Benchmade Bugout Review: A Full-Size, Ultralight Pocket Knife That Won’t Fall Apart

In this Benchmade Bugout review, we dig deep into the Benchmade Bugout 535 to see if the Benchmade 535 is the best lightweight EDC knife.
benchmade bugout review
benchmade bugout review

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A solid pocket knife is one of the most integral parts of the modern EDC, but it can be hard to pick the best one for you with so many options out there. In this Benchmade Bugout review, we dig deep into the incredibly popular Benchmade Bugout 535 to see if you really can have a full-size ultralight pocket knife that won’t fall apart on you with regular use.

Benchmade Bugout 535

Quick Overview

The Benchmade Bugout 535 is ounce for ounce one of the best pocket knives on the market today. It’s a durable, ultra-lightweight pocket folding knife that’s somehow able to provide a full-size blade in a durable body that weighs less than two ounces.

Functionality

9.5/10

Style

9.2/10

Dependability

8.5/10

Value

8.8/10

What We Like

Incredibly lightweight design
Blade holds an edge, but easy to sharpen with a Deep Carry Pocket Clip
Axis-Lock makes one-hand opening and closing easy

What We Don’t Like

Narrow handle takes some getting used to if you’re accustomed to other knives
Lack of metal liners means there’s noticeable give to the handles

Want more knife options?

Start with our review of the best EDC knives, including high-end favorites and value-packed picks. It has everything you need!

Benchmade Bugout Full Review

The Benchmade Bugout 535 is a full-size, light weight folding pocket knife designed to be a lighter and more EDC-friendly option. It weighs barely half as much as most knives its size yet still offers a reliable and highly functional knife.

Benchmade designed the Bugout to meet the needs of “the modern outdoor adventurer.” It’s meant to be lighter and easier to carry than the competition without sacrificing quality or actual usability. In doing so, they also created possibly the best EDC pocket knife available today. 

Key Features

  • Quality construction. Lightweight yet durable handles and blade.
  • Ergonomic handle design for comfortable use.
  • Full-size knife at less than two ounces.

Specifications

  • Length (Overall/Closed): 7.46 in / 18.95 cm – 4.22 in / 10.72 cm
  • Handle Thickness: 0.42 in / 10.54 mm 
  • Weight: 1.85 oz. / 52.45 g
  • Blade Length: 3.24 in / 8.23 cm
  • Blade Thickness: 0.090″ / 2.29 mm
  • Blade Steel: CPM-S30V (58-60 HRC)

Benchmade Bugout Design & Style 

One of the first considerations we made in our Benchmade Bugout review

The best way to describe the Benchmade Bugout is functional elegance. It has no embellishments, fancy materials, or gee-whiz features. They designed the shape of the handle to provide the best ergonomics possible in the slimmest, lightest package possible with a highly serviceable plain drop point.

Some people might go as far as to describe the Bugout as plain, but for ourselves, we’re fans of the stripped-down minimalist style of the Bugout. It looks exactly like what it is (a solid pocket knife) and does what it’s supposed to do.

Benchmade Bugout design and style

Benchmade Bugout Usability and Pocketability

Usability and pocketability were the critical factors in our Benchmade Bugout review. We wanted to see how the Bugout felt in our hands, how easy it was to get out and stow the blade, and how noticeable it felt in our pockets while going about daily tasks.

Handle ergonomics

One of the things we were most concerned about in the Bugout was its handle ergonomics. A key design change made to cut weight was to narrow the handle. On actually using the Bugout we discovered it wasn’t an issue.

During our Benchmade Bugout review, we noticed the narrow handle while using it, but it wasn’t something that impacted actual functionality, and we noticed it less and less as we used it more. The height, width, and ambidextrous placement of Benchmade’s patented thumb stud were unaffected in the design and spot on for what we’d expect from a knife of this size.

We had no issues opening and closing the blade in our left or right hand and found the texture and grip it provided ample for everyday tasks.

Handle ergonomics

Blade access

Benchmade has consistently scored highly in blade accessibility and security. Many knives we review offer one or the other. They’re either easy to access but likely to open in your pocket or close tight but a pain to open. 

