The best folding pocket knives for the knife nut on your gift list

Great Budget to High End Folder Options For The Knife Nut On Your Gift List

This is just a quick 2019 updated guide to show you the range of knives out there. If you’re not a knife person, this world can get overwhelming fast. You could put yourself into debt getting the best folding knife for your friend or relative. You could refinance your house and come out the other end with a single Chris Reeve Sebenza. Or if you want to get something nice but a little cheaper you can just refer to the Folding Holy Trinity: the Benchmade 940, the Spyderco Paramilitary 2, or the Zero Tolerance 0350. It doesn’t matter what a knife nut does with knives, secretly we all want at least one of these if for no other reason than to see what all the fuss is about. So any of those really any of those three are the best folding knives to buy someone as a present.

But assuming your friend already has one of those, or you just don’t like the look of them, here’s a list of some of our favorite models we’ve seen over the years. We’ve put them in order from cheapest to the most ridiculous hoping to vaguely cover all our bases. If you’re looking for something your friend doesn’t have yet, you’ll find it here. Probably.

Folding Knives Under $50

If you’re on a tight budget or just looking for a stocking stuffer, these knives should give you plenty to work with. They’re nothing remarkable, but definitely fun and useful.

Cold Steel Tuff-LiteCold Steel Tuff Lite pocket folder

  • Overall Length: 6.0″
  • Blade Length: 2.5″
  • Blade Style: Wharncliffe
  • Handle Length: 3.5″
  • Blade Steel: Aus-8
  • Blade Grind: Hollow
  • Clip: Tip-down
  • Handle Material: Grivory
  • Lock Type: Lockback
  • Blade Finish: Satin
  • Weight: 2.5 oz
  • Manufacture Location: Taiwan

Cold Steel touts this as a hunting knife. And I can definitely see that. The Wharncliffe blade style should give you a clean cut with its hollow grind, and it’s true to its name, coming in at two and half ounces in Aus 8 stainless steel. Nothing fancy here, just an okay steel in a small, tough structure. I’ve seen this knife range in price between $20 and $30, and in that range the Tuff-Lite opens itself up to a lot of guiltless abuse. Maybe not a great coude grax present, but it will definitely be appreciated by your frequent outdoorsman.

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Esee Zancudo

The Esee Zancudo is an affordable folding knife that makes a good gift.

  • Overall Length: 7.0”
  • Blade Length: 2.9”
  • Handle Length: 4.0”
  • Blade Steel: AUS8
  • Blade Style: Drop point
  • Blade Grind: Flat
  • Blade Thickness: 0.09”
  • Handle Material: Steel with G10 scales
  • Carry: Tip-down pocket clip (reversible)
  • Weight: 3.1 oz
  • Lock Type: Frame
  • Manufacture Location: Taiwan

In the same range, but definitely a different direction from the Tuff Lite, is the Esee Zancudo. This is an insanely tough little knife. It’s light and slim, making it an easy carry, and surprisingly comfortable considering its size and the fact that it only has G-10 scales on one side, and it’s pretty easy to take apart and fix up after you’ve spent some time with it. It might not look great, but it’s a great knife for anyone who needs something to take out on a rough job.

Check out our full review of it if you’d like to know a little more.

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Kershaw Link ambidextrous folding knife

  • Overall Length: 7.0″
  • Blade Length: 3.0″
  • Blade Style: Wharncliffe
  • Handle Length: 4.0″
  • Blade Steel: 420HC
  • Blade Grind: Hollow
  • Clip:Tip-down
  • Handle Material: Stainless steel
  • Lock Type: Liner
  • Blade Finish: Blackwashed
  • Weight: 3.0 oz
  • Manufacture Location: USA

For anyone who likes assisted open, the Kershaw Link is easily one of the best options in this price range. An aluminum handle with a liner lock provides a base for a solid structure, and the 420HC steel with a hollow grind should give you more cutting power than you’ll honestly need for this size and style. It would be a good buy for a leftie as well, since it’s pretty easy to move the pocket clip to the other side. When it comes to budget present knives, Kershaw makes quite a few good options. They’re just one of those companies that excels at making decent knives for the money. The Link is particularly good for someone with more utilitarian sensibilities. The Link usually rides pretty close to the $40 mark, but sometimes you can catch it on sale for around $30 – $35, especially if you have Amazon Prime.

