You shouldn’t rule out a pocket knife for your EDC just because it doesn’t lock. Sure, advanced locking mechanisms are super useful for letting you safely put your blade to some tough work. But the most useful knife is the one you have on you—and for many EDCers around the world (especially in the UK, other parts of Europe, and big cities like NYC), knives that lock aren’t legal to carry around.
Even if you don’t live in an area with many knife restrictions, there are other good reasons for carrying a non-locking EDC knife. For example, opting for a simpler slipjoint or friction folder can make opening, using, and closing your blade simpler and easier. They’re especially appropriate if you mainly use your blade for light duty tasks, like food prep or opening packages.
We know some of you might feel left out when every promising knife out there seems to have a lock on it. Luckily, we’ve found some capable blades you can carry in even the most restrictive areas, or if you just want a simpler everyday knife. By the end of this Carry Smarter guide, you should have a better understanding of why some EDCers opt for non-locking knives, what to look for when choosing one, and ideas to start your search with our top 10 picks for EDC blades that are legal to carry practically anywhere.
How to Choose a Non-Locking Knife for EDC
- Check your local knife laws. Knife laws vary by region, so be sure to look up your local legislation to help you narrow down your search. As a general guideline, smaller and simpler is better. Aim for something at or under 2.5” blade length, that doesn’t lock, and needs two hands to open to be on the safe side.
Get something that doesn’t lock, but is still secure and safe to use. Some knives have blades that stop halfway before closing or a curved section to firmly grip your finger at the base of the blade. These measures prevent accidental cuts when using and closing the knife. Knives that require some deliberate effort to open the knife are safer. They’re harder to accidentally open in your pocket and less likely to be deemed an illegal “gravity” knife.
Keep blade length in mind. It’s an important consideration, legality aside. You’ll have to decide on a length that’s comfortable in your hand, in your pocket, and during your most frequent tasks.
Check your local knife laws one more time.
Now that you know what you should look for in a knife, check out our list of knives to get you started. They differ in style, materials, and price, but they’re all designed with legality in mind.
The Spyderco Pingo was designed by two renowned European makers—Jens Anso and Jesper Voxnaes—to be legal to carry in their home country of Denmark. The blade does not lock, requires two hands to open it, and measures under 2.5” in length. By adhering to the strict knife laws in their own country, Anso and Voxnaes introduced a knife that should meet most legal requirements of the rest of the world. The Pingo features a versatile sheepsfoot blade with plenty of cutting area to work with and excellent ergonomics for an EDC folder.
Boker Plus XS
This design from Chad Los Banos has plenty of functionality you might see in more tactical folders. All it’s missing is the lock. It features thumb studs for easy one handed opening of its 3”, titanium coated 440C steel blade. Grippy G10 handles and jimping on the blade offer improved control during use. And because it’s a slipjoint, there’s a deep, index finger choil to prevent the non-locking blade from closing in on your fingers. Consider the Boker Plus XS if the traditionally styled options here don’t fit your carry.
Victorinox Small Tinker
Swiss Army Knives are ideal for everyday carry use because their blades don’t need to lock to be effective, and they’re widely recognized primarily as tools. The small (and sharp!) blades on Swiss Army Knives are held in place by a slipjoint mechanism. It's spring-loaded to keep the blade safely deployed when in use, but it doesn't truly lock in place. The Small Tinker packs a handy set of tools for everyday tasks, including a 3D Phillips head screwdriver, in a compact 84mm form factor.
The Douk-Douk is a classic French design that dates back to the 1920s. The knife uses a sturdy slipjoint mechanism with a strong backspring to keep its 3⅛” blade from closing during light duty tasks. Its carbon steel takes a razor-sharp edge that’s easy to maintain. Simple construction and an attractive price tag round out this ideal knife to carry where laws are strict.
So many non-locking knives have classic designs deeply rooted in history and tradition. As a result, you rarely see premium materials and modern styling on them like you do on the EnZo PK70 slipjoint. Between its sleek carbon fiber scales, the PK70 features a 2.75” long blade with a higher end CPM S30V steel. It’s got the look, performance, and design to be a highly capable EDC blade if you’re willing to invest a bit more for its premium materials.
The UKPK (or UK Pen Knife) is another knife from Spyderco that ditches a locking mechanism to accommodate knife laws. At just under 3”, its blade uses high performance CPM S30V steel known for its excellent edge retention and toughness. Spyderco added a small notch on the pivot to prevent the blade from closing in on your fingers and integrated an index finger choil on the blade for even more control.
Higo no Kami
Traditionally, this non-locking folder is completely made by hand in Japan. The Higonokami is hand forged, hammered, and sharpened by one company in who has been doing so for over 100 years. This knife is about as simple as it gets, a friction folder with an extended tang for support. To open the knife, push down on the tang. The tang then rests on the handle, typically with your thumb on top of it. This keeps the blade in place during use and allows the Higonokami to function without a lock. Available in a range of sizes, the 3” model should be safe to carry in many parts of the world.
Lansky World Legal
This knife stands out from the rest of the more traditionally styled offerings with its technical design. True to its name, the Lansky World Legal slip-joint folder boasts a non-locking, 2.75” 440C stainless steel blade and nylon handle construction. Its 4-way pocket clip allows for deep pocket carry, keeping the knife out of sight and out of mind. Like the Spyderco Pingo, this knife is also by a Danish designer who had their strict regional knife laws in mind.
Case makes knives ideal for those looking for something simple to get work done and sharpen up easily, without the added complexity and legal concerns of a locking mechanism. While the one shown here has a 3⅝” blade, the Sodbuster comes in plenty of colors and a smaller 2.75" configuration called the Sodbuster Jr., so you’re sure to find something that fits your EDC. Case knives have a classic design and solid construction that make them appealing to many EDCers, regardless of their local knife laws. For a capable, hand-crafted pocket knife with timeless American styling, don’t miss this manufacturer.
The Fallkniven U1 is a bit of old and new. Its minimal slipjoint design features wooden inlays as a nod to traditional styles, and nail knicks on both sides of the blade for ambidextrous carry. At its heart is a 2.44” blade made with modern manufacturing techniques, featuring Fallkniven’s high end 3G laminate powder steel. If you’re particular about your steel and have the budget for it, consider this slipjoint for your daily carry.
Hopefully we’ve helped you with your search for a capable EDC pocketknife that’s legal to carry where you live. If you found this guide useful, please share it with your friends who might find it helpful as too! Do you EDC in a place with strict knife laws? Let us know where you’re from and what your favorite legal EDC blade is in a comment below.
Words by Ed Jelley and Bernard Capulong