If you’ve ever shopped around for a pocket knife for everyday carry, you’d know there’s a staggering amount of options to choose from. Trying to make sense of the many types of knives and their subtle differences can get overwhelming. Of the many factors to consider when choosing something as personal as a knife, its locking mechanism is one of the most important. You should know what type of lock, if any, you should have depending on your needs and preferences before investing in a quality knife.
In this guide, we’ll show you some of the most common types of locking mechanisms you’d find in a desirable EDC knife. You’ll discover the advantages of having a knife that locks, which type is best suited for your EDC, how they work, and knives to consider if the locking type isn’t an option where you live.
Why EDC a locking blade?
Portability should be a major focus when looking for a tool to keep on your person in your pockets or bag. In the case of pocket knives for EDC, folding knives offer an ideal balance of pocketability and functionality.
When folded closed, they become more compact and easier to carry as there’s no exposed sharp edge to worry about. When fully opened, you get the balance, ergonomics, and utility of a non-folding (fixed) blade. Fixed blades are inherently stronger as there’s no moving parts to fail under stress in extreme cases or after repeated hard use.
What about folding knives lets you enjoy the best of both worlds?
It’s all in the lock.
The locking mechanism adds extra safety to using your EDC blade. It lets you blow through tougher tasks over a longer lifetime on a knife you can actually carry everyday. It’s something you’d be using often, so it’s best to get acquainted with what your options are.
Let’s take a look at some of the top types of locking mechanisms for EDC, and a few options for those in areas where locking blades are restricted.
A lock back mechanism is what you see on many classic American folding knives. It’s essentially made of a “spine” on a spring. When the knife is opened, the spine locks into a notch on the back of the blade. To close the knife, push down on the exposed part of the spine (usually found in the middle or rear of the handle) to pop up the part of the spine in contact with the blade. This frees the blade from making contact with the spine to disengage the lock, allowing you to swing the blade to a closed position.
The benefits of a lockback include reliable strength and safety. The unlock “button” is out of the way of your grip when using the knife, meaning you’re unlikely to accidentally disengage the lock and have it close on you. It also keeps your hands clear of the blade’s path when closing, minimizing the risk of cutting yourself.
One disadvantage is that while using both hands to close a lockback is safer, it can be inconvenient when you need to keep one hand on whatever you’re cutting. While it’s possible to close a lockback with one hand, it isn’t easy. You’d likely need to switch grips and take extra care when closing the blade.
Liner locks are one of the more common mechanisms seen on folding knives. This mechanism’s characteristic component is a side spring bar located on the same side as sharp edge of the blade, “lining” the inside of the handle. When the knife is closed, the spring bar is held under tension. When fully opened, that tension slips the bar inward to make contact with the butt of the blade, keeping it firmly in place and preventing it from closing.
Liner locks are beneficial in that they allow a knife to have two true handle sides, unlike a framelock (you’ll see what we mean later in the guide). You can close the knife with one hand without switching grip, ideal for when you need both hands on the job. You’ll find liner locks in both entry-level and high-end knives. It’s a lock type that appeals to both knife newbies and enthusiasts alike.
If you’ll be using your knife for heavy-duty tasks, you should know liner locks typically aren’t as robust as other locking systems. They’re still plenty strong, but because they’re typically made from a thinner piece of metal, they’re more prone to wearing out compared to a beefy frame lock, for example.
Think of the frame lock as a beefed up version of the liner lock. They’re very similar to liner lock mechanisms, except instead of an internal spring bar moving into place, it’s part of the handle itself. Frame lock knives tend to be stronger than liner locks, as the piece of metal that slips into place is more substantial than that in a liner.
This type of locking system puts a large portion of metal against the blade, ensuring a strong lockup for piercing, cutting, slicing, and other heavy-duty tasks. Frame locks are seen in lots of mid to upper range knives, typically crafted from titanium. Not only do they add a unique look to the knife, but they’re also easily operated with one hand.
The AXIS lock is a proprietary mechanism you’d only find on Benchmade knives, but due to its ingenuity and popularity among EDCers, it’s definitely worth knowing about. It’s easy to use with one hand, but also important, it’s completely ambidextrous.