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Baladeo Laguiole Pocket Knife

Great looking Baladéo Laguiole

  • Overall Length: 8.5”
  • Blade Length: 3.75”
  • Blade Style: Clip point
  • Handle Length: 4.75”
  • Blade Steel: 440
  • Blade Grind: Flat
  • Clip: None
  • Handle Material: Horn  or olive wood w/ steel bolsters
  • Lock Type: Pick lock
  • Blade Finish: Bead blasted
  • Weight: 3.18 oz
  • Manufacture Location: China

Honestly, you could do better for function. Laguioles are at least as reliable as any other blade you’ll get at the price, but the real appeal of these is the look. Modern designs just don’t look like this. These aren’t rare, but they look classy and collectable. With a blade this size you won’t be doing heavy outdoor work like with the Tuff Lite, but it’s serviceable for minor slicing and whittling. And you’ll look classy as hell doing it. This wouldn’t be a showstopper of a present, but it’s definitely the kind of small curiosity that a lot of people end up using more than they think they will.

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Folders Under $100

This is, to me, the reasonable section of our guide. Where normal people can go to think things like “yeah, I could probably swing that if I just don’t feed my kids for a couple days”, but you also don’t have to worry about anyone giving you that weird half smile thing that says they know you cheaped out on them but they don’t want to make a big thing about it in front of family. Anyone who doesn’t appreciate getting one of these knives can go to hell.

Buck Selkirk Folder

Buck Selkirk folding knife with flint and kydex sheath

  • Overall Length: 8.15”
  • Blade Length: 3.9”
  • Blade Style: Drop point
  • Handle Length: 5.0”
  • Blade Steel: 420HC
  • Blade Grind: Flat
  • Clip: Carried in molded nylon sheath
  • Handle Material: Micarta
  • Lock Type: Liner
  • Blade Finish: Satin
  • Weight: 7.5 oz
  • Manufacture Location: China

Traditionally, the Buck 110 reigns supreme as the gift folder for Buck knives, but those are everywhere and the Selkirk has always deserved more attention than it gets. The folder version of the Selkirk offers a heftier blade and a liner lock, and a generally bigger and more rugged construction, but still has the classic wood-handled look. The handle is actually Micarta, but for a lot of knife fold that’s a plus over natural wood handles. The Selkirk is unfortunately made in Buck’s China factory, but it seems to have gotten a little more attention that is typical from those groups. It comes out as a solid mid-range all around survival knife, usually landing around a $60 price tag. If you like this style enough, it was originally made as a fixed blade. If you’re curious about that option you can check out our review. It’s easily one of our personal favorite bushcraft fixed-blades, but we’re here to talk about folders. So moving on.

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Cold Steel Voyager XL

  • Overall Length: 12.3″
  • Blade Length: 5.5″
  • Blade Style: Tanto, drop point, clip point, or vaquero
  • Handle Length: 6.8″
  • Blade Steel: Carpenter CTS BD1 Stainless Steel
  • Blade Grind: Hollow
  • Clip: Ambidextrous Clip
  • Handle Material: Criv-Ex
  • Blade Finish: Stone Washed
  • Lock Type: Lockback
  • Weight: 7.4 ounces
  • Manufacture Location: Taiwan

Prices on this style can fluctuate quite a bit. I think the MSRP is something like $120, but I’ve never actually seen anyone selling the Voyager for more than $80. And if you really want to cut costs I guess you could go with the reasonably sized option, but why would you want to get just a 9-inch pocket knife when you could get a 12-inch pocket knife? I’m not sure what kind of secret extra-dimensional magic Cold Steel hammered into this knife, but it actually fits in the pocket better than you’d think, so long as you have some decent pockets. It’s not winning any beauty contests, but it’s a fantastic chopper, and it’s actually been one of our go-to EDCs for a while. You can check out our review of the Voyager if you’d like to see proof.

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Boker Plus Damascus Gent

  • Overall Length: 7.75”
  • Blade Length: 3.2”
  • Blade Style: Drop point
  • Handle Length: 4.5”
  • Blade Steel: Damascus
  • Blade Grind: Flat
  • Clip: Tip-down
  • Handle Material: Ebony
  • Lock Type: Liner
  • Blade Finish: Damascus
  • Weight: 2.10 oz
  • Manufacture Location: China

This is the fanciest looking knife in this price range. I don’t normally like to recommend Damascus steel blades because it just feels like a sales gimmick to me, but my personal experience with Boker Plus is that they do steel really well. You can trust the fit and finish on the Gent to be on point, and that edge will be a razor out of the box. If you’re buying a knife for someone who likes to rock a suit, this might be the way to go. There are two versions of this knife, 1 and 2. The main difference seems to be size. I’ve put up the stats for the Gent 1 since that’s the bigger of the two.

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Case Swayback Knife

Yhe Case Swayback is an excellent classic folder.

