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The Best CRKT Pocket Knives For EDC

Best CRKT Knives 00 Hero

There’s absolutely no shortage of companies currently operating in the mid-tier knife space, and despite the sector only growing more and more inundated each year, one outfit has managed to not only stand out from the crowd but has found a way to do so for nearly 30 years — with that brand being Columbia River Knife and Tool. Better known simply as “CRKT,” this Oregon-based knife-maker has carved out a well-deserved reputation for churning out well-designed and well-crafted fixed blades and folders that are legitimately built to withstand decades of hard daily use. With each passing year, the firm has further cemented its reputation with an ever-evolving catalog of quality knives — the latest and greatest of which we’ll be shining a light on today in this guide to the best CRKT knives for everyday carry. On top of Columbia River’s finest current production knives, we’ll also be delving into the history of Columbia River Knife and Tool as well as examining what exactly it is that makes the company so special. 

The Best CRKT Knife Rundown

Colombia River’s Times Of Sand

A Condensed History Of The CRKT Knife Brand

The Columbia River Knife and Tool brand was first established back in 1994 by Rod Bremer and Paul Gillespi. Headquartered out of Tualatin, Oregon, Bremer and Gillespi had both spent years serving as staffers at Kershaw Knives before eventually applying their extensive knowledge and expertise of the knife space to launch the CRKT brand. Despite a firm grasp on the product space, Bremer and Gillespi’s company was far from an overnight success, and the brand would spend several years in operation before finally appearing on the radar of the broader knife space. 

In 1997, CRKT selected that year’s SHOT Show to debut what would be its first watershed model with the K.I.S.S. — or “Keep It Super Simple” — knife. Designed by Ed Halligan, the K.I.S.S. is an ultra-minimalistic utility knife-inspired frame-locking folder with a small but capable tanto blade — a model that remains in production today. Before the 1997 SHOT Show ended, CRKT had sold its entire year’s supply of the knife in a matter of only days, ultimately prompting CRKT to massively ramp up production. Despite the increased production, CRKT remained unwavering in its commitment to quality and performance, laying the foundation for the modern iteration of the company that we all know today. Currently going as strong as ever, CRKT now produces a wide range of fixed blades, folders, sharpeners, multi-tools, and other peripherals and accessories — all of which offer solid performance and ample durability in affordable packages. 

CRKT Qualities

What Factors Make CRKT’s Knives Special & Unique?

From the outside looking in, it can be easy to compare CRKT with other outfits operating in a similar space such as Gerber and Kershaw.The reality, however, is that there are actually a myriad of factors that objectively make Columbia River Knife and Tool so unique. Rather than crafting ultra-premium blades of fancy show pieces, CRKT almost exclusively trades in capable, well-designed, and well-built knives that are made to be used, day in and day out. Though admittedly not as top-shelf as blade brands like Spyderco and Benchmade, CRKT’s knives still offer solid performance, though, more importantly, its cutting tools afford much, much better value. This focus on rugged build quality, durable materials, and immense value, however, only constitutes one part of what makes the CRKT brand unique. 

On top of crafting an incredibly diverse range of products and cutting-tools, another noteworthy aspect of CRKT’s brand and identity is the individuals behind its blades. Through its large-scale production, CRKT can afford to tap some of the world’s most eminent designers to pen its blades, making expertly-designed knives from bonafide industry legends widely available to the general public at accessible price points. This in-house roster of all-star blade designers includes legendary names such as Ken Onion, Kit Carson, Liong Mah, Greg Lightfoot, Michael Walker, Tom Veff, Flavio Ikoma, Joe Caswell, and Jesper Voxnaes, though there are plenty more. These designs are also backed up by CRKT’s signature levels of durability and performance.

Its propensity for calling on leading designers has also resulted in CRKT’s major proclivity for innovation in the knife space — though not just any innovation, true practical innovation. Rather than developing gimmicks or novelty systems or mechanisms that, while unique, serve very little function or fail to bolster utility or performance, CRKT’s envelop-pushing innovations — such as its use of Veff serrations, its AutoLAWKS secondary lock system, the Ikoma Korth Bearing System, and the brand’s Field strip quick disassembly system, just to name a few — are designed to address common problems, increase performance, bolster reliability and durability, or a combination of all of the above. 

Lastly, another guiding CRKT principle is a close relationship and an open dialog with its customers. This results in the brand tweaking and improving its designs thanks to ample customer feedback, and producing new model variants and generations in response to public demand. What’s more, on top of the value-laden workhorse designs routinely requested by customers, CRKT has also launched other customer-focused programs and endeavors such as its “Forged By War” series which is designed entirely by — and largely for— ex or active-duty military personnel — plus a portion of the proceeds from this series is donated to each knife’s veteran designer’s veteran’s charity of choice.


