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You might have heard the Benjamin Franklin quote, “A jack of all trades is a master of none.” Yet people forget the rest of the quote, “… but oftentimes better than a master of one.” The unabridged quote perfectly describes a Swiss Army Knife. It’s usually not the best tool for the job, but it can do just enough to solve most problems.
I’ve been testing the capabilities of the best Swiss Army Knife models, as well as a few alternatives, to find the ones that strike the right balance of portability and capability. Here are my picks for the best SAKs:
- Best Overall: Compact
- Best for the Outdoors: Huntsman
- Best Mini: Rambler
- Best with a Locking Blade: Trekker
- Best Screwdriver: Cyber Tool M
- Best with an LED: Huntsman Lite
- Best SAK Alternative: Leatherman Free T4
How I Chose the Best Swiss Army Knives
The six SAKs (and one alternative) I’ve chosen have excellent features you’ll use all the time and are easy to carry in a pocket. Because there are so many capable Swiss Army knives on the market, at the end of each review you’ll find a suggestion for a similar SAK that might peak your interest as well.
Victorinox has a SAK flavor to suit any taste, and in my quest to find the best of their over 250 variations, I selected knives that balance function with practical needs. Yes, the gigantic Swiss Champ XLT is a very cool gadget, but completely impractical for most people.
For the three SAKs and the alternatives I tested, I used every function the tools had to see how they performed: I cut wire ties, paper, and 550 cord with scissors. I carved wood and cut cardboard with the knives. I turned screws with the screwdrivers. You get the idea.
Using all the functions helped me evaluate their usefulness and provide information on what each is best for. I also carried the multi tools to see which of their many features I used the most and how practical they were in daily life.
Best Swiss Army Knives: Reviews & Recommendations
Best Overall: Compact
- 14 tools
- My Favorite Tools: Knife, pen, tweezers, bottle opener, 5mm screwdriver, 1.5 mm screwdriver, pin
- Weight: 2.3 ounces
- Length: 3.6 inches (measured)
- Width: 0.95 inches (measured)
- Thickness: 0.57 inch (measured)
- Price: $59
- Excellent features to size ratio
- The mini screwdriver can be swapped for a ton of different Mini Tools
- Retains some legacy features I didn’t find useful like the corkscrew and file
The Compact is packed with a lot of useful tools, while still remaining light and thin. I found the classic large blade excellent for opening packages, light wood use, cutting cordage, or slicing up an apple. I put the Compact through my EDC knife test protocol, and it kept pace with top full-size, locking knives. I was really impressed at how well it did in hard cutting tasks. While I don’t typically use my SAKs for hard use, it’s nice to know they can do it.
The blade is easy to open using the nail nick and smoothly swings out until it snaps into position. There’s a good amount of spring tension to keep the blade open. Although, it’s still not a locking blade so watch out for spine pressure, especially when coming out of a cut.
The biggest surprise is how useful I found the pen. You’re not going to use it to write an essay, but it’s handy for those situations when you need a pen in a pinch. I used it at the post office, to sign checks, and jot down quick notes. The scissor is another favorite. It easily cuts through 550 cord, zip ties, and duct tape. It has enough control to cut out intricate shapes in paper or just a straight line. My only complaint with the scissor is that it’s harder to pull out than the other tools because it sits low. I got some use out of the large flat head, bottle opener, as well as the mini tool, and they’re nice to have. I didn’t use the hook, corkscrew, toothpick, and tweezers, but given enough time I’m sure they’d eventually come in handy.
If you need a Phillips head screwdriver as part of your SAK, the Tinker is another great option.
Best for the Outdoors: Huntsman
- 15 tools
- Favorite Tools: Knife, saw, scissors, 6mm screwdriver, tweezers, 3mm screwdriver
- Weight: 3.4 ounces
- Length: 3.6 inches (measured)
- Width: 1 inch (measured)
- Thickness: 0.77 inch (measured)
- 15 tools that weigh as much as most 3.5-inch folding knives
- Two knives allows you to keep one blade razor sharp and use the other for harder use
- Would be perfect if it came with the Fire Starter Mini
When I’m camping or hunting, I’ll usually have a fixed blade for tasks like preparing firewood or cleaning game. While a multi tool, like the Swiss Army Knife Huntsman, takes on the lighter cutting roles and provides extra utility. The Huntsman has a large and small blade. So you can use one for whittling a tent stake and keep the other clean for slicing up cheese. The saw isn’t going to process firewood like a Silky PocketBoy, but does get through branches around 2-inches in diameter and does a great job cutting notches. I found it most useful for projects when you need to cut a small branch at an exact length—rather than just snapping it—like when making a pot tripod.
