Reviews & Testing of the Best EDC Pocket Knives
Prior to starting your search for the best pocket knife for the money, whether it be for EDC, work, emergencies, self defense or countless other scenarios, it’s integral to take into consideration the numerous factors which go into the design and development of a quality blade. Everyone would like to carry a knife that is functional, sharp and practical; but you must first consider what materials you will be cutting, how the knife will be carried, the legalities of carrying a folding knife where you live (most states in the US have blade size regulations and don’t allow automatic knives in public) and the philosophy of use.
Types of Pocket Knives
A folding knife is one of the most common cutting tools that people carry today. There are countless brands and variations of folding pocket knives in the marketplace, and only a small handful may fit your specific criteria. Some of the more popular classifications include: Swiss army knives, utility blades, multi-tools, balisongs (also known as a butterfly knife) and traditional pocket knives with multiple blades.
There is also a more modern classification referred to as “Assisted Opening” knives, such as Gerber’s line with the F.A.S.T (Forward Action Spring Technology) which allows them to be easily opened with one hand and quickly enable the user rapid access. Alternatively, they may come with a safety lock mechanism, which fastens the blade in place until you disengage the lock and deploy the knife. Other factors you should consider are:
Pocket Clip – Does the knife have a sturdy and reliable pocket clip so your new blade doesn’t fall out of your pocket? Is it reversible for left and right handed use? What about tip up/tip down carry?
Choil – Finger choils are grooves in the handle or blade that provide better grip and allow the user to “choke up” on the knife blade for improved control during fine cutting tasks.
Steel Type – You’ll generally want a steel that is easy to sharpen, has good edge retention so it won’t dull quickly and corrosion resistance to avoid rust (especially important in humid or tropical environments).
Blade Shape and Grind – There are many knife blade shapes and types to choose from. They each have their pros and cons. The grind is what makes a knife sharp. The three main pocket knife grinds are flat, hollow and convex.
Handle Material – Having a good grip is not only a safety concern, but the handle also plays a role in the stability, weight and design of a knife.
Lock Type – Most single blade knives use some sort of locking system to secure the blade in place. This is primarily a safety feature to stop the knife from folding onto the users hand while cutting. Some of the more common pocket knife lock types include liner, frame, lockback and compression locks.
Blade Length – The size of knife you are comfortable carrying on a every day basis. For most, the best pocket knife blade length will fall somewhere within 2-4 inches. Less than 2 inches will not provide a usable or efficient blade for the tasks expected from an EDC pocket knife. Anything much more than a 4 inch blade starts to become too large and heavy for pocket carry. Most counties and states also have legal restrictions for maximum blade length, and a blade over 4 inches would be pushing the legal limit for many regions.
Will your pocket knife only be used occasionally for small or light cutting tasks? Or will it see regular use cutting tough materials on daily basis? For instance, if you’re a hunter, you may need to consider what type of knife works best for field dressing and whether a folding knife would even be preferred over a fixed blade for that type of use.
Many folding knives are ambidextrous, a great feature for left handed carriers since it can be opened and utilized with either hand. The folding pen knife is an excellent design due to its slim profile, which makes it much easier to carry. Having a knife that is not only functional, but allows for a certain level of comfort while in use for long periods of time is also important.
When deciding on the most practical cutting tool for your needs, you should also keep in mind there are various multi-function knives to select from that differ from the traditional pocket knife. These types of knives generally have numerous features and tools that may be used for more than just cutting. Often times they will have multiple blades that fold outwards. This feature makes them a handy apparatus for outdoorsmen, hunters or fishermen who sometimes require various blade sizes and shapes. Tri-fold pocket knives have three blades; usually two smaller ones and one larger main blade. Then you have the type with several tools and devices, especially within the ever popular Swiss Army Knife category. The most common features that Swiss Army knives boast include a bottle opener, screwdriver, tweezers, scissors, corkscrew, wire stripper, pliers and saws just to name a few.
Blade and Handle Considerations
When deciding on the best pocket knife you will need to consider the handle and blade materials. Handles come in different designs, colors and materials. Some are very plain with little to no decorative elements, while others are extremely detailed, ornate and fabricated with “special” features such as handle inlays made from rare and exotic materials. If price is a major factor for your optimal pocket knife, then you should probably avoid pocket knives with handles built from bone, alabaster, titanium, stag antler and other eccentric materials, as these tend to be some of the more costly folding knives on the market. The handles that are typically the most affordable are made from metal (stainless steel or aluminium alloy), G10, FRN (Fiberglass Reinforced Nylon) and micarta. Premium handle materials often found on high end or custom knives include titanium, nickel damascus, abalone and carbon fiber.
Length of a Pocket Knife Blade
What is your ideal blade size? That should probably be the first question you ask yourself. For typical EDC use, a cutting instrument with a blade length between 2-4 inches will provide a size small enough to comfortably carry with you at all times while still having a usable blade. More factors worth considering are blade sharpness, edge retention, ease of sharpening and rust/corrosion resistance. All of that is determined by the type of steel used when fabricating the blade.
