submitted by Bernard Capulong
It’s that time of year again. This past week, we made a trip out to Las Vegas for the 2023 SHOT Show to check out the latest and greatest in the Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor and Tactical industries. As you can imagine, there’s plenty of crossover into the everyday carry world.
It’s been a couple of years since I was last able to walk the show due to pandemic travel restrictions, and a lot has changed in the EDC gear space since then. At the show, I saw some familiar brands, noticed the absence of other big names, and discovered some up-and-coming companies to keep on your radar.
After scoping out as much of the massive trade show as I could (it seems to have doubled in size!), I narrowed down my favorite EDC products in this post. Read on to see my favorite EDC gear from SHOT Show 2023.
Best EDC Apparel: 5.11 Tactical Maverick EDC 1.5” Belt
The 5.11 booth was a bit of a departure from the brand’s usual image. This time around, it was airy, bright, and modern-feeling, with fluorescent tube lighting throughout the open cage installation. In a way, it reflected the direction of some of the brand’s newest apparel and accessory designs: they’re modern, and sleek, yet functional at their core and technologically advanced where it counts.
Some examples across the brand include refinements to their outdoor pack, The Skyweight, to reduce its weight in response to feedback from outdoor users. On the lifestyle side, the popular Norris sneaker gets a successor in the McLane Mid, featuring improved breathability, cushioning, outsole traction, and puncture resistance.
The pro sector saw technical innovation with the new XTU Line, bursting at the seams (not literally) with features specifically requested by professionals, like body-mapped fabric construction with no-drip/no-melt textiles, integrated knee pad systems, thoughtful pocket layouts, and much more.
But since most of us aren’t in the public safety field, I named the new Maverick EDC 1.5” Belt as the best apparel at the show for the rest of us. While it’s better suited for civilian and urban use compared to their other duty belts, 5.11 have spared no expense with its construction, including dual-layer nylon webbing and heavy-duty AustriAlpin COBRA buckle hardware for quick and secure retention/release.
Last but not least are laser MOLLE anchor points for extending its modularity and adaptability. The booth demo’d the belt fully loaded with accompanying discreet pouches and attachments to show off the 1.5” platform’s versatility. If you need one belt to tackle on any mission you can throw at it, this is it.
Best EDC Bag: Eberlestock F5 Switchblade
As tempting as it is to go down the rabbit hole of EDC bag collecting – there’s a certain appeal to having that “one” perfect bag to do it all. The F5 Switchblade from Eberlestock might not be a brand-new product, but it’s definitely one to keep your sights on for its versatility alone.
Its thoughtful design can accommodate all sorts of use cases I can imagine an EDCer would have: personal defense with its CCW capabilities, general EDC with its robust internal organization and efficient use of space, outdoor and hunting with its different camouflage options, and even discreet travel with its low-profile “grayman” styling options.
It’s all possible thanks to the functional attention to detail throughout the bag. For example, its interior slots can accommodate a 17” laptop for work travel, a hydration bladder on the trail, or plates for personal defense. Thinner and lighter-weight MOLLE-10 webbing on the exterior can accommodate external gear pouches and attachments or serve to anchor and lash onto a larger pack system when hunting. If you’d prefer a sleeker, low-profile look, you can opt for no webbing at all.
For some EDCers, it makes sense to invest in dedicated, specialized bags, but for most, I think having one bag that can do it all, like the Eberlestock F5 Switchblade, is the way to go.
Best Outdoor Gear: Ontario Knife Company SPL Pack Knife
SHOT Show isn’t all tactical gear—much of it also serves the outdoor and hunting crowd. So when it came time to award the best outdoor gear at the show, this nifty fixie caught my radar. Ontario Knife Company should need no introduction around these parts thanks to the popularity of their RAT folding knives. They’re go-to picks for solid, no-frills EDC blades with an outdoor edge at an affordable price.
If the SPL Pack Knife is anything close to the overall usability of OKC’s offerings, it’ll make for a great outdoor companion. The SPL series also introduced a Dive knife variation featuring a blunted chisel/pry style tip that was developed from direct feedback from professional divers. While it’s encouraging to see OKC serving a wider variety of outdoors people, the SPL Pack Knife offers more general utility for the outdoorsy EDCer.
