9 Best Swiss Army Knives

Macgyver and Victorinox Swiss Army Knife

My first knife was a Swiss Army Knife (SAK) when I was 11 years old.  I think people thought I wanted to be Macgyver, but I actually wanted to be like Cody from The Rescuers Down Under.  Cody had a pocket knife, and I thought that was the coolest thing I’d ever seen.  I asked my mom for one (I was about seven), but she wasn’t keen to let me have a knife.  Apparently, she didn’t know that Swiss Army Knives are kind of like baby’s first big boy knife…

I was without a pocket knife for four years until I got a Victorinox Swiss Army Knife when I was 11.  The package actually came with two of them: a large one and a tiny one.  The tiny one didn’t have many tools, but I could carry it to school without the teachers noticing, so I liked it for that.  The large one, however, had a bunch of tools.  I didn’t use most of them, but I’m a gadget guy and still am.

I didn’t discover Macgyver until I was a little older and realized how creative you could be with a Swiss Army Knife.  Ever since, I’ve always carried one with me along with a dedicated pocket knife.  We’re going to check out some of my favorites today (and maybe a part 2 later on because I love so many of them) and see if you can’t find a knife to fall in love with.

Table of Contents

What is a Swiss Army Knife?

I’m working on an article that’s all about Swiss Army Knives, but I’ll keep it simple here.

Swiss Army Knives are a kind of multi-tool based off of the pocket knife design.  The difference is that instead of a blade that folds into its handle, you get a blade plus some other tools as well.  Multi-tool knives are a favorite of mine, but a Swiss Army Knife is different from other multitools, such as a Leatherman-style multi-tool, which is based around a function pair of pliers instead of a pocket knife.

Now, the term ‘Swiss Army Knife’ was actually coined by American soldiers after World War II.  Basically, they had trouble pronouncing the German word ‘offiziersmesser’, which means ‘officer’s knife’.  If you really want to learn how to pronounce in correctly, check out Forvo.

Anyway, the modern Swiss Army Knife was first produced in 1891 by Karl Elsener.  His company would come to be known as Victorinox, which makes most of the world’s multi-tool knives.

Technically, the term ‘Swiss Army Knife’ is trademarked by Victorinox (more about that in a jiffy), but for the sake of this post and others on this site, I’m going to call any multi-tool that’s based off of the pocket knife design a Swiss Army Knife.  I don’t care who makes it, as long as it functions the same way, that’s the definition we’re going with.

Are Swiss Army Knives Any Good?

Swiss Army Knives have a habit of being known as one of those Jack-of-all-Trades types of knives.  Specifically, they dabble in all things but master none of them.  The large blade is typically not as rugged and tough as a pocket knife that puts all of its focus into its one blade, the scissors aren’t as robust as what’s sitting in your kitchen – things of that nature.

That being said, these are very handy knives.  In general, the steel they use is soft, meaning you shouldn’t do anything to abuse the blades too much because they can’t take it.  This is probably because Victorinox in particular strives for longevity in their knives, claiming a lifetime guarantee.  While modern alloys are capable of achieving the corrosion-resistance that Victorinox strives for (a knife isn’t going to last a lifetime if it rusts away), harder steel alloys chip and break.  A soft steel is like a tire on a car or bycicle: it has a certain amount of give to it so that it can withstand the hazards of the road without blowing out every time it hits a stone.

As long as you know that you’ll be sharpening your knife a lot if you use it regularly (and be careful not to oversharpen them), these knives will serve you well.  I always keep a regular pocket knife with me (I’m currently carrying a Spyderco Dragonfly 2), but I usually have a Swiss Army Knife on hand, too.

Why is Victorinox So Prevalent in the Marketplace?

Time for a little history.  Remember when I told you to hold on a jiffy?  This is the part where we come back to that.

Multi-tool knives have been around since ancient times.  However, the modern Swiss Army Knife was first manufactured by Karl Elsener’s company, which later became Victorinox, in 1891.  This happened when they got their first contract for military-use pocket knives.  A second company, Wenger, was also contracted in 1893 to produce Swiss Army knives, and in 1908, the Swiss Army decided to give half its business to Wenger and half to Victorinox.

The funny thing is that Victorinox was allowed to use the term ‘Swiss Army’ on all of their products, but Wenger could only use it in relation to their pocket knives.  Yes, both of these companies made more than multi-tool knives.  They also made timepieces, for example, and Victorinox still called them ‘Swiss Army’ while Wenger had to settle for ‘Swiss Military’.

