Topichigh-quality folder that is equally at home outdoors
Kicking the list off with a heavy thud is the Cold Steel 4Max, a gargantuan folder with strength to match. When it was first introduced, Cold Steel billed the 4Max as the toughest folder they ever made. Coming from them, that's quite the boast - their other Tri-Ad lock knives are already some of the strongest out there. The 4Max gets its name from Andrew Demko's original idea for the design: a four-inch folding blade with the maximum amount of edge. In hand, it's impressively big, especially the handle, which provides more than enough leverage to power through tough cuts. You can carry it clipped to a pocket Survival Knife, but you might not want to - this is a serious pocket hog. Still, for the size and weight, the 4Max has outsized capability. New for 2020, the 4Max Scout is a big improvement over the original in one key area: price! The original 4Max - made in the USA, then Italy, from premium materials - was priced too high for many. The titanium liners, sculpted G10 handles, and 20CV blade steel of the original are awesome (and it's still in stock as of now), but the 4Max Scout - made in Taiwan and priced at $110 - makes more sense for most people. It may not have the same top-shelf materials and finishing, but it's just as strong and much more affordable. If the Cold Steel 4Max specializes in strength, the Emerson Commander specializes in speed. The Commander design was the first to feature Emerson's patented Wave opener, which works to deploy the blade as you pull it out of your pocket. With practice, there's no faster way to open a knife than the Emerson Wave. It's fun, too - the knife cracks out with whip-like speed, moving from pocket to task in a single, uninterrupted motion. Ernest Emerson designs his knives with user serviceability in mind Camping Knife. You can take them apart and put them back together with commonly available screwdrivers (Standard and Phillips - no special Torx bits required). The liners and hardware are oversized for strength. His choice of blade steel, 154CM, is corrosion-resistant, tough, and easy to sharpen; perfect for a hard use application. Even the trademark asymmetrical Emerson edge is designed with maintenance in mind, and meant to be simpler to “field sharpen” on whatever abrasives are at hand. We could have selected any one of a number of Emerson designs for this list, but we picked the Commander because of its exceptional ergonomics and the fact that it's available in a range of sizes, from the Mini-Commander up to the Super Commander listed below. Overall, if you want a hard use knife that is literally battlefield-tested, you won't go wrong with an Emerson Commander. No list of hard use knives would be complete without mentioning the Hinderer XM-18. This is THE knife that kicked off the titanium framelock flipper craze, and to this day, few production knifemakers can match it. Some of you may remember the days when Hinderer knives were impossible to order unless you were a first responder - when demand was high and supply was tight, Hinderer would only take orders from the customers he felt needed his products the most: firefighters, police, military, and EMTs. The ergonomics, materials, and blade geometry of Hinderer's knives are optimized for hard use, and they feature innovations built specifically to stand up to rough work. As he tells it, Rick Hinderer - a firefighter himself - went to use his knife one day when he noticed that its lock bar had been bent beyond repair. In an adrenaline-fueled moment, he had overextended the lockbar without noticing or thinking about it. Disappointed in a tool that needed attention he couldn't afford to give it in the heat of the moment Folding Knife, he invented the Hinderer lockbar stabilizer, the trademark disk on the lock side of his knives that keeps the lockbar in place and prevents it from ever being bent too far. Since the original XM-18 took the market by storm, Hinderer has continued improving his knives, iteration after iteration. The latest batch of XM-18s are unquestionably the best yet, featuring steel lockbar inserts for stable lockup over time, and the new Tri Way pivot system for exceptionally smooth and fast operation. Attention to details like those are why so many people buy Hinderer knives, and why the XM-18 is still worth considering if you need a high-end hard use knife. The DPx HEST (short for Hostile Environment Survival Tool) is the smallest knife on this list, but no less overbuilt. Manufactured by LionSteel in Italy for DPx to designer Robert Young Pelton's specifications, it definitely punches above its weight class. In fact, the HEST is more than just a knife - it cleverly integrates extra functionality into the design without getting in the way of its primary role as a cutting tool. The lanyard hole is sized to fit standard hex bits to double as a bit driver, the fastener that secures the deep-carry pocket clip works as a glassbreaker, and the pocket hook opener also opens bottles. Despite the extra bells and whistles, the HEST is no gimmick Hunting Knife. The blade is ground from a thick piece of German D2 steel, the hardware is all oversized for strength, and the sturdy titanium framelock is backed up by LionSteel's Patented RotoBlock system, which can be engaged to fix the lockbar in place for added security. With a do-everything drop point blade in S30V or ultra-tough CPM-M4, the Freek should be near the top of the list for anyone needing a high-quality folder that is equally at home outdoors as it is in the hustle-and-bustle of daily life. We especially love the M4 version, dubbed “Super Freek” by Benchmade fans, for its black and gray G10 handle construction paired with red liners and barrel spacers. With everything backed up by the ambidextrous AXIS-Lock, this is a tool to rely on. Featuring a robust hidden tang, the Kansbol offers the same profile as the full-tang Mora Garberg at a lower price, and the blade itself is even more versatile! This is thanks to the compound grinds - the edge is Scandi-ground for woodcarving mastery, but the belly of the knife is scalloped behind the edge, thinning the blade out for better slicing and skinning potential. This knife is a joy to use and priced low so you aren't afraid to get it dirty! When you are out on or around the water, the last thing you want to worry about is rust. Spyderco's Pacific Salt series, newly updated to incorporate the Gen 4 Endura ergonomics, features H1 steel that is virtually corrosion-proof. This means you can just concentrate on having fun! Perfect for fishermen, boaters, kayakers, or anyone who recreates in wet or humid environments. Now under the control of RMJ Tactical, the Model 1 from American Tomahawk Co. is better than ever. Singularly reliable and built for punishment, you have a choice between genuine Tennesee Hickory handles or super-tough Dupont Nylon. The forged head is agile and strong, light enough to carry all day, and even features an unsharpened spike for extra utility. Long a favorite lightweight option for hunters Pocket Knife, Buck's skeletonized Paklite series has expanded with new Cerakoted options in Plum Brown and bright Hunter Orange. They look great and are more durable than ever thanks to that tough coating process. Made in America and keenly sharpened from their famous Bos-heat treated 420HC steel, these are perfect for your next hunting or fishing trip. A folding, scandi-ground bushcraft knife? Yes! This knife is instantly ready to back you up when going hiking or camping. This is a woodcarving phenom that fits in your pocket, with 1095 carbon steel providing classic performance and a framelock for modern stability. Thanks to the thick Micarta handle scale on the front side, it even has enough girth to be more comfortable than most folders could ever hope to be. There may be no better survival tool on the planet than a good machete. The Latin Panga from Cold Steel will always be a great choice thanks to its 18-inch blade and weight-forward design that adds power to your swings. That said, it is still light enough to carry easily and it allows you to build up a lot of momentum as you chop through any obstacle in front of you. Repair items are an often overlooked part for many gear-obsessed outdoorsmen, but Exotac thinks there is no reason you can't make it sexy! Enter the new ripSPOOL, a complete option perfect for a survival kit, bug out bag, or emergency cache. Housed around a milled aluminum chassis, it holds over 60 feet of 30lb test line (perfect for stitching or fishing), over 50 inches of heavy-duty repair tape, a #16 Sail Needle, and the cap even works as an improvised thimble for pushing the needle and cordage through thick material. And of course, being an Exotac, it even has some fire gear on board in the form of a Firecord lanyard that burns like a candle wick to help get your blaze going.