Gerber Zilch Pocket Knife Review: $25 Knife Does the Job

If you’ve ever bought a knife at a gas station, big box store, or Cracker Barrel gift shop, you’ve probably spent about $25 (or less). And usually, you get what you pay for. But with the Gerber Zilch, you get a little bit more — a genuinely functional knife at a very low price. Sure, it won’t hang with higher-priced offerings from many brands, including Gerber. But before you turn your nose up at this little tool, hear me out.

The Gerber Zilch is a light, ergonomic, durable EDC knife that will work for many folks, and the price is hard to beat.

In short: From how it feels in hand, to its design and price (usually about $20), the Gerber Zilch is a heck of a deal. It’s lightweight, easy to flick open (and keep closed), and reasonably capable. It simply is a great knife at this price. Sure, knife snobs will turn up their noses at the 7Cr steel. It won’t compete with S30V or D2, much less super steels like CruWear, or M4. But it’s an OK performer at the bargain bin price range.

  • Blade
    7Cr steel, plain-edge drop point blade
  • Handle
    textured FRN
  • Design features
    Lanyard hold, pocket clip, thumb stud
  • Total length
  • Blade length
  • Claimed weight
    2 oz.
  • Verified weight
    1.3 oz.
  • Colors
    Black, red, coyote, mustard yellow (new), lichen green (new)

  • Lightweight

  • Great quality for price

  • Very functional for light EDC tasks

  • Good grip on scales

  • Easy to deploy

  • Pretty good as is, could use better steel

  • Not ambidextrous (only right-hand carry)

  • There are better blades for $30-40

Gerber Gear Zilch Review

The Gerber Gear Zilch at the office; (photo/Mary Murphy)

The Gerber Gear Zilch arrived one day at our office, unannounced. We hadn’t requested the knife, but when a brand-new piece of gear shows up at GearJunkie, we get to work. I carried this tool around for several weeks. I took it hiking and camping. I traveled with it. I also used it to cut through paper and cardboard and to complete everyday tasks between home and office.

It came in handy more than a few times.

At 7.2 inches and wicked light, the Zilch is still solidly built. I’m hesitant to call it “simple” because, for all that it packs in for the price, it’s actually pretty accomplished.

First off, the blade arrived sharp with a good grind. It’s plenty capable. It is 7Cr steel, which is pretty mediocre at best. But it cut through paper, tape, thinner cardboard and packaging, and small items with ease.

If you use it within its limitations, it’s great. I’ve only sharpened it thoroughly once more since unwrapping this little blade. It won’t hold an edge very long, but it is easy to resharpen.

Also, the knife is lightweight. It’s not flimsy, but it feels sturdy. It’s not too wide or too much to slide into a women’s pants pocket. (Yes, ladies, this is a great knife to carry on your person!) The pocket clip screws actually stayed secured and tight.

I’ve had issues with the Gerber Fastball, and have constantly had to touch up its screws with Loctite. Even at $25, this blade didn’t have that problem. That being said, I’m left-handed, and the pocket clip only fastens to one side of the blade, which is a bummer. But for most — especially righties — this won’t ruin your experience.

Do you want a comfortable-in-hand, approachable-in-price blade? The Zilch is good for you. Do you want GearJunkie’s favorite budget blade ever? Then you’ll have a whole lot more blades in the $30-50 price range to consider.

I’m taking the Zilch as is, at face value. This is what 25 bucks could get you, instead of that other cheap knife. If you truly can’t afford a pocket knife in the next price tier up, the Gerber Zilch is one of the few I’d recommend buying.

Also in the same vein of good qualities of the Zilch are its size and length. It’s not too much knife, but not too slim or compact either. It’s not miniature. The blade is long enough for daily tasks. The spine of the handle has interlocking plastic teeth that seem to add rigidity.

All told, the Zilch held up for me in over 3 months of carrying and testing and is just fine for EDC use, beginners, and novice knife lovers alike.

A Note on Weight

the gerber zilch knife being weighed on a postal scale
Verified weight of the Gerber Zilch; (photo/Mary Murphy)

Gerber is one of those brands that I’m starting to think may just guess on total weight, or maybe needs to reset its scale? Either way, I’m stumped. Because the “lightweight Zilch” they are advertising doesn’t weigh close to the 2.2 ounces listed — our knife weighed in at 1.3/1.4 ounces. (I weighed it on two scales.) On one hand, it is awesome since it’s lighter than advertised, but on the other not so awesome given the inaccurate specs.

I’m not sure if the discrepancy here is because Gerber weighed the Zilch with a pocket clip or lanyard attached (we left the clip on), or maybe in the packaging. Shipping weight is my best guess as to what’s listed.

If you like, and can handle a burlier EDC blade, you will probably enjoy something more like the SOG Terminus XR (around $60, with G10 scales) or the Kershaw Cryo (3.7 ounces and under $50) — both are more than twice the price of the Zilch, though.

Biggest Con? Not Ambidextrous!

I’m a leftie, which is occasionally annoying in life, but typically lends a unique still when it comes to gear testing. I’ll notice things off the bat about a knife, pocket placement, or design feature on a pack that righties would just never think about.

For the Zilch, it’s kind of ambidextrous, kind of not. There’s a thumb stud on both sides, so technically it can be used left-handed, but the pocket clip can only attach to one side of the knife.

If you are a leftie who doesn’t care as much about comfort in the hand, you could use this blade as is, but for most, I’d recommend removing the pocket clip for the best experience. This is a bummer, as I definitely like to opt for the pocket-clip carry, or at least have the option. Did it ruin the knife for me? Nope, not at all. I still like this little blade.

Conclusion: What $25 Will Get You From Gerber

gerber gear zilch knife on a rock outside
The Gerber Gear Zilch, pictured in lichen green; (photo/Mary Murphy)

The Gerber Zilch shipped fairly sharp. It’s easy to keep sharp and has been a whiz with general EDC tasks. It’s seriously hard to fault the quality of this blade for its price.

There’s no blade play or wobbling, the steel is an OK quality that’s held up (the important part), and the liner lock is solid. And the exposed “teeth” give it a unique look. There’s also enough texture on the handle for grip. Not to mention, the two new colors for 2023 look good.

I’ve taken mine on a couple of camping trips and half a dozen hikes and dropped it a few times; no scuffs so far. I also cut through a thicker, bike-size shipping box at our office — not the best, but the blade lives on. It’s more durable than I’d expect from a knife of this price.

Now, the question is, how long will the blade steel last? For 25 bucks, and with some basic knife care, I’m hoping to keep it ticking for a long time.

Yes, it’s also very lightweight. So much so that you could lose it. But, thankfully with the Zilch’s price tag, you don’t really have to worry.

If you are a beginner (or someone apt to losing things) in the market for a no-frills knife, check out the Zilch. You won’t be disappointed. If you are a total knife snob and want to add only the best blades to your EDC rotation, just know you’ll need to shift your expectations. This knife is under 30 bucks — it is great, but just can’t compare to the CJRB Pyrite, CIVIVI Elementum or Imperium, or CRKT Squids of our world.


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