Searching for EDC knives can be daunting with the sheer number of models on the market. After reflecting about the numerous models available, on this month’s National Knife day. I decided to help make your decision easier. What’s “national knife day,” it’s an ongoing holiday celebrating new knives on the 24th day of each month. The offerings today provide an exciting selection of blades for every user.
What are EDC Knives?
These are knives consisting of folding or fixed-blades that fit in your pocket. This special knife is lightweight, compact and multi-functional. The condensed design results in a tool that’s easy to conceal and access throughout a day.
Furthermore, EDC is an abbreviation for “everyday carry” and it refers to an item that you carry with at all times. Another way of thinking about it, is to say this blade is a tool that’s essential to your daily routine. An EDC knife may be the item you would never want to be without in an emergency situation. Or you may need it for your employment, such as breaking down cardboard in a warehouse. These are not what you’d expect to see Navy SEALs utilize, instead they have military issued combat knives.
In this article discover 5 of the best EDC knives reviewed for 2023. To start I explain what EDC types of knives are. Next there’s a comparison table, followed by the detailed reviews. To finish up is a frequently asked questions section.
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The Benchmade Mini Griptilian 556, is a small, lightweight and ultra strong. As a result, it’s my top pick for the best EDC knives of 2023. First thing you will notice is the grip, molded from glass-filled nylon. It’s ambidextrous and has a textured grip for superior comfort.
The manual-opening blade measures 2.91 inches that’s rated between 58 and 60 on the HRC scale. It’s lightweight as well, coming in at a mere 2.81 oz. I appreciate that it’s a USA made CPM-S30V stainless steel drop-point blade. Developed by Crucible Industries and famous knife maker Chris Reeve. S30V is one of the most popular steels for a high-end EDC blade. It offers spectacular strength to weight ratio too.
Deployment for this Benchmade knife is via the manual axis locking mechanism. Which is a small, hardened spring-loaded bar. This ensures that doesn’t become a weak link. One thing to note there’s no “open assist” with this model of knife. Size wise, its only 3.87-inches at closed length, making it very-pocketable EDC gear.
These EDC knives are the perfect intro into the world of Spyderco from Colorado. Inspired by the Paramilitary 2, the upgraded Para 3 is now a more compact, useable piece of gear. Don’t worry, it still has the unique drop point blade and popular round thumbhole.
This model features a 2.95-inch long martensitic CPM 345VN high alloy stainless steel plain edged blade. That has excellent toughness, good edge retention and the best rust protection. The only problem is this type can be hard to sharpen.
Increasing in pocket comfort, the slim design uses an open back construction. Inside steel liners nest into the recesses of the G-10 glass-based epoxy resin handle. Thus, it has less handle thickness for easy stow away after use. While still providing strong support for the deployment system.
To operate the Para 3 you manually engage the Compression Lock mechanism with stop pin. It’s super strong and easy to close with one hand. Where it loses a some points, is actually it’s size. It measures 4.29-inches for closed length, not tiny but not massive either. Another downside is it isn’t ambidextrous, like my first pick. If either of these aren’t a problem, then this is a near perfect folding knife.
The Pilar from CRKT (Columbia River Knife and Tool) is my pick for the best affordable folding EDC. This is a true minimal product from Jesper Voxnaes that maximizes utility.
Let’s discuss the good aspects of the Pilar. First, it has a nice condensed size (3.53″ closed). Second, the 2.4-inch 8Cr13MoV stainless steel blade has a satin finish and strong tip. The Wharncliffe shape makes long, even cuts. Plus it’s low maintenance as it doesn’t rust if dropped in water. In third, the handle and blade are stainless steel, so you know it has solid construction, albeit slippery. Fourth is the confident frame lock that utilizes a thick bar to secure the blade. You can engage it from either side making it ambidextrous.
Moving on, being the least expensive folding model does mean you have to expect some caveats. One is steel for the blade, 8Cr13MoV becomes dull faster compared to other knife steel types. Although at this low entry price point, you can go have it sharpened if need be. The other downside is using steel for the handle material. Instead of a non-metallic material like G-10 or glass-resin. This makes the total weight of this knife higher at 4.2 ounces.
Runner-up Pick: The Best Everyday Knife For Hunting/Fishing
From the Kershaw brand in Oregon, the Blur is my runner-up pick for the best folding EDC knife. In fact, if it had the Benchmade Axis lock system it might be a perfect hunting/fishing knife.
It has a 3.4-inch premium S30V powdered stainless steel blade. With a slight recurved shape sort of like a Gurkha blade it’s both sleek and functional. Having a powdered version is better for toughness, anti-corrosion, and long-term edge retention. Buyers can be confident they can abuse this knife, and it keeps cutting.
Moreover, the handle is a 6061-T6 aircraft aluminum with “Trac-Tec” inserts. It gets anodized to create the black color, hardness and more protection. While in the hand it feels light and sturdy, these inserts make the grip even more amazing. When closed, the knife doesn’t hang up in a pocket or other parts of clothes. Deploying via the Speedsafe system is ultra quick, certain, and safe. The thumb stud shape is fantastic for one hand operation.