The Pack Knife fixed blade measures in at a manageable 3.9” length in a versatile drop point shape, made up of the hottest steel at the moment: Magnacut. It’s a great choice for an outdoor blade thanks to its potent combo of high hardness and excellent corrosion resistance. Orange G10 on the handle provides grip, light weight, and high visibility for your adventuring. When not in use, the blade tucks away into a matching orange plastic sheath, complete with a convenient snap-fit closure and molded belt loops for multiple carry options.
If you’re interested in some nicer steel offerings and G10 in a moderately sized EDC knife from Ontario, don’t miss the new RAT I in S35VN and red G10. It’s the same great RAT I you know and love, but done up with improved materials across the board. Expect a modest price increase to match, though.
Best EDC Flashlight: Nitecore EDC27
While most other flashlight brands at the show debuted either incremental updates to their existing flashlights or introduced more tactical weaponlights, Nitecore brought us innovation dedicated to the EDCer in the EDC27. It’s their take on the slim rectangular format that’s been gaining popularity (think Surefire Stiletto, Olight Arkfeld, or Streamlight Wedge, for example), jam-packed with Nitecore’s signature features.
The flat form factor carries better in a pocket than the conventional cylindrical light, not unlike a pocket knife. PVD-coated stainless steel comprises the main chassis of this rectangular light for toughness and rigidity, surrounding a carbon-fiber-reinforced polymer core for balance and light weight. It houses a 1700mAh battery rated for a 37-hour max runtime that recharges via USB-C.
The business end boasts a dual Luminous SST40 LED setup for a max output of 3,000 lumens. An OLED display on the front of the main body reads out vital info like brightness, runtime, and more. The tail end features two switches to handle operation: a Mode switch for cycling through its general use modes starting at 15 lumens on the low end, and a second button for instant access to its 3,000-lumen Turbo and tactical Strobe mode.
It’s not just the form factor that earns the Nitecore EDC27 an award this year—it’s the whole package. Not only is it optimized for pocket carry, but it also offers quality-of-life features like lockout modes, instant access to special modes, an OLED display, a deep carry pocket clip, convenient recharging, and all the durability you’d want in your daily light.
I think lights in this slim rectangular form factor are just getting started, and the EDC27 is a great example of what to look forward to in the platform. Some of you might just stick with smaller keychain lights, or prefer the enthusiast-level customization and battery control of traditional cylindrical formats. But for all you EDCers who are holding out for something fresh in the flashlight space, this could be it.
Best EDC Knife: CIVIVI Elementum II Button Lock
This is probably a lukewarm take, but it’s hard to argue against the CIVIVI Elementum II Button Lock. No, it isn’t groundbreaking or meta-defining, but it’s a solid feedback-driven update to a popular and accessible knife with even more features that EDCers have been wanting. It’s back to its smaller size compared to its Elementum I counterpart. Compared to the previous version that could only be deployed by disengaging the button lock, this new version adds a rear flipper tab for more control of how to open the knife.
Combined with its button lock, its snappy opening and drop-shut action make it a fidgeter’s dream too. The blade also gets a minor upgrade in the steel department to Nitro-V. And best of all, it’s still relatively affordable for the price. While the title of the “best” knife for EDC obviously will differ from person to person, I think the Elementum II Button Lock is a safe bet to shortlist.
Best Knife Design: Benchmade 748 Narrows
Okay, hear me out. Before we get to the elephant in the room, let’s look at Benchmade’s newest titanium knife in terms of the sheer design and engineering involved. It’s already no easy feat to design a knife that’s even thinner than the now iconic Bugout from which the Narrows draws some inspiration. But to do it in titanium while also keeping its ambidextrous AXIS lock functionality in this form factor impressed me the most.
I think some people might not realize how difficult it actually is to remove material and strip away everything but the essentials on a knife like this. After all, isn’t that what we try to do with our EDCs as a whole? The result of years of development is the 748 Narrows: a titanium EDC knife with an M390 blade, heat-anodized blue hardware, and a modified AXIS lock. It takes everything that made the Bugout a smash hit and cranks it up a notch without going too overboard.
