Everyday Carry

Benchmade Bugout Review

Jonathan Tayag
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Benchmade Bugout Review

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The venerable Benchmade Bugout has become one of the EDC community's favorite pocket knives in the recent past. The Bugout is a lightweight EDC knife with superior ergonomics and premium stainless steel construction that makes this an excellent knife for hard use and everything else in between.

With the continued popularity of the Bugout, Benchmade has made multiple variants of the knife that swap out things like handle scales and overall blade length, but the recipe for success is present at every point. And the Bugout's reputation for quality is well-deserved because each knife comes with the care and attention you expect from a made-in-the-USA blade crafted to exacting standards. The Bugout will be more pricey than other options on the market (or the aftermarket), but it is worth the price.

In this knife review, we'll introduce you to the Benchmade Bugout and the ultralight Mini Bugout and explain why these pocket knives are so good for everyday carry.

Who is Benchmade?

Benchmade has been crafting quality everyday carry knives in Oregon since 1979. They began by putting the traditional balisong or butterfly-style knife onto the market here in the USA. Since then, they’ve made unique fixed blades and folding knives, focusing on user-friendly ergonomics, excellent materials, and attractive designs. They also made their mark on the industry by coming up with technology such as the AXIS lock, which allows for the ambidextrous operation of a folding knife while providing solid lockup even in the most demanding use cases.


Benchmade Bugout: Folding Knife Design

As with every EDC knife, looks are not everything. You should pay attention to the materials used in the knife's construction because they determine your experience using the blade for everyday carry.

Materials

The Bugout features premium stainless steel in all its iterations. The original Bugout features CPM-S30V stainless steel. Newer versions of the knife have super-premium stainless steels like CPM-S90V and Böhler M390. These blade steels provide superior hardness, sharpness, and edge retention. As for the handles, the standard Bugout features what Benchmade calls Grivory, similar to fiberglass-reinforced nylon but has a tactile, grippy feel. A few of the higher-end Benchmade Bugouts feature carbon fiber scales, which make this lightweight knife even lighter while giving it a touch of class in the process.

Construction

The Benchmade Bugout is a folding knife with dual thumbstud deployment. The AXIS lock in the handle allows for ambidextrous operation while minimizing blade play when fully opened. Both the Bugout and the Mini Bugout provide full-size performance while maintaining a short overall length and a deep carry pocket clip for EDC convenience.

Shape

The Bugout’s blade features a versatile drop point blade design that makes it a solid all-around performer for most EDC cutting, slicing, piercing, and chopping tasks. The handle has an ergonomic grip built into its shape, with a deeper cutout at the bottom of the handle scale to accommodate a firm hold on the blade while helping keep your hand from thrusting forward onto your edge during hard use.

Design Options

The Benchmade Bugout now comes in many variants. The most significant separation exists between the regular Bugout and the Mini Bugout, which is slightly smaller than the original but more everyday carry-friendly, especially when discretion is essential to your EDC. A few variants of the Benchmade Bugout are exclusive to some retailers, and these limited-run editions of the blade are highly desirable. Based on the exact knife, you have options between the premium (and super-premium) stainless steels used in the mix. Other variants come with Grivory handle scales or carbon fiber.


How do You Use a Benchmade Bugout?

As with all EDC knives with folding knives, you’ll need to learn how to use the knife effectively as part of your everyday carry.

Functionality

The standard Benchmade Bugout features a 3.24" stainless steel drop point blade, with an overall length including the handle of 7.46" long. The Mini Bugout features a much smaller 2.75" stainless steel blade with an overall length of 6.5". This puts both knives in the compact range for everyday carry, which is the most practical for most EDC uses, including urban carry, outdoor adventures, and more.

Durability

The Benchmade Bugout and Mini Bugout are highly durable everyday carry knives. Their stainless steel and handle construction is resistant against the elements. The AXIS lock is rated for hard use, and it won’t break on you.

Usability

The Benchmade Bugout and Mini Bugout are incredibly slim in the pocket and hand. The Mini Bugout, in particular, weighs only 1.5 ounces, and it’s so light that you might forget that you’re carrying it until you need it in your hands. These knives have a premium feel and a superior fit and finish compared to lesser knives, and they’re a joy to use each time you need them.