Now, on to why it’s not my first pick, the lock system. Bottom line, it’s simple and works fine, but its just not as robust as the Axis system. I’m not as trustful of a liner system to be able to withstand long term heavy-duty tasks.
Last, the reversible pocket clip rests on the frame making for easy pull-outs from your pocket. In total, the Blur is like an EDC and pocket knife combined for durable game cleaning, I just wish the lock was better quality.
For those of you on a tight budget and prefer a fixed blade, then the Morakniv Eldris is tough to beat. Morakniv is a Swedish brand that has a long history of knife making. This stout tool is great for carving, whittling, bush craft and food prep. It has a matching Polymer sheath that it clicks into the handle.
This mighty little knife come with a 2.2-inches long, 2-mm thick straight blade made of Sandvik 12c27 steel. The hardness of this type of steel is 56 on the HRC scale, so it’s for outdoor activities only. But Adding versatility the square-edged ground spine of the blade is a perfect fire starter.
Matched to the blade is the barrel-shaped TPE rubber handle. It features a soft friction grip and finger guard. Performance in both the wet and cold is great. Total length is 5.6-inches (143 cm) so it’s easy to carry, either around your neck via a lanyard, or in your pocket.
If you’re a looking for a must-have everyday carry knife for your outdoor activities, this is the one.
EDC Knives: Frequently Asked Questions
The factors play a big part is which EDC knife is best for you. They include blade shape, handle, steel type, and edge. Plus you need to figure out what type of knife and tool user you are, and how you intend to use it. Below are some general questions to pick the best EDC knife for your needs.
Q. Is it legal to carry a pocket knife?
A. The answer is “it depends.” One knife may be legal in one state and illegal in another. Pay attention to the blade length, how it opens, and how you want to carry it.
For U.S. residents refer to this website, it’s simple to comprehend. Here’s a website for the Canadian knife laws. Switchblades, or butterfly knifes. Any knife that auto opens by gravity or centrifugal force isn’t allowed. The U.K. has another set of standards found here.
Q. Which blade shape is best for general use?
A. This is where is can get confusing as there’s almost an infinite number of blade shapes. For example, the sheepsfoot and Wharncliffe. For EDC gear, the most common is the drop point blade shape. This is because the drop point can cut, slice, chop, and even puncture with ease.
Q. Fixed or folding knife?
A. This is a personal choice that depend on how you want to both carry and use it. Both are great for everyday carry, yet a folding model tends to be smaller and easy to pocket. If you want a convenient sharp edge for both indoor and outdoors, a fold knife is your best bet.
Whereas a fixed blade is better for pure outdoor activities. If you plan to hack, pry, split objects with full force, then a fixed blade you can’t beat a sturdy fixed blade.
Q. Which steel type needs the least maintenance?
A. Every steel type is susceptible to damage and the two main culprits are edge abuse and rust. You need to determine the climate and how you plan to use the knife to make this choice.
Stainless steel blades with high levels of chromium are great at resisting rust. But are bad at fire starting and the edge wears down faster.
The other option you may see are steels full of carbon. This type stays sharper longer. But lack rust resistance without constant maintenance. Corrosion is a blade’s worst enemy as it will cause the edge to fail.
For most everyday carriers, you need to find a balanced steel. Something that’s corrosion resistant, holds an edge and sharpens easy. This middle ground will ensure lower maintenance overtime.
This is a basic list of EDC steel types:
S45VN – the best corrosion resistance, good toughness, great edge retention, hard to re-sharpen.
S30V – has the best general balance of features.
Powdered S30V – enhanced balance of toughness, anti-corrosion, and edge retention over S30V.
8Cr13MoV – good corrosion resistance, better hardness, poor edge retention
Q. Which knife handle material is best?
A. For everyday carry, you want a knife that is easy to slip in and out of your pocket. It also needs to be comfortable in your hand, regardless if it’s wet or dry. For a knife to maintain grip without using hand labor in wet and dry climates, it needs to have some kind of texture. Below are brief explanation of typical EDC handle material and their pro’s and con’s.
A low density mid-range metal, anodized for color, hardness and corrosion protection. Delivers a hefty feel without actually being a heavy weight. The highest grade of aluminum is the T6-6061 alloy. This is aircraft grade, so it has a tremendous tensile strength.
If texturized, aluminum handle can provide decent grip for extended use. On the downside, this material gets uncomfortably cold in winter. Plus it scratches easier than other metals.
Cons: Cold to hold in winter, slippery if smooth, can scratch.
A high-end lightweight metal alloy, with the best rust resistance of any metal. Although it’s heavier than aluminum, it’s still considered lightweight and much stronger. In turn, it’s also more expensive to create. Plus it’s not as tough as stainless steel. Another bonus is it’s actually a warm metal, so it’s not as effected in winter as aluminum. It too can get anodized and texturized but is still prone to scratching.
Pros: Strong, lightweight, rust resistance
Cons: Expensive to make, scratch prone.
Another metal that’s used for low-mid range EDC handles. The advantages of this material are its high durability and rust resistance. For disadvantages, it isn’t very lightweight and a bit slippery. To combat hand fatigue, manufacturers have to incorporate etching or ridges for friction.
