Unless your parents were seriously cool, they probably never let you own a knife as a kid. But as a teenager or young adult, owning your first steel knife is a rite of passage to help prepare you for the real world. These are basic yet multifaceted tools that can serve you equally well especially when it comes to kitchen knives, in the great outdoors, and in everyday life. Although there is a variety of knives on the market, we’ve narrowed our search to the most essential knife types that every man should own in 2022.
In the old days, it was known as a jackknife. In the old, old days, it was called a pocketknife. Now, it’s best known as the “everyday carry” (EDC) knife. Despite the name changes, the specifics haven’t changed at all: One folding blade, about 3.5 inches long, ideally with a locking mechanism so needn’t apply pressure to the tang as you use it. Some also have spring-loaded opening “flipper” mechanisms, making them extra efficient to use, not to mention adding a little “wow” factor when you whip it out for a task. The virtues of the best EDC knives are simplicity, sturdiness, and size. But with just one blade, you can’t expect your EDC to do it all. So it’s important to choose an EDC knife with a blade suited to your most routine tasks.
Our Recommendation: Gerber Fastball
This type of knife includes legendary models such as the Barlow knife, the canoe knife, and the congress knife. Most multi-blade knives feature two blades with different shapes and lengths, each suited to different tasks, though it’s possible to find models with three or even four blades. With a variety of tips and serration patterns, this knife style offers the advantage of always having the right blade for the job at hand. These perks often make multi-blade knives the best camping knives.
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A must-have in every Boy Scout’s backpack, the Swiss army knife is at the top of the “camper” or multitool category of knives. The best multitools include a dozen or more additional tools like saws, toothpicks, tweezers, can openers, nail files, scissors, corkscrews, magnifying glasses, and much more. Some even include built-in USB drives. Personally, I’ve used them for everything from rearview mirror grooming right before a date to cutting kindling for building a campfire to breaking out of a locked bathroom in a New Jersey train station (seriously). The only downside to multitools is how bulky they can be. Sitting down with one of these bad boys in your back pocket is a mistake you won’t want to make twice.
Our Recommendation: Leatherman Wingman Multi-Tool
They may be small, unassuming, with a diminutive blade that isn’t meant to be kept overly sharp, but don’t underestimate the lowly penknife. Its streamlined profile makes it easy to carry in situations where an EDC knife might be frowned upon. That makes it handy for more delicate daily tasks like opening letters, removing a splinter, or tightening the screw on your glasses. It’s important to know that small knives like this don’t usually include a locking mechanism, so even though it’s little, you’ll want to exercise care in learning to use it.
Our Recommendation: CRKT CEO EDC Folding Pocket Knife
The big boys of the knife world feature blades of 5 inches or more; a fixed, ergonomically designed handle; and a carrying sheath to be worn on your leg or hip. Meant for big jobs like skinning a fresh kill, chopping your way through the underbrush, defending yourself against predators, and other Rambo-inspired survival maneuvers, these hunting knives are the opposite of discreet. You’ll want to save this model for extended backcountry sojourns. Also, remember that to help you prepare for the unexpected, your best fixed-blade knives should be sharpened and kept clean before and during your journey.
Our Recommendation: KA-BAR Full Size US Marine Corps Fighting Knife
A small yet functional pocketknife is a must-have for every man. Despite its smaller blade and handle, a pocketknife can come in handy in various situations. This essential knife has extremely hard carbon steel, which guarantees more precise cutting. It’s also low-maintenance because you can simply wash it by hand after every use. Plus, it’s portable enough to bring anywhere your feet take you.
Our Recommendation: Opinel No. 6 Stainless Steel Pocket Knife
- Clip point blade: Perhaps the most common blade to find on an EDC knife, the clip point has a sharp, controllable tip that’s good for piercing and plenty of “belly,” or cutting edge. A variation is the drop point blade, which has a straight spine with a slight downward slope to meet the edge, resulting in a broader, stronger tip. Although ideal for performing precision tasks, clip point blades tend to be more brittle than other types of knife blades.
- Sheepsfoot blade: Designed for its namesake — helping shepherds trim the hooves of sheep — this blade features a hard downward curve from the back of the knife to the tip, providing a large cutting surface. The blade’s form prevents accidental piercing, especially during rescue or emergency situations.
- Spey blade: On this type of blade, a single sharp straight edge curves upwards to meet a short, dull point. Spey blades can be either long or short, depending on the particular style of the EDC knife you select. Spey blades are strong clip points and are not prone to breakage or chipping. You can use a spey blade knife to skin animals or fruits.
- Tanto blade: Popularized by Japanese brands, this type of blade is common on tactical-style knives. The blade is on the thick side and features an exaggerated angle on the tip, useful for stabbing and piercing hard objects. They’re easy to sharpen, too. However, a tanto knife may not be a great tool for slicing ingredients.
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