Thursday, January 3, 2013

"Made in the USA" Review: Gerber EZ Out 3.5" Folding Knife (Fine Edge)

Several years ago, I tried just about every popular one-handed folding knife on the market, hoping to find the perfect EDC/Ultralight backpacking folder for when I couldn't carry the weight of a fixed blade knife.

I tried Buck Vantage folders (great knives, but heavy, and the striations on the blade from the machining process made certain foods stick to the blade unnecessarily), Kershaws (high quality, but never cared for the "s" curves in their blades or their stiff liner locks), Benchmades (Griptilians have a knob that would catch inside my pocket and open the blade, the grind angle never carved wood very well, and the steel was always hard to sharpen), Spydercos (Excellent folders, but they are 3x times the price of the Gerber).

I also tried offerings from Cold Steel, Ontario and several other companies. None seemed to fulfill all of my requirements. I needed a simple, light-weight folder that was snag free in the pocket, an excellent wood carver, had a good blade-finish for processing food, functioned reliably, was comfortable in the hand, AND was affordable.

I was just about ready to give up my search, when one day, while perusing the knife display at a local outdoors store, I spotted a rather dusty-looking EZ Out lying inconspicuously behind some flashier Cold Steel and Benchmade knives. Curious, I asked the clerk to show me this mystery Gerber model.

I held it tightly in my hand (to get a feel for the grip), flicked it open a few times, and brushed the blade with the tip of my thumb to check the sharpness of the factory edge. The knife turned out to be surprisingly comfortable and sharp, opened easily with one-hand (without any button, knob or protrusion to snag inside my pants pocket), had a sturdy looking pocket clip, and was made in the USA, all for under $30. I told the clerk to hand that knife over --- sold!


Overall Length: 7.89" 
Blade Length: 3.52" 
Closed Length: 4.56" 
Weight: 2.6 oz. 
Lock Mechanism: Lock back 
Blade Style: Clip Point 
Blade Material: 420HC Stainless Steel
Blade Type: Fine Edge
Handle Material: Glass-filled nylon with Softgrip Inserts 
Opening Style: One-handed opening
Country of origin: Made in Portland, Oregon USA


The EZ Out features a one-handed opening 3.5" blade made from 420HC stainless steel, Zytel handle, and a stainless pocket clip. The blade is secured by a simple but sturdy lock-back mechanism when open. There is also a lanyard hole drilled through the end of the handle.

Field Performance

At only 2.6 ounces and packing a 3.5" blade, the EZ Out makes for an excellent ultralight hiking/camping/backpacking folder as well as a great EDC blade. The blade itself is a semi-flat ground drop-point with a secondary bevel. The angle of the grind is a bit more aggressive than what is found on a Benchmade, for instance. This makes the Gerber an excellent cutting tool, almost on the level of a Mora Bushcraft knife, as evidenced by the featherstick I carved with it below:

(click to enlarge)

Edge retention is actually very respectable considering the 420HC stainless Gerber uses. In spite of the steel type it also sharpens easily, usually a difficult task with 400-series stainless folders. My guess is that Gerber uses a superior heat treat to accomplish this.

The blade steel is also tough and chip resistant. I've used my EZ Out in extreme cold and have even carved through knots to test it, and have never experienced a chip or rolling of the edge. Once again, for such an affordable price, I think this is a huge positive. I've never felt I was missing having a more expensive folder with a hard to sharpen "Super Steel," like the S30V, while carrying the EZ Out. In fact, I've owned a couple of big name S30V folders and both of their blades chipped during hard use.

Blade Finish

Gerber's trademark bead blasted matte blade finish is probably one of the best finishes available for an EDC folding knife, as it cleans easily, resists staining and scratching and doesn't rub off or dull. In fact, out of all the folding blades I've used, the Gerber finish is the best I've found for easy cleaning after food preparation.

Pocket Clip

The pocket clip isn't a deep carry style clip, but it is secure and makes the EZ more accessible when you need to grab it fast without fumbling around, like some clips.


There are three minor issues that some hardcore EDC folding knife enthusiasts might notice; 1) The EZ Out opens fairly easily one-handed, but it's definitely not as easy and smooth to open as a Benchmade or a Spyderco. It's not enough of a difference to have bothered me, even though I've owned several folders from those companies. I still think the EZ is easy to open compared to most folders. 2) As noted in the photo above, the pocket clip is obviously not a deep carry pocket clip like the clips on Buck Vantage knives, for instance, but since I EDC in a fairly rural, mountainous area of Colorado, it's never been an issue as far as it showing in my pocket. When I visit more knife-sensitive places, I just slip the EZ inside my pocket. The EZ is flat and very light, so it's comfortable even when carried this way. 3) The simple lock-back design is strong, but makes it a little harder to close one-handed. I've gotten used to closing the EZ by pressing it against my leg while holding down the lock-back button. It's actually easy to do once you get used to it.


If you factor in its affordable price, Gerber's 3.5" EZ Out Folder just might be the best ultralight folder on the market. That's a pretty bold statement, especially considering the plethora of different brands and models of folding knives out there. But having owned an EZ Out and used it hard for several years, I stand by this statement. I just can't think of a better folder on the market for under $50. Try it for yourself and I think you'll come to the same conclusion. Plus, the American workers making these knives in Gerber's Portland facility will thank you too.

5 out of 5 Stars (Highly Recommended)

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About the author
Jason Schwartz is the founder and senior editor of Rocky Mountain Bushcraft. He is a former Red Cross certified Wilderness & Remote First Aid Instructor, and has taught bushcraft and wilderness survival techniques to the Boy Scouts of America, interned with the US Forest Service, and studied wilderness survival, forestry and wildland firefighting at Colorado Mountain College in Leadville, Colorado. Jason has also written for magazines such as The New Pioneer and Backpacker, including writing the "Tinder Finder" portion of Backpacker's "Complete Guide to Fire," which won a 2015 National Magazine Award (NMA). Email him at rockymountainbushcraft @ (without spaces)