Victorinox was ultimately better at marketing, so by the time we hit the 21st century, they dominated the market.  In 2005, they acquired Wenger and became the sole supplier of knives to the Swiss Army.  Wenger continued producing its own line of knives until 2013, but they’ve since merged their knives into the Victorinox brand.

This is why nearly all knives of this style are Victorinox knives, although I strove to include other brands as well in my recommendations.

What to Look for in a Swiss Army Knife

The nice thing about Swiss Army Knives is that they come in a wide variety.  Some don’t have many tools while others are loaded with tools that you may not need or provide added weight that you might not like.  Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide which Swiss Army Knives suit you best.

In general, I find there are three criteria best used:

  • Durability: Most Swiss Army Knives will last a long, long time.  Victorinox brands have a lifetime guarantee, so you really can’t go wrong there.
  • Usability: Does it feel good when you hold it?  Are the tools functional or are they too flimsy for what you want to use them for?  This is going to be a major factor in which Swiss Arm Knife you go with.
  • Your Own Wants and Needs: Are you a minimalist or do you love have every tool under the sun just in case?  Which tools do you think you’ll use the most?  You need to consider these things, too, when you’re browsing for Swiss Army Knives.

For example, I love lots of tools, so in this list you find Swiss Army Knives that have only a couple of tools.  Every item on this list is going to have a good selection to choose from.  This is the opposite of my wife, who likes only a few tools because that’s all she needs.  Maybe she’ll write another article about Swiss Army Knives catering to people who like something small and practical.

Anyway, I like lots of tools, and I’m willing to compromise on how thick I like the handle to be in order to get more of them.  However, even I will admit that some handles are iffy with me if they get too wide.  I have very small hands that don’t always want to wrap around a massive handle.  At that point, the knife is no longer an EDC, it’s something to keep in a tool drawer in a pinch.

Victorinox Swiss Army Fieldmaster Multi-Tool Pocket Knife

Tools

  • Large Blade
  • Small Blade
  • Can Opener
  • 3 mm Screwdriver
  • Bottle Opener
  • 6 mm Screwdriver
  • Wire Stripper
  • Reamer/Punch and Sewing Awl
  • Phillips Screwdriver 1/2
  • Scissors
  • Wood Saw
  • Multipurpose Hook
  • Tweezers
  • Toothpick
  • Key Ring

First on the list is the Victorinox Swiss Army Fieldmaster.  This is a multi-tool for the outdoors, and is great for camping, hiking, fishing, gardening, and just about any other outdoor activity you can think of.  With 15 tools, it’s hard to go wrong with this.

It only weighs about 3.53 oz and is less than 4″ long.  I carried one as an EDC for the longest time before swapping out my EDC.  Before you wonder what’s wrong with the knife, just know that I swap out EDCs semi-regularly.  I have a strong desire to change things up sometimes.

The two blades are incredibly sharp right out of the box.  The one I got when I was 11 had to be sharpened immediately because it was dull as a butter knife, and I think that’s what my parents wanted.  I prefer to get some use out of a brand new knife before having to sharpen it nowadays, though.

Both are plain-edge, and while I prefer serrated edges, the saw tool makes up for that.  The teeth on it are pretty aggressive, though.

The toothpick and tweezers are a must with any Victorinox Swiss Army Knife, and, yes, I use them both often.  You’ll find these two items as a staple in virtually every Victorinox SAK out there.

I like the hook for carrying groceries.  Go ahead and laugh, but those Walmart bags dig into my fingers and turn the tips purple.  The hook may give me the occasional weird look, but I’d rather have to ignore a couple of people once in a blue moon than deal with pinched fingers.

There’s also a Phillips screwdriver, which comes in handier than I care to admit.  On the one hand, I typically complain that the screwdriver is a pain to open, but it does its job in a pinch.  I mostly use it because I’m too lazy to look for a proper screwdriver.

The reamer can puncture both wood and leather with ease.  I dabble in leatherworking once in a while (not very good at it) and this little tool is very handy for it.

Some of the handiest gadgets on this Swiss Army Knife are the bottle and can openers.  Both double as flat-head screwdrivers and the bottle opener also functions as a wire stripper.  The can opener has a sharpened chisel edge and its flat-head screwdriver is smaller than the one on the bottle opener.

Needless to say, I find myself using these a lot.  Not only do we eat a bunch of canned food around here, but I’m always using the screwdrivers.

