​​Choosing the Best Swiss Army Knife: The Ultimate Guide

Updated December 5, 2023

Best Swiss Army Knife

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Folks who claim they don’t need knives simply haven’t experienced the magic of a Swiss Army Knife!

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A whopping 400 different models! Choosing the best Swiss Army Knife has never been an easy task. Let me break the bad news to you, there is no perfect SAK.

And the good news? the best Swiss Army Knife for YOU exists, it’s right in front of you. Only condition is you should know why you need it and what you intend to do with it!

Confused? I was too, before getting my first one more than a decade ago. Let me help you navigate through Victorinox’s catalog of Swiss Army Knives to arrive at the perfect one for you. Don’t be surprised if you end up liking more than one. I do, to the extent that I always EDC more than one with me.

What Size of SAK do you need?

You can drastically shorten the selection process if you can answer this question.

Are you looking for something small, with almost negligible weight, that almost disappears in your pocket?

Or do you need a medium-sized knife that can do most of the common household tasks, as well as some outdoor stuff? 

Or maybe you need something substantially stronger and bigger, with a locking blade?

Based on these requirements, Victorinox classifies Swiss Army Knives into three broad categories – Small Pocket Knives, Medium Pocket Knives, and Large Pocket Knives. Here are the respective SAK sizes in each of these categories:

  • Small Pocket Knives: 58mm, 65mm, 74mm
  • Medium Pocket Knives: 84mm, 85mm, 91mm, 93mm
  • Large Pocket Knives: 111mm, 130mm

I will stick to only 3 SAK series that provide the most options and the best models overall – 58mm, 91mm, and 111mm.

Now that we have the category identified, the selection task will become much simpler. Just go to that section and read through it to arrive at the one that matches your requirements and personality.

The Best Small Pocket Knives (58mm SAKs)

The Victorinox Classic SD is your entry into the world of Swiss Army Knives. It is one of the most affordable and popular SAKs.

What is more, it also makes an excellent gift item.

In fact, you can get a unique Vic Classic SD for each of your near and dear ones because of the various limited edition models that Victorinox releases every year.

Victorinox Classic SD
Victorinox Classic SD – The most popular keychain-SAK!

Sounds interesting? You can read about my experiences of carrying the Vic Classic SD in my keychain in this post. The Classic SD is quite cheap, I got it from this Amazon listing.

For most people, this would be the perfect SAK to attach to the keychain. 

But maybe you want a little more? Do you want a little more functions than the Classic SD, and also something that is not so common?

Then you have to look at a little upgrade to the Classic SD, towards our next favorite model in the list, the Victorinox Rambler.

The Rambler has everything that the Classic has, and some more.

This is the keychain SAK that I carry today, and have been doing so for the last 4 years.

Reason, the extra functionalities that the Rambler provides over the Classic SD are significant.

Best Sak Rambler
Victorinox Rambler – my personal favourite!

The bottle opener and the Philips screwdriver have come in handy on many occasions. So much so, that I feel handicapped if I don’t have them with me!

I would have been carrying the Classic SD forever in my keychain if I hadn’t got the Rambler. This is quite evident in my review of the Victorinox Rambler.

You can get the Vic Rambler in this Amazon listing. However, note that the availability of this model is scarce.

I haven’t found anything else to replace the Rambler yet. So I would like choices to be limited between the Classic SD and the Rambler

But there is one other model that I find difficult to ignore. It has so much more packed within its frame. Yes, you guessed it right. I am talking about the Victorinox Mini Champ!

The Victorinox Mini Champ doesn’t miss anything! It packs almost all the 58mm tools that Victorinox offers within its small compact body. 

Yes, it’s a bit heavier than the Classic SD or the Rambler. But the number of functions far outweighs the small increase in bulk and weight. 

Victorinox Mini Champ
Victorinox Mini Champ! – lot of tools in your keychain!

The only reason I favor the Rambler is that I don’t need these extra functions too often. But hey, you may be different! Maybe, you need a tool chest in your pocket attached to your keychain. The Mini Champ probably has anything and everything that you have seen in any other keychain multi-tool.

This post is not all about the Mini champ. But as you have probably guessed by now, I have written in detail about my experiences using the Mini Champ in this review.

The Mini Champ costs more (Amazon link)  than the other small pocket knives discussed here. But that is understandable.

Other 58mm SAKs You May Find Interesting

Honestly, I would like to keep my choices within these three models. The other ‘small pocket knife’ models don’t offer anything I would be enthusiastic about. But here are some notable mentions (along with their Amazon links):

  • Victorinox Classic SD Alox: Some people prefer Alox models. I admit these are better built and also look better. However, I miss the toothpick and tweezers in the Alox models.
  • Victorinox Manager: Same as the Rambler, but with a ballpoint pen instead of the toothpick. You may like this if the toothpick is useless to you.

