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Updated Aug 24, 2022 9:48 AM

EDC knives — short for “everyday carry” knives — are one of the most useful tools you could ever buy. Capable of mundane tasks like opening envelopes, trimming loose threads or tags on clothing, opening packages, and a plethora of other things, they’re just straight-up handy. EDC knives can also be used for everything from cutting seat belts and breaking car windows to carefully removing clothing from casualties, and even for self-defense.

You never know what you might need one for, so here are our top picks for the best EDC knives on the market.

The Ontario Knife Company is well-known for its fixed blades, with popular models like the RAT-5 and the 499 Air Force Survival Knife, and they don’t need much introduction. One of its most successful models is actually a folder, the RAT-1, and the blade we’re bringing to you today is a slightly scaled-down version called the RAT-2. We’ve put this flat-ground folder through the gauntlet, and are more than confident in its capabilities. In addition, it remains legal in most states thanks to its three-inch-long blade.

Just like its big brother, the RAT-2 features an ambidextrous pocket clip and thumb studs and allows for both tip-up and tip-down carry. The satin-finished drop-point blade is made from D2 tool steel, which is known for great edge retention, making this a solid choice for slicing and cutting tasks. While you’ll want to keep it clean to prevent corrosion, this inexpensive folder is sure to please, courtesy of its comfortable, durable, fiber-reinforced nylon (FRN) scales. And, it is available in multiple handles and finish combinations.

Product Specs
  • Blade length: 3 inches
  • Blade material: D2
  • Blade finish: Satin
  • Handle material: FRN
  • Blade shape: Drop point
  • Pivot type: Phosphor-bronze and Teflon washers
  • Lock type: Linerlock
  • Weight: 2.7 ounces
PROS

Decent edge retention

Inexpensive

Multiple handle and blade options

CONS

D2 isn’t as corrosion-resistant as stainless steels

Best Budget

Named after the motto, “Quality, Service, and Price,” the company QSP has quickly become a go-to brand for those on a budget, thanks to its use of CNC machining, vacuum heat-treat, and great quality control. The Penguin was an earlier model, and performed admirably in testing despite its budget-friendly price tag. It’s available in a ton of different color/material combinations for both the handle and blade, with everything from the budget model we reviewed, to exclusive models in premium steels like Bohler M390.

A discrete yet aesthetically-pleasing folder, its budget variants use D2 steel blades providing solid edge retention compared to most stainless steels in that price range. While it doesn’t have the best corrosion resistance, it’s easy enough to maintain, and there are models with coated blades for extra protection, as well. From the fully ambidextrous thumb studs and a deep-carry pocket clip to the drop-shut, guillotine-like action of the copper washers, this sheepsfoot-style blade is a shoo-in for a handy budget blade, ready for any day-to-day tasks you may find.

Product Specs
  • Blade length: 3.375 inches
  • Blade material: D2
  • Blade finish: Satin
  • Handle material: Micarta
  • Blade shape: Sheepsfoot
  • Pivot type: Copper washers
  • Lock type: Linerlock
  • Weight: 3.17 ounces
PROS

Decent edge retention

Inexpensive

Multiple handle and blade options

Small, utilitarian design is perfect for the office

CONS

Might be too small for large hands

D2 isn’t as corrosion-resistant as stainless steels

Editor’s Choice

One of our favorite knives that we’ve tested, the American Lawman by Cold Steel has EDC engrained in its DNA and has taken everything we’ve thrown at it in stride. Named for our first responders and law enforcement, it has textured G10 scales for great grip and durability and features a linerless construction to keep it lightweight. The ergonomics instantly won us over, despite our initial skepticism over its popularity — just what you’d expect from a Demko design. And just like most Demko designs from Cold Steel, it features the tough Tri-Ad lock, giving you the closest thing you’ll find to a fixed blade’s strength in a folding knife.

Thanks to its American CPM S35VN steel, the Lawman has excellent edge retention and corrosion resistance while remaining easy to sharpen with modern stones. Cold Steel went a step further by adding DLC (Diamond-Like Coating) to the blade, which prevents most scratches, and almost entirely eliminates any chance of corrosion. Though like most other Cold Steel pocket knives, the pocket clip might be a little tight to get into pockets made from thicker material, at least until it loosens up.

