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Last Updated: February 25, 2018
New in 2011, the updated Cold Steel Voyagers took the knife world by storm. There was a lot to like about the original CS Voyagers, but as technologies advance old classics need updating. And I gotta say, the new version really packs some nice improvements. Lighter, faster, with better locks and beautiful details – there is a lot to love about these knives. With 3 sizes, 3 blade shapes and the option of fully or partially serrated edges there is something for everyone.
Buy the Cold Steel Voyager at BladeHQ
I have one of each size for your consideration here (the Medium Voyager, Large Voyager, and the XL Voyager). After testing them all I can safely recommend any one of these knives. Take the “voyage” with me and learn why I like them so much.
General Dimensions and Blade Details
Since I’m reviewing 3 knives here I figured it would be easiest to throw the dimensions into a table instead of listing them out.
All the knives feel light for their size. Especially the Large and XL.
The 2011 Voyagers come in 3 major blade shapes. You have the classic clip point shown here, you also have a nice tanto version, and a version known as the “Vaquero.” The Vaquero is a modified clip point with a serious recurve. The knife you decide on comes down to your personal preferences. I think they are all pretty good, but the Vaquero will the hardest to sharpen due to the extreme recurve. I probably should have bought one of each blade style, but what can I say, I’m a sucker for a nice clip point.
And this clip point is really well done. Cold Steel started things off with a full flat grind. You also have a small swedge that forms a nice tip. There is plenty of belly and the edge is beautifully ground. Topping things off is an excellent stone wash. This blade finish really sets this knife apart. I greatly prefer the stonewash over Cold Steel’s teflon coating or blasted finish blades. All said and done the blade is really nice, especially when you consider the modest price tag.
Steel on the 2011 Voyagers is AUS 8. This changed to BD1 in 2015-2016. Both are softer steels. Cold Steel got a lot of feedback from customers wanting something with better edge retention than AUS-8, so they upgraded their premium line of knives to CTS-XHP (and then S35Vn in 2018), and their more budget oriented knives they upgraded to BD1. I don’t have a lot of experience with BD1, but it’s a softer steel. Easy to sharpen, and presumably holds a better edge than AUS-8. I think it was a good option for the Voyager series as the price is still reasonable.
Handle, Ergonomics, and Pocket Clip
The handle on the Voyager is a combination of grivory (Cold Steel’s proprietary high density plastic) over aluminum liners. Aluminum strikes me as a great choice for liner material here. It’s been hardened so we have good strength, and it’s nice and light. Grivory on its own is pretty tough stuff too, so we are left with a very robust handle design.
In addition to the materials, I’m a big fan of the way these handles have been put together. Everything is screwed together for easy take down. The aluminum liners are neatly nested into the grivory. Everything lines up well and has been well finished. This is a high quality handle and it really shows.
The ergonomics on the entire Voyager line are also very nice. Naturally you would expect the XL to work in your hand (and it does, in a variety of positions). The Large also functions quite well. The Medium had me most concerned as it was the smallest and was a knife I wanted to EDC. Poor ergos would have kept me from doing that. Thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised with how well the Medium fit in my hand. I wear a large glove and the Medium rested comfortably, with my pinky taking residence on the shelf making up the back part of the handle. I was even able to choke up a little (which I only recommend for light tasks). All the knives have deep finger choils and light jimping on the spine which give you a nice grip.
Speaking of grip, all of the knives feature a kind of “iron cross” pattern on the grivory. This pattern is nice and grippy, but is not so abrasive that it tears up my pockets (although some people have had some issues with this – which sanding lightly under the clip would fix). All the corners have been rounded and all the knives fill the hand really well. All in all I am very satisfied with the ergonomics on these knives.
The pocket clip on the Voyager generally great, but comes kind of stiff. It worked well with the thin shorts I wear down here in Florida, but I found the stiff clip a bit of a pain with thicker materials. However, it will naturally bend out with use, and if you want to you could always bend the clip out slightly yourself. You can only carry this knife in the tip up position, but I like how Cold Steel included 2 clips (for left or right side carry). I also like how CS gave these clips a black coating. The coating held up well in my 2 months of carry, although it finally started to wear off when I scraped it on some concrete.