That’s it! We are done selecting our keychain Swiss Army Knife! If that is all you were looking for, you can skip the rest of the post. But let me tell you, Victorinox is famous because of its medium-sized Swiss Army Knives, especially the 91m SAKs!

Now let’s see which Victorinox ‘Medium Pocket Knife’ to get. 

The Best Medium Pocket Knives (91mm SAKs)

We will be spoiled for choices here. The 91mm series has the most number of models in the Victorinox catalog. Choices range from SAKs having a single layer of tools, to as high as 15 layers of tools!

But I have done the shortlisting for you. And I have considered everything, from the models that have a rich history behind yet, to those with special tools, and of course, the ones that seem to do-it-all!

To give you an idea of what we have on our plate, have a look at the below classification of 91mm models and the ones I have highlighted.

Medium Swiss Army Knives
Original Image Source: forum.multitool.org
I have skipped the single-layer SAKs, because honestly, I don’t find them interesting. But if any model catches your eye, read more about it to see if it fits your needs.

Best 2-layer 91mm Swiss Army Knives

The First 2-layer SAK I would recommend is the Victorinox Spartan. It is one of the slimmest and cheapest 91mm SAK you will ever find. Check the price on Amazon here.

But its claim to fame is not that. It’s the piece of history associated with the Spartan that makes it unique.

The Spartan is the direct descendant of the first ‘Swiss Army Knife’ ever made, the one called ‘Swiss Officer’s And Sports Knife’. In a way, all other models are derived from the Spartan.

Victorinox Spartan
Victorinox Spartan – a piece of history in your hands!

But even if the history of the Swiss Army Knife doesn’t interest you, still the Spartan is one of the easiest SAKs to work with. It packs just the right tools in a slim form factor.

This 2-layer SAK is considered by many as the ideal replacement for any pocket knife you can think of. 

If you just want a 2-layer SAK, get the Spartan. But if you want something more, you should have a look at the Victorinox Compact.

Many consider the Victorinox Compact the best 2-layer SAK (myself included). Victorinox has packed everything they can, even a redesigned tool with multiple functions, into the Compact.

The result? You have a 2-layer SAK that boasts more functions than even some 3-layer SAKs!

Victorinox Compact
Victorinox Compact – fully loaded in 2-layers!

I have reviewed the Victorinox Compact and explained everything about it in detail. Don’t miss it.

What is there not to love about the Compact? The price!  ????

Yes, the Compact is dearer than many other 91mm SAKs! But you already guessed that, right? Check the price here on Amazon.

We are done with 2-layer SAKs. Just choose one from the Spartan and the Compact, and you will be happy (hopefully). If not, look for your options in the 3-layer SAKs.

Best 3-layer 91mm Swiss Army Knives

I have carried the Victorinox Super Tinker as my EDC SAK for a long period. The reason is simple, it has everything that I ‘need’, and nothing that I ‘want’.

It just feels like a complete package. It is still the most used SAK in my collection simply because it is one of the earliest SAKs I got. Here is the Amazon listing.

Victorinox Super Tinker
Victorinox Super Tinker – my first EDC SAK!

The only gripe I had at that time was that the Super Tinker didn’t have a corkscrew. But I valued a Philips screwdriver more, and the Super Tinker has it! Case closed.

But of course, if you need the corkscrew, you will get the Victorinox Climber.

The Climber has the exact specs as the Super Tinker, with only the corkscrew replacing the Philips screwdriver.

Victorinox Climber
Get the Victorinox Climber if you prefer the corkscrew over the Philips Screwdriver!

Both the Super Tinker and the Climber (Amazon link) are excellent EDC SAKs. But they are a tad less useful in the woods. Can you guess what both these models are missing? Yes, a wood saw!

If you are venturing into the outdoors (think backpacking, trekking, woodwork, bushcraft, etc.), a wood saw is an absolute must. A pair of scissors is not so important in these scenarios.

Guess what, there is a 3-layer model that keeps the same specs, and just replaces the scissors with a wood saw.

It’s the Victorinox Hiker. You may check it out on Amazon here.

Victorinox Hiker
Get the Victorinox Hiker if you prefer the wood saw over a pair of scissors!

The only other 3-layer SAK I will ever consider is the Victorinox Pioneer X. It is an exception, as it is not a 91mm SAK, the Pioneer X is a 93mm Alox Swiss Army Knife. 

Yes, there are other Alox models too. But the Pioneer X will always be special just because of its toolset. 

I consider the Pioneer X the perfect urban EDC Alox SAK. Note that you won’t get the scale tools and the backside tools in an Alox SAK.

