08 Dec Best Budget EDC Knives
Read my guide to the best budget EDC knives you can buy right now. Each knife on the list is tested and and has proven to be a solid performer for a budget EDC blade.
If you are new to the EDC game or just don’t want to spend a lot of money on an EDC knife, then this list is for you. Buying EDC knives can be tricky; it’s hard to compare features and blade steels. If you are new to knives or have not handled medium to high-end knives, it can also be tough to justify the price tag sometimes.
Hopefully this list of the best budget EDC knives that I’ve put together will help you make your purchase with confidence. Make sure to read our guide on How To Pick An EDC Knife
I have personally tested and handled every knife on the list so you’re getting first hand information and real world experience on each of the blades below. When we talk about budget pocket knives, I think $30 and under is where the term “budget EDC knives” applies. These are knives you can easily grab at Home Depot, pick up on Amazon, or even find at Walmart.
Perhaps your current situation or longing for a knife dictates that all you have is $30 and you want a knife right now. If that’s the case, then the ones on this list will serve you well. Not all are perfect, but they will get you through many EDC needs…and remember, the best knife you have is the one that’s on you in an emergency.
How I picked the best budget EDC knives on this list:
Making any type of “top ten list” or “buying guide” is tough because, ultimately, it’s all in the writer’s opinion. My criteria for a knife to make this list was simple: it had to be $30 or less, not a piece of junk (however, it could have a few faults), it had to be an overall solid performer, and it had to be a single-blade folding knife.
For a daily user EDC knife, a solid folding blade is the heart of any good everyday carry setup.
Ontario Rat I
In the budget category, the Rat I is a king! It has been a budget mainstay for years and is a knife that will last you even under some harder use.
The blade steel is AUS8 and, for the average situation, it will serve you well. While not a fancy blade steel, it takes an edge easily and cuts pretty well. It comes in several color options.
I snagged this guy a few years ago at Walmart and it’s a fantastic, budget, pocket knife. I’m partial to framelocks (which the Drifter is), and for less than $22 you get a stout knife with good lock up and a halfway decent blade. This version comes with a 8Cr14MoV and, in my experience, is actually not all that bad. It holds an OK edge, but is quick to sharpen. Only downside is the framelock is super stiff, even after two years of ownership.
If you want to stay under the $30 mark for an EDC knife, then this could be your guy right here. I have been very impressed with the Natrix from day one. One of my favorite features is that it will flip open quickly once it’s broken in.
It’s not an assisted knife, but rides on bushings that let you flick it open in a quick snap. It feels great in the hand and will take some abuse. Only the black handle with plain blade is under $30, several variations get it to almost $40.
Spyderco Byrd Meadowlark 2
Byrd is Spyderco’s budget line and, truth be told, I like some of the Byrd knives better than the full priced Spyderco counterparts. The Meadowlark is the budget version of the Delica and I like it just as much as the real thing.
It uses a cheaper blade steel, but it has a great finger choil that makes it one of my favorite knives. The choil allows you to choke up for detail work. This knife is so good for the money that I would put it up against some blades at twice the price.
You basically get all the Spyderco engineering in a wallet friendly package. Many knife guys still pick up the Byrd knives because of their awesome value.
Here is a no-frills, solid, pocket knife. I have mentioned it a few times before because, at under $20, not many budget blades can perform as well. This is a folding knife deployed with a thumb stud and it has a strong lock back mechanism. These make great gifts too! I have a few of these in different colors and it’s what I give my boys to use when we go camping.
I know the lock is strong and they have no chance of accidentally closing the knife on themselves. The AUS8 blade sharpens to a wicked edge and will get the job done. This is a great knife to throw in the glove box as a backup or emergency blade.
If you need a small EDC blade for a few bucks, this one will do nicely. It’s another manual folder with a lock back. The blade is a lower end steel, but it’s not bad for the asking price. This is good for opening packages and fiddling around, but a little too small for bigger tasks. Despite its size, it still performs well enough that I can recommend it.
Cold Steel FinnWolf
The Finnwolf will show you just how competitive the budget EDC knife market is! This is a great knife because it’s built so solidly. It would even still be worth it at ten dollars more! If you need an inexpensive, hard-use folder, this is a good choice. Also, with the saber grind blade profile, it’s a great camping knife or small folding bushcraft knife.
The saber grind is great for a lot of detailed tasks and carving. (I happen to prefer a saber grind so I like this knife even more!) It’s got a strong lock up when open. My complaints are two things here: the lock is strong, but does not disengage smoothly (that seems to be an issue on many Cold Steel folders), and secondly, the pocket clip is horrible.
