I don’t know about you, but when I was a kid, there was nothing cooler than a Swiss Army Knife. There’s always been something just so appealing about having all those gadgets in a pocket knife form that even now when I’m older, never goes out of style.
When people think of Swiss Army Knives, the image of the iconic red-handled pocket knife is probably what comes to mind, but they do a lot more than just that. Since Victorinox has been around since the late 1800s, there are innumerable models to choose from at this point, but we’ve narrowed it down to the Top 10 that we think represents the best of what this hallowed brand has to offer.
What are the best Swiss Army Knives?
- Swiss Army Pioneer
- Swiss Army Farmer
- Swiss Army Classic SD
- Swiss Army Midnight Mini Champ
- Swiss Army Tinker
- Swiss Army Spartan
- Swiss Army Compact
- Swiss Army EvoGrip
- Swiss Army Cadet
- Swiss Army One-Hand Trekker
The Swiss Army Pioneer
First up is the Swiss Army Pioneer, which is the modern descendant of the knife that started it all: the original Swiss Army Knife, the Modell 1890. The original knife had wood handles, but the toolset on the Pioneer is remarkably similar. This can do everything the 1890 did, but thanks to the modern iterations of the tools it carries, it can do even more.
It trades out the wood handles for Victorinox’s signature Alox aluminum handles. They look great and they sport a raised grid-like pattern for texture. They even tend to be a little bit sturdier than the plastic, or cellidor knives that you may be familiar with.
The Pioneer has two layers of tools. Of course, we get a stainless steel knife blade as well as a nice awl. We also get a bottle opener and a can opener, and each of these has a flathead screwdriver tip. The smaller screwdriver on the can opener can even work on some Phillips screws in a pinch. The bottle opener also sports a wire stripper at the base, and it also has a strong half-stop, so you can exert more leverage on a stuck screw when you have it in this configuration.
Sharing the top spot, the closely-related Pioneer X takes these same tools and adds a pair of scissors for even more versatility. It also comes in silver Alox, but if you prefer a more colorful version, we’ve got a Knifecenter exclusive Red Alox Pioneer X that you can only get from us.
The Swiss Army Farmer
Next up is the Farmer, and while it may look like the Pioneer we just saw, it adds another layer and another tool. This knife, along with another model we’ll mention later, is one of the two most highly regarded Swiss Army Knives for use while camping or in the outdoors. Thanks to the Alox construction, the Farmer is nice and sturdy, and it has is an excellent saw blade. When it comes to pocket-sized multitool saws, the Victorinox versions are hard to beat. The included awl is also a great tool for the outdoorsman. It’s great for drilling small holes or scraping, and it makes a great striker for a firesteel/ferrocerium rod when you want to get your fire going.
The Swiss Army Classic SD
Next up, probably more commonly seen than any other model, is the keychain-sized Classic SD. This little guy has an impressive toolset for such a small unit, sporting a pen blade, scissors, and a nail file with a screwdriver tip. This knife also sports a famous Swiss Army Knife feature: the included toothpick and tweezers that are stored inside the handle scales.
Speaking of handle scales, there are perhaps more variants of the Classic than any other Swiss Army Knife, from the classic red cellidor, silver Alox, translucent covers, custom graphic variants, and more. But our favorite has to be Victorinox’s StayGlow material, which is bright yellow in the sunlight and emits a nice glow when the sun goes down, which can be quite helpful if you drop your keys in the dark.
The Classic SD is a knife that’s so handy and so attainable that anyone can afford to put it on their keyring. It’s useful for all kinds of day-to-day tasks, and even personal grooming in a pinch.
Swiss Army Midnight Mini Champ
Now, the king of the keychain-sized Swiss Army Knives, the Midnight Mini Champ. This has a ton of tools on it that let it compete with some of their larger offerings, and it even includes a few implements that can only be found on these smaller knives. The best of which is a combination tool that includes a bottle opener, wire stripper, and even a magnetized Phillips-head screwdriver.
The killer feature though are translucent cellidor scales that house both an LED light and a retractable ball-point pen. With all of these great tools, you’ll have a hard time finding anything else with this much utility in such a small space.
The Swiss Army Tinker
Next up is the Tinker, which is a great tool for getting things done day-to-day. It’s a pattern that has been so successful for Victorinox that it spawned several other models, like the Super Tinker and Deluxe Tinker with even more implements.
The Tinker has both a main blade and a smaller pen blade, which is great for delicate work. Some people like to use the larger blade for most day-to-day tasks, but keep that smaller blade in reserve with a super-sharp edge for those times when you really need it.
The Tinker has the bottle and can opener tools as well, and this is the first full-sized Swiss Army Knife we’re looking at that has some tools on the back side as well, including an awl and a nice Phillips screwdriver that opens into a “T” configuration, making it very easy to exert a lot of leverage on a screw despite the short length of the tool.
