The Most Durable Pocket Knives

6 of the most rugged everyday carry pocket knives on the market, reviewed in 2021

At a glance…

In our opinion, the Californian blade manufacturer “Benchmade” has the most durable EDC pocket knife: Mini Griptilian. The quality steel blade, reliable locking mechanism, lifetime warranty, free sharpening service, and the knife degree of customization are just some of the points that make it our favorite choice.

Most Durable Overall
Benchmade - Mini Griptilian 557 -S30V Knife,...
Durable & Versatile
CRKT M16-13ZLEK EDC Folding Pocket Knife: Law...
Best Materials
Zero Tolerance 0470 Dmitry Sinkevich Flipper Knife
Knife
Benchmade - Mini Griptilian 557 -S30V
CRKT M16 13ZLEK
Zero Tolerance 0470
Rugged Ratings
100%
90%
90%
Most Durable Overall
Benchmade - Mini Griptilian 557 -S30V Knife,...
Knife
Benchmade - Mini Griptilian 557 -S30V
Rugged Ratings
100%
Durable & Versatile
CRKT M16-13ZLEK EDC Folding Pocket Knife: Law...
Knife
CRKT M16 13ZLEK
Rugged Ratings
90%
Best Materials
Zero Tolerance 0470 Dmitry Sinkevich Flipper Knife
Knife
Zero Tolerance 0470
Rugged Ratings
90%

Last update on 2021-04-13 at 02:49 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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Cutting-Edge

If you haven’t already owned a pocket knife, you may be surprised to hear of their many varied applications.

Whilst mostly thought of as solely a weapon to the uninitiated, having a small and secure blade on your person or within your reach has a diverse set of use-scenarios that go far beyond self-protection.

From simple stuff like cleanly opening securely sealed packages and basic home-maintenance to outdoor uses such as cutting through foliage or scraping wood for tinder.

Finally, for life-threatening survival scenarios such as cutting through the fabric to quickly get to wounds, or through the rope to relieve yourself from entanglement.

Whether for one or all of the examples listed above or for something else entirely…

A nearly indestructible pocket knife is an invaluable multi-purpose tool that not only offers convenience but also carries the potential to save your own or someone else’s life.

Given their importance, selecting one that is guaranteed to be extremely tough and enduring is absolutely crucial.

The rugged pocket knife market is very broad, with some options purchasable for less than $10, and some for upwards of $500.

However, there are a set of design principles that indicate true durability and longevity regardless of the price.

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In this article, we will be taking you through what it takes for a pocket knife to be truly durable, and reviewing the top finds from our wide-ranging research.

This list will focus on rugged EDC pocket knives (everyday carry), and so will pay attention only to blades that are around 4 inches or shorter.

Most Durable Pocket Knives | Comparison Table

wdt_IDKnife#BIFL RatingWeight / DimensionsMaterialsDeployment Type / Locking MechanismAdditional FeaturesWarrantySharpening Service
1Cold Steel Micro Recon 165- 1.1 oz - 4.38” total length - 2” blade length- AUS-8 blade steel - Glass-based epoxy resin laminate handle- Manual deployment - Tri-Ad Lock- back lock- Black blade finish - Lanyard holeLifetime warranty for workmanship-related defectsFree lifetime sharpening with $5 shipping fee
2Spyderco Ladybug 380- 0.6 oz - 4.37” total length - 2.43” blade length- VG-10 blade steel - Fiberglass-reinforced nylon resin- Manual deployment - Lock-back lock- 3 blade variations - Lanyard holeLifetime warranty for workmanship-related defectsFree lifetime sharpening with $5 shipping fee
3CRKT M16 13ZLEK90- 3.7 oz - 8.25” total length - 3.38” blade length- AUS-8 blade steel - Glass-reinforced nylon handle- Carson Flipper manual deployment - Liner lock- Seatbelt cutter - Glass breaker - Serrated edge belly - Two-position pocket clipLifetime warranty for workmanship-related defectsNone
4Benchmade Mini Griptilian100- 2.81 oz - 6.78” total length - 2.91” blade length- CPM-S30V blade steel - Glass-filled nylon handle- Manual deployment - Axis lock- Totally customizable - 6 blade variations - Reversible, tip-up pocket clip -Ambidextrous operationLifetime warranty for workmanship-related defects‘Lifesharp’ cleaning, oiling, adjustment, and sharpening service – just pay shipping
5Kershaw Launch 870- 2.3 oz - 8.25” total length - 3.5” blade length- CPM 154 blade steel - Anodized Aluminum handle- Automatic deployment - Push-button lock- Reversible right/left, tip-up pocket clipLifetime warranty for workmanship-related defectsFree lifetime sharpening
6Zero Tolerance 047090- 3.2 ox - 7.8” total length - 3.24” blade length- CPM-20CV blade steel - Titanium handle- Flipper manual deployment - Titanium Frame lock- Smooth and fast ball-bearing manual opening - Reversible right/left, tip-up pocket clipLifetime warranty for workmanship-related defectsFree lifetime sharpening
Knife#BIFL RatingWeight / DimensionsDeployment Type / Locking MechanismWarranty
Max = 100

