The Best New EDC Gear from SHOT Show 2018

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It’s that time of year again for the biggest names in the EDC industry to announce their latest and greatest new products. It all went down this past week at SHOT Show 2018, the largest annual trade show for the tactical, hunting, and outdoor industries. We had the chance to walk the show and scope out the best new knives, tools, flashlights, and more that we think you EDCers should keep on your radar for this year. In this round-up, we’re highlighting 10 products worthy of the “best of show” title for their everyday carry-focused features, designs, and innovations.

Best of SHOT Show 2018 Winners

Best New Knife: Gerber Empower Auto

It used to be that you didn’t usually see an automatic knife in someone’s EDC because even in the States, they were largely illegal to carry. But in the past few years, things have changed as more states have loosened up restrictions on automatic opening knives, making autos one of the fastest growing knife categories on the market. Gerber has plenty of experience when it comes to making autos—military personnel and EDCers alike swear by their Propel and 06 knives.

Gerber’s big reveal this year was the Empower Auto—a made in the USA automatic knife based on the field-ready Propel, but sharpened up with a sleeker design for urban EDCers. The Empower’s 3.5” blade boasts a premium S30V steel as well as a false edge spear point shape for improved piercing just like the original Propel, but it’s slightly thinner for a lower profile.

Anodized aluminum makes up the handle, offering a clean, yet durable finish and multiple color options compared to the Propel’s G10. To ensure a proper grip that’s otherwise difficult to achieve on smooth aluminum, Gerber photochemically etched the aluminum itself to create a tactile, textured panel they’re calling “Armored Grip” scales.

The Empower Auto series gets my pick as Best New Knife not just because it’s fulfilling the needs of a new and rapidly growing space in the knife category, but it’s also a solid knife in its own right. Great steel, a field-proven design, urban styling, American manufacturing, and a reasonable price tag of $125 make it a worthy addition to your EDC, local laws permitting.

Most Innovative Knife: CRKT Raikiri

CRKT’s booth this year was all about innovation, with their Field Strip technology as the main attraction. Knives with the tech can be disassembled and reassembled fully for easy maintenance and cleaning on the go and out in the field. It finds its place in outdoor, hunting, and military applications where you’re putting your knife through the toughest and dirtiest jobs.

While there were plenty of new designs equipped with Field Strip tech, the CRKT Raikiri caught my eye enough to get my pick for Most Innovative Knife. Simply put, the Raikiri looks like a samurai sword from the future you can clip on your pocket. The Japanese influence makes sense considering it’s designed in Seki City by Drew Hara, a relative newcomer to CRKT’s stable of designers. But unlike a samurai sword, the Raikiri adopts some more EDC-friendly design cues like a flipper opening mechanism and wharncliffe blade shape. It definitely has that “sword” presence, though, measuring in at a beefy 9” overall length.

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Best Knife Design: Kizer Isham Theta

Kizer Cutlery may not have the biggest name in the mainstream knife scene just yet, but they’ve found much success partnering with up-and-coming knife designers to produce high design knives at affordable price points. Their new collaboration with Elijah Isham, the Theta, easily won my pick for the Best Knife Design award. Isham shows tremendous range in his design language with the Theta, a drastically simpler departure from his usually complex, out-of-this-world concepts.

The Theta lays down a subdued framework with clean, confident lines, then shakes it all up with bold, imposing features in signature Isham fashion. You can see this contrast in size at play in the titanium handle, with its lines and angles leading to a large pivot and geometric thumb hole on the blade. Adjacent to that is a flipper tab that’s so small it’s practically hidden, yet it manages to offer excellent purchase when deploying the blade.

I found deploying the blade not only satisfying in its action, but also in how it really transforms the look of the knife. Once open, it takes on a much larger presence and brings focus to its 3.5”, CPM-S35VN wharncliffe blade. While I thoroughly appreciated the Theta for its looks alone, it has the materials and features to match: titanium handles, excellent blade steel, a frame lock, snappy flipper deployment, and a matching titanium pocket clip too.