I don’t use the scissors as much, but I like having them when I need to open something and a knife just won’t do.

Victorinox Swiss Army Trekker

Tools

  • Large, Partially Serrated Blade
  • Reamer/Punch
  • Bottle Opener
  • 5 mm Screwdriver
  • Wire Stripper
  • Wood Saw
  • Phillips Screwdriver 1/2
  • Can Opener
  • 3 mm Screwdriver
  • Tweezers
  • Toothpick
  • Key Ring

The Victorinox Swiss Army Trekker doesn’t have as many gadgets and gizmos as the Fieldmaster, but it has one thing most Swiss Army Knives don’t: a partially serrated blade.  That’s right.  We may be missing the little pen knife that most of VIctorinox’s knives have, but we have a great big blade with a serrated edge!

Of course, this means that you’ll need a rod for sharpening serrated edges, as this blade is still made of softer metal, but it’s still a serrated blade and can cut through rope and other stuff that a straight-edge knife shirks at.

The tip of the blade is blunted, so if you need to poke or stab at something, you’ll have to use the reamer.  Neither the blade nor the saw is going to be of any use, but that also makes the blade safer for kids mature enough to have their own (very sharp) knife.

And if you need something with more aggressive teeth, the saw is an efficient cutter that can take up the slack left by the serrated large blade.

Now, the tools are just as good quality as the Victorinox Swiss Army Fieldmaster.  The second screwdriver is 5mm instead of 6mm and there’s no hook, but that’s because this SAK is made for the outdoors.  For that reason, I don’t typically carry the Swiss Army Trekker as an EDC (and it’s a little bulky for an EDC despite the lesser number of tools) but take it with me when backpacking and camping.

If there’s a flaw to this, it’s because I would like a fire starter included.  I’ve gotten sparks using a fero rod and the wood saw, but I’d still like a proper fire starter.

Other than that, this is a favorite SAK of mine.  The Victorinox Swiss Army Trekker is a good tool to have, and the focus is definitely on the blade itself, which helps in an outdoor situation.

Oh, and the blade can be deployed with one hand.  Cool, huh?

Victorinox Pioneer X Alox

Tools

  • 3” Blade
  • Scissors
  • Reamer/Punch
  • Can Opener
  • 3mm Screwdriver
  • 7.5mm Screwdriver
  • Bottle Opener
  • Wire Stripper
  • Keyring

Looking for something slim with a great grip?  Enter the Victorinox Pioneer X Alox.  It sports a single 3″ blade that manages to avoid most of even the most draconian knife laws in the US.  It also has some of the best scissors I’ve encountered on a Swiss Army Knife and has an excellent grip that I wish would be adapted by more SAKs.

There are only 9 tools in this SAK, making it slimmer than the previous knives we’ve seen.  The can opener also functions as a flat-head screwdriver and wire stripper, so three of its functions are essentially wrapped up in a single tool.  As such, this isn’t the bulkiest of Swiss Army Knives, which is good for pockets.

It’s less than 4″ when closed and only weighs something like 3.3 ounces.  Not the lightest SAK that Victorinox makes, but the fewer tools they come with, the more I’d just rather go with a dedicated pocket knife, personally.

All of the tools in this knife open from the same side.  Most Swiss Army Knives have tools tucked into both sides, but if you prefer to not have to turn your knife over in your hand, searching for where the needed tool is hidden, then the Victorinox Pioneer X might be what you need.

The tools are a little tight, but that could just be mine.  I tend to find that most SAKs have at least one tool that’s a pain in the butt to pry out.  In this case, it’s the bottle opener.  No clue if this is true across the board, however.  I’ve only ever owned one Pioneer X Alox, after all.

Basically, if you want an SAK that isn’t bulky and just comes with a few tools, then this is for you.  It fits pockets well, has an excellent grip that more Swiss Army Knives should adopt, and has a nice size blade.

