There is nothing we like more than a nice well-made pocket knife. It doesn’t matter what the activity or situation is: having a good knife on you that can be ready for action at a moments’ notice can really save the day.
The best pocket knives for every day carry (EDC) are ones that balance compact construction with high performance steel, meaning that it is not possible to carry in your pocket an incredibly advanced piece of cutting technology, and forget that it’s even there.
In order to make this a breeze for everyone, we’re taking a look at the 8 Best Pocket Knives for EDC. After the countdown, we’re going to tell you what you need to look for when shopping for a folding EDC knife, so you can continue the journey on your own.
Best Bang-For-Your-Buck EDC Pocket Knife
SOG Folding Knife Flash II Spring Assisted Pocket Knife
• BLADE LENGTH: 3.5 INCHES
• BLADE CONSTRUCTION: TITANIUM-NITRIDE COATED AUS-8 STAINLESS STEEL
• WEIGHT: 3.1 OUNCES
• HANDLE: REINFORCED NYLON
• SPRING ASSIST: YES
If you are an everyday carrier of a pocket knife, then you no doubt have the same process that we do when looking for a new knife. Or rather, the same set of strict requirements for any piece of equipment that you are going to be carrying around all day. The SOG Flash II has met all of our requirements and more, and is one of the three or four most impressive knives that we have ever been assigned to review.
The locking mechanisms at SOG are always top notch. The blade lock on the FLASH II is no exception; it is very strong and there is scant indication that it will break anytime soon. In fact the whole knife feels durable enough to last far longer than its user will. When you throw in SOG’s lifetime product guarantee, then you are pretty ensuring that unless you lose it, you will have this new knife for a long, long time.
The way a knife feels in your hand is an incredibly important aspect of its design, especially for EDC products which are going to be used daily for a number of different tasks. The FLASH II has a great feel. It’s kind of small, but not too small for our hands as some pocket knives can be. When the handle is too small, then it can be difficult to get a good grip on the knife for whatever you are using it for.
Our issue with the FLASH II is the location of the safety switch towards the bottom of the knife; it makes it difficult to draw & unlock this knife with the same simultaneous motion. It would have been better places towards the middle or top than at the bottom.
Best EDC Pocket Knife for Emergency Rescue
Kershaw BLUR Folding Knife
• BLADE LENGTH: 3.4 INCHES
• BLADE CONSTRUCTION: 14C28N STEEL BLADE
• WEIGHT: 3.9 OUNCES
• HANDLE: ANODIZED ALUMINUM
• SPRING ASSIST: YES
As someone who has carried a KERSHAW knife for years, I was perhaps more excited to test this model out than I was for some of the other products, but there is no need to worry. While Kershaw’s continuing quality and innovations have always impressed me, our team made it a point to stay impartial while we took a look at the knife company’s newest release, the BLUR.
You know that old saying about judging a wine by its label? It’s hard not to in this case. The BLUR is one of the most stylish EDC pocket knives that we have encountered. With a jet black blade and matching jet black anodized aluminum handle, it just as the coolest look about it. But there I go gushing again …
The BLUR’s strongest feature is by far the solid, all-metal construction that Kershaw has built their reputation on. These are some of the strongest handles you can get, as opposed to the largely plastic handles that are common on knives in this price range.
The inclusion of a specially designed GLASSBREAKER is a new addition for Kershaw’s line, and one we are welcome to accept as it only costs a few bucks more than the base model. We could imagine that feature coming in quite handy if we ever get ourselves into a sticky situation. For instance, if we ever had to break an automobile window to get out of the car. This is why KERSHAW knives are so popular with first responders and emergency technicians.
A few gripes: the handle, while superbly constructed, is simply too grippy, making it difficult to get in and out of the pocket. Along those same lines, the built-in pocket clip is situated slightly too high on the knife, allowing it so stick slightly out of the pocket, which is a minor but noticeable inconvenience.
Best Heavy Duty EDC Pocketknife
Benchmade MINI GRIPTILIAN 556 Knife
• BLADE LENGTH: 2.91 INCHES
• BLADE CONSTRUCTION: 154CS STAINLESS STEEL
• WEIGHT: 2.81 OUNCES
• HANDLE: MOLDED GLASS-FILLED NYLON
• SPRING ASSIST: YES
There is something immensely pleasing about watching as a person near you achieves a lofty goal after years and years of practice and perseverance. This is kind of what it is like for us to get to play with Benchmade’s new EDC knife the MINI GRIPTILIAN. For this knife, just about all aspects of its construction are executed to near perfection. This is truly a well-balanced knife, and we’re not just talking about blade weight.
