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From the Knives Illustrated Buyer’s Guide 2020

By Jason Houser.

Choices! Choices! Choices! You make choices every day of your life, and how does the process work? Hopefully, it’s through carefully weighing all the facts and details and then making an educated verdict for what’s right for you.

Knife selection is no different. With myriad options and characteristics available for knives on the market today, it’s not an easy task to choose the one that will be most beneficial for you.

Luckily, we are here to guide you through. We took the most important aspects of knives and weighed the pros and cons of these vital categories. We’ll present you with the facts and stats that will help you make a prudent choice in the sometimes, overwhelming world of knives.

Let the battles begin…

folder knife type

Something to consider when selecting a folding knife is whether it locks in place or not.

FIXED VS. FOLDERS

When it comes to fixed-blade knives and folding knives, both can perform much of the same tasks. Which one is better for you? That depends on what you personally need out of your trusty knife. They each have their own specialized uses.

The fixed-blade knife is often seen attached to the belt of outdoor enthusiasts, and under most circumstances, they are stronger than a folding knife. A folding knife, however, is used mostly in ordinary activities as you go about your everyday activities.

You will find most hunters, campers, trappers and other outdoor-minded individuals carry a fixed-blade knife on their side when in the field. This style of knife is strong enough to handle the tasks of skinning virtually any type of animal from a small squirrel to a large elk. It can sharpen sticks, cut rope, and other camp side tasks. This is not to say a folding knife can’t do the same, but they are not always as durable as a fixed blade and the blade length is not always sufficient to efficiently complete the outdoor work.

Something else to consider when using a folding knife is whether or not it locks. A folding knife that locks is much safer than one that doesn’t. Although it is rare, folding knives, with strong or firm applications, can close during use. This can lead to serious injury. Always know what you are buying and know how to safely use it.

In other situations, a folding knife is more practical. It is easier to go about your day-to-day activities with a small knife folded in your pocket or even on your hip, as opposed to a longer fixed blade on your side. Throughout the day many of us encounter the need of a knife or hear someone say, “Do you have a knife on you?”  Most of the time this will be a folded knife from someone’s pocket or belt.

There was a time that a folding knife required two hands to open and close. Now, many pocketknives can be opened and closed with just one hand by using a thumb stud, a thumbhole or a flipper-type mechanism that requires only the index finger to open the knife. This is a great feature when you do not have both hands free but need your knife opened quickly.

closed folder knife type

Some knives require the thumb to apply pressure to a thumb stud to open the blade.

OVERSIZED VS. POCKET

What about maintaining an oversized fixed blade and a pocketknife? The fixed blade is easier of the two. There are no moving parts on a fixed blade that could break, and cleaning them is a breeze. With the folding knife, there are more parts, which means there is more that could fail during use. Under most circumstances, cleaning is simple with a pocketknife, but there is room for gunk to get inside the knife handle and disrupt the opening or closing mechanics.

The legalities of carrying knives throughout the United States vary depending upon the state you reside and the characteristics of the knife, including length, how it’s concealed and mechanisms for opening it. There are certain locations that prohibit the carry of any knife (check your local laws), while other places have a more relaxed set of laws that allow varied open and concealed carry options. This information can have a direct impact on which style of knife you choose, especially when it pertains to blade length.

SINGLE EDGE VS. DOUBLE EDGE

double-edged blade in tree

Double-edged knives are effective close-range weapons.

Do you need a single-edged knife, or would a double-edged knife be better? It really depends on what you personally want to get out of the prospective knife.

A double-edged knife does not have a lot of practical purposes as a tool. It is considered more of a weapon or for self-defense than something you would use on a regular basis. In most states, it is legal to own a double-edged knife but not always allowed to be carried on your person because of its weapon-like characteristics.

Another disadvantage of the double-edged knife is there is nowhere to rest your thumb to apply pressure like you would on a single-edged knife. There are a few double-edged knives that have such a place for your thumb, but it would be too easy for your thumb to slip over the blade.

Single-edged knives are better suited for everyday activities, whether at home, work, hunting, fishing, camping or anywhere else a knife is needed. They come in a variety of sizes and styles to fit any need. They are much safer to use, and the laws regarding them are much more relaxed.

multi-tool blades and pliers

Multi-tools offer versatility in a compact form.

SINGLE BLADE OR MULTI-TOOL

Is a single-bladed knife enough or should you consider a multi-tool? That depends on the lifestyle you lead. If you are mainly a homebody, a single-bladed knife will suit most of your needs. If you are an adventurous person who never knows where life will lead you, a multi-tool might be better suited for you.

A multi-tool is a compact, portable and sturdy device that has several tools and is an instrumental part of any survival kit. There are several companies that now offer multi-tools, but probably the most popular is the Swiss Army Knife. A multi-tool keeps one from having to carry several tools, which may be overwhelming. You can also apply it to many different situations and you are not as limited as when owning just a knife.

If you will need only two or three of the components, then it makes no sense for you to carry a heavy device on a regular basis. When selecting a multi-tool, do your homework and purchase only what you need. Consider its size, design, durability, tools, and ease of use.

It is also very important for you to consider safety options when going for a multi-tool. Some of them come with liner-lock features that prevent any component from closing or folding accidentally during use.

THE CHOICE IS STILL UP TO YOU

The selection and style of a knife should be a choice based on a person’s individual needs and wants. It’s a smart idea to examine all possibilities before you commit to your purchase, especially with dozens and even hundreds of selections available today. Whether you want a fixed blade, folding knife, multi-tool, or a combination of the three, there is a knife out there for you. I have used dozens of different knives over the years and still haven’t been able to narrow it down to just one preferred style. Through trial and error, you’ll find a knife or knives that will be trusted and reliable friends for years to come.


Jason Houser is a fulltime freelance outdoor writer and TV host. Jason has published more than 1,200 articles on just about every subject related to the outdoors. His years spent in the outdoors has allowed him to learn a thing or two about knives and many topics surrounding them.