If you want a true survival tool, look elsewhere. These are the best knives for everyday use, whether you’re backpacking the Pacific Crest Trail or car camping with the family.
Picking an everyday carry knife (or EDC) is a very personal choice. What kind of work and activities you do will affect which tool you should buy.
In the end, we picked five of our favorites and ran them through a rigorous series of tests to reproduce situations we’d encounter while playing outdoors. Though we came away with a clear favorite, we also categorized the runners-up to help you find the best knife for you.
First, we put the blades through the wringer. We cut zip ties, kayak-outfitting foam, wire, cloth, webbing, rope, fruit, vegetables, steak, cheese, and beer cans.
To test ease of use, we opened and closed each knife dozens of times. To determine how well they worked in the cold and wet, we dumped our hands in ice water for 60 seconds, pulled them out, and then opened and closed each knife again. We weighed them on our kitchen scale.
We buried them in a bowl of peanut butter to see how easy the tools were to clean afterward. We carried the knives in our pants pockets for days. Finally, we brought them kayaking, camping, and mountain biking to judge how they worked as adventure companions.
#5: Gerber GDC Tech Skin Pocket Knife
Best for: The office
Weight: 2.1 ounces
Verdict: At first, we felt guilty pitting this little guy against the beefier tools on this list. After all, it costs about a third of the other knives on this list, and we thought it might fall apart in our hands.
We were wrong. The Tech Skin consistently shined in our cutting tests, and the 2.5-inch stainless-steel blade held its edge well. It was the only knife that didn’t have a clip to attach to a belt, so the tool had to live exclusively in our pockets. But it played nice with smartphone screens in the shared space, thanks to its fully rubberized exterior when folded. The little blade also cut through envelopes and speaker wire well.
The biggest downside: The GDC Tech Skin was the most difficult to open when wet. We had to use two hands every time.
#4: SOG Zoom Black Tini
Best for: Making an impression
Weight: 4.5 ounces
Verdict: SOG’s patented assisted-opening system allowed us to flick open the 3.6-inch blade so quickly that it actually scared some testers. If quick access is your top priority in an EDC, look no further than the Zoom.
The partially serrated blade easily cuts large rope, wood, and meat. The Zoom’s handle was the longest we tested and features four finger-shaped grooves on the side to add grip. The deep channels at the base of the blade let testers put pressure on the knife when cutting down.
#3: Spyderco Native FRN
Best for: Backpackers worried about weight
Weight: 2.5 ounces
Verdict: This is the only knife we’d bring on a backpacking trip—it’s incredibly lightweight. Sure, it’s a bit heavier than the GDC Tech Skin (above), but you get much more knife per ounce: The Native FRN’s blade and handle are more than half an inch longer than those of the Tech Skin.
While the blade was the toughest on our list to open with one hand, its lock mode was the sturdiest—something we appreciated while cutting lots of rope. The handle has deep grooves that make it easy to hold with cold, wet hands but also very difficult to clean.
#2: CRKT No Time Off with Combination Blade
Best for: In-hand feel
Weight: 5.9 ounces
Verdict: This 7.25-inch knife would have been our favorite of the bunch were it not for its complicated closing system. To close the knife, we had to press a pin to disengage the lock. This proved cumbersome in the field.
That said, the opening mechanism was one of our favorites. The system uses the heavy blade’s weight to fling it open with a quick snap of our wrists. This thick drop-point blade was the heftiest of all the ones we tested.
The handle fit ergonomically in our hands while we used the knife; it was also easy to clean. Note: If you’re concerned about weight, this isn’t the knife for you. But if you aren’t backpacking, the substantial blade and handle give this knife a heft that makes it feel very capable.
#1: Kershaw Blur
Best for: All-around use
Weight: 4 ounces
Verdict: This knife did everything well. The curved 3.4-inch blade made our top three in every single chopping and cutting test, and the handle was very easy to grip. It’s remarkably light considering that, at 7.9 inches, it was one of the largest tools in our test.
What made us really fall for this knife was how intuitively it opened and closed. The beveled thumb stud was easy to push open, and the simple yet effective locking mechanism was a breeze to disengage when we wanted to retract the blade.