SURVIVAL

Best Folding Knife: Top Choices Available to You

Folding knives review
Dennis Owens
Written by Dennis Owens

Everyone wants to be the person with the knife. Imagine you and a few friends are out on a camping trip and while you’re setting up camp you need to cut some rope or puncture a hole in a tarp or similar material.

As you fumble around for a way to do it with your keys or with a sharp stick, your friend runs over and pulls out of their pocket a handy folding knife that you flick open quickly with your fingers and get the job done. When you give back the knife you are thinking to yourself, “I wish I had one of those.”

Well, when you head to the store or go online to find one, you will quickly see that there is a myriad of different options available and the search can quickly become overwhelming. Here is a summary of some of the better options on the market and their main features so your decision will be a bit easier and you can find the best folding knife to fit your needs.

Why Knives Are Important and Some Common Uses

Ask anyone out there how important a knife is when you are out in the wilderness and I assure you almost all will say that it is an absolute essential.

Camillus folding knife g10

The list of reasons why and uses for a knife is endless, but here’s a quick summary of some of the most practical.

  • Cutting rope/other materials: it’s much easier to bring a lot of rope with you and then cut it to size than to try and predict exactly what you need. Having a knife will make this infinitely easier
  • Puncturing holes: maybe you need to tie a tarp to a tree or cut holes in a bucket to make a shower. Whatever it is, having a quality knife with you will be a big advantage.
  • Food preparation: you use a knife to cook in your kitchen, why would it be any different in the wilderness? Using your own knife will be easier and most likely cleaner than trying to use anything else
  • Scraping: when trying to get a fire going you need to find dry material to turn your spark into a flame. Tree bark, especially from birch trees, is dry and light and is very effective for this purpose and is much easier to obtain with a sharp knife than any other tool you may have.

These are just four uses of thousands, which should just make it even clearer how important it is you make a good choice when choosing a knife.

Key Features to Look for in A Knife

A lot more goes into your knife than just simply how it looks. When you start searching there are several key features you will want to consider to help you make the best choice.

Folding vs. fixed blade

In this review, we will be focusing specifically on folding blades, but it is worth pointing out the different advantages. The obvious plus for a folding blade is in its name, it folds. This makes it easy to stick in your pocket and bring with you wherever you want to go.

However, folding blades do not come with a full “tang.” The tang is the part of the knife you usually don’t see because it is embedded in the handle. This makes them a little less strong and a little less resistant to heavy use.

Folding vs. fixed blade

A fixed blade will usually come with a full tang and will, therefore, be more durable when using it for high-stress jobs such as prying and scraping.

Outside of this key difference, a folding knife can do all that a fixed blade can do, but keep in mind what it is you are going to use it for as you move forward in the decision process. From here on out, though, we will be focusing specifically on folding knives.

Size and weight

A largely self-explanatory, but still very important, feature. Obviously the smaller the knife the less it will weigh and the smaller it will become when you fold it up.

With smaller knives you will have easier handling, allowing you to be more flexible with it and perhaps to perform more jobs that require precision or detail. A larger knife will give you more leverage and the ability to cut more.

No folding blade will be exceptionally heavy, but it will spend most of its time in your pocket so think about what you are comfortable carrying around.

One handed/assisted opening

Some knives will come with a spring mechanism or something similar at the hinge point to make them possible to open with one hand or will make them much easier to handle.

One handed

This could be a convenient feature if you will be traveling alone and maybe will need to hold something in one hand while accessing your tool in another.

However, the more complex you make the device and the more parts it has might mean sacrifices in durability so keep that in mind when looking at products with this feature.

Blade shape

There are several different shapes that the blade can come in and each one is designed for a different purpose. This may be perhaps the most important feature in making your choice as you want to try and find something that will be most useful to you.

So think about what you are planning to use your knife for and then look for one with the corresponding blade shape. Here are the most common ones and their respective uses:

  • Drop point. One of the more common blade shapes, the spine reduces towards the tip and then softly cuts back towards the handle. This is best for heavy tasks and for general knife work.
  • Clip point. This blade has a crescent drop on the top of the blade which gives it a much sharper point. It’s perfect for puncturing and for more detailed work such as carving, but because of its shape is not quite as strong as the drop point.
  • Tanto Considered to be the “heavy duty” blade, it has a sharp, angular point and a heavy blade that makes it good for piercing tough materials and also for scraping and prying.
  • Needle or spear points. These blades are usually double-edged and are therefore good for puncturing or throwing. This particular type of knife is designed more for survival type tasks and may be difficult to find in a folding knife.
  • Sheepsfoot. With a steep curve at the point and a cutting edge that extends directly from the handle and continues all the way to the point, it is ideal for food preparation. If you think of your typical kitchen knife, it probably has a blade like this.

