Pocket knives are some of the most useful things to have in your EDC kit. However, they’re only useful if the blade has a sharp cutting edge, which means taking the time to hone it every now and then. If you don’t, there’s a chance you’ll take the knife out to perform a task, only to find that it’s a bit too dull to actually get the job done. That sucks.
If you’re not the sort to stay diligent when it comes to keeping your pocket knife razor sharp, then you might want to add one more tool to your EDC stash: a knife sharpener that will let you shape, sharpen, and freshen up that blade edge on the go. Luckily enough, there’s a good selection of portable knife sharpeners out there that are small enough to integrate into your EDC while being functional enough to handle most pocket knives and smaller survival blades that you’re going to have when you’re out and about.
Some of these sharpeners will fit conveniently in your pants pockets. Others will require a bit more room in your bag. Whichever the case, they should be portable enough to bring along, whether on your daily roundabouts, your weekend adventures, or your extended vacations.
Here are some of our favorites.
Smith’s CCKS 2-Step Knife Sharpener
If you just want the cheapest pocket sharpener that can fit in your EDC pouch, this pull-through sharpener is the no-brainer thing to pick up. It’s a little bigger than some other tools in this list, but it’s still small enough to fit in most any pocket, so that won’t really be an issue. On one side, you get crossed carbide tungsten blades for quickly restoring a blunt knife’s cutting edge, while the other features crossed ceramic rods to smoothen it with a razor-sharp finish. All honing surfaces are fixed in preset angles, so you don’t have to worry about holding the knife the right way. Do note, this is meant for use on a flat surface, so set it down on a table or flat ground before you get to work.
Another pull-through sharpener, this one use crossed carbide tungsten blades and crossed ceramic rods next to it for a quick sharpening and a smooth finish, respectively, similar to Smith’s 2-Step design. It goes further than that, however, offering a ceramic surface for touching up serrated knife edges and a diamond tapered rod for quickly reconditioning those same serrations. You can also use that tapered rod for gut hooks and similar pointed tools. Each of the sharpening edges are installed in preset angles to ensure proper honing position, while it remains reasonably compact enough to keep in a bag pouch. No, it won’t go in your pants pockets, as it’s a tad too big to be comfortable, even though it looks really compact from the photos.
One of our favorite EDC pocket sharpeners, this tool measures just 7.25 x 1.75 x 1.5 inches (length x width x thickness), all while coming with two honing surfaces, a 320-grit diamond plate on one edge and a fine ceramic rod on the other. If you will notice, the corners of the tool are unusual. That’s because they’re shaped to provide an angle guide, so you know exactly how to position the blade when whetting it against the honing surface. It’s a simple yet clever design element that makes it a whole lot more useful, especially for folks who don’t quite have the muscle memory for the correct honing angles.
If you already know your way around knife sharpeners and don’t need much help holding your knife at the correct angle, then a stick-shaped sharpener just might be what you’d prefer in the field. This is one of the better options in that category, coming equipped with a four-inch sharpening steel that has a 600-grit diamond coated oval shaft. It has a smoother finish than most sharpening rods we’ve seen, so it’s best for reconditioning and refreshing the edge on dulling blades rather than totally reshaping them, which is, pretty much, what you usually need outdoors. The four-inch length is big enough to work with even larger knives, while a knurled pattern on the handle allows for a secure grip while you put your blades to the ringer. Measuring around the size of a Sharpie, it’s compact enough to keep in your pants’ back pocket, too.
This keychain sharpener doesn’t just hone your blades, it also integrates two Torx drive heads, a flathead driver, and a bottle opener, making it a pretty decent multi-tool. Of course, the blade sharpening function is the main draw here, which are supplied by a tungsten carbide field sharpener and a ceramic honing edge, both of which are already angled to minimize the need to find the correct position for your blade. While we like the design, we do feel the opening for the sharpeners are a bit on the small end, making it just a little tough to hone the entirety of a blade’s edge, as it will end up missing some sections, depending on the blade shape. It still works, though, especially as a tool for giving your pocket knives a much-needed edge in a pinch.
Need something more versatile when you go hunting, fishing, and camping? Try this similarly compact model from Work Sharp, which comes slightly shorter than their Pocket Sharpener, all while having five abrasive surfaces for putting a sharp edge on nearly any blade in your stash, from knives and hatchets to broadhead arrows and fishing hooks. There’s a coarse diamond plate, a fine diamond plate, a coarse ceramic honing surface, a fine ceramic honing surface, and even a leather strop for when you simply want to give your still-fine blade a quick touch-up. Not only does it have more sharpening surfaces, it’s also more compact than the two-surface model, all while also managing to integrate angle guides to help you position your blades correctly.
This nylon webbing belt pulls your pants up just like any proper waistband. Except, it has a buckle that’s designed to function as an on-the-go knife sharpener, allowing you to take it off to give your blades a touch-up in a pinch. There’s a tungsten carbide bar on top for restoring any knife blade, an 800-grit diamond plate in the back for dulled-out blades that the carbide bar can’t handle, and even a six-inch long leather strop for fine-tuning your blades. It works not just for knives, but also for broadhead arrows and fishing hooks, making for quite the versatile outdoor accessory.
Before Spyderco made knives, they made blade sharpening devices and that experience shows with the Sharpmaker, easily one of the most popular products in the category. While it pushes the bounds of portability (it’s bigger than other products here), it is compact enough to keep inside a pack, although it will take up quite a bit of space that may or may not be willing to spare. If you are, then you’ll have everything you need to sharpen any bladed or pointed tool you’re going to deal with in the outdoors, from knives and scissors to arrows and everything in between.
To use, simply insert the rods you want to use into the holes on the base, which will hold them at the precise honing angle each one requires. All you have to do is hold your knife perpendicular to the table surface and move the blade back and forth across the honing rod. There’s a recommended sequence for which rods and ends to use from start to finish, depending on your blade and what you’re trying to accomplish, all of which are covered in the product’s instructions. If you want the most complete blade sharpening tool, even at the expense of some portability, this is the way to go.