Disclosure: Man Makes Fire is reader-supported. When you buy gear using retail links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission that helps pay for our work. Learn more.
There is a whole subculture maniacally focused on the best everyday carry knife, a.k.a. the best EDC knives. I’m not one of those guys, but most every day, I carry a knife. Why? A knife is a damn handy tool.
Just that, a tool.
Once you start carrying a knife every day, you’ll quickly realize two things. First, you’ll wonder how you ever managed without one because you’ll be opening up boxes, cutting through crazy product packaging, cutting plastic label rings, opening bags of hotdogs on the beach, trimming the ends of cracked fuel lines on your motorcycle, fixing pieces of clothing, backpacking boots, cutting walking sticks while camping, and generally just being more competent in the face of whatever comes your way.
If you ever need to cut up a shirt to make a bandage, tourniquet, or splint, you’ll have a knife to do it. You never know when you might be in an emergency situation — for instance, when you might need to cut a seatbelt to help a crash victim escape from a car. Sure, some of these things might never happen around you, but being reasonably ready is part of being a man — and for women, too. Actually, it’s pretty damn sexy when a woman nonchalantly pulls out a pocket knife and starts slicing wedges off of an apple — or uses her EDC knife for pretty much anything, really.
Just saying. Women need EDC knives, too, and if you’re a man and are stuck for a great gift idea, get her an EDC knife.
In any event, you need to choose a pocket knife and start carrying it. In short order, it will become a part of you, increase your competence, and remind you to be ready for adventure.
How to Choose Your First ‘Best’ EDC Knife
You can spend hundreds of dollars and end up getting a fantastic knife that’s also a work of art. Or you can can find a great EDC knife for under $30 and be able to handle 90 percent of what the fancy knife does. If you have the budget, buy higher quality gear. If you don’t, invest in what you can afford. Some guys like to spend under $50 on an EDC knife they won’t worry about losing or abusing. For others, they want an EDC knife under $100. And some guys max out at under $200 while others don’t have a preset price range — they just appreciate the long-lasting quality you tend to get when you spend more. But where do you start figuring out which EDC knife is right for you?
We’re going to break the 22 best EDC knives down into four categories — not the categories that use a weird mix of capped letters and numbers to describe types of steel or handle materials. No, we’re getting real for those who are looking for their first EDC knife, if not also guide them them to the best EDC knife for the money in each category. These four EDC categories cover most everyone, and we’ve created a guide that includes multiple price points. More importantly, this EDC knife guide will get you thinking about who you are and what fits you best:
All-Around EDC Knives
Small EDC Knives
Rescue EDC Knives
Multitool EDC Knives
Right now, don’t worry about the grade of steel — you can worry about that later if you really get into EDC knives and become a true knife aficionado. So here is what you need to know now:
Basically, more specialized steel will hold its edge longer but it will be much harder to sharpen. And most guys new to knives don’t know how to sharpen their own knives anyway. In which case, a standard grade of steel will be a smarter choice because it’s much easier to sharpen. Not only is it cost-friendly, you might even learn to sharpen a knife with it. That’s a win-win.
In some ways you’re simply looking for a handle and blade design that appeals to you — shapes that, for some reason, you kind of like. I’m not joking about this. If you’re going to carry a knife every day, you should appreciate its shape and color. This isn’t a fashion statement for other people, it’s just acknowledging that you will innately gravitate toward some designs more than others. So going with a gut response isn’t bad when you’re choosing a first EDC knife.
Your next step is to pick a knife and learn how how you like to carry it in jeans, pants, and shorts — after a few months, you’ll know a lot more about your personal preferences. And that’s a win, too.
Best All-Around EDC Knives 2016
The best all-around EDC knife is stout enough to be strong and versatile, capable of cutting saplings, prying stuff apart, and fending off a feral pig. OK, maybe not a big feral pig, but you get the idea. You’re trying to balance the value of a large blade with the portability you want in an everyday carry knife. So think about knives with a 3-to-4-inch blade length. If you pretty much always wear jeans or heavy pants, your pants can carry most any knife. If you like to wear fast-drying nylon cargo shorts, for example, error toward lightweight EDC knives instead.