As far as actual carry goes, the Voyagers are pretty good considering their size. They are thicker knives, and the Large and XL are quite big, but they are very light so they are more manageable than they appear. I know several people who regularly carry an XL around and I gotta admit the knife slips into my jeans really well. Between the three sizes the Medium Voyager was my personal favorite for every day carry. The stiff clip kept the knife in place in my pocket. All in all these knives carry well.
Deployment and Lockup
The Voyagers all use ambidextrous thumbstuds for deployment. They are good size thumbstuds, and it doesn’t take much effort to get any of the knives open (even the XL). I had my concerns that the backspring on the tri-ad lock would be too strong for easy deployment, but it really isn’t the case. I can even shake these knives open (with a good amount of force). CS put some high quality phosphor bronze washers in these knives and they feel very smooth. All in all I’m quite pleased with deployment.
All of the Voyagers feature the now legendary Tri-Ad lock. I’ve spoken at length about these locks. They are basically an improved backlock. They actually feature a stop pin, so any force applied to the blade goes to the stop pin instead of the rest of the lock. This feature, combined with a very beefy lockback, make the strongest lock on the market. Performance is excellent – to the point where these knives will almost act like a fixed blade.
But perhaps the biggest positive to these particular Tri-Ad locks is how Cold Steel adjusted the back spring. The Tri-Ad locks on both my Spartan and Hold Out II were very stiff. It took a lot of effort to disengage these locks, even after breaking them in. I was really concerned this would be the case for the Voyager. Again, I was absolutely wrong (man, sometimes it’s great to be wrong). The locks were very easy to disengage with one hand. Of course, they are still safe and stay locked when you want it locked, but when the time comes to put the knife back in your pocket, it won’t take a ton of pressure to disengage the lock bar. This is a huge win for the Voyagers.
Cold Steel Voyager Review – Final Thoughts
Cold Steel has really raised the bar here. The entire Voyager line is extremely well done. These are Taiwanese knives and I’ll tell you the fit and finish is fantastic. The various Voyagers sell in the $40-65 range depending on the size. At that price I think it’s a great value. Especially the Large Voyager. It’s hard to find a full size utility knife built this well at this ~$50 price point.
I continue to be impressed with how perfectly everything lines up, how wonderfully everything has been finished, and how smooth the deployment, lockup and disengagement is. From a design standpoint there is a lot to like. The great choice of blade shapes, the comfortable lightweight handles, the excellent lock, the awesome pocket clip, the great materials – I could go on and on.
So in conclusion, I like the Voyager series lot. It was one of the best releases in 2011, and when the upgraded the steel in 2016 they made the knives even better. In 2018 I still have my Medium Voyager. I find it a little thick for EDC, but it’s a hell of a work knife. If you are looking for a large utility knife then pick up a Large Voyager. Tough to beat. And if you are looking for a folding sword then snag the XL. The XL is a fun knife, but it’s not a gimmick.
- Blade Length: 3-Inch
- Blade Thickness: 3 mm
- Overall Length: 7 1/4-Inch
- Weight: 3.5 oz (approx.)
- Weight: 4.6oz
- Blade Thickness: 3.5mm
- Blade Length: 4"
- Overall Length: 9-1/4"
- Blade Steel: Japanese AUS10A
- Blade thickness: 4 mm, Blade Length :- 5.5 Inches
- Handle: 6.75 Inches long. Griv-ex
- Blade style: Clip point
- Steel: carpenters cts Bd1 alloy with stone wash finish
- Pocket Clip: ambidextrous pocket/belt Clip
I recommend purchasing the Cold Steel Voyager at Amazon or Buy the Cold Steel Voyager at BladeHQ. Please consider that buying anything through any of the links on this website helps support BladeReviews.com, and keeps the site going. As always, any and all support is greatly appreciated. Thank you very much.
Rob Robideau says
You are really cranking the reviews out over the holidays!!! Keep up the good work!
Thanks Rob! Yes I have finally had the time to work on stuff I enjoy, like this website. I appreciate the support brother, all the best.
Great review Dan.These voyagers catched my eye long time ago.Now its time to handle them at shop:D
Btw here is a experience with my tri-ad lock Recon 1;
it didnt cut anything except piece of papers , nylon cords and some stabbing to the notebook.It has up and down play now!My endura4 have less play.When i got it it was rock solid.Im gonna make a thread about this at bladeforums.Lets see whats going on:D
Thanks Zakk! Yes definitely give this a handle if you have them available to you. I think you will like the knife a lot.
