the thumb stud. At 4 inches closed, it’ll still tuck inside most pockets.

50 Comments on How to Buy a Good Pocketknife or Multitool

  1. Dull Knife // June 25, 2008 at 10:33 am // Reply

    I have a serrated knife and it isn’t the best knife for cutting rope, but when it comes to cutting wood this knife does a fine job.

  2. drummerboy16 // June 25, 2008 at 7:29 am // Reply

    I got my pocketknife from my dad its worth maybe 5 bucks but its still a really good knife

  3. fisher man // June 24, 2008 at 10:01 pm // Reply

    make sure you know what your geting, be sure it does what you want it to do and it’s under $25.00

  4. Pocket-knifes are really dangerous if you don’t no how to use it.

  5. Boy Scout # 3694 // June 20, 2008 at 12:27 pm // Reply


  6. Boy Scout # 3694 // June 20, 2008 at 12:26 pm // Reply

    I say step aside all other knives. The true penknife has arrived because I have in my possesion The (Drum Roll) Wenger Giant Swiss Army Knife™ V1.0


  7. All those knives sound really cool and expincive,but they don’t stay sharp allthat long.

    I have 3 knives a swiss army and anouther one given to me by my neighbor,but I just bought a scout knife.It is awsome!


  9. I have a Spyderco lockable blade knife and it is just good for everything.

  10. My friends bought switchblades in Scout Camp at Ma-Ka-Ja-Wan. I believe they are illegal in my state, but they still use them on camp outs. I wish i can get one, they seem quite handy, but they could switch out on me accidentally, in addition to their bad rap and history. I’m torn.

  11. nadoe survivor // June 13, 2008 at 9:50 am // Reply

    I love Gerber knives. my only pocket knife was just blown away in the Little Sioux tornadoe and I need a new knife. Any suggestions?

  12. my friend has a hatchet with a knife in the handle that u just pull out

  13. puff puff jr (poof) // June 4, 2008 at 8:17 pm // Reply

    and the normal price of the huntsman is 60 bucks but if u buy it where i showed ya u get it fur 23 bucks sweet eh!

  14. anonomous // June 4, 2008 at 5:05 pm // Reply

    If you want a good knife that stays sharp even after a few years within purchase, get a leatherman. They all have great tools and locking systems. A few boy scouts that I know have a leatherman, usually a blast or fuse. I didn’t stop there; I bought the leatherman wave, with a straight knife, serrated knife, needlenose pliers, regular pliers, shear cutters, wire cutters, five screwdrivers, a lanyard ring. scissors, wire stripper, can opener, ruler (inches and centimeters), wood saw, metal saw, diamond coated file, wood/metal file, and a leather sheath.

  15. mysteryman?????? // June 3, 2008 at 10:24 pm // Reply

    gerbes are great knives!!!!!!

  16. freezinmunky // June 3, 2008 at 2:39 pm // Reply

    Buck is the way to go. I own a Buck 110 folding hunter, and it is the best knife I have. It came presharpened, and it was sharper than my Kershaw. This knife is about $50, but it is worth it. It is a really nice investment.

  17. The cabela’s bargain cave has great deals. I got a Buck Pro Line Knife for $15.00 the normal price is around 40 dolors.

  18. seniorscouter // June 2, 2008 at 4:50 pm // Reply

    carbon steel in still the most useful blade, and you can use with flint to strike up a fire

  19. Kershaw chives are in!

  20. ducky 10444 // May 30, 2008 at 10:17 pm // Reply

    hi i think big 5 is the way to go i got an $50.00 knife there for $15.00

  21. helpful , though i would like to know the features

  22. They are the best, and can always get you unstuck or out of trouble

  23. I think gerber knives are the best, they are sharp, and stay sharp.

  24. You can get them at Wallmart you know.

  25. Leathermans are the best knives in the world. The metal is good. I reccomend the Leatherman Blast Multi-Tool, and the Leatherman e301. Both are locking and the e301 is single blade, although it does have carabiner/bottle opener. I have both and they are very good. They stay sharp and sharpen easily.

  26. girlwithanife // May 28, 2008 at 8:02 pm // Reply

    i have a leatherman folding nife, locks in place, liteweight great for serious user. I recomend Leatherman brand nifes.

  27. For my Bar Mitztva i got a really good knife that folds out into pliers

  28. My knife is real helpful for carving sticks and surviving in the wild

  29. pick a knife that fits your hand not too big or to small. if you don’t you will get blisters i know from experince.

  30. I got a multi-tool for my last birthday and it has been awesome. It does whatever I need it to and it is light. I carry my locking blade knife with me too, it is also very handy, but multi-tools are the way to go.

  31. carolina knives r pretty vice along with buck knives i have both

  32. A Proud Swiss Army Owner // May 25, 2008 at 4:48 pm // Reply

    Swiss Army Knifes Are The Best!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! : )

  33. Thats a good deal for a 75-piece tool. Do you know what all the tools are?

  34. I’ve got a Swiss Army knife. It’s been really helpful on camp-outs and it’s cheep. Another thing that makes it handy is that it’s glow-in-the-dark so I never lose it.

  35. love guns // May 19, 2008 at 9:58 pm // Reply

    swiss army knifes are asome!

  36. what knife for 15 bucks?

    it would be kool to see some knife reviews.

  37. A lock blade can be good when using your knife point (such as when whittling holes in things), however, for simple woodcarving and ninety percent of the other uses of a pocket knife a standard folding blade is generally fine, especially if you practice standard knife safety when using it. I’ve carried a knife for over 20 years and while I have cut myself on occasion, can’t remember a single time it’s been because the blade folded on me. (Though I do have a friend who buried his blade in his thigh because he was playing with the locking feature).

    As for the huge multi-tools, ensure that the handle isn’t too big to be unwieldly. The fatter the ‘pocket’ knife, the easier it can be for it to slip out of your hand while using it, meaning the more ‘uses’ advertised, the less useful it can sometimes become.

  38. If you get a pocket or folding knife it should have a lock-blade feature. You can get a bad cut from it folding up on you if you don’t. I prefure one bladed lock blades or fixed blades.

  39. i have a really nice pocket knife

  40. TimeRider // May 16, 2008 at 8:25 pm // Reply

    The Gerber multitools are very well rated I carry the proscout 600 . I also carry a Benchmade 705 that does every thing I need. Sadly they no longer make this one. Check EBAY. I chose these after reading a survival website.

  41. Get an old one

  42. i keep all my knives at razor blade quality

  43. bleach-fan-:) // May 11, 2008 at 11:12 pm // Reply

    have u herad about the $1000 75-peice multitool?

  44. for knifes i like just a single blade fine edge knife that is always razor sharp.

  45. Master3796 // May 11, 2008 at 11:51 am // Reply

    Cool. I have a nice knife. I love it.

  46. which one is better the multi-tools with pliers or all-purpose folding pocketknives?

  47. I suggest a knife that small & light weight + it should have a lock blade.

    Some of these can be found at most sporting good stores.

  48. I have a nice and sharp pocketknife

  49. starwarsfan // May 9, 2008 at 3:12 pm // Reply

    I love knives! there one of my faverate thihgs to collect.


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