Oregon-based Kershaw is a big shot in the knife industry. They have maintained quality and affordability since they opened doors in 1974. Now, imagine a combination of Kershaw and the famous Rick Hinderer, then you understand why the Cryo was such a tantalizer to knife collectors when it first featured in the SHOT Show in 2012.
And the Cryo was such a huge deal for two reasons. First, finally, everyone who wanted a Hinderer-designed knife could afford one, as the closest Hinderer then was $300. And second, it hit the shelves and won the 2012 “Best Buy of the Year” award from Blade Magazine.
Since then, this simple and compact designed EDC knife has maintained its popularity, with a gamut of emotions from extreme love to abject hate. Let’s find out why in this Kershaw Cryo knife review.
At A Glance
I would understand if you become skeptical about the quality of this relatively cheap Hinderer/KAI knife. Besides, it’s wholly China-made. But, you may be in for some real surprises. Kershaw Cryo features a hefty belly, a stout blade, and a hollow grind. And oh boy, the design hits some real and high Goldilocks points.
Throw at it some EDC roles, and you’ll be surprised at how it sturdily handles each. The size is perfect for an EDC, with the clip fixing it where you want in your pocket. But, Kershaw had to make some compromises to keep the price that low. Be prepared for average blade steel, the assisted-opening, and a blade that never centers. All in all, the Cryo is a decent knife worth its price.
Blade length: 2.75 inches
Closed length: 3.75 inches
Overall length: 6.5 inches
Weight: 4.2 ounces
Blade material: 8Cr13MoV stainless steel, titanium carbo-nitride
Handle material: Stainless Steel, titanium carbo-nitride
Locking mechanism: Frame Lock
Deployment mechanism: Thumb studs, Flipper
Country of origin: China
Price range: About $30
- It comes sharp right out of the box.
- Has a lifetime warranty.
- The knife has a compact size and length for easier carriage and efficient functionality.
- Durable stainless steel handle.
- It’s a safe knife in the pocket, thanks to the frame lock.
- The 8Cr13MoV steel is strong and easy to sharpen.
- Pocket clip and a lanyard hole help with the carriage.
- Too heavy for its size
- The thumb studs are somehow vestigial
- The blade is not centered
Overall, the Kershaw Cryo blade feels solid. The blade design gears towards peak functionality, and the titanium carbo-nitride finish enhances the beauty. The blade has a length of 2.75 inches, perfect for EDC tasks but quite unappealing for long blade lovers.
The blade has a sufficient belly and a slender but tough tip. You get an attractive drop point design blade that slices effectively. The look and shape are close to Hinderer’s other classic models like the ZT 0561. The thumb studs stick out as the blade meets the handle.
Kershaw went for the Chinese-made 8Cr13MoV stainless steel for the blade. This steel is an all-around budget performer that holds an edge fairly well and sharpens easily. While some blade enthusiasts argue that Kershaw should have used better steel like 14c28n, the shipping and manufacturing cost would have been very high.
The Handle and Ergonomics
Kershaw moved from the usual low offerings fiber reinforced nylon and opted for a stainless steel handle for the Cryo. It’s a major contributor to the unusual weight of this knife. The design is open, and liquids like water flow freely through for easy cleaning. You get a titanium carbon-nitride finish on the handle, too, for a great uniform look. The handle feels comfortable to grip, and the jimping on top and bottom are very helpful with traction.
The decorative black pillars and a lanyard hole on the handle add to the aesthetics. The weight is well balanced between the handle and blade, and you will certainly enjoy short durations of light tasks with Cryo. However, this is not the kind of handle for hours of heavy-duty tasks. You will certainly have sour fingers from the rough jimping and edges. Also, you will need a pair of gloves to handle this knife in the winter.
Another great thing about this knife is the black low rider pocket clip. You have the option of screwing on any of the handle’s four corners. The clip design firmly holds the knife in the pocket and is easy to insert and remove. Of course, you’ll always feel the knife in the pocket due to its weight, and it feels more comfortable in jeans and khakis than with dress pants.
Deployment and Lockup
Kershaw uses a frame lock mechanism in the Cryo. The locking system utilizes the stainless steel interior and phosphor bronze bushings for frictionless deployment. You have the option of using the thumb studs or the flipper to open the blade. The Kershaw’s signature Speedsafe spring-assisted opening technology deploys the blade nice and easy under a slight push on the flipper.
While the flipper is easily reachable and works excellently, I had some difficulties using the thumb studs. You need two hands and more effort to use them to unfold the blade. Honestly, Kershaw possibly never gave much thought while including them in the Cryo. They are a major nuisance in the pocket, and Kershaw could have done better to include an internal stop pin instead.
The lockup is secure and made better by the Hinderer stop. A downside reported by many users is the blade positioning within the handle. There is almost no Cryo with a centered blade and a little side-to-side play occurs too often. Even so, the frame lock stays in shape thanks to the lock bar stabilizer included.
Read also: 420HC Steel Overview: [Full Detailed Review]
Kershaw Cryo Other Versions
Kershaw not only makes quality products but also has among the best customer support in the industry. They have a lifetime warranty cover for the knives and re-sharpens at no extra cost. And that is why they made the below versions of the Cryo to address some concerns on the original version.
Kershaw Cyro G10 Version
The G10 version came a year later after the original Cryo version. Kershaw aimed to give an alternative for people who liked the Cryo idea but weren’t comfortable with the weight and handle material in the original version. The G10 handle lowers the weight of this version to 3.7 ounces, and the texturing firms the grip. Also, the blade in the G10 version has a nice stonewash finish but costs a few more dollars. However, everything else is similar to the original version.
Kershaw Cryo II
This version features the same handle and blade design and finish as the original version but slightly larger and heavier. Kershaw made this second version with an overall length of 7.75 inches and a blade length of 3.25 inches. The 20% size increment results in a hefty weight of 5.5 ounces. This knife is still perfect for an EDC but on the heavier and larger side. This second version is also pricier.
Users’ Review on Amazon
Kershaw has impressed most users of the Cryo on Amazon. More than 77% of users are happy with the size, razor-sharpness right out of the box, overall great design and finish, and the performance of the Cryo knives. Most users have admitted making the Cryo their main day-to-day carry though they had bought it as a backup.
Most dissatisfied users listed flaws noted in this review, like the off-centered blade and the loss of blade firmness after several cutting tasks. Others weren’t happy with the weight. Luckily, Kershaw covers all knives for life, and most dissatisfied users got theirs fixed or replaced.
Kershaw Cryo is certainly a win for its price, and the size fits well in most pockets. It’s decent by all standards with an acceptable performance blade steel, nice ergonomics, and great functionality. This knife is perfect for general use, everyday carry, and is very affordable.
Conversely, this knife has glaring flaws that most “knife people” may not like. The blade is off-center, almost rubbing on the sides, and it starts side plays after a couple of cutting tasks. The weight and the useless thumb studs are also major turn-offs. Kershaw could have done better by ironing out the flaws, but certainly, the Cryo is worth its price.