I am really surprised to hear about your Recon 1! I have handled a lot of tri-ad lock knives and have yet to experience any blade play. Have you tried adjusting the pivot? Might need some lock tite once you get it fully tweaked. Either way I’d be curious to hear what the story is.
Thanks for reading and taking the time to write the nice comment.
Sorry to hear about your Recon 1.
Possibly it would be better to send it to CS for repairs, because it obviously has some defect. The Tri-Ad lock is self-adjusting by design, and I have never seen a knife with that particular type of lock that has an up-down blade play.
More to say, once I managed to pierce through a 1″ wooden table top with my Spartan (like they do in CS videos!), and the knife showed no blade play afterwards (though it’s definitely not a good way to test knives at home! 🙂 )
Yet another great review Dan!
I have been raving about the Cold Steel 2011 Voyagers since I got mine a few months ago. They are a definite improvement over the older versions.
The handle ergonomics are wonderful — weather laying them into a cut or sharpening or stropping them — it works so well for me!
My only question is if they were able to relax the Triad-Ad lock on the XL Tanto-Point versions?
I had two of the older XL Tanto-Point models and opening them via thumbtstud was rough.
Thank you Greg! I really appreciate the kind words. I agree, this is an extremely comfortable knife. I haven’t been this excited about “value” knives in a while.
You know I have not got my hand on the XL Tanto, but my XL Clip point came very smooth and relaxed. I think maybe some of the earlier version of the knife were a little stiffer, but I haven’t had any issues with the two XL Clip Point Voyagers I have used. Thanks for reading man, take care.
edge observer says
I’ll have to take the Cold Steel plunge sooner or later…. Great review, as always.
Thanks man. This is a solid knife that makes for a great beater. It’s a little thick in the pocket but I carry the medium and large with no problem at all.
I have been a CS fan for many years and have many of their knives. Presently, I do not have this particular iteration of the Voyager series. They are one tough knife and I like your label of “value” knife–true. Just found this site and like it.
Hey Waykno, Thanks for stopping by man. I think you will really like the new Voyagers – especially if you are already a fan of Cold Steel’s products. They made some very nice upgrades to this version. And yes, I think these are an excellent value. I’m glad you have been enjoying the site – I’ve got a lot of new stuff planned for 2012. Mainly better reviews of cooler knives, but I’m also going to be upgrading this mega slow server and doing some other stuff. Thanks again for dropping in!
I kind of took a break for a while so I am way behind on your reviews. I enjoyed this one. I have still be struggling over whether or not to get a voyager since I already have the Recon1. After reading I think I will go ahead and get a Voyager. Now to decide which one…nice review!
Hey Richard! Great to see you back man, I was wondering where you went. I would definitely still suggest getting the Voyager, there are still plenty of interesting differences between the two. I look forward hearing what model you decided on and eventually reading your review.
I picked the small Voyager and love the knive. However, it takes quite a bit of effort to disengage the lock. You mentioned in your review that this was not an issue for you. Any recommendations? As always, great review!
Hmmm, I am not really sure. It’s possible there are differences in tolerances between manufacturing runs, but my Voyagers were all reasonable (whereas the Spartan took 2 hands for me to disengage the lock). Unfortunately my only real suggestion is to just keep working the lock – hopefully it will break in quickly. If it is really bad Cold Steel may be willing to replace it. Thanks for reading!
I personally have and carry the XL version. No play, very sharp, love it!
Glad you like yours, Cordel. I had a buddy who carried the XL version. Pretty impressive piece of hardware!
I just purchased a Voyager medium. I EDC this knife more than I do my Spyderco Delica.The lockup is tight and AUS-8 is very easy to sharpen.I got mine for 35.00 on Amazon
You know what, I ended up giving all of my Voyagers away after doing this review, but very recently bought another Medium Voyager for my own personal use. I love it. Fantastic knife for the reasons you have described. I am considering writing an article just on the medium Voyager.
Patrick Dixon says
Hi there, I just ordered the xl clip point, it is my first ever folding knife lol
Congrats, Patrick! The XL Voyager is a great starter blade – way to dip your toe into the world of pocket knives. 😉 Let me know what you think…
Went through most of your reviews and been contemplating between the Voyager (Medium) and Kershaw Leek (Black) for EDC. Which one would you recommend?