Product Specs
  • Blade length: 3.5 inches
  • Blade material: CPM S35VN
  • Blade finish: DLC
  • Handle material: G10
  • Blade shape: Drop point
  • Pivot type: Phosphor-bronze and Teflon washers
  • Lock type: Tri-Ad
  • Weight: 4.5 ounces
PROS

Premium S35VN for excellent edge retention and corrosion resistance

Ergonomic textured G10 scales

Durable DLC blade coating

Tough Tri-Ad lock

CONS

Stiff pocket clip

Tri-Ad lock can be difficult for weaker hands to disengage

Best Multi-tool

Made in the USA, Leatherman is a name that’s synonymous with both quality and the multitool design that so many other companies have tried to replicate. Imitation is truly the highest form of flattery, and after handling the Charge+, we think you’ll understand why. An upgraded version of the standard Leatherman Charge, the first and most notable change is that of the blade steel. Whereas the vast majority of multitools on the market use 420HC or similar budget stainless steels, Leatherman went with tougher, corrosion-resistant 154CM steel, which has drastically higher edge retention.

While 154CM doesn’t have quite as high edge retention as the CPM S30V steel used on the Leatherman Charge TTI, it’s definitely easier to sharpen, while also being more affordable. Leatherman also added wire cutters with replaceable inserts, allowing you to keep your multitool in tip-top shape, regardless of how much wire you have to cut. Between the upgraded tools, easy one-handed use, and Leatherman’s 25-year warranty, what are you waiting for?

Product Specs
  • Primary blade length: 2.9 inches
  • Primary blade material: 154CM
  • Serrated blade material: 420HC
  • Blade finish: Satin
  • Handle material: 6061-T6 hard-anodized aluminum
  • Primary blade shape: Clip point
  • Sheath material: Black nylon
  • Pivot type: Brass washers
  • Lock type: Linerlock
  • Weight: 8.3 ounces
PROS

19 tools

154cm steel has good edge retention while remaining easy to sharpen

Replaceable wire cutters

One-handed opening

All tools lock into place

25-year warranty

CONS

Price

Best Budget Multi-Tool

If you’re familiar with the Boy Scouts, or even just camping in general, you’ve most likely been exposed to the phenomena that is the Swiss Army Knife, or SAK. While the original was designed for military use, Victorinox produces several different models for other uses. This particular model is called the Tinker, and as its name suggests, is the perfect little EDC multitool for tinkering around.

With an impressive 12 tools packed away into just over 3.5 inches of Swiss ingenuity, the Tinker tucks away just as easily in your pack or glove box as it does in your pocket. Need to replace some batteries? Open a package? Strip wire? The Tinker has your back. Maybe you need to open a bottle or can? We got you. While it might not have the largest blade or the most comfortable handle, you’ll be impressed with just how useful this SAK will be.

Product Specs
  • Blade length: 2.45 inches
  • Blade material: Alox
  • Blade finish: Satin
  • Handle material: ABS/cellidor
  • Blade shape: Drop point
  • Lock type: Slip joint
  • Weight: 2.2 ounces
PROS

12 tools

Inexpensive

Consistent quality control

Good corrosion resistance

CONS

Non-locking blade and tools

Too small for some tasks

Best Fixed Blade

Designed by Navy veteran Michael Emler as the perfect little EDC fixed-blade, the Sea Snake was an immediate hit, and for good reason. With ergonomic, contoured handles, a generous finger choil, and large jimping, this blade from Artisan Cutlery is available in green, tan, or black G10, allowing for a very comfortable grip in your color of choice, while remaining very durable. The blade is also full tang, making it even tougher.

The flat-ground Wharncliffe blade has 2.5 inches of cutting-edge length, making it just big enough for daily tasks, while not so big that it attracts unwanted attention. It’s available in either satin or a durable black PVD finish and is made from Artisan’s proprietary AR-RPM9 steel, which is made using powdered metallurgy techniques that create a fine grain structure capable of decent edge retention, corrosion resistance, and toughness while remaining inexpensive and extremely easy to resharpen on the fly. While there are premium steels out there with higher edge retention, and the blade is too thin for abusive tasks, it performs admirably for what it’s designed for — a nice,, convenient little blade that excels at opening packages, breaking down boxes, and any other EDC tasks that you may run into.