One other feature of the blade that you might encounter is serration. Serrated blades with their jagged design are great for cutting through thicker materials, think like a saw, but can also snag on things and can hinder a clean cut.

Folding knife blade shape

It is rare that you would find a completely serrated blade, but it is not so uncommon to find a blade that is half straight and half serrated.

Blade Material

What the actual blade is made of is also a big factor when deciding which knife you are going to buy. The material used will probably have a big impact on the durability of the blade and, consequently, the price you will have to pay.

The stronger and more durable the knife, the more expensive it will likely be. Generally speaking, you will find blades made of stainless steel or high carbon steel. When looking at the different options available and the materials offered, remember that the two biggest enemies to your knife are dullness and rust.

High carbon steel is the strongest and will give you the best edge retention, but is susceptible to rust. In terms of stainless steel, the higher the quality, and the higher the price, the better it will be, meaning it will retain its edge better, but any decent stainless steel out there will not rust.

Blade Material

Here’re a few of the more common stainless steels to give you an idea of what to look for.

  • 420 HC-the most affordable type of stainless steel will give you adequate rust protection and edge retention, but it is not the strongest material available.
  • 154 CM- a little stronger and therefore a little more durable
  • S30V-With a high quantity of vanadium, it is one of the strongest and most durable stainless steels out there.

Handle Material

So far much emphasis has been placed on the blade part of the knife, but some attention should be paid to the handle. Handles will come in all different materials and they are not all created equal. Here are some of the most common materials used in knife handles and their advantages and disadvantages:

  • It looks beautiful, but it can be prone to water damage.
  • Plastic/carbon fiber. A very practical option as it is both affordable and water resistant, but might lack that flashy look you will get from a wood handle.
  • A rubber handle will be water resistant and will give you a sturdy grip, but the rubber can break away and could give you some durability issues.
  • Stainless steel or other metals. As mentioned above, a very durable material, but it will be cold in your hand and could also give you some issues with grip.

Additional Features

Some folding knives will come with extra add-ons to make them more convenient or useful. These may include, but are not limited to, clips or hooks, multitools (scissors, tweezers, etc.) and special grips.

Additional Features

The blades we will be reviewing don’t offer much in terms of multitools as these tools tend to sacrifice blade quality in the name of extra gadgets, but it is something to consider when making a purchase like this.

What’s Available?

Now that we’ve gone over the important things to look for when buying a knife, let’s take a look at some of the best products available and compare them.

Spyderco Rubicon

Spyderco Rubicon

Overall length: 7.4”

Blade length: 3.04”

Weight: 4.3 oz

Price: $299.95

Blade type: Drop point with no serrated edge

Blade material: S30V stainless steel

Handle material: Carbon fiber

Additional features: Belt clip and one-hand opening

Best use: General knife work

Description: Spyderco Rubicon is a standard knife that will be good for most common tasks. With its high-quality stainless steel blade and carbon fiber handle, rust won’t be an issue and you can expect this knife to last you a long time with proper use.

This level of durability comes with its price, but this knife will last you and last you and last you. Since its blade size is only 3” it might not be particularly great for prying and heavy-duty scraping, but it can handle almost all other tasks.

Boker Mokume Damascus

Boker Mokume Damascus

Overall length: 7”

Blade length: 3 ¼”

Weight: 4.3 oz.

Price: $399.99
Blade type: Drop point with no serrated edge

Blade material: 150 layer Damascus steel. (A strong steel that is modeled after the steel used to make swords in the Far East)

Handle material: Imbuia wood.

Additional features: None

Best use: General knife work

Description: Boker Mokume Damascus is one of those knives that makes you feel good when it’s in your hand. Its sleek design along with its wooden handle make it a true beauty and a real piece of fine craftsmanship.

You pay for these features in the price, but this knife will also last you forever and will stay sharp.

It does come with a wooden handle, which, as we discussed earlier, could give you some problems with water damage down the line, but in general, this is a high-quality knife from one of the world’s premier manufacturers.