  • Overall Length: 5.50″
  • Blade Length: 2.25″ / 2.0”
  • Blade Style: Wharncliffe
  • Handle Length: 3.125″
  • Blade Steel: Stainless steel
  • Blade Grind: Flat
  • Clip:None
  • Handle Material: Bone
  • Blade Finish: Mirror
  • Lock Type: Slip joint
  • Weight 1.6 oz
  • Manufacture Location: USA

Case makes about a million variations of this style that tend to range from about $60 to $120. So in terms of variety, this is a great gift knife. If you’re getting a knife for someone who’s a little more old school, you’ll have a hard time finding a knife with more options in color and handle material. As far as function goes, Case is not quite what it used to be, but these things should still last a lifetime. They’re great for fishing trips, they make an alright letter opener, and should operate optimally when you’re a bored child pretending to do homework who’s decided he needs to carve a message into his desk telling future generations that his brother is “a butt”. I’m just spitballing examples though.

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Kizer Begleiter

Review of the Kizer Begleiter folding pocketknife.

  • Overall Length: 8.17″
  • Blade Length: 3.58″
  • Handle Length: 4.6″
  • Blade Steel: VG-10
  • Blade shape: Drop Point
  • Blade Grind: Flat
  • Handle Material: Stainless steel with G10 scales
  • Weight: 3.7 ounces
  • Manufacture Location: China
  • Designer: Azo

Kizer in general is a good source for reasonably priced, quality gift knives. Most of their designs look nice, and they’ve become famous for giving their knives a really smooth action. Even if you never end up actually using the Begleiter for anything, it’s just nice to have. Should you’re gifting victim ever hazard to flip this blade out and put edge to paper, cardboard, or wood, they’ll be pleasantly surprised by how well it cuts. It also comes in a couple different colors. I’ve lost track of how many, but I know you can find it in black, green, blue, and brown at least. If you want to go up another notch in price level, Kizer released a titanium version, but that’s probably going to run you at least an extra $100.

If you want a little more depth on the Begleiter, check out our full review.

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Spyderco Manix 2

  • Overall Length: 8.0”
  • Blade Length: 3.4”
  • Blade Style: Drop point
  • Handle Length: 4.6”
  • Blade Steel: CPM S30V
  • Blade Grind: Full flat
  • Clip: Tip-up, ambidextrous
  • Handle Material:G-10
  • Lock Type: Ball bearing lock
  • Blade Finish: Satin
  • Weight: 5.0 oz
  • Manufacture Location: USA

Another knife I’m recommending more for its universal usefulness rather than its looks. The Manix 2 is one of those gem blades that offers an enormous amount of bang for the buck, typically coming in somewhere just under $100. You can usually find this in just black or blue. It’s easy enough to switch out the scales down the road, though, and the market for custom Spyderco scales is thriving these days. It’s hard to overstate the quality of this knife. I’d say if you’re not sure what kind of knife someone is into, this is a pretty safe direction to go in terms of gifting just because of it’s all around good build and versatility.

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Folders Under $250

These are high-end, burn-holes-in-your-wallet knives that idiots like me stare at every day like they’re the pointiest Red Rider BB guns in the world. They’re the perfect mix of premium designing that’s just barely within an attainable reach for our fantasies to have a real taste to them.

Gerber 39 Series Micarta

  • Overall Length: 7.6”
  • Blade Length: 3.3”
  • Blade Style: Drop point
  • Handle Length: 4.3”
  • Blade Steel: CPM S30V
  • Blade Grind: Flat
  • Clip: Tip-up, low ride
  • Handle Material: Micarta w/ polymer bolsters
  • Lock Type: Liner
  • Blade Finish: Bead blast
  • Weight: 3.8 oz
  • Manufacture Location: USA

This knife got a bad rep when it first came out. Gerber apparently had some quality control issues at first, but they’ve since ironed those out and now this is one of the best gentleman folders they make. Not that Gerber makes many gentleman carry knives. The S30V steel and Micarta scales alone are enough to make this knife worth looking into, but Gerber really hit it out of the park with the design overall. The 39 series manages to look different without looking weird, which is pretty hard to pull off these days. I think you can still find versions of this knife with some kind of nickel-plated zinc handles, which sound cool, but ultimately fall short in practice from what I’ve heard. In my opinion, the Micarta version is the only one worth owning.

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Emerson knives Tactical Kwaiken

The Emerson knives Tactical Kwaiken is a great high end folding knife if you are looking for a good gift idea.

  • Overall Length: 9.0”
  • Blade Length: 3.9”
  • Blade Style: Standard
  • Handle Length: 5.10”
  • Blade Steel: 154CM
  • Blade Grind: Hollow
  • Clip: Tip-up
  • Handle Material: Titanium liner w/ G-10 scales
  • Lock Type: Liner
  • Blade Finish: Stonewash
  • Weight: 5.28 oz
  • Manufacture Location: USA

Emerson makes a lot of great knives, but they all have a tactical bent to their aesthetic that doesn’t make them the best to look at. Anyone who’s into tactical knives anyway would love to have any Emerson knife, but the Tactical Kwaiken is one of the few that’s actually nice to look at. You don’t get many color options (they’ve got a thing about black), but you do get a nice pair of G10 scales and beautifully made blade with a big slicey edge. Something Emerson knives always excel at is ergonomics and usability, this knife should ride really easy in the pocket and deploy like silk falling off even nicer silk, probably after being cut into very clean pieces by an Emerson knife.