The usage rating on this knife we would put at medium heavy to heavy. It is a little small to be considered a heavy-duty pocket knife, but other than that, it has dual steel liners and an insanely strong lock. Pair this with a grip that won’t quit, and you have a knife that is heavy duty enough to cape a deer or clean a fish with no problems whatsoever.
The one handed opening mechanism can be used by either hand, and that’s pretty cool. It only takes a slight amount of thumb pressure to open the blade, however that pressure needs to be applied to a very specific point if you want it to work properly. This is just another example of a previously-existing technology that Kershaw has managed to pull off very, very well. The best way to know what we’re talking about is to try it yourself.
154CS Stainless is a great steel, towards the upper range of things with great blade retention and initial sharpness. While not as easy to sharpen as VG-10, it is still easier than most other steels. Great wear resistance, however. This is a knife you will have for a long time. One issue with the GRIPTILIAN 556 is that the blade may have been constructed just a little too thick for its casing. We experienced some drag against the casing and we wonder if the knife as a whole would perform better if the blade was a little thinner.
Best EDC Carry for Outdoor Tactical Survival
Smith & Wesson SWMP4LS 8.6 inch SS Assisted Folding Knife
• BLADE LENGTH: 3.6 INCHES
• BLADE CONSTRUCTION: 4034 BLACK OXIDE HIGH CARBON STAINLESS
• WEIGHT: 7.5 OUNCES
• HANDLE: BLACK ALUMINUM
• SPRING ASSIST: YES
While this knife just might be the most affordable on our list, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have anything to offer. While it is true that the chief drawback of this price point is that you are going to be getting a slightly lower quality steel, but to be honest, 4034 is not all that bad. In fact, it can be sharpened to almost the same point as other manufactures, though it might not hold that blade for as long a time. That is because as a metal it is significantly softer than other varieties.
Smith & Wesson is of course known for their work in the gun industry, so it is perhaps not surprising that they have found success marketing their line of pocket knives to the same crowd. Certain features like the heavy duty handle mounts and the window breaker make it a great survival knife to keep in the car.
We could not appreciate the blade lock, however. It was in the habit of sliding on or off as we pulled it out of our pocket or put it back in. Honestly we are not sure that this knife even needsa locking mechanism, because the blade is so snugly installed that we really aren’t worried about the blade releasing itself on accident. Another quirky feature was the pocket clip, which was not securely installed to the knife, leading to a significant degree of shaking / rattling / looseness. We were unable to tighten the clip ourselves, so we can recommend this knife as the kind of thing you keep in the car or hunting bag as a backup. For the money it is a great knife with big features, but it is perhaps not the most well-balanced for EDC.
Best Pocketknife for Urban EDC
Ontario RAT II Linerlock Pocket Knife
• BLADE LENGTH: 3 INCHES
• BLADE CONSTRUCTION: D2
• WEIGHT: 3 OUNCES
• HANDLE: GREEN SYNTHETIC
• SPRING ASSIST: YES
It sure is strange that we knew so little about the knife & cutlery company ONTARIO KNIFE, seeing as how they have been around for 130 years, In that time they have expanded to produce a wide range of tools including knives, medical tools, machetes, and survival and emergency equipment.
The RAT II represents their affordable, “entry-level” folding pocket knife. While they have a number of more expensive knives in their catalogue, this one has proved to be most popular among outdoor enthusiasts who have appreciated its slim, minimalistic design and understated performance.
While it is not the cheapest knife on our list, it is certainly on the lower end of the price range, and usually that is some cause for concern to the informed consumer. Why, for example, would the knife be so cheap if it really was as good as they say it is? We don’t have a specific answer to that, but we can say with confidence that for the money, this knife delivers a lot in terms of performance and even more in terms of comfort and convenience.
We can really see how this knife would simply “disappear” into your pocket after a while. It is surprisingly lightweight and has a nice slim profile, meaning that it isn’t going to block access into your pocket.
The flat grind on the blade makes this an excellent slicing knife, thought the strength of the tip might leave something to be desired; we would not recommend this knife for its puncturing prowess, considering that the tip might just be the weakest part of the knife.
While the handle is comfortable and feels strong, a quick visual inspection can tell you that you are not getting the same kind of heavy duty performance as you would need for more arduous tasks like carving and skinning. This knife is just too small for that. But in terms of a sleek EDC that won’t let you down, this is the one.
