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Face it, we don't always have money to burn. When people talk about the best knives, they often refer to the Chris Reeve Sebenza, which can go for upwards of $450. Yes, the knife is well-made, but it's not always a reasonable purchase for those who just want a workhorse knife they can pit against tough, dirty everyday tasks.
Even if you did have $300 to spend on a good knife, you probably wouldn't want to use it to open packages or break down cardboard. In fact, there's a term for that. Knives you love to look at but don't want to use are called "safe queens."
The knives on this list are the opposite of safe queens. This is a list of the 15 best everyday carry knives that won't break your wallet, knives that you're not afraid to abuse, knives that you love carrying wherever you go.
Before we get to the list, let's talk money.
What does budget actually mean?
As the old Paul Simon song says, "One man's ceiling is another man's floor." Since one person's budget will differ completely from the next, we decided not to set any specific limit to our budget. Prices tend to fluctuate, but you can generally find all these knives for under $50.
If you're depending on a knife to do everything from saving people in burning vehicles to cutting open those clamshell packages, $50 isn't an unreasonable amount to spend. That's also the maximum amount we have on the list, which means you'll find many in the $20 to $30 range.
Here's the list in no particular order.
1. Spyderco Persistence
When it comes to best overall EDC knives at any price, the Spyderco Tenacious typically earns a spot on the list. However, for less money, you can get the same exact knife in a slightly smaller size. The Spyderco Persistence is the next smaller knife in the "Resilience, Tenacious, Persistence, Ambitious" series and features a 2.75-inch blade made from 8Cr14MoV stainless steel (compared to the 3.38-inch blade of the Tenacious). This smaller, more compact size is better suited for an EDC. Plus, you save some cash in the process.
The textured G10 handle scales on the knife are ergonomically shaped, and you get the quality and design Spyderco is known for. The Spydie hole in the blade allows for ambidextrous opening, and the knife feels good in the hands. For under $50, this knife is a steal.
2. Buck Vantage
When you think of a Buck knife, the image of Buck's iconic 110 Hunter undoubtedly comes to your mind. But there's more to Buck than the Hunter. The Vantage proves that the old company isn't stuck in the past. Boasting a simple yet effective design, the Vantage is a reliable folder with a 3.25-inch blade. What makes this such a great EDC is its strong liner lock, stainless steel frame, and dual liners. The knife is built for action and abuse.
The blade is 420HC stainless steel and features a cutout to facilitate one-hand opening. A flipper mechanism also gives you quick one-hand opening. One thing that really appeals to knife lovers out there is the fact that it's made in the USA. So along with a lifetime warranty from Buck, the Vantage is a knife you're not afraid to put through the wringer.
If you're inclined toward smaller knives, Buck also has a version of the Vantage with a 2.63-inch blade for a few bucks less.
3. Victorinox Cadet
You can't have a list of best budget EDC knives without at least one Swiss Army knife. There are tons of models in many sizes with different combinations of tools, but the Victorinox Cadet has found its way into the pockets of millions of knife nuts around the world for good reason. This inexpensive multi-tool features everything you need for daily life and nothing more.
The primary tools of the 84mm Cadet are a large blade, bottle opener, can opener, and nail file. In these primary tools are two screwdrivers, a wire stripper, and a nail cleaner. There's also the typical key ring.
What really sets this model apart from some of the other Swiss Army knives is the handsome textured Alox handles. Not only does it feel great but it looks great too.
It's no surprise this multi-tool is so renowned by hard-core knife enthusiasts.
4. CRKT M4-02
Think you can't get a good assisted-opening EDC on a budget? Then you haven't seen the CRKT M4-02. Designed by the legendary Kit Carson, the M4-02 has a 3.25-inch drop point blade made of 8Cr14MoV stainless steel. This handsome knife is far from intimidating if you whip it out in public to cut some thread off your clothing, making it a great tool to carry anywhere. (The one we're highlighting has Burl Wood handles, but it also comes with Stag handles or White Bone handles.)
Despite being a looker, the knife is also a performer. Using the lightning-fast Outburst opening mechanism, the blade springs forth when you apply enough pressure on the ambidextrous thumb studs. To ensure the knife stays open when you're using it on tough jobs, the M4-02 uses the LAWKS mechanism, which adds extra security. The last thing you want in an EDC is a knife that can fail.
Although this is at the top of our arbitrary budget, it's worth every penny for the work you'll accomplish every day.
5. Kershaw Chill
Slim, sleek, reliable, durable, made in the USA. Having just one of these qualities usually makes for a solid EDC but the Kershaw Chill comprises every single one of these attributes. The Chill has a built-in flipper that easily engages the 3.1-inch 8Cr13MoV bead-blasted blade. The blade (and the knife in general) is quite slender. Factor in the 2-oz weight of the knife and the Chill disappears in your pocket, which is something most people look for in an EDC.