Don’t buy this knife. I am listing it here because I always get questions asking about it. It’s readily available at Home Depot and it’s one of those impulse buys. It might have been an OK knife…but the ridiculous deployment and closing are a deal breaker. You would be better off walking down the aisle 10 feet and buying any one of the Coast Folding Knives for $9.99. You will actually enjoy it more.
Check Home Depot too!
Coast Folding Knife
So, you have probably seen this knife a hundred times at both Home Depot and Walmart. If you ever wondered how good a $10 knife can be, let me tell you…pretty good! If you go on Amazon, you will see there are literally hundreds of knock-off knives for sale. They look exactly like their name brand counterparts but, of course, don’t have the same quality.
Avoid the temptation to buy one of those. Instead, grab one of these Coast knives. You get a legit pocket knife that will serve you well with just a little bit of care. Again, I throw these into the “almost disposable” category, but the knife will surprise you with its capabilities. The 3Cr13 stainless steel blade will get the job done and can be easily touched up with a stone. The knife deploys well using the thumb hole in the blade and locks securely in place. Buy one of these to use while you save up for a Spyderco PM2!
Blue Ridge Knives Zancudo
This is one of the most solid, budget, framelock knives out there. Made through a partnership with Blueridge Knives and Esse, this pocket knife is a perfect EDC knife…and I am surprised it’s so cheap! The Zancudo, which means mosquito in Spanish, is made up of one side G10 and the other (locking side) stainless steel. The knife has a reversible pocket clip for tip up or tip down carry and the clip is a relatively deep carry.
The handle has a nice shape to it and has a wide finger groove that allows you to have good control in tight spaces or for finer work. This knife is good for EDC but would also make a great secondary knife in the backcountry or camping. The AUS8 blade comes in a sandwash finish or black DLC coated, which makes it look a little sinister. I have one of these in a backup EDC kit in the trunk of my car.
It’s rare to find a knife at this price point that really has a super quick blade deployment using a flipper. Most budget EDC knives that “flip” open take a little practice and still need a little wrist flick. However, the Fraxion, once broken in, almost acts like an assisted knife and the blade flies out. This one has some cool looks with a mix of G10 scales and faux carbon fiber overlays.
The all-black blade and handle give it a definite tactical look. For the most part, it’s a well done knife. To be honest, I hated it at first. But I have since given it a second chance and realize it’s a decent little knife for less than $25. I’m not crazy about the pocket clip, I think it should ride deeper in the pocket, but it works.
The SOG Traction is like many other budget folders in form factor. A solid blade and handle with a back lock mechanism. That’s probably because this design, formally, works well and is reliable. That’s just what you get with the Traction, a reliable EDC knife without anything flashy. I like the deep-carry pocket clip on the Traction and the thumb stud makes it easy to open one-handed. The 3.5” blade is made from durable 5Cr13MoV and has a clip point.
Again, when we are talking about these budget EDC knives, most of them have budget blade steel. The good thing about that is that these cheaper steels are very easy to sharpen, so you can get a long life of use out of the Traction and many others on this list.
You will see the SOG Traction in the pocket of a lot of contractors and weekend warriors because it’s always hanging in the tool section of your neighborhood Lowes.
Cold Steel Prolite
Yes, I like Cold Steel knives! The reason is that they offer heavy duty use, good overall performance, and a very fair price range. The Prolite is a great knife! If you want to see some torture testing, watch the video below of how strong the Cold Steel Triad lock is.
If you need a knife you can depend on in serious situations, then the Prolite offers a lot of value. The 3.5” blade is easy to get an edge on and wears extremely well. It’s easy to open with the thumb stud and the nylon handle is so strong that no liners were needed, which also makes it light in the pocket. You can pick this one up in a few different colors and two blade styles, clip point or tanto.
Buck 110 LT
The original Buck 110 is one of those famous knives that everyone buys because of its long heritage – it seems like all our grandfathers had one. It’s definitely getting on in years for the asking price and blade steel, but this lightweight version isn’t half bad. If you need a sturdy knife for some harder-use tasks, the 100 LT will deliver in spades. For what it lacks in refinement and high-end blade steel it makes up for in durability.
The knife comes in 420HC steel which is a lower end composition, but time tested. Where Buck raises the bar is in the heat treatment of the 420HC, making the common metal superior to many manufacturers. The other great trait here is that this is a made in the USA pocket knife, not something you often see at the $30 price point.
