How do you choose the best EDC knife? What should you look for? And more importantly, what should you avoid?
In this exclusive guide, I will show you exactly how to wade through the many choices out there and choose a knife that is not only easy to carry, but also functional.
In addition, I will walk you through some of the best folding knives currently available, so you don’t have to spend hours researching and comparing all the options.
Let’s jump right in.
EDC knife: The big picture overview
An everyday-carry knife comes in handy for all kinds of chores – cutting seatbelts, striking a ferro-rod, processing wood for fire, and more.
The question is: How do you choose the best EDC knife?
In my experience, there are 10 factors to look for.
Let me walk you through them all.
Factor #1: Type
The first decision you will have to make is which type of knife you want.
Everyday-carry knives come in three flavors: Single-blade knives, multi-blade knives, and multi-tools.
- Single-blade knives have the strongest and most durable construction. They can take a lot of abuse and excel in heavy duty tasks, such as processing wood and skinning animals. However, because they only have one blade, they offer little to no variety.
- Multi-blade knives typically include two, three, or four types of blades, thus giving you more flexibility. They are great for everyday tasks, such as opening boxes and cutting bandages, but fall short when it comes to more demanding tasks.
- Multi-tools include a plethora of functions – such as pliers, screwdrivers, scissors, tweezers, etc. Great for the jack-of-all trades who want a variety of tools at hand. Not so great for the survivalist who want a robust and sturdy knife that can handle rigorous use.
In my opinion, a single-blade folding knife has the upper hand in a survival situation. It has a simple construction and a large blade that can be used for a number of tasks.
So in the rest of this article, I will focus exclusively on single-blade EDC knives.
If you are fine with that, keep reading…
Factor #2: Weight
Because you will be carrying your EDC knife on a daily basis, it is important to keep weight to a minimum.
As a rough estimate, the knife should weigh no more than five ounces. Any more than that and it will feel like a brick in your pocket.
Finding a lightweight knife should be pretty easy:
Many folders weigh next to nothing, yet can do everything you require from an EDC knife (I will show you a few examples later in this article).
For now, let’s talk about…
Factor #3: Size
It is important to choose a knife that is neither too small nor too big.
If it is too big, it will be difficult to control, take up a lot of space, and likely be illegal in your state. And if it is too small, you won’t be able to use it for more demanding tasks, such as skinning game.
As a general rule, the overall length of the knife should not exceed 7 inches (with the blade making up around 3 inches and the handle approximately 4 inches).
Bottom line: Choose a medium-sized knife. It is small enough to have in your pocket while still providing excellent performance.
Factor #4: Opening mechanism
The best folding knives can be opened quickly and easily, and with only one hand.
Generally, opening mechanisms come in three flavours:
- Manual opening – which requires you to use your hands to open the blade. It is often found on swiss army knives and multitools, and typically have sloer deployment than other styles.
- Switchblade – which opens by the push of a bottom. Switchblades are illegal in many states, so be sure to check the local knife laws before buying your knife.
- Assisted opening – which uses an internal mechanism to finish the opening of the blade once you have partially opened it. A very popular option nowadays.
Most people will be comfortable with an assisted opening mechanism. It can be opened with little effort and is legal in most states.
Note: If you want to check the knife laws in your state, simply follow this link and choose your state.
Factor #5: Locking mechanism
The locking mechanism is what keeps the blade open and is one of the most critical factors to consider when choosing an EDC knife.
A good locking mechanism meets the following criteria:
- Strong and robust – this is especially important if you plan to use the knife for heavy duty tasks, such as splitting logs.
- Safe – make sure that the blade cannot accidently fold back on your hands or fingers and cause injuries.
- Convenient – you should be able to close the blade with one hand (without having to switch grip).
- Easy to maintain – The best locking mechanisms have few moving parts and are easy to clean and maintain.
Note: Many brands have developed their own unique locking mechanism and claim that theirs is the best. In reality, all locks have their pros and cons, and you need to be aware of that.
The best way to know if a locking mechanism suits your needs is to actually try the knife before you buy it.
Factor #6: Price
EDC knives range in price from $10 USD on the low end to several thousand dollars on the high end for a custom made knife.
The question is: What is the ideal price range for an EDC knife?
While more expensive knives are typically made of stronger and more durable materials than cheaper options, you don’t need to spend a fortune on a pocket knife.
As a general rule, look for anything between $30-$100 USD.
Most knives in this price range are strong and robust, yet small and light enough to carry on a daily basis.
I would not recommend buying a knife that is too cheap: It is prone to breaking and will not last very long.
In fact, it will actually cost you more in the long run to buy an inexpensive knife because you will have to replace it many times over the years.
Buy a quality knife from the beginning – and save yourself a lot of money, time, and hassle down the road.
Factor #7: Handle material
Knife handles are made of either natural materials or synthetic materials.
