A staple of the Every Day Carry (EDC) movement, the best neck knives are designed by necessity to be ready for action whenever, wherever. And thanks to the pouch around your neck, you never have to worry about carrying your knife around in your pocket. Ideally, you can just forget about it.
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If you’re buying a neck knife, odds are that you want it to be an effective self-defense mechanism. Therefore, when evaluating the best neck knives, we’ll be sure to focus on self-defense capabilities first and foremost.
However, the best neck knives need to be equally effective in a whole host of activities – including everything from self-defense to gutting fish to skinning game – as well as useful in an unlimited variety of situations.
These qualifications are quite a tall order. Fortunately, we’ve scoured the market to find the best neck knives available. These knives are durable, provide great value, and are ready for whatever mayhem the universe may throw your way.
Tier 1 (Under $45)
1. CRKT Minimalist Wharncliffe
Overall Length: 5”
The Skinny: This CRKT model’s appearance immediately draws your eye, as the grooved handle allows you to get a solid three fingered grip. That strong grip allows you to perform a variety of different everyday outdoors functions in addition to self-defense.
Moreover, the Wharncliffe’s belt loop allows for extra convenience, and is a feature that you actually don’t see too often on EDC neck knives. Both the blade and the handle are rather thin, allowing for economy of motion and extra quickness.
One drawback: the 5Cr15MoV steel is cheap and far from the highest quality, but this choice of material also knocks a few dollars of the price – diligent bargain hunters can make this knife their own for a low price.
2. Cold Steel Secret Edge
Overall Length: 6.5”
The Skinny: At a generous 6.5”, the Cold Steel Secret Edge is the longest knife on our list. It’s also somewhat of a gold standard amongst authorities on EDC neck knives, as it’s made its way to the top of many “best of lists.”
The praise is warranted. The Cold Steel Secret Edge has more or less cornered the edge on lightness – even including the sheath, the Secret Edge weighs in at a feathery 3 ounces. The Secret Edge’s Japanese steel construction is probably a 6 or 7 out of 10, but this is more than good enough to keep cutting as long as you want it to.
The G-10 handle is weatherproof, and it’s thin nature makes it almost the Platonic ideal of neck knives – unassuming, slim, and ready for use at a moment’s notice.
The Secret Edge isn’t constructed from the absolute finest materials, but it’s well-made, well-designed, and more than worth the price.
3. Cold Steel Bird and Trout
Overall Length: 6.3”
The Skinny: Taking things in a bit of a different direction, the Cold Steel Bird and Trout looks like your basic run-of-the-mill camping knife. Even the name “Bird and Trout” furnishes this image.
Nevertheless, the Bird and Trout boasts surprising value as one of the best neck knives. The Bird and Trout is a modernized version of a classic knife that’s been beloved by hunters and fishers for over a century. Supremely slim and built completely of steel, the Bird and Knife is proof that quality and function never go out of style.
The Bird and Trout’s skeletonized handle allows for easy handling and movement, which can make all the difference in moments of self-defense. And – as the knife’s name would imply – it cuts through fish and game exceedingly efficiently.
Though it’s not the sleekest knife, the Bird and Trout is very slim, and is surprisingly effective in self-defense scenarios.
Tier 2 (Over $45)
4. Esee Candiru
Overall Length: 5.13”
The Skinny: The skull and crossbones design on the Esee Candiru’s blade leaves absolutely no doubt about its intentions – this is a bad man’s knife, meant for the most dire of situations. Esee is a well-known maker of quality knives – we reviewed the Esee 6 earlier – and it’s racked up another hit with the Candiru.
The Candiru commands attention with its sleek all-black design, but it’s more than just a pretty face. The Esee model’s 1095 carbon steel sharpens easily, and the large handle and small blade provide an ergonomic design that make it easy to slice game or brush, in addition to deadly accuracy, should the situation arise.
The Candiru’s only drawback is that it rusts a little too easily. However, if you need an easily manipulable, surgical, quick-on-the-draw knife, look no further.
5. SOG Snarl
Overall Length: 4.3”
The Skinny: Just like the Candiru, the SOG Snarl’s design consists of a short-blade and a long handle, albeit in a more compact frame (only 4.3”). Also just like the Candiru, the Snarl is a sleek knife that definitely places more than a little emphasis on aesthetics – it wouldn’t be out of place in Bruce Wayne’s lair.
Finally, just like the Candiru, its beauty is more than skin deep. Its handle allows for a great deal of versatility, as you can hold and use the Snarl in a number of different ways – you could maybe even throw it if you needed to.
When it comes to discretion, the Snarl is one of the best neck knives out there. In moments of self-defense, the Snarl is so compact that your attacker will surely never see it coming.
The one issue? Though it’s rock solid and scratch resistant, the Snarl can feel flimsy at times, and snapping isn’t necessarily out of the question.
Conclusion – Which is the best neck knife?
As you move from Tier 1 to Tier 2, the knives get sleeker and more stylish. The blades also get shorter and shorter, with manufacturers opting for a more ergonomic design and better handling through longer handles. Ultimately, there isn’t a huge difference in price from Tier 1 to Tier 2, and if aesthetics matters at all to you, it’s worth the small jump in price.
A quick final note – the Bird and Trout is a bit of an outlier on this list. If you’re looking for a neck knife more for fishing and camping and general backwoods activity as opposed to self-defense, the B&T may be right up your alley.
Ultimately, you can’t go wrong with any of these knifes. Decide how much camping you want to do, how much style matters, and whether or not you want a short or a long blade and you’ll have no problem arriving at a decision.