Pros: Durable and corrosion resistant.
Cons: Heavier, slippery surface.
The term carbon fiber is a generic term for a material made of thin strands of carbon tightly woven and set in resin. It’s a high-end material for a knife and rare to see. Often it’s marketed under the name “carbon fiber reinforced polymer.” It’s a super lightweight material and expensive to create. While has a decent strength, it’s not indestructible. Expect damage when subjected to sharp impacts.
Pros: Lightweight, eye-catching
Cons: Expensive, brittle, prone to impact damage
This is a popular brand example of a phenolic (resin) mixed with cloths. It’s basically like fiberglass, another similar version of this is glass-filled nylon. The end product is lightweight, strong, and looks like a dressed up G-10 handle. Unfortunately, Micarta and glass-filled nylon comes out of the mold without surface texture. Thus, it’s very slippery and requires extra labor to carve texture into the handle. Which in turn, makes the overall knife more expensive. It also is scratch resistant, within reason. Drops on hardy surfaces can damage it though.
Pros: Light, comfortable and durable.
Cons: Expensive, prone to impact damage.
G-10 is a mid to high range knife handle material. The G is a grade of garolite, this means it’s a laminate composite made of fiberglass. This type has similar properties to carbon fiber yet made for a fraction of the cost. It’s a durable, lightweight, non-porous, ultra lightweight, choice. In fact, G10 is the toughest of all the fiberglass resin laminates. Although more brittle than Micarta.
Added texture helps to make for a stiff and comfortable grip. You can get it in a variety of colors for unique cosmetic look. Tactical folding and fixed knives enjoy the qualities of G-10. But like the other composites it can damage on impacts. It’s cheaper to make over carbon fiber but still more than the metals, so expect knives to cost more with G10.
Pros: Durable, water resistant, lightweight
Q. Are Liner Locks Safe In A Folding Knife?
Yes, many knife brands trust and us this type of locking mechanism. In fact, a liner lock is one of the best systems when wearing gloves. To explain, below are some systems found in different knives.
This is a traditional and simple mechanism found in open-back handles. It consists of the blade (with cutout on the tang), a latch-bar and a spring. During opening, you hand pull the blade out. As it swings out, the cutout slides and locks into the latch bar. To close, you push down the exposed part of the bar on the top of the handle-spine. This activates the spring to push up on the latch bar, releasing the cutout and swing the blade closed.
An issue with this type, is the spring-release location. It can be accidentally released during strenuous use and lead to hospital visits.
Pro’s: strong, simple and ambidextrous.
Con’s: accidental release, jamming problems.
This is the most common form for modern folding knives. Due to ease of operation, assembly, and cost. The mechanism works like a kickstand for a bicycle. Below is a brief explanation:
When closed, the blade pushes the liner to the side. To open, it makes room for the liner pushing towards the inside and locking in place against the end of the blade. Then to release and close the blade, the liner has a special detent ball. This ball allows you with one hand to push the blade and move the liner to the side.
Pros: simple, inexpensive to build, fast opening.
Cons: poor finger safety, not heavy-duty.
Think of this system as a liner-lock on steroids, where the liner is actually the side of the handle frame. The frame moves inward on opening to keep the blade in place. Then moves back out when closing. How strong it is depends on the individual build quality and spring tension of the frame liner.
Pro’s: Easy to engage, pretty strong, simple construction, fewer parts to maintain.
Con’s: action dependent on strong pivot tension, not ambidextrous as others.
Developed and patented by Spyderco, this type is like an improved, inverted liner lock. Unlike others, it’s located on the spine side of the knife. Plus it has a physical piece of the liner that wedges and compresses between the tang of the blade and stop pin.
Since its in compression, any forces up against the blade won’t push the liner back out to release the blade. To open you simply pull the liner to the side. Then close the same way.
Pros: stronger than others, safe disengagement, single hand use.
Cons: susceptible to ball detent alignment issues, not ambidextrous.
Created and patented by the Benchmade Knife Company is the Axis system. It’s a true ambidextrous system because the latch bar spans from side-to-side of the handle. This bar travels front to back along the spine inside a slot. On each side of the bar is an “omega” Ω spring to provide equal tension. There is a notch in the tang that fits perfect into the bar.
So, you are using the springs to force the solid bar over the top of the blade tang, locking it in place. Pull the bar backward away from the notched tang to close it. It’s simple and safe as it keeps your fingers out of the closure pathway.
Pro’s: ambidextrous, safer than others, extremely strong.
Con’s: omega springs are weaker, dirt buildup issues, prone to blade play.
Finishing up EDC Knives:
Now you should know what’s important to select the right EDC knives for your requirements. Pay attention to the environment you spend your daily life in. A certain knife will work better in a pure outdoor area over a mixed in/out situation. It’s vital to keep this in mind, as both we and our adventures are unique to us. I recommend choosing a balance between cost to performance when selecting an EDC or pocket knife. Doing so will ensure you choose the ideal knife for long-term enjoyment.
Thanks again for letting us at Outdoors Informed aid in your research and buying process. We do it, so you can spend less time indoors and more “cutting” it up outside.