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Beefy overbuilt folders have their place, but sometimes you just want something that you can slip in your pocket and never notice it is there. The easier something is to carry, the more likely you will actually have it with you when you need to cut something, and thanks to modern manufacturing you can still get a lot of capability without a lot of weight. With many of these folders weighing less than 2.5 ounces - sometimes much less! - you've got no reason to never have a blade with you.
We'll start with the forefather of modern ultralight knives. There was nothing like it on the market when the Gerber LST was released. It may not have the most impressive materials by today's standards but this game-changing design is still worth your attention.
Two sizes are available. The standard version with a 2.6-inch blade is perfect for a compact pocketknife. It weighs a scant 1.2 ounces. They small version is even lighter at merely 0.6 ounces. With its 2-inch blade it makes a perfect keychain knife. The handles are made from linerless glass-filled nylon to keep things strong and lightweight. They house a 420HC blade with a pinned pivot and a traditional back lock for security.
Simplicity is key to the success of this knife, and the template they laid down has been picked up by other companies and is still going strong today
This brings us to Spyderco with their long history of making lightweight lockback models, with their Dragonfly 2 being perhaps their most highly regarded ultralight model, coming in at just 1.2 ounces for the FRN handles variants.
This is a small knife that can perform like a bigger knife when needed thanks to one of Spyderco's hallmark features - a full-size finger choil that gets rid of dead space around the pivot and makes room for your index finger. This lets you get a full grip on the knife so you can put the smaller 2.28-inch blade to work with confidence.
This model comes with easy one hand opening, mid-mounted lock with the David Boye dent which helps prevent accidental closure, and a wire pocket clip (on most models) that is reversible. In typical Spyderco fashion, there are plenty of options for handle material, blade steel, and even blade shape. Take your pick of FRN handles with bi-directional texturing for the most grip and least weight, or upgrade to G10 for a more premium texture with only a slight weight penalty. Even our KnifeCenter-Exclusive version with a laminated HAP40/SUS410 blade and Pakkawood handles is still less than 2 ounces. For a more affordable take on the modern ultralight lockback, we present KA-BAR's lineup of Bob Dozier-designed folders. This series features two sizes with a few different blades shapes, finishes, and colors to choose from, all a few bucks on either side of 20 bucks at the time of publishing. Even the largest of these knives only tips the scales at 2.2 ounces.
The Dozier folders are not only affordable, but they are also extremely useful across a range of applications. The lightweight Zytel handles feature a neutral shape that will fit pretty much any hand out there. They pair this with a spear point blade that is packed with versatility in mind, and it is made from AUS-8 stainless steel, a great choice in this price range with decent edge holding and easy maintenance.
The all-American Buck 112 Ranger is a bona-fide classic that has recently been reimagined as an ultralight lockback. Dubbed the 112 Ranger Slim Select it hits the top end of our weight ceiling - a full 2.5 ounces - and feels robust for its weight.
The classic 112 features brass bolsters and wood scales. The Slim Select ditches those in favor of colored GFN and adds dual-thumb studs and a deep carry pocket clip. The blade has also been tweaked to be a little more EDC friendly with a straight clip point profile, rather than more aggressive scoop of the original. They have also given it a stonewashed finish for rugged longevity.
The new shape is still paired with their same great 420HC steel, and with their Paul Bos heat treat protocol, many regard Buck Knives as having the best performance of this steel of anyone out there. Upgraded versions of this knife are available with S30V for more edge retention and Micarta or G10 handles for a more premium feel, but the weight does creep up a bit past our limit. They are still definitely worth checking out if you are a fan of the design.
Representing the liner lock on this list is the excellent CEO from CRKT, weighing 2.1 ounces, a beautiful and slim gentleman's knife.
The blade is a bit over 3-inches long. Featuring an almost kwaiken style of blade, it is thin and elegant which gives it a lot of precision. Steel is 8Cr13MoV (similar to AUS-8) and the action is quite good. IKBS bearings in the pivot work together with a perfectly placed thumbstud that lets you pop this blade open with a very satisfying feel.
The handles are made with GRN to keep the cost down but it looks more premium. Thanks to a subtle pattern molded in the surface, you get a little extra traction and a vibe that suggests carbon fiber.
It will look just as classy in the pocket too. When folded, the blade completely disappears within the handle and a deep carry clip lets you carry it without taking up any more room in your pocket than a nice ink pen.
While a lot of frame locks usually carry a little extra weight, the Natrix XS gets around that with its patented Sub-Frame Lock. By anchoring a full-size lock bar to a back made from the same sculpted G10 as on the front of the knife, Kershaw keeps this knife to just 1.9 ounces while offering the locking strength you need without the weight penalty.
The blade design is very striking - essentially a modified Wharncliffe - and very usable for everyday carry with 2.75 inches of 8Cr13MoV steel and nice action thanks to KVT bearings in the pivot and a manual flipper. It is not as unobtrusive as the CEO but the sub-3-inch blade it is a great length for places where longer blades are frowned upon, and a reversible deep carry clip means it will stay out of the way until you need it.
This next framelock gets around the weight penalty by ditching the metal lockbar altogether. Top-end versions of Fox Knives‘ Italian-made Suru flipper, a Jesper Voxnaes design, use entirely carbon fiber for both sides of its handles. This includes the lockbar itself, with only a small steel insert at the end to provide the actual locking interface with the blade.
This innovation won them the BLADE Show 2018 Knife of the Year Award and lets them bring weight down to 2.1 ounces. Most of that is down to the broad 2.3” blade which they've kept a little thicker for extra durability. High-performance M390 steel, the go-to for performance on premium knives these days, helps complete the uniquely high-end experience of this design.
As for usability, the flipping action is quite good thanks to a ball-bearing equipped pivot, and in a nod to Spyderco, the full-sized choil allows for a four-fingered grip. The carbon fiber even feels special to the touch, with a peel-ply texture, and it is set off by a gorgeous pocket clip with a zirconium ball on the end.
Benchmade's release of the original Bugout made waves by offering a full-sized blade while only weighing 1.85 ounces. But even more than that knife, the new Mini Bugout is the perfect poster child for the modern ultralight pocket knife, with a blade just under 3 inches long and weighing 1.5 ounces.
Blade steel is S30V for solid edge retention and the drop point shape is not only versatile, but highly efficient at slicing thanks to a high flat grind and thin blade stock. Handles are Grivory and are slim and comfortable to hold. A mini deep carry pocket clip is reversible and holds the knife securely .
SOG also does a great ultralight crossbar locking knife with their Ultra XR, a recent upgrade to their Cash Card money clip knives. Weight on these is a mere 1.2 ounces, mostly achieved by speccing the materials as thin as possible The linerless carbon fiber handles are only millimeters thick, and the blade is also extremely thin in the cross-section to keeps the slicing performance up and weight down.
Steel is S35VN and it comes in just under the 3 inch mark so you won't have to worry about carrying it most places. Two titanium nitride coating options are available. Graphite has been the most popular but I personally like the gold even more.
The reversible clip is wide and deep enough to fit a few cards or bills, or you can just use it like a standard pocket clip, and not a money clip. You could even go a step further and remove the clip which would allow you to slip this knife virtually anywhere and it will really disappear until you need to cut!
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