The Bugout does great on both. It has a simple, well-made, full size blade that came well oiled from the factory and was easy to flick open one-handed or using the ambidextrous thumb stud. It’s definitely no switchblade, but it has enough blade movement that it’s as easy to access as we’ve seen in a full-size pocket folding knife.

Something we’ve always loved about Benchmade knives is their patented Axis-Lock system. It does a stellar job keeping the blade securely in place while in use, but also allows you to close your Bugout safely with one hand. Try doing that with a liner-lock knife and you’re liable to lose a fingertip.

Benchmade Bugout review: Blade access

Pocketability and carry options 

The Bugout shines in portability and pocketability. The thinner handle and scaled-down texturing made it one of the most comfortable knives to carry in your pocket, especially for a full-size folder offering all the capabilities of the Bugout.

The stripped-down Deep Carry Pocket Clip is easy to adjust for left- or right-handed carry and does a great job holding the Bugout in place even while moving strenuously. In our Benchmade Bugout review, we found this EDC knife comfortable to hold, carry, and use.

Benchmade Bugout review: Pocketability and carry options

Blade and handle options

The standard Benchmade Bugout 535 comes with a Grivory handle in various colors and a plain edge drop-point blade. Benchmade also offers the Bugout with a semi-serrated blade and either carbon fiber, CF-Elite (molded polymer incorporating carbon fiber), or 6061-T6 aluminum handles if you want to change things up. 

Upgrading your handle can improve the overall durability of the Bugout, but it comes with a hefty jump in price too.

Benchmade Bugout review: Blade and handle options

Benchmade Bugout Durability

Given the Bugout’s shockingly low weight, durability was a big concern going into our Benchmade Bugout review. Benchmade made several compromises in both the blade and handle to shave off those last few grams, including reducing the thickness of the blade and removing almost all of the metal liners typical of other pocket folding knives. 

Thankfully, our initial worries proved to be unfounded. The Bugout has some flex to the handle while in use but generally feels rock solid. It’s a quality, sturdy knife with solid construction. 

Benchmade Bugout Durability

It opened smoothly time after time and never gave any concerning signs while we used it to cut cordage, open packages, whittle, and do other everyday and general outdoor tasks. It’s certainly not the kind of knife you want to put to heavy-duty work, but for everyday tasks and the needs of a campsite, you’ll enjoy dependable service.

This Bugout knife isn’t as durable as a Benchmade Barrage or Spyderco Para Military 2, but it’s also half of those knives’ weight. Like all Benchmade knives, it’s 100% made in the U.S.A. and shows the kind of quality we expect from those products.

Edge retention 

The Bugout’s blade is made from CPM-S30V, a popular high-quality blade steel. We’ve used many knives made from CPM-S30V before and always found it to offer excellent edge retention without overly challenging to sharpen. 

You have two upgrade options for blade steel, M390 and CPM-S90V, which offer improved edge retention and durability for a higher price. Benchmade also offers its stellar Lifesharp program as part of its warranty package.

Warranty and benchmade lifesharp

Benchmade is serious about the quality and longevity of their products and backs up everything they sell with robust warranty protection. It covers all defects in materials and workmanship for the product’s life.

One of our reviewers has sent a knife off to Benchmade for a warranty issue and reported an excellent experience. Benchmade had the knife repaired and shipped back within days and even put it through a complete cleaning and maintenance cycle. 

Another aspect of Benchmade’s commitment to top-quality customer experience is the Benchmade Lifesharp program. For the cost of shipping, Benchmade will clean, oil, adjust, and sharpen your blade for the product’s life. Several of us here at Gearscape have used it before and loved the razor-sharp edge it came back with.  

Benchmade Bugout 535 Folding Knife

The 535 Bugout has become one of the most popular knives in Benchmade’s lineup. Munin pattern Damasteel and ghost carbon fiber handles are coupled with smoked gray PVD coated liners, pocket clip and hardware. Blue anodized titanium thumb studs and barrel spacers round out this Unlimited Limited Gold Class. A Bugout of this caliber is sure to be a bright spot in anyone’s collection.

Buy on Amazon

Who is the Benchmade Bugout For? 

The Benchmade Bugout is for hikers, ultralight backpackers, EDC enthusiasts, and those looking to save on weight without sacrificing durability. It’s just about the lightest knife of its size you can get. 