Most Compact & Lightweight Pocket Knife
Benchmade GRIPTILIAN 551 Knife
• BLADE LENGTH: 3.45 INCHES
• BLADE CONSTRUCTION: 154CM
• WEIGHT: 3.88 OUNCES
• HANDLE: MOLDED GLASS-FILLED NYLON
• SPRING ASSIST: YES
With Benchmade’s hugely popular GRIPTILLIAN 500 series of knives, there are more sized, shapes, and colors available than in any other product family. So whether you are searching for a knife for everyday use or something a bit more tactical in nature, Benchmade has likely got the right knife for you, and it just might be the 551.
Now we already took a look at the MINI GRIPTILLIAN 556, the slightly smaller younger brother of the 551. We wanted to find out: is that the only difference? As it turns out, the 551 can be considered the “full size” model whereas the 556 is more of the “compact model”, as if they were two different versions of the same knife. And essentially, they are.
They use the same steel, for instance, and the same handle design. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? But the real difference is in the size of the blade as opposed to the construction of it. The longer cutting edge of the 551 makes it more useful for a greater variety of tasks. The extra size is more comfortable in the hand, and helps when you are trying to control the knife for slicing, sawing, or puncturing.
The 551 seems to fall victim to the same issue as the 556, which is blade thickness. It seems just a bit too large for its metal casing which can cause some sluggishness when opening and closing.
Best Pocket Knife Under $100
Spyderco Inc. DELICA 4 Folding Knife
• BLADE LENGTH: 2.87 INCHES
• BLADE CONSTRUCTION: VG-10 STEEL
• WEIGHT: 2.1 OUNCES
• HANDLE: FIBERGLASS-REINFORCED NYLON
• SPRING ASSIST: YES
We were bound to get to SPYDERCO eventually, so we might as well jump right in. When it comes to the EDC pocket knife, there is perhaps no other brand with as much name recognition as Spyderco, and for good reason indeed. For decades they have maintained focus on innovation, and the result is a modern line of products that are sharper, stronger, and more reliable than a good portion of the competition.
The DELICA 4 is the newest member of a family of knives that stretches back to 1990, when the DELICA was first release. Back then, it was the first of its kind on the knife market, which at the time had little concept of what “everyday carry” meant. People didn’t know how much they wanted a slim-profile, lightweight knife. Even more impressive at the time was Spyderco’s introduction of single-hand opening, which was unheard of at the time.
So how does the Delica 4 stand up to its regal history? Pretty well if you ask us. This blade is sharp, and we mean sharp. This is the reason that you pay the extra money for a Spyderco when so many “cheap” knives are available. You simply cannot achieve this level of sharpness on an entry-level EDC pocketknife.
A great pocket clip; strong and immovable. The DELICA’s only fault in our opinion is that while it is quite simple to open the knife with one hand, it is near-impossible to close it with one hand. A truly one-handed knife would have this feature, in our opinion, but hey. We’re not shaming anyone.
Best Multi-Purpose Pocket Knife
Benchmade 940 EDC Manual Open Folding Knife
• BLADE LENGTH: 3.4 INCHES
• BLADE CONSTRUCTION: CPM S30V STEEL
• WEIGHT: 2.9 OUNCES
• HANDLE: 6061-T6 ALUMINUM HANDLE
• SPRING ASSIST: NO
Just like its popular cousin, the BENCHMADE 943, the BENCHMADE 940 is quite highly regarded as one of the very best folding knives for EDC of all time. It is slim and stylish, but uncompromising on its simplistic performance capabilities.
It’s also worth noting that with the LIFESHARP program, all you have to do is send your knife in to Benchamde and they will not only clean it, but they will oil it, re-sharpen it, and return it to you with a razor sharp edge, just like if it were brand new. That’s a pretty great service, and more than worth the extra price that Benchmade knives often go for.
The “reverse tanto” style tip provides a great amount of strength; this is the perfect knife for drilling yourself a new belt loop after a week on the trail, for example.
However when it comes to Benchmade there is really only one complaint, and that is quality control. It seems to us that every knife that comes out of their factory has slightly different characteristics. What does this mean for you? Well if you aren’t happy with your Benchmade for any reason, just send it back for a replacement. Fortunately, their customer service department is on-point, pun intended.
So what was the sharpest knife in the drawer? Speaking literally, we might have to go with the SPYDERCO DELICA 4. It really doesn’t get any sharper than that, and when you factor in the wonderful handle construction and the high-performance opening/closing mechanism, you are really talking about one of the best all-around knives on the market.
Of course every purse has its limits, and it’s not always a good idea to shell out for an expensive knife when you can get one almost as good for a fraction of the cost.
