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Published Mar 1, 2022 12:00 PM

A knife is the most useful tool that has ever been invented, but it’s only useful if you have it on you when you need it. That’s why folding knives are the go-to choice for most people. They can be used for opening a package, breaking down a deer, or whittling a tent stake, and are easily carried in a front pocket. Their usefulness also means there are a ton of options and finding the best folding knife isn’t an easy task. 

As a professional knife sharpener, outdoorsman, and knife addict, I’ve had the chance to use a pile of great folding knives. I’ve made the task of choosing the best option for your needs by choosing the best folding knives for camping, bushcraft, hiking, hunting, and fishing. Here are my picks.

Best Folding Knife Overall: Benchmade Adamas

Benchmade

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Key Features

  • Made in the U.S.
  • 3.82 inch CPM CRU-WEAR drop point blade
  • 6.45 ounces
  • Skeletonized G-10 handle scales
  • AXIS Lock

Why It Made the Cut

The Benchmade Adamas has been upgraded from its original materials, and is the closest thing to a fixed blade as you can get in a folding knife.

Pros

  • Good edge retention and toughness
  • Strong lock
  • Blade coating prevents staining
  • LifeSharp warranty
  • Big enough to handle nearly anything

Cons

  • Heavy
The tip of a silver knife
The Adamas’s blade can handle nearly anything. Drew Conover

Product Description

The Benchmade Adamas was designed by famed maker Shane Seibert, and recently received a big upgrade to Cru-Wear Steel from its original D2. The handle shape is comfortable, and provides solid grip in any situation. The Adamas makes you forget that you have a folding knife because it’s so solid. The size and blade shape make it super versatile for just about any situation whether you are camping, hunting, bushcrafting, or taking a hike. Obviously, it isn’t the lightest or best blade grind for specialty uses, but the Adamas is a jack of all trades, and master of none. The Adamas takes the title of best overall folding knife because it can handle pretty much anything you throw at it, and keep on cutting.  

Best Folding Knife for Camping: Victorinox One Handed Trekker

Victorinox

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Key Features

  • Made in Switzerland 
  • 12 tools 
  • 4.6 ounces
  • One-handed opening main blade
  • Full length main blade and saw

Why It Made the Cut

The One Handed Trekker is the best folding knife for camping because it has the tools you need to take care of almost anything at camp. It can open cans, prepare food, fix gear, and prepare wood for a fire. 

Pros

  • Quality manufacturing 
  • Locking, one-hand opening main blade
  • Saw works for up to “wrist-sized” wood
  • Feels solid in hand without being bulky
  • Available in several variations

Cons

  • Only the main blade locks

Product Description

I received one of these tools as a gift a few years ago and didn’t think I would like it. Then I took it outside and started using it—my opinion quickly flipped. I was most surprised with the saw and how it just ripped through wood. The Trekker is easy to carry and packs a ton of utility in a sub-4.5-inch tool. I chose a multitool as the best folding camp knife because whether you’re in the backyard or backcountry, RV or tent, the Trekker will cover just about any camping task you have. These models are not the most popular tools made by Victorinox, but I think they are some of the best, and the Trekker earns my pick for best folding knife for camping.

Best Folding Knife for Bushcraft: TOPS BOB Fieldcraft Folder

Tops Knives

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Key Features

  • Made in the U.S.
  • 4.375 inch 1095 high carbon steel blade
  • Scandinavian grind
  • 8.5 ounces
  • Comes with pocket clip and leather sheath
  • Liner lock

Why It Made the Cut

The Fieldcraft Folder was purpose-built as a bushcraft knife, packed with features specifically for common bushcraft tasks and primitive fire making. 

Pros

  • Thick liner
  • Bow drill divot in handle scales 
  • Easy to sharpen
  • Excellent warranty
  • Scandi grind perfect for wood carving

Cons

  • Using the knife as a bearing block for friction fires will eventually wear out the micarta scales

Product Description

This knife has bushcraft in its DNA, and in its name—BOB stands for Brothers Of Bushcraft. The Fieldcraft Folder is a folding version of the popular TOPS Fieldcraft. It’s not easy taking a proven fixed blade design and creating a folding version. But, TOPS did a great job translating all the good things about the Fieldcraft Fixed blade into the Fieldcraft Folder. 

