Back in the day, pocket knives were used multiple times a day, in just about any situation. A Swiss army knife as a Christmas present was a rite of passage for young boys. Things are different today. That kind of gift is frowned upon and even grown men may not have one. More frequently tied to violence and rather than being seen as a tool, a knife is a weapon.
But there is a comeback in progress for the pocket knife in recent years. A good EDC knife is great for removing hanging threads, cleaning the dirt from your nails, or cutting fishing line. In recent years, more people with an ear to the ground, are taking steps to prepare for the unexpected. A good EDC knife has become the backbone of an EDC Kit (EveryDay Carry Kit).
Selecting the right EDC knife for you from the hundreds of choices out there can be a bit daunting. Your needs will be different than those of your neighbor or co-worker. In this article, we will focus on EDC folding knives or pocket knives and will help you whittle down your choices by focusing on major features and giving you a list of popular knives to consider.
What the Best EDC Knife Should Look Like
Must have a Good Blade and Handle
In most cases, some type of steel is ideal for an EDC blade. The strength/weight ratio of titanium is great but it fails to maintain its edge as well as steel. The blade needs strength enough to hold up to everyday use without becoming dull too quickly. Lower priced options are the 440C or 14C28N to 154CM in the middle range or even VG10 on the high side.
If you are choosing your first EDC knife, a steel blade in the range above will suffice. For the more experienced knife user, do further research on the many different types of steel. Consider things like strength, cost, corrosion resistance, and edge retention to determine the right blade for your needs.
Knife handles, or scales, include synthetic G10 grips, hardwoods, titanium, and in some cases animal bone. Handle choice is really based on whether it fits your hand. The sturdy G10 is well-liked, the Zytel has more grip. Titanium or brass handles look intimidating. Natural handles like hardwood fit the bill and you won’t resemble Rambo as you cut the ties on that new ream of paper at the office.
Size & Weight, Carry, and Edge
Ideally an EDC knife if carried daily should be small and not too heavy. The focus is a folding knife with practical use so look for a blade 3.5 inches or less and total knife weight of 4.5 ounces or less. In most cases a few ounces of difference in weight isn’t much but after more than eight hours in your pocket every day, a heavier knife will be an irritation.
It will be tucked away in your pocket or clipped discreetly on your belt, easily accessible but not advertised to everyone. A belt-holstered knife isn’t the best look at work but is acceptable in the woods. An upward facing pocket clip will enable quicker access. The main issues to consider for carry is total weight and ease of access.
A multi-tool advertised as “a mini tool box” sounds great but may be heavy enough to tug your pants down gradually as you walk. A single blade with a sharp point will make clean precise cuts and will suffice for almost every need. A partially serrated blade gives a little more functionality for things like cutting rope.
Opening and Locking Methods
Selecting an opening and locking method is a lot like buying a new car, you really need to kick the tires and test drive it to know what suits you. The blade should remain open until you decide to close it (locking mechanism) and it should be easy to unfold (opening mechanism). Next time you’re near the store, pop in and test a few.
- Slip joint lock–more than a century old. This is your typical old-fashioned pocket knife or Swiss Army knife. Simply designed and time tested, it is a spring loaded mechanism and requires some effort to open and close.
- Ball detent mechanism-developed by Michael Walker, it works similar to how a socket is locked into a socket wrench.
- Liner Lock-needs adequate force to bypass the mechanism but is typically easier to close than the slip joint lock.
- Frame Lock-originally named the integral lock by developer, Chris Reeve. Uses a ball detent apparatus built into the handle, it’s spring loaded like a liner lock.
- Axis lock-a Benchmade Knife Company trademark, the Axis lock uses a modified roller detent mechanism similar to that of those on car doors.
The three basic opening mechanism categories to consider are Manual, Assisted, and Automatic opening systems.
- Manual–includes reliable, quick opening mechanisms such as the Emerson Wave, Thumbstud, and Nail Nick.
- Assisted-like the Kershaw Speedsafe using a torsion bar/spring combination and the Colt Tailwind
- Automatic-the Coil Spring Automatic, Leaf Spring Automatic, as well as both the Single Action OTF and Dual Action OTF are in this category.
As you can see, there are numerous types in each category. A good way to narrow it down is to determine which of the opening systems, you like best and then test knives in that category until you find one that suits you.
Quality, Appearance, Price
The focus for an EDC knife should always be on quality over appearance. Eliminate ones you can based on other factors like blade, size, and functionality and then let your preference for appearance have its way. There are knives with a definite tactical or more aggressive appearance to them. A “gentleman’s pocket knife” will have a more timeless and tasteful look to it and make it easier to “blend in”.
Your EDC knife choice, regardless of appearance, doesn’t need to be the most expensive. It primarily needs to perform reliably with repeated use. Quality knives can be found between the $25 and as much as $100 price range.
Brand and Warranty
Knife users commonly develop an affinity with one brand over another. Many other people feel strongly that American made knives are better than those manufactured overseas. It would be impossible to cover all the different companies, brands, and their history in this article. Suffice it to say that if you feel strongly about supporting companies with a specific reputation you will need to do your research.
When it comes to warranties, you will need to choose a knife manufacturer with a reliable warranty. An unconditional lifetime warranty is pretty common for knives, so any knife you buy should have one.
