Best Utility Knives That Are More Than Box Cutters


   02.18.21

Utility knives by classification are a bit boring, but not today. A utility knife is effectively a fancy box cutter—a blade that lives in your junk drawer or clipped onto your belt at work if you work in shipping in receiving. The typical answer is usually something from a no name brand or tool company, designed to be fitted with disposable razor blades. While that’s all well and good, we decided to take an alternative look at the category, instead finding compact blades (with a 1″ to 2″ blade length) that will last rather than requiring you to replace razors on the regular.

1. Kizer Lundquist Contrail Liner Lock Knife

One of a handful of knives designed by Justin Lundquist for Kizer Knives, the stubby 2-inch sheepsfoot blade of this compact folder makes for a great high quality utility knife. Its blade is made of satin finishes 154CM steel, and its G-10 scale material has added grooves to improve overall grip.

Pros/Good blade shape, tumb stud for easy opening, and grippy handles.

Cons/More pricey than some of our alternatives.

Bottom Line/A smart buy that’ll last if you don’t mind spending a few extra bucks.

2. Kershaw Sinkevich Pub Friction Lock Knife

The Kershaw Sinkevich Pub is a more cost-effective offering with a unique central pivot design. when closed, the back end acts as a carabiner to attach it to a belt loop, keychain, or onto your pack as needed. Alongside its blade, the fixed end of the Pub can be used as a bottle opener or flathead screwdriver, adding additional practicality to this utility knife. Once again a sheepsfoot blade shape is used here, this time with an effective length of 1.625 inches.

Pros/Budget friendly, with a few practical perks.

Cons/Friction lock rather than liner or frame, and only has scales on one side.

Bottom Line/This is one of the best “budget buys” in our list.

3. Gerber Key Note Keychain Knife

With this Gerber Key Note, we’re looking at the shortest blade we could find in a package we have no problem recommending. Meant to be a keychain fob that hides discretely in your pocket, this utility knife has the tiniest 1-inch tanto blade we’ve ever seen—perfect for cutting down boxes, opening packages, etc. A tiny nub of a not-quite-flipper tab rests on one side to assist with opening, or you can also rely on the nail nick in the back of the blade. Interestingly, this blade also has a pocket clip that’s nearly the same size as the knife when folded. If so motivated, a couple of screws would help you remove the key ring, allowing you to use it as a compact clip carry instead.

Pros/Ultra compact keychain and folding tanto blade.

Cons/A touch more precarious to sharpen than others.

Bottom Line/At $18 it’s pretty hard to go wrong here.

4. TOPS Knives Baghdad Box Cutter

American made, and frequently carried by US-deployed soldiers in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, the TOPS Knives Baghdad box cutter is a utility knife on steroids. This tough little spear point blade is 2.25 inches long (4.875 inches overall), and comes with a Kydex sheath and clip for easy carrying.

Pros/Tough as nails, and a bit bigger than its counterparts in this list.

Cons/With sheath, might be a bit bulky for the task (for some).

Bottom Line/American made goodness that’s durable and easy to maintain.

5. Fox Knives Mini-KA Linerlock Karambit Knife

The Mini-KA is a unique offering featuring a recurve hawkbill blade shape that is similar in size to the Gerber featured above. In contrast its blade is a bit more useful depending on the task at hand, and it is equipped with a linerlock for added safety. The ring off the back makes for easy attachment to a keychain, and if blue isn’t your thing the Mini-KA is also offered in a range of additional colors, as well as a sheepsfoot blade variant known as the Mini-TA.

Pros/Practical blade shape for slicing and light utility work, and comes in a variety of colors and blade shapes.

Cons/Blade shape may seem a bit aggressive to some.

Bottom Line/A high quality mini slicer.