While the blade is not quite a true Scandinavian grind because it has a small secondary bevel, it still carves like a Scandi grind. The Fieldcraft Folder excels at notching wood and other common bushcraft tasks. It’s made to use in all conditions with its grippy (even when wet) micarta scales. If you enjoy practicing friction fire skills you’ll make good use of the bow drill divot in the handle. The divot works well, but would be even better if it included a metal insert to lower friction and prolong the life of the scales. Bushcraft is totally dominated by fixed blade knives, but if you want a folding knife that has serious bushcraft chops, the Fieldcraft Folder should be at the top of your list. Aside from heavy batoning, this knife will handle your bushcraft needs without dangling off your belt. 

Best Folding Knife for Hiking: Benchmade Bugout

Benchmade

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Key Features

  • Made in the U.S.
  • 3.24 inch CPM S30V drop point blade
  • 1.85 ounces 
  • AXIS lock
  • Grivory handle material

Why It Made the Cut

When you’re on the trail, ounces equal pounds, pounds equal pain. The Bugout is a featherweight at 1.85 ounces, but it doesn’t compromise on capability.

Pros

  • Lightweight, yet strong
  • Easy to carry in your pocket
  • Lifetime and LifeSharp warranty
  • Blue scales are easy to spot if dropped
  • Mini deep carry pocket clip helps prevent snags on brush

Cons

  • Thin and somewhat flexible handle scales
A silver and blue best folding knife in a rock with a mountain in the background
The blade shape is ideal for many hiking and camping uses, like food prep. Drew Conover

Product Description

The Benchmade Bugout has been with me on quite a few hikes and backpacking trips. Even with pants and shorts made of thin material, the Bugout won’t weigh down your pocket. Its slim profile allows access to whatever else is in your pocket, but once you open the knife up, you have plenty of blade length. Although there is some flex in the handle scales, you can apply a lot of pressure on this knife and it won’t break. The handle flex is not serious and handles don’t stay bent. The blade shape lends itself well to food prep on the trail, carving tent pegs, or taking care of splinters or blisters. The S30V blade holds an edge and is relatively easy to sharpen, not that you should have to need to do so on the trail. Weight is always a consideration on the trail, and the Bugout hits the perfect balance between counting ounces and not giving up capability. Add in a great warranty and free sharpening from Benchmade for life, and the Bugout seems an easy win for the best folding knife for hiking. 

Best Folding Knife for Hunting: Buck 110 Slim Pro TRX

Buck Knives

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Key Features

  • Made in the U.S.
  • 3.75 inch S30V clip point blade
  • 3.3 ounces
  • New Torx Screw Construction
  • Lockback lock

Why It Made the Cut

The original Buck 110 is a classic, well-loved hunting knife, and the 110 Slim Pro TRX takes an already solid hunting knife and upgrades everything about it. 

Pros

  • Reversible pocket clip
  • Much lighter than the original
  • Durable materials
  • Thumb studs for one-handed opening
  • Thinner profile for easier carry

Cons

  • Requires two hands to close

Product Description

I like the looks and nostalgia of old-school folding knives like the original 110 and various slip joint knives, but I value function over form at the end of the day. That has led me to mostly use modern folders with easier opening, convenient pocket clips, and higher-end materials. So, when I saw Buck had modernized the venerable 110, I was pretty excited. 

The 110 Slim Pro TRX  got a big upgrade in blade steel, as well as modern features like thumb studs on the blade to aid one-handed opening and a new torx screw construction instead of old school rivets. The 110 Slim Pro TRX also went on a serious diet and lost weight and girth making it easier to carry and, in my opinion, feels better in hand. You’ll also have a better grip with the  G10 handles on the 110 Slim Pro TRX, which are much better for resisting the elements. The Buck 110 Slim Pro TRX retains the same blade and handle shape as the original, but gets the modern upgrades that it deserves. Classic shapes meet modern materials and conveniences to produce the best folding knife for hunting. 

Best Folding Knife for Fishing: Spyderco Salt 2

Spyder Co

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Key Features

  • Made in Japan
  • 3-inch Sheepsfoot Blade
  • 2.1 ounces
  • FRN handle scales
  • Rustproof H1 steel

Why It Made the Cut

The Spyderco Salt 2 makes use of H1 blade steel, which is rustproof even in saltwater conditions. Normal stainless steels just stain less than carbon steel, but H1 does not stain at all. 

