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The Best New EDC Knives of 2021
This year's crop of folding knives has a little something for everyone. (Matt Foster/)
What is an EDC knife? Fair question. Really, any folding knife or fixed-blade knife you can carry comfortably in a pocket qualifies. The best EDC knives—which stands for every day carry—can handle any cutting task you encounter. Opening a box, slicing an apple, gutting a deer, or deterring a would-be assailant. The best knife brands understand this and have made cool new knives capable of tackling these chores. We got our hands on a bunch of these new blades, and, in no particular order, here are the best EDC knives of 2021.
Benchmade Adamas (Matt Foster/)
For many every day tasks, the Benchmade Adamas may be overkill. But then, is overkill really a bad thing? As an EDC knife, the Adamas is large. It’s a full-sized folder with steel liners, olive drab G10 scales and even comes with a molle compatible sheath. Made from CPM-CruWear® stainless steel the 3.78″ drop point blade is .14″ thick and has a cerakote finish. Like many Benchmade knives, the Adamas features their Axis lock, a cross-bolt style mechanism using the shear strength of a pin for lock strength. Designed as a tactical folder with pronounced finger guards front and back of the handle the Adamas would work well as an EDC knife or as a hunting knife. Despite its impressive size, it fits quite well in the pocket with a fairly deep carry-style clip. The left-handed crowd will appreciate that this knife is fully ambidextrous. If the geometry and features of this Benchmade knife are appealing but it seems just a bit large for your taste, the MINI ADAMAS® is its literal ¾ size twin, minus the sheath. MSRP is $280 Specs: blade length 3.78 in.; blade thickness 0.14 in.; overall length 8.89 in.; closed length 5.11 in.; weight 6.45 oz. minus the sheath; MINI ADAMAS MSRP is $250 Specs: blade length 3.25 in.; blade thickness 0.14 in.; overall length 7.62 in.; closed length 4.37 in.; weight 4.6 oz.
Kershaw Cannonball (Matt Foster/)
While maybe a bit underwhelming in specifications, the Cannonball is proof you don’t need the latest trendy materials to make a solid EDC knife. The spring-assisted-opening blade is a stout, shallow drop point made from D2 steel and is well suited for EDC or hunting. Southpaws, often neglected, will appreciate the ambidextrous pocket clip, which allows for deep carry. The Cannonball is an all-steel framelock. While not exotic, it’s solid, secure and adds a pleasant heft. Overall, it’s a nicely finished cool knife, angular in aesthetics that’s comfortable to hold and manipulate. With an MSRP of $79, it won’t destroy your wallet. Specs: blade length 3.5 in.; blade thickness 0.112 in.; open length 8 in.; closed length 4.5 in.; weight 5.4oz.; handle thickness 0.42 in.
SOG Kiku XR LTE (Matt Foster/)
Okay, full disclosure, upon seeing this knife online, I really wanted to check it out. Why? Because it claimed carbon fiber liners, and I’m a sucker for carbon fiber. Safety orange G10 scales also said, “pick me!” These features help SOG’s new Kiku LTE stand out from the black-handled knife crowd. The deep 3-inch drop point blade is made from CRYO CTS XHP steel which can be likened to S35V. SOG’s XR cross bolt style lock solidly holds the blade open. Left-handers will love the extra clip provided for the other side of the knife and the ambidextrous blade opening hole and unlocking buttons. Opening and closing is easily accomplished one handed. Attractive, functional texture is machined into the G10 scales. Overall, this intriguing knife boasts some well thought out features. The Kiku XR LTE is also available with black micarta scales. MSRP is $250. Specs: blade length 3.02 in.; closed length 4.29 in.; overall length 7.34 in.; weight 4.1 oz.
Gerber Zilch (Gerber/)
Both Covid and a major February snowstorm stopped us from getting to borrow a preproduction sample of the Zilch, but the available information from Gerber makes us want to check it out as soon as we can. Why? Because it has a budget friendly price-point and seems like it could perhaps be likened to a modern version of Gerber’s L.S.T. (Light, Strong, Tough). The Zilch is a very thin, slender profile pocket clip knife that should be easy to carry at any and all times. A 7Cr17Mov stainless steel blade can be opened with either a nail nick or thumbstud and uses a linerlock to keep it there. Polymer handles are available in drab red, black or coyote brown. The construction and material add up to a knife that weighs less than 2.5 ounces. With a price right around $20, if the Zilch is anything like the old L.S.T. line, it should be a great value. MSRP is $21. Specs: blade length 3.1 in.; overall length 7.2 in.; weight 2.2 oz.
