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 will be multiple "best buys" available. In the under-50 price range, this is our favorite 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. The rest won't know the difference. The next step up in value costs quite a bit more, and at that price range, we prefer the Kershaw Leek. This other Best Buy winner has better blade steel and assisted opening, but is still very small in your hand for heavy tasks.
Kershaw Chill Review
Cons: No assisted opening, slender handle
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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. To create the Best Buy Chill, Kershaw has sourced slightly less expensive materials and eliminated the bare minimum of amenities to hit a price point that others just can't meet.
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 the Kershaw Leek (which is about 2-4x the cost) and notice zero difference in the blade. When we look close, 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 these two and comparing to our other 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. For daily use, you might justify the added cost to upgrade to the Editors' Choice Benchmade Mini Barrage.
Blade and Edge Integrity
8Cr13MoV steel, as is used in the Kershaw Chill, seems to be fast becoming the budget steel of choice for the big knife companies. A few past Best Buy winners have employed this same formulation. 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.
The CRKT Squid (a one-time Best Buy winner), Spyderco Tenacious G-10, and CRKT Jettison all use the same steel as the Kershaw Chill blade. All of these other models have blades, though, that are much more robust in width and edge angle. The blade geometry of the Chill is more similar to that of the Kershaw Leek or the James Brand Chapter. For delicate tasks and food preparation, this shallow edge angle is preferred. For heavy use like cutting cardboard or some prying and jabbing, the more rugged blades are preferred. A deep blade like that on the Editors' Choice Benchmade Mini Barrage allows for a shallow edge angle grind for easy hard cheese cutting with a thick spine that supports the forces of prying open a stubborn paint can or levering apart the joints of large game.
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 fast as something like the Leek or the Benchmade Mini Barrage. These other two, though, are much more expensive. We don't really know of a knife with good materials and assisted opening function at a price under $50. Down here in the Chill price point you are going to make major compromises, and that's ok. Similarly, you compromise some heavy cutting ergonomics for portability in the Chill. The full and rounded shape of the Mini-Barrage is much more supportive of heavy pressure than the Chill.
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 Best Buy 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.
The Chill is about the same size and weight as the James Brand Chapter and the other Best Buy Kershaw Leek. Both of these are much more expensive than the Chill. It is similar in length to the Opinel no 8. The Opinel is lighter but takes up more space overall. The Chill, Leek, and Chapter all have pocket clips while the Opinel does not. The Editors' Choice Benchmade Mini Barrage is larger in all ways than the Chill, but is also more useful.
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 like the Benchmade Mini-Barrage and the Kershaw Leek.
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
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. Heavy do-it-yourself use and hunting or fishing requires something more robust like the Editors' Choice Benchmade Mini-Barrage.
We grant our Best Buy awards to good value products. The Kershaw Chill is exactly that. It has great function but won't break your heart if you lose it. For small items, this might be the definition of value.
The Chill has adequate materials with Kershaw's attention to detail. The lack of assisted opening and limited cutting ergonomics hamper overall performance, but many won't miss these things at all.
— Jediah Porter