CRKT Drifter Folding Pocket Knife Review

“Small, Minimalistic, Classy.”


*This post contains affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn compensation if you click through and make a purchase. Thank you! -Koda Moon


In a world where everything is increasingly complex, and intricacy breeds confusion, sometimes simplicity really is the best option…


The thing is, simplicity is sometimes elusive, but almost always present. Sometimes you just need to know where to look for it…


That is exactly why CRKT released the Drifter, a tool that embodies pure knife minimalism like no other.





The CRKT drifter is a featherweight EDC knife with a classy yet totally minimalist design.


It features finely textured G-10 handles, a satisfyingly thick liner lock and a hollow ground drop-point blade made of 8Cr14Mov steel. 


To wrap this folder up in a single sentence, the Drifter is a solid, no-nonsense and definitely no-frills EDC folding knife.



Check Out Knife on Amazon!





A gross oversimplification would be to say that this knife is appropriate for anyone looking to maximize the value they get for the price they pay… 


Though, to be a bit more specific (and helpful) to you, I would say this knife naturally gravitates toward those seeking a small, lightweight, indiscreet, and ultimately unflashy pocket knife.  


Let me explain it like this: If you only like bold extravagant knives with lots of style, this knife is not for you. If you only like big knives, this knife is not for you. If you only like assisted opening knives, that’s right, you guessed it: this knife is not for you.


Now, if you can come to terms with a more humble kind of knife that offers high reliability, high quality materials, a classy design and a pleasant user experience, then this knife is absolutely worth looking further into.


Now, I will say one thing: this knife does have a drawback, one that WILL certainly be a deal breaker for some…. And that is that this is single pocket clip position only….


Disappointing, I know…… it’s tip down, right hand carry only.


I mean, it’s 2019 people! Why can’t multi-position clips just become mandatory on all folders!? There should be like a law or something, ok…?  Shame on you CRKT.


But no, aside from that ONE shamefully negative aspect, this is definitely a standout EDC.




After having EDC’d this knife for a prolonged period of time and tested it extensively, I’ve concluded that the Drifter is a smaller, simple, non-intimidating knife that is exceptionally well made for the price point.


For those who simply can’t get their hands on enough value EDCs, or simply need a reliable knife for every day carry that is both dependable and inexpensive, I believe this one’s gonna be real tough to ignore.


I’ve pitted this knife against true adversity, and I can confidently say that it will handle whatever everyday cutting tasks you throw at it… as long as its within reason, of course.


Regarding overall value, the fit and finish of this knife puts the competition to shame…


On top of that, the design is plain, simple and elegant, and the price point of the knife really can’t be beaten considering the overwhelming amount of value this blade provides.




Check Out Knife on Amazon!



Full Review  


The CRKT Drifter is undeniable proof that, even in 2020, a knife doesn’t need all those fancy bells or whistles to be considered a quality folder…


The truth is, sometimes all you need is a well-executed design and few simple yet high quality materials in order to forge a winner.


In my opinion, the Drifter has rightfully earned the title of reigning emperor of budget-friendly knives. If you’re looking to maximize the bang for your buck, the Drifter should be your first choice.



He might be a pretty small guy, but he’s more than capable of tackling an array of EDC cutting tasks and keeping up with the bigger boys in terms of reliability and performance. 


In short, I promise you are not going to find a better folder for the price point… and I don’t just throw around promises like that. 


First Impression


This thing really is the king of minimalism. It absolutely does not try to dazzle or impress with flamboyant looks in any way. If it could talk,  it would say in a very apathetic voice, “What you see is what you get, dude… I don’t give a F***.”



Do not underestimate this knife because of its size or simplicity, though. When I first saw this thing, I had a real hard time believing it would exceed any of my initial expectations.


I’ll tell you what your mamma should have told you: “Do not judge a book by its cover!!” 




The Drifter sports a 2.9″ drop point blade with thumbstuds, a plain edge and a grey titanium nitride finish. 



The blade is made from 8Cr14Mov steel, which is a budget steel I’m quite fond of.


8Cr14 is generally  considered to be slightly better than 8Cr13, but the difference in performance isn’t blatantly obvious. It’s only really noticeable when you pay attention. 