Here’s how it works: The lock is made up of a spring-tensioned bar that slides back and forth on a track cut into the handles of the knife. The butt of each blade featuring an AXIS lock (hidden by the handle) has a flat spot that allows a spring-tensioned bar to lock into place when the knife is opened. To close the knife, you pull the bar towards the back of the knife, using the thumb studs, and fold the blade shut.
Right handers and southpaws alike can appreciate how easy it is to use this lock, because the bar is accessible from both sides of the knife handle. Because this mechanism has plenty of moving parts involved it can be difficult to disassemble for cleaning and maintenance. On smaller models especially, the downsized studs can be difficult to operate as well. But as far as ambidextrous knives go, Benchmade knives featuring AXIS locks are among the best.
Just to be clear, these types of blades don’t have a true “lock” as far as laws are concerned, but they’re still viable options for EDC.
Slipjoints are most commonly seen in Swiss Army Knives. Typically these knives require two hands to open and close safely. They’re made up of a spring bar and a specially shaped blade. To open the knife, you pull on the blade to overcome the pressure from the spring, snapping the blade into place. To close it, make sure your fingers are out of the way of the sharp edge, and push back down.
Friction folders are similar, except they don’t have a spring bar. Instead, the knife’s blade is held in place simply by friction between the blade steel and the knife scales.
One of the main advantages of these types of knives is their legality. They’re also nice to carry because they’re simple and easy to use. But its worth repeating that these knives don’t have a true lockup, so they’re not the best for heavier duty tasks.
By now, you should be more familiar with your options to better choose the a knife worthy of your pocket.
Do you have a favorite type of lock to recommend? Leave a comment with your EDC knife of choice and tell us why you like its lockup to help your fellow EDCers and prospective knife buyers carry smarter.
Words and images by Ed Jelley and Bernard Capulong
Whether you’re just diving into a huge workload at your desk, or actually spending some time deep underwater, one thing is clear — a dive watch would be great to have on your wrist. You don’t need to be a diver to appreciate these high-performing, beautifully designed, and undoubtedly utilitarian timepieces for everyday use (especially now that summer’s in full swing). In this Carry Smarter guide, you’ll get familiar with the basics of dive watches, what features to look for when buying a diver, and our picks for the best and most affordable options to help you take the plunge into the world of dive watches.
A Crash Course on Dive Watches
The purpose of a dive watch is to monitor how long you’ve been underwater, and more importantly - how much air you have left in your tank. They’ve been around since the turn of the 20th century and continue to be both fashionable and useful today. The quintessential dive watch has an immediately recognizable look. They’re larger in size (around 42mm), feature a rotating bezel, and rest on a metal bracelet or rubber strap. Dive watches are ideal for EDC use because they’re built like tanks, they’re easy to read, and they look just plain cool.
4 Hallmarks of Dive Watches
Water Resistance: If you’re buying a dive watch, it should have proper water resistance. While most watches claim 50m of water resistance, that really means that it will survive hand washes and maybe a shower. When looking at dive watches, 200m (660 feet!) of water resistance is common ground. If you plan on having a watch that will stand up to swimming, showering, and of course, diving - be sure to choose something with a high level of water resistance.
Build Quality: Divers entrust their watches with their lives to be able to know precisely how much time they have underwater. For dive watches, reliable durability and construction are critical. Look for a dive watch with a well-built case, a strong crystal (mineral and sapphire are best), and a good strap or bracelet. A solid dive watch will last for decades if maintained, and you can easily buy an heirloom piece in the $200 range.
Movement: The slight bump in price from our Military Watch Guide opens up more options for the type of movement that powers the watch. Automatic movements are popular in the diver market as they don’t require a battery. Automatic watches “wind” from the motion of your arm, so they’ll keep ticking as long as you keep them on your wrist. Also seen in this class of watches are day/date features, adding to the utility of the timepiece.
Legibility: When underwater, it’s crucial to know exactly how long you’ve been diving. The bezel, a key component of the dive watch, tells you exactly that. The bezel’s “12 o’clock” dot can be rotated to match up with the minute hand to keep track of time. As the minute hand moves, you can see how many minutes have elapsed by reading the bezel number as opposed to the watch face. Dive watches feature large, illuminated indices (the hour and minute markings on the face) that are easy to read. This illumination (or “lume” in the watch world) not only looks awesome, but it helps you quickly tell time when the lights are out.
