EDC Recommendations Under $50
Tony Sculimbrene 12.13.13
This is the first in a series of recommendation articles for the pairing of knives and flashlights under a given price range.
This article is the recommendation for a light and saber pair under $50–I’ll be releasing one for $100, $200, $500 and $1000.
A few ground rules:
1) The items must be commonly available;
2) I am going assume general utility EDC tasks; and
3) I am going to assume that you want a balance between the items, as a $40 knife and a $9 light doesn’t seem to be the wisest way to allocate resources.
It’s challenging to recommend a balanced knife and a light under $50 all together. A decent knife or a decent flashlight can each be found for about $35, but doing so means you slack on one to gain on the other. Many products reviewed have given me some helpful insight. I also know this price range is appealing for those new to knives.
The Victorinox Swiss Army Knife Alox Cadet is the unquestionable best buy in the gear world; it’s a no-brainer. It does so much for so little, and looks sweet doing all it can. For $25, you’ll not find something that beats the Cadet.
But a lot of folks want a lock and a pocket clip; they also like the ability to open their knives with one hand. If that’s the case, then there is no budget blade that does better than the CRKT Drifter in G10. They make a framelock, but it is heavier, pricier, and has no real advantage over the G10 version. The 8Cr14MoV steel is quite acceptable and capable of taking a keen edge and being very easy to sharpen. I wish there was no coating on the G10 Drifter blade, but at this price range, there are things you just have to accept. The clip is no-nonsense, the size is just right, and the pivot is quite good for the price.
If you want a multitool, go for the keychain sized Gerber Dime. If you want a one piece multitool, the horrendously finished but impeccably designed Boker Toucan is a winner. I have found that the Byrd line–the budget line of Spyderco knives–is pretty uninspiring, trying to hard to not be Spydercos instead of focusing on good design; it’s a little like McDowells vs. McDonalds.
Light: Olight i2 or i3
There are very few “real” flashlights in this price range. Quite a few of them are clones of the Arc AAAP, or lights meant to function like that all time great torch from years ago. These lights are tough, with low lumens counts, no modes, and no clip. They are basically upgrades on the awful Mag Solitaire. But among the bin of budget bright things, there are a pair of very good lights–the Olight i2 and i3. Both have something unprecedented for this price range–a very decent bolt on clip. Friction fit clips stink so to see these clips at this price range is remarkable.
The choice between AAA and AA is really one of how you intend to carry the light. If you want to drop it on your keychain, you’d probably be best getting the i3, the 1xAAA light. If you plan on lugging this thing around in your pocket (and it would be light lugging), go with the i2. Even though the output is the same, the AA has greater runtime. Both are excellent choices for EDC as they are plenty bright at 75 lumens, have an acceptable low, and run on common batteries. Getting one of these lights will have you marveling at its simplicity and performance for the money. It will make going up in price very difficult, because you get a ton of light per dollar.
A word to the wise–skip all button cell lights. They’re essentially disposable. The Photon and other lights marketed as zipper pulls have a host of problems. First, they aren’t all that bright. They aren’t regulated, which means that you will only get peak brightness for a very short period of time before you start the low, long slide to dim nothingness. Batteries are also a huge pain to switch out. Finally, the batteries are both hard to find and prohibitively expensive. There is simply no reason to buy one of these lights when you can get the i2 or i3 that runs on a common battery and is not significantly more difficult to take with you.
A second cautionary tale–there are no Mag lights worth owning, especially if you have no plans of upgrading them. Nite Ize makes a clicky for Mini Mag 2xAA. Terra Lux also makes a drop in, as do a few others. At this point, the light, fully suped up, is actually quite competent, but as you might have noticed, at this point all you have is a Mag body tube with tons of upgrades. Additionally, you’ve probably well exceeded the $25 budget you’d have for a light.
I’d opt for the SAK Alox Cadet and the i2. That pair gives you enough performance and versatility to get through most random tasks you’d face in your everyday life. You could buy both with a fifty and still get a sub at Subway. No light and knife are better for under $50.