 I have over a dozen knives that use 8Cr14Mov and, while it’s no premium steel, I still have plenty of good things to say about it.


There are definitely higher quality steels out there, but in terms of straight bang for your buck steel, this one’s a winner.



While I am fond of the blade on this knife, it does have its weaknesses. For one, it isn’t the best at holding an edge. It’s definitely not terrible either, but I do find myself semi-frequently touching up this blade when I use it for EDC.


Using this knife daily will dull the blade over time, but fear not! One of the redeeming qualities of 8Cr14 is that the steel is softer, so it’s super easy to sharpen!


As for the shape of the blade, it’s pretty standard. It has a drop point, a hollow grind, a plain edge and a moderately-sized swedge. Again, it is knife minimalism at its finest… 



Any knife user knows that drop-points are pretty much the most practical, well-wounded blade shapes there are for EDC use.


Other blade shapes can greatly outperform a drop-point while doing specific tasks, but a drop point is kind of like the jack of all trades.


This blade has a recurve, which I’m pretty neutral about. I could take it or leave it. Some knife folk don’t like recurves on knives because it’s slightly harder to sharpen, but I haven’t really found that to be the case with this knife.



WARNING* I should mention that when I first opened this knife and took it out of the box, it was not very sharp! Way to go CRKT. You kind of dropped the ball on that one.


All it took was a little sharpening on my part, however, and the knife was right up to par. So if you get this knife and it’s not sharp out of the box, I did warn you. Luckily, as I’ve said, this knife is super easy to sharpen.




For the most part the CRKT Drifter‘s handle has a pretty simple design. It has G10 scales over steel liners, two pillars, a pocket clip and a lanyard hole. 



One small feature that could easily be overlooked is the nested steel liners. That means that the liners reside inside a milled-out portion of the G-10 scales instead of sitting on top of them.


Nested liners serve an aesthetic purpose as well as a practical one. Nesting makes it so the liner is out of site, which looks much cleaner, but it also serves to reinforce the overall strength of the knife, as well as reduce the weight of the knife.


This small but impactful detail is a great example of why this knife provides so much value for its price point.



I’m a fan of these G-10 scales, but they aren’t super grippy like some of my other G-1o knives (like the Spyderco Tenacious). That isn’t to say they’re slippery, they just don’t have as much grip as my higher-tier G-10 knives.


If you don’t already know, G-10 is a material made of fiberglass impregnated with epoxy resin. In terms of strengths, G-10 is hard, lightweight and grippy, but it tends to be on the more brittle side and doesn’t resist hard impacts well.



The handle has no backspacer, so it’s really no hassle to get deep into the guts of this knife and clean it.


The nested liners are perfectly level with the G-10 handles and don’t protrude at all, so that also contributes to how easy it is to clean this thing.


There are two pillars in between the handles, but they’re small and easy to maneuver around with a small brush. That’s a big plus, because a knife that’s hard to clean is a real pain in the arse.


Pocket Clip


One criticism I have concerns the pocket clip. It’s a right hand tip-down carry only clip.


Personally, that’s my favorite style of carry for a pocket knife, so that’s good for me, but if you can’t get down with that style of carry, this knife might not be for you.


I get that this knife is small and with the budget there’s only so much they could include, but a few more carry positions for the pocket clip would have been nice.



CRKT did, however, think ahead and made the clip removable. So if you’re not a fan of right hand-tip down carry, this knife is small enough that you really could just remove the clip and comfortably loose carry it in your pocket.


Heck, you could even be creative and put some 550 paracord through the lanyard hole and make a carry necklace if you wanted to. Compact do have their appeal.




Along with every other feature of this knife, the deployment is straightforward and simple. It opens using ambidextrous thumbstuds on the blade. There is no assisted-opening spring or flipper, but don’t let that turn you off just yet.


Deployment with the Drifter is surprisingly smooth for a thumbstud knife in this price range. While opening, there’s definitely a noticeable smoothness to the pivot, and you can easily flick the blade out with your thumb.


More often than not, CRKT impresses me by how smoothly their knives can deploy. The CRKT Drifter is a good example of this. 


