Here at Best Pocket Knife Today we’ve compiled our list of the best EDC knives for every budget. Remember, your EDC is not intended to be the ‘master-of-all-trades’. There will always a better knife for specific tasks like slicing tomatoes, carving tent pegs from a fallen branch or skinning a deer but most of us want a single “do-everything” knife that stays with us throughout the day and is good enough for almost anything. It needs to be dependable, comfortable to carry and perform well in a variety of situations.
Don’t feel you have to drop more than $300 on your EDC knife. You want a good knife but not everyone needs a Chris Reeve Sebenza. Any one of the knives below will serve you well in most any situation you’re likely to encounter. Remember, the most valuable knife is always the one you’re carrying when the need arises.
Our recommendations for the best EDC knife
Without further ado, here is a list of our favorite EDC folding knives available today in order of price range:
Kershaw Cryo G-10
The original Kershaw Cryo has been a popular low-priced EDC option for many years now. Still, it had some shortcomings in being a little too heavy and not grippy enough. Well, Kershaw listened and introduced the Cryo G-10 which is grippier and lighter! Like the similarly priced Spyderco Tenacious (see below) it uses 8Cr13MoV, an affordable Chinese made stainless steel similar to but harder than the popular AUS-8. The stonewash blade is only two and three quarter inches long and the knife weighs in at about 3.7 ounces.
Overall the Cryo G-10 is solid and sturdy with its well performing frame-lock and oozes plenty of cool. Without doubt it’s a nice looking knife. With the inclusion of the SpeedSafe fast deployment technology and pocket clip this sure is one heck of a pocket knife for the money. A great choice for those on a budget.
Ontario RAT II
The RAT 2 is one of our favorite budget blades as few other folding knives offer the equivalent performance, fit and features at this price point. Last time I checked the RAT 2 can be had for under $30 which is phenomenal value for a folding knife that performs at this level. It’s small and lightweight with an impressive blade that’s been heat treated to perfection. The handle is tough yet comfortable and the whole thing feels incredibly well balanced in use. The deployment is slick and it locks up with reliable certainty each and every time thanks to the full stainless steel liners.
With a choice of handle colors and blade variations, Ontario Knife Company has elevated the RAT 2 into the epitome of a ‘do-everything’ knife to suit everybody’s tastes.
We’re big fans of Spyderco here at Best Pocket Knife Today and the Tenacious is a terrific little performer at the lower end of the budget scale. It carries 8Cr13MoV steel like the Kershaw Cryo but has a different look and feel. The blade is leaf-shaped and immensely sharp right out of the box as we tend to expect from Spyderco’s these days. I did a video review of this bad boy to show you it up close and personal.
Ergonomics are top notch and it almost feels like an extension of your hand as you slice through the day’s tasks. We also like the four-way pocket clip that can be installed up or down on either side. Now lets face it, neither this nor the Cryo will outperform most of the $50+ knives listed on this site and they won’t even come close to the $100+ knives. Still, if you’re looking for an EDC ‘beater’ knife with only $30 or so to spend then these are super choices.
Kershaw’s Skyline has been a fan favorite for many years now and the reason is simple. This knife is slim and lightweight yet provides formidable performance at this price range. The blade is made from 14C28N steel which is arguably the best in class at this budget level. The handle is G-10, providing maximum grip and near indestructible.
The flipper on the Skyline provides an effective method of deployment which can be mastered in short order. There’s no assisted mechanism here but to many that is part of the appeal. The pocket clip is simply one of the best you’ll find and can be positioned for tip up or down carry. All-in-all the Kershaw Skyline excels on so many levels and is the perfect balance of superiority and simplicity. Check out my full review here.
$50 – $100
By spending a little more you can pick up a Kershaw Blur which in our opinion is one fine EDC knife. Sure, it’s beefy but to some that’s a plus point. The blade is just under three and a half inches and overall weight a notch over four ounces. Kershaw originally used 440A steel but recently began using 14C28N which is far superior. It also comes in the higher-end S30V steel variant which is naturally more expensive. Here’s a link to my detailed review.
Like the Cryo the Blur knife comes with SpeedSafe for fast opening and the blade locks firmly using a liner-lock mechanism. The blur is American made and will serve you well for many, many years. It also comes in a number or varieties such as a black blade, partial serration and tactical models. Beautiful knife.