CRKT Squid
Photo: Knife Center
  • Purpose-built EDC knife offering outstanding bang for your buck
  • Lucas Burnley design inspired by compact pistols
  • 8Cr14MoV blade can be deployed via thumb-studs or flipper tab
  • Blade is guided by CRKT’s patented IKBS ball-bearing pivot
  • Can be upgraded w/ available aftermarket components
  • Uses assisted opening

Best Value Knife: The CRKT Squid is the very definition of a knife that punches well over its weight. Penned by legendary knife designer Lucas Burnley, the Squid takes inspiration from compact and sub-compact pistols, with an immensely rugged stainless steel handle and a short but utilitarian 2.370” blade that come together in a sub-six-inch package. Composed of 8Cr14MoV stainless steel, the Squid’s 2.370″ blade is secured via a sturdy frame lock mechanism and is guided by CRKT’s patented IKBS pivot — whether it’s deployed using the knife’s flipper tab or thumb stud setup. An ergonomic handle shape and jimping at the base of the blade’s spine collectively afford stellar grip, even under hard use. CRKT has also debuted several limited runs of ultra-premium made-in-Italy special edition Squid II knives that boasts top-shelf handle constructions and equally-premium Böhler M390 super steel blades. 

Blade Steel: 8Cr14MoV
Blade Length: 2.370″
Handle Material: Stainless Steel
Overall Length: 5.938″
Designer: Lucas Burnley
Lock: Framelock

CRKT Drifter

CRKT Drifter
Photo: CRKT
  • Crafted around InterFrame platform w/ stainless steel liners
  • Offers stellar grip under hard use
  • Drop point blade fortified via gray titanium nitride finish
  • Also sold in stainless steel frame-locking version
  • Super lightweight at only 2.60oz
  • Pocket clip creates major hot spot

Best Workhorse Knife: The Drifter is the inexpensive go-to knife for workers who need durability at a price that won’t put them in debt if they need to replace it. Stainless steel liners make this a tough blade to hurt and an easy choice for when you need to dig or pry at something. The basic black G-10 handle with textured grip lacks finesse or poise, but that’s why this is a knife for using, not showing off at cocktail parties. Continuing with the minimalist appearance, the drop point blade is a workhorse for most situations and versatile enough to go from opening letters to cutting a seatbelt in seconds. It no doubt lacks some of the capabilities and build quality of more premium multi-hundred-dollar knives, though for its price, the Drifter is very hard to beat. 

Blade Steel: Sandvik 12C27 or 8Cr13MoV
Blade Length: 2.88”
Handle Material: G-10 or Micarta
Overall Length: 6.50”
Designer: N/A
Lock: Liner

CRKT Minimalist Wharncliffe

CRKT Folts
Photo: Amazon
  • Handle shape offers unbeatable ergonomics relative to its size
  • Offered in HUGE variety of blades profiles & different uses
  • Sheath includes belt loop
  • Sold w/ included thermoplastic sheath
  • Makes for great backup & self-defense knife
  • While compact, fixed blade design less conducive to EDC compared to folding knives

Best Fixed Blade: For EDC, only the daring choose to go with a fixed blade knife. The Folts is a solid choice for daily use with its spear point for capable self-defense and unique Wharncliffe blade that works for daily tasks. It comes in at a 55-57 on the Rockwell scale due to using slightly softer 5Cr15MoV steel. With the flat design it’s easy to keep an edge on with just a little strop work or the occasional trip across the whetstone. Micarta scales with finger grooves complete the package and add more accuracy to work as well as making it tough to rip from your grip. Sold with an included thermoplastic sheath, this Alan Folts-designed neck knife model is also produced in an enormous variety of different blade shapes. 

Blade Steel: 5Cr15MoV
Blade Length: 2.00”
Handle Material: Micarta
Overall Length: 4.88”
Designer: Alan Folts
Lock: N/A

CRKT Pilar

CRKT Pilar
Photo: Blade HQ
  • Modern Jesper Voxnaes-designed EDC knife offering fantastic value
  • Features ultra-beefy, 0.15” thick workhorse of a blade
  • Equipped w/ frame lock mechanism
  • Slips in & out of pockets very easily
  • Offered in several different generations & sizes
  • Would benefit from jimping at blade spine & coil

Best Overall EDC Knife: While some knives slowly develop cult followings over time, others manage to command this legendary status almost overnight — and such is the case with CRKT’s first-gen Pilar knife that first debuted in 2017. Designer Jesper Voxnaes, the CRKT Pilar is a highly-utilitarian knife that offers the performance of blades costing several times more. Crafted around a stainless steel frame-locking handle, the Pilar 1 sports a stubby 2.40” 8Cr13MoV blade that delivers true workhorse capabilities thanks to a whopping 0.15” thickness. What’s more, in addition to spawning a myriad of follow-up Pilar generations and model variants, the immense popularity of this knife has also resulted in an array of available aftermarket upgrades such as brass and titanium handle scales