The thing about manual-opening thumbstud knives is that they’re honest. They aren’t deceitful like some of the spring assisted knives on the market.


With some of the assisted-opening knives, you can get the impression that it’s a smooth opener, but only because it opens too quickly for you to realize it’s not smooth.


With manual thumbstud knives you can feel exactly how smoothly the knife opens and closes, and this one is a pretty smooth operator.



Check Out Knife on Amazon!





The CRKT Drifter utilizes a simple liner lock. The lockup on this knife is pretty solid, at least for a liner lock.


Generally frame locks and lock back are stronger, but liner locks do have their appeal as they’re lighter and easier to engage and disengage.


I would prefer the locking liner to be a bit thicker on this knife than it is, but again, for the price point I really can’t complain.



I’ve used this knife for a while and, while the lock has never failed on me, I wouldn’t trust it to handle heavy duty cutting tasks.


The liner is simply too thin for all that pressure. If you’re going to be be doing heavy-duty cutting tasks, you might be more interested in a knife with a more powerful lock, like the SOG Flash II.


All in all, this lock is perfectly fine for simple EDC purposes. I was also very impressed by the fact that there is no blade play, especially for a knife at this price! Even some of my more expensive knives in the $50-100 bracket have had some blade play.




For such a little guy, this thing is surprisingly comfortable in my large, oafish hands.


It’s not the most comfortable grip in the world, but it’s pleasant enough. I find that my pinky hangs slightly off the bottom of the handle, but I can still get a solid 4 fingered grip around it.



There’s a slight hotspot that forms under your index finger when you grip tightly, but I didn’t even notice it when I was performing light EDC tasks. I only realized it was there while cutting through cardboard boxes.




I find the Drifter to be an average overall performer. Now, that may sound bad, but for a blade that costs this little, that’s a heck of a compliment.


In terms of performance, this is a knife that competes on the same level as knives in the next price bracket above it.


There is nothing bad about this knife’s performance. There’s also nothing particularly exceptional about its slicing, piercing or carving ability, but it’s a respectable blade with fair cutting abilities. It’s no champion, but it’s no schmuck either.



For this price point, it’s as good as you’re possibly going to get with cutting ability– and that is extraordinarily impressive. However, there is one exception.


There is one other knife in this price bracket that matches this knife in performance and quality, and that is the Kershaw CRYO, but that is a totally different style of knife with different strengths and weaknesses   


CRKT really came through with this one. Like I said at the beginning of this article- don’t count this guy out because he’s small. He puts some of his bigger competitors to shame.


Features I Like 


+Grippy G-10 Handles
+Fit and finish puts competition to shame
+Smooth thumbstud deployment
+Small and discreet


Features I Don’t Like 


-Single-Position Pocket Clip Only




As far as I’m concerned, this knife maxes out 100/100 points on the bang for your buck score. You simply are not going to find a better knife for this price.



The vast majority of other knives at this price are adequate at best, absolute junk at worst. In that regard, this one really is a champion.


The Drifter is proof that a knife company can create an awesome, cost-friendly little tool that provides a ton of value. At this price point, you are not going to find a better knife, and that’s a promise.



Check Out Knife on Amazon!



NOTE: Please familiarize yourself with the appropriate state and local regulations by contacting your local police dept., legal counsel and/or attorney general’s office. You, as the buyer, not, are responsible to understand your local, state, and federal laws before placing an order.


16 thoughts on “CRKT Drifter Folding Pocket Knife (REVIEW)

  1. This knife wouldn’t grab my attention if I was looking through a Sporting magazine, so it’s good for people like you to be pointing out these knife models. That just shows that even though something is small and unassuming it can still get it done. It’s sounds like a good quality budget knife for the money.

    • Jason,

      That is such a good point! I agree, there are so many knives that I wouldn’t have otherwise noticed if someone hadn’t pointed them out. That’s what I aim to do with this website – show people more in depth opinions and experiences with knives, even ones that might have been overlooked in a catalogue.

      So again, thanks for that good comment.
      If you have any questions about my knives, just let me know! and Happy Holidays!


