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Pocketknives are magical, a rite of passage for many kids, and a point of pride to carry—as essential as a wallet or car keys. Among adults, “gentleman’s knives” are ever-more-frequent passengers in jeans or business slacks. They’re a must on a boat for all the things they can do and fix. Here are three choices, from American chic to European cool to a tool man’s province.
Case Bone-Handled Trapper
The Sharpest Edge: The “gentleman’s knife” is back, and no other brand is more associated with the knife style than Case. The finely crafted knife has two blades: the clip, a pointed blade for piercing and providing excellent cutting control, and the spey, historically used by stock men for, well, castrating livestock. In the hands of a sportsman, the spey blade offers a highly polished stainless-steel cutting tool without the piercing point that may be a detriment to inflatable boaters. We like the knife for its reassuring heft, crisp, positive opening, and locking spring. The blades are forged, ground and polished, then honed to perfection.
Another Point: Dual blades increase utility without the added bulk of less frequently used tools, making the knife more convenient to carry. If a bone handle doesn’t appeal, there are other finishes available, including sustainable wood.
Price: $83.99; caseknives.com
Gerber Center Drive
The Sharpest Edge: This is a toolbox in a belt sheath. Officially, it has 10 tools, but in the face of necessity, more applications will show up. Every Gerber tool I’ve used has been heavy and tough enough to use as a hammer—which isn’t officially one of its applications. Coincidentally, this one has a pry bar with a nail puller. My go-to is so old, it’s out of production. It is still sharp, opens and closes fluidly, and the tools, including the original wire cutters, are all doing their job well 20 years later. This one has stout needle-nose pliers capable of gripping a nut in a pinch or pulling a fish hook. A serrated knife cuts wire, screen or tightly knotted nylon rope. The new changeable Phillips to straight-slot screwdriver gives better ergonomics.
Another Point: It weighs 9.4 ounces, so make sure your inflatable life jacket has a full cartridge. It won’t hide away, but you’ll have the tools to fix nearly everything that could break on a boat when you carry it.
Price: $135; gerbergear.com
Read Next: Seven Must-Have Boating Tools
Opinel #8 Black Palmwood Folding Knife
The Sharpest Edge: The stainless-steel blade of this iconic knife has a matte anthracite finish and is riveted through a ferrule. The Virobloc locking ring holds it firmly open or closed as needed. The blades are individually forged, ground to shape, polished, and honed to their sharpest potential. The black palm handle is sustainably sourced from Guyana, where the tree grows wild in damp soil but is also cultivated for its fruit and oil. This French Alps knife-maker was founded in 1890 and currently crafts 4.5 million knives per year, attesting to the popularity of this traditional cutlery brand.
Another Point: The singular purpose of this folding knife is to safely cut rope, fishing line, bait, fruit and sausage, or peel and whittle. Its proven strength and reliable sharp edge make it at home in the pocket or galley. Dozens of additional designs are available, from kitchen chef to oyster shucking to filleting fish.
Price: $90; opinel-usa.com