I think making a list of the best knives under $20 is a good idea.
The term “budget” means different things to different people. When it comes to knives, some people swear by the checkout line clam-pack, while others subscribe to the “buy nice or buy twice” mentality, and there’s a Grand Canyon of distance between these two “budgets.”
This article is where those two worlds meet. Here, we’ll break down the best knives that both give those checkout line clam-packs a run for their money and are nice enough to only have to buy once. From where I stand, $20 looks to be the sweet spot. Just about anyone who is knife shopping can float a Jackson to get themself a knife. For those of who are on that tight, $20 budget, rejoice. There are a ton of awesome options in your price range, and you can get them all at Blade HQ!
The Piet (pronounced pEEt), is a pocket-friendly everyday carry (EDC) folder designed by custom knifemaker Jesper Voxnaes. He is a master of ergonomics and functional design, and his designs often command much higher price tags, but Piet has held steadfast at the hyper-budget price point for years now. It’s beloved for its solid build quality, hair-splitting edge, and compact size. Lots of hard-core knife lovers carry one to lend to friends, that way they can keep their $500 pocket jewelry knife in pristine condition. The Piet is a solid knife with excellent build quality. You could carry one for the rest of your life, and it would easily handle 90% of your cutting jobs!
Some people think that getting a budget knife means you can’t get something exotic, historic, timeless, and world-class, but Nagao Higonakami is here to prove them wrong. These knives have been handmade in Japan since 1894, and 5 generations later, the straightforward design, quality materials, and superb build quality are still present. Ever wondered how ridiculously sharp a knife hand-made by a 5th-generation master Japanese blacksmith is? For less than $20, you can put one in your pocket and find out! (Spoiler alert, it’s sharp.)
Many consumers prefer to support American industry. If you would like to support the home team, the Buck Bantam, like most Buck Knives, is made right here in the USA in the Post Falls, Idaho Buck factory. Most notably, that means the Bantam series boasts the Bos heat-treated 420HC stainless steel blade. This masterful heat treatment gets you truly excellent toughness, corrosion resistance, and edge retention. If you thought the days of sub-20$ USA-made knives with great build quality were gone, think again!
The entire idea behind bushcraft is making something nice with very little – someone can go out into the woods with only a knife, and in a couple hours, have a roaring fire, a tasty meal, and a cozy shelter to call home. Mora Knives, made in Sweden, have brought that minimalist spirit to the very knife you bushcraft with. The Basic 511 has a simple handle, a simple blade, and a simple sheath. Nothing flashy, nothing gawdy, just pure function. As it turns out, when you remove all the flashy and gawdy features from a knife and focus on the basics, you get a great knife for an unbelievable price!
For most of us, EDC consists of opening packages, slicing the occasional apple, and repeatedly opening and closing our knife until our thumb gets sore. For some, however, EDC means long days in the hand opening bags of concrete, scraping out horse hooves, cutting zip ties, and squeezing their knife into roles a knife shouldn’t be used for. The Ontario Camp Plus is for them. Thanks to its tough blade steel, rugged lockback, and elongated handle, this folder is built for the user who just needs to get work done.
In many reaches of Central and South America, Africa, and South-East Asia, one cannot be a functioning member of society without owning a machete. It’s the do-all tool – clear weeds from a farm, blaze a trail, split shingles for a roof, clean a fish, butcher a cow, open a coconut, etc. As it turns out, when you don’t have access to a lot of modern luxuries, a long, thin blade can squeeze into a ton of roles. That’s where the Tramontina Machete shines. Made in Brazil, this blade is designed to withstand the hard use a machete should, all while maintaining a price accessible to the average subsistence farmer.
If you like slick, modern, fast-opening knives, the Kershaw Rhetoric is hard to beat as a budget option. Running the SpeedSafe Assisted Opening mechanism, the Rhetoric launches open as hard as an automatic. Its lightweight GFN handle scales have been gently textured. It’s enough to grip your hand, not enough to shred your pocket. This compact knife is the perfect high-speed low-drag knife if you’re on a slim budget!
No cutting task is more capable of making an otherwise superb knife look untouchable faster than skinning and gutting. Even processing the smallest of game can get real messy, real quick. That’s why many hunters prefer a budget-friendly knife like the Gerber Freeman Guide – it’s got plenty of blade length and is well-made enough to skin your latest trophy buck, but you can have it for an absolute bargain-basement price. So, if your hunt gets a bit bloodier and hairier than you like, you won’t have to feel guilty taking a pressure washer to it when you get home.
Lots of folks have a tough time carrying a knife for self-defense. When you see super-premium tactical blades running for sometimes hundreds of dollars, you might feel like such a knife isn’t for you. But before you think that thought, check out the Cold Steel Mini Leatherneck Dagger. The Leatherneck series is based on the iconic knife carried by the United States Marines, and the Mini Leatherneck is a smaller, more concealable version. We picked the dagger for this list because its two sharp edges give it extra thrusting power. Carry it in your boot, inside your waistband, scout-style, or whatever suits your fancy!
In recent years, the extra strength and dependability of small, everyday carry fixed blades has made them popular all over the world, and you can get a great one for under $20! The Dozier Skeleton was designed by Bob Dozier, a legend in the knife industry who’s been making custom hunting knives for over sixty years. This knife takes all his mastery of blade shape, edge geometry, ergonomics, and sheer usability and makes it available on the strictest of budgets. You can’t go wrong with this one!
As you can see, you can get a great knife to fit any need for under $20. Sure, you can get fancier materials, more refined finishes, and tighter tolerances out of more expensive knives, but budget-friendly knives are more capable than we give them credit for. They are great for first knives, sharpening practice knives, gifts, and for trying a new style of knife before investing in a top-of-the-line tool. My personal favorite thing about sub-$20 knives is that I can impulse buy them without feeling bad about it. There’s a lot to love about these budget-friendly knives, and it’s high time you got one!