You will have to sacrifice those in favor of a stronger, better build quality, as well as premium looks.

Victorinox Pioneer X
Victorinox Pioneer X – the best 3-layer Alox SAK!

I got the Pioneer X quite cheap on Amazon from this listing. I think there was a discount going on at that time.

That’s all about 3-layer SAKs. All of these models have very usable toolsets with a few sacrifices. But of course, if you want to avoid making those sacrifices, you have to look towards 4-layer Swiss Army Knives.

Best 4-layer 91mm Swiss Army Knives

Things become quite interesting as we look at some of the 4-layer SAK models. But in all essence, I consider the 4-layer SAKs as enhancements of the 3-layer choices we made earlier.

Take a look at the Victorinox Fieldmaster.

It adds the wood saw to the toolset of the Super Tinker. That literally makes one of the best urban toolset SAKs equipped for the outdoors too. 

So you get a slightly thicker SAK with the added advantage of having a wood saw, making it perfect for picnics and bushcraft. How cool is that?

Victorinox Fieldmaster
Victorinox Fieldmaster – a better Super Tinker!

You can get the Victorinox Fieldmaster from this Amazon listing.

The same is the case for Victorinox Huntsman, one of the hugely popular 4-layer SAKs.

The Huntsman (Amazon link) also just adds the wood saw to the Climber, and makes it capable for outdoor adventures.

Victorinox Huntsman
Victorinox Huntsman – a better Climber!

As you might have understood by now, the Fieldmaster and the Huntsman give you the same choices, just like the Super Tinker and the Climber. They make you choose between a Philips screwdriver and a corkscrew, keeping everything else the same.

And here comes my 4-layer favorite, the Victorinox Explorer. The Explorer is the only SAK (apart from the huge Swiss Champ) to have both a Philips Screwdriver and a Corkscrew.

That puts to rest the age-old debate of which is better, as most SAKs have either of the two.

Best Sak Explorer
Victorinox Explorer – my current favorite EDC!

But that is not the reason why I consider the Explorer the best urban EDC SAK (read my detailed review here). The Explorer has two other tricks up its sleeve.

The first is the addition of a unique tool – a magnifying glass. The other is the in-line Philips Screwdriver, which has much better usability than the back-end Philips screwdriver found in other SAKs. 

Yes, it doesn’t have a wood saw, so I won’t be carrying it out into the woods. But in an urban environment, it trumps any other 2-3-4 layer SAKs in my opinion. I got the Victorinox Explorer quite cheap from this Amazon listing.

For an EDC, I would like to limit myself to 4-layers. Any more layers, and you may find it considerably unwieldy unless you have huge hands. But nevertheless, there are some unique models hidden in those thicker SAKs. Stay with me as we uncover those gems.

Best 5-layer 91mm Swiss Army Knife

The 5-layer SAKs are mostly a combination of the tools in 3-layer or 4-layer SAKs. But there is one model that is unique – the Victorinox Cyber Tool M.

The Cyber Tool is aimed at technicians, people who like to tinker with electronic gadgets. The addition of a set of pliers, a bit wrench, multiple hex drives, and a bit case means that you can open, fix, and close many electronic gadgets. 

So if you work with IT hardware, the Cyber Tool M is probably the SAK you need.

Victorinox Cyber Tool M
Victorinox Cyber Tool M – the technicians SAK!

The Cyber Tool M is available on Amazon in this listing.

Note that there are two other Cyber Tool models, Cyber Tool S and Cyber Tool L. But as per my experience, the Cyber Tool M maintains the perfect balance between size and functionality.

But if size doesn’t matter to you, and you are hell-bent on getting the most functional Swiss Army Knife, you have to go all up to 8-layers.

Best 8-layer 91mm Swiss Army Knife

There is only one Swiss Army Knife in this category, one of the most popular and best-selling SAKs of all time – the Victorinox Swiss Champ.

With the Swiss Champ, Victorinox tries to include every ‘important’ tool found in the 91mm series and package them into a single SAK model. And it does it fairly well.

Yes, it is huge, but not completely unwieldy. And despite being so thick, you can actually carry it in your pocket.

Victorinox Swiss Champ
Victorinox Swiss Champ – most tools in a pocketable SAK!

This particular model has so much going for it that it needs a separate post to do justice to its virtues. And I have done exactly that in my detailed and practical review of the Swiss Champ.

But in short, if you want everything in one model and don’t want to sacrifice portability, the Swiss Champ (Amazon link) is the only option you have. Period.

Note

Whatever SAK models we have discussed till now, the Swiss Champ has all those functions in it, with the exception of one –  the bit driver and the extra bits that you find in the Cyber Tool M. The Swiss Champ XL, its bigger brother, includes those too. But the XL is too big and unwieldy.

