The 10 Best Swiss Army Knives
10. Victorinox Classic SD
9. Victorinox Explorer Boy Scout
8. Rugged Knife Company Multitool
7. Victorinox Traveller Lite
6. Victorinox SwissChamp XLT
5. Switchedge Crimson
4. Victorinox Rescue Tool
3. Victorinox Evolution Tool Chest Plus
2. Victorinox Ranger
1. Victorinox Champion Plus
Accept No Imitation
There is nothing that can replace the functionality, simplicity, and joy of a Swiss Army Knife. Pocket knives and multi-tools abound, in massive sizes and at absurd prices, but also at simpler configurations and rock-bottom prices. It's gotten to the point where it's nearly impossible to evaluate true quality among them.
In a case like this, the best thing to do is to go with the standard bearer, and that's what the Swiss offer. Just imagine how Aron Ralston would have fared if he'd had a saw tool instead of that dull baby's knife in his multi-tool.
What makes a Swiss Army Knife special isn't just the versatility of its allotted tools, but the innovation of their configurations and the incredible durability of each knife. Victorinox AG, the company that manufactures Swiss Army products, continually improves upon the basic designs that reach back over a century, bringing modern innovations like digital thermometers into their current lineup.
At its heart, a Swiss Army knife is a pocket knife designed to aid in your survival in the wilderness. The knives themselves are sharp and strong, and the simplest among them come with scissors and files. From there, the options for additional tools have almost no end, with some standards including a saw tool that's great for cutting through wood, a pair of tweezers, can openers, and screwdrivers. And that's just among the basics.
The tools slot next to each other in a small red frame, and each tool snaps firmly into place when in the extended position. Some tools collapse right back into the knife when you apply pressure from their dull sides, while other, more dangerous components require you to operate a simple safety release to retract them.
Tools Tuned To The Individual
You may have heard of a certain type of person who maintains a constant state of vigilance and preparedness in the face of what they will claim is an impending apocalypse. Perhaps it will be the governments that collapse, or an alien invasion, or sudden nuclear fallout. Whatever the cataclysmic event, these doomsday preppers have everything they need to survive after the bottom falls out.
One can assume, then, that they have a pretty nice collection of Swiss Army Knives. It's unlikely that they have one knife for the entirety of their needs, since such a knife would be enormous beyond practicality. It's that question, that balance between functional handling and abundance of features, that is going to determine the Swiss knife for you.
Swiss Army Knives come with almost endless configurations for effective survival in the field. Of course, not everybody plans to head into the woods and try to live off the land. Some of us just need a good knife at arm's reach throughout the day.
The knife itself will probably be useful daily, but outfitting your knife with a good set of weekly useful accessories is the best way to go. For example, if you drink a lot of wine, you might want to get a knife that has a built-in corkscrew. This is also a great tool for anyone that wears glasses, as Victorinox uses the negative space inside the corkscrew to store a very small flat-head screwdriver. Also, for wine drinkers, the punch tool (which looks useless, at first) is great for removing that foil at the top of the bottle.
If you are an avid camper, and you want to start a fire in the wild without flint and steel, and without destroying the skin on your hands trying to rub sticks together, you can get a magnifying glass in your Swiss knife to focus the sunlight onto your kindling.
A list of recommended uses for all these tools could go on for pages and pages, but the lesson from what we've covered so far is that there are certain, indispensable tools for everyone, as well as a good number of standard tools for certain types of people, depending on your intended use.
Built For The Swiss Army
As its name implies, the Swiss Army Knife was developed for use by Swiss soldiers. The Swiss government set out to reissue the knives supplied to each of its soldiers in the late 1800s, with the intention of providing each soldier with effective means to open canned food and to disassemble and reassemble their standard service rifles.
The first run of Swiss Army Knives was produced by a German manufacturer, as Swiss fabrication was not up to the government's standards. Rather quickly, Karl Elsener, founder of Victorinox, seized upon an opportunity before him and updated his manufacturing processes to take over the contract from the Germans. Elsener also began the innovative process of installing tools on both sides of a single knife using the same spring for security.
If you have a Swiss Army Knife made between 1908 and 2005, it has about a 50/50 chance of being produced by either Victorinox or Wenger, as the Swiss government split its contracts between the two companies in 1908 in an attempt to control costs. In 2005, however, Victorinox acquired Wenger, consolidating all production of Swiss Army goods under their brand.
Later, in 2007, the Swiss government opened the contract up for competition once again. This time around, a slew of companies brought forth competitive models that endured extensive testing in the field and in the laboratory. Victorinox won the day, however, despite tremendous innovations from its competition, and they retain their contract today.