The 10 Best Swiss Army Knives
This wiki has been updated 31 times since it was first published in April of 2015. It has been more than 120 years since Victorinox developed and manufactured the first Swiss Army Knife. Since then, variations of the tool have found their way into the pockets of military personnel, wilderness enthusiasts and urbanites all over the world. Manufactured in Switzerland and backed by a lifetime guarantee, our selections for this category come in all shapes and sizes. When users buy our independently chosen editorial selections, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
May 05, 2021:
Because there are so many enticing options out there, it would have been easy for us to completely dismantle this list and build it all the way back up with 10 fresh choices, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t tempted to do just that, but in the end I had to accept that it would’ve been self serving. While I’d love to spend all day poring over Swiss Army equipment and picking the 10 knives that I’d most like to add to my personal collection, the realistic truth is that the last editor for this page did a good job of putting together a nice mix that we believe will appeal to a wide variety of users.
It takes a special kind of enthusiastic gearhead to dedicate themselves to constantly lugging around an 82-implement monster like the Swiss Champ XAVT, but plenty of people can find practical reasons to regularly pack a slighter option like the SwissCard Lite or Signature Lite, and we hope that this list does a good job of speaking to both audiences.
The only real change we made was removing the Champion Plus, which wasn’t presently available, and replacing it with the Sentinel One, which is an exceedingly basic option, packing little more than a three-inch blade, toothpick and tweezers. I thought it was worth including as a counterbalancing bookend to oppose the SwissChamp XAVT, and also just as a practical and affordable option for anybody looking for a basic, but high-quality, pocket knife.
On a personal note, my everyday-carry multitool is the Leatherman Free P4, and I use it every day (alright, at least several times a week), but I rarely unfold any of its implements beyond its basic blade, which often makes me wonder if it’s realistically more knife than I need. All this to say that, while I wouldn’t trade the Free P4 for anything, had I chosen to go with an option like the Sentinel One instead, I’d be getting almost as much utility in a package that costs less, weighs less and takes up less space. So, it’s definitely something to think about.
If you’re not completely attached to the idea of a Victorinox purchase, then you might see some options you like on some of our other lists. We’ve got rankings for keychain multitools, survival cards, and hunting knives.
January 30, 2020:
This round of updates, we eliminated the Switchedge Crimson and Rugged Knife Company Multitool, to make sure that our selections were comprised only of authentic Victorinox Swiss Army offerings. We also removed the Victorinox Traveller Lite, due to availability issues, and replaced the Swiss Champ XLT with its successor the Swiss Champ XAVT – an equally bulky model that has a built-in, digital thermometer, barometer, altimeter and stopwatch. Our other new additions were the Electrician Silver – a slim offering designed specifically for those working in the titular trade, the Signature Lite – a small model with an integrated LED flashlight and ballpoint pen, and the SwissCard Lite – a credit-card-sized device that contains 13 tools.
Somethings to consider while searching for the perfect Swiss Army Knife:
Tool Selection: This varies drastically from model to model, which is a good thing, because the list of tools we need varies drastically from person to person. While many models – like the Electrician Silver and Rescue Tool – are aimed at specific target audiences (electricians, and emergency-services professionals, respectively), larger models like the Evolution S54 and Swiss Champ XAVT are able to appeal to a larger crowd by offering a wider selection of tools. But, that’s not to say that there aren’t people outside the niche target audiences for these knives that will find great use for them. For example, the Explorer Boy Scout was obviously designed with the Boy Scouts of America in mind, but that doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t be a great pick for other wilderness enthusiasts. It’s up to you to decide which tools will be most useful for you, and pick the right knife accordingly.
Size: If cost is of little consequence to you, and you’re primarily planning on carrying this device in a glove compartment or backpack, then by all means, find the most-feature-loaded option you can, and order it up (hint: it’ll probably be the Swiss Champ XAVT). But, if you’re looking for a regular pocket knife to walk around with daily, it won’t take long until you get tired of lugging that bulky apparatus around (the XAVT’s width is only an inch less than its length). Stripped-down models like the Ranger Grip 61 and Classic SD are a bit more practical in this respect, and worth considering for that reason alone; your Swiss Army Knife won’t do you any good in a pinch if you end up deciding to leave it at home all the time. While the utility the SwissCard Lite can offer is severely limited by its selection of tools, it still gets a nod for its impressively compact design, which can fit inside most wallets.
Aesthetics: Now, stylistically, you can’t convince me there’s ever going to be anything wrong with a classic Swiss Army Knife dressed in the brand’s iconic red. But, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take advantage of some of the fun design options out there. While the Ranger Grip 61 has a nice woodgrain version available, the Electrician Silver has a panel on one side that can be engraved, and the Classic SD is available in more than 30 styles.
Victorinox Swiss Army Although it does appear that better prices are often available elsewhere, the variety offered on Victorinox's official website is hard to beat. From limited edition designs, to a wood collection and a selection multitools, there's loads of great options available here. victorinox.com
Leatherman If there's one company you should consider instead of Victorinox, this is it. With decades of experience bringing innovative new designs to the space, the caliber of their knives and multitools is second to none, and you can even order custom gifts with text and images etched on. leatherman.com
Toler Tools The Union This two-piece apparatus is likely to be too clunky for most people to consider as an everyday-carry gadget, but diehard gearheads are sure to be blown away by the utility it offers. Its implements include a ratcheting wrench and multi-bit screwdriver. tolertools.com
Accept No Imitation
In a case like this, the best thing to do is to go with the standard bearer, and that's what the Swiss offer.
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.
Perhaps it will be the governments that collapse, or an alien invasion, or sudden nuclear fallout.
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.
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.
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.