With the features to look for in a dive watch in mind, here are some of our favorite examples — all coming in at under $200:
The 8 Best Affordable Dive Watches for EDC
The Casio MDV106-1A is the most inexpensive watch on this list at well under $200, but Casio didn’t get to where they are today producing cheap, low-quality watches. This watch is a great entry point into the dive watch look without having to commit to the full mechanical experience (and price). Its 45mm case diameter is as big as they come, and its 200m water resistance, screw-down crown, and screw-lock back preserve its Japanese quartz movement from the water. Excellent features for a dive watch at a very affordable price point.
The SKX007 is an excellent example of a classic dive watch. This model from Seiko has been around in one form or another for decades. Featuring a mechanical movement and tank-like construction, this capable diver will serve you well for years to come. The large, circular indices are easy to read and the bezel clicks securely in place. The day/date wheel, sweeping seconds hand, and bright lume add up to a stylish watch ideal for everyday wear.
Orient’s Submariner homage gets everything right. It pays its respects to the quintessential dive watch design, but makes some very attractive tweaks to make it their own. The Arabic numerals, date window, sword hands, and striking red accent on the second hand are all welcome aesthetic choices, enhancing its look without overdoing it. The rest of the watch is solid: stainless steel bracelet, in-house automatic movement, 200m water resistance and mineral crystal window all give great value to the watch as well as the wearer, given how inexpensive it is. The Orient Black Mako is a great starting point to jump into the deep end of dive watches.
The Timex Expedition series of watches go the extra mile in providing quality timepieces packed with features but not weighed down by price. The T49799 takes the brand under the waves, giving you everything you need for your next dive. The watch itself is beefy, with 44 millimeters of shock-resistant stainless steel sealed, chunky rivets and a mineral crystal window rated for 200m. The signature Timex Indiglo provides ample illumination for dark and murky environments, and its chronograph dials handle all your timing needs. An outer bezel Tachymeter and date window round out the watch’s data features.
This diver is from Seiko’s popular “5 Series” of watches. Each watch in the 5 Series features automatic winding, a day/date display, water resistance, a recessed crown, and a durable case and bracelet. This particular watch features a more vintage look thanks to the wide bezel and thin indices on the face. The dark blue face nicely accents the stainless steel and the transparent casebook allows you to see the mechanical movement in motion. The SNZH53 also comes on a stainless steel bracelet, which adds to the value of this affordable diver.
Understated excellence is the name of the game for Parnis pieces, and the GMT-Master is winning at it. Only simple and effective components grace the watch, from its scratch-resistant sapphire window to its automatic, hacking movement. Its design pays tribute to the classic dive design, and its stainless steel construction capped with a ceramic bezel ensures that design is preserved against wear and tear. If you want the dive watch quality but prefer not to make waves with aesthetics, this Parnis could be for you.
Developed together with the U.S. Navy Seals, the Luminox 3051 is as rugged as it is striking in appearance. Perfect for low-light environments, its tritium tubes stay visible long after other the strongest paint-on lumes have lost their brightness. Its thick, 44mm polyurethane case protects its Swiss-quartz movement, and its 200m water resistance ensures the 3051 doesn’t spring a leak while in service. Even its face styling is designed to make visibility the priority, with block Arabic numerals painted in bright white contrast to the black case. Eye-catching and tough, Luminox’s flagship 3051 leads the way in underwater timekeeping.
You can’t have a list about dive watches (regardless of the price) and not mention the Seiko Monster. This timepiece sets the bar for the value you get from an automatic watch, regardless of price or brand. From its mammoth 45mm case design to its reliable 4r36 movement to the most aggressive lume applied on a production watch, the list of its features just goes on and on. This second-generation SRP307 takes all the respectable features of its predecessor and improves on all its former weaknesses. Its second hand can now be stopped (hacked) during adjustment, its crown is easier to grip, it has a more thematic and less complicated face, and they’ve somehow made its lume even brighter. Make no mistake, its nickname is “Monster” for a reason. (Editor’s Note: At the time of writing, the Monster was $200 on the nose. Its price has since fluctuated higher, but it’s still a worthwhile mention for this list.)