Buy-it-for-life Pocket Knife

As usual here on RuggedRatings, all our product entries are ultimately measured against our BIFL system. In the realm of pocket knives, that means knives that are…

#BIFL
  • Rugged – Features in place that enhance the knife’s overall durability, such as tough materials, corrosion resistance, and more
  • Repairable – Knives with extended or ideally lifetime warranties
  • Upgradable – Knives with additional pocket clips/carry pouches, blade sharpeners, or other accessories
  • Multipurpose – Knives with additional features such as glass-breakers, partially serrated edges, or anything else

Component Breakdown

Pocket knives, sometimes referred to as folding knives, jack-knives, or pen-knives, are small, retractable blades designed for portability.

There are three key components to rugged pocket knife design that to some degree determine the knife’s quality and durability, and will therefore be our primary focus when assessing our picks.

Firstly (and most importantly), there is the Blade. The material from which the blade is made is the deciding factor of its durability. In most cases, pocket knife blades are made from steel alloys with varying designs in shape, edges, points, and thicknesses. We will prioritize blades with good hardness, wear-resistance, corrosion-resistance, and edge-retention.

Pocket Knife Type Infographic
Most Durable Pocket Knife | Blade Types | Infographic | Rugged Ratings

Pocket Knife Material Infographic
Most Durable Pocket Knife | Material | Infographic | Rugged Ratings

Then there is the Handle, and in pocket knives, this is also the place where the blade is securely locked when in the retracted position. It needs to be strong and impact-resistant, but also lightweight for maximum portability. Accordingly, we will be focussing mostly on metals and composite materials for this purpose.

Pocket Knife Handle Infographic
Most Durable Pocket Knife | Handle | Infographic | Rugged Ratings

Finally, we have the Locking Mechanism. This is the component that secures the blade in the retracted position when not in use. There are different categories of lock mechanisms, within which knife manufacturers have different proprietary locking systems. There is the:

  • Liner locks
  • Button locks
  • Frame locks
  • Lever locks
  • Back locks
  • Slip joint locks
  • Axis locks
  • Compression locks.
Pocket Knife Locks Infographic
Most Durable Pocket Knife | Locking Mechanism | Infographic | Rugged Ratings

We will mostly be focussing on Lockback and Button locks for their hold strength and resistance to wear.

With that said, let’s begin with our search for the most durable pocket knives on the market today.

We’ll be grouping knives into three price-based categories:

  • $50 and under
  • $50 – $150
  • $150 +

– DISCLAIMER –

The laws regarding the personal possession and carry of knives and blades vary between states and countries. Before purchasing a pocket knife or any other type of blade, ensure that you are acting in accordance with your local jurisdiction to avoid confiscation of your knife, fines, or arrest.

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You don’t have to pay a premium price to get a quality knife that is fit for a wide range of everyday tasks and will serve you long throughout the years.