Okay we’re stepping it up a little now with the Benchmade Griptilian. Benchmade is a fine manufacturer of high quality, dependable pocket knives based in Oregon, USA. Their Griptilian model with patented Axis lock has won the hearts of knife enthusiasts since it’s original release several years back. The reason is simple – this is a top quality knife that excels in almost every department and still costs less than $100.
The standard Griptilian (model 551) is not a small knife but still small enough to qualify as an EDC and weighs surprisingly little at under 3.5 ounces. The 154CM stainless steel blade is impeccable but you’ll hear some folks complain about the ‘plasticky’ handle which is Noryl GTX but don’t listen to that nonsense – in our opinion it performs very nicely and offers superb strength to weight ratio. The Griptilian also comes in a Mini-Griptilian option (model 556) which is is about half an inch shorter and weighs closer to 2.5 ounces. Many will tell you this is the best EDC knife and it’s our favorite EDC under $100.
Spyderco Manix 2
The Manix 2 is an outstanding pocket knife in a class of its own. Served up in S30V stainless steel as standard, it’s technically a better steel than the 154CM used on the Griptilian yet both knives are in similar price brackets though the Manix 2 tends to go for a little more. At close to five ounces it’s a little bit heavy for an EDC but for those looking for something more meaty this is a real workhorse. Let me just say it’s loses in the weight category it more than makes up for in it’s capabilities. The Manix 2 is built like a tank and more durable than most any knife we know.
It employs a ball bearing lock which leads to a super solid lock-up – that blade won’t be going anywhere when opened up. The handle uses Spyderco’s textured G-10 material and the overall ergonomics are supremely tuned for optimum control. This may not be the EDC for your average Joe but if you’re looking for something with a little more ‘oomph’ and tough enough to laugh in the face of the meanest of tasks then the Manix 2 is for you. Here’s my full review on the Manix 2.
$100 – $200
Zero Tolerance 0350
Okay now we’re headed into premium territory and the Zero Tolerance 0350 is an outstanding performer for those with a little more money to spend. The size of this knife is similar to the Spyderco Manix 2 and it even weighs a little more but we wouldn’t let than put you off. This baby has high-end S30V stainless steel which is insanely sharp and a G-10 handle with rough texturing to aid grip. It’s built more solidly than most other knives we know yet looks sexy enough to flirt with your wife.
The ZT 0350’s liner lock contains more steel than most knives use in the entire frame and the locking mechanism is tighter than a pitbull’s bite. Again, it is bulky and some will try to convince you this is not an EDC knife. Sure, it’s not for carrying in your swim trunks but we believe this is a great EDC for those who want solid everyday performance from a knife that won’t start crying when put to the heavy duty test.
Benchmade 940 Osborne
Arguably close to perfection, the Benchmade 940 Osborne puts most others to shame. It’s ridiculously lightweight yet constructed with tremendous rigidity and design genius that only Warren Osborne could provide. The S30V stainless steel blade is given the Benchmade special treatment to bring the most out of it and holds it’s edge for a crazy long time. Everything about this knife reeks of quality, perfection and beauty. Read my full review here.
Sure, it’s pricey but knife enthusiasts know it’s a bargain for what you’re getting. How on earth this knife does not even hit 3.0 ounces is beyond me…you literally forget it’s in your pocket most of the time. Classy yet talented the 940 Osborne is deadly when you need it to be and gets the job done each and every time. What’s more, Benchmade treated us to a suped-up version of the 940 in the Benchmade 940-1, with a glorious S90V steel blade and carbon fiber handle. Sure, it’s almost $100 extra but you deserve it 😉
Spyderco Paramilitary 2
Since 2010, a single knife has captured the attention of knife enthusiasts worldwide and still today represents an iconic design that everyone loves to talk about – the Spyderco Paramilitary 2. Perhaps one of the few ‘must-have’ knives that every collector considers an obligatory purchase. Check out my detailed review here.
It’s no secret that Spyderco produces great pocket knives and this is one of their finest. Even though the PM2 tends to go for a bit less than the 940 Osborne, it’s often out of stock so you have to be patient. Still, the value for money is excellent as the Paramilitary 2 checks all the boxes you want for only half the price of some “premium” knives out there.
