The world of EDC knives has become top-heavy as time has gone on, with many of the best quality blades costing as much as heirloom pieces, even though in the world of EDC, knives are meant to be battered, beaten, and often lost. Conversely, cheaper options tend to be so disposable that they lack sufficient quality to survive true constant utilization. The result is a wide and deep market that often doesn’t have what the budget shopper wants at a price they can afford. It’s frustrating and costly to err in either direction, which is why we’re trying to save you time and money.
In our quest to provide you with the best gear for everyday carry, we’ve tried to look at knives from every price bracket on the spectrum. We know that you can’t throw away most of your paycheck on a single knife, but you also need something that can come out of your pocket cleanly, rides comfortably, and can open day after day after sleepless night without a fuss to do the job you need. To that end, we’ve found the 8 best budget EDC knives under $30.
Opinel No. 8
Pro: Collared lock prevents accidental closures
Con: Metal will rust if not maintained
Old and New: The cheaper cost of the No. 8 compared with the other items on our list isn’t because Opinel doesn’t know knives, they truly do. Rather than just making an inferior knife with a tiny price, they made a great knife that just lacks a few of the snazzy features that have become common in the industry. With a nice carbon steel build, this doesn’t nick or break easily, and can hold an edge for ages without dulling down. Add in the beechwood handle, and you won’t even care that it uses a locking collar and doesn’t have any useless thumb studs.
Pro: Will not develop hot spots during extended use
Con: Pivot requires some time to loosen
True Bargain: The RAT series of knives is one of the best you can carry around with you, particularly if you’re a mid to large game hunter that needs a simple blade that can do cleaning work without running up a huge bill at your sporting goods store. It’s a knife that should be closer to the $50 or $80 mark, but partly because of the good-not-great AUS-8 steel and the inexpensive handle, it’s well within our price range. There’s no frills or features, just a solid blade in a passable handle that can go anywhere and never disappoint.
Pro: No washers or spacers to push the blade off-center
Con: Handle is excessively thick
Pure Anarchist: The Drifter is truly made for a life where riding the rails, fighting off the giant mutated sewer rats of New York, or clipping mulberries as you stroll by are potential activities. What makes the Drifter stand out is the steel liners, a forgotten addition to most EDC knives of the budget variety. These scales makes the handle stiffer and allows you to use the Titanium blade for digging and prying as much as slicing.
Spyderco Byrd Cara Cara2
Pro: Quick, wave-like opening
Con: Technically a Byrd knife, which means cheaper steel than SpyderCo standard
Extra Exact: Precision is the goal of the second version of the Cara Cara knife from SpyderCo. Jimping on the back combined with texture along each of the G-10 scales on the handle make this knife capable of handling larger tasks and hacking away, but far superior at smaller jobs where tiny cuts are needed. Using it like a razor or utility knife will yield tremendous results, while the ability to grip it handily will drop fatigue, even when you’re having to keep every stroke as diminutive as possible. Bi-directional texture on the FRN grip accommodates any holding style, so grab it whatever way you choose.
Buck Knives 110BRS
Pro: Exceptionally hard to break or damage
Con: Does not deploy quickly
Timeless: Your grandfather had one, your father had one, and if you don’t have one, they’re never going to forgive you. Complete with Buck’s Lifetime, anywhere, if-it-breaks-call-us-and-we-ship-you-a-new-one warranty, this is money well spent. It doesn’t really deploy fast, since this is a more pure pocket knife, rather than one of the self-defense folding knives that most manufacturers make these days; but it’s a hardy side piece that slips into any pocket or onto your belt, can stand up to years of hard work, and is made with a Dymondwood handle and 420HC steel for unlimited toughness.
CRKT Ken Onion Shenanigan
Pro: Lubrous washers and bronze bushings for easy opening
Con: Long for an everyday carry at more than 8 inches
Into the Fray: Slightly recurved and outfitted with a glass-filled nylon handle, this is a EDC fighting and sport knife that also has enough functional elements that you can keep it around for doing work or just personal protection. For common tasks, it’s nearly indestructible, and has a comfortable grip that allows you to hold it for hours without batting an eye. Since it comes from Ken Onion, one of the most recognized names in knifing, you know you’re getting a special design, and a flipper that makes it come alive with just a little wrist action.
Pro: Inexpensive flipper with a crisp, fast deployment
Con: Not built for heavy duty jobs (prying)
Slim Flipper: Kershaw managed to slip in just under the $30 mark with their Chill. This comes out of the bladed brain of RJ Martin and is meant to be a slim, polite little knife that doesn’t draw attention to itself until it comes out for serious action. Using 8CR13MOV steel with a satin finish, along with a CNC-machined G-10 handle, understated is the word that comes to mind when looking at the Chill. Put it to the test and you’ll soon realize that lack of flash does not equate to a lack of substance. It’s light enough for backpacking, with a blade that is just 2 ounces, but can still hold up to standard tasks.
Cadet Black Swiss Knife
Pro: Can’t even feel it in a back pocket
Con: File rubs against blade when opening
Fixer Upper: Made by the only company that makes the military-grade Swiss Army Knives, the Cadet is a tiny everyday carry blade that straddles the line between multi-tool and knife. Crack a bottle, open a letter, or put in a few screws, this is useful for projects or just daily living. It’s sized and made to act as a keychain, so it can go into your pocket along with a larger blade for protection or heavier work. Tuck it away anywhere and keep it on hand or in your desk, the miniature profile has few flaws.