Cheap Pocket Knives for Everyday Carry

Guest post written by Suzanne Wiley.

I’ve had expensive pocket knives that didn’t last me as long as I expected, and I’ve had cheap knives last longer than expected. If you are or live with an avid outdoorsy or survival-minded person, no doubt you have your share of knives, too… and not just of the kitchen variety.

My knife collection varies greatly in size, quality and purpose in prices ranging from $5 to $105. I’m a sucker for steel, and I’m especially a sucker for steel at a steal. Because, really, you can’t have too many. After ruining the tip of my (not cheap) Kershaw Chive on a camping trip years ago, I decided I needed to try knives with the highest quality for the lowest price I could find. The likelihood of losing my EDC knife is pretty high, so I buy a lot of knives under $20, so when they break, lose their edge or go missing, I’m not too upset. Plus, I always have an extra knife, or two (or 20) laying around to take its place.

I’m not a blade snob and will purchase off-brand knives, as well as highly-regarded and well-recognized name brands. Sometimes the knife you’ve never heard of will pleasantly surprise you. Equally, the well-known names in knives like Kershaw, Ka-Bar and Cold Steel got their reputation because they build a solid, high-quality knife. Fortunately, the big players in knife making do make affordable EDC knives. I pay respects to both in this article.

Everyday Carry Knife Requirements…According to Me

For everyday carry, I prefer folding knives with blades under two inches with a gear clip and lightweight construction. Small knives are easier for me to conceal and are more comfortable to carry in my pocket in even the skinniest of jeans. Those of you with bigger pants and bigger hands probably want to carry something slightly larger, so I have reviewed a few different sizes of knives.

The blade on my EDC knife needs to be able to keep an edge sharp enough to cut boxes, rope, paper, string and be used in self-defense. One of the main reasons why I carry a knife is for back-up to defend myself in places illegal to carry a concealed handgun.

An EDC knife also needs to be able to perform various survival functions like skin game, descale and fillet fish and help cut kindling for a fire.

I look at the quality of the steel—will it break easily? Dull too quickly? It is important that it feels good in my hands, that I have a good grip and that it deploys quickly and smoothly, but also locks securely into place for safety.

Your knife requirements will probably be slightly different than mine, but my goal is to provide an honest review of each knife, highlighting its best features and pointing out its flaws. If I left any details out that are important to you, let me know in the comment section.

Smith & Wesson Bullseye

Black, partially serrated blade folding knife with clip point Tanto black blade
The S&W Bullseye opens smoothly and quickly with one hand.

Features:

  • 3.4-inch part serrated blade
  • Liner lock
  • Clip point Tanto blade
  • Black 7Cr17 high carbon stainless steel
  • 4.5-inch aluminum handle
  • Pocket clip and lanyard hole
  • Weighs 0.25 lbs.
  • Amazon price: $12.07

I’ve owned a few Smith & Wesson firearms and swear by the company’s quality and reliability, so naturally, I lean towards trusting other gear with the S&W logo stamped on it. However, these Smith and Wesson knives are licensed and not made by S&W, but for 12 bucks, I ain’t complainin.’ This is a big knife and it does just fine for EDC. It is not an assisted-opening knife, but it opens easily one-handed with the thumb stud and flip of the wrist. The pocket clip is strong, which is nice. You know it’s not going to break. The biggest downfall to the Smith & Wesson Bullseye is that the thumb stud is only on one side, so bad news for you non-ambidextrous left-handed folks.

CRKT Squid

Sleek, black no frills concealed carry plain blade knife made by CRKT
The Squid is made to be a companion to your concealed carry gun.

Features:

  • 2.14-inch plain blade
  • Frame lock
  • Hollow-ground spear point blade
  • 8Cr13MoV stainless steel
  • 3.5-inch stainless steel handle
  • Pocket clip and lanyard hole
  • Weighs 3.4 ounces
  • Amazon price: $18.86

The Columbia River Knife and Tool (CRKT) Squid is more my style—sleek, no frills, utilitarian. It has thumb studs on both sides and is easy to open one-handed. There’s good, aggressive jimping on the spine for a better grip if you’re worried about that. You can always add a small strip of grip tape to the handle if it makes you feel better. I like the chunky drop point blade. It really balances well. All the Squid needs is a good sharpening and you’ve got a great little EDC knife.

Schrade SCH207

Black folding knife with plain drop point blade and rubberized handle for a sure grip
The Schrade pleasantly surprised me! You get a lot of bang for your buck!

Features:

  • 3.30-inch plain blade
  • Liner lock
  • Drop point blade
  • 8Cr13MoV high carbon stainless steel
  • 4.50-inch aluminum handle with rubber inserts
  • Pocket clip and lanyard hole
  • Weighs 4.6 ounces
  • Amazon price: $13.57

Schrade surprise! For the price, you won’t get much more bang for your buck. Schrade really came through with this utility and every day carry knife. It holds its edge well and is super sharp right out of the box. It has ambidextrous thumb studs for both left- and right- one-handing opening. It has a solid lock up and quality steel for a really good, low price. Fun fact: Taylor Brands, which makes these knives, also makes the Smith & Wesson knives.