Cold Steel Micro Recon 1

#BIFL Rating 65%
Cold Steel Micro Recon 1
Cold Steel Micro Recon 1 | Image Credit: Amazon com

Knife aficionados will be familiar with Cold Steel, a company that produces basically every tactical product with a sharp edge imaginable. They have also been determined innovators in the field, creating a number of proprietary blade-related designs that, through their ingenuity, have become highly sought-after in the industry.

The Micro Recon 1 is a great example of this. It’s truly discreet at 1.12 ounces (32 grams), 4.38” (11.13 cm) total length with a 2” (5.08 cm) blade, and is rendered in an easy-on-the-eye slate black color coating.

Aside from its compact size, it also has a keyring hold for maximizing portability.


Blade

The blade is available in two-point variations – Tanto (high point with a flat edge good for piercing) and Spear (also pointed, but with a curved ‘belly’ suitable for slicing).

The blade itself is composed of Japanese AUS 8A steel [1], known for its reasonable strength and corrosion-resistance, but not for its ability to hold an edge as well as other materials.



Handle

The handle is a 2.38” (6cm) Griv-Ex, G-10.

The material is a glass-based epoxy resin laminate, which is extremely durable and essentially impervious to water.

As for ‘Griv-Ex’, this is Cold Steel’s way of denoting the outer grip layer of the handle, which is composed of the hardened, molded skin of the South African ‘Grivory’ reptile.


Locking Mechanism

The Micro Recon 1 uses Cold Steel’s gold-standard Tri-Ad ® system, which exists within the Lockback category of locking mechanisms.

The system utilizes a combination of features designed to resist the wear resulting from positive and negative pressures, securely holding up to 800 pounds of hanging weight, and even adjusting itself over time to adapt to wear by deepening its position in the lock channel.


PRICE: around $30+ from various sellers

PERFECT FOR: First time knife owners looking for a durable general-use blade.

Cold Steel 27TDS Micro Recon 1 Spear Point, Black
490 Reviews
Cold Steel 27TDS Micro Recon 1 Spear Point, Black
  • Blade Thickness: 2.5 mm
  • Handle: Griv-Ex Style G-10
  • Overall Length: 4.38 Inch
  • Steel: Japanese AUS 8A Stainless Steel with black Tuff-Ex Coating
  • Pocket Clip: Stainless Pocket/Belt Clip

Last update on 2021-03-10 at 02:16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Spyderco Ladybug 3

#BIFL Rating 80%
Spyderco Ladybug 3
Spyderco Ladybug 3 | Image Credit: Amazon com

Pioneering Colorado-born blade company Spyderco has had similarly profound effects on the industry, introducing one-handed opening, pocket clip handles, and serrated edges to the pocket knife world.

That legacy is continued in the Ladybug line of pocket-friendly blades.

Weighing in at an astonishingly light 0.6 ounces (17 grams), with a total length of 4.37” (11cm) and 1.9” (4.8cm) for the blade, you’d be hard pressed to find a more portable, unassuming knife.

It also comes in a wide variety of colors and has a keyring attachment.


Blade

Like many of Spyderco’s knives, the Ladybug utilizes VG-10 steel [2], which has more chromium for better corrosion resistance, fantastic edge-retention capabilities, and great overall toughness.

It’s available in three shape variations:

  • PlainEdge (as it sounds)
  • Hawkbill (curved and serrated on the concave side for ‘pulling’ cuts)
  • SpyderEdge (two-step serration for 24% increase in surface area).

Handle

The handle is composed of tough fiberglass-reinforced nylon resin (FRN) as with many other EDC pocket knives, which contributes to the insane lightness of the blade.


Locking Mechanism

The Ladybug uses a typical Lockback style mechanism, which is sturdy and reliably safe, but prone to slight wear over longer periods. 

Overall, this knife is perfect for those looking for a rugged, BIFL EDC pocket knife for low-duty tasks such as opening mail, boxes etc. Its blade is durable and will remain sharp for a greater period than the Micro Recon 1, but beware of the Ladybug’s truly miniature size, it may not be suitable for the more ‘heavy-duty’ tasks.