Opinel Series No. 8
Another classic, and with good reason! The beechwood handle and high carbon steel blade with a twist lock collar hasn’t changed much since Joseph Opinel began making knives in 1890. This is a great knife for so many reasons, but its unassuming looks makes it ok to whip out in an office environment or in front of non-knife lovers.
It looks so old school that nobody should feel threatened. Now, that’s not to say the knife isn’t a performer…because it sure is! And at under $20 you are getting a lot of knife and a lot of history. If you could only have one knife, I’m not sure I would choose this one, but it’s one of those that everyone needs to own at least once.
You will notice that CRKT, Gerber, and Kershaw always have a ton of knives on many “knife lists” and that’s because they have hundreds of models in the $25-$45 range and many of them are pretty good for the price. So, another CRKT is making my list. The Directive is a medium-duty liner lock folder that is solid, looks good, and not all that bad for $30.
Like so many flippers in this price range, they don’t always flip open so well, and that’s the Directive’s issue, too. Even after a decent break-in period, the knife won’t always flip open smoothly. The way around this with many of these cheaper flipper knives is to give it a quick wrist snap at the same time of flicking the blade and it will open with a crisp snap. Barring the deployment issues, you get a good knife for the money.
The blade has a choil that will allow you to hold the knife for detail work and it has a surprisingly good, deep-carry pocket clip.
Cold Steel Tuff Lite
Another hard-use, bare-bones knockout from Cold Steel. Your money goes far with this one. The 2.5” blade is sharp right out of the box and it fits well in your hand. A reversible pocket clip, lanyard hole and heavy duty polymer handle make this ready for some abuse. If you are looking for a hard use folder for construction or in the field work, this is a good choice.
This is a knife that you can cut, pry, scrape, and throw in the pocket to be ready for tomorrow’s work day. The blade steel is AUS8, so it will last long enough and take a new edge easily. This is another good knife to give as a gift to anyone new to EDC.
Husky Folding Knife
I wasn’t expecting much when I picked up this $7 knife from Home Depot, but let me tell you, it’s probably the best budget EDC knife from China for under $10! Depending on your needs, this guy just might be the ticket. You can use and abuse it for a while and then just go buy another. I am definitely impressed with it considering what it is. I couldn’t find any information about the blade steel, but it comes coated in a black oxide finish, with a decent handle, and an adequate lock.
LEATHERMAN Skeletool KBX
I am always on the fence about this knife. I’m not overly fond of it, but I know a lot of guys are die-hard Leatherman fans. If that’s you, then you might like this knife, because most folks who love Leathermans don’t mind bad ergonomics, novelty designs, or poor performance. You may ask, “Why did you buy it?” I had to see if it’s worth the money.
If you can snag these at Christmas for $15 or less, then it’s an acceptable little folder. My main complaint is that it isn’t a smooth-opening knife. It uses an elongated hole to push open. Since it’s a smaller knife it just doesn’t feel secure as you deploy the blade. If the KBX has anything going for it, then that’s the super-light weight, just 1.5 ounces. Also, the blade comes wicked-sharp out of the box.
Another quirky knife from Gerber. I give them extra credit for trying to make different stuff. In the looks department, the Quadrant looks great and the bamboo inlay on the handle is very cool. Overall, it’s a great all-around knife that is well made and cuts well. The modified sheepsfoot blade is made from 7Cr17MoV stainless steel and has a great edge right out of the box.
It also has a decent, deep-carry pocket clip that won’t tear up your pockets. The frame lock is a little tough to disengage sometimes, but you’ll get used to it. The big disappointment here is that they should not call this a flipper…it will take a lot of break-in time to get that blade to deploy smoothly.
If a solid and good looking framelock is what you want, you could do worse than this under-$20 beast. The Squid has become somewhat of a cult favorite; a lot of people are doing custom mods and adding different scales for it.
This is more of an urban EDC blade, in my opinion, since the solid steel handles will be a little slippery in wet weather. However it does feel good in your hand and offers a surprising amount of purchase when you need to grip it for harder work. The lock up is solid and the framelock becomes very smooth over time.
This was a real surprise! I grabbed this when I saw it in a Black Friday sale bin near the hardware section at Lowes. It was normally $20 but was on sale and I couldn’t resist. I am glad I didn’t because its a really great knife for just a few dollars. of all these inexpensive knives, this gut probably flips open the best and fastest right out of the box. The pocket clip isn’t all that bad either. For what you pay, you could do worse. I will be getting another to keep in a go back…at this price it’s almost disposable.
