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Here at KnifeInformer, quite a lot of attention is paid to traditional pocket knives, from budget to high-end, along with the care and maintenance of these knives we all love so much. We talk at length about blade steels – what steels hold an edge longest, what steels are most resistant to chipping, how easy they are to resharpen, how resistant to rust they are. These are all admirable qualities in a knife, for sure, but we’ve sort of ignored one important angle – what about the jobs you don’t want to subject your pocket knife to? Anyone who’s ever, let’s say, cut carpet with their pocket knife, will quickly tell you it’s a mistake. Or drywall, or electrical conduit, or anti-abrasion tape. Hell, even cardboard! Utility knives serve a distinct purpose even if you’re predisposed to carrying a pocket knife on a daily basis, as I would assume many of our readers are.
Dedicated utility knives are absolutely useful tools, but for this article we’ll be looking at some folding utility knives (whether fold-out or slide-out) that are pocket friendly, high quality, and functional – something you can add to your everyday carry without taking up too much real estate or weighing you down too much. These knives carry lots of benefits – when the blade gets dull, you toss one out and put another in – and for very little money. A 5 pack of Lennox Gold “titanium edge” utility blades costs $3 on Amazon, or 60c per blade. There’s also a lot of flexibility – you can get serrated edge blades for cutting through rope or other fibrous material, hooked edge blades for pull-cutting through carpet, rounded tip blades for safety, or your standard straight-tip for all around utility.
Another thing you may not have thought of is that if you can remove the blade, you have a bladeless tool you can take through the airport. Then, for a few dollars, you can pop a new blade in when you reach your destination, and not have to worry about your knife disappearing in checked baggage. Also, many of these options are so cheap you can grab one just to keep in your glovebox or bugout bag. Let’s take a look at some of the best folding EDC utility knives on the market today.
This is a top ten list. But if you’re just looking for a good folding utility knife, you can stop reading here, because this is probably the one you want. It’s shocking how much functionality Milwaukee can pack into a $25 tool. First, the basics: The Fastback uses standard sized utility blades, held in an extended shank and secured by a quick-release mechanism: an oval shaped button on the show side of the shank presses in to release the blade, which you can quickly slide out and swap without any tools. They’ve also included a wire stripper slot in the bottom of the shank towards the pivot for light electrical work.
I’ve used several folding utility knives, and the Milwaukee Fastback’s deployment is hands-down my favorite. There is no thumb stud, no flipper tab, no thumb hole – you press the lock button in and give it a wrist flick and it snaps out. Close it? Press the button and flip it back in. It also doubles as a fidget spinner for grown-ups if you’re bored, since it’s so much fun to flip open and closed.
But of course, they don’t call it the 6-in-1 for nothing. There’s an extendable bit driver positioned along the spine which folds out parallel to the spine, which houses a double sided ¼” hex drive bit with a Phillips #2 and a straight driver. And of course, in the closed position the leading edge of the handle forms a bottle opener. Finally, there’s hidden storage for a spare utility blade inside the handle itself. Milwaukee includes a deep carry wire-style pocket clip for righties. And if you want to add some extra functionality to this setup, there’s also a ¼” hex drive bit extender and bit kit with magnetic retention that Milwaukee sells for $16. I think the Fastback is the gold standard of folding utility knives, but there are other intriguing options to consider.
I know I just said that the Milwaukee 6-in-1 is the only folding utility knife you need, but that might be a lie. You might also need a Gerber Prybrid. While both tools offer a ton of functionality, they go about it quite differently. The Prybrid uses a slide-out locking mechanism for its standard utility blade, with a button in a channel that locks in place when extended. It also has a quick-release mechanism for swapping blades out and takes standard full-sized utility blades (unlike the Prybrid X, which uses X-Acto- style #11 blades.) The handle includes a cutout on the bottom for cord cutting, while the opposite end acts as a single piece multitool: a pry bar, bottle opener, small and large flat drivers, and a nail puller all in one, made from stainless steel. The scales are machined G10 over a steel backbone, available in green or grey color.
It also includes a lanyard hole in the rear of the handle in lieu of a pocket clip, since it’s designed to slip into a watch pocket. It does double duty to protect your regular knife from betting beat up: a utility blade to cut the rough stuff, and a functional pry bar to prevent you from turning your Sebenza’s tip into a taco. It’s quite a lot of functionality in a small package!
