Getting your first knife is one of those cool life events that makes you feel grown up. But knives are more than self-affirming pieces of personal property. You’ll use one in the backcountry for everything from slicing cheese to cleaning fish (and so much more).

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 seven knives that are best of class.



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.

Swiss Army Hiker

There’s a reason for the enduring popularity of lightweight folding Swiss Army knives: They do a lot. The Swiss Army Hiker ($30, gives you 13 tools, including two steel blades, three screwdrivers, bottle and can openers, tweezers and even a small wood saw. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better value in a small folding knife. 2.7 oz.

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.

Outdoor Edge Razor-Lite EDC

For a folding knife, the heat-treated interchangeable 3.5-inch blade on the Outdoor Edge Razor-Lite EDC ($35, is as sharp as a straight razor. The molded Grivory handle’s rubberized inserts and forefinger groove provide a secure, natural grip, and the blade opens with one hand, locks with a reassuringly loud click and closes securely. When the blade becomes dull, replace it with one of the five additional blades that come with the knife. 3 oz.

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.

Ruger Cordite Compact

Made with high-quality steel, the Ruger Cordite Compact ($60, has a 2.5-inch fixed blade for cutting and chopping. The paracord-wrapped handle is full tang, meaning the part of the blade that extends into the handle (the “tang”) runs the length of the handle, making it stronger and more durable. 4 oz. (with sheath, not shown)

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.

Leatherman Leap

Some multitools are designed for experts, but the Leatherman Leap ($50, aims squarely at newbies. Safety locks prevent accidental finger injuries. Its 13 tools include scissors, two kinds of pliers and three screwdrivers, wire cutters, a saw, and a sharp knife installed by Mom or Dad when the user is ready for extra responsibility. 5 oz.


Before you buy a new knife, you should be familiar with state and local laws related to knives, as well as any restrictions imposed by your Scouting unit or council. When it comes to types of knives, the Guide to Safe Scouting recommends “choosing the right equipment for the job at hand.”

Outdoor Edge Le Duck

As a lightweight multipurpose utility knife, the Outdoor Edge Le Duck ($35, sports a razor-sharp heat-treated 2.5-inch fixed blade and a handle shaped like a duck head with a comfortable feel. The hard sheath’s removable clip rotates 360 degrees and has a locking feature to prevent accidental deployment — perfect for clipping to a backpack strap. 3 oz. (with sheath)


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.

BSA Case Peanut

The BSA Case Peanut ($53, weighs barely more than an ounce and isn’t quite 3 inches long, but this folding knife’s quality outshines its size. With two surgical-steel blades and a handle curved in the shape of a peanut — a great fit for smaller hands — this is a solidly built, durable and safe first cutting tool for learning to handle knives responsibly.


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.

Buck Metro

When all you need in a knife is, well, a knife, get the tiny folding Buck Metro ($25, Safely and unnoticeably carried in any pocket, it locks open and has a sharp blade slightly longer than an inch that can handle basic duties from slicing pepperoni to cutting cord. 1.5 oz.


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.


Here are two multitools that totally break all the rules, but still, they’re really awesome.

Leatherman Tread

With 29 tools and an optional watch, the Leatherman Tread ($165 – $220, combines fashion and function. Weight: 5.9 ounces.

Wenger Giant Knife

With 87 implements and 141 functions, the Wenger Giant Knife ($2,150, is too unwieldy to be very useful. But it would totally impress your friends! Weight: 2 pounds.

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