These EDC knives do a great job of covering all your bases in sizes that are pocketable but also serviceable for a wide variety of needs. To help meet your budget, we note the price range you can typically get each knife for — under $50, under $100, and under $200:
SOG Flash II — opens easy and fast, light, versatile, affordable, and has a safety lock (under $50)
Best Lightweight & Small EDC Knives 2016
A good lightweight EDC knife will handle most of the tasks as a larger knife but not all. There are lots of benefits of choosing a small EDC knife, though, primarily weight. A couple ounces might not sound like much, but a heavy knife will constantly remind you it’s in your pocket, which can become annoying. Blade length is another key factor. Some municipal buildings and cities have special codes governing pocket knives, and many of them freak out over blade length. For example, while you might not spend much time in courthouses, you might be entering school grounds to watch a high school football game. In most places, police, administrators, and even prosecutors understand the difference between the spirit and intent of a law, but not all. What American citizen wants to get caught up in the vulgarities of bureaucracy in the event some well-meaning idiot complains about your EDC pocket knife tool?
Yeah, fun times. So check your state laws and choose a good short-bladed small EDC knife:
Spyderco Dragonfly2 — this 1.2-ounce knife has a short 2.3-inch blade, but the handle and blade design turn it into a little workhorse, highly recommended (typically well under $100)
Gerber GDC Tech Skin — claim to fame is the rubberized handle that completely covers the blade when closed, so you won’t scratch up your smartphone if it happens to be in the same pocket (under $50)
Boker Plus Subcom — the 1.88-inch blade gets you under 2 inches, discrete but still usable (under $50)
Benchmade Mini Griptillian — high-quality, 2.91-inch blade, 2.81 ounces of awesomeness (well under $200, most models flirt around $100)
By rescue EDC knives, we mean knives that have specialized features like a seatbelt cutter and a built-in carbide tip glass breaker. Why do you need a glass breaker? To instantly pop a passenger door window so you can get in to rescue someone — or get out. We don’t know how many people drive into lakes, rivers, or ponds each year, but the news headlines reveal too many nightmare horror stories. The bottom line is this: If you need a rock to break a window, you can’t count on having a rock handy. And even if you have a rock, most rocks won’t help you break a car window. Why? These windows are extremely tough. If you go after a window with a baseball bat, you’re more likely to injure yourself than break the window. Essentially you need a substance that is harder than glass, like a carbide tip. A tiny little bit is enough to cause tempered safety glass to shatter into a bunch of small pieces.
Which is why we like the idea of glass-breaking tips on EDC knives.
We recommend that you check out these emergency EDC knives:
Benchmade Triage — if you drool easily, best to look away from this one (under $200)
The ultimate EDC knife might actually be an EDC multitool. Sure, we’re mixing categories, but come on, why not? The multitool can serve the EDC knife need, plus bring a few more tools to have on hand. You get pliers, scissors, a saw, screwdrivers, bottle openers, and tweezers all in one unit. So cool. The only issue is size and weight. To be really useful and versatile, bigger is better in a multitool. But bigger is a pain to carry everyday in a variety of types of clothes. So that’s basically what you’re considering: how much functionality and weight are you willing to carry every day? If I go backpacking, hunting, riding, or camping, I’m usually taking a multitool. So I’m of the mind that you need at least one of these knives in all of these categories that you then swap out depending on the circumstances. But hey, baby steps here. Your first order of business is to pick an EDC knife and then start carrying it.
In the land of EDC multitools, we like the balance of features, weight, and cost we get from these EDC multitools:
Gerber Dime Multi-Tool — best value for the price, great gift, small, light, and with a bottle opener, too (well under $50)
Gerber Curve Multi-Tool — super small, 1.25 inch blade, screwdrivers, bottle opener, great as a keychain EDC (well under $50)
Leatherman Skeletool — full size, more emphasis on the knife (perfect), reasonably light (under $100)
Review: Best EDC Knives for the Money
Still here? Seriously? Stop overthinking this and pick a damn EDC knife already. You’ve got a life to live, so don’t waste it obsessing — that’s why we did the upfront work for you in this guide. OK, OK, so you want more recommendation? The best EDC knives in each section are ranked by our can’t-go-wrong recommendation preferences for the category, taking into account the best overall value of EDC you get for the money. So the first few knives in each list offer some of the best mix of features to cost, while those that trail offer a slightly different balance or style. For a first EDC knife, it’s hard to go wrong with any of these choices, so pick one of the 22 best EDC knives in our guide that appeals to your personality and everyday needs. Seriously, this is just a small step in the bigger journey of your life. Choose!