Microtech Socom Delta

Microtech Socom Delta

Overall length: 9”

Blade length: 4” with a cutting edge of 3 ¾”

Weight:4.95 oz

Price: $292.50

Blade type: Clip point with no serrated edge

Blade material: ATS-34 stainless steel

Handle material: Aluminum

Additional features: Tip up belt clip

Best use: Puncturing and detail work.

Description:  The aluminum handle and sturdy blade material on Microtech Socom Delta will give you a sharp edge for a long time, but the metal handle could mean some problems with grip and overall feel of the knife in your hand.

This knife won’t handle some of the heavy duty tasks as well as others with bigger blades and less defined points, but it will do the job it’s been designed to do quite well.

Guardian Tactical HELIX DELTRIX

Guardian Tactical HELIX DELTRIX

Overall length: 9”

Blade length: 4”

Weight: 5.7 oz

Price: $279.95

Blade type: Tanto plain edge

Blade material: CPM-154 steel

Handle material: Carbon fiber

Additional features: Belt clip

Best use: Scraping and prying

Description: The best way to describe Guardian Tactical HELIX DELTRIX is “heavy duty.” The carbon fiber handle and the tanto blade mean it is designed to do the tough tasks.

Rust won’t be a problem and it has been designed to hold an edge.

This knife is best for heavy duty tasks, but its unique blade shape makes it useful for smaller tasks and puncturing as well. Overall, it is a high-quality, durable and multi-function knife.

Chris Reeve Sebenza 21

Chris Reeve Sebenza 21

Overall length: 6.875”

Blade length:2.94”

Weight: 3 oz.

Price: $365.00

Blade type: Drop point plain edge

Blade material: Crucible CPM S35VN stainless steel

Handle material: Titanium

Additional features: None

Best use: General knife work

Description: Chris Reeve Sebenza 21 is defined by its compactness and sleekness. Its titanium handle gives it one of the strongest and most durable handles out there, and the same can be said about the blade. One disadvantage of this product is its size.

The blade is less than 3”, which could limit its capability, but if what you are looking for is a compact and effective knife for general use then this could be the one for you.

Benchmade BKC Bedlam Axis Folding Knife

Benchmade BKC Bedlam Axis Folding Knife

Overall length:9.76”

Blade length: 4”

Weight: 7.3 oz

Price: $208.25

Blade type: Clip point with the option for plain edge or half-serrated.

Blade material: 154CM stainless steel

Handle material: Carbon fiber

Additional features: Available automatic opening mechanism

Best use: Detail work and puncturing.

Description: Benchmade BKC Bedlam Axis Folding Knife has a sweeping crescent drop on the top of the blade which gives it a sharp, defined point that is great for piercing and puncturing. It also offers a 4” blade which makes it quite versatile even though the blade shape lends itself more to smaller jobs.

Quality materials are used in both the handle and the blade so it is plenty durable.

One nice feature of this product is you have the choice to include an automatic opening mechanism as well as the type of blade you would like, plain or serrated. It also comes in a bit less expensive than the other options on this list so that could be something that helps it stand out from the crowd.

Benchmade Pardue Design Axis Mini-Griptilian

Benchmade Pardue Design Axis Mini-Griptilian

Overall length: 6.8”

Blade length: 2.91”

Weight:2.8 oz

Price: $102-106
Blade type: Drop point with plain edge

Blade material: 154 CM stainless steel

Handle material: Carbon fiber

Additional features: Belt clip and textured handle

Best use: General knife use

Description: Probably the best all around knife and best bang for your buck knife on the list. At a significantly lower price you aren’t sacrificing quality so much as size. The blade is small on Benchmade Pardue Design Axis Mini-Griptilian Drop-Point Blade, less than 3” but it is plenty sturdy and will hold an edge nicely.

One interesting feature is that the handle has small bumps where your thumb is placed so as to avoid any slipping and to improve the grip, especially when it is wet. Again, upsides are price and versatility, downsides are blade size.

Cold Steel Recon 1 Spear Point Plain Edge Knife

Cold Steel Recon 1 Spear Point Plain Edge Knife

Overall length: 9 3/8”

Blade length: 4”

Weight: 5.3 oz

Price: $88.79

Blade type: Drop point (the name says spear point but if you look earlier at the explanations of the blade types you can see how it really is better described as a drop point.)

Blade material: Carpenter CTS® XHP Alloy with DLC Coating

Handle material: Carbon fiber

Additional features: Finger cutouts, belt clip, textured handle.

