What Are the Best Cold Steel Knives for EDC?

EDC is a popular buzz-word these days, but there seems to be a lot of confusion about what it really means. In this article, I will attempt to explain the meaning of the term, as well as make few recommendations for suitable EDC knives made by my favorite knife company, Cold Steel.

And below, please use our interactive table below to compare some of the best knives on the market against one another (and see how they stack up to the various Cold Steel knives we’ll discuss today):

Why Choose Cold Steel for EDC?

First, because Cold Steel really does make some of the toughest, most reliable knives in the world.  I’ve used them since the early 1980s, and have never had one fail, even in the most extreme circumstances.

Cold Steel Finn Wolf
The Cold Steel Finn Wolf

If you want a knife for prestige, an investment, or to impress your friends, then get one of the fancy, expensive knives from other popular knife companies. They are heirloom-quality, and are keepsakes, for sure. But if you need a knife for any real work, when your life may depend on it, you need a Cold Steel knife. They make knives for the real world, and make them to be used and abused.

Below, please take a moment to view some of the best-selling pocket knives currently for sale on Amazon:

1) Spyderco Tenacious
2) Kershaw Cryo II
3) Opinel No.7
4) Gerber Paraframe
5) Kershaw Knockout

What is EDC, and Why It Matters       

EDC stands for Every Day Carry. It refers to those items that you never want to leave the house without, like your wallet, cell phone, and keys.

Most people, men especially, also will include a knife on this list. In fact, many of us carry several knives, as well as a multi-tool, on a daily basis.

Why? Because a knife is the cheapest and best insurance you can buy. I don’t mean that we expect to be Rambo and take on 6 thugs single-handedly in a West Side Story-style knife fight.

But if you are involved in an automobile accident, or maybe just come upon one, and someone is trapped by their seat belt with smoke coming from under the hood, it would be stupid for someone to die because no one had the foresight to carry a knife to cut them free in a few seconds.

How dumb is it for someone to get seriously hurt, or worse, because they got clothing or a tie caught in a machine, or became tangled in rope, chord and didn’t have a knife to cut themselves loose with? 

Does it make sense to spend 10 minutes looking for a letter opener when a pocket knife can do it 2 seconds? How about trimming a radiator hose in your cars engine so you can re-attach it and nurse your ride home, rather than walk or call a tow truck?

And, when the chips are down and there is no other choice, sometimes just the sight of a blade is enough to make an attacker decide to run for the hills. No matter how good a goon thinks they are, they know that anyone can get in a lucky shot. Attackers usually prefer a sure thing. 

The uses for a knife are too many to contemplate, and 95% of them have nothing to do with fighting or self-defense.

Some common uses are:

  • General Utility: such as cutting string, opening letters and packages, cutting tape, opening boxes.
  • Emergency Use: which would include cutting surgical gauze, dressings, First-Aid Tape, cutting a seat belt, freeing clothing.
  • Heavy Chores: such as cutting rope, car or machinery hoses, fibrous packing tape. cloth or vinyl material, leather.
  • Small Chores: such as sharpening a pencil, whittling wood, trimming things.

Maybe that’s why a blade was humanity’s first tool, made back in the Stone Age, before we were even fully human. A knife is the most indispensable tool that you can ever carry, and no one should ever be without one.

Characteristics of a Good EDC Knife

We can establish right off the bat that there is no one perfect knife for EDC. People carry knives for all sorts of reasons, including making a personal statement, and no single model can cover all eventualities, which is why most of us carry several knives (besides the fact that it is just ultra-cool).

An EDC knife needs to have certain characteristics to be effective:

  • It needs to be a handy size
  • It needs to be able to be carried in a fashion as to be easily accessible
  • It needs to be comfortable to carry all day
  • It needs to be good enough quality to withstand daily use
  • It needs to be legal to carry in your location

Size really does matter, at least in some situations. If you are sitting behind a desk, or constantly getting in an out of vehicles, a folding machete is not going to be practical. Opening a letter, or cutting tape with a 6” Spartan or Vaquero will cause your co-workers to have a heart-attack.

Large pocket knives with blades longer than 5” are best reserved for carrying in a sheath. For most people, a blade length of 3” to 4-1/2” will cover just about any situation, and still be reasonably comfortable to carry all day.

In an office environment, a 3” to 3-/2” is plenty. If you are at a pool or beach and are a lifeguard and wear minimal clothing, or just want something smaller, Cold Steel makes several 1-1/2” to 2-1/2” models with several special carry options.

In this case, Cold Steel makes some excellent neck knives.

A knife is useless if you can’t get to it when it is needed.  A knife locked in a briefcase will do you no good if you need it NOW, nor will one sitting in your car. An EDC knife needs to be on your person at all times where it can be drawn quickly in an emergency. For most of us, that means either in a pocket, or clipped to the inside our waistbands. Clipped in boots, or carried in a purse or briefcase, is no good for EDC because it takes too long to get the blade out where it can be used.