CRKT Pillar (Matt Foster/)
This cool knife embodies the notion that simple is often better. While there are no radical features here, this Voxnaes desiged frame-lock folder is solid. The blade shape is interesting—it’s like a wharncliff and drop point got together during a Covid lockdown. The stainless steel locking bar gives it a substantial, albeit a slightly heavy-for-its-size feel. G10 makes up the other side of the frame lock providing a good grip and saving some weight. The hole in the top of the blade makes for easy opening for both righties and lefties, although the pocket clip is not ambidextrous. The clip, however, is recessed into the steel frame, which is a nice touch. The knife’s aesthetics are subdued but the lines and finish are nice enough that it’s not plain. All-in-all this is a solid EDC knife at a great price. A D2 steel blade version is available for a slightly higher price. MSRP is $60 with 8Cr13MoV stainless, $80 with D2 steel. Specs: blade length 2.97 in.; blade thickness 0.15 in.; overall length 7.19 in.; closed length 4.26 in.; weight 3.6 oz.
Giant Mouse Ace RIV Titanium
Giant Mouse Ace RIV Titanium (Matt Foster/)
Ok, I’m not afraid to say it, the Ace RIV is cute. If there’s a knife that fits the Giant Mouse moniker, this is it. It’s fairly short yet deep profile gives it a robust appearance even though it’s a compact folder. The blade is made from Elmax steel with a design that’s a cross between a wharncliff and a drop point. A ball bearing pivot point helps the blade open smoothly with one hand. The Ace RIV is an all-titanium frame lock, making it light even for its compact size. The non-locking side is smooth and I was worried about keeping a grip on the knife, but the deep finger groove offers more than enough traction to keep everything secure. A wire pocket clip keeps the knife at the ready, but it would be nice if it rode a bit deeper in the pocket. Other than this minor First-World-problem critique, this is a well-made, premium knife. While not inexpensive, it is a good value given its feature set. MSRP is $210. Specs: total length: 5.75 in.; closed length: 3.375 in.; blade length: 2.44 in.; blade thickness: 0.118 in.; weight: 2.8 oz.
Hinderer Knives XM-18 3-inch Skinner
Hinderer Knives XM-18 3-inch Skinner (Matt Foster/)
In custom and specialty-production knife making circles, Rick Hinderer is recognized as making some very rugged tactical folders, including the XM-18 line of frame locks. Fortunately for us, Rick is also a hunter, and new for 2021 he put a “semi-skinner” blade into the 3-inch version of the XM-18. Made from CPM20CV stainless steel, the blade has a shape well suited to general EDC as well as for skinning. Stout is definitely the right term for the blade, measuring .14 inch thick for a three-inch blade. It’s the blade that gives the knife some heft and the momentum of it opening and closing is noticeable. Opening is done via a thumbstud or “flipper” protruding from the back of the handle. A titanium frame lock and liner keep the weight down and it locks like a bank vault. The liners and blade have a stonewashed finish which is both attractive and functional. A single black G10 scale with their machined XM texture covers the non-locking side. The pocket clip is recessed and is reversible for tip up or tip down carry, but is not ambidextrous. This is an impressive and cool knife with exception fit and finish. Demand for Hinderer’s knives is high, so if you want one, don’t wait. MSRP $450. Specs: blade length 3 in.; blade thickness .140 in.; weight 3.4oz.