While I don’t have much use for a can opener, its sharpened edge is perfect for cutting tape on packages. I of course get good use out of the scissors and large flathead, which can take light prying. If Victorinox packaged the Huntsman with the Fire Starter Mini on the corkscrew, this would be an awesome option for a one and done outdoors knife. But while we wait for that to happen you can pick up a three pack for $32.
If you don’t need a saw, check out the Explorer, which has many of the same tools with a magnifying glass instead of a saw. It also has a Phillips screwdriver.
Best Mini: Rambler
- 10 tools
- Favorite Tools: Knife, scissors, Phillips screwdriver, flathead, and tweezers
- Weight: 1.1 ounces
- Length: 2.3 inches (measured)
- Width: 0.75 inch (measured)
- Thickness 0.4 inch (measured)
- Easily slips into a fifth pocket or attaches to a keychain
- All of the most popular tools in a very small knife
- Surprisingly useful for its size
- Knife can only do the lightest cutting tasks
When I saw the Rambler on the Victorinox website I thought I finally found the perfect SAK. Of course, I didn’t look at its dimensions before ordering. But despite its small size it’s still one of the best Swiss Army Knives I’ve used. It has just about everything I use for daily life: screwdrivers, scissors, and a knife for opening packages. The bonus file, tweezers, toothpick, and bottle opener are nice to have.
The small size is a benefit and a hindrance. The scissor takes two to three snips to get through 550 cord versus one of the larger SAKs. The knife is narrow and thin, so I wouldn’t recommend it for tough jobs. Even though, in my test it sliced through thick cardboard and cordage with just a little more effort than the Compact’s large blade. The Phillips screwdriver is handy, but it’s limited in use to things like opening battery compartments—you won’t be driving wood screws with it. The benefit of its size is that you can easily carry a Rambler in addition to an EDC knife.
If you’re looking for a simple, non-locking knife to go with your Rambler, check out the Case Sod Buster Jr. It’s an excellent USA-made slip joint for under $60. Or if you’d like minimalist SAK with a modern look, check out the Classic SD Alox.
Best with a Locking Blade: Trekker
- 12 tools
- Favorite Tools: Knife, wood saw, Phillips screwdriver, 3mm/7mm flathead screwdriver, tweezers, and bottle opener
- Weight: 4.6 ounces
- Length: 4.4 inches
- Thickness: 0.7 inches
- One handed opening
- Liner lock
- Some users won’t like the wavy edge
A locking blade can do tougher tasks without fear of it becoming a finger guillotine. Victorinox makes 79 models with locking knives, but the Trekker has the benefit of a one-handed opening blade, and it comes in under 5 ounces. Other locking options push the 6 ounce mark and take up a lot more pocket real estate. If you don’t need a Phillips screwdriver and prefer a plain-edge blade, the Forester M Grip is another great choice.
Best Screwdriver: Cyber Tool M
- 24 tools
- Favorite Tools: Bit driver, scissors, five flathead screwdrivers, knife, and pliers
- Weight: 5.4 ounces
- Length: 3.6 inches
- Thickness: 1.1 inches
- Bit driver and bit holder
- Great for keeping in a bag or EDC tool kit
- Pliers aren’t capable of hard tasks
Finding the best Swiss Army Knife for you is all about finding the one that has features you’ll use in daily life. If you find yourself needing a small torx, hex, or screwdriver all the time, the Cyber Tool M is an excellent choice. It has a bit driver and bit holder incorporated into the SAK. You’ll also get pliers, two knives, scissors, and a bunch of flat-head screwdrivers.
My two alternatives to the Cyber Tool L aren’t made by Victorinox, but they’re both fantastic options for people that need a screwdriver everyday. The Big Idea Designs Bit Bar Inline is an EDC screwdriver that holds three bits and provides plenty of torque for stubborn threads. The only downside is that it’s around $100. The Leatherman Signal has a bit driver in addition to its needle-nose pliers, knife, saw, bottle opener, and more.