Here are some of the best knives you should consider getting:
Kershaw listened customer complaints that the popular original Kershaw Cryo was too heavy and lacked grip. The Kershaw Cryo G-10, now on the market, is touted as a lighter weight knife with better G-10 grip. Using 8Cr13MoV Chinese made stainless steel with more strength than AUS-8, its weight is 3.7 ounces and stonewash blade is short 2 ¾ inches in length. Frame lock with assisted open.
Nice choice for the price. May be too short a fit for those with bigger hands. Ease of deployment suffers in that the Thumbstuds require extra force. Came amazingly sharp out of the box but had a stiffness in the frame lock and blade. Surprisingly the overall stiffness makes it a rock solid knife once deployed. Stellar edge retention and cutting performance. Good choice for budget conscious buyers.
This middle weight knife could be nicknamed the Triple-T as it is tough, tireless, and tenacious. Sporting a G10 black laminate handle, this plain edged, leaf shaped blade was created for sustained cutting. An 8Cr13Mov steel blade sits within reinforced steel liners that provide rigidity and strength to the handle without sacrificing carry.
Weighing only 4 ounces, you can adjust your carry and deployment choice via the Walker Linerlock and 4way pocket clip. Leaf-shaped blade arrived sharp. This tenacious knife by Spyderco is at the low end of the price scale but will outperform some of the higher priced knives.
This slim and lightweight Skyline knife is perfect for pocket carry. Its 3 1/8 inch, 14C28N steel blade comes with the well-known Kershaw sharp edge. Not an assisted knife, the flipper is easily opened with the index finger of either hand. The black textured G10 handle boasts great grip and a reliable locking liner. Pocket clip is removable. Tip up or tip down carry using a “Torx” screwdriver.
American based, Benchmade is a well-known high quality knife maker. Its patented Axis lock, easy to manipulate and ever popular with knife users, raises the bar. The hard plastic NorylGTX handle is smooth and easily gripped. Weighing 3.5 ounces and boasting the 154CM, partially serrated, stainless blade, it retains its hair shaving edge even with repeated use. The blade’s matte black coating tends to damage easily.
Coming out of Golden, Colorado, the Manix 2 by Spyderco includes a 3 ½ inch, finely polished, 154CM high carbon steel blade with thumb serrations. The G10 handle is non-slip, this knife is light for its size and includes the Spyderco ball bearing lock that is stiff to prevent unwanted closing but can be closed with a two-step, one-handed procedure.
The knife is an easy one-handed open via the ½ “Spyderhole”, but mimics a fixed blade knife when open. A large well balanced knife, the three-screw left or right clip provides for deep pocket positioning. With more grit than a basic EDC knife, the Manix2 can help you take on the roughest of tasks if you’re up for the challenge.
The Zero Tolerance blade is S30V steel and a great G10 handle. Great performer for a little more money. Tends to quickly lose its razor edge, but maintains a useable edge for quite some time. The ZT boasts more steel in its liner lock than in the entire length of most knives. Not a petite knife, it weighs more than others, but is great for heavy use.
This is the goldilocks of knives for size. It’s perfect clipped in pocket but is a useable size for large hands. It has a S30V blade made of one of the best steels on the market and its shave sharp edge holds well. It doesn’t even weigh three ounces which is ridiculously light. Of course for this classic but deadly when needed knife, it’s pricey but knowledgeable knife users recognize its worth.
Shave sharp knife, diamond-like coating and reinforced tip. Great compression lock, G10 handle and new Bushing Pivot System with almost frightening opening speed. Weight is 3.9 ounces. Clip is 4-way adjustable left/right and tip-up/tip down as you prefer. The only flaw is it’s too perfect to mess up and you won’t want to use it.
Resembling a service knife, the Kershaw Ken Onion Blur uses the 14C28N steel blade with black coating. SpeedSafe assisted open requires just a bit of pressure on the thumbstuds to open in seconds. Locking mechanism could be better, but grip is natural and solid, even if wet. Carry is tip up or tip down. May not hold up to heavy duty use.
At 7 ¼” in length and boasting a durable glass-reinforced nylon handle, this is the work horse of EDC knives. The IKBS bearing system enables smooth opening. Feels good in hand, attractive Flavio Ikoma design with razor sharpness straight out of the box. Innovative safety mechanism takes some practice but blade lockup is excellent. Good EDC knife at a decent price.
Portability is priority in this Dragonfly 2 by Sypderco. Fits in your pocket but works well for small tasks or survival tasks. VG10 steel and full flat grind (FFG) combine for great slice capability though it offers only a three-finger grip in the handle. Discreet enough to avoid those looks from passersby but big enough to function as like a larger pocket knife.
Appealing leaf blade, a bit short at a length of 2.25 inches, shaving sharp with good edge retention. Comfortable to hold, open with one hand but a bit harder to close.
Knife enthusiasts will welcome the chance to snag this authentic Hinderer at significantly less than the typical $600 price. It’s a tactical, high chromium steel blade designed for resistance to damage and corrosion. Good edge retention.
Lockup is solid with no play whatsoever and it remains clipped tipdown all day. Tipping the scale at 5.39 oz. and nearly 9 inches in length, it’s a large knife which may be off putting as an EDC for beginners. Great for heavy duty work or as a utility knife.
Overall, the deciding factor when it comes to knives is really about what you want and how devastated you will be if your knife is lost. The better the quality of knife, the more upset you’ll be when it’s damaged or missing. Don’t buy the highest priced knife thinking it’s the best. Knives have a tipping point, after which you are paying for craftsmanship and likely unnecessary add-ins. Which knife will you consider?