Zero Tolerance 0308BLKTS (Zero Tolerance /)
Weighing in at almost seven ounces even with a titanium liner, locking bar and sporting a 3.75-inch blade, the 0308BLKTS is definitely a full-sized pocket clip folder. Though positioned as a tactical folder, the wide drop point blade, made from CPM 20CV stainless steel should prove quite useful in the field and for EDC. Titanium is used for the framelock but it has a hardened steel insert for the contact point with the blade. Aggressive texture is machined into the titanium side which is a detail not seen on many frame locks. The opposing side of the handle is G10, sporting the same aggressive texturing. Opening is accomplished by using the flipper protruding from the back of the handle. Lefties get some love with an ambidextrous pocket clip that has a hole pattern common with aftermarket clips, which could be handy. ZT put their tiger stripe finish on the blade, adding to the knife’s overall aggressive and tactical look. Given the weight and size, this may not be a great choice for backcountry hunters looking to save some ounces, but if you want a sturdy, full-size frame lock, this should be high on the list. Specs: Blade length 3.75 in.; blade thickness 0.156 in.; overall Length 8.9 in.; closed length 5.2 in.; weight 6.9 oz.
Medford Knife and Tool Air Jack
Medford Knife and Tool Air Jack (Medford Knife and Tool/)
When we caught wind of the Air Jack it was a knife we definitely wanted to check out. Why? Because it’s a departure from Medford Knife’s usual large and extremely rugged folders and fixed blades. The Air Jack is more of a gentleman’s pocketknife. It has a slender profile and thin handle that should easily slide into a pocket and at only 1.9 ounces be hardly be noticed. The Air Jack bucks the tactical folder trend by eschewing a pocket clip or means of opening one-handed. It’s even a slip joint! Which for a knife made for cutting tasks that don’t involve stabbing or butchering or emergency egress from vehicles or aircraft, is nice. This is not a dainty knife though. With a blade just over 3 inches and overall length of 7 inches, it’s still a good-sized knife with enough blade length to be quite useful. Nor does the Air Jack skimp on materials, its blade is S35VN and housed in G10 handles available in Black, OD Green and Coyote. MSRP is $325. Specs: blade length 3.1 in.; blade thickness 0.125 in.; overall Length 7 in.; closed length 4 in.; weight 1.9 oz.
Havalon Knives REDI
Havalon Knives REDI (Havalon/)
The REDI is Havalon’s take on an EDC knife. It’s a pocket clip folder with replaceable blades meant to be saved and resharpened rather than tossed. They refer to these blades as “semi-permanent.” The REDI comes with two drop point blades (one serrated) made from AUS-8 that are more functional than the typical scalpel blades used in previous models. The blade opening is one-handed and spring assisted. Swapping in a fresh blade is a push button process with a patented system to make it easy when needed. Stainless steel liners nested inside the polymer handles keep the blade open and give the handle strength. This is another knife lefties will appreciate as there’s a thumbstud on both sides for opening and the pocket clip can be moved to the other side. The REDI will be available in the late spring of 2021. Replaceable blade knives have been growing in popularity and this puts that feature into a what looks to be a nice EDC sized package. Currently the REDI is available in either black or coyote brown. MSRP is $50 Specs: blade length 3 in.; overall Length 7.25 in.; closed Length 4.25 in.; weight 3.5 oz. A two-pack of replacement blades for the Havalon is $14.99.
Spyderco Endela (Matt Foster/)
The Endela is a lockback, pocket-clip folder that blends the size and features of Spyderco’s popular Endura and Delica knives. It is an almost perfect sized pocketknife, having enough blade for serious tasks yet small enough to fit in a pant or shirt pocket. New for 2021, Spyderco has introduced a number of their folders including the Endela, with K390 Microclean, a high performance blade steel made by Böhler-Uddeholm that’s enriched with vanadium, molybdenum and cobalt. The steel’s 9 percent cobalt makes it resistant to wear should place it at the upper end of edge-retention. With only 4.25 percent chromium, it is considered a semi-stainless steel so you’ll need to take proper care of this one. Like all Endela’s, the C243FPK390 has skeletonized steel liners covered by an aggressively textured polymer handle, in this case in a distinctive blue color used to denote all the knives with this blade steel. This knife is truly ambidextrous, with a clip that can be moved to either side, and to either end to provide tip-up or tip-down carry options. Opening is through the iconic Spyderco opening hole in the blade, and it is locked in place with a lockback familiar to just about anyone who has used a knife. By putting this steel in a knife like the Endela, your money is being focused on the blade rather than exotic handle materials. MSRP is $188 Specs: blade length 3.41 in.; blade thickness 0.118 in.; overall Length 8.10 in.; closed Length 4.69 in.; Weight 3.1 oz.