Best EDC Pocket Knives

Peter Stec
September 29, 2021

The knife is one of man’s oldest and most useful tools. As time has progressed the knife has taken on many shapes and sizes to fit varying jobs. 

In today’s society, it isn’t exactly rare to find a person who carries a pocket knife in their EDC (everyday carry). Pocket knives are a convenient tool to have on one’s person to help out with everyday tasks. Not having a pocket knife at best means you may deal with some minor inconveniences. At worst, minor problems can quickly turn into a nightmare.

With the knife continuing to evolve, there are so many companies producing various shapes and styles of pocket knives. There are literally thousands of options to choose from and it can be overwhelming on where to start if you are in the market for one. This article will help you narrow down what makes a best EDC pocket knives and give you some great options as a jumping-off point. 

What Makes a Best EDC Pocket Knives?

First, we need to establish what would make a good all-around EDC knife. In my experience, there are 4 main components to consider when making your choice. They are, in order of least to most important blade steel, ergonomics/handle material, overall carry ability, and lastly budget.

1.Blade Steel

Blade steel is important since that is the part of the knife actually doing the work. Finding the ideal blade steel depends on a number of factors. Key things to consider when picking a blade steel are sharpenability, corrosion resistance, and edge retention to name a few.

Like pocket knives themselves, there are many options available, each with their pros and cons. Some steels may hold an edge for extended periods of time, but may be difficult to sharpen like S90V. Other steels are very durable and versatile but can fall to corrosion if neglected like M4.  

There is no “correct choice” for blade steel as the best fit will be determined by what you will put it through. If you are new to the EDC hobby, then a steel like S30V is a great place to start. S30V is an all around “jack of all trades” steel that doesn’t excel at anything specific, but can do everything fairly well and is the current standard as far as “higher end” steels go.

As you gain more experience you can branch out to more premium steels and learn about their strengths and weaknesses. With just a little research and time, you can even learn to mitigate the sole drawbacks to otherwise great steels.  

2.Ergonomics / Handle Material

The combination of ergonomics and handle materials deal with how a knife feels in your hand when you are holding/using it. Both are important as they affect comfortability and durability of both the knife and its user. 

Ergonomics are the first step in comfortability as they determine the grip and initial positioning of one’s hand when using a knife. Second, are handle materials as the balance between durability and comfortability must be addressed. 

A good handle material is something that can withstand hard use (or the worst jobs you would typically encounter) but are also something you can feel comfortable using over a long period of time (or the time of your longest job).

Common handle materials like FRN, carbon fiber, or titanium all have their pros and cons and the choice is up to what you prefer. FRN is often cheap and not too costly, but can become uncomfortable after extended use. Carbon fiber is lightweight and durable but chips easily if dropped or impacted at all. Titanium is very durable, won’t chip/ dent if dropped, but can be expensive and heavy, which leads us into our next topic.      

3.Carry Ability

The term “carry ability” refers to how easily the knife can be carried on your person as you go throughout your day. You may not have to deal with blade steel or handle material issues often, but by definition, you deal with your knife’s carry ability everyday. 

Having a knife that is big or heavy can make it too cumbersome or difficult to carry and make it more trouble than it’s worth. You may have a fixed blade knife that can handle any job, but overall carrying it may be a pain. It all depends on what you are willing to deal with.  

Depending on what type of pants you wear or where on your person you carry the knife can affect carry ability greatly. In my experience, the average pocket knife will range anywhere from  4 ½-5 ½ inches closed or roughly knives that are 7 ½-8 ½ inches in total length. 

Also something to consider regarding carry ability are other things you may have in the same pocket as your knife. Things like keys or your phone may rub against your knife and could cause damage to either object.

4. Budget    

The undisputed most important thing to consider when choosing an EDC knife, is your budget. You may find the perfect knife that fits all the previous criteria, but if it is outside your budget, you’re out of luck. Fortunately, this article tackles 4 different price ranges and gives popular choices in each range to help you start your search, and know what to look for. 

Knives Around $50

First up is the $50 range. This is for people just getting into the hobby and want to test the waters for a knife that will last them a long time. One of the best knives people love for a $50 budget would be the Spyderco Tenacious. 

Spyderco Tenacious

Best EDC Pocket Knives: Spyderco Tenacious
Stock (bottom) and modified knives, Photo by Joshua Ostolaza

Steel/handle materials

The Tenacious is a 100% reliable budget option that comes in a drop point style blade made of  8Cr13MoV steel which is a common (but reliable) budget steel. The handle of the knife is made of G10, another common budget material known for being cheaper but comfortable and reliable.

X-Factors

It is a liner lock that can be carried tip up or down depending on preference.  Many people also like the “Spydie hole” mode of deploying the blade as opposed to thumb studs which some complain can get hung up on pockets when drawing the knife.

If the Spyderco look isn’t exactly for you, then something more simple may be the way to go, in that case an alternative for the same budget would be the Civivi Elementum (first version). 

