A stout fixed blade has been the go-to knife of hunters for centuries, but lightweight folding knives with replaceable blades are a new trend. And why not? They slide easily into your pocket, and when the blade dulls, you can quickly swap it for a new one and get back to work. The question is: How well do the thin blades hold up against the toughest hide, meat, and bone?
Outdoor Edge Razer-Lite EDC
The Razer-Lite EDC won top marks in my testing because of the double-sided thumb studs and a blade holder that stretches almost the full length of the blade. This aids in durability and keeps the blade from bending and breaking on the tough cuts, such as hip joints. The rubberized handle fits nicely in the palm for a steady grip, giving it the feel of a fixed-blade knife. The Razor-Lite EDC comes with six replacement blades and has the quickest method for switching blades, barely edging out the Gerber. With a push of a button and a gentle pull, the blade releases easily.
Replacement blades: $13.50 (six pack). $35; outdooredge.com
Blade: 420J2 Stainless Steel; 3½ in. • overall length: 8 in.
Pros: Long blade holder aids in durability
Cons: Stiff plastic pocket clip
Browning Speed Load Hunting
The other knives in our test have standard drop point or blunt tipped blades, but the Speed Load Hunting comes with four blade types: drop point, guthook, caper, and utility. It has a metal blade housing that runs almost the length of the blade and helps with durability. The Browning is heavy compared to the rest because of the thick G10 handle, but that also gives it a strong overall feel in your palm and makes it easy to grip. To change blades, Browning has a two-button blade release that isn’t the easiest to operate when your hands are covered in blood and fat.
Replacement blades: $7 (four pack). $40; browning.com
Blade: 420J2 Stainless Steel; 31⁄8 in. • overall length: 77⁄8 in.
Pros: Four different blade types
Cons: Two-button Blade release
Havalon is the brand most associated with starting the replaceable blade knife trend, and they don’t disappoint with their new Forge. The knife is ambidextrous and comes with six stainless-steel surgical blades that are perfect for intricate trimming, butchering, and removing silver skin. The Forge doesn’t use a button release to change blades; instead users push up on the base of the blade to raise it above the locking mechanism where a simple pull releases the blade. The TPR rubberized handle provides a good grip when slippery.
Replaceable blades: $10 (12 pack). $55; havalon.com
Blade: Stainless Steel; 23⁄4 in. • overall length: 7 7⁄8 in.
Pros: Nonslip rubberized handle, blade holds edge well
Cons: Thin blades make cutting through bone tough
Gerber Vital Big Game Folder
We chose this knife knowing it was longer than the other knives to show that replaceable blade knives are available in more than just compact models. The Vital Big Game Folder looks like an oversized scalpel and comes with four blades (two drop point, two blunt tip). The 3¾-inch-long, full-size blade is a half-inch wide for working through large animals and is easily exchangeable with the push of a large button. To accommodate the blade size, the handle is very long, making it a little awkward, but it’s rubberized for a sticky grip.
Replaceable blades: $23 (five pack). $68; gerbergear.com
Blade: 3cr; 33⁄4 in. • overall length: 11 in.
Pros: Easy push-button blade release, long blade length
Cons: Most expensive blade replacement