Ka-Bar Warthog

Ka-Bar folding knife with Warthog-shaped stainless steel blade and black G10 handle
The Ka-Bar Warthog’s chunky blade is good for self-defense and everyday tasks.

Features:

  • 3-inch part serrated blade
  • Liner lock
  • Warthog blade
  • 5Cr15 stainless steel
  • G10 handle
  • Pocket clip
  • Weighs 0.30 lbs.
  • Amazon price: $13.99

I want to love the Warthog, because of how much I love my Ka-Bar classic USMC fixed blade utility knife; however, the Warthog disappoints. The steel isn’t as high of quality, nor are the tolerances as tight as the CRKT. The Ka-Bar Warthog also does not have dual thumb studs and no lanyard hole. As far as features go, it’s lacking compared to the others and opening is a bit a stiff. However, the textured G10 grips is a higher-end touch and provide a sure grip. The best thing the Warthog has going for it is a really nice comfortable ergonomic design. It feels better in the hand than the CRKT and the Bullseye. It’s a hefty knife with a broad blade shape that is good for both self-defense and outdoorsy tasks.

12 Survivors BKE

Stainless steel, skeletonized folding knife with finger hold
Interesting design, incredibly easy to deploy.

Features:

  • 2.38-inch plain blade
  • Skeletonized handle with 1-inch finger hole
  • Drop point blade
  • 8Cr13MoV stainless steel
  • 420 stainless steel handle
  • Pocket clip
  • Weighs 4 ounces
  • Amazon price: $19.27

The 12 Survivors knife might look a little weird, but it’s super comfortable to grasp and that finger hole really helps with one-handed closing. It’s a neat design and I appreciate the full four-finger grip I get on this knife. It has ambidextrous thumb studs and is razor sharp right out of the box. Extremely tight tolerances make the BKE feel like it’s going to last, but also makes the pocket clip a little hard to use. Lightweight, yet with heft, the 12 Survivors BKE folding knife has everything I require in a knife. My only hesitation about loving this knife completely is that it closes a bit too easily for me with simple pressure from my thumb on the back of the blade.

Kershaw Shuffle

Kershaw Shuffle folding knife with short, broad stainless-steel blade and black plastic handle.
The Kershaw Shuffle is comfortable to grasp and easy to open one-handed.

Features:

  • 2.4-inch plain blade
  • Liner lock
  • Drop point blade
  • 8Cr13MoV stainless steel
  • Glass-filled Nylon textured handle
  • Reversible pocket clip, lanyard hole/flathead screwdriver and bottle opener
  • Weighs 2.8 ounces
  • Amazon price: $14.97

The Kershaw Shuffle has been my go-to EDC knife for a while now. I stumbled on a clearance sale and took advantage of a deep discount. I especially appreciate the finger grooves, the nearly full grip I get on the knife and how smooth the one-handed opening is. It cuts well, but you do need to remember to regularly sharpen it because it does go dull. It’s got a chubby blade that performs well with regular, everyday tasks. Plus, you get the bonus of the screwdriver and bottle opener. The Shuffle comes in a variety of handle colors, so that might attract some who are hesitant about carrying a knife. So far, my only complaint about the Kershaw Shuffle is that the handle is where Kershaw skimped to keep the price down.

Ozark Trail Wood Handle Clip Knife

Black blade folding knife with wood handle from Walmart brand Ozark Trail
Don’t discredit the cheap knife. Remember what Aron Ralston achieved with his cheap knife?

Features:

  • 3.25-inch plain blade
  • Liner lock
  • Clip point blade
  • Stainless steel
  • 3.75-inch wood handle
  • Pocket clip
  • Weighs 3.2 ounces
  • Amazon price: $9.98

If you have ever browsed through Walmart’s camping section, you’ve probably picked up a few things here or there to test them out. Some of that brands’ outdoor gear is super cheap and I’m all about saving a buck—especially when you compare prices to the more popular specialized camping gear brands. The Ozark Trail knives are a real steal—under $10! This one with the wood handle is good for those who prefer a more classic-looking pocket knife. It has a 3.5-inch stainless steel blade (we can’t find anywhere what type of steel) and a 3.75-inch wood handle. It is a liner lock and has a clip point blade. There are no thumb studs, but opening is smooth and the fittings are tight. For hunting, camping and everyday tasks, it holds its edge as long as you keep it thoroughly sharpened. All the Ozark Trail knives I’ve picked up have been just as solid and sturdy as other $20 to $30 knives. Though it is not my favorite of the bunch, it is the best bargain!

None of these budget blades are perfect—that’s why you get more than one! You’d be surprised what tasks cheap blades can perform. Aron Ralston cut his arm off and saved his life with a freebie knife made in China. So, don’t discount these budget-friendly options.

What are your favorite budget knives? Tell us in the comment section.

Prices here reflect what was listed at the time of original publication and are subject to change.

Suzanne has been writing for the outdoor industry for over a decade. She’s been published in numerous firearm industry blogs, as well as Firepower, Home Defender and American Survival Guide magazines. When she’s not stuck behind a screen, she’s outside, at the range, or floating in a body of water somewhere…preferably surrounded by dogs.