Benchmade Bugout Review: Top Lightweight EDC Knife

The Benchmade Bugout is an icon among hikers. It’s a very light but extremely capable knife. And while it aims at outdoor use, it makes a perfect choice for everyday carry. I tested it for a year for this Benchmade Bugout review.

Benchmade launched the first Bugout in 2017. Since then, the brand expanded the Bugout family to include the original 535 Bugout, plus several variants that offer users choices in handle material, blade type, and blade materials. And for 2021, Benchmade launched a new Bugout Mini, with a smaller blade and handle for even lighter performance.

Benchmade Bugout CF-Elite in hand

The Benchmade Bugout CF-Elite that I’ve been using for a year shows very little wear; photos by Sean McCoy

I’ve personally used the Benchmade 535BK-2 Bugout fine-edge knife for about a year. And among my dozens of knives (yes, I have a large collection), this $150 blade is among my most-used.  I reach for it most mornings as I load my pockets up for the workday.

In short: The Benchmade Bugout uses a time-tested drop-point blade shape and good knife steel for a very practical knife that holds an edge for a long time and weighs almost nothing.

Benchmade Bugout Review: A Top Ultralight Pocket Knife

Over the last year, I’ve used the Benchmade Bugout 535BK-2 with a CF-Elite handle for myriad tasks. It goes with me to work, where I use it to open boxes and letters every day. As an everyday carry knife, it disappears into the pocket thanks to a deep-carry clip and slim design.

In use, it flicks open with an easy push of the thumb and flick of the wrist. The CF-Elite handle (which uses carbon-fiber in place of plastic — a $30 upgrade over the original) gives a nice, stiff scale to grip when you need to do harder work.

Benchmade Bugout CF-Elite

The Bugout uses Benchmade’s renowned Axis lock to secure the blade open for use. It works perfectly, as promised, every time.

So yes, I really like the bugout. At just 1.8 ounces, it will do darned near any job you’d ask of a pocket knife.

But it does have limits. As a folding knife, I wouldn’t use it to baton wood outside of an emergency. It’s not designed for particularly heavy use or abuse, although I suspect it would hold up better than most lightweight pocket knives.

Beyond that, I don’t see limits to the Bugout, which is why it’s among Benchmade’s most popular knives.

Benchmade Bugout: Many Varieties Available

The CF-Elite version I’ve been testing has a CPM-S30V steel blade. While no-longer a class-leading steel, it’s still exceptionally good knife steel and holds an edge for a very long time. It can also be sharpened through hand tools by the end-user, nearly impossible with more modern “super steels.”

In literally hundreds of uses, I’ve only sharpened the Bugout once. It took some time and care, but I got it sharp pretty quickly. And of course, if you don’t love sharpening knives, Benchmade offers free re-sharpening for the life of its knives.

And yes, you can get the Bugout with S90V super steel as an upgrade. But that will bring the bugout up to the premium $300 price range. And it’ll be nearly impossible to re-sharpen without returning it to the factory due to the steel’s hardness.

Benchmade Bugout custom knives

Other options for the Bugout include full carbon-fiber scales, grivory handle scales, and a smaller size. You can also now purchase the Bugout with a half-serrated blade. And of course, you can customize the Bugout with many different color combinations and engraving.

So if you’re looking for a knife that will go with you every day and not weigh you down, the Bugout is a strong contender. And it transitions seamlessly to the backpack or field bag for camping, hiking, or anywhere you want a great light knife outdoors.