CRKT Drifter Folding Pocket Knife Review
“Small, Minimalistic, Classy.”
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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.
WHO IS THIS KNIFE FOR?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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