PRICE: around $45+ from various sellers

PERFECT FOR: Those prioritising small form-factor for use in everyday tasks.

Spyderco Ladybug 3 Signature Folding Knife with...
130 Reviews
Spyderco Ladybug 3 Signature Folding Knife with...
  • POCKET-FRIENDLY - One of Spyderco's smallest lightweight locking knives is the Ladybug. Small enough to...
  • CHOOSE THE BEST FOR YOU - Available with a choice of blade steels, handle colors, and edge...
  • LIGHT AND DURABLE - This Ladybug 3 handle is fabricated with Fiberglass Reinforced Nylon. FRN is a...
  • LOW FRICTION - This knife features a blade ground with flat bevels that extend from the spine all the way...
  • DEPENDABLE - If you are looking for control and precision, look no more. This knife features our...

Last update on 2021-04-13 at 06:22 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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$50 – $150

The knives in this category are a noticeable step up in quality from the lower price range, mostly by way of superior blade materials and locking mechanisms, whilst still being reasonably affordable for high-intensity gear.

CRKT M16 13ZLEK

#BIFL Rating 90%
CRKT M16 13ZLEK
CRKT M16 13ZLEK | Image Credit: Amazon com

Legendary knife maker Kit Carson’s collaborations with CRKT produced two highly renowned series of knives – the M16 and the M21, each one worth an entry.

For today though, the M16 deserves the spotlight, given the newest features added to the 13ZLEK model.

At 8.25” (21cm) total length with a 3.38” (8.6cm) blade, it’s one of the longest on the list, but still small enough to be considered handily portable.

In true homage to its designer, the 13ZLEK features a ‘Carson Flipper’, a smooth one-handed deployment design allowing for a quick-draw, which also acts as a blade guard when deployed.

The attached seatbelt cutter and tungsten carbide window breaker make this knife uniquely suited to various emergency situations.


Blade

The blade is made from AUS 8 stainless steel, similar to the Micro Recon 1, which is formidable enough for everyday tasks and very easy to sharpen, but has average corrosion resistance and slightly worse edge retention.

This model features a Spearpoint design with ‘triple-point’ serration on the knife belly – good for cutting through fibrous material and vegetation.


Handle

The handle is composed of glass-reinforced nylon and is designed with multiple holes throughout to increase grip and reduce the overall weight to 3.7 oz (105 grams). It features a two-position pocket clip.


Locking Mechanism

The 13ZLEK uses a stainless-steel liner lock which, combined with CRKT’s AutoLAWKS feature, can turn the knife into a virtual ‘fixed’ blade.


PRICE: around $90

PERFECT FOR: Tactical usage and versatile safety features

CRKT M16-13ZLEK EDC Folding Pocket Knife: Law...
108 Reviews
CRKT M16-13ZLEK EDC Folding Pocket Knife: Law...
  • Safe And Secure: Automated liner safety provides extra layer of lock security
  • Cutting Power: Triple Point serrations cut fibrous materials with ease
  • Emergency Rescue: Seat belt cutter and glass breaker included
  • Designed by Kit Carson in Vine Grove, Kentucky
  • Limited Lifetime Warranty covers any defects in materials or workmanship, see company site for details

Last update on 2021-03-10 at 02:16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Benchmade Mini Griptilian

#BIFL Rating 100%
Benchmade Mini Griptilian
Benchmade Mini Griptilian | Image Credit: Amazon com

Precision parts, hand-made assembly. This is the promise of Californian blade maker Benchmade, and is also where the inspiration for the name originates.

The Mini Griptilian knife has been a fan-favourite for years, probably in-part due to its vast customisability.

Every part, from the blade itself to the screws in the handle are subject to material or colour customization (at additional cost).

In its most compact form though, the 2.81 oz (approx 80 grams), 6.78” (17.2cm) and 2.91” (7.4cm) blade Mini Griptilian represents an ultra-tough mid-range EDC option.