Victorinox Swiss Army Multi-Tool, SwissChamp Pocket Knife

Tools

  • Large Blade
  • Small Blade
  • Can Opener
  • Screwdriver 3mm
  • Bottle Opener
  • Screwdriver 6mm
  • Wire Stripper
  • Reamer + Punch + Sewing Awl
  • Corkscrew
  • Scissors
  • Pliers
  • Wire Crimping Tool
  • Wire Cutter
  • Fish Scaler
  • Ruler (in)
  • Hook Disgorger
  • Ruler (cm)
  • Wood Saw
  • Nail File
  • Metal File
  • Nail Cleaner
  • Magnifying glass
  • Phillips Screwdriver 1/2
  • Metal Saw
  • Screwdriver 2.5 mm
  • Chisel 4mm
  • Multipurpose Hook
  • Toothpick
  • Tweezers
  • Pressurized Ballpoint Pen
  • Mini Screwdriver
  • Stainless Steel Pin
  • Keyring

The biggest knife on this list is the Victorinox SwissChamp, which might lean closer to being a multi-tool than a pocket knife that just happens to have some extra tools.  Between its seven layers of steel within the handle and the weight of the thing (it’s 7.5 ounces, which isn’t bad for this many tools but still heftier than the other knives), many people, while appreciating the tools, will probably pass on this as an EDC.

Not me.  And a lot of other people carry this as an EDC, but I have to face the facts and realize that some people aren’t going to want to lug this thing around in their pockets.  I don’t mind it, but others will.

As an aside, there’s a leather pouch you can get from Victorinox made especially for this SAK.

As a multi-tool, this Swiss Army Knife has 33 small tools tucked away inside of it.  That’s a lot of tools!

None of the tools come across as flimsy, which is sometimes a problem with multi-tool knives and pocket knife-style SAKs.  Every tool here feels good and solid, which I know begs the question that’s on your mind: does it stand up to a Leatherman multi-tool?

The Leatherman obviously has better pliers than a Swiss Army Knife ever will (the entire tool is designed around them), but in my day-to-day life, I find the SwissChamp comes in handier.  I keep my Leatherman on me when I have a project I’m working on that I know I’ll need pliers for.

For example, when I’m working on the lawn mower and need to remove the deck, I like to have my Leatherman instead of any kind of SAK.  For basically everything else, I prefer my SAK.

The biggest downsides are the handle’s width and the fact that even I, gadget-lover extraordinaire, don’t get much use out of.  The magnifying glass, for instance, is something I could do without.  Maybe one day if my eyesight starts failing and I’m too stubborn to go get glasses, I’ll use the little magnifying glass more often.

I also don’t need the fish scaler ever.  I bet I could find a way to use it in an unconventional way (maybe if I get to pretend I’m Macgyver), but so far it just sits there.

Great for people who like a lot of functionality.  Its portability will vary depending on its owner, but I can’t ever see myself not owning a SwissChamp.

Victorinox Swiss Army Hiker

Tools

  • Large Blade
  • Small Blade
  • Can Opener
  • 3 mm Screwdriver
  • Bottle Opener
  • 6 mm Screwdriver
  • Wire Stripper
  • Reamer/Punch and Sewing Awl
  • Phillips Screwdriver 1/2
  • Wood Saw
  • Toothpick
  • Tweezers
  • Keyring

Looking for a good outdoors knife that doesn’t have a large, serrated blade like the Trekker?  This is the Victorinox Swiss Army Hiker, a rather light little pocket knife that has a good number of tools.

This knife is similar to the Victorinox Swiss Army Trekker in many ways.  While I’ll write a full article that compares them later, the main thing you need to know is that the Swiss Army Hiker has a smaller blade but a larger screwdriver (6mm vs 5mm).  The other tools tend to be smaller, like the blade.

The blade of a Hiker is also purely straight-edge.  If you don’t care for serrated edges, then this is a great alternative to the Trekker.  Also, while the tip of a Trekker is blunted, the tip of the Hiker is pointed.

All in all, it’s actually more similar to the Tinker (not on this list) but with an extra tool.

It has 13 tools and rides well in the pocket.  A great pocket knife that I love.  I actually bought one for my mom.

Victorinox Swiss Army Huntsman

Tools

  • Long Blade
  • Short Blade
  • Reamer/Scraper/ Awl w/ Sewing Eye
  • Bottle Opener
  • Can Opener
  • Corkscrew
  • Hook
  • Scissors
  • Small Screwdriver
  • Toothpick
  • Tweezers
  • Wide Screwdriver
  • Wire Stripper
  • Wood Saw
  • Keyring

The Victorinox Swiss Army Huntsman is very similar the Fieldmaster, right down to the dimensions.  There’s one key difference, however: the corkscrew.  Instead of a Phillips screwdriver, you get a corkscrew, which was once a staple of virtually all Swiss Army Knives.  While most people don’t use it to uncork wine anymore, the nice thing about the corkscrew is that there are a number of attachments you can get from Victorinox that you need the corkscrew to use, such as the eyeglasses screwdriver.