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Southern Grind Bad Monkey

Awesome folder from Southern Grind

  • Overall Length: 9.25”
  • Blade Length: 4.0”
  • Blade Style: Drop point
  • Handle Length: 5.25”
  • Blade Steel: 14C-28N
  • Blade Grind: Flat
  • Clip: Tip-up
  • Handle Material: Carbon Fiber
  • Lock Type: Liner
  • Blade Finish: Satin
  • Weight: 4.97 oz
  • Manufacture Location: USA

Southern Grind deserves more attention as a whole than it gets, not least of all because it was started by a country singer. I’m not saying that makes it good, but it definitely makes it interesting. Their Bad Monkey knife is a paragon of clean design and utility. It has a simple carbon fiber handle with a hard 14C-28N steel in a flat grind. The 4 inch length might make it a legally problematic carry in a few states, but barring that this thing is a clean-cutting beast with some good durability for an outdoor trip.

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Benchmade Valet 485

The Benchmade Valet 485 makes a great gift.

  • Overall Length: 6.69”
  • Blade Length: 2.96”
  • Blade Style: Drop point
  • Handle Length: 3.73”
  • Blade Steel: Bohler M390
  • Blade Grind: Hollow
  • Clip: Tip-up
  • Handle Material: G-10
  • Lock Type: Axis Lock
  • Blade Finish: Satin
  • Weight: 2.18 oz
  • Manufacture Location: USA

This knife seems to get overlooked a lot int he Benchmade community. Probably because Benchmade fanatics are still too busy obsessing over the custom scales they got for their 940s and Bugouts. There are a lot of impressive qualities in the Valet, though. The Bohler steel is a pretty mean workhorse in terms of hardness and edge retention, and Benchmade has done a great job of styling and texturing the G-10 scales. The ergonomics of this knife in general are worth a lot of praise, although the thumbstud does ride a little too low for its own good. But the Valet is a nice-looking smaller knife that should be great for anyone who wants a gentelman folder with a more modern look.

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Folders Under $500

I don’t know what kind of monster you are looking this far down on the list, but I hope you are appropriately disgusted with how much money you’re about to consider spending on someone else. Whoever the lucky knife enthusiast is better have something pretty sweet lined up for you too or else you’re about to embark on the awful misadventure of a one-sided friendship.

Boker Arctos Santos

Excellent wooden handle pocket knife from Boker

  • Overall Length: 6.75”
  • Blade Length: 2.86”
  • Blade Style: Drop point
  • Handle Length: 3.88”
  • Blade Steel: Bohler N690
  • Blade Grind: Hollow
  • Clip: Tip-up
  • Handle Material: Olive wood w/ steel bolsters
  • Lock Type: Liner
  • Blade Finish: Stone wash
  • Weight: 5.9 oz
  • Manufacture Location: Germany

Somewhere out there is a version of this knife that has a Cocobolo handle. My understanding is that it was limited release, but it looks great so if you ever find one, jump on it.

As for the knife itself, Boker describes the Arctos Santos as multi-purpose, but it looks suspiciously like a skinning knife to me. That’s not to say it can’t be used for multiple purposes. Boker doesn’t skimp on steel in their Arbolito line and the hollow grind will give you some pretty clean cutting. All I mean is that the whole “multi-purpose” phrasing is probably a way of telling anyone who doesn’t hunt that it’s okay to use this knife. That being said, if you’re looking for a folding knife for a hunter, this wouldn’t be a bad option.

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Chris Reeve Umnumzaan

Chris Reeve

  • Overall Length: 8.4”
  • Blade Length: 3.68”
  • Handle Length: 4.77”
  • Blade Steel: CPM S35V
  • Blade Grind: Hollow
  • Clip: Tip-up
  • Handle Material: Titanium
  • Lock Type: Liner
  • Blade Finish: Polish
  • Weight: 5.0 oz
  • Manufacture Location: USA

Of course we’re gonna lay down a Chris Reeve at the high price level. That’s the first thing anybody thinks about when you say “expensive folding knife” in the same way we think about Ferrari when someone says “expensive cars”. Ironically this Ferrari of a knife was actually made to be a tough working knife. The Umnumzaan features a lot of creative mechanisms that make it incredibly solid flipped out. You’ll hear some stuff about a ceramic ball and a thumb lug to lock the knife up, and you can pretend to actually understand what all of that is doing, but the point of it all is that this was designed to be as solid as a fixed blade.

It’s not. No folder will ever be as solid as a fixed blade, but you can count on Chris Reeve to get you closer than pretty much anyone else.

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