Civivi Elementum

Civivi Elementum
Photo by Lane Lucas

The Civivi Elementum has seen a big boom in popularity ever since its release only a couple of years ago. The slim design of the knife coupled with its light weight has made it the “go to” option for EDC recommendations on a budget.

Blade/Handle Materials

The Elementum is also a liner lock knife that has G10 handles and comes with a blade in D2 steel (another very common budget steel). It also comes with a deep carry pocket clip, giving the knife an extremely subtle presence in the pocket. 

X-Factors

The knife has a flipping method of deployment which means there is a flipper tab that sticks out at the bottom of the blade which makes it quick and easy to open one-handed as it “flips” open. The Civivi Elementum has made waves in the EDC world and we don’t see it slowing down anytime soon.

Knives around $100

The Next price range is for knives that revolve around the $100 mark. This price range is for people who’re moving up from the $50 range, or just want a knife moving towards the upper echelons of the knife world.

Benchmade Mini Griptilian

The first knife up on our list is the Benchmade Mini Griptilian. This knife is a subtle and smaller knifet han its brother the full size Griptilian with an S30V blade steel and a handle made from Benchmade’s “grivory”.

Blade/Handle Materials

The S30V blade steel has become the new standard when it comes to blade steel on a pocket knife. It has good edge retention, easy sharpening ability and overall decent toughness. It is a great all-around EDC blade steel.

The handle materials are Benchmades “Grivory” which is their version of FRN or Fiberglass reinforced nylon. This is a handle cheaper than G10 but is still plenty tough and can be used for a decently prolonged time without your hand getting fatigued. Although after extended use, you may find yourself wanting gloves or to take a break for a little.

X-Factors

An added bonus to the mini griptilian is the “axis” lock created originally by Benchmade. The knife locks up via a bar that engages once the blade is fully deployed.

Benchmade Axis Lock
Picture of a Benchmade Axis Lock

What makes this lock special is the fact that one can close the knife without having to put their fingers in the cutting path of the blade. By simply pulling the lock bar backwards the blade can be closed with a simple push from the back, or a little wrist flick and centripetal force doing the rest. This also allows the knife to be used by both right-handed and left-handed people without flaw.   

Spyderco Para 3 Lightweight

Para 3 Lightweight
Photo by Jacob Bill

The second knife in this category is the Spyderco Para 3 lightweight. The Para 3 lightweight is a smaller, more compact version of the classic and popular Paramilitary 2. 

Blade/Handle Materials

The Para 3 lightweight has a blade made of CTS BD1 steel which admittedly is not as premium as S30V, but still stands above normal budget steels in terms of edge retention and corrosion resistance. It also has the “spydie hole” method of deployment so there’s no worrying about thumb studs getting snagged on things like the spyderco tenacious listed earlier.

The handle is also made of FRN so the handle, like the mini griptilian, can stand up to a beating without the knife skyrocketing in price.

X-Factors

Similar to the Mini Griptilian the Para 3 also has a locking mechanism that does not require your fingers crossing the cutting path of the blade. This Para 3 can do this thanks to the compression lock invented by Spyderoco.

The compression lock works much like a liner lock, only instead of the front of the knife, it operates through an opening at the back of the knife, which allows the knife to be opened and closed rather safely and easily. In tandem with the Benchmade Axis lock, closing a knife through this method can be used manually by pushing the blade back, or with a flick of the wrist and letting centripetal force do the rest.  

Knives around $150-$200

This next price range of knives is for people who have been in the hobby for a decent amount of time, or want to jump straight into the deep end. Knives in this range are officially in the “high tier” of the EDC community. Both of these knives are extremely reliable and have been touted as the EDC “GOATS” (Greatest of all time) by numerous hobbyists in the community.

Benchmade 940/940-2

 Benchmade 940 by Cody Hibbdard
Benchmade 940
Benchmade 940-2 by Cody Hibbdard
Benchmade 940-2

The first knife in this category is the Benchmade 940 (either normal or 940-2). A true staple in the EDC world, this knife is celebrated for its ability to carry out all EDC tasks, while maintaining a superb carry ability.

Blade/Handle Materials

940-2 reverse tanto blade
My personal 940-2 reverse tanto blade.

The blade is a “reverse tanto blade” that combines the advantages of a drop point blade and tanto blade for ultimate versatility. Also being composed of S30V steel, this blade makes a wonderful “jack of all trades” style knife.

The handle material depending on which version you get, will either be aluminum or G10. The aluminum variant will be more durable and grippy, or you can choose G10 which is a more “budget” option vs aluminum but both are plenty durable and you can’t go wrong either way.

X-Factors

In addition to the handle, once again Benchmade’s famous Axis lock is how the knife locks up, allowing for quick and easy blade retraction. This is another reason why the 940 is so beloved as it makes the knife easy to fit in hand as well as very manipulatable. 