For hikers and backpackers shaving grams off their gear loadout can be an obsession. The Bugout’s offer of a full-size folding knife that weighs barely more than a mini Swiss army knife is an enticing proposition to those planning long-distance hikes or who love being able to optimize their gear.

For the EDC crowd, the Bugout is also a great choice. Its slim design makes it easy to slip into your pocket, while the rock-solid Benchmade build gives you peace of mind that it’ll work as advertised when you need it.

The combination of reduced weight, significant durability, and reliable performance make the Benchmade Bugout 535 one of the best EDC folding knives today.

Is the Benchmade Bugout Worth it? 

This is the quintessential question anyone wants from a Benchmade Bugout review: Is this EDC knife worth the price?

The Bugout is a special knife, but it may not be the best option if cost is a major consideration. It’s a fairly pricey folder, easily meeting the price point of other popular pocket knives of its size, yet it’s definitely less durable.

Don’t get us wrong, the Bugout is a high-quality knife that will last under regular use, but the design compromises made to shave the weight down had some impacts on durability. You’ll have no problem getting years of service out of your Bugout, but it isn’t a knife that will last your entire life.

The Bugout offers tremendous value in terms of usability and portability. If you’re willing to take the risk of needing a replacement every decade or so under regular use, it’™s definitely worth it.

Benchmade Bugout vs. Mini Bugout 

Faced with the overwhelming popularity of the Bugout, Benchmade released an even smaller and more compact version, the Mini Bugout 533. It drops a little under half an inch off the blade length and reduces the closed length to just 3.7″.

Other than being about 20% smaller and cheaper, the Mini Bugout is functionally identical to the Bugout 535. Choosing between the two depends entirely on your situation and how you see yourself using a knife.

If you’re an outdoor enthusiast looking for a solid jack-of-all-trades folder, we recommend the Bugout. Ditto if you’ve got larger hands or think you’ll often be wearing gloves while using your knife.

For EDC in an urban setting and especially for office carry, the Mini Bugout can be a tempting option. It’s smaller, lighter, and thinner than the Bugout yet still has the same aesthetic and general functionality. Those with smaller hands may also find the Mini Bugout more comfortable to hold and use.

Benchmade Bugout review: Benchmade Bugout vs. Mini Bugout 

Other Benchmade Pocket Knives 

No Benchmade Bugout review would be complete without comparing it to other premium knives. Benchmade makes a lot of seriously nice knives, so if the Bugout isn’t quite what you’re looking for you might consider some of the options below.

Benchmade Osborne 940 

The Osborne 940 has been one of the best Benchmade knives for more than 20 years. Another lightweight full-size folder, it’s a bit larger and heavier than the Bugout but offers an absolutely gorgeous design style and a reverse tanto blade profile some may prefer. 

Benchmade Bugout review comparison: Benchmade Osborne 940

Benchmade Griptilian

The Benchmade Griptilian is unquestionably one of the most beloved pocket knives ever made. It’s a robust daily carry folding knife with an overengineered design built to last a lifetime. It’s twice as heavy as the Bugout with a blade only .21″ longer but is also more durable and generally able to handle harder tasks over a longer time period.

Benchmade Bugout review comparison: Benchmade Griptilian

Benchmade Bugout Review Final Thoughts

The Benchmade Bugout 535 is ounce for ounce one of the best pocket knives on the market today. It’s a durable, ultra-lightweight pocket folding knife that’s somehow able to provide a full-size blade in a durable body that weighs less than two ounces.

If you’re looking for the functionality of a full-size pocket folder without the weight and bulk, the Benchmade Bugout is the perfect solution.

Benchmade Bugout 535 Folding Knife

The 535 Bugout has become one of the most popular knives in Benchmade’s lineup. Munin pattern Damasteel and ghost carbon fiber handles are coupled with smoked gray PVD coated liners, pocket clip and hardware. Blue anodized titanium thumb studs and barrel spacers round out this Unlimited Limited Gold Class. A Bugout of this caliber is sure to be a bright spot in anyone’s collection.

Buy on Amazon
Dennis Hammer
Dennis has been a part of EDC since he was young - before he even knew what it was! As an artist, he loves beautifully designed products that function well. He also likes to be ready for any situation, which makes EDC perfect for his lifestyle.

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