If a knife is uncomfortable to carry, you will not carry it. It needs to be small enough and light enough so that it is mostly unnoticeable as you go about your daily routines. Belt sheaths are the best choice for larger knives, and clipped to the inside of your waistband is the next best carry option.

The reason for carrying them inside your waistband is not for concealment, but if the knife comes unclipped for any reason, you will know it and can retrieve it without losing it. It also makes it more difficult for another person to snatch it from your belt.

Sheaths make it easy to carry any size knife in complete comfort and allow the blade to be readily accessible.  The disadvantages are that someone could grab your knife from the sheath and use it on you, and the sight of a knife on someone’s belt will cause many people to freak out.

People have been asked to leave certain establishments because they forgot they had their sheathed blade on their person.   Even if it’s legal to carry your blade in public in your state, it is possible that if enough customers complain that you may be asked to leave the building.  So, whenever purchasing a knife, it may be wise to at least consider how your appearance with a sheathed blade (of any size) connected to your belt will look to the average person shopping for groceries in a store.

It’s a good bet that any of Cold Steel’s knives will be more than enough for any kind of carry required.  That’s even the case with their least expensive models, like the excellent Kudu model, (under $15.00 at the time of publication).

How To Select A Good Model For EDC

When evaluating a knife for EDC, the first thing you have to decide is what the main use for the knife will most likely be. If you spend a lot of time in the boonies, on a farm, construction, or other outdoor activities, you may want to lean towards the larger end of the scale.

If you work in an office, you may want to go smaller and more convenient and less intimidating.


For the average person, something in-between may be just right for a pocket utility knife. Fortunately, Cold Steel makes a model to cover any and all situations. We won’t be covering multi-tools here, because Cold Steel does not make any.

The next thing to consider is do you want, or need a folder, or a fixed blade? Each has advantages and disadvantages. As a rule, folders are more convenient, less intimidating to other people, and concealable. Fixed blades are stronger, more intimidating for other people to see, and generally quicker to get into action, since they do not have to be opened.

For EDC, a folder is the best choice.

If you go for a folder, the next thing to consider is do you want or need one that can be opened with only one hand, or even with a pocket tab that opens it automatically when you catch it on the edge of your pocket while drawing it . One-handed opening knives are great for times when you need to hold something with one hand, like rope or cloth, while getting your knife out. Most Cold Steel folders can be opened with one hand.

Cold Steel has several different lock mechanisms they use, but all are more than adequate for hard use. In my opinion, the strongest lock they make is the RAM-Safe lock used on the ultra-reliable Pocket Bushman. 

For all other folders, Cold Steel has pretty much gone to Andrew Demko’s outstanding TRI-AD lock system. It is exclusive to Cold Steel, and along with the RAM-Safe lock, is the strongest lock system (to me, at least) available on any production folder made anywhere in the world.

Next, do you want stainless steel or high carbon? All CS folders are in high-performance stainless steels, so that eliminates this consideration if you want a folder. For a fixed blade, most are still going to be in a High-Performance Stainless Steel, but there are a few specialty models made for super-extra hard use in 1055 and 1095 Carbon, and my beloved SK-5 High Carbon Steel. These are hard-core outdoor knives, and not really suitable for EDC unless you are a Forest Ranger, or similar profession.

We’ve discussed size earlier, but it’s worth touching on again. You need to be realistic when deciding on a size. What is the main use of this knife likely to be? Will it be a knife used mostly for cutting boxes, rope, strapping, carpet? Or just string, tape, opening envelopes, and general utility use?

Are you carrying it specifically for Emergency Self Defense? This will dictate both the size and style of blade that will be best suited to your needs.

Price should not be much of a consideration—you need the best knife you can afford, and cold Steel makes models in every price range, from under $15.00 to as much as you want to spend. And all of them are outstanding knives by anyone’s criteria.

Our Top Cold Steel Knives

We’ve created a top 3 list of Cold Steel knives based on a variety of different circumstances and environments in which you may need.  So to begin, let’s start our with a knife for the city or a working-type environment:

Cold Steel Voyager

with 3”, 4”, and 5-1/2” blades available in both Tanto Point and Clip Point, with a serrated, plain, combination edge, or specialty S-curved Hombre and Vaquero blade shapes, it’s hard to beat the Voyager as an all-around EDC knife. The Carpenters CTS BD1 super-steel is the industry’s best, and the Griv-Ex scales offer a great non-slip grip, and will never chip, crack, shrink or warp.

The pocket clip offers several convenient carry options if you do not want to use a pouch. All Voyager models are heavy enough to feel good in the hand, but light enough to carry all-day in total comfort. It is one of Cold Steel’s longest-running folders, and still one of the best.

Cold Steel Tuff-Lite

At a diminutive 2” and 2-1/2” size, this is about as inoffensive and non-intimidating as a blade can get and still be made of steel. But make no mistake, it is every bit as tough and reliable as it’s larger brethren.