Keep in mind, I’m giving the award for the design of the knife—not necessarily for its value proposition. Because honestly, this is not a knife for everyone. At its MSRP of $580 this is out of reach for many. For others, it’s amongst stiff competition in the price bracket.
I think the 748 Narrows is for the knife enthusiast who can appreciate intentional design that pushes the limits, or perhaps has an affinity to the Oregon-based brand, and doesn’t mind paying a premium for exactly what they want. It’s probably not for the EDCer who seeks the biggest bang for the buck or chases the latest and greatest in materials or steel.
In my brief time handling the knife, I can say it was unlike any other knife I picked up at the show. I understand why it can be a polarizing knife, but I’m certain it will be grail status for some enthusiasts and the centerpiece of many collections.
Most Innovative: CRKT Provoke EDC
Everything about the original CRKT Provoke’s design breaks the mold—so much so that it ultimately wasn’t an optimal choice for everyday carry for most people. That all changed with the refinements brought forth in the new Joe Caswell-designed CRKT Provoke EDC. Gone is the curved blade in favor of a more utilitarian, general-purpose straight-edge blade.
But all the original Provoke morphing magic is there. Between the deployment, the lockup, the different grip possibilities, and the pocket clip, there’s something to discover. Let’s start with the mesmerizing and satisfying Kinematic deployment.
I picked the Provoke EDC up off of the magnetic display and slipped my index finger through the karambit ring on its tail end. Off the bat, it’s not a grip you’re probably used to. Next, a quick downward push of my thumb on the outer crossbar sets the chain in motion, shooting out the blade into its full extension. The action is satisfying and convincing and almost instantaneous; you don’t really feel play, wobble, or swing in momentum in the same way you might with a chunky flipper or a stubborn thumbstud deployment. It still deploys in that “tactical” overhand grip, but the knife’s proportions and angles—especially the 2.5” D2 drop point plain edge blade—let you handle it like a traditional EDC knife.
Pushing a discreet lock bar nestled amidst the big, dynamic, crossbar chain mechanism lets you collapse the blade back into its closed position within the lightweight blue aluminum handle.
Carrying the new Provoke EDC is made slightly easier thanks to its slightly shorter closed length and much lighter weight at 3.6 oz versus the original Provoke’s 6.1 oz weight. Of course, the flush pocket clip integrated within the karambit ring remains. It deploys with the right tension for your pocket only when you need it to with the press of your thumb.
It takes real innovation to design a knife that looks unlike anything else out there, not only during its deployment but when it’s closed or open, too. We’re excited to see more unique knives like this as viable carry options for general EDC and look forward to what else Caswell and the team at CRKT are cooking up next.
Best In Show: Eikonic RKC9
Probably a hot take, but Eikonic is poised to be the best bang for buck EDC knife brand you’ve never heard of. After talking to the owner at the booth, I learned the brand is not even a month old, but it’s born out of decades of experience in the high-end OEM knife industry. And it shows—the brand has a stable of heavy-hitting designers behind it, putting out EDC-focused knives with excellent fit and finish under $100.
For example, the RCK9 pictured here is designed by Ramon Chavez exclusively for Eikonic with his signature design language, but it’ll run you less than $90. And while it’s true that other companies in the past have partnered with high-end custom knife designers to bring their designs to the production world, Eikonic stood out to us not only with their knives, but with their hunger, passion, and mission.
All of the knives they had on the table came in at the sub-$100 price point with plenty to offer: excellent practical designs (from Ramon Chavez, Brian Nadeau, Jonas Iglesias, and HEA Designs), D2 blade steel and G10 or micarta handles, flipper or thumbstud deployments with solid, snappy action, carefully balanced skeletonized liners and overall an impressive fit and finish at the price.
In a world where everything’s getting more expensive (knives included) and money is harder to come by, I think it’s fair to highlight a brand whose sole mission is to deliver top quality at an accessible price. Because at the end of the day, that means more people can feel prepared and more people can share this hobby and passion of EDC with us.