If you were stranded on a desert island, facing an impending zombie apocalypse, or had to choose the only knife you’re allowed to carry for the rest of your days—which knife would you want in your pocket? We set out to answer that question in Episode #45 of Knife Banter and we turned to you, the real experts. Over 2,000 responses through survey, YouTube, and Instagram can’t be wrong. Here are your top picks, followed up with favorites from Blade HQ’s finest, Ben and Zac.
Manually sorting through 2,000 responses wasn’t quick or easy, but we here at Blade HQ are dedicated to top-shelf data analysis. We selected the 5 top voted brands, then narrowed it down to the #1 knife from each brand. Drumroll…
Top 5 Best Knives
The champion, #1 vote-getter, is the mighty Spyderco Paramilitary 2. You can’t go wrong EDCing any knife on this list, but it’s hard to find a more well-rounded package than the PM2. Fantastic slicer. High quality S30V blade steel. Grippy G-10 handle scales—or upgrade to carbon fiber goodness! Versatile blade shape. Flawless fit-and-finish. Made in USA. Drop shut action. What more can you ask for? When the times get tough and you need your knife to perform, the Spyderco PM2 is a more than worthy choice.
It’s no surprise which Benchmade is most beloved. The Warren Osborne Benchmade 940 is slim and lightweight, but ready to perform in the roughest environments. Featuring an anodized aluminum handle (or again, upgrade to carbon fiber to be the envy of all your friends) the 940 melts away in your pocket like few other blades. A near 1:1 ratio of the cutting edge to handle compliments a strong-tipped, durable reverse tanto blade. The AXIS Lock is beefy, dependable, and keeps your fingers away from the blade as it closes. You’ll love your 940 Osborne on day one, and it’s likely to still impress 1,000 days later, too. Still not convinced? Take a look at our Benchmade 940 review.
Cold Steel has loyal and very, very vocal fans. If you already own a Cold Steel then you know what makes them great. These knives are engineered to withstand more abuse than any human could ever dole out. The Recon 1 is available in a tanto or clip point blade shape with a high quality, black DLC finish. The Tri-Ad lock has been torture tested to withstand over 700 pounds of force. If you’re looking for a bombproof, affordable, hard-use folder the Recon 1 is a superb choice.
The Zero Tolerance brand is synonymous with overbuilt, well-proportioned knives. The 0562 is a collaboration with Rick Hinderer, one of the most acclaimed knife designers of our generation. With their powers combined, you’re guaranteed to have a winner. A buttery smooth action on the 3.5” blade ensures a satisfying deployment every time. The drop point “Slicer” blade has a handsome profile with generous belly. Available in G-10 or carbon fiber scales, this knife is the perfect combination of form and function.
Looking for an OTF (out-the-front) automatic knife? Big brother to the UTX-70 and UTX-85, the Ultratech is the quintessential OTF. The first time you fire a Microtech you’ll immediately understand the hype. Few knife deployments match the satisfying snap of an Ultratech. Utilizing Bohler M390 steel, known for unbeatable edge retention, you will rarely have to touch up your edge. A premium anodized aluminum handle and glass breaker set this knife apart from other knives in its class.
Looking for more recommendations? Ben and Zach each chose two of their favorites—these picks are heavy on real-world versatility and trailblazing reliability. If you are looking to ditch your Snap-On toolbox for a single pocket tool or frequently channel your inner Bear Grylls survivalist tendencies, these knives will be your perfect companion. After their two picks, Ben and Zac melded minds to select a knife they both agree on being truly perfect…
A testament to the durability of a Victorinox, Ben has carried his Mechanic model for north of 15 years. Despite its small size this pocket tool features two blades, pliers, a bottle opener, can opener, screwdrivers, a reamer, toothpick, and tweezers. Discontinued in the mid-2000s, we recommend the Super Tinker or Huntsman for a similar outfit of tools. Consider a Victorinox Alox Cadet if luxurious aluminum pocket scales and a slim form factor appeal to you.
Ever given a fixed blade a chance? The ESSE 4 is a made-in-USA beast constructed for bushcraft, survival, or any adventure you get mixed up in. Comfortable Micarta handle scales stay hot-spot free through a long day of use (or abuse). Beefy full tang and thick, 1095 steel stock make this knife a performer under any conditions. If 4.5” of blade isn’t quite enough for the situations you get into, consider the ESEE 5 or ESEE 6.
With bigger dimensions and a heftier price tag than the Victorinox, a Leatherman Surge comes with an even more robust package of tools. Made in USA, the Surge is the multi-tool of choice for the educated handyman, DIY-er, and honey-doer. Built tough and thoughtfully designed, this tool will save you the trip back to your truck for your toolbox and get any job done fast.
The Tom Brown Tracker played a strong supporting role in 2003’s The Hunter, but this knife is more than just a pretty Hollywood face. Embrace the Tommy Lee Jones living deep in your soul with this beast of a knife. With a 6.375” blade and a saw on the back of the spine perfect for notching into trees, function comes first, second, and third. Linen micarta handle scales and a 1095 Traction Coated blade round out this USA-made all star.
Ben and Zac’s Perfect Desert Island Knife
Here we go! The knife you’ve been waiting for. After much debate and deliberation, Ben and Zac agreed on the instant classic that is the Boker Mermaid. Are there more functional or robust knives? Probably…but the Mermaid excels in 3 main categories—beauty, uniqueness, and of course, humor. In a desert island setting these qualities are of the utmost importance. Featuring the first implementation of a true nautical tail fin flipper tab, this knife is a marvel of imagination and design. Beautiful rainbow anodization and a gorgeous, realistically rendered mermaid on the 3.75” blade, take this knife from tool to functional pocket jewelry.
Bonus Picks From Commenters
We asked you what knives we missed on Knife Banter #45. Here are the two most popular carries that didn’t make the cut.
The Manix 2 from Spyderco was the fan favorite of YouTube commenters. Similar to the Paramilitary 2, this pocket folder is a wise choice for EDC or hard use. Spyderco’s Ball Bearing Lock is unbelievably strong with a fantastic action. The drop point blade on the Manix 2 is big bellied and well suited to a wide variety of cutting tasks.
Lightweight, sporty, and ergonomic, the Benchmade Griptilian is a classic for good reason. On offer in a sizable 3.45” blade or ‘Mini‘ 2.92” blade, this knife is perfect for camping, hiking, or no-nonsense EDC. Handle scales come in nylon or G-10. Grab one in drop point, tanto, or sheepsfoot blade shape.
If you’re still thirsty for more, check out our Best Pocket Knife Brands Guide to see which of the above made the cut. Looking for some other Blade HQ favorites? Check out our review of Best Knives of 2017.
Thanks to everyone who submitted a survey! Your feedback made this project possible. Tell us which of your knives made the list in the comments. What knives are on your must-have wish list?