In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Mr. Ollivander, the esteemed wand maker, tells our young protagonist, "The wand chooses the wizard, Mr. Potter," and if you believe in the magic of destiny, the same belief can be applied to knives with just as much relevance.
Deciding which knife is best for you is as much about utility as it is a gut feeling: many knives feature the same attributes, similar materials and design and relatively same function. What separates one knife from the next is often is how it feels in our hand; what the glide of the blade biting into the cutting surface brings out in our mind and soul and how fluidly it fits into our everyday routine.
For much of 2022, I've been using two knives, trying to decide which is my favorite: the CRKT Pilar III and The James Brand The Carter. I've brought each on camping trips, bikepacking excursions and kept them in my pocket and bag for use around the house, and on the go. After six months of testing, deliberating and ruminating, I've finally decided my favorite of the two. Before I divulge which is the winner, let me walk you through how I reached my final decision.
The Contenders for Best Pocket Knife
The Pilar III is CRKT's third iteration of the knife, designed by Jesper Voxnaes in Loegstrup, Denmark. It's a low-profile and understated EDC option, and is built with a 8Cr13MoV steel blade with satin finish. It retails for $40, and is a capable and dependable knife built for everyday use.
The James Brand describes The Carter as its "most advanced everyday-carry knife" and for $149, your EDC kit can be rounded out with a knife as stylish and minimalist as they come. Built with a corrosion-resistant VG-10 stainless steel blade, slim and downright seductive The Carter is available in nine color combinations, so you can find the hue that works just right for you.
How to choose which pocket knife is right for you
I decided to focus on three attributes common to both knives: weight, materials and design and durability. Each knife was used in a variety of situations, where I paid close attention to performance, feel and function. Let's get into the nitty gritty.
Test 1: Weight
The CRKT Pilar III weighs 3.6 ounces, while The Carter comes in just slightly under that at 3 ounces even. A little more than half an ounce may not seem like much, but when you're holding the Pilar III in one hand and The Carter in the other, it's immediately apparent which weighs more. I appreciated the weight of the Pilar III when I was cutting through tough cords camping, or slicing through a non-cooperative cardboard box for recycling. I felt its presence more in my pocket, and liked the feel of the solid construction in my hand.
Test 2: Materials and Design
There's no denying that between the two knives, the Carter is the more style-forward of the two. Designed in Portland, OR, the 6.5 inch blade is the minimalist's dream: there's no adornment on the blade or handle besides the thumb disk: on the Black/Black colorway, it's an eye-catching green that provides visual interest as well as accuracy. The ambidextrous design and slide lock lends itself to multi-functional use and the 3D machined scales on the handle are delightfully smooth in-hand.
By contrast, the CRKT Pilar III was inspired by the traditional sailor's knife, with an urban twist. The IKBS ball bearing pivot deploys the blade smoothly and quickly; I was pleasantly surprised how seamless the action felt. The spear point, high carbon stainless steel blade is accurate enough for the most detailed tasks, and for an everyday carry blade, you can't ask for much more than precision and style in one 7.19 inch knife.
Test 3: Durability
The CRKT Pilar III utilizes a thick lock bar for its frame lock, and I appreciated its brute strength as I carved my way through every day tasks. I found both knives' carry clips required multiple uses before they were broken in enough for quick use, but I found myself opting for the Pilar III over The Carter more often than not. In fact, overall I was drawn to the Pilar III for most tasks, particularly ones where I thought there was potential for the knife to get damaged. Its handle and blade just feel more substantial in comparison to The Carter, and at a third of the price, I felt more comfortable getting down and dirty with CRKT's knife. Both knives feature stainless steel blades, precision tips and keen slicing power, but there was a heftiness to the CRKT Pilar III that kept me coming back for more.
Our Pick: The CRKT Pilar III
As you've probably picked up by now, the choice between the CRKT and The James Brand was a tough one, but after using both for over half a year, my pick is the CRKT Pilar III. As much as I'm drawn to the design and beauty of The Carter, I found myself wanting to have it displayed on my desk, rather than in my hand. The Pilar III is the workhorse I need to get tasks done without worrying if I'll scratch, drop or sully my knife. In terms of safety, being able to focus on the task at hand, not the impeccable design of the tool performing it, is far more important.
If you've got an eye for design, don't mind investing in your gear and your tasks don't get more difficult (or potentially dirty) than everyday slicing and dicing around the pad, The Carter could be for you. But, if you're an outdoorsperson that's looking for an affordable, tough, and decent-looking knife, the Pilar III is definitely the way to go.