When Kershaw announced a partnership with Rick Hinderer, the excitement was almost palpable. Rick has been a mainstay of grail knife manufacturers for years, with his XM series of custom/midtech knives (depending on your definition) being on most everyone’s “would kill for” list. Finally, with the introduction of the Kershaw Cryo and Cryo II, we mere mortals, who couldn’t afford or justify dropping close to 4-figures on a folding slab of steel – no matter how awesome and sexy it may be – were finally able to get a slice of the Hinderer experience.
The Kershaw Cryo and Cryo II are two identical birds of a feather: the only difference being their size. The Cryo II, which I own, is 20% larger than the Cryo, so keep this in mind if you like the Cryo II, but for any reason wish it were just a bit smaller.
Right off the bat, let me start by saying that the Kershaw Cryo knives, aesthetically speaking, are very “Hinderer-like.” They are framelock folders that feature the Hinderer lock bar stabilizer (more on that later) and flipper deployment. Yet although the knives are Hinderer-like, the more I play with my Cryo II, the more I see the Kershaw Cryo knives as being 100% unique, different from any of Hinderer’s other work. The Cryo knives certainly do have Hinderer attributes, but I would never mistake one for a true Hinderer knife. Whilst this statement may seem obvious, after the Kershaw/Emerson collab on knives like the CQC-6K, you can understand why I anticipated there would likely be more overlap in terms of design and overall functionality.
In hand, the Kershaw Cryo II feels every bit as sturdy as its 165g (5.8 oz) implies. The Cryo II is without a doubt a heavy-duty beater knife; it’s certainly not designed as a discreet gentlemen’s everyday carry option.
Interestingly, the knife is aesthetically very busy on the reverse/pocket clip side, having its blacked out hardware, pocket clip, writing on the blade, and lock bar stabilizer all on this side. Part of me wishes Kershaw had opted to keep the Cryo as minimalistic and neutral as the other side of the knife, which hits all the right marks for me with its matte uniform design.
The 8.3 cm (3.25 inch) blade is somewhat reminiscent of the XM design by Rick. Instead of a spanto ground blade, however, what we have is a relatively lean hollow ground blade with a very surprising acute tip.
The various scribbles detail the knife manufacturer (Kai/Kershaw), the knife designer (Rick Hinderer), the steel used (8Cr13MoV) and the place of origin (China).
I do prefer have more rather than less information about my knife, but I do feel that all this information is a bit misplaced being on the blade of the knife. Concerning the inevitable groans from people who don’t like China made blades – it’s a Rick Hinderer design for $45 shipped to your house. You have two options here: deal with it or save up for the real thing! In any case, options are always appreciated so thank you Rick and Kershaw for this collab.
The balance point on the Cryo II is too far back into the handle for me, but what can you expect with full (410) stainless steel construction and no pockets machined out to remove some weight. It definitely makes its presence felt in the hand, which is not necessarily a bad thing if you like that sort of thing. Personally, I prefer a lighter construction, especially if durability and toughness is not affected.
You can see the tip below. In the photographs, the tip looks far more reinforced than in the hand. I wouldn’t call it a needle tip, but it’s definitely very stabby, and I would not advise prying with it. Not that I typically advise prying with knives anyway.
The pocket clip on the Kershaw Cryo II is of the deep carry variety (when affixed tip down). Not the best looking clip I have ever seen, but it’s perfectly functional. It can be attached in all 4 positions, so if you’re left handed, this one’s gonna suit you just as well as the rest of us.
In pocket, the Cryo II is basically invisible. Great if you want a discreet option for a folding heavy duty EDC knife.
As mentioned before, the Kershaw Cryo II’s blade is ground surprisingly lean. I had expected similar performance to the Kershaw Volt SS, but surprisingly, it’s an extremely good slicer, closer to the Kershaw Tremor than anything else I own. The Cryo II came razor sharp out of the box, like most Kershaws.
The scales are chamfered perfectly, and for two slabs of steel, are very comfortable (more on the ergonomics later) with some smooth jimping (not the cheese grater variety). I also really like the oversized lanyard hole – all manner of paracord will fit through with absolutely no issue. Very similar to the Spyderco Paramilitary 2‘s lanyard hole in terms of size and implementation.
Take a look below and you’ll see for yourself that no weight saving measures were employed on the Kershaw Cryo II scales. No skeletonizing here. I would have preferred that they milled some pockets in, but of course, more CNC-ing would mean it would cost more money, and I certainly won’t be complaining about the price.
Centering and fit and finish – pretty much perfect. The coating used on both the scales and the blade of the Kershaw Cryo II is advertised as a “carbo-nitride” coating. I’ve never been a huge fan of coatings, especially on stainless steel blades, but so far I’ve noticed no wear of any kind on the scales or the blade, so whatever carbo-nitride is, seems to me it’s pretty damn tough. Feels good to the touch as well, so don’t be scared off if that was a worry.
Aesthetically, the Kershaw Cryo II reminds me a bit of a dark titanium with its pseudo-matte finish. Think of it as semi-gloss.
Deployment of the Cryo II is lightning fast, like most of the assisted SpeedSafe flippers by Kershaw. The detent doesn’t require much pressure to disengage, and it deployed to full lock up every single time.
Lock engagement on the Cryo II is rock solid. No blade play in either direction, and the lockbar settled on 50% after only a few flips. No change as of yet. Design seems very robust, I am pretty damn impressed with how well the lock was implemented. A good framelock is a damn pleasure to use.
The flipper on the Kershaw Cryo II acts as a giant guard, almost like a choil, protecting your digits should the lock fail. It won’t but it’s nice having something there anyway.
In the saber grip, the ergonomics on the Kershaw Cryo 2 are very neutral with some nice jimping for your thumb to rest on. I wish the balance was as neutral as the grip, but you can’t have everything in life.
Choking up on the Cryo 2 is pretty comfortable: except for the blade having a swedge. The swedge is certainly not sharp, but it’s by no means comfortable to hold either. In any case, the knife remains perfectly usable when choking up.
If you’re planning on choking up a lot with your EDC, I definitely wouldn’t recommend this knife. Designs that have deep choils, like the Spyderco Sage 2 for instance, are much better for that kind of thing. I find that flippers add too much space between my hand and the blade.
Reverse grip on the Kershaw Cryo 2 is unsurprisingly neutral. You’re ultimately holding two slabs of steel with no real curves or grooves. Think of a flat, almost straight banana, and you will have a decent idea of what to expect.
Pinching the Cryo 2 is less than ideal, as is true of most flippers. This is not a design flaw, but a compromise one must make with 99% of knives that deploy by flipper.
Almost forgot to mention. That little disc in the middle of the frame lock acts as a way to stop you from over extending your lockbar when disengaging a framelock. Sounds like something obvious but someone had to come up with it, and of course that someone happened to be Rick Hinderer. In practice it works very well, and will truly make you question why all framelocks don’t have this feature.
A Rick Hinderer design at $45 was enough of a sales pitch to get me in. I can’t find much to disagree with, especially at this price point. Sure, if you threw in an extra $30-50, the knife could have better steel, have skeletonized/pocketed scales, and perhaps KVT bearings instead of assisted deployment, but that’s a whole different ballgame, and a very different price point.
The Kershaw Cryo II is a great knife from an excellent designer made by a consistently reliable manufacturer. The knife features a solid (if a bit heavy) build, with a surprisingly lean blade, and an incredibly beefy lock. There’s not much else to say about the Cryo II, as there’s nothing besides its weight that you can really hold against it when you take into account the cost.
If you like flippers, and love the aesthetics of this knife, you can’t go wrong buying it. Certainly recommended.