The Different Kinds of Bugouts

535 Original Bugout

As its name implies, the 535 Original Bugout is where it all began for the Benchmade Bugout. Even though it’s been a few years since its introduction, it’s still a great everyday carry folding knife and deserves your attention. Its blade features S30V steel, an attractive blue Grivory handle scale, and a reversible deep carry pocket clip. The blade has a beautiful satin treatment, making it a handsome EDC blade.

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535-BK2 CF-Elite Blackout

With its blacked-out appearance, the CF-Elite Blackout is the most tactical iteration of the Bugout line. From the pommel of the knife to its tip, only the laser-etched Benchmade logo and the hollow-ground edge of the S30V steel drop point blade stand out from the all-black look. The blade features a black Cerakote finish that is highly resistant to the elements and will handle scratches and scrapes better than a standard satin finish on the blade. Another big upgrade this knife features compared to the original is the CF-Elite material used in the handles that offer more rigid performance under pressure while reducing overall weight even further.

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535-3 Carbon Fiber

The Benchmade 535-3 Carbon Fiber Bugout is one of the higher-end offerings with its milled carbon fiber handle and super-premium CPM-S90V stainless steel. And at 2.02 ounces this makes this full-size Bugout almost the same weight as an equivalent Mini Bugout while providing you the same blade shape and quality specs that make both a great knife to have.

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535-BK4 M390

If you want the absolute best blade steel you can get on the Bugout, take a look at the 535BK-4. This edition of the Bugout features Böhler M390 stainless steel with a maximum Rockwell rating of 61. This is one of the best stainless steel offerings available, and paired with the AXIS lock you’ll be able to take this Bugout knife anywhere to do anything. The handle material made of milled aluminum has the quality EDC aficionados expect from their Benchmade knives.

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Benchmade Bugout: Pros and Cons

  • Pro: High-end construction and premium materials
  • Pro: AXIS lock mechanism for secure blade lockup and ambidextrous ergonomics
  • Pro: Huge variety of both standard and aftermarket colorways and material upgrades
  • Con: On the pricier side of EDC knives
  • Con: No flipper option, manual thumbstuds only
  • Con: The omega spring in the AXIS lock may break, but is easily replaced

Benchmade Bugout FAQs

Is the Benchmade Bugout worth it?

The Benchmade Bugout is worth it. It costs a lot of money but so does the finer things in life. If you’re looking for a knife that will last you multiple years the Bugout is that knife.

Who should buy a Benchmade Bugout?

The Benchmade Bugout is suitable for pretty much any EDC user. Its slim compact and sleek design makes it great for urban and office carry, and the deep carry pocket clip makes it discreet. Outdoor enthusiasts, backpackers, and one-bag travelers will appreciate its lightweight and ultralight (with the Mini Bugout) qualities.

Is the Bugout good?

The Bugout is good because it has great blade steel and an AXIS lock. It’s also not too big that you’ll want to leave it at home instead of making it part of your EDC.

What is the best knife for self-defense?

The best knife for self-defense is one that you are trained to use by a professional. However, the Bugout especially in all-black is a discreet and compact knife that you can always have on you when it’s legal.

What is the best size for the Bugout?

The best size of the Bugout depends on whether you want the smallest possible Benchmade Bugout or not. The Mini Bugout is the smallest and most lightweight of the two offerings, but it might be too small for some hands. If that’s the case the full-size Bugout knife is the way to go.


Final Thoughts

By now, you’ve probably figured out why the Benchmade Bugout is one of the EDC community’s favorite folding knives. Its mix of quality construction, premium materials and practical design comes in at the top of this and many other people’s best EDC knife lists.


How We Reviewed this Product

What is Everyday Carry?

Everyday Carry is both the concept of what people carry in their pockets and the process of picking out gear that thoughtfully considers what one wants or needs in their daily lives. It encompasses everything from style to preparedness to utility, meaning an entire industry full of valuable tools and essentials to choose from.

Why you should trust us

Our team has decades of combined experience in all aspects of everyday men’s essentials, from wallets to pens to bags and everything in between, and we know where to find great gear ideas that you may not come across at your local stores or when shopping online. Our expertise with the industry and familiarity in design, materials, and usability help you make more informed choices when it comes to picking up your next piece of gear.

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