The Kershaw Chill sits squarely at one of the points in the market where value and function intersect. In a crowded field, where prices range from single digits to nearly four digits, there is a whole range of values available. In the under-50 price range, this is an excellent knife. You get careful design and excellent construction. The materials are adequate, especially for the casual user. Discerning knife consumers, heavy daily users, and those that are particularly detail oriented will notice the cheaper blade steel, the lack of assisted opening function, and a small-diameter handle. We like this knife for the camp kitchen and routine backpacking use. For EDC, it will work well too, but the slender blade and narrow handle limit it to casual to moderate tasks.
Kershaw Chill Review
Cons: No assisted opening, slender handle
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|Pros||Compact, excellent construction, adequate materials||Great blade, classy wooden handle||Incredible blade quality, assisted open, perfect combination of compactness/functionality||Proven and well-respected blade, smooth, comfortable ergonomics||Immaculate materials, assisted opening, fully symmetrical performance|
|Cons||No assisted opening, slender handle||Expensive, no assisted opening function||Pricey, blade lock mechanism not intuitive||Large, no assisted opening||Large in your pocket, expensive|
|Bottom Line||Small, well-made, and functional for moderate daily use and excellent for your backpacking cook set. It will cut vegetables and cheese all day long.||A solid little knife for all-around “every day carry”. With assisted opening, this model would be similar enough to our Editors' Choice to really complicate our assessment.||Immaculately constructed knife in a form-factor that is easy to carry and large enough for virtually every task.||Full-size, basic folding pocket knife with immaculate construction.||The full size version of our Editors' Choice is less portable with minimal but real gains in usability. If you know you need a full size pocket knife, the Barrage 580 is a great choice.|
|Rating Categories||Kershaw Chill||Benchmade 15031-2 North Fork||Benchmade Mini-Barrage 585||Benchmade Griptilian 551||Benchmade Barrage 580|
|Blade And Edge Integrity (30%)|
|Construction Quality (20%)|
|Other Features (10%)|
|Specs||Kershaw Chill||Benchmade 15031-2...||Benchmade...||Benchmade...||Benchmade Barrage...|
|Weight (ounces)||2.3 oz||3.2 oz||3.4 oz||3.9 oz||4.2 oz|
|Blade Style||Drop point, straight||Drop point, straight||Drop point, straight||Drop point, straight||Drop point, straight|
|Blade locks closed?||No||Yes||Yes||No||Yes|
|Opening Style||Back-of-knife finger tab||Ambidextrous thumb-stud||Assisted, ambidextrous thumb stud||Ambidextrous thumb stud||Assisted, ambidextrous thumb stud|
|Lock Mechanism||Liner lock||Proprietary (Axis)||Proprietary (Axis)||Proprietary (Axis)||Proprietary (Axis)|
|Carry Style, in addition to loose in pocket||Pocket Clip, lanyard hole||Pocket Clip||Pocket Clip and lanyard hole||Pocket Clip||Pocket Clip, lanyard hole|
|Blade Material||8Cr13MoV stainless steel with bead-blasted finish||CPM-S30V stainless steel||154CM Steel||154CM steel||154 CM stainless steel|
|Handle Material||G-10 laminate||Stabilized wood||Plastic||Plastic||Valox|
|Blade Length (inches)||3.2||2.9||2.9||3.5||3.8|
|Closed Length (inches)||3.9||3.9||4||4.6||4.8|
|Thickness (w/o pocket clip) (inches)||0.3||0.53||0.57||0.6||0.7|
|Other Features or Functions||None||None||None||None||None|
Our Analysis and Test Results
For day to day and backcountry use, we really dig the budget products from the knife industry's heavy hitters. A company like Kershaw has the scale and know-how to make a price-point knife, but they can't bring themselves to dumb it down too much.
Blade and Edge Integrity
8Cr13MoV steel, as is used in the Kershaw Chill, seems to be fast becoming the lower cost steel of choice for the big knife companies. Kershaw's heat treatment is excellent, making for a finely tuned hardness. In normal use, you might sharpen the Chill once every few months or so. The blade geometry is thin and somewhat delicate. We didn't have any troubles with the blade of the Chill, but our experience with other blades sharpened to a shallow edge angle indicates that heavy use might chip or roll the Chill's edge.
Ergonomics and portability are, to a certain degree, at odds. The narrow handle profile of the Kershaw Chill fits unobtrusively in your pocket or your compact backpacking kitchen bag. The catch is that it doesn't quite fill even small hands. The squared off handle corners and small handle "diameter" don't support heavy cutting forces. Also, the back-of-blade index finger tab for one-handed opening isn't as slick or fast as a thumb stud. For fast, daily use, an assisted opening function would be nice too. The Chill deploys slowly; it is best for more occasional and deliberate tasks.
Select a thumb-studded, assisted opening knife for frequent use. The Chill doesn't deploy as reliably fast as something equipped with thumb stud opening.
The Chill is on the small and lightweight end of the pocket knife spectrum. Of course, there are even smaller knives. However, any smaller than the Chill and you enter the novelty category. In short, the Chill is as portable as we want in a full-function knife. The pocket clip is tight and solid, the option to add a lanyard is nice, and the external profile isn't too sharp or rough. It isn't as gentle on the pocket as some, but it won't do too much damage either.
We noticed no issues with construction quality on the Chill. Generally, this is our experience with budget items from the major knife manufacturers. They reach the price point with down-graded materials and elimination of some amenities but still assemble the knife well. This makes for a well constructed product.
When assessing construction quality, we look at tension and friction in hinges, locks, and the pocket clip. In these ways the Chill is right in the mix with the more expensive award winners.
There are no additional features on the Kershaw Chill. This is just an excellent blade that folds into its handle. Simplicity in action.
If you want screwdrivers or beverage openers on your pocket tool, check out the Victorinox Climber or any one of our many tested Multi Tools.
Related: The Best Multi-Tools of 2019
The Kershaw Chill has great function but won't break your heart if you lose it. For small items, this might be the definition of value.
Of course, we like super high-quality knife blades. In most cases, excellent steel and careful attention to detail jack the price way up while making the blade nicer to a discerning eye. To the typical user, though, the marginal gains in blade quality and detailing aren't noticeable. You might use the Kershaw Chill right next to one at 2-4x the cost and notice zero difference in the blade. When we look closely, we can tell the difference. Over years and years, you might tell the difference. In the meantime, the Chill will do all you need it to do at a much more affordable price. In comparing to award winners, remember that the Chill also cuts out an assisted opening and thumb-stud activation. These things are nice but perhaps not worth the extra cost for a typical casual user. The Chill is the knife we recommend for installing in your camp kitchen. If you lose it, you aren't out tons of dollars. It cleans up easily and holds an edge for that occasional backcountry steak.
— Jediah Porter