Choosing the right Benchmade Bugout™ for you
One of the most well-known and respected knife brands, especially for pocket knives or Everyday Carry (EDC) knives is a company named Benchmade™. One of their most popular models is, yep, you guessed it, the Bugout™. In fact, it’s one of the best-selling knives of its kind. As the Bugout comes in many configurations, here we want to break down some of the differences that affect aspects like purpose, longevity, and, of course, cost. First, let’s start with a brief background on the company.
While originally founded as Balisong™ around 1980, founder Les de Asis, rebranded and reintroduced the company as Benchmade in 1987. Here’s what a history of the brand, from Benchmade’s website, says about how the name came about:
He [Les de Asis] knew the company needed a new name. While phrases like “Handmade” and “factory-made” aptly described the knives, it was “Benchmade” that truly expressed the quality of Les’ product. He was building an operation that made precision parts, but with legendary American hand-assembly on the finished products. Indeed, it was a “bench” operation and Les wanted the name to reflect this marriage of production manufacturing and custom craft.
Let’s break that down a bit. In the knife world there are custom knives and production knives. A custom simply means it’s one of a kind, and there are plenty of knife makers making custom knives today. Think of a production knife as a once custom knife but reproduced many times through either limited or mass production. But don’t let production scare you, as the original quality can be replicated with the right tools and parts. The benefit to purchasers is typically a lower cost due to the volume being produced. Some production knives can also be customized.
As a testament to their quality, Benchmade products can be found at major retailers, as well as specialty knife stores who carry some of the highest-quality custom knives available. In other words, Benchmade is legit, and everyone should feel good about having one in their pocket. But which one?
The Benchmade Bugout™
Benchmade’s Bugout has been around for several years and is renowned as a staple in the EDC lineup. KnifeJoy has carried them since their inception and can attest to their popularity and quality. So, when we’re asked “is the Benchmade Bugout a good knife?” it’s an easy answer: Absolutely. The Bugout is a good choice for an everyday carry knife.
Across all variations, the Bugout is slim (0.42” thick), lightweight (1.8oz), attractive, and made in the USA. Choosing the right variation is like picking your trim level when buying a car. If you upgrade the seats, wheels, or engine, the car will increase in price. Likewise, the same series of knives can have different variations that are made with different materials, and this will affect the price of each model. As you go up in price, you gain more rigidity in your handle material and steel that will keep an edge longer and will not rust or chip as easily. Typically speaking, the more you spend, the longer the knife will hold up. However, like buying a car, some attributes are based purely on style and preference. The good news is that all Bugouts are high-quality, especially when compared to many production knives found in stores. Below, we’ll go through some of the more popular models but, as you read, do so with an understanding that any one of them, even the base model, is a great, long-lasting knife.
Let’s start with the base model of Benchmade Bugout, the 535. It was built to be a backup knife while outdoors, or as a very lightweight EDC. This variation comes with a plain, non-coated, S30V blade and Grivory handles. S30V is a good entry-level steel that will be easy to sharpen. The Grivory handles are an injection-molded nylon/polymer material that has a bit of flex if you squeeze them. This model can be found here on KnifeJoy.
The next tier of Bugout is the 535BK-2. This variation comes with a few upgrades. The S30V blade and hardware have been coated with Benchmade’s Diamond-like Carbon Coating (DLC). This offers increased rust and wear resistance . The 535BK-2 also comes with Benchmade’s CF-Elite handle material. This was originally introduced in 2020 and is a carbon-reinforced nylon polymer that claims to be 17% lighter and 50% stronger than the Grivory nylon handles on the base 535 model. This model can also be found here on KnifeJoy.
A step above the CF-Elite model we have the 535BK-4. This variant offers an upgrade in blade steel and handle material. M390 is what is known as a “super steel.” This steel is much more corrosion resistant and will hold a sharp edge even longer than S30V. The handle is made of Aircraft-Grade Aluminum and is more rigid than the Grivory handles so it does not flex. This model can again be found here on KnifeJoy.
The final Bugout in this lineup is the 535-3. The most expensive of these examples naturally has the best materials. This variant comes with premium milled carbon fiber to help with rigidity, but also keeps the weight down to 2.02oz. Carbon fiber handles offer the best balance of lightweightness and durability. The 535-3 sports S90V blade steel, which is considered to be (very close to) the pinnacle of wear resistance and edge retention. This steel is similar to M390, but offers more toughness, while being a bit harder to sharpen. If a knife is “tough,” then it will handle more work before chipping, bending, etc. This model can be found here on KnifeJoy.
Which Bugout is the right one for you? All of these models are excellent for the price and will last you a lifetime with proper care. You can also enjoy free LifeSharp™ maintenance (free sharpening) from Benchmade when you purchase one of their knives. In the end, we’re “knife guys” and would happily carry any of these models. Check out all of our Benchmade collection next.