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Best Overall Knife: Kershaw Concierge 

Recommending a single knife as the best for EDCers “overall” isn’t so straightforward. Every EDCer has different needs and different tastes. When I saw the new Kershaw Concierge designed by Dmitry Sinkevich, I saw qualities in it that I felt would appeal to any type of EDCer, making it my top pick for Best Overall EDC Knife.

The Concierge puts utility and practicality at the forefront when you look at its specs and features. Its 8Cr13MoV TiCN-coated blade is sized just-right for most EDC tasks at 3.25”, locks into a steel liner lock, and deploys quickly via a KVT ball-bearing flipper opening. While the Concierge lacks a SpeedSafe assisted opening, I think that can be a good thing—a fully manual opening makes it legal to carry in more places, and its flipper is fast enough.

If you’re thinking those are fairly standard features on a Kershaw knife, you’re right. But it’s all the other small details on the Concierge that add up to something much more special. The handle, for example, is made of G10. We like G10 for its light weight, durability, and grippy texture. But on the Concierge, the G10 is machined to produce a unique texture that looks almost like woodgrain in a nod to pocket knives of tradition. Then you have much more modern design cues, like a jimped backspacer along the top and a recessed pocket clip on the reverse side for super low profile carry.

There’s an impressive balance of a lot of seemingly opposing elements in the Concierge: practicality and style, timelessness and innovation, features and minimalism. It’s easier to go all-in on one quality at the expense of the rest. This is a knife that shows restraint and focus without being one dimensional.

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Best New Flashlight: SureFire EDCL-1T

To be fair, my pick for the Best New Flashlight isn’t a design that’s entirely new. Instead, it’s another refinement of tried-and-true classics that many EDCers still carry to this day. SureFire’s Everyday Carry Light (EDCL) series builds upon the Executive E1E and E1B/EB1 Backup models of tactical lights. 

The beauty of the EDCL-1T lies in its reliable, bombproof simplicity. For a tactical light, bells and whistles are the last thing you need. You want light—lots of it, at a moment’s notice. The EDCL-1T delivers with 500 lumens on High. Its momentary-on tail switch starts the light at its 5 lumen Low mode with a half-press, then instantly hits the 500 lumen max when fully pressed. For constant on, you can twist the tailcap for low, then continue to tighten for constant-on High.

The EDCL-1T is another case of the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach. It keeps the build quality and functionality of excellent lights from the past, but brings the business end up to speed with a more competitive LED.

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Most Innovative Flashlight: Nitecore Tini

When I think of innovation in flashlights, it usually boils down to miniaturization and efficiency. Pushing the envelope isn’t just about smaller and brighter these days, either. We’re seeing unconventional batteries, USB recharging, magnets, indicator lights, programmable modes, and so on. There were definitely more than a couple lights that fit that description at the show, but my pick for Most Innovative Flashlight was the one that I felt was the easiest to carry.

The Tini is, well, tiny. It’s about as wide as a US quarter and not much longer than one, either. To me, this is a big deal, especially when you consider the reasons why more people don’t bother carrying a flashlight. “They’re too big and annoying to carry. I don’t want to have to buy new batteries, ever. I already have a flashlight on my phone.” The Tini addresses all of those things, weighing virtually nothing and conveniently clipping to a keychain or bag, recharging via a built-in micro USB port, and offering way more runtime and output than a phone can.

The fact that the Tini is tiny on its own isn’t what clinched the award. It’s everything that it crams into that package: a 380 lumen CREE XP-G2, a sophisticated multi-mode and multi-button UI, a 60 hour runtime, and a built-in, micro-USB rechargeable Li-ion battery. To top it all off, it comes in a wide range of colors and a fairly affordable $30 pricepoint. It has all the makings of “gateway gear” to get more people interested in everyday carry.

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Best Overall EDC Flashlight: Klarus Mi1c Ti

When it comes to flashlights, a good “overall” EDC is one that’s versatile, powerful, and portable. Klarus’s new titanium Mi1C gets my pick for Best Overall EDC Flashlight at the show for ticking these three boxes. The original Mi1C is an excellent recommendation as an all-rounder EDC light, but its convex lens created an even floody beam that limited its usefulness to more up-close work. The newer titanium version not only gets a material upgrade in the body, but it also sports more conventional optics for a properly focused hotspot in its beam profile. It gives the light some extra range and makes better use of its 600 lumen max output.