Best with an LED: Huntsman Lite
- 21 tools
- Favorite Tools: LED, large knife, small knife, saw, scissors, Phillips screwdriver, flathead screwdrivers
- Weight: 4.3 ounces
- Length: 3.6 inches
- Thickness: 1 inch
- Over 21 tools, but still under 4.5 ounces
- Easy to carry
- Would like to see this model with a locking blade
If you want a SAK with a lot of features, but don’t want a boat anchor, the 4.3 ounce Huntsman Lite is my top pick. You can easily carry this knife everyday and it would also make a great companion for the outdoors. It has many of the same features of the Huntsman, but also includes a Phillips screwdriver and an LED flashlight. The flashlight isn’t going to light up the woods, but it’s bright enough to use inside a tent or car, and it would make a great backup to your camping flashlight.
Want a smaller Swiss Army Knife with an LED? Check out the Signature Lite.
Best SAK Alternative: Leatherman Free T4
- 12 tools
- Favorite Tools: Knife, scissors, pry tool, small flathead, Phillips screwdriver, flathead screwdriver, package opener, file, tweezers, and bottle opener
- Weight: 4.3 ounces
- Length: 3.6 inches
- Thickness: .68 inches
- Price: $70
- One-handed opening and closing
- Tools lock open
- Every tool is very useful
- Thicker and heavier than most SAKs
- Knife and scissors aren’t as slicey as a SAK
The Leatherman Free T4 is a well-thought-out multi tool with great features for hard use. There’s no wasted space on useless tools or ones that you have to think of creative uses for—like the SAK corkscrew. The tools lock open and can be deployed and closed one handed. They’re much sturdier tools than you’ll find on a Swiss Army Knife. The beefy nature of the tools is great for durability, but it held them back in my cut test. While the Huntsman’s and Compact’s knives melted through thick cardboard, the Free T4 took more effort to make the same cut and would hang up in the cuts. The scissors were the biggest difference though. The SAK scissors go right through 550 cord and zipties, but the Free T4 scissors could barely cut paracord after six cuts.
If you’re looking for a multi tool that has sturdy tools, one handed opening, and a good locking mechanism, the T4 is a good option. But if you’re primarily interested in a knife that slices well and scissors that are sharp, I’d look at one of the SAKs. Another alternative if you just need a knife and screwdriver is the Milwaukee Fastback 6 in 1, which has a bit driver and folding/locking utility knife.
Best EDC Gear to Pair with a Swiss Army Knife
- Knipex pliers
- Streamlight MicroStream
- Rite in the Rain bolt-action pen
- Nitecore power bank
- Pocket organizer
Everyday carry is all about having items on your person that solve problems without the weight or bulk of carrying around a tool roll. For most situations a Victorinox Compact is all I need, but I’m far more capable when it’s paired with a flashlight, pen, ultralight power bank, pocket organizer, and Knipex Pliers.
The Streamlight micro stream is rechargeable and has a two way clip so it can attach to a hat brim or pocket. Knipex pliers are light and compact, while still being able to securely grip and tighten nuts better than the needle nose pliers you’ll find on most multi tools. The Nitecore power bank is the lightest 10,000 mAh power bank I’ve found, and juices up an iPhone with some power to spare.
The thing that brings this whole kit together is the pocket organizer. I know it seems like a dorky dad thing, but I’m telling you it will change your life. I carry the pliers, pen, flashlight, powerbank, and charging cables in it. It keeps them from just being loose objects, jangling in my pocket. I also like that all my EDC items are packed and easy to grab in the morning. I put the organizer in one front pocket and the Compact in the other for easy access.
How to Choose the Best Swiss Army Knife
You can get Swiss Army Knives with just a knife or with over 35 tools. Think about the tools you use every day and which ones can help you out of a jam. With that info, narrowing down the best Swiss Army Knife for you becomes much easier.
Modding a Swiss Army Knife
One of the cool things about SAKs is that they’re easy to customize with aftermarket scales and add ons. Here are some of the common mods for Swiss Army Knives:
- Scales (aka covers) in titanium, micarta, G10, and wood
- Pocket Clips
- Tools: You can send your knife out to a SAK customizer for tool swaps
Read Next: The Best Multi Tools of 2023
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Final Thoughts on the Best Swiss Army Knives
The Swiss Army Knife has been a trusted tool since 1897—a year older than OL—and that original knife had six tools: a punch, can opener, small blade, corkscrew, large blade, and screwdriver. It gave the soldier or citizen a lot of utility in a small package. The modern SAKs continue that legacy and, in my opinion, the seven best Swiss Army Knives I’ve chosen execute that original design premise.