3 Traits of a Great Folding Knife

Folding knives are terrific for everyday use, but with so many makes and models available, you’ll want to consider these features before buying your next one

a folding knife and sheath
A folding knife is great for carrying every day, and they make great gifts.Buck Knives

A reliable knife is the number-one tool for any outdoorsman. Most of us own so many that it’s often difficult to decide which one to take into the field, and we often end up taking multiples. But if you carry only one blade, a folding knife offers the best bang for your buck. It may not be as durable as a fixed blade, but a folder’s light weight and small size make it more likely you will pack it everywhere you go. Here’s what to look for in a great folding-blade knife.

Compact

Kershaw Clash Black Serrated Pocket Knife
A good folding-knife blade should be only 3- or 4-inches long.Kershaw

For an everyday carry, or EDC as it's commonly called, you want a blade that is big enough to get the job done but not too bulky to comfortably carry. A blade length of 3 to 4 inches is about right, and any knife with an integrated belt or pocket clip will secure the tool where it belongs. Synthetic scales made of Micarta or nylon help reduce weight and are at least as durable as natural wood handles.

One-Handed Opening

Spyderco Delica 4 Folding Knife
Practice opening your blade with one hand in case you ever have to do it in real life.Spyderco

Just about any folding blade can be opened one-handed with practice, but there's no beating the speed and convenience of a knife meant to operate with one hand. Standard mechanisms range from thumb holes and indents on the blade to ridges and levers on the spine that will deploy in an instant. One-handed operation is not just a flashy trick, it can spell the difference between life and death when you need to cut something loose from ropes, straps, or belts with one hand while hanging on for dear life with the other. Keep the blade well-oiled, and practice opening so that the technique is second-nature when you need it.

Versatile

Opinel Stainless Steel Folding Pocket Knife
A good folding blade knife doesn't have to look like a stereotypical hunting knife.Opinel

It doesn't matter if you are gutting a deer or slicing up gouda at a family picnic, you need a blade of some sort. If you just want a low-cost everyday carry that is both traditional and sharp, check out any of the blades from French bladesmith Opinel. They've been around since the 1890s and are still just as classy and functional as ever. For a techy alternative with maximum cutting surface, look at the scalpel-sharp double blade from OTF with thumb-activated automatic opening.