That’s why our budget pick is the ONTARIO RAT II. You are not going to find more bang for your buck from anyone else, that’s for sure.
Know your Knife Laws & Regulations
No matter what part of the world you live in, it’s important to know exactly what kind of knives are legal in your area. Check out this handy guide at the American Knife & Tool Institute for more information.
How to Spot a Great EDC Folding Knife
With all the options on the market, don’t feel bad if you are a little overwhelmed when trying to make your decision. We’re here try to make it a little less painful.
Blade Style: Serrated vs. Straight
Also the specific mechanics of blade shaping is topic that could use its own book, when you boil it down there are two major blade styles that you can choose between.
Serrated blades feature a small portion of the base of the blade that has been serrated. This is of course a wonderful feature for anyone trying to cut things like rope or nylon. However it does cut down on the overall blade length, and in addition, serrated style knives are much more difficult to sharpen correctly.
Straight blades, as you can probably guess, skip the serrated portion of the knife in favor for a longer cutting surface. This makes it better for some tasks like slicing and pressing.
Blade Steel: What to Know
There is so much to know about the different kinds of knife steel that is used in today’s knives. One could devote the day to it and still have plenty to learn.
While it isn’t always necessary to know all the details of these different steel types, it is helpful to illustrate exactly why some knives are so much more expensive than others.
A blade’s hardness is the only aspect of these knives that is represented by a numerical value. It is basically a measure of how resistant the metal is to a stress indentation.
Quite simply, this refers to how long a blade can stay sharp for, or how long it can keep its edge. There is a great deal of variance in this category between different knives, so it is helpful to do your homework before you purchase.
This is how strong the knife is as a whole. There are many factors on a knife that go into its overall durability, so there is no exact measurement of durability to look for. Rather, it is only important to look for a knife that was built to stand up to the test of time, and that kind of quality is usually visible.
Blades become less effective when they’re rusted over, so keeping them clean is an absolute necessity. However a blade’s steel has its own properties that will determine just how resistant the metal is to corrosion and rust.
Blade coatings have become more popular in recent years because it is a quick and easy way to make a knife more corrosion resistant without switching to more expensive materials.
Frequently Asked Questions
•Q: Can this easily open fast with one hand/finger?
A: Yes. These EDC folding knives are designed to operate with one hand. By using a spring assisted opening mechanism, it is only necessary to apply a small amount of pressure in order to open the blade.
However, not all of the knives on are list are capable of closing with only one hand. Be sure to spend some time playing with the feel & mechanics of your knife once it arrives, so your muscle memory knows exactly what is possible.
•Q: Can they be confiscated at airports?
A: YES. DO NOT BRING YOUR POCKET KNIFE THROUGH SECURITY. They will force you to throw it out, or send you back to deal with it yourself. If you are caught with a knife beyond the security checkpoint, it will be confiscated and you might be charged with a crime.
There is some confusion on the subject, because there was a brief time early in the decade when the TSA did allow small knives on planes, but that didn’t last long.
You can read more about TSA’s Decision to Not Allow Knives on Planes at FORBES.
•Q: Folding or fixed blade knife?
A: All the knives on this list are of the folding blade variety. That’s because EDC users want a knife that is compact and lightweight, and can fit inside a pocket without taking up too much space or requiring any kind of sheath.
Fixed blade style knives are generally bigger and stronger, but much harder to carry around and more cumbersome.
•Q: Can a handle rust from heavy sweat?
A: It is not likely. About half of the knives we looked at featured synthetic handles (like nylon or plastic) so rust wouldn’t be an issue there.
As for the metal-handled knives, most are made of anodized aluminum, which is extremely resistant to weathering and rusting.
Either way, it is a good idea to clean your knife regularly to keep it in tip –top shape.
•Q: Are they legal in states like Florida or New Jersey?
A: Every state and municipality has its own jurisdiction over things like knife regulation. Usually, the regulations are specifically targeted at blade length, with certain lengths prohibited without a permit.
One of the best things about EDC pocket knives, though, is that they rarely have blades longer than 3 inches, which is about where most authorities like to draw the lines in terms of what is and what is not allowed.
•Q: Best blade length?
A: Choosing the right blade length is all about matching it with your intended use for the knife. Are you going hunting, or just for a day hike? The knife’s ultimate purpose should dictate its specifications.
Short Blades are only advantageous because they are smaller and lighter, two very important things when it comes to folding knives. Longer Blades have more blade surface, and for that reason are more effective at slicing and sawing. They are however heavier and larger than short blades, which can be a bad thing if you are looking for an every day carry.