Spyderco Paramilitary 2

PM2 Digital Camo handle
PM2 Digital Camo handle, Photo by Keith Hess

The other knife in this category is Spyderco’s Paramilitary 2. This is the knife that the aforementioned Para 3 lightweight is based on and comes with all the same advantages plus some. 

Blade/Handle Materials 

The Paramilitary 2 has the same “spydie” hole deployment method, with a longer and more capable blade that comes in S30V steel. You can also find better blade steel options like S110V and still be under the $200 mark.

The handle is composed of G10 on all versions of the PM2 disregarding aftermarket parts but their G10 is a very comfortable and durable substance that performs adequately with hard use.

X-Factors

The PM2 also comes with Spyderco’s compression lock continuing the theme of keeping your fingers out of the cutting path. One drawback to the compression lock is that it is not as user friendly as the Axis lock. However, PM2’s with a left-handed configuration compression lock can be found and bought with just a little bit of searching.  

Either of these two knives are great fits for an EDC. It is not uncommon to hear people debating over which is the best all-around folding knife. No matter what you choose, know that you can choose with confidence.   

Knives $400+

This price range of knives is for the hardcore collector or someone who truly wants a “one and done knife”. These knives are the top tier of EDC and will truly last someone a lifetime regardless of the tasks they may be put through.

Hinderer XM-18 3.5”

Hinderer XM-18 3.5’ Slicer
My personal Hinderer XM-18 3.5’ Slicer

The first knife in our list is the Hinderer XM-18 3.5” created by Rick Hinderer and Rick Hinderer Knives. This knife was created by a first responder, for first responders, and built to handle any task they may run into.

Blade/Handle Materials

The blade on the XM-18 is made of 20CV steel which is a highly respected premium steel and comes in a variety of shapes with the most notable being the “spanto” blade. The spanto blade is the combination of the spear point and tanto blade allowing the knife to excel at piercing while maintaining a decent cutting edge.

The handle material is a highly durable titanium, one of the most popular and sought after handle materials around. The knife is also able to cut down on weight by having just a titanium liner and G10 scale or micarta scale on the “show side” (opposite of side with the lock bar). Although stock Xm18’s come with a G10 scale, there are aftermarket scales made of complete titanium, making the knife a complete heavy hitter all around.

X-Factors

The XM-18 has a few methods of deployment but it is most well known as a flipper knife, or having a “flipper” tab at the end of the knife that you push to deploy. This allows the knife to be deployed fast and smooth with very little chance of failure.

As for the locking mechanism, the XM-18 is a frame lock knife meaning part of the handle itself locks the blade into place and stops it from closing. While also being made of titanium, the frame locking method for knives is known as one of the most reliable locking mechanisms of them all. 

Chris Reeve Knives Sebenza 31

CRK Sebenza 31 with micarta inlays
My personal CRK Sebenza 31 with micarta inlays

The Second knife in this category should need no introduction, but in case you haven’t heard of it, it is the Chris Reeve Knives Sebenza 31. The word “Sebenza” translates to “work/worker” in Zulu (celebrating Chris Reeve’s heritage) and by all metrics lives up to the name. 

Blade/Handle Materials 

The blade is made of S35VN steel, another respectable premium steel and was initially created with the help of Chris Reeve himself during its development. 

As of now, the Sebenza 31 only comes in a drop point blade, although it is highly suspected that Chris Reeve Knives will soon implement the tanto and “insingo” (modified wharncliffe) blade as they did with the Sebenza 21, the model before the 31.

The handle is one solid piece of titanium, allowing for maximum durability, minimizing the number of parts that can malfunction, come loose, etc. Due to its design and overall thinness, it is also able to be relatively light in the pocket while still allowing for capability.

X-Factors

The locking mechanism is also a frame lock which, as a fun fact, was invented by Chris Reeve himself. As mentioned earlier, this locking mechanism is one of the oldest and most reliable mechanisms out there and since the knife is made of titanium, its capability is unquestionable.

Both the aforementioned knives are highly known and respected by anyone in the hobby who is aware of them. Their performance and reliability are top-notch. Realistically, any knife from either of these two companies are highly capable and will serve you for years. These two just happen to be the oldest/most well-known models

Conclusion

The world of EDC is vast and has many options to choose from. With various budgets, blade steels, and handle materials, choosing the right knife for you can be intimidating. With breakdowns of what to look for, and good starting points for a variety of budgets, hopefully, this article gave you a good jumping-off point on where to start. 

About The Author
Hey Knife Up gang! I'm Pete, and I'm just another man like you in a small rural town who loves the outdoors as much as the other million internet users that cruise sites like KnifeUp.com every day. The difference is that I like to share what I know and research what I don't totally know so that YOU can have all the info you need to feel confident and prepared for all things outdoors-related! And, for those who care, I have 42 years of wilderness canoeing and bushcraft experience in Northern Ontario and spend most of my Summers covered in mosquitos and fish slime, but hey, it's a lifestyle choice, eh?

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