The spec sheet of the Exceed Designs TiRant reads like a modern high-end folding knife: it’s got a skeletonized titanium handle from 6AL4V with a stonewash finish, an integral framelock with a replaceable lockbar stabilizer/overtravel stop, a flipper tab that deploys on ceramic ball bearings in a brass cage, and a deep carry pocket clip. Except the pointy end is a quick-release utility razor. With dual-notch retention, the TiRant (great name!) has an extra solid no-wiggle hold on whatever standard full sized utility blade you choose.
There are also a good number of options you can add to your TiRant: a pry tool backspacer for $12, a carbon fiber show side scale for $15, a mini clip for $6, and black PVD hardware for $8. If you’re wanting to try adding a utility blade to your EDC rotation but not ready to give up the modern bearing-pivot flipper, this might be the one for you. They get pricey when you add options, but it’s a refreshingly modernized take on the folding utility blade concept.
There’s not much to the E.A.B. Lite, because there’s not much of it: designed to be tiny when folded, this minimalist utility knife has just what you need to break down boxes and nothing else. When folded, the curvature of the blade holder and the handle mesh together to give it a nice smooth square shape. When open, it stretches out to 5.1” and locks in place with a simple liner lock. There’s no quick-release for the blade, Gerber instead using a screw to locate the blade in the shank. While this is less convenient, it does also reduce play or wiggle between the blade and the shank when in use.
At only 2.2 ounces, and measuring just 2.85” when closed, the E.A.B. Lite offers replaceable blade cutting utility that costs less than lunch at Five Guys and can fit comfortably in your watch pocket. It can also accept any standard-size or heavy-duty utility blade. Sometimes simple is best. If you don’t like the streamlined shape of the E.A.B. Lite, there’s also the original E.A.B. (“Exchange A Blade,” if you were curious) that weighs 2.4 ounces and has the same open/closed dimensions (5.1”/2.85”) as the Lite. Both versions of the E.A.B. also have an extra-wide pocket clip which doubles as a money clip if you’re trying to thin out your wallet – a constant struggle among men.
CountyComm marches to the beat of their own drum, and that’s obvious when you look at the SlideLock Ti. Ti stands for Titanium, but it could also stand for Tiny, which this little knife definitely qualifies as, measuring a scant 1.85” when closed and only 2.7” long when open – and weighing just over a quarter of an ounce. The SlideLock uses #11 X-Acto style hobby blades rather than the larger standard trapezoid utility blades seen on the rest of the list, and it’s small and light enough to be a keychain knife rather than a pocketknife. The blade slides out the front, and locks via a thumb knob that tightens down to hold the blade in place, so it’s not a one-handed operation but it is simple.
Despite its diminutive size and price tag, the entirety of the SlideLock Ti (other than the hobby blade) is constructed from titanium, and the body itself is CNC and EDM machined from a single block of titanium. Light enough to forget it’s there, the SlideLock Ti will make short work of any detail-oriented cutting tasks you come across, and it’s nice to look at as well.
Another iconic design in the high-end utility knife sector, the Big I Design TPT Slide is a favorite of the Instagram EDC community for its simplicity, functionality, light weight, and high quality. The TPT (Titanium Pocket Tool) utilizes a standard trapezoid-shaped utility blade, which deploys out the front via a thumb slide along the top edge. With the TPT, they’ve packaged a lot of the functionality into the opening that the blade slides out of, including a bottle opener as well as a set of universal hex wrenches in SAE sizes 15/64, 1/4, 17/64, 9/32, 5/16, 11/32, 3/8, and 7/16 in and Metric sizes 6,7,8,9,10,11, and 12 mm. These are actually somewhat useful compared to a lot of universal wrenches on one-piece multitools since they’re in the opening on the front of the tool rather than situated inside the body, making access to whatever you’re tightening or loosening more straight forward.
While the TPT Slide accepts any traditional full size utility blade, it comes with its own special insert – which is a rounded tip utility blade on one side, and a blunt camping fork on the other. As if that weren’t enough, the opposite end of the TPT is also packed with functions, including a ¼” hex bit driver, a mini pry bar and a flathead screwdriver, a wide head flat screwdriver, a lanyard/key ring, and a scraper edge. They all come with a removable pocket clip and include an internal magnet to stick it to metal surfaces. The TPT comes with a leather slip case that can safely store a spare blade in as well. While the TPT inserts with the camping fork are proprietary, you can get a 4-pack of new ones from Big I Designs for $14. It’s a lot of flexiblity for the money and size/weight.
The James Brand is a unique mix of EDC gadgets and lifestyle marketing, sort of like the Liquid Death of tools. They do make some nice knives, like the Folsom we reviewed several years ago, and they’ve since expanded their lineup to include multitools and even a premium utility knife, The Palmer. The Palmer is made from anodized 6064 aluminum, with a slide lock along the spine to deploy the standard sized utility blade. Being a brand that’s as much about usability as Instagramability, The Palmer comes in a variety of bright colors – blue, coral, yellow, black, OD green, and grey.
The blade can be exchanged without any tools, and there’s a lanyard hole on the rear to make it easier to retrieve The Palmer from a watch pocket. There aren’t any other add-on tools included in the minimalist design, but for a premium quality utility knife, $59 doesn’t seem absurd, and it’s sure to be well-built.
I wouldn’t have even known the Schrade Tradesman existed had Schrade not sent it – along with a pile of other knives for review – as part of their push to reintroduce the resurrected brand. But my Milwaukee Fastback I’d been using at work had grown legs and walked off, so I started putting the Tradesman through its paces in the shop, and it turns out it’s a good utility knife all on its own.
The Tradesman features more traditional pocketknife construction, with skeletonized stainless handles and a framelock mechanism to secure it when open. It also has a thumb stud for deployment and opens up via a ball bearing pivot – pretty unusual in a folding utility knife, especially at $22 retail price. The blade shank includes a wire stripper/cord cutter notch along the bottom edge, and no tools are required to change the blade – just lift up on the knob at the top of the holder and slide the blade out. The Tradesman includes a pocket clip for right hand tip up carry – an advantage over the Milwaukee utility knives, which are tip down carry only. It doesn’t have a bottle opener or bit driver (or spare blade storage, for that matter) but it’s solid construction and low price are appealing, as is the deployment action – it has a stiff detent and a smooth pivot, firing the blade out like a modern folding knife. A surprising entry from the recently revived brand.
The Rexford RUT (Rexford Utility Tool) is arguably what introduced the concept of a premium utility knife into the EDC market. It’s been around for many years, but that doesn’t mean you’ll have any luck finding one: I certainly didn’t when researching this article, with every website that retails them marking it as “Sold Out” or “Not Available.” Rexford has made dealer exclusive RUT’s for multiple retailers including TAD (Triple Aught Design), KnifeCenter, Urban EDC Supply, Gallantry and more – each with their own distinct pattern. The RUT has been through 4 variants now, with the latest V4 offering a larger, stronger lock for easier deployment and less rattle, a puzzle-style front end construction that eliminates hardware and complexity from the build, and revised geometry on the pry tool end for better strength and reach.
All RUT’s share the same basic design – a 6AL4V titanium frame housing a standard utility blade that slides out and locks in place, with a pry bar on the opposite side. The pry bar end also includes a #2 straight driver, a bottle opener, and a ¼” hex bit driver built into the body that also serves as a lanyard loop (thus the hole extending from the hex driver.) RUT’s are expensive and hard to get your hands on, but almost universally admired by the EDC community for their quality, functionality, ease of use, and not to mention collectability.
We finish out the list with a budget tool that also packs a lot of features into its tiny (3.5 x 1.25”) footprint. The Outdoor Edge Slidewinder deploys its full-sized utility blade out the front via a thumb slide, which automatically locks in place. Press the button on the slide to retract the blade back into the body via spring power – a neat touch. No tools are required to swap blades out either, so the tiny Slidewinder can accept any type of standard size utility blade.
Other features include a bottle opener built into the blade opening (used when the blade is closed), small and large flat screwdrivers, a Phillips driver that’s integrated into the rear screwdriver, and a pocket clip. The larger of the two straight screwdrivers also functions as a miniature pry bar – just ask any mechanic. The whole tool including a blade only weighs 1.5 ounces, and can fit comfortably in a watch pocket, so removing the clip isn’t a bad idea. The body is polyamide on the colored side and stainless steel on the rear, and a lanyard hole is included in between the two rearward body screws to make it easier to retrieve and hold. For $11, the Slidewinder is a useful backup tool as well as a bargain stocking stuffer for all your family members that don’t want to carry their own knife but somehow always ask to borrow yours!