Ultimately, that’s the only thing that really separates this Swiss Army Knife from the Trekker.

Victorinox Swiss Army Rescue Tool

Tools

  • One-Hand Serrated Locking Blade
  • Phillips Screwdriver
  • Window Breaker
  • Strong Screwdriver/Crate Opener with
  • Bottle Opener
  • Wire Stripper
  • Reamer, Punch
  • Seat Belt Cutter
  • Key Ring
  • Tweezers
  • Toothpick
  • Disc Saw for Shatterproof Glass
  • Luminescent Handles

Cars are getting safer and safer.  We can’t afford a brand-new car, but the last time we brought our junker in to get serviced, I was looking through a catalog of new vehicles and was shocked at all the new features they have.  They’ve got stuff now that’ll sense if it’s not safe to change lanes!

However, it’s still very possible to have an accident.  You can put cameras, sensors, and all kinds of gadgets on a car to make it even safer but you’ll still never be able to eliminate wrecks.  If that happens, you’ll want a tool you can use to rescue yourself if you’re physically able to.  That’s where this tool comes in.

It glows in the dark, can puncture a windshield, slice through seatbelts, and cut through glass.  In fact, it was designed by a fireman to be a tool for rescuing people trapped in cars.

This is the tool I hope I never have to use but am thankful to have.  It’s sturdy and even has a locking blade that can be opened with one hand, which is something most Swiss Army Knives lack.

If there’s one thing I would change about it, it would be that all of the tools (or at least most of them) should be as easy to open.  I don’t want to be in a situation where I have to get out of a vehicle in a hurry and have to sit and pick at the seatbelt-cutting tool.

SwitchEdge 14 Tools in One Pocket Knife

Tools

  • Large Blade
  • Scissors
  • Can Opener
  • Wood Saw
  • Bottle Opener
  • Fish Scaler
  • Slotted Remover
  • Thread Loop
  • Phillips Screwdriver
  • Corkscrew
  • Nail File
  • Reamer
  • Key Ring

Whenever you make a purchase, it’s important to realize that large, respected brands will always cost a little more than unknown or generic brands.  This is true even if the quality is about the same, and it applies to knives as well.

This is probably the cheapest Swiss Army Knife (called a pocket knife here for trademark reasons) I’ve ever seen.  The kicker is that, while it isn’t quite as good as a Victorinox, it’s not a crappy knock-off product.  This is a quality item with a lot of tools.

It has 14 stainless steel tools housed inside an aluminum frame.  There are four layers of steel in this and it’s very durable.  It’s a little bulkier than comparable Victorinox’s Swiss Army pocket knives go, but that’s not a huge deal.

I like that it has both a Phillips screwdriver and a corkscrew on it.  Most Victorinox knives come with one or the other.  I actually prefer the Switchedge Crimson’s screwdriver to Victorinox’s, although I prefer Victorinox’s corkscrew.

I would have preferred that both the bottle opener and can opener came with a flat-head screwdriver, but only the bottle opener does.  That’s not a deal-breaker, though.  Of course, it’s up to you to decide which tools are most important to you.

Ultimately, this is a great alternative to a Victorinox Swiss Army Knife and at a price that really can’t be beaten.

FantastiCAR 15 in 1 Multi-Tool

Tools

  • Main Blade
  • Square Blade Screwdriver
  • Bottle Opener
  • Saw
  • Fish Scaler
  • Hook Remover
  • Scissors
  • Can Opener
  • Nail File
  • Needle Threader
  • Ice Chisel
  • Philips Screwdriver
  • Wine Opener
  • Key Ring

This little Swiss Army pocket knife has popped up a couple of times on the Daily Knife Slice, but it’s a nice budget alternative to a Victorinox.  The tools are a little too snug, but on the flip side, you get a knife that can slip into most pockets.  Don’t go thinking that it’s a crappy pocket knife, though.  This is still a quality tool and you get a lot of tools in it, including an ice chisel.

There’s not much to say that hasn’t already been said.  Check out our full review or go see it on Amazon.  It’s not expensive at all and is a great budget SAK.

Final Thoughts

SAKs are the best!  If you’ve overlooked them in the past, maybe this post will help you reconsider them.  Maybe you even found something cool.

Anyway, Swiss Army Knives are a great EDC or secondary EDC.  While I always like to have a dedicated pocket knife on me, I almost always carry a Swiss Army Knife too.  Multi-tools are fantastic and handy in a tight spot.

Let me know what you’re favorite SAK is!

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