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Last Updated: August 8, 2019
For those who can’t get enough high value EDC knives, or simply need a tool for every day use that is both well made and inexpensive, I think it’s going to be tough to ignore the CRKT Drifter. For some, this may be their first “real knife” that sends them down the slippery slope that is blade collecting. Others might want to spice up their EDC rotation without breaking the bank. I think that for many reasons this inexpensive offering from CRKT is a great ambassador for the knife world, and its review here is long overdue.
Buy the CRKT Drifter at BladeHQ
General Dimensions and Blade Details
The Drifter comes in two major variants, a liner lock version with G-10 scales and a stainless steel (SS) framelock version. Both share the same overall length of 6.5″ and the same 2.88″ blade. The stainless steel handled version weighs 3.2 ounces while the G10 clad Drifter weighs a mere 2.4 ounces. If I had to pick between the two for EDC, I’d say the G10 version gets my vote. I love the ultra light carry weight, it really disappears in pocket. Regardless of the version that strikes your fancy the sub 3″ blade and reasonable weight make these ideal EDC knives.
The blade is a classic drop point shape that reminds me a lot of my Benchmade Griptilian. It features the same swedge and hollow grind that starts about 3/4 of the way up the blade. The Drifter is given a gentle recurve that adds a little spice without making it too difficult to sharpen. The tip is fine enough for detail work, but not too delicate. This is an all around solid blade shape.
The G10 version of this knife comes with a handsome gray Titanium Nitride (TiNi) coating while the stainless steel version comes satin finished. I really like the look of that TiNi coating – it’s a handsome gun metal gray and mine has held up pretty well considering.
The Drifter’s blade comes in 8Cr14MoV. Anecdotally 8Cr14MoV is considered to be slightly better than 8Cr13MoV, but I really haven’t noticed a difference… apparently that extra chromium molecule does something. Fans of 8Cr13MoV will like this steel and those who don’t like 8Cr13MoV may find a soft spot for its high Chromium counterpart. I like it because it’s easy to sharpen, holds an edge reasonably well and has decent corrosion resistance.
Handle, Ergonomics and Pocket Clip
Depending on what model you get, the handle will be full stainless steel or G10 over stainless steel liners. Either way the handle is a simple minimalist design with two pillars and a lanyard hole. On the G10 version the liners aren’t milled, which begs the question, how light would this thing be if they did that? Honestly my guess is any weight savings probably wouldn’t be worth the premium in price. Both handles are nicely finished, they did a great job here.
At 3.6″ long, the handle of the Drifter is a decent size and will comfortably accept a 4 finger grip, even with larger hands. The G10 version is definitely the grippier of the two, and the black G10 has been given a nice light texturing. The SS version lacks any meaningful texture, but I have no problem with it for EDC. There is jimping on the thumb ramp and choil. It’s not super aggressive, but it gets the job done. All in all I think the ergonomics here are quite reasonable.
The clip is my only real source of constructive criticism. It’s a right hand tip-down carry only clip – not my first choice for positioning. I’d love to see the option to carry tip down, and preferably 4 corners style clip, but really for a $20 knife I think what we have here works.
Perhaps the best part of the clip is that it’s removable, and the small size of the knife allows you to carry it loose in your pocket. There is a lanyard hole which could be a nice option if you decide to go the “clipless” route – it should take hollowed out 550 cord without protest. I will say it is a sturdy clip, it rides sorta low and it’s been darkened in both versions (gunmetal grey like the handle for the SS version, black for the G10).
Deployment and Lockup
Deployment for both Drifters is very smooth – almost surprisingly smooth for such inexpensive knives. Thanks to the oversize thumb studs and metal washers it takes very little effort to get this knife ready for work. One minor thing to note is that due to the size of these thumbstuds the knife can get caught up on your pocket. That’s the tradeoff with having nice big thumbstuds.
Lockup on both the G10 and Stainless steel versions is solid. My stainless steel version has broken in a bit, but there is no blade play at all. My liner lock version bites in nice and early. Some may feel that the frame lock is stronger, but honestly I don’t think it particularly matters with these little knives. Both should handle all your EDC tasks without issue.
CRKT Drifter Review – Final Thoughts
All in all I really like both the Drifters. For well under $25 a piece, these are two high value blades that have absolutely been done right. You get a nice no-frills design that totally works. Good deployment and lockup, nice materials, solid fit and finish. Everything you would expect from a much more expensive knife. If I had to find something to complain about, it would be the lack of placement options for the pocket clip, but even then I think the clip is passable. Again, for ultra light weight EDC I’d go with the G10 version, but you really can’t go wrong with either knife (or both!).
- Exceptional Grip: G10 handle provides exceptional grip in all conditions
- Enhanced Protection: Gray titanium nitride coating improves corrosion resistance
- Easy Opening: Thumb stud allows for fast opening with one hand
- Limited Lifetime Warranty covers any defects in materials or workmanship, see company site for details
- Classy Appearance: Satin finish blade has a modern look
- Ultimate Durability: Stainless steel handle withstands hard use
- Brute Strength: Frame lock utilizes a thick lock bar to secure the blade
- Limited Lifetime Warranty covers any defects in materials or workmanship, see company site for details
I recommend buying the CRKT Drifter at Amazon or BladeHQ. Thank you for reading!
Reminds me a bit of my SOG Twitch II. Small, lightweight, super fast and super sharp. Well written man.
Thanks, Ebbs. I can definitely see some similarities between the Drifter and the Twitch II – good point.
I actually like this one. It is more understated that I am used to seeing from CRKT – very classy.
Yeah man, CRKT is turning out some pretty nice stuff. The Folt’s minimalist was another big hit in my book.
