You don’t need a big knife for hiking and backpacking when an ultralight folding pocket knife or multi-tool is just as good for opening freeze-dried food packages, slicing cheese and salmi, adjusting sunglasses frames, cutting guylines and cord, shaping moleskin, cutting strips of leukotape, pulling splinters out of your hands, trimming your toenails, and a million other uses.
While there are a lot of choices available, we recommend choosing EDC (every-day carry) class multi-tools and folding knives that can fit in your pocket or attach to your pack for easy access. All of these knives and multi-tools weigh 2 oz or less and are well under the 3″ blade length limit for states in the USA that care about such things. Can’t decide which you like best? Check out our Backpacking Knife and Multi-tool Guide below for more information and advice.
|Make / Model||Type||Blade Length||Weight|
|Leatherman Squirt PS4||Multi-tool||1.6"||2 oz|
|Swiss Army Classic||Multi-tool||1.5"||0.7 oz|
|Spyderco Ladybug 3||Folding Knife||1.94"||0.6 oz|
|SOG Keytron||Folding Knife||1.8"||1.3 oz|
|Leatherman Micra||Multi-tool||1.6"||1.8 oz|
|Benchmade 533 Mini Bugout||Folding Knife||2.8"||1.5 oz|
|Nite Ize DoohicKey||Folding Knife||2"||0.67 oz|
|Kershaw Chive||Folding Knife||1.9"||1.7 oz|
|Opinel Number 6||Folding Knife||2.87"||1.2 oz|
|Zero Tolerance 0022||Folding Knife||1.8"||1.7 oz|
1. Leatherman Squirt PS4
2. Swiss Army Classic
3. Spyderco Ladybug
4. SOG Keytron
5. Leatherman Micra Multi-Tool
6. Benchmade 533 Mini Bugout Folding Knife
7. Nite Ize DoohicKey Key Chain Knife
8. Kershaw Chive
9. Opinel No.06 Pocket Knife
10. Zero Tolerance 0022
Backpacking Knife and Multi-Tool Guide
What do need it for?
Before you buy an ultralight folding knife or multitool for backpacking or outdoor use, think about what you will be using it for and what capabilities it should have. Do you want a knife to open freeze-dried food packages and resupply boxes, or a pair of scissors, which is better for shaping moleskin, cutting bandages, and blister protection tape? A multi-tool can also be very useful for other types of outdoor recreation and work, from working with small motors to adjusting ski and snowboard bindings. If you want a knife to practice bushcraft skills or skin game, we’d recommend choosing a larger, sturdier knife designed for those uses.
Legal blade length
The nice thing about folding pocket and EDC-sized knives and multitools is that they’re usually legal when you cross from one state (USA) to another. Be sure to check the blade length limits and knife concealment laws in your state or city, if any. A 2″ blade (or less) will be legal in most states. Note, it’s still illegal to carry a knife in most federal, state, and local government buildings, schools, and of course airplanes.
Most small knives and multitools have a clip, lanyard hole, or ring that lets you attach them to your keys, clothes, or backpack. If you’re backpacking, you’re going to want to keep close track of your knife/tool, because they’re very easy to lose. We also suggest you get a knife with a brightly colored handle, so it stands out if you drop it on the ground.
Many EDC knives are available with straight edges or serrated edges. For simple tasks like opening packages, cutting tape, or slicing cheese, a straight edge is preferable. Serrated blades are much more appropriate for heavy-duty tasks like skinning games or processing wood, although you’re unlikely to do much of that with these short blades. Straight edges knives are also much easier to sharpen.
Most of the knives listed here have what are called drop points, clip points, and spear points which are all excellent for EDC-style knives where a pulling action is used for cutting or slicing. On a drop point blade, the blade point drops down below the blade’s spine creating a curved cutty edge called a belly. It is one of today’s most widespread blade shapes because it’s a great all-purpose blade. On a clip point, the blade has the appearance of having the forward third of the blade “clipped” off. The clip itself can be straight or concave. This shape is also good for pull cuts but improves the knife’s ability to stab into objects like fruit or large vegetables. On a spear point, the spine and edge meet symmetrically in the middle of the knife. This shape is great for pushing/thrusting and gives the blade an extremely strong tip. The Swiss Army Knife Classic is a perfect example.
Small knives and multi-tools are available with different opening mechanisms. The most basic is a nail nick where you lever the blade open with a fingernail. There are also assisted opening systems with thumb studs or a flipper, which is a metal extension found at the back of the blade near the pivot.
Locks keep folding knives blades in the ‘open’ position so they don’t fold back and cut you. The most common locks are a frame lock and a liner lock. A frame lock is very strong and built into the handle of a knife, snapping into place behind the blade so it can’t pivot back. Another common lock is the liner lock which is a spring-like lock inside the handle. As the knife is opened the liner springs into place under the blade forcing it to lock into position. The liner has to be depressed to close the knife.
When it comes to small multi-tools and fold pocket knives, anything that weighs less than 2 oz is going to disappear into your pocket or be a cinch to attach to your backpack. As we said earlier, you don’t need a big knife for backpacking when a small knife or multi-tool is more than sufficient.SectionHiker is reader-supported. We independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our affiliate links. Help us continue to test and write unsponsored and independent gear reviews, beginner FAQs, and free hiking guides.