Most keys simply open doors. The Prometheus EKO, however, is not like most keys: it’s a titanium multitool born out of necessity for a “gentleman’s box opener,” cleverly designed to ride incognito on your keyring. The “key” portion of the EKO relies on thoughtful blade geometry to break through packaging tape. Its rounded tanto point pierces tape, while its hollow ground edge cuts it clean (both the tip and edge of the key are unsharpened and safe to the touch, of course). For opening everything else, the head of the key features cutouts for a bottle opener and a 1/4” tool bit. Despite its tiny size, the EKO capably fills a big niche for many EDC setups. It’s your blade’s savior from gunky tape residue. It’s a tool that minimalists would carry, and a quality piece of gear that goes where other edged tools can’t. There’s a week left on the EKO’s Kickstarter campaign, so you’ll have to act fast to unlock your keyring’s potential.
Smooth and sharp. Like the most stylish person in the room, that just about sums up the Boker Plus Urban Trapper. Everything about this gent’s knife—from its design to its functionality—oozes minimalist appeal.
It starts with a streamlined silhouette and trim proportions. Even at 4.25" long when closed, the knife weighs in at a barely-there 1.8 ounces. That’s due in part to the Urban Trapper’s excellent construction and choice of materials: smooth cocobolo wooden handles grace the knife’s slim titanium frame for improved ergonomics and a timeless look.
Deploying the blade is just as smooth, thanks to an IKBS ball-bearing pivot and flipper opening. Its narrow 3.4" blade offers precision slicing, backed by a respectable VG-10 steel and secured by a sturdy framelock. To make it as pocket-friendly as possible, the Urban Trapper comes equipped with a deep-riding pocket clip for discreet carry. Grab this low-profile gent’s folder with carbon fiber, cocobolo, or G-10 handles at the link below.
You’d probably never picture yourself carrying firehose around, but Jake Starr (the Recycled Firefighter himself and an active member of our community) could change your mind with the Sergeant Wallet.
It’s constructed from decommissioned firehose fabric that’s repurposed into a durable, slim, and comfortable front pocket wallet. The Sergeant features a single pocket for 4-8 of your cards, cut at an angle for easy pinch or slide retrieval with your thumb. And if you carry cash, you can fold it into thirds and tuck it all behind a wide, mil-spec elastic band on the other side of the wallet.
With its minimal, EDC-focused design, small-batch USA-made quality, and tons of color options, it’s no surprise to see the Sarge climbing the ranks in the wallet market.
In fact, over 75 of our users carry the Sergeant, and it’s currently the #1 most-viewed wallet on this site. That kind of popularity doesn’t come by accident—see what all the buzz is about and pick up the Sergeant Wallet at the link below.
If there’s one thing to take the drudgery out of the wet and drab rainy season, it’s a sick rain jacket with enough pockets to stash your entire EDC and then some. The Cubed Travel Jacket from Clothing Arts has the features to stand up to harsh downpours and a low-profile, street-ready aesthetic to keep you and your gear dry in style. Clothing Arts’ design philosophy is something we EDCers can get behind: “it begins with pockets.” And on the Cubed, you get way more of them to work with compared to traditional outdoors rain shells.
It’s got two Napoleon chest pockets that you can access from the outside of the jacket. The key here is you won’t need to undo the main zipper to get to your gear, which can be especially risky if you want to keep your core warm and dry. The Cubed boasts six more interior pockets for your less frequently used gear as well as travel essentials like your Passport and documents. To secure it all, built-in clips connect to the zipper pulls and lock your gear in place.
While Clothing Arts believes it begins with pockets, it must end in the details. The Cubed features hallmark qualities of technical outerwear and EDC gear alike: functional materials, durable construction, and minimalist design. It’s made with a DWR-treated, breathable/waterproof eVent membrane for high-performance rain and wind protection. The zippers and even the taped seams on the jackets are waterproof too. A detachable, stowable hood, multiple adjustment cinches, and an articular fit for improved range of motion round out this feature-packed tech jacket. You won’t have to raid your rainy day fund too hard for one either, with discounted early bird pledges still available on the Cubed’s fully funded campaign below.