Our journey to find the perfect 91mm Swiss Army Knife should end with the Swiss Champ. But it will be incomplete if I do not add the largest Victorinox SAK to this list. But for that, we have to move up to 15 layers.

Best 15-layer 91mm Swiss Army Knife

The Victorinox Swiss Champ XXL is the largest Swiss Army Knife Victorinox makes. This is the only SAK that has all the 91mm tools that are found in all other 91mm models.

Is it usable? Maybe. But there is no doubt that it is an astonishing piece of engineering. 

Victorinox Swiss Champ XXL
Victorinox Swiss Champ XXL – The largest from Victorinox

I don’t have it. But I would surely want to get hold of it someday. It is the successor of the largest SAK that Victorinox has ever made, the Swiss Champ XAVT (read all about it here).

The XAVT is retired now. But the Swiss Champ XXL is still in production (Amazon link). Who knows, maybe Vic will also stop making this awesome SAK in the future.

With that, we have covered (almost) all the significant 91mm Swiss Army Knife models.

In terms of utility, the 91mm models sit somewhere between home/office usage and some outdoor usage. But if you are looking for a knife specifically for the outdoors, you have to go for the ‘large’ category of SAKs.

The Best Large Pocket Knives (111mm SAKs)

In addition to being longer, the 111mm series of Swiss Army Knives have one distinct advantage over the 91mm, the locking blade!

I guess you understand the advantages of having a locking blade, especially in the outdoors. In addition to this, some tools, like the blade and especially the wood saw, perform significantly better when they are long. That’s what you get with a 111mm SAK!

To give you some idea, I sawed off a small branch of a tree in less than half the time with a 111mm SAK wood saw compared to a 91mm SAK wood saw!

The Victorinox Soldier is your quintessential outdoor SAK. It has that tactical and outdoor look, not only in the color of the scales but also in the toolset it provides.

Add to that the history associated with it.

Victorinox Soldier Matheran
Victorinox Soldier: made for the outdoors!

The Soldier is the direct descendant of the ‘Model 1890’, the knife used by the Switzerland army in 1891 that inspired Carl Elsener to design the prototype of the first Swiss Army Knife.

And know what? The Switzerland army has been using all the various iterations of the Soldier as a ’standard issue’.

You may read more about the history of Swiss Army Knife and the Soldier in these posts:

The History of Victorinox and the Swiss Army Knife

Do the Swiss Army Use Swiss Army Knives?

But apart from the history, the Soldier has a lot going for it. It is very grippy and has just the right weight, a one-handed opening blade, and an awesome build quality. The Switzerland army depends on it, so why not you?

But if the number of tools is what you are looking for in a large pocket knife, then the only other model I can recommend wholeheartedly is the Victorinox Work Champ.

The Work Champ is the only 111mm SAK that not only offers a large number of tools but also makes you feel good about using the tools.

I will also go to the extent that if I am allowed to take only one 11mm SAK, it will be the Work Champ.

Victorinox Work Champ
Victorinox Work Champ – the most versatile 111mm SAK!

I have written about my experiences with the Work Champ in this review. You can get it here on Amazon.

The Work Champ is thick but fits into the hand nicely. Anymore in thickness will be uncomfortable, the reason why I don’t like its big brother the Work Champ XL

Unless I have very specific needs that can be fulfilled by a particular model, the Soldier, and the Work Champ are the only models that I will choose from the 111mm SAK series.

Why There is No “Best” Swiss Army Knife?

I’ve learned there’s no single “best” Swiss Army Knife out there. If it’s got everything you want, it’s probably too chunky and weighty to have on you at all times. And if it’s small enough to always carry, it likely doesn’t have some tool you’ll eventually need.

For me, choosing the right SAK involves balancing two things:

  • How big of a knife I’m willing to haul around daily
  • Which tools do I use most often

Final Thoughts

That’s it, folks. I have (hopefully) covered most of the Swiss Army Knife worth owning. I am sure you have already found the best Swiss Army Knife for you by now. I will keep updating this post as I experience more SAKs and find any other model worthy enough to be on this list.

If you are still confused, remember, that the “perfect” SAK depends on your personal needs and preferences. One person’s ideal set of tools is useless to someone else.

My advice? Grab the SAK that grabs you. Start your own multipurpose blade adventure. You may end up owning multiple models over time (like me). Fortunately, Swiss Army knives are pretty inexpensive.

And even if you can’t afford the one you fell in love with, remember, even the basic ones are worthy enough to be in your travel bag or pocket.

About Me
ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Deb is passionate about pocket tools, bags, and accessories, especially any type of everyday-use gear (or not so everyday-use gear) that makes life efficient, comfortable, and more enjoyable.

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