The same Griv-Ex scales, tough AUS steel, and the super-strong TRI-AD lock make this a sure winner in the Featherweight class. Small enough to be worn around the neck, or clipped to a pocket, the hollow-ground blade, (in both plain and serrated versions) is surgically sharp and shaped to handle just about any reasonable task. The Tuff-Lite is small enough to comply with all but the most draconian legal knife requirements.

Cold Steel Lucky

One of the few slip-joint models that Cold Steel makes, the Lucky is the ultimate Gentleman’s knife. The 2-1/2” S35VN blade is big enough for most office tasks and at barely 1 oz., it’s light enough to carry in any pocket. It can even be used with the removable pocket clip as a tie-bar.

Razor sharp and always handy, the Lucky has raised the bar considerably for slip-joint knives.

For General Utility:

Cold Steel Recon 1

For Law Enforcement, Military, Fire Department, as well as civilians, the Recon 1 is definitely a go-to blade when things get tough. The Recon Series comes in 2”, 3”, 4”, and 5-1/2”  serrated and non-serrated, tanto and clip point blades to cover just about any situation.  The Carpenters CTS BD1 steel is thin, light, tough and razor-sharp, and the G-10 scales are impervious to just about everything short of a nuclear detonation. The Recons are made to be used hard, when everything counts.

Cold Steel Finn Wolf

Based on the very functional Finnish Pukko-style blade, the Finn Wolf is as close to an “everyman’s knife” as anything will likely ever get. The 3-1/2”  tough AUS-8 blade is razor-sharp, and the almost indestructible Griv-Ex scales provide a secure, comfortable non-slip grip. With the TRI-AD lock, you never have to worry about a lock failure. The Finn Wolf is also a looker, with beautiful classic Pukko lines.

At less than $60.00, this is a great bargain.

Cold Steel Kudu

Based on the very popular South African Ring Lock knives, the Kudu may very well be the best value there is in pocket knives. At under $10.00, it is the least expensive knife that Cold Steel makes, yet its quality is still up to Cold Steel’s demanding requirements. 

It is a knife anybody can afford. With Krupp 4116 steel from Germany, the Kudu easily takes a wicked edge, and the 4-1/2” clip point blade is great for most tasks, even in the kitchen. I have filleted fish, cut frozen meat and chopped veggies with my Kudus with no trouble at all. It can slice onions paper-thin, cut through an aluminum can, and dress out a deer, all in the same day. For under $10.00, what more could you ask?

As if that wasn’t enough, Cold Steel offers a slightly larger version, called the Eland, with a 5-1/2” blade, at under $15.00. The only downside to this model is that it is difficult to open with one hand, but it can be done with a lot of practice.

For Heavy-Duty and Self-Defense:

Cold Steel Pocket Bushman

Like its larger namesakes, the Bushman Series, this is one tough blade. Simple, no frills, and no nonsense. Just a good, hard-working knife you can depend on.

It sports a 4-1/2” Carpenter CTS BD1 blade, which is a shallow clip point with enough belly to use as an emergency skinner, enough point to pierce a car door, and it’s wickedly sharp to boot. The handle is a solid piece of folded aluminum, tough enough to use as a pommel or to break glass.

Cold Steel Spartan

For self-defense, there is no more scary-looking knife than the Spartan, with its Kris-lke curves. The S-Curve blade not only looks wicked, but it serves a purpose as well. The multiple blade angles create great shearing power for extra deep cuts with minimal force.

It is based on the legendary Kukri, made famous by British Ghurka Regiments. In fact, the Spartan is basically a folding Kukri. It can slice through hanging 1” Manilla rope in one swipe! 

The Spartan’s 4-1/2” Carpenter CTS BD1 is small enough to be comfortable for EDC, but large and intimidating enough to make even the most reckless creep have second thoughts about their career choice.

Cold Steel Ti-Lite

Another great model, the Ti-Lite Series opens in less than the blink of an eye with a simple flick of the thumb, or by catching the pocket tab on the edge of your pocket as you draw it. It opens with a blood-curdling “snick” that tells the world you will not submit.

Ti-Lites are styled after the famous, but very cheaply-made Italian switchblades featured in movies like West Side Story, and Rebel Without A Cause. The Ti-Lite is not a switchblade, and is made tough enough to handle just about anything, with proven AUS 8 steel and Zy-Ex handles.

It comes in a 6” and 4” size.

Is EDC Legal?

The simple answer is yes, and no. It depends on where you are, and what style and size of knife you are carrying. Each state and city can set its own laws pertaining to carrying knives, 2nd Amendment notwithstanding. It is up to you to learn whether your knife is legal to carry.

Ignorance is not an excuse for violating the law.

Some knife laws are very harsh, with severe punishments, so it pays to do your research beforehand.

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