The previous folder that I got as a gift is falling apart (missing screws) and I need cost effective replacement. While the Spyderco PM2 and ZT 0350 are often recommended, they are in a different league and price point.
Thanks for stopping by and for the great question. The Voyager is thick and overbuilt. It’s a fun and satisfying knife to play around with and EDC, but I think you will find the Leek to be much more practical if you are looking for a streamlined urban / suburban EDC. A good friend of mine has EDC’d a Leek for several years and he still likes it. Both are very nice for the money.
Hi Dan! Wow that was a quick reply.
I think I’ll go with the black Leek 1660ckt over the regular stainless just because it might be sturdier with the extra DLC coating and it’s less “flashy”.
For your reviews on tactical or self-defense knives, is it possible for you to note on the grip/feel when you hold the knife blade up? I believe nobody does that. I leaned towards the Leek over the Voyager (medium) because it might be awkward to hold the knife that way among others.
My pleasure. Do you mean the “icepick” grip? I can try to do that. I must confess that I know very little about self defense, so I am always hesitant to offer advice in that arena. I might suggest checking out WeAllJuggleKnives on you tube for more “tactical” commentary.
Yes. Icepick grip and in some cases if the grip or blade has a pronounced shape just your normal grip but the blade upwards. Not a biggie 🙂
Thanks for the WeAllJuggleKnives recommendation. Will check it out.
I’ll keep that in mind, Chester. Thanks and enjoy WAJK’s channel. He has some interesting stuff on there.
Dan, this remains one of the most useful reviews of this excellent series of knives. The Large Voyager clip point is perhaps my #1 favorite “edc/tactical crossover” folder under $100. The combination of impressive size, light weight, tough build, excellent slicing performance, and comfortable ethos with well above average ergonomics is very hard to find together in one blade and gives the L Voyager a certain charisma all its own. Fit & finish is also way above expectations. Right now there are some online deals that have the M and L Voyagers for crazy prices like $35 to $40. At that price point, if you don’t mind a somewhat weaponized looking, but good carrying and very functional tool , it is hard to see why anyone would pass up the chance to grab these. Peace!
LOL @ “comfortable ethos “; thanks smartphone. Heh — actually the only good reason I could think of why someone would not appreciate this well made tool is that CS knives arguably do NOT have a totally “comfortable ethos” associated with them — in the minds of some. 🙂
Hey Anon, Thanks for dropping by. Glad you are still enthused about the Voyager series. I agree that the large Voyager is really tough to beat for a larger work knife. They really did a good job with it.
Just one more observation: the XL Voyagers are equally well made and are very legit for what they are, but for an actual EDC choice (“car knife” or tool box use is another matter), I ‘d say the target market starts around 6’2″ 225 lbs and goes up from there. Which excludes me! Still fun to own. The Large size is really the sweet spot in my view.
After seeing Grivory advertised on some Benchmades I Google it (how dumb not to do it before) and it’s apparently not proprietary – like you I thought it was a bit of Cold Steels puffery, but it isn’t. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polyphthalamide & https://www.emsgrivory.com/en/products-markets/products/grivory/grivory-ht/
Basically in the Zytel family.
Harry Covert says
I bought a Tatnto blade XL and it’s a great knife open but it won’t close.
Patrick O'Toole says
I own several VOYAGER knives and really appreciate this line of products. I have given countless of them away to friends for birthday presents b/c of their affordability, and b/c I trust the strength and quality. VOYAGER knives come in 4 blade styles, with or without serration, in two different sizes, basically 16 different knives for $50-$75. The handles are grippy to the point of being a bit sharp, and they are very lightweight, but I absolutely trust the strength of the blade and the Tri-Ad lock. I know for certain that the knife will not slip out of my hand, and that the blade will break before the lock fails. These points, along with its light-weight build, make it a very good EDC for self-protection.
I feel like the VOYAGER’s are Cold Steel’s way of offering really good folders at affordable “workingman’s” pricing. Not every buyer can afford a RECON 1 at $100+, but still want a real folding knife- not just a pocket-knife with a liner-lock.
Personally, I view the VOYAGER series as “fighting knives”, or “combat knives”, and not as much as outdoor/woodsman’s knives. I them specifically for self-defense, and prefer the TANTO blade profile for its thrusting and penetration capabilities.