Product Specs
  • Blade length: 3.125 inches
  • Blade material: AR-RPM9
  • Blade finish: Satin or PVD-coated
  • Handle material: G10
  • Blade shape: Wharncliffe
  • Sheath material: Kydex
  • Weight: 2.3 ounces
  • Weight with sheath: 3.1 ounces
PROS

Budget-friendly

AR-RPM9 steel is easily re-sharpened

Wharncliffe blade shape is extremely practical for most utility uses

Small enough to not attract undue attention

Ergonomic G10 handles with generous finger choil

CONS

Lower edge retention than higher-end steels

Too small and thin for some tasks

Best for Self-Defense

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Cold Steel’s Black Talon 2 is a dedicated people-opener with little to no utility use. It makes sense why Cold Steel doesn’t attempt to present it as anything more or less than exactly that. Cold Steel based it on Spyderco’s Civilian, and while imitation might be the greatest form of flattery, Cold Steel went above and beyond in improving this design. They started off by upgrading the Spyderco’s traditional back-lock to Andrew Demko’s vault-like Tri-Ad lock, which is arguably the toughest lock on the market to date.

Lightweight, thin, textured G10 handles provide a firm grip, while the slim profile practically disappears in your pocket. Cold Steel upgraded the blade considerably as well, using tough, American CPM S35VN steel, and a notably stronger tip than that on the Spyderco Civilian. The vicious, recurved blade is easily deployed, courtesy of the Demko thumbplate, which automatically opens the knife when drawn from your pocket. The Black Talon 2 is designed with one very specific task in mind, and it excels at performing that task with extreme prejudice. Buyer beware: This isn’t a knife for you to casually handle or play around with.

Product Specs
  • Blade length: 4 inches
  • Blade material: CPM S35VN
  • Blade finish: Satin
  • Handle material: G10
  • Blade shape: Hawkbill
  • Pivot type: Phosphor-bronze and Teflon washers
  • Lock type: Tri-Ad lock
  • Weight: 4.8 ounces
PROS

Premium S35VN steel

TriAd lock

Demko thumbplate

Scary sharp

CONS

Not a traditional karambit profile

Stiff pocket clip

Things to consider before buying an EDC knife

EDC knives can be found in most stores in one form or another, whether they’re home goods, home improvement, or sporting goods stores. Heck, you can even find them in most gas stations (though we’d strongly advise against gambling on a gas station knife). Whether you need one for a specific job, self-defense, or general utility, there’s sure to be one that fits your needs perfectly.

Types of EDC knives

Folding

By far the most common choice for EDC knives, folders are a great option due to their small form factor and the lack of a need for a sheath. Also referred to as pocket knives, folders consist of a blade that pivots into the handle for storage, and usually have a locking mechanism to secure the blade in the open position. There are many locales where folding knives are less restricted than fixed blades, making folding knives all the more practical choice for everyday carry.

Fixed blade

While fixed blades are a less common choice for EDC, they’ve become more popular in recent years due to their simplicity and ease of use. Thanks to the lack of a pivot or locking mechanism, fixed blades have drastically fewer components than folders, while also not needing nearly as tight tolerances. They’re often quicker to pull out and use, don’t require any fine motor skills to manipulate open or closed, and are frequently stronger. However, a good fixed blade’s efficacy can easily be ruined by a poorly designed sheath.

Key features of an EDC knife

Steel type

This is probably the most exhaustingly extensive aspect of knives in general: the steel they’re made from. For simplicity’s sake, we’re going to break it down into two categories. High-carbon steel is commonly chosen for larger fixed blades, as it’s rather tough and inexpensive, which is a plus when you have to use a lot of it for a longer blade. However, it rusts pretty easily when not taken care of. 

Stainless steel, on the other hand, typically has enough chromium alloyed with it to greatly reduce corrosion — it “stains less,” as it were. This also has the effect of making the steel harder. While you don’t usually want harder steel in large blades, where toughness is prioritized, this is perfect for EDC use where edge retention is valued. That said, there’s a lot of low-quality stainless steel out there that is either extremely soft or extremely brittle, so it’s best to read up on any that you’re interested in beforehand. 

Knife Informer and Blade HQ both have decent guides to get you started, detailing the edge retention, toughness, and corrosion resistance of some of the more popular steel currently available.

Blade shape

While less numerous than the varieties of steel, there are still quite a few different blade shapes available to you, all of which have different benefits and aesthetics. An EDC knife is an intrinsically useful tool, depending on what the intended use is. 