  2. I was about to purchase your previous pocket knife that received a 4.5 star rating but this knife has received a 5 star rating instead, which makes me want to purchase this knife over the other knife.

    Let me just see how much this knife costs on amazon..

    wow, this knife can be picked up (used) for only $20, that’s more than half price of the other knife. I think I might pick up this knife, yep, I have made my decision, purchasing now.

    Oh yeah, thank you very much Koda for the info, gtg.

    • Hey David, 

      Yup, in terms of bang for your buck this knife is the creme of the crop. It’s a value knife that really delivers. 

      Thanks for leaving a comment, and if you have any questions feel free to ask me. 

      Enjoy your new knife ! ( : 

  3. Truly enjoyed your product review of the Drifter Knife. I enjoyed it so much I think I may get one of those knives for myself.

    I love the pictures you had accompany your blog post, especially the one we the knife is in some actual hand. This gave me a true idea of how big the knife is. 

    Thanks again for the great details, pictures and write up.

    • Hey Todd,

      Yeah, I try to take those pictures with knife in hand so I can give an accurate representation of the knife’s size. If there’s any questions you have, feel free to ask.


  4. I kind of like this knife for every day stuff.  I wouldn’t need a flashy one for this as long as it does the job.

    The size is great for me although I would probably lose it somewhere it’s so small 🙂 

    As far as a soft blade, that doesn’t bother me a bit.  So I have to sharpen it often.  I do that with our kitchen knives as well.

    Speaking of sharpening, I’m not a fan of a recurve.  I think it looks great, but it does mess me up sharpening and I get frustrated.

    • The Drifter is definitely the opposite of flashy. It gets the job done and that’s that. And yeah, sometimes a re curve can be a slight annoyance, but it’s not overly noticeable with this knife, thankfully. 

      Thanks for leaving a comment, Stew (: 

  5. I like this knife, exactly what I was looking for.

    I need a knife that is just a knife, a knife for going to the woods and for fishing. I like the Swiss army knifes but they are too complicated and the actual blade is not really big.

    About this one I like the shape of the blade and that it folds in the center. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t come all too sharp, I can handle that. Good price for a nice product indeed too 🙂

    • Hi Stephan, 

      I love the Swiss Army Knives. I really do. They’re small, they have a ton of features, and they’re downright reliable (as long as they aren’t knockoffs). They’re great tools, but they’re just that- tools. But if you’re looking a real knife, they aren’t the way to go. 

      The CRKT Drifter is a good transition from a pocket knife to a real knife. It’s not too much of a shock in terms of size difference, but it definitely gives you more blade to cut with. 

      Thanks for commenting! Much appreciated (: 

  6. In a season where spending can get a bit out of control, I appreciate finding a knife option that, as you say, “maximizes the value you get for the price you pay.” Some of the features that stuck out to me about the CRKT Drifter were its easily concealable size and its lightweight design. I also appreciate your breakdown of the steel used in the blade and how it compares to 8Cr13.

    • Hey Tucker,
      Not a problem. Some of the knife steel jargon can be a little confusing if it’s not in layman’s terms. I try my best.

      Anyway, thanks for the comment. Feel free to contact me if you need anything.

  7. Thank you for this review…honest, informative and, as a lover of knives, gave me a good idea of whether or not it would suit my purposes.

    While the knife does not suit my needs, I thank you that your presentation would have made me happy with the purchase having that information.

  8. this really does look like a very nice knife and I agree that sometimes simplicity is better.

    Now I don’t know if I skipped over it, but what does EDC mean? I’m guessing it might have to do with carving but I’m not sure lol.

    Also you said you had sharpen this knife when you first got it? About how often do you recommend we shaperen this knife I’d we buy it?

    Again thanks for this awesome review and I think this makes a perfect knife for all sorts of things.

    • Hi Michael, EDC stands for “every day carry”. That term means it’s a knife that generally is small enough to clip onto your pants pocket and bring around with you on a daily basis. 

      And I would recommend you sharpen this knife if you ever feel it lagging on the cuts. It’s hard to put an exact time frame on that, you’ll just have to go with your gut. 

      And thank you for commenting! Much appreciated 🙂  

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *