When we last left off, I had come to the conclusion that the SOG Aegis Mini was the knife for me. I love that little knife, but readers started to pour in with suggestions of their own — I whittled those suggestions down to five knives to try out.
I purchased all five of these knives with the intent to see if any of them could de-throne the Aegis Mini and two did. First a refresher on my criteria:
- Has to be under ~$100, so the coveted Chris Reeve Small Sebenza is out of the picture (for now).
- Could not have a thumb wedge that could potentially wear holes in my pockets.
- Has to be sturdy enough, that should the worst case scenario happen, I would feel confident in using the knife in the wild to survive.
- Has to look great. Whereby I mean it needs to have a discernible personality that I like. (Dangerous, sleek, tactical, old-timey, etc.)
I won’t provide a link to this knife because I think you would be better off with your butter knife. This is easily the worst knife I have tested.
Of the things I hate about the knife:
- It feels like a cheap knife you would be given at a corporate golf tournament.
- The thumb stud is not ambidextrous so one must decide which hand they want to be able to open the knife with one-handed — you can’t have both.
- The lock-back is terribly easy to disengage when using the knife.
- The handle feels like you’d break it if you cut anything harder than packaging tape.
I really could go on, but I think you get the picture: don’t buy this knife.
CRKT Drifter G10 & Stainless Steel Handle
This knife, and it’s stainless steel counter part are seriously inexpensive — both under twenty dollars. In fact, for the price, it’s hard to fault these knives at all. They are leaps and bounds better than the Dozier. Both are more capable, better balanced, and easier to deploy.
Yet neither are better than the Aegis Mini. So while these are solid knives on their own, when we compare them with the winner of the last round of testing, they aren’t even close.
What bugs me most about these knives is their lack of personality. I find them both a bit boring and knives should never be boring.
Both knives are comfortable to hold and have a recurve in their blade to make for a little easier control when whittling wood and other things. All around this is a solid average knife — just not what I am looking for.
On the bright side, the G10 without pocket clip is an amazingly light knife to pocket. Easy to stash away and forget you are carrying — that alone makes it a handy knife for some. Just not for me.
If I am pressed to decide between the two I would take the G10 over the stainless steel handle for no other reason than the weight — but the stainless steel handle model looks and feels much better.
Spyderco Sage 1
Ah yes, Spyderco, far and away the most recommended brand to me from readers. I had my doubts as I previously carried one for years, but the overwhelming support for Spyderco forced me to try them out again. After careful research I purchased the Sage 1, a tribute to Michael Walker, when I saw that Dan at Blade Reviews has it pegged as “the perfect EDC” I knew I had to try this blade.
This is one hell of a knife.
The fit and finish is to Apple standards. The handle has an internal metal frame with a Walker liner lock (remember, tribute knife) and a carbon fiber shell that is wrapped around it.
When held, this knife feels exquisite.
Further the knife is made from S30V which many hail as the best knife steel out there right now — and holy shit are they right. This knife holds an edge like no other knife I have used before. I am seriously impressed with this knife steel and now am beginning to think I won’t buy another knife with lesser steel.
My one complaint: is this knife is big, not too big to carry, but it is noticeable in your pocket. Whereas the Aegis Mini slips away until you need it, I found the Sage 1 to be impossible to carry, and get to quickly, without a pocket clip being used — something I am not very fond of.
In fact my only complaints about the knife are:
- You need to use a pocket clip with it.
- I worry about the long-term durability of the handle — especially if one needed to rely on it in a survival situation. This however is really a nitpick as I think it would take years of abuse in the woods before flaws would be seen in the handle. Still I have my concerns about the handle durability in extreme cases.
After using this knife full time for a week, I was pretty sure it had won the whole thing. It is a better blade shape, steel, and lock than the Aegis Mini. It feels better in my hand. It is far more useable in a survival situation than the Aegis Mini. Things look pretty perfect after testing this knife.
Spyderco Sage 2
Of course, I bought the Sage 2 alongside the Sage 1 — this one is a tribute to Chris Reeve, as it has a titanium handled frame lock. The Sage 1 and 2 have identical blades, both S30V, both phenomenal to use.
The big difference is in the handle. The Sage 2 has an all titanium handle with an integral frame lock. This is a heavier knife to carry, but I’d argue a much better looking and handling knife.
I used this knife last out of all that I tested, as I expected it to be clearly the best of all of them. But I’m not so sure that actually is the case.
The Sage 1 is very nearly a 50-50 balance between the handle and blade and the Sage 2 is more 60-40 with the handle being heavier. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it is a thing. This is something that will likely be loved by many, but not all. Personally I like the extra weight tilting back towards my hand instead of away.
My first concern about the Sage 1, the size, carries over on the Sage 2 as they are very close in size — the Sage 2 also needs a pocket clip. But the biggest plus, the blade steel, also carries over as well.
With the Sage 1 I had an outside concern of wilderness durability, but with the Sage 2 that fear is completely gone. The all titanium frame should last through even the worst abuse and then some. In fact this feels just as solid as the Ontario RAT folder that I tested last time.
My biggest concern with the Sage 2 is that it is a bit slicker than the Sage 1. Because the handle is smooth, my hand tends to slide on it when I am holding, but not using, the knife. My concern is what happens if my hands are cold, wet, and muddy? Will I be able to grip the knife confidently? With the Sage 1 and the Aegis Mini, I know I would be able to, but I’m not sure with the Sage 2. Then again, how often does that happen? Still like with the Sage 1, this is a concern — as minor as it may be.
The last concern is that this knife breaks my budget, clocking in at
$156 on Amazon. It’s not horribly expensive, but it is more than the $100 I wanted to spend — and I have good reason to not want to spend over a hundred dollars. Even so, I almost don’t care after having spent time using the knife — it’s just a really good knife perhaps the best of the lot.
The winner still isn’t clear to me. What I know is that the Aegis Mini is out as the best of the group — it’s still an awesome knife, but the Sage 1 & 2 are both better in many ways. Mainly: the Sage knives take away all concerns I have about survival situations with an EDC knife which was the primary concern I have about the Aegis Mini.
For me, the Sage 2 holds a slight lead over the Sage 1 for two reasons:
- For whatever reason my Sage 2 deploys easier and more fluidly than my Sage 1.
- I prefer the frame lock to the liner lock in most scenarios. This is largely due to the fact that I am left handed and thus the frame lock is easier to operate in my left hand than the liner lock.
Having said that, there’s no way I am getting rid of either knife and expect to oscillate between the two for months to come.
And having said all that, I also expect to get continued use out of the Aegis Mini, as I will be keeping that as well and rotating it in from time to time. All three, great knives.
If you are new to knives, if you have been reading all my writing about pocket knives, and you are thinking about taking the plunge — if that is you — I’d suggest you buy the CRKT Drifter G10. It’s not the best knife, but for
$17.40 on Amazon with Prime shipping I am confident that you will get value out of the knife regardless of whether you form the habit of carrying it with you.
Then again if you just want the best one, pick between the Sage 1 and the Sage 2 based on their looks. Both are excellent knives.