The Mi1C also pushes the limits of portability for a 1×123 light. It’s just 2.15” long (about the size of your thumb) and barely bigger than the battery that powers it. Which, by the way, conveniently features an integrated micro-USB recharging port. It’s the small details like that, the magnetic tailcap, the pocket clip, useful output levels, long runtimes, and intelligent side switch that make the Klarus Mi1C Ti worthy of the title.

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Best New Multi-tool: SOG PowerPint

Last year, SOG took a surprising approach with their new multi-tool offerings in the Sync and Baton series. Those designs were unconventional to say the least, resembling something closer to outfit accessories than the tactical tools you might expect. This year, they’ve refocused their efforts on improving upon their more traditional multi-tool designs in the Power family.

The SOG PowerPint got my pick for the best new multi-tool I think most EDCers would enjoy. It’s one of those rare multi-tools sized just right to bridge the gap between keychain and belt sheath duty. With its familiar clamshell design, it doesn’t compromise on its toolset in the process. It fits in the palm of your hand with room to spare and clips easily to your pocket at just over 4 ounces. You still get 18 tools total, including compound leverage pliers, outside-accessible blades, and a new centered magnetic bit driver. The PowerPint shouldn’t break the bank, either, hitting the market (not much) later this year at around 50 bucks.

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Best Overall EDC Multi-Tool: Leatherman Wave+

While some brands take the show as an opportunity to debut their newest designs, Leatherman celebrated their 35th anniversary by honoring their classic designs and updating them with feedback-driven improvements. The Wave in particular, first released in its original form back in 1998, is celebrating its 20th birthday, In 2018, the Wave returns as the Wave+ sporting replaceable wire cutters in 154CM steel. The Wave has been one of the most popular and most recommended full-sized multi-tools in the EDC crowd, so I confidently award an improved version as the Best Overall Multi-tool at the show.

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Best Overall EDC Bag: 5.11 Tactical All Missions Pack 12

5.11 Tactical’s product lineup has exploded in recent years, both in and out of the bag category. Even though the brand has released several new packs, many of our readers still swear by one of 5.11’s earliest styles: the RUSH 12. It had a design that dared you to bring it everywhere and do your best to break it. Incomprehensibly rugged inside and out, outfitted with a pocket for anything you can imagine, and confidently comfortable even under the heaviest loads. It’s a go-to pack for emergency situations and day-to-day commutes alike.

With that said, 5.11 Tactical’s newest range of bags had big shoes to fill. After a not-so-brief rundown of the pack and all its features and design decisions, I had to give the AMP 12 the title for Best Overall EDC Bag. It’s sort of a spiritual successor to the RUSH with the same core principles of modularity and adaptability at its core.

Given how bags can be highly personal EDC items and serve needs that vary from person to person, it’s especially important that a bag worthy of the “best overall” title can change and adapt. You might remember the RUSH 12 achieved this with MOLLE webbing all over the exterior bag, with very little modularity within the pack itself. The AMP 12 offers plenty of ways to configure the pack both inside and out and does it in a way that doesn’t feel too aggressive or in the way if you choose not to fully kit it out.

The front exterior of the pack features Velcro lining for attaching pouches or a hex-grid platform that connect to both G-hooks and side compression straps for added retention. The interior of the pack is also fully loop-lined, letting you hot-swap entire kits and systems in and out of the pack. Even if you don’t use any additional attachments, the AMP 12 has zippered pockets all along the inside of the main compartment. There’s some serious internal organization going on as well with admin-panel style webbing, hidden internal pockets, a quick-access top dump pocket, suspended laptop compartment, CCW compartments, and more. To make accessing all those pockets easier, the AMP 12 features a quad-zip design.

The AMP 12 did seem to have a lighter weight 500D nylon ripstop build and lower profile shoulder straps, so time will tell how it holds up to the RUSH 12’s overbuilt construction when the AMP series releases fall of this year.

That’s all for this post — stay tuned for more new gear coming soon. Which of the winners are you looking forward to most this year? 

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