Pros

  • Sheepsfoot blade is less likely to stab you when the boat is rocking or if you slip
  • Lightweight and easy to carry in four positions
  • High traction FRN scales prevent slipping
  • Hollow ground blade slices with ease
  • Easy opening with thumb hole blade

Cons

  • H1 is rustproof, but lacks slightly in edge retention

Product Description

The Spyderco Salt 2 is the perfect example of a knife taking care of you, not you taking care of the knife. If you are in saltwater environments (or freshwater for that matter) this knife requires basically zero maintenance aside from the occasional sharpening. Throw it in the tackle box wet and dirty, and give it a second thought. Wade into the shallows with this in your pocket and don’t sweat it. 

The H1 steel is not like other stainless knives that will eventually rust and discolor. H1 won’t rust even under the worst conditions. The Salt 2 isn’t going to replace your fillet knife because of its size, but cutting line, ropes, tangles, dispatching your catch, and gutting shouldn’t be a problem for the Salt 2. Aside from the rustproof blade, the Salt 2 uses a simple and reliable lock back and grippy bi-directional traction pattern on the handle that is used on many other Spyderco knives. Good grip, ergonomics, and H1 steel make the Salt 2 the best folding knife for fishing in my book. 

Best Budget: CRKT Pilar

CRKT Knives

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Key Features

  • Made in China
  • 2.4 inch Sheepsfoot blade
  • 4.2 ounces
  • Stainless steel handle scales
  • Frame lock

Why it Made the Cut

The CRKT Pilar was a great seller when it first came out, and has spawned many variations in handle and blade materials. It remains popular because it works so well. 

Pros

  • Strong construction
  • Affordable
  • Several variations and special editions to choose from
  • Finger choil gives great blade control

Cons

  • Short blade

Product Description

The CRKT Pilar is a collaboration between CRKT and custom knife maker Jesper Voxnae. The Pilar’s solid construction and a beefy frame lock makes you feel like you have something substantial in your hand, but a forward finger choil and shorter blade length make the heft easy to control. The Pilar is also available with a wide variety of handle materials such as G-10, micarta, and copper, and can be had with a satin or dark acid stone washed finish on the blade. If you’re on a budget and need a solid performer (and you aren’t chasing the latest super steel), the CRKT Pilar should serve you well.  

Things to Consider When Buying a Folding Knife

The biggest consideration when buying a folding knife is not the price, the looks, or the brand— it’s the intended use. Ask yourself these questions: 

  • What will you be using it for mostly? 
  • Are you rough on gear, or are you someone who takes time to care for your knives regularly and are careful with them in the field? 

Make sure you get something that is well suited to your most common cutting tasks. For example, a thin blade is great for slicing cardboard and a thicker blade with a convex grind is better for carving wood. Both knives can do both tasks, but choose the knife that excels at the task you do most often. 

I also recommend looking at the brand’s warranty policy you are considering buying from. Some knife companies have amazing service and warranty, and some will leave you wanting. Do some research, especially if you’re going to put your knife to work. 

Another consideration is the type of blade steel. A carbon steel is easy to sharpen, but requires more maintenance to prevent rust. A stainless blade is more rust resistant, but is more difficult to sharpen. 

There’s a lot to consider when choosing the best folding knife, but my rule of them is if you can’t decide between two knives, buy both. 

FAQs

Q: How much should you pay for a pocket knife?

You should expect to pay $50-250 for a quality pocket knife depending on the materials and country of origin. You can spend less, cheap knives cut, but not for long. That’s why I pick and recommend quality tools that will stand the test of time and not leave you stranded. A quality knife will last a lifetime and then some. It will hold an edge longer, cut better, operate smoother, and put a smile on your face.

Q: Can you use a folding knife for

bushcraft?

Well, if I had a choice, I would choose a fixed blade for the extra strength. But, having used the Fieldcraft Folder and Cold Steel Finn Wolf, I can say that there are some pretty great folders out there that can handle almost anything a fixed blade can. There’s nothing saying you can’t take a fixed and a folder into the woods. 

Q: W

hich folding knife has the strongest lock?

Many people regard the Tri-Ad lock, which is a modified back lock design, as the strongest currently available. However, most quality knives will have a lock sufficient for what the user will need. I like the AXIS lock (or Bar Lock) because it has performed very well, and thicker liner locks and frame locks are sufficient, as well. 

Final Thoughts

The convenience of carrying a folding knife over a fixed blade is undeniable. And today, buyers have a huge selection of quality folding knives to choose from for nearly every application you can think of. While there are plenty of good choices for the best folding knife in these categories, these knives stood out to me as being at the top of the pile in their respective areas.