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Compact Cutters: 15 Best EDC Knives Under 3″

Photo: Civilware Striker Folding Knife

Because they are still widely regarded solely as weapons by governing bodies around the world, knives are often met with many restrictions. One of the most common sanctions is a limit on the length an everyday carry blade may be. While the rules can vary from place to place, the most typical acceptable length a pocket knife may be is 3 inches.

Since said restrictions are so widespread, we’ve decided to put together the following list of 15 EDC knives with a blade length of three inches or less, total. Without sacrificing on quality, preparedness, or functionality, these knives fall within the guidelines set by just about every state in the U.S.A. – and are certainly going to meet requirements elsewhere. As a side note: this list does not include keychain knives – only blades that can be pocketed and measure up at 3″ or less. Whether you want a top-quality knife but wish to continue abiding the laws or you just aren’t interested in carrying a sword by your side, there’s a folding blade here for you.

Opinel No. 6 Carbon Steel Pocket Knife

One of the great things about Opinel – besides the fact that they’ve been making excellent knives for over a century – is that each of their folding blades shares the same classic silhouette. So, if you want one of their knives, but need one that is under 3 inches in length, you can get their signature style in a pocketable package. The No. 6 is their smallest that still has a Virobloc Safety Ring (so it locks both open and closed), has a carbon steel blade, and comes with a smart beech wood handle.

Blade Length: 2.76″
Blade Material: Carbon Steel
Handle Material: Beech Wood

Purchase: $13

Kershaw Cryo Flipper Knife

Designed by Rick Hinderer, Kershaw’s Cryo isn’t just an excellent compact pocket knife; it’s one of the best EDC knives of all time. Compact, durable, and iconic, this pocket flipper is an unbelievable bargain at less than $20 brand new. It also features Kershaw’s signature SpeedSafe assisted deployment system, the handle has a titanium nitride coating, and its a frame lock. If you are a knife collector and you don’t already own this one, the time has come to correct that.

Blade Length: 2.75″
Blade Material: 8Cr13MoV Steel
Handle Material: TiCN-Coates 410 Steel

Purchase: $19

CRKT Pilar Folding Knife

Named after Ernest Hemingway’s fishing boat (aboard which he lived out the tail end of his life), CRKT’s Pilar is a design from master knife maker Jesper Voxnaes. It’s also a premium example of a micro-sized cutting tool that doesn’t skimp on style or capability. With a unique sheepsfoot blade shape, contrasting bead-blasted handle and satin-finished blade, thumb hole for easy one-handed deployment, and a frame lock. As far as tiny folders go, this is one of our hands-down favorites.

Blade Length: 2.402″
Blade Material: 8Cr13MoV Steel
Handle Material: Stainless Steel

Purchase: $28

Ontario Knife Company Rat II

Like Kershaw’s Cryo, the OKC Rat II is one of the greatest everyday carry knives ever to grace this Earth. It also happens to have a blade that meets most length regulations – meaning you can pocket it if you live somewhere that any knife over 3″ is illegal. While the original comes with a black handle, the very fact that the handle scales are made from G10 means that they are available in a wide variety of colors. It also features an unobtrusive liner lock for easy and reliable deployment and security during use.

Blade Length: 3″
Blade Material: AUS-8 Steel
Handle Material: Textured Nylon

Purchase: $34

Victorinox Fieldmaster Swiss Army Knife

The original purveyor of the Swiss Army Knife, Victorinox certainly knows what they’re doing when it comes to comprehensively useful everyday carry tools. And their Fieldmaster SAK is certainly no different. Apart from its stout cutting blade, it also features another 15 built-in functions that range from a corkscrew, to scissors, to a bottle opener, and so much more. And the stainless steel tools are housed in a durable ABS handle small enough to fit in just about any pocket. If you don’t already own an SAK, now is the time.

Blade Length: 2.45″
Blade Material: Stainless Steel
Handle Material: ABS Plastic

Purchase: $36

Boker Plus Nano Folding Knife

One of the two smallest blades on our list, Boker’s Nano folding knife is a premium example of a tiny titan. The blade measures up at under 2 inches in length, but its solid 440C stainless steel construction ensures you’ll have a handy cutting tool that will last through years of regular usage. It’s not the most impressive steel in the world, but it sharpens well and is easy to handle. Plus, the unique Zytel handle will ensure your grip stays secure with each and every cut.

Blade Length: 1.875″
Blade Material: 440C Steel
Handle Material: Zytel

Purchase: $40

Buck Knives Vantage Pro

Be careful with the Buck Knives Vantage Pro, as there are actually two different versions of this knife – a small one with a blade that measures up at 2 5/8″ and a large one that is well over the 3″ mark. Other than size, however, the knives are exactly alike, and they’re both worthy of carrying on just about any occasion. On top of an excellent blade and injection molded reinforced nylon handle, it also features a reversible pocket clip and it’s made right here in the USA.