The Swiss Army Spartan
Next up is the Spartan, which is quite similar and tied with the Tinker on our list, but it trades the screwdriver for another classic Swiss Army Knife feature: a corkscrew. Not only is this great to have on a picnic to open your favorite beverage, but even if you don’t drink wine, this can be a useful implement for things like untying a stuck knot, or other things when your fingernails just won’t cut it.
Like the Tinker, you can get this knife in a variety of handle colors, including the version pictured here with glossy black scales and a coordinated black finish on all the tools. It’s called “polispectral,” or Inox spectral, but it looks great and it reminds me a bit of gun bluing, but with a more refined feel overall.
The Swiss Army Compact
Now, finally, here’s a classic red-handled Swiss Army Knife, and this model is called the Compact. It’s only two layers thick, but it still manages to pack a ton of features into the knife. Part of this is thanks to a “combo tool” that combines the bottle opener and can opener functions into a single implement. It even maintains both the wire stripper and screwdriver functionality.
This is also one of the few modern Swiss Army Knives to feature what Victorinox calls “Plus Scales.” In addition to the toothpick and tweezers, they also house a removable ballpoint pen and a small sewing-style pin that’s hidden behind the corkscrew.
One way to use the pen a little more easily, because it is very small, is you can actually clamp it in place underneath the corkscrew (or the parcel hook) for a better hold. One last implement this knife boasts is a small eyeglass screwdriver that’s stored inside the corkscrew when not in use.
The Swiss Army EvoGrip
It used to be that there were two official Swiss Army Knife companies. In addition to Victorinox, contracts were also awarded to Wenger to make pocket knives for the Swiss military. In their later years they were known for being a little more adventurous than Victorinox with their models.
In 2005, Victorinox actually acquired them, and they continued to produce the Wenger models under the original brand name. This lasted until 2013 when they brought all the knife models under the Victorinox umbrella. They discontinued some models in the process, but they kept the best and continue to produce them, and the EvoGrip Series allows Wenger to live on for a new era.
The EvoGrip is a derivation of the Evolution Series, which brought curves and swells to the Swiss Army Knife shape in an attempt the break up the normally smooth and streamlined look. The EvoGrip took that shape and added grippy rubber inserts for more traction, and the EvoGrip S18 is the model I personally carry every day.
There are red-handled versions of these knives, but the S18 comes in yellow, and this model has a few tool holdouts from the Wenger era where they differ just a bit from the other Victorinox models. The most obvious is a blade lock, which is a rarity on standard-sized Swiss Army Knives. In use, I’ve never found it to get in the way, it actually sits between my index and middle finger, and it’s easy to disengage when you’re done with the blade. The scissors are also a more robust design, and they actually use the slipjoint leaf spring as the backspring for the scissors which feature micro-serrated blades that are self-sharpening as you use them. The bottle opener is also a little bit different. You can see it in the shape, and also instead of a half-stop, it has a self-locking mechanism that will prevent the tool from closing on you as long as you’re pressing down.
Swiss Army Cadet
Now for the Cadet. If you’re looking to the Swiss for a gentleman’s knife, this is a prime candidate. It’s available in several different colors of Alox, including the 2019 Limited Edition Champagne Gold Alox version (pictured above) that spices things up even further.
The thing that makes the Cadet so great for formal occasions is that it not only has a refined look, but it’s also very thin. With only two layers of tools and thin Alox scales, it can fit very easily in a pocket without spoiling the lines of your attire. Even so, it has just enough tools to see you through, including a blade, bottle opener and can opener with screwdriver tips, and a combination nail file and fingernail cleaner.
The Swiss Army One-Hand Trekker
We started with the modern successor to the original-issued Swiss Army Knife, and we’ll end with a civilian version of the knife issued to the Swiss Army today, and that’s the One-Hand Opening Trekker.
The main feature is a one-hand opening blade, another rarity among Swiss Army Knives. You can get it with a partially serrated edge out near the tip, but we much prefer the plain edge version. The blade is secured open by a liner lock, and that same liner actually locks the large bottle opener in place as well. The Trekker is a knife that’s preferred for heavier jobs, and, like the Farmer earlier, it’s a favorite of outdoorsmen as well thanks to the comfortable handle and the inclusion of an even-longer saw.
Don’t Forget the Collectibles!
Apart from their inherent usability, Victorinox Swiss Army Knives represent a great opportunity for collectors, and they’re more than happy to put out fancy and upgraded versions that make fantastic additions to any collection. Common themes are yearly Chinese Zodiac models and yearly artwork contests, with winning entries showing up on select knife models. They also aren’t afraid to experiment with natural handle materials and premium Damasteel blades.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Victorinox Swiss Army Knives. They have got, seriously, a ton of models, and if one of these isn’t quite what you’re looking for, chances are they’ve got a model that will have the tools you need. As you can see they’re far more diverse than just the red-handled pocket knives you remember, but you can’t go wrong with anything you’ve seen here.