Anon R.D. says
I like the Drifter too. Perfectly competent little EDC folder, if you can swing with right-handed tip-down carry. (I’m a righty but always carry my knife in my left side back pocket. However, the Drifter is thin, so it works OK for left side too.)
The stainless steel scales are snazzy but I think the G10 handled version is the more practical, EDC-able knife. Lighter, grippier, fast deploying, and the dark gray coating on the blade is handsome. For me it has held up against abrasion much better than I would have guessed. The 8Cr14MoV blade takes a nice sharp edge, perhaps due to its slight vanadium content. Needs re-sharpening a bit more than VG-10 or 154CM, but still a useful everyday steel.
The Drifter has crept up to $22 most places. That is still a good bargain for what you get. The only thing that really compares in the price range is the Ka-Bar Dozier series of folding knives, with AUS-8 steel, a great EDC grind and blade shape (like the Drifter), and a traditional lockback design.
Anon, I agree the Drifter is a nice little EDC. I actually just got another one in – the stainless steel version. I agree, the G10 handled version strikes me as more practical. The SS version has a fair amount of heft for a knife of its size. I’ll be playing around with it a bit more and will get a video on it up soon. I hear ya on the right side tip down only. That is a bummer for me too. I like carrying knives on my weak side too, especially when carrying more than one so an “ambidextrous clip” isn’t just for lefties – its for people like you and me who carry them in off pockets and stuff. I wish these companies would just go ahead and drill everything out for ambidextrous carry.
The Ka-Bar Dozier is another wonderful choice – you hit the nail on the head. Thanks for offering some great insights into this one. I always appreciate hearing your thoughts. (Oh and I went ahead and spliced your comments together)
Dangit Mr Dan!!!
This isn’t fair. I have to buy this knife too. Gosh, thanks to your reviews, my wallet is getting smaller and my knife collection is getting bigger!
I was wondering, my friend wants a knife that could be used as a self defense weapon, but that she could conceal, and since she is a girl, she wouldn’t want some 3 and a half inch folder. I am trying to get her a nice knife for whatever she needs to do. Anything from EDC to self defense. Can you help me out?
Hah! Sorry Jack! I’ve been told this site has that side effect on occasion. 😉
As for your friend, hmm tough call. I really don’t advocate using knives for self defense unless you know what you are doing. Pepper spray might be the better option for her for that. But for EDC there are a lot of nice knives to choose from. SOG makes some good options (Aegis, Flash 2) and of course you have lots of stuff from Spyderco (Delica/Endura/Tenacious), Kershaw (they have too many to list) and Cold Steel. It’s really a matter of personal preference. If possible take her to a knife store and see what she likes best.
All the best,
Thanks!!! And your website is one of the best i’ve seen so far for Knife Reviews! Great pictures and honest reviews.
I have one question to ask,
what is the “Knife World/Community?
And if it is real (and by that i mean people to meet/know) , how can i get plugged into that? Or is it just forums, etc?
The knife world simply refers to fellow enthusiasts, knife makers, manufacturers etc. Typically you will find these people by visiting your local knife shop, cruising various forums, websites and youtube, or attending a local knife show. best,
MICHAEL S. WHITLOCK says
LIKED THIS KNIFE SO MUCH, I GAVE ONE TO MY OPTHAMOLOGIST JUST TO SAY “THANKS DOC” FOR THE EXCELLENT CARE HE HAS GIVEN MY EYES FOR THE PAST 5 YEARS. HE WAS ABSOLUTELY TRILLED WITH IT’S QUALITY & PRACTICALITY FOR “EDC” PURPOSES. GREAT KNIFE FOR THE $$$$ SPENT.
Hey Michael, Glad you like this one – it’s a nice little knife for the money. Makes for a great gift too!
Notice the grey blade matches the grey body perfectly, its almost as if someone in marketing went “gee.. wonder what it would look like if we swapped them around”. I bought both and swapped the stainless blade into the G10 handles, looks so nice.
Thanks Andrew! That does sound nice!
I own the drifter G10 now for 5 years and it is still my “go-to” knife. Awesome handling, easy to sharpen. It was my wife’s birthday gift to me and I am proud she has selected such awesome value for money 🙂
Bought this a few weeks ago. Love it so far. The tip works really well opening boxes. Holds an edge pretty well. Has only needed a couple of quick touch ups. I do prefer a tip up carry but certainly not a deal breaker. You are right about the thumb stud catching a bit and my hand drags on the back corner of the blade with some smaller pockets but overall minor issues. Great knife for the price. Another excellent recommendation. Thank you.
Thanks for stopping by and sharing some thoughts on your Drifter. Glad you are enjoying it. This knife is often overlooked, but is excellent. Especially given its price point.
Nice review! I now carry this knife more than more expensive knives I own.
Thanks, Jeff! The Drifter continues to be an excellent value and a capable pocket knife!
I’ve carried PUMA and Martiini knives for more than most of you have been on this planet.
and never had a bad word for them.
Puma’s Then $30 to $70. Now $350 to 700 pretty much, and worth it. I have the $30/70 ones, same knives different generations.
Recently I’ve got into the Chinese knives. and some of them ARE worth buying. Ganzo. SRM.
Some Kershaw and Enlan. There r others.
You just have to pick the models.
I have a very nice. D2 blade and Bearings blade swivel in a Y-Start 02.
There are more. These just what I’ve tried so far.
Most carried is a small SRM 681 with back lock.
2 1\4in blade, on keyring. VERY useful.
With a Ganzo Firebird. F753M in pocket.
440c steel blades.
Cheap. But nice, decent steel and IF I lose them. Just buy another.
What kind of steel do you use for all of your knifes
Dan Jackson says
Joe, Not sure I understand. I don’t make any knives. This particular knife comes in 8Cr14MoV.