Best use: General knife use

Description: With Cold Steel Recon 1 Spear Point Plain Edge Knife‘s sleek black design and durable materials and lower price, this is a really practical option when looking at all the different available options. It’s got a decent sized blade that makes it useful for most jobs and it could even handle some heavier duty tasks.

The handle is covered in tiny bumps for maximized grip and there are even cutouts on the bottom of the handle for your fingers. It doesn’t offer the same classic look that some of the other options do, but it is certainly well designed to do its job.

Zero Tolerance Blackwash Hinderer Flipper Knife

Zero Tolerance Blackwash Hinderer Flipper Knife

Overall length: 8.8”

Blade length: 3.75”

Weight: 5.8 oz

Price: $400

Blade type: Between drop point and tanto with plain edge

Blade material: ELMAX steel

Handle material: 3-D Machined G-10 carbon fiber with titanium on the back

Additional features: Belt clip, gripped handle and assisted opening

Best use: General knife work and some heavy duty work

Description: By making use of some of the strongest, highest quality materials available, ELMAX steel is made with 3 percent vanadium and has won several awards for its durability and edge retention, Zero Tolerance 0560BW Blackwash Hinderer Flipper Knife is probably one of the highest overall quality knives on this knife.

It also features assisted opening and the carbon fiber handle is textured throughout to provide a stronger grip.

All of these nice features show themselves in the price—it is the most expensive knife on the list, but in terms of durability and functionality this knife can handle almost anything and will do so for a long time.

And The Winner Is… You!

With so many different knife options out there, it is nearly impossible to tell which one is best for you and your needs. But with our analysis of knife features and our comparison of some of the top options, we hope we’ve made the decision process a little easier.

Choose the best folding knife for you

Do you own one of these knives? Anything we missed? Or is there some other option that you’ve been using all your life and want to tell the world about? Let us know!

If not, we wish you luck in your quest for the best blade and that the information provided here has made that search a little less stressful.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dennis Owens
Dennis Owens

Dennis Owens is a graduate of National Camping School and REI Outdoor School. He knows everything about what gear to take with you, how to plan your trip to stay safe and what to do if you get lost in the mountains. We are lucky to have Dennis with us as he is a ‘walking encyclopedia’ when it comes to the wilderness.

  • Nathan Maxwell

    A good quality folding knife will, more often than not, have an eye-watering price tag, with the better quality knives typically costing well into the hundreds. If, however, you’re not in a position to blow your life savings on a new blade, you should certainly consider a Cold Steel Recon 1. These are, in my humble opinion, just about the best folding knife you can get for less than a hundred bucks. They have a very solid lock-up, don’t wobble, either back and forth or side to side when the blade is open and have a nice thin profile. I ordered one online a few months ago and the blade was almost razor sharp right out of the box, and it has continued to hold that edge wonderfully in the few months that I’ve used it, with proper care, of course. A brilliant knife that can certainly compete with those that cost twice as much or more.

    • Dennis Owens

      Cold Steel is a reliable brand with a wide price range to fit a wide variety of budget from campers and hunters. Their knives are durable, balanced, and not to mention razor sharp. Good recommendation, Nathan.

  • Danny Guerrero

    The Zero Tolerance blackwash tops this list, the images for this knife are wildly deceptive as it is much bigger than you think, it is smooth and solid and opens as easily as a small knife.

    The lockup is amazing with no movement in any direction and the blackwashed blade is rock solid with amazing edge retention. If you’re a hunter, camper, fisherman, home user, or just a knife enthusiast, this is the blade for you.

    • Dennis Owens

      That’s right, Danny. The Zero Tolerance looks big in most pictures (even in some catalogs), but this is one of the most compact and solid knives you can get nowadays. Its versatility is unquestionable, and this is a folding knife I won’t hesitate on recommending.

  • Alyx Terrance

    I had Benchmade BKC Bedlam Axis folding knife, It was an amazing folding knife! God! I loved it. It is really flexible with quite alot of finger protection and has a very soft but good grip. i even used it in submerged conditions and not a single speck of rust. After my husband took it, I read Dennis’s this article and bought Guardian Tactical HELIX DELTRIX and I have same reviews that I have for Benchmade BKC Bedlam Axis! I love this blade! Thank you Dennis for such an awesome recommendation!

    • Dennis Owens

      The Bedlam Axis is nice and it can contend with knives that have higher price range. The Helix Deltrix is a good buy, and I’m glad you and your husband love this variant.

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