Blade

The blade is composed of CPM-S30V stainless steel, which is arguably the greatest all-rounder knife material, with an optimum balance of edge retention and corrosion-resistance thanks to the addition of vanadium carbides.

As standard, the blade is a plain drop-point, but you have the additional options of Tanto and Sheepsfoot (flat design to avoid accidental point-penetration), all three of which can be equipped with serrated edges on half of the blade’s surface.


Handle

The handle is composed of glass-filled nylon, a tough composite material that is rigid and has enhanced surface hardness.

G10 and Carbon Fibre handles are purchasable upgrade options.


Locking Mechanism

The Mini Griptilian uses Benchmade’s own ‘Axis Lock’ mechanism, which is operated via a spring-loaded bar that can be moved backward and forwards, locking and unlocking the blade in both the open and retracted positions.

It is known for its ambidextrous operation, reliable locking strength, and high ‘fidget-factor’.

With its premium materials, boundless customization options, and additional support features such as the lifetime warranty and free sharpening service, the Mini Griptilian easily earns the maximum score from us: 100% BIFL Rating.


PRICE: around $130+ from various sellers

PERFECT FOR: Those looking for an ultra-tough and well-rounded knife that is easily operational with either hand.

Benchmade - Mini Griptilian 557 -S30V Knife,...
41 Reviews
Benchmade - Mini Griptilian 557 -S30V Knife,...
  • HIGH-QUALITY: The CPM-S30V stainless steel blade is extremely well-balanced, offering superb edge...
  • WELL-DESIGNED: Benchmen's AXIS lock is exceptionally strong and fully ambidextrous. The Mini Reptilian...
  • COMFORTABLE: The 557's smaller, lighter design and handle grips make it comfortable to hold, use and take...
  • VERSATILE: The Mini Reptilian 557's tango blade style is mostly tactical in nature but is versatile...
  • GUARANTEED FOR LIFE: Benchmade's limited Lifetime Warranty and LifeSharp Service keep your knife in the...

Last update on 2021-04-13 at 02:49 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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$150 +

To our final price point, and in this category, there should be no exceptions and no compromise. Premium blade steels, lightweight portability, and smooth and effective operation.

Kershaw Launch 8

#BIFL Rating 70%
Kershaw Launch 8
Kershaw Launch 8 | Image Credit: Amazon com

Kershaw, sister company to equally revered knife makers Zero Tolerance, have been producing high-end blades for close to 50 years, all made in the USA. They helped pioneer automatic deployment functionality in pocket knives, and the Launch series continues this convention.

Straying from the typical design style featured in this list, the Launch 8 is ‘Italian Stiletto’ inspired, with a long and slender form-factor. Even at 2.4 oz (114 grams), the knife is pretty large with a total length of 8.25” (7.4 cm) matching the CRKT 13ZLEK, with a blade length of 3.5” (8.9 cm).

It is automatically deployable via a push-button.


Blade

The Launch 8 uses CPM 154 for the blade, high-end steel produced using a unique ‘particle metallurgy’ process, making it tougher and with better edge retention than its 154CM counterpart. It’s also corrosion and wear-resistant, and this model has a Spearpoint style with a plain edge.


Handle

The handle is made from anodized aluminum, which is reasonably tough but agreeably light and has carbon fiber inserts for a smooth feel on the grip.


Locking Mechanism

As an automatic knife, the lock utilizes a push-button design, where the blade is held by the tension created from a coiled spring, and released when the button is pushed.

It has very strong locking strength and forces the hand out of the path of the blade when pushing the button.

The button is also flush with the handle to prevent accidental pushing and is somewhat ambidextrous if you can operate it with the index finger of your left hand.

This knife is suitable for a variety of everyday tasks and even some heavy-duty cutting and slicing with its high-end blade material, but is also particularly well-suited to self-defense applications, with its slim-profile and rapid automatic deployment.