Buy This Knife! You Will Thank Me!
Here is another from Kershaw that is decent for the asking price. Its a little wider in the handle than I would like, but the blade does jump out with the assisted opening and the all black looks good. I also liked the pocket clip, remember, some of these the clip is overlooked. So it was nice to see one that was half way decent and also 4-way reversible. The dlc coated 8Cr13MoV is a proven formula not just from Kershaw, but many so you know exactly what your getting into.
A Budget EDC Knife Buying Guide
If you have read through the knives above and are not sure about some of the features or terms, I will give you a quick explanation here. I think it’s important to know the different styles of deployment and lock up, as this can make a big impact on how you will be able to use the pocket knife.
The blades on pocket knives can be made from so many combinations of steel and all of them have pros and cons. For budget knives, less expensive steels are usually used to keep costs down. For the most part, all of the steels will be sharp and will cut well.
Where budget steel begins to show its weakness is in corrosion resistance, blade wear, and sharpening ability. Cheaper steel will dull quicker, but is easier to sharpen than most high end steels.
If put away wet or damp, many lower-end steels will pit or get a little rusty. You can clean this up with some 2000 grit sandpaper and WD40.
A pocket knife can open in several ways: automatic, assisted or manual. The actual opening method can vary too. You can have thumb studs on the blade, a small hole in the blade that your thumb fills up, or they can be some type of flipper. There will be a tab or other tang of metal on the back of the blade that you use to push down on and flip open.
Choose wisely, some of these knives can be harder to open in the beginning and will need a little practice and breaking in. Some knives have a “nail nick” and require two hands to open (think of a Swiss Army knife here). The main difference in deployment is whether you need one or two hands to open your EDC knife.
Many EDC knives will lock into place when opened to prevent accidental closure while in use. The most common locks are a frame lock, a liner lock, and a lockback. Both liner locks and frame locks are disengaged by your thumb on the underside of the handle.
This pushes a stout piece of metal out of the way of the blade and it will close. A lockback is a bar on the upper side of the handle (usually halfway down the length) that you push down to allow the blade to close. These lockbacks usually need two hands where a liner lock or frame lock can be operated one handed.
Not long ago, no knives had pocket clips…until Spydrerco invented them! A pocket clip is an important feature of any folding knife and can help you to decide how you want to carry your knife. Many pocket clips keep a portion of the knife above the line of your pocket so you have something to grab when you need to get to your knife.
The downside is that your knife is more visible to others when you are carrying it. In many situations this doesn’t matter. A deep-carry clip allows the knife to almost disappear into your pocket and keeps it out of sight. For the most part, all that is visible is the little bit of metal clip on the outside of your pants or shorts.
Pocket clips can be multi-position and reversible. Reversible means you can adjust it based on what pocket you want the knife in, this is handy depending on if you are left-handed or right-handed. Multi-position means that you can move the clip from one end of the handle to the other, offering a tip-up or tip-down carry option. You can Google the difference of that one, it’s a raging debate online!
Another topic that has a lot of opinions is the blade shape. You can have a tanto blade, clip point, and so on and so on. This is another personal choice, and only time can decide which kind of blade shape you like.
Keep in mind if you do a lot of piercing or prying, you will want something that has a more pronounced point on it. What you cut will also dictate blade shape. Many knives have a modified point that is rounded so as not to stab or pierce accidentally, you will see this with many emergency knives designed to cut people out of their seat belts in car accidents or or for cutting away clothing by paramedics.
Even in the budget category, prices vary wildly based on materials, type of knife, and, most of all, brand name. The bigger knife manufacturers can get away charging more because of their name. Several knives on this list, if they had a different name on them, would cost double or triple.
When it comes to buying knives, spending more money doesn’t automatically get you a better knife. Because of the different styles, from old school to tactical looking knives, it’s tough to make an even comparison of two knives costing the same amount of money. Look closely at blade steel and the level of finishing the knife has, those are safe standards to judge how much you spend.
Blair Witkowski is an avid watch nut, loves pocket knives and flashlights and when he is not trying to be a good dad to his nine kids, you will find him running or posting pics on Instagram. Besides writing articles for Tech Writer EDC he is also the founder of Lowcountry Style & Living. In addition to writing, he is focused on improving his clients websites for his other passion, Search Engine Optimization. His wife Jennifer and he live in coastal South Carolina.