Blade Length: 2.625″
Blade Material: S30V Steel
Handle Material: G10

Purchase: $68

The James Brand Folsom Knife

Literally everything The James Brand makes is worth carrying. But the Folsom holds a special place in our hearts. At a reasonable price, you get a killer EDC blade made from superb Carpenter steel – which holds an edge well and is easy to make razor sharp – and featuring a handsome and lightweight G10 handle, offering superb grip in any condition. It also features an ambidextrous thumb hole for easy deployment, a handy liner lock, and weighs just 3.4 ounces overall.

Blade Length: 2.81″
Blade Material: Carpenter CTS-BD1 Steel
Handle Material: G10

Purchase: $99

Benchmade Mini Griptilian

If you’re familiar with Benchmade, you’ve probably realized the brand has a pretty high entry price point for their knives. And there’s a reason for that: they’re of unbelievable quality. On the more affordable end of the spectrum, you’ll find the Mini Griptilian. And while it’s a smaller blade, don’t let its economy fool you – this blade is one of the best EDC knives ever made. From its 154CM blade steel to the glass-filled nylon handle, the Griptilian (in any size) is a favorite of knife fanatics everywhere.

Blade Length: 2.91″
Blade Material: 154CM Steel
Handle Material: Glass-Filled Nylon

Purchase: $107

Spyderco Para 3 Folder

Spyderco’s Paramilitary 2 is an impressive folder, to be sure. But it’s also a bit too far on the beefy end of the spectrum – measuring up at just under 8.3″ overall with a 3.44″ blade. If you’re looking for a similar style, but with a more compact form, the Para 3 is a superb substitute. The blade is made from extremely high quality Crucible Powder Metallurgy steel (excellent for years and years of use), it has a lightweight and durable G10 handle, and it’s plenty discreet compared to its much larger cousin.

Blade Length: 2.95″
Blade Material: CPM S30V Steel
Handle Material: G10

Purchase: $122

SOG-TAC California Special Auto Knife

Though some places have serious restrictions on automatic knives (we’re looking at you, California), other states are a bit more relaxed. Still, an auto knife is still subject to length restrictions if they exist in your place of residence. Luckily, you can still get an auto knife with a stout blade if you opt for SOG’s California Special (yes, we see the humor in the name). Dependable, portable, and discreet – this is a superb blade for auto knife enthusiasts.

Blade Length: 1.9″
Blade Material: AUS-8
Handle Material: Hard-Anodized Aluminum

Purchase: $134

Civilware Striker Folding Knife

Geoff Rowley (the former professional skateboarder) started Civilware to produce superb minimalist carry and outdoor gear that doesn’t skimp on style. And the Striker folding knife is a perfect example of that ethos in motion. This gorgeous folder is as simple as it is functional, has a blade that measures exactly 3 inches, and comes with a titanium frame lock for superb security and a light weight. This knife, like all of Civilware’s offerings, is something special.

Blade Length: 3″
Blade Material: 154CM PVD-Coated Steel
Handle Material: G10 & Titanium

Purchase: $150

DPx Gear Heat/F Folding Knife

If you’re not already familiar with the founder of DPx Gear, Robert Young Pelton, we suggest getting your hands on one of his books or doing a little research. Seriously, the dude is a complete badass. And he started this brand to create some of the toughest and most functional folding knives in the world. Get your hands on the Heat/F and you’ll see that he succeeded. This knife is amazing – and it has an integrated bottle opener, as an added bonus.

Blade Length: 2.26″
Blade Material: Niolox Steel
Handle Material: G10 & TiCN PVD-Coated Titanium

Purchase: $174

Chris Reeve Small Sebenza

Chris Reeve is legendary in the everyday carry world. As is his Sebenza folding knife. Ask any EDC fanatic what their top 5 pocket knives of all time are and you’ll almost certainly see the Sebenza at the top of the list. This knife is sleek, minimalist, but packs in the features where it counts. And the fact that there is a large and small version means that, regardless of your length restrictions, you can carry one of these heirloom-level knives along with the rest of your carry gear.

Blade Length: 2.94″
Blade Material: CPM S35VN Steel
Handle Material: 6Al4V Titanium

Purchase: $375

Benchmade 756 Folding Knife

The only knife on our list to rival the Boker Nano when it comes to length, Benchmade’s new 756 has one of the stoutest, yet still functional blades we’ve ever seen. In fact, it measures up at less than 2 inches. And it’s one of our favorite entries in the new micro-sized EDC knife craze. That’s only helped by the fact that it features flipper-style opening, is made from a combination of titanium and 20V steel, and looks just as good as all of Benchmade’s other offerings.

Blade Length: <2″
Blade Material: 20CV Steel
Handle Material: Titanium

Purchase: $400

15 Best Keychain EDC Knives

If a pocket folder doesn’t quite measure up to your needs, you might do well to check our list of the best keychain everyday carry knives.