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Should I…Pack a Pocket Knife?

should I pack a pocket knife

UPDATE OCT 2013: TSA has since REVOKED the ability to bring pocket knives in carry-on luggage.

This post is one I may not have written ten years ago or even one year ago. Prior to September 11, 2001, it wasn’t uncommon to see people pack a Swiss Army knife or pocket knife in their carry on luggage or even in their pockets for cutting up food, trimming their nails and other uses. But that day brought many changes to the way we travel. Liquids were restricted, shoes were taken off, and of course, pocket knives were banned from carry on baggage. I found many situations where I wished I had one, particularly when staying in hostels with terribly dull knives in their kitchens. But this month, the TSA has finally lifted restrictions on pocket knives.

What does this mean?

Essentially, travelers can now carry on small blades less than 2.36 inches that have no locking mode and no more than half an inch in width. To say this ruling has been controversial is putting it mildly. Congress is in an uproar and flight attendants are protesting. The ruling has been made in an effort to allow TSA agents to focus on searching for explosives rather than worrying about small knives. On the other hand, real metal knives are still given to passengers in first class cabins, which pose more of a threat than small dull blades. But it has me wondering, why couldn’t we focus on allowing full sized liquids or keeping our shoes rather than knives?

Why should I pack a pocket knife?

I am not going to recommend packing a pocket knife for self defense purposes because that decision is yours alone. I would never rely on a small blade to protect you from an attacker. I do, however, like packing a small keychain pocket knife with items like tweezers, a nail file and potentially a corkscrew or bottle opener because you never know when you’ll need them. If you’re camping on your trip, a pocket knife is an invaluable tool.

UPDATE OCT 2013: TSA has since REVOKED the ability to bring pocket knives in carry-on luggage.

victorinox swiss army classic sd pocket knife
Victorinox swiss army classic SD pocket knife

What type of pocket knife can I pack?

The most common style of pocket knife that is TSA-compliant is the Victorinox Swiss Army Classic SD Pocket Knife (Amazon link), which is available for less than $20 and comes in a variety of colors. It fits onto your keyring and includes tweezers, a nail file, toothpick, scissors and the small blade. Other keychain variety knives can be found on Amazon or at your local outdoors outfitter.

true utility tu30 multitool
True Utility TU30 Multitool on Amazon
Swiss+tech SCCSSS
Swiss+Tech SCCSSS on Amazon

If you have questions about whether your knife fits the TSA’s standards, see their website for specifics.

UPDATE OCT 2013: TSA has since REVOKED the ability to bring pocket knives in carry-on luggage.

Written by Caroline

Caroline Eubanks is a native of Atlanta, Georgia, but has also called Charleston, South Carolina and Sydney, Australia home. After college graduation and a series of useless part-time jobs, she went to Australia for a working holiday. In that time, she worked as a bartender, bungee jumped, scuba dived, pet kangaroos, held koalas and drank hundreds of cups of tea. You can find Caroline at Caroline in the City.

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Reader Interactions


  1. Dianne says

    Some version of the Swiss Army Knife is a necessity for travel. Mine can cut zip ties used as locks, slice cheese and open a wine bottle for an impromptu picnic, and much more. A few years ago I forgot to put mine in my checked bag. Rather than lose it to TSA, I went back to the ticket counter and checked my tote.

    Beware the regulations in other countries, though. I had to go back to the counter in Saigon and ask a fellow passenger to put my knife in their checked bag. I retrieved it from him when we arrived in Danang.

  2. Ryan says

    Hello, I believe the TSA doesn’t any longer allow knives to be brought onto a plane. I hope you’re able to update the article so no one takes this information without fact checking. Good website otherwise.

  3. C.C. from says

    Thank goodness that you posted the update (and thanks to Ryan for bringing it up). I would have been so sad to have mine taken away 🙁

    As they are ‘swiss’ army knives, are they actually pretty common and easy to be located when travelling in switzerland, if i wanted to buy one when I landed?




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