Question of the Day: What are your 7 essential knives?


The Swiss Army Hiker tops the Popular Mechanics “7 Knives you Should Own” list. (photo from PopMech)

There is little as passe in the Blogging world as a “listicle”, except maybe picking apart someone else’s listicle. That being said, we don’t do it often and this one is too juicy to pass on.  Popular Mechanics just released a list of “The 7 Knives You Should Own“.

I agree with all 7 of the category/niches, and even with some of the specific brands and blades.  I will break down my opinion of the 7 choices, and would love to hear what you have to say. Do you think that these 7 cover all situations/niches, and what would be your changes/choices for your top 7?

1: Victorinox Swiss Army Hiker.

Can’t really argue with this one. I think it hits the sweet spot between size and a usable toolkit. Solid choice. With a non-locking blade and friendly looks/persona this knife is unlikely to get you in trouble in all but the most hoplophobic locals.

2:Leatherman Rebar

Another good choice. I think a multi-tool belongs in an essential 7 and the Rebar is mid-entry range general-purpose tool. I have a Wave that usually bounces between my range gear and fishing bag. One of these days I will break down and by a MUT to live with my gun stuff full time.

3: Case Sodbuster Jr.

While I don’t disagree with idea of including a single blade pocket folder on the list, I think my choice in this category would lean towards the lock-blade Buck 110. The combination of classic design and utility leads me to put the Buck at the top of this category. With their selection of the “Jr.” Sodbuster, they are getting really small. Granted, the 110 is also at least twice the $26 price if not more.

4: Masumoto VG Gyutou (Japanese Chef’s knife).

They are making the point that a good Chef’s knife will serve you better than a crappy one. Point taken and largely agreed with.  I don’t have the experience with the high-end stuff, though I understand the concept. That being said, my Wusthof Classic set has been put through its paces for over a decade. We have discussed this before.

5: Stanley 99 Utility Knife.

Very solid choice, and certainly a classic. When I was building boats and someone was paying for replacement blades, I found that the pocket-clip, folding style was more convenient for me. However, there is probably nothing better for a toolbox or kitchen drawer.

6: Gerber Gator Bolo Machete

At least it isn’t a Bear Grylls series piece of crap. I agree with the category, most homeowners should have a machete of some sort, but either save your money and by a stamped POS from Harbor Freight. Or shell out a little more and get a CRKT Halfachance, a Kershaw, or other advanced tool from a reputable manufacturer.

As Nathan wrote in his piece on the decline of the once great brand:

“There, I said it. It’s a shame that they suck because they used to be a great company. But today’s iteration of the gear company is one based off of name recognition, celebrity endorsements, and cheap knives. Not cheap as in inexpensive like Kershaw. Cheap as in cheap quality. Back in the 1980’s, they were right at the top of what the industry had to offer. But since then they have declined to the point where they are no longer safe to own.”

As TTAK Managing Editor, I endorse this position as it has been my experience and observation since my early exposure to the brand. I grew up on my Great-Uncle’s Gerbers from the 70’s, my own 80’s vintage Gerber tools, and compared to what they once were, today’s Gerbers are decidedly inferior.

If by chance this is read by someone at Gerber, feel free to prove me wrong. I promise that anything you send will be put through the same thorough testing as all tools we review. Photo-documentation will be provided. I promise to give you a fair shake.

7: KaBar Becker Campanion

I certainly endorse a medium/large fixed blade as a part of any essentials list. I can’t argue with the specific choice either. The Campanion is a good knife. There are certainly knives that fit this same role that could save you some money in this category to upgrade in another. A Mora Bushcraft or Ontario TAK both come to mind for much less money.


I do not feel bad for doing a Listicle critique, as I put as much time and effort or more into this piece as I am sure that the PopMech writers did. I hope you recognize that I tried to add value to that post with my commentary. As I mentioned, what are your thoughts?



  1. 100% agree with you on replacing the Case sodbuster. Your choice of the 110 is solid, I would even be OK with replacing it was a Case Trapper similar two bladed knife.

  2. Sam L. says:

    For #3, an Opinel #8, or #6.

    For #4, Cook’s Illustrated/Cook’s Country/America’s Test Kitchen recommends the Victorinox Fibrox 8″ Chef’s Knife. Won’t be a fancy show piece (I favor the Shun for that), but it’s a workhorse. (I have neither of these.)

  3. Here is my list at this moment in time.

    1) Victorinox EvoGrip S18 – locking blade, better grips and scissors over the Hiker

    2) Leatherman Wave – blades open from the outside and the interchangeable bit system is clutch

    3) Benchmade Mini-Griptilian – your single blade folder should be a one-handed lock-blade!

    4) The high end chef knife bug hasn’t bitten me as of yet, but my Spanish forged Henckels are quite good.

    5) The Stanley knife is just fine, and more comfortable than the folding jobbies.

    6) Any Condor machete instead of the Gerber. Really, any Condor machete full-stop.

    7) Not a bad choice with the Becker, and the same cost really as the TAK-1 when you look at actual retail price, but my vote would go to something a bit thinner and lighter like the Ontario SK-5.

  4. Roger says:

    1. The Evogrip. Same as David. But I want to point out the difference in quality between the tweezers. OR the Victorinox Electrician. The awl is much more substantial than many others.
    2. Leatherman Skeletool. A solid tool that I use already and has a bit set.
    3. The Spyderco Endura with the Wave. It can do everything a regular Endura does. But faster.
    4. I got a victorinox set for Yule. They’re nice. But I wouldn’t miss them.
    5. The OLFA knives are very light and easy to work with. They’re extremely high quality, like everything I’ve ever bought at the local Sherwin Williams.
    6. The POST-2013 Cold Steel Machetes. They’ve had a sharp improvement in quality. They’re fine to work with. Some are even a joy to put through their paces. I had some ornamental grasses I eviscerated with the Gladius in a few quick swipes.
    7. If it wasn’t stainless, I’d go with the Buck 119. That’s a nice knife. But since it is, I’d probably go with the Ka-bar Becker Magnum Camp.

  5. Randolph71 says:

    1. Victorinox Swisschamp (EDC, Hiking Knife)
    2. Cold Steel Rajah 2 (EDC: I’m in construction, I need a heavy blade but concealable )
    3. Swamprat Rodent 7 (Hiking Knife)
    4. Cold Steel Gurkha Kukri (Long Term Survival)
    5. Mora Bushcraft Force (Paired with the Gurkha Kukri)
    6. Leatherman Surge (General Utility, Car, Long Term Survival)
    7. CKKT Hammond ABC (Dive Knife: Must be disposable)

  6. Dan says:

    I don’t even have 7. Rebar is a great choice, I have one of those and love it. I use it much more than a Wave, which I also own. This might be a good place to show some love to the Skeletool as well though. They’re so thin and light you can carry them anywhere, and their blades are awesome (though a bit short I must admit). The Skeletool can really go anywhere with you. The last time I wore a suit, my Skeletool CX came with me, and also served as my key fob.

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Question of the Day: What are your 7 essential knives?

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