We’ve seen countless submissions of people nailing their gear down to a science for daily use. But when it comes to travel, chances are, you’ll change what, why, and how you carry. Flying out? Leave the blades in your drawer. Short trip? Pack light. Business or vacation? These factors can change what you carry.
As an EDCer, though, one thing doesn’t change: your discerning approach to choosing the best gear to bring with you.
So we want to know: how do you pack? What’s worthy of your travel kit? What tips would you share with like-minded EDCers before their next trip?
This week, we encourage you to submit your travel gear setups. Whether it be your carry-on luggages, duffels, or dopp kits, we want to see how you prepare for takeoff.
We know what you carry when you travel isn’t strictly everyday carry for most of you. So don’t worry — we won’t flood your feed with luggage loadouts. Instead, your travel submissions will be featured on a new travel-focused project we’re working on as a subdivision of Everyday Carry. And just like you’ve done with this site, you can help us build it into something great.
Not all cables are designed with carry in mind. As a result, stock cables or cheap alternatives tend to tangle, fray, or end up becoming a hassle to carry in general. Native Union, on the other hand, puts plenty of thought into something as simple as our charge/sync cables. They sent over their BELT Cable for me to check out — here’s my quick review.
1.2 m (4 ft) cable
Durable, tangle-free braided cable
High-speed charging, Apple MFi-Certified syncing
Handcrafted genuine leather cable tidy
Design, Fit & Finish
Retro styling aside, the BELT Cable’s design is rather straightforward. It’s not revolutionary so much as it aims to improve upon a design you’re already familiar with, but using better materials. Its namesake feature is a “belt” handcrafted with genuine leather used to keep the cable bundled together.
To be clear, Native Union is not a leather goods company. If you’re after the highest quality leather craftsmanship to manage your cables, you’ll be disappointed here. The leather used here feels thin and flimsy. Its edges look unfinished too.
The rest of the cable, however, hits the mark. The braided cable has some stiffness to it to ensure it won’t ever tangle or knot up in your bag. Besides its tangle-free properties, it just feels durable and looks great.
The cable terminates in a branded Lightning connector (micro USB is available for non-Apple users) and a standard USB. While they’re not ultra-minimalist, they at least have smooth edges and properly solid stress reliefs to prevent fraying that’s all too common with lower quality (and even first party) charging cables.
Operation and Performance
The BELT cable doesn’t offer much extra in charging and syncing than what you’d expect from something first-party. Its can accommodate faster 2.4A charging as well as safely sync your data, thanks to Native Union doing the legwork to get their products Apple MFi Certified.
The stiffness in the cable might take some getting used to if you’re on your phone often while you charge it at your desk or on the go.
Also, the leather BELT can freely move down the length of the cable, giving you some control over where you bundle the cable. But the belt itself has only one notch in it — and it’s best suited for when the cable is fully bundled. Letting out some slack to charge or use your phone leaves the belt a little loose, feeling almost ornamental. Often I didn’t bother using it. Strangely enough, it felt like a minor convenience.
Once you’re done using the cable, wrapping it up and fastening the belt turns what’s usually a nightmarish mess in your backpack into something so much easier to manage. It reaches a size that comfortably slips into pouches, compartments, or loops your bag might have.
Before, I would be using much thicker, heavy-duty cables that got so thick and stiff I had to loop them in a circle, which got unwieldy. The BELT Cable offers similar durability, but in a more compact package with the looks to match.
Pros & Cons
Solid cable and connector durability
Easy to carry
Versatility as charge and sync cable
Cable tidy belt feels flimsy and doesn’t work as well unless the cable is fully bundled up
Native Union touts this product as the smarter way to carry your cable. Besides the actual belt portion of the cable, which I feel could be improved in some ways, the cable delivers where it matters most — charging, syncing, and durability. At $25 you pay not much more than you would for a cable from Apple, but you get the same functionality and the peace of mind that this cable won’t wear out on you when you need it most.