Designed by respected custom knife-maker RJ Martin, the Chill has a relatively bare-bones design. That's not a knock on the knife; in fact, this means that there's less chance for failure due to dirt or wear.
6. KA-BAR BK11 Becker Necker
The knives featured on this list so far have all been folders, but some people are looking for a fixed blade with a little more heft and durability. For those folks, there's the KA-BAR BK11 Becker Necker.
Designed by the unequaled Ethan Becker, the BK11 is a hard-working tool that doesn't mess around. Normally, a good EDC is a knife that's compact and fits in the pocket. While this knife doesn't fold up neatly, it is quite compact. The blade is only 3.25 inches long and the whole thing is only 6.75 inches. Using a black hard plastic sheath, the Becker Necker easily mounts to a belt, boot, or tactical vest, so it's more convenient than you might think.
For being under our budget, this made-in-the-USA knife doesn't skimp on quality materials. For example, the whole knife is made from 1095 Cro-Van steel. Since there are no handle scales, you can make your own paracord handle if you desire.
Again, this probably isn't the type of EDC you'd want to carry around if you live in an urban area, but the Necker Becker is a solid option for those who need a tougher knife for everyday tasks.
7. CRKT Ripple
We couldn't make a list of best EDC knives without the inclusion of a knife by the venerable Ken Onion. Most of his knives are on the higher end of our budget, so we opted for the exceptional CRKT Ripple. The Ripple, with its flowing and contemporary design, was Ken Onion's first for CRKT after spending more than a dozen award-winning years at Kershaw. Onion and CRKT ended up making a more budget-friendly version of the Ripple with a smaller blade and aluminum handle scales—that's the one on our list.
Its modified drop point blade is 2.7 inches, which is a great size for an EDC; it gets the job done and has the added benefit of being small enough to be legal in most places. But the real appeal of the Ripple is the quick and easy one-handed deployment—an essential trait to most people. The blade engages with the flipper and uses the innovative IKBS ball bearing opening system to deploy with a smoothness and rapidity like few others.
The Ripple is an obvious addition to the best budget EDC knives list.
8. Smith & Wesson SWFR2S Extreme Ops
A knife from Smith & Wesson, you may be wondering? Absolutely. When you need an inexpensive knife that can take a beating like no one's business, Smith & Wesson is your man… er brand. At Knife Depot, Smith & Wesson knives are best-sellers for two major reasons—they're cheap and dependable.
We could have picked any number of these beater knives (a beater knife is one that is so inexpensive you don't mind using the hell out of it for pretty much anything), but we settled on the Smith & Wesson SWFR2S Extreme Ops Tanto.
The folder has a 3.3-inch partially serrated blade with a modified tanto point (a sort of drop point tanto). The partial serrations give it some additional functionality while the modified tanto point is optimal for piercing and other tasks. This liner-locking knife also has some extra features in the textured aluminum handle you might want on a good EDC, including a glass breaker and seatbelt cutter.
You can get better knives for more money, but when all is said and done, the Smith & Wesson Extreme Ops is a great budget EDC.
9. Case Sod Buster, Jr
The aforementioned knives will serve well in the field and in daily life, but sometimes you just need a simpler knife to get through the day. For those who enjoy the classic and traditional things in life, there's the Case Sod Buster, Jr.
Sodbusters are considered the working man's knife. Back in the day, this traditional knife pattern was used on farms for pretty much everything. More than 120 years later, this knife is still coveted and revered by the knife community.
The knife itself is nothing spectacular. It's a slipjoint knife with a fairly burly handle that makes cutting things for long periods of time more than bearable. The blade has a straight back with an edge that curves up toward the spine.
So why do so many people like such a basic knife? Not only is it cheap but it's reliable, strong, and rooted in history. This Case version we're highlighting has a 2.75-inch blade length with a blue synthetic handle. A full-size Sod Buster from Case with a 3.5-inch blade is only a few bucks more if you want something a little bigger.
10. Ontario RAT 1
Our last budget EDC is arguably the best. The Ontario RAT 1 isn't just talked about as one of the best budget EDC knives but also as one of the best EDC knives in general. The RAT 1 (which stands for Randall's Adventure Training) may not look like much, but it can take a beating like no one's business.
The folder features a 3.5-inch satin-finished drop point blade made from AUS-8 stainless steel. The steel won't win any awards, but it'll get the job done and then some. Staying engaged with a durable liner lock, the blade deploys with ambidextrous thumb studs. The nylon handle is ergonomically shaped with a fine texture to keep it firmly in your hand when you're using it.
To ensure maximum comfort and customization, the knife has a four-position pocket clip. When it comes to quality and affordability, the Ontario RAT 1 is among the best.