It has everything to make us happy, premium S30V steel, G-10 handle, unparalleled ergonomics and US-made. We rarely see blades so sharp out of the factory like this before. I could literally perform heart surgery with it. The Paramilitary 2 features a compression lock which boggles many but works amazingly well. Never a hint of blade play. Supreme ergonomics as we expect from Spyderco and the overall fit and finish is excellent. Unlike many other premium pocket knives, this pocket knife is made for real world use for those who really value a good knife that delivers in the field.
How to choose an EDC knife
Wondering how I evaluate my EDC knives? There are certain characteristics I look out for when choosing the best EDC folding knife. The most important ones I discuss below:
First off, since you’re going to be carrying your EDC knife almost every single day you want it to be reasonably small and light. Forget about fixed blade knives and focus on pocket or folding knives for your EDC. Sure, there are bigger and better performers out there but an EDC is not always about having the best performance, it’s about practicality. We recommend a pocket knife blade length of no more than 3.5 inches and an overall weight of no more than 4.5 ounces. The sweet spot for me is typically 3-inch blade, 4-inch handle, 7-inch total and weighing 3.5 oz.
We’re talking about the blade and the handle. The blade steel needs to be tough enough to withstand wear and tear and keep its edge for as long as possible. You won’t want to be sharpening your EDC every week. Now we can’t all afford premium steels like S90V, Elmax or M390 but these days it doesn’t cost much to get an excellent all-round steel like S30V. Alternatively, a good reasonably affordable choice is something like 154CM or VG-10 on the higher end or even taking it a notch down with 440C, AUS-8 or 14C28N. Stick in this range and you’ll do well. For the handle we would recommend the ever popular G-10 that is super tough or perhaps Zytel which is a bit grippier. Either of these will feel great in your hand which is key for an EDC.
In terms of features and functionality it’s important to compromise. Sure, a 15-function multitool will serve your every need but at the expense of it feeling like a brick in your pocket. In general a single blade will cater for 90% of your needs but a partially serrated blade adds additional functionality for those times when needed. A sharp tipped blade is also recommended as we are regularly presented with tasks that call for a sharp point. You should also look for knives with a pocket clip which allows you to keep the knife handy at all times. I tend to prefer pocket clips that keep the knife tip facing upwards as they allow for swifter deployment.
Again, let me stress that you’re not looking for the world’s best pocket knife here but it’s important that your EDC knife be of sufficient quality to perform time and time again. We recommend buying a knife made in the USA if possible. We’re not against knives made overseas but we do tend to find the American made knives are of superior quality in general. More importantly, you should ensure the knife has a robust lockup mechanism – the last thing you want is for your EDC to close up accidentally which can cause injury.
No golden rule here but we tend to find that the price of admission starts at $25 to fulfill the basic requirements listed above. There are many decent choices in the under $50 range as you can see from our picks above. As you move into the higher priced categories you’ll start to see the quality and durability of materials increase. That translates to less maintenance required on your end (sharpening, tuning-up, etc.) but remember a budget knife can perform just as well as a pricier blade if it’s well maintained. Don’t feel you need to splash out more than $200 on your first EDC pocket knife. Start low and work your way up as you begin to get a feel for what’s important to you in a knife.
So why do we call it EDC anyway?
For the uninitiated it’s worth reflecting a little on what exactly EDC means. EDC stands for “everyday carry” (or “every day carry”) and refers to things that you carry with you all of the time. These are items that are either essential to your normal daily routine or things that you would not want to be without in an emergency situation. There is no standard list of EDC items as each of us value certain items a little differently depending on our personal situation.
However, there are a number of items that are fairly common among most of us these days and include things like a cell phone, keys, a watch and ID cards. An increasing number of us are also choosing to carry items that prepare us for a variety of unforeseen situations ranging from the somewhat boring to life threatening. Such items include things like a flashlight, writing implements, first aid kits and of course the trusty pocket knife! This is what we mean by EDC knife.
Some people take the EDC concept very seriously indeed and these “EDCers” are well prepared for most any type of emergency or survival situation that comes their way. Others simply choose to carry those items needed for their job or to provide peace of mind. While we don’t think everyone should necessarily become a walking survival store we do agree it is important to carry a pocket knife at all times (where permitted of course) and hence we do highly recommend you pick out an EDC knife.
Now…go and get one!
You’ve read through our recommendations of the best EDC knives so what are you waiting for? Go ahead and treat yourself to a new EDC knife!