  • Drop point blades are a popular choice due to them having enough belly for slicing, skinning, etc., while also having a decently pointy tip for penetrating. 
  • Clip points, or bowies, are similar to drop points, however, they have a much more needle-like tip; excellent for piercing, but not the most durable. 
  • Americanized tantos have thick, reinforced tips that don’t pierce well but are extremely durable and are a good choice if you tend to misuse and abuse your knife, as you’re less likely to snap the tip off. The secondary tip on them is also fantastic for opening boxes in our experience. 

There are plenty of other blade shapes such as the kukri utilized by the Cold Steel Rajah 2, but those are less common for EDC use.

Handle materials

While the blade is what typically draws a buyer’s eye to a knife, the handle is typically what seals the deal. Sure, that shiny steel might look cool, but if the handle doesn’t fit your hand well, has painful hotspots, or is simply too slick for you to maintain a grip in adverse conditions, it’s a no-go. Most EDC knives nowadays thankfully have decent ergonomics and use modern materials like G10, fiber-reinforced nylon (FRN), or micarta that have excellent durability, and are textured to ensure a firm grasp.

FAQs about EDC knives

Q: How long should my EDC knife be?

A: In general, three to four inches is a good blade length for EDC use; however, depending on your intended use, you might need one that’s longer or shorter. In addition, your local restriction might limit your blade length to 3.5 inches or even less, so it’s best to be informed of your local knife laws. KnifeUp.com is a fantastic source for up-to-date information.

Q: How much does an EDC knife usually cost?

A: Depending on their varying size, materials, construction, and overall quality control, EDC knives can range widely in price. Most budget-tier blades are $60 or less, but they have looser tolerances, cheaper materials, and less stringent quality control. You can definitely find some great knives in this price range, however, if you know what to look for. 

Mid-tier knives typically fall between $60 and $150, and have better materials, better tolerances, higher quality control, and often have better locking mechanisms or additional features. Most of these also come with a decent warranty, so it’s harder to go wrong with one of these EDC knives. 

Premium-tier blades start at $150 and skyrocket from there, with everything from high-end production blades, to full-on customs made by hand. A lot of cool designs and engineering goes into these, but a lot of people have trouble justifying putting them through the same use and abuse they’d put a less expensive knife through.

Q: What is FRN?

A: Short for fiber-reinforced nylon, FRN and its many variants are commonly used in the knife industry as a handle material for budget- and mid-tier blades. It offers most of the same benefits as G10, while remaining less expensive. Sometimes, this is used to pass on savings to the customer, or to allow the manufacturer to use higher-end steel for the blade without drastically increasing the price. Benchmade, Cold Steel, and Spyderco all have popular models that use FRN materials to great effect.

Final thoughts

While the form factor has changed a lot over the millennia, the tradition of having a small, compact knife on your person is one with a lot of merits. Our overall favorite choice was the American Lawman, thanks to its fantastic ergonomics, strong lock, and premium materials, while the Penguin and RAT II both offer a wide range of combinations for those looking for a cheaper blade that’ll last you a while. Whether you’re a veteran who likes to prepare for the first sign of trouble, a service member looking to supplement your flak, or an EMT responding to the traumas of everyday life, a quality EDC knife is an essential tool.

Methodology 

I’ve been collecting and selling knives for nearly a decade and was even a blacksmith’s apprentice for a while. I’ve also written extensively about the subject for Task & Purpose. In addition to writing guides about Damascus knives, utility knives, and karambits, I’ve also reviewed individual blades like the Cold Steel American Lawman, WE Stonefish, Leatherman Curl, Cold Steel Storm Cloud, QSP Penguin, and Spyderco Slip Stone. Bluntly put, I’m a nerd — pun intended.

For this article, we used our own experiences and testing and supplemented that with recommendations shared in various internet forums, including a few Facebook groups for knife enthusiasts. We relied on these sources because the members tend to provide better feedback than what you’d find in product review sections on most knife websites. 

We selected these EDC knives because of their overall quality and performance. We looked for blades that were durable, versatile, and practical. We considered things like the materials used for the blade, handle, and sheath, as well as the manufacturer’s reputation for quality control. We gave preference to blades made from quality stainless or semi-stainless steels due to their improved resistance to rust. Lastly, we eliminated any EDC knives with uncoated high-carbon steel blades, wooden handles, leather, or similar materials due to their penchant to be damaged by changes in temperature and humidity — hardly the sort of thing you’d want in a blade you’re carrying with you every day, regardless of the environment.

For more information on our methodology and product reviews, check out the Task & Purpose review guidelines.

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