Types of Blade Steel
There are many different types of blade steels, ranging from premium US made steels such as S30V, to lower quality Chinese steels that do not hold an edge for very long and require regular sharpening to maintain a sharp, effective cutting edge. Of course, for that high quality US steel you also pay a premium price. Folding knives using high end super steels can sell for hundreds of dollars. It all depends on how serious you are about knives. For most people who aren’t collectors or knife enthusiasts, a decent quality knife costing no more than $20-$30 should suffice for the majority of cutting tasks that aren’t hard use or used in extreme environmental conditions that would require a near rust proof steel.
Based on the materials and overall size, the net weight can vary widely. It may not seem like a big deal, but the feel of a 3 ounce knife is actually very different when compared to one weighing just a couple ounces more. Also, ensure you take into full account all other items you EDC in your pockets and on your person, such as: cell phones, keys, wallet, flashlight, tools, pocket watches etc.
Pocket Knife Laws and Regulations
It’s important to confirm any legal implications of carrying within your state or local jurisdiction that may have restrictions on blade length and deployment method. It is highly advised that you purchase a pocket knife that contains a locking mechanism. Folding knives with locking blades are safer as they ensure the blade doesn’t close up on your fingers during use. That being said, locking knives are generally not allowed in the UK and other parts of the world. In places where you have carry restrictions, your choices may be limited to slipjoint or pen knives that do not lock the blade in place when deployed. Any time a blade is extended, there is an inherent risk for injury. Local carry laws, restrictions on blade length and overall safety should always be a top priority when buying a folding knife or any other type of cutting tool.
Final Thoughts On Choosing The Best Pocket Knife
It should be noted that the final choice for any multi-tool, folding, or EDC knife should depend heavily upon the types of features you know will be required or ones you anticipate might be needed for specific tasks. Never base the final decision simply on the aesthetic appeal of a knife. Doing the proper research and due diligence will enable you to decide on the best pocket knife that is appropriate for your own personal preferences and every day cutting needs. Countless people from many parts of the world use pocket knives for an abundant amount of jobs. They won’t leave home without one. Whether you only use a knife lightly for opening letters or UPS packages, or daily hard use for work, the proper cutting tool will go a long way toward making your life easier. Here at BetterPocketKnife.com, we provide you the reviews, specifications, testing and more resources to research and compare various folding knives so you can make an informed decision about the best pocket knife to start or expand on your current collection.
Top Rated and Popular Folding Knives
The Tenacious from Spyderco really resonated with the knife community. It has numerous properties that make it a good option for EDC, but won’t set you back more than $40. The 3.39 inch blade is ground flat out of 8Cr13MoV steel, which is one way Spyderco is able to keep the price so low. 8Cr13MoV may not be a premium quality or super steel, but for little cost it gives you a very sharp blade that has decent corrosion resistance properties. It doesn’t hold an edge as long as some of the more expensive steels, like S90V, but the ease of which it can be sharpened makes up for that one drawback. The Tenacious has G10 handle scales that provide a firm and comfortable grip. It also comes in a completely blacked out version which has black everything; from the blade, to the hardware and even black liners. If you need a good value for the money knife, the Tenacious is a sure bet.
Zero Tolerance 0350 Black
For a folding knife, the Ken Onion designed ZT 0350 is built like a tank. It’s heavy for the size (5.6 ounces), with very thick, non-milled stainless steel liners and a robust liner lock. That said, the 0350 is actually smaller than it’s bigger brother (ZT0300) in the Zero Tolerance line. Some would classify it as a folding tactical knife due to its black DLC coated and re-curved blade, which is S30V steel with a flat grind that measures 3.25 inches in length. Handle scales are G10 with plenty of jimping along the spine and back end of the knife for improved grip. The 0350 is an assisted opening knife for fast, one handed blade deployment. The price falls in at just over $100. Also available in stonewashed and tiger striped blade pattern.
Spyderco Paramilitary 2
The Paramilitary 2 is regarded by many in the community as Spyderco’s best folding knife. It achieves near perfection for a high quality, tough use EDC knife. The Para 2 is somewhat large (8.2″ inches when opened with a 3.4″ blade) but very lightweight for its size (3.75 ounces). The blade is made from the extremely popular S30V steel with a full flat grind. The blade, like most Spyderco knives, comes hair shaving sharp right from the factory, and being such a high quality steel will hold this edge sharpness for longer periods of time during typical use. The handle material is G10 and the pocket clip can be positioned in four configurations for left or right handed tip up/down ambidextrous carry options. It has a Spyderco compression lock (sort of like a reverse liner lock) with early lockup that provides a sturdy and long life locking system. The only issue with the Paramilitary 2 is actually finding one from a reputable seller. It is one of Spyderco’s most popular and top selling models, so most dealers can’t keep them in stock. They usually sell out within hours when new stock does arrive.