Blade Steel: 8Cr13MoV
Blade Length: 2.40”
Handle Material: Stainless Steel
Overall Length: 5.90”
Designer: Jesper Voxnaes
Lock: Framelock


Photo: CRKT
  • First production knife to feature a flipper tab
  • Tactically-inspired design widely used by military personnel
  • Boasts a liner lock backed up by CRKT’s AutoLAWKS secondary lock system
  • Incredibly lightweight at only 2.30oz
  • While cool, secondary lock is a bit superfluous

Best Tactical Knife: Tactically-inspired flipper knives are commonplace today, and we have the CRKT M-16 to thank for that. First released in 1999, the M-16 was designed by Harold “Kit” Carson and was the first-ever production knife to features a flipper tab deployment system. Now offered in a wide range of model variants, the M-16 features a drilled-out glass-reinforced nylon handle with a stainless steel liner lock system that’s been reinforced with CRKT’s AutoLAWKS secondary lock system. While tactical in nature, the M-16 does lend itself incredibly well to everyday carry applications and workhorse duties alike. Also of note is the fact that this knife not only offers immense durability, but it also manages to tip the scales at only 2.30oz despite its more than seven-inch length. 

Blade Steel: 8Cr13MoV
Blade Length: 3.13”
Handle Material: GRN or Stainless Steel
Overall Length: 7.13”
Designer: Kit Carson
Lock: Double-Locking Liner

CRKT Fossil

CRKT Fossil
Photo: Blade HQ
  • Ultra-unique & eye-catching design from Flavio Ikoma
  • Ergonomic handle shape & milled G-10 texturing offer fantastic grip
  • 8Cr13MoV blade boasts beefy 0.15” thickness
  • Has thumb-hole opening & thumb-stud deployment guided by patented IKBS ball-bearing pivot
  • On the larger side for EDC at nearly 9.00” overall

Best Full-Sized Knife: You’re going to get some rubberneckers with a ton of questions when you pull this out. It’s a little hard to get past its striking looks, but when you do, you’ll find that the hammered stainless steel handle covered with G-10 scales and 8Cr13MoV steel blade is not to be trifled with. It employs a frame lock that won’t give a millimeter when put to the test, along with deep serrations that make short work of rope or Paracord. Opening is handled with a ball-bearing IKBS that swings open like a gate in your grandma’s picket fence. Between its thoroughly unique and eye-catching design, its impressive performance, and its accessible price, the CRKT Fossil is another knife that perfectly encapsulates what the Columbia River Knife and Tool brand is all about. 

Blade Steel: 8Cr13MoV
Blade Length: 3.96″
Handle Material: G-10
Overall Length: 8.88”
Designer: Flavio Ikoma
Lock: Framelock

CRKT Provoke

CRKT Provoke
Photo: CRKT
  • Features insanely unique morphing design
  • Frame has integrated pocket clip design
  • Ergonomic handle shape & Karambit hole collectively afford fantastic grip
  • Equipped w/ innovative Kinematic tech/mechanism
  • Now sold in variety of variants & w/ optional hard sheath
  • Better-suited to self-defense & 1st responder use than to EDC
  • Heavy for its size at over 6oz

Most Innovative Knife: Originally launched through a crowdfunding campaign by knifemaker Joe Caswell before later being adopted by Columbia River Knife and Too as a production model, the CRKT Provoke is unequivocally one of the most unique and innovative knife designs in modern history. Spanning 4.96” when closed and just 7.25” open, this morphing Karambit knife is comprised of an aluminum handle that’s mated to a curving 2.41” D2 steel hawkbill blade via a pair of pivoting arms. This Kinematic system allows the blade to be rapidly deployed into a reverse grip position, ultimately resulting in one of the best — and coolest — knives currently on the market. It’s immense and continued success has also prompted CRKT to produce a plethora of followup Provoke variants including a new Provoke EDC model, Grivory-handle models, a trainer, a smaller compact-spec, and a serrated model. 

Blade Steel: D2
Blade Length: 2.41”
Handle Material: Aluminum
Overall Length: 7.25”
Designer: Joe Caswell
Lock: Kinematic Mechanism

The Best Kershaw Pocket Knives For Everyday Carry

Best Kershaw Pocket Knives 00 Hero

Interested in taking another deep dive into a Pacific Northwest-based knife-maker offering capable blades at affordable prices? Well then be sure to head over to our guide to the best Kershaw pocket knives for an in-depth look at the brand, its history, and the greatest knives it currently offers.