The main benefit of natural materials – such as wood, mother of pearl, and horn – is that they are visually and aesthetically appealing.
However, natural handle materials often lack strength and durability – which is why I almost always recommend synthetic materials.
Sure, they may not impress your friends. But in a disaster scenario, durability, ease of maintenance, and weight is more important than appearance.
Some of the best (and most popular) knife handle materials include:
- Carbon fiber
I would not recommend stainless steel and titanium handles because they can feel cold and slippery. They also tend to be very expensive.
Factor #8: Steel type
Most knife blades are made of either stainless steel or carbon steel.
Here is an overview of the two steel types:
As you can see, stainless steel blades are best suited for wet and tropical conditions, where other blades may easily rust.
Carbon steel blades, on the other hand, hold their edge for a long time, can be made extremely sharp, and are easy to hone.
Most folding knives today are made of stainless steel.
The best stainless steel option are:
- CPM 154
- CPM S30V
Sure, there are other stainless steels, but you can’t go wrong with the options above.
Factor #9: Blade shape
Knife blades come in a variety of shapes – some excel in hunting and self-defense; others are better suited for skinning animals or splitting logs.
The best all-around blade shape is the drop point blade:
It is incredibly strong, can withstand heavy use, and comes in handy for a number of tasks, including, slicing, batoning, and prying.
While the tip is not as sharp as other blade shapes (such as the clip point), it is much stronger, and therefore less prone to breaking.
Bottom line: By choosing a drop-point blade, you will have an excellent, all-around knife that you will enjoy using for years.
Factor #10: The edge
Knife blades either have a straight, serrated, or partially serrated edge.
A straight edge is easy to sharpen, gives you excellent control, and has a wide range of applications – including slicing, skinning game, and batoning.
A serrated edge, on the other hand, has fewer uses and is best suited for cutting rope, seat belts, and other textured materials, such as leather and canvas.
It can also be a pain to sharpen. You will typically have to take it to a professional knife sharpener or send it back to the factory for sharpening.
A partially serrated knife offers the best of both worlds, thus giving you great flexibility and the ability to handle any survival related task.
Bottom line: Unless you plan to use your EDC knife to cut through thick materials, stick to a straight knife. It is much more versatile than a serrated blade.
EDC knife: My top picks
By now, you have a pretty good idea of what to look for when buying a EDC knife. It is not that complicated, isn’t it?
To make things easier for you, here are three suggested EDC knives that meet the 10 criteria listed above.
Knife #1: Spyderco ParaMilitary 2
The ParaMilitary is a favorite among many survivalists and outdoor enthusiasts. Why? Because it can do everything that you require from an EDC knife.
The nested compression lock is exceptional strong, and the high grade steel blade can withstand incredible abuse.
What I really like about the ParaMilitary knife is that you can quickly flip open and close the blade with almost no effort (and with only one hand).
This is a huge plus as it allows you to easily access the knife when needed (without too much hassle).
The handle is very comfortable as well – even for people with large hands. And at a weight of only 3.83 ounces, the ParaMilitary is extremely light.
If I could only recommend one EDC knife, this would be it.
Knife #2: Benchmade Griptilian
When you hold the Griptilian in your hands for the first time, it may feel like cheap plastic. But make no mistake, this knife is strong as hell. In fact, it is so strong that you can use it for batoning.
The 154CM stainless steel blade holds a good edge and can be used for an extended period of time before it needs to be sharpened.
Best of all, the Griptilian is very light for its size. The blade is 3.45 inches long, yet the knife only weighs 3.88 ounces.
While I like the handle (which is made of glass-filled nylon), I wish it was slightly more grippy (but that’s just my opinion).
Overall, the Benchmade Griptilian is an excellent, all-purpose knife that is perfectly suited for everyday-carry use.
Knife #3: Kershaw Leek
The Kershaw Leek has the perfect size: When opened, it takes up only 7 inches – which makes it the smallest knife in this review.
At the same time, it is extremely light. The knife only weighs 3 ounces, making it a breeze to carry in your pocket.
I like that the Kershaw Leek has a partially serrated knife, thereby allowing you to use it for a wide range of tasks, including cutting through rope, paracord, and seat belts.
The blade can be opened and closed quickly and easily, ensuring that you have access to the knife when you need it.
Overall, the Kershaw Leek is a strong, well-made knife that you will enjoy using. I have heard several people say that it is the best knife they have ever owned.
Here is what to do next
If you have read this far, you know more about choosing an EDC knife than the majority of people out there.
To help you put it all together, I have created a checklist that summarizes the main points from this article.
The checklist includes all 10 tips mentioned in this guide, plus 2 bonus tips that I didn’t have room to include.
You can download the checklist below – it is free.
Download A Free EDC Knife Checklist
The checklist includes all 10 tips from this post (plus 2 bonus tips that I didn't have room to include).