PRICE: around $160

PERFECT FOR: Those looking for a stylish, automatic EDC

Zero Tolerance 0470

#BIFL Rating 90%
Zero Tolerance 0470
Zero Tolerance 0470 | Image Credit: Amazon com

Finishing off the list on a strong note, we have the Zero Tolerance 0470.

Representing the height of premium knife design, Zero Tolerance use only the finest, strongest materials for each and every part of their knives, and every product is superbly finished with exacting detail in both form and function.

The 0470, whilst expensive, exemplifies everything you could want in a knife and more.

Coming in at a reasonable 3.2 oz (90 grams) , with a 7.8” (19.8 cm) total length and 3.4” (8.6 cm) blade, the 0470 is comfortably weighty with its solid construction.

It opens via a flipper mechanism with manual KVT ball bearings that match the speed and smoothness of an automatic.

It also has a reversible, right/left tip-up pocket clip.


Blade

The blade material is CPM-20CV, which is described as ‘ultra-premium’ for a few reasons. Formed through a powder metallurgy process, you get the combined benefit of extreme wear-resistance and edge-retention. Added Chromium also allows for a very high standard of corrosion-resistance.

It’s probably the finest blade steel on the list, and this model has it in a drop point, plain edge style.


Handle

The 0470 has a finely detailed Titanium handle, which is extremely strong and impact-resistant. It’s fitted with an exceptionally stylish marbled carbon fiber insert that is smooth to touch.


Locking Mechanism

A Frame lock style, which has slightly stronger hold than the Liner style, is used in this model.

It is also composed of Titanium which, in lock designs is subject to wear due to the repeated motion, but is countered in this design with a hardened steel lock bar insert.

Ignoring its core features and materials, the look and feel of this knife alone is enough to satisfy even non-knife users. When you consider its superior CPM-20CV blade material, suitable for almost any task you put in front of it, its tough titanium handle and smooth, ball-bearing assisted flipper opening, it’s hard to ignore this EDC knife.


PRICE: around $260

PERFECT FOR: If you’re looking for the perfect cross-point of function, durability, and style with the budget to match, look no further

Zero Tolerance 0470 Dmitry Sinkevich Flipper Knife
15 Reviews
Zero Tolerance 0470 Dmitry Sinkevich Flipper Knife
  • CPM 20CV Stainless Steel Blade
  • Titanium with Marbled Carbon Fiber inlay
  • KVT Ball Bearing System
  • Made in the USA

Last update on 2021-03-10 at 02:16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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Conclusion

Every one of our picks has been chosen especially for their ability to stay operational for years, or perhaps forever.

In that way, you can’t go wrong with any of the knives in this list, but a few certainly stand out for their dedication to longevity.

Earning the much-revered 100% score BIFL rating, Benchmade’s Mini Griptilian ticks every conceivable box for a price that doesn’t make your eyes water, making it our number one pick for the most durable EDC knife. Its blade steel has everything you could want in an EDC and more, and you can make the knife entirely your own with a wide set of blade variations, and near-complete customization (at additional cost) of everything else. Plus, we love the lifetime warranty and free sharpening service, further extending the lifespan of your purchase with good care.

If it’s a little short for your taste, you could consider shifting to the cheaper CRKT 13ZLEK. Its blade steel doesn’t match up to the big guys, but it’s a longer, tactical looking flipper blade that is truly versatile with its emergency-oriented glass-breaker and seatbelt cutter features. 

What do you think? Do you have a different opinion on the Most Durable Pocket Knife? Be sure to share this article with anyone and everyone in the market for #BIFL durable knives. We regularly post guides similar to this one all about products that aim to last a lifetime, so stay posted if you agree with the Buy It For Life golden rule as much as we do.


lapg edc items from lapd

What to check next: Essential EDC items from the LAPD. The products vetted by law enforcement officers and military personnel are available to purchase online through verified suppliers like the LAPG, a law enforcement supplies, and police officer equipment store. And since they are used by one of the largest and most active police departments in the US and the World, you can be sure that not only are they going to be fit for purpose, but also suitably rugged and long-lasting.

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