Folding knives are one tool most folks who work and play outside reach for every day. A good folder is always in your pocket, doesn’t take up much space, and is an asset in countless situations.
There are thousands of folding blades on the market, but if you want one of the best available (and for a moderate price), each one here will serve for years to come. We have reviewed these knives over months or years and compared them widely to the competition. From a world of knives, these are five of our top picks.
5 Best Folding Knives
There is a current trend toward ever more expensive knives. In many cases that is reflected by the use of a high-performance steel. But more often than not, the price increase is caused by things that don’t really matter — fancy pivot screws, silly multifaceted grinds, and mokuti components. If you wade through all of this baloney, you find some amazing knives at reasonable prices. Here are the best.
#1 – Spyderco Dragonfly II ZDP-189 (the whole package)
In terms of size, weight, steel, and price, it is hard to beat this knife. It’s not just the total package either, with each individual feature being a winner. The steel is top-shelf, holding a razor edge through weeks and months of use. The overall design is a triumph — it’s small enough to ball up in your fist, but, when open, it’s big enough to easily accommodate all four fingers. It is also a featherweight, clocking in at 1.2 ounces.
#2 – Benchmade 940-1 (lightweight powerhouse)
Only a smidge heavier than the above Spyderco, but with about an extra inch in blade length, the 940-1 is an amazing folder, perhaps the best knife Benchmade has ever produced.
The reverse tanto blade shape is excellent, delivering a lot of blade thickness to the end of the knife without the blocky and hard-to-sharpen shape of a traditional Americanized tanto. The Axis lock is solid and easy to use.
There is only one ding — the pocket clip is yawn-worthy. That said, Benchmade offers a free clip swap with its great deep-carry, over-the-top clip. Maybe one day the brand will realize this is a better design and ship it with the 940-1 standard. Read the full GearJunkie review.
#3 – Lionsteel G10 TRE (polished & refined)
I am simply blown away by how polished and refined this knife is. It’s amazing in the hand and in the pocket, and the flipping action, while not best in the world, is quite good. The rounded spine and heavily-machined lockside handle scale are great, and the M390 blade steel is something delicious.
Skip the stupid modular version (unless you’re in Europe, which, in case, the flexibility is quite nice) — this is cheaper, it flips leagues better, and it is configured the way you’d configure the modular version anyway.
#4 – Spyderco Paramilitary 2 (big performance, easy carry)
Take your pick. You can find just about any steel with any handle scale color on the secondary market. Some are quite cheap. Even the stock version, in S30V, is ridiculously awesome. This is a competent hard-use folder that carries like a sub-3 inch EDC knife. Big blade, big performance, easy to carry package — all that adds up to a winner.
In particular, the S35VN version and the Elmax version represent something of a bargain, as collectors focus on the more exotic versions of the Paramilitary 2. Read the full GearJunkie review.
#5 – Kershaw Skyline (instant classic, great value)
The Skyline is widely available, very affordable, flips wonderfully, runs a very underrated steel, and it fits well in the hand. Its simplicity is the key to its amazing performance. Tommie Lucas, an in-house designer for KAI USA (who now designs kitchen knives for the sister brand Shun) really hit a home run with the Skyline, in part because of his ability to eschew knife design tropes. For example, the Skyline has only one liner, on the lock side. The result is a slightly lighter but equally functional folder. An instant classic.
Sure, there are thousands of folding knives, from $5 gas station junk to high-tech art pieces that cost $1000+. But pick up any of the five above and you’ll be set with a good pocket knife at a reasonable price, ready to go.