6. Bestech Knives Tulip Frame Lock Flipper Knife

As far as a best “spendy” utility knife goes, this Bestech is our favorite of the pack. At $126 for a 1.5-inch blade it’s a big ask, but that comes part and parcel with its build specification coming from a well respected maker. The Tulip is a titanium framelock front flipper running on ceramic bearings. Its blade, a Kiridashi blade shape, is made of strong and resilient Bohler M390 steel. This means it will hold its edge longer than anything else on this list, but in trade, it’ll be a bit more of a pain to sharpen. Add to that a milled pocket clip, and you’ve got a high spec EDC-style build quality in a very compact package.

Pros/Ceramic bearings, M390 steel, and a milled pocket clip to boot.

Cons/M390 means it’ll be a bit of a pain to sharpen.

Bottom Line/Great quality, but you’re paying for it.

7. Schrade Pocket Fixed Blade w/ Money Clip

This little guy was just out of the ordinary enough to make the cut on our list—hear me out. Much like the Gerber and others do a good job of doubling as a keychain, this little Schrade’s sheath actually doubles as a money clip, so you can carry it day in and day out without wondering where you left your utility knife in the house. At roughly 3.5 inched long, it carries no larger than a typical card case style wallet.

Pros/Pocket friendly and easy to forget that you’re carrying.

Cons/Average grade 8Cr13MoV steel.

Bottom Line/A funky alternative to daily carry.

8. Spyderco Pochi Frame Lock Knife

Can it get much weirder than Pochi? Not really. This is a new release from Spyderco that can’t be described as much else other than “cute ‘n weird”, but on paper it still ticks the boxes for a good utility knife with a bit of extra character. Pochi is a titanium framelock with a clip point blade made in CPM-S45VN steel. Further cementing its puppy dog looks, that little blue tab off the end gives Pochi his tail, which can be flipped. up. It’s quirky, it’s weird, but it’s Spyderco so it deserves a spot on this list.

Pros/Oddball design and solid build quality.

Cons/Oddball design (yup), and a steep sticker price.

Bottom Line/Not a bad buy if you’re into fun (and weird) kinves.

To Sharpen or Replace

This topic is effectively why we’re here. Yes, a disposable razor blade can hack through your cardboard and tape all day long, but use it on anything else and you’re destined to chip, snap off, or simply wear out blades in a hurry. Now, we’ll admit, if you spend $10 on the box cutter and $10 on the stack of blades every so often, it’s hard to justify spending $50 or $100 on some of these options. That said, as with every tool, there’s something to be said for longevity. Our blade selections are quite durable (shy of a couple super budget options), and thus can be resharpened to extend their lifespan. We’ve also ensured to pick blades that use a mid-tier steel hardness, as to not make sharpening a pain in the butt.

What And When To Carry

As with any knife story, we strongly advise that you check with local and state laws before adding any blade to your arsenal, however when talking about things with a 2-inch blade you should be safe just about anywhere. As you go through this list you’ll also notice some variance as to the design of each blade. We wanted to provide a range of options that work for people in different use cases. If you simply want something well made but discreet to pack around with you every day, we’ve got you covered. That said, we also wanted to have some more “subdued” options for those working in warehouse or office settings, where someone might be a little thrown off by things like the Mini-KA or Baghdad Box cutter. At the end of the day, the blade that works for you is the one that cuts what needs cutting, but in the same breath, let’s avoid that walk down to the HR office if we can, yeah?

About the Author

As OutdoorHub’s new resident knife expert, Justin Mastine-Frost brings a wealth of knowledge to a very specific niche of the site. While not as outdoorsy or well-seasoned in hunting and fishing, Justin is very well versed when it comes to the world of engineering and manufacturing, as well as being an avid knife collector. Coming at the category with a background in automotive, powersports, and watchmaking (an eclectic mix, we know), he has rapidly built up a knowledge base of the category. Aside from overall knife design, he knows that the devil is in the details—ergonomics, type and hardness of steel, bearing materials, and other key details will all play into the evaluation of each knife presented on OutdoorHub, alongside both value and intended use. Whether you’re looking for a substantial field knife for dressing and gutting, or a small pocket folder for daily carry, he’ll do his best to steer you in the right direction.

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