When it comes to camping, hiking, and survival, your most important tool will always be your knife. You’ll need it for nearly every aspect of your day-to-day activities, whether it’s making kindling or starting fires, prepping or skinning your food, defending yourself, or any other task you can think of while you’re roughing it in the bush.
For this necessity and utility, a camp knife needs to be durable and of a certain quality. The best knives are handmade by an artisan who knows the sort of abuse their steel will endure. Quality comes at a steep price. In this day and age however, there are plenty of quality pieces out there that won’t cut up your wallet while cutting up anything the wild will throw at you.
In no particular order, here are a few we recommend if you’re looking for a tough tool on a budget.
This nearly 10” clip-point is almost more machete than knife, but it boasts a few serious bonafides: a molded Kraton handle, 8CR13MoV steel, and plenty of thick striking service for when you need to split wood. Couple that with a lifetime warranty at only $40, this blade is a steal.
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With 5” of blade surface, this drop-point is on the smaller side, but its 1095 high-carbon steel with a powder-coated finish makes this durable knife worth your consideration. Throw in the fact that it comes with a ferro-stick firestarter and a sharpening stone, and this $25 deal will serve you well for years and years.
It may be the most controversial pick on the list, but don’t let the name fool you. Despite Bear Grylls’ checkered reputation, Gerber made one hell of a knife. It comes with loads of bells–like a signal mirror mounted to the sheath, a fire-starter–and an actual whistle. The blade is of solid Gerber construction and quality, and its weather-resistant grip is machined with holes to lash around stick for a makeshift spear. At $25, you can stow your opinion. This is what a good deal looks like.
Powder-coated carbon steel with blade lengths of 10”, 14”, and 18” all UNDER $50 sets this Kershaw machete apart from the pack. Kershaw makes a quality knife and their warranty program is second to none. You can send them anything that breaks, dulls, or fails and they will ship a replacement in no time flat. Add the versatility and utility of being able to hack down branches as easily as split wood, and this Kershaw’s a no-brainer.
Colt makes a classic knife: polished 10” steel blade, stacked leather handle, an aluminum pommel and brass finger guard. There’s a reason this design has remained unchanged for decades — they did it right the first time. Simplicity and beauty forged into one perfect package. Oh, and did we mention it’s only $25? Thought that might get your attention.
If you want no frills, it doesn’t get better than basic. Gerber’s minimalist offering gives you little more than the 3.5” blade and the pocket clip sheath, but it will do most of the jobs you need. We would like it more if it were carbon steel rather than stainless, but it’s the perfect buy at $40 if you need a plain-Jane everyday carry that will do what you need on a weekend excursion.
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This blade’s appeal? It features all of the durability, function, and utility of its cousin near the start of the list, but it weighs only one pound. Same Kraton handle and 6” drop-point blade, but light as feather. At $38, you could do a lot worse than this mid-priced Schrade.
This was a choice find from our search that we couldn’t ignore. It’s a deal you can only reap by acting quickly on Amazon. Handforger Poshland says this bone-handled Damascus steel 8.5” knife is full-tang and comes with an artisan-stitched leather sheath and a sharpening rod. Damascus steel blades are normally bank-breaking purchases, so we couldn’t shy away from this $50 piece that almost qualifies as theft it’s such a good deal.
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If we have to tell you what an ESEE is, then you don’t deserve one. At 2.5” it’s the smallest knife on the list, but it’s far and away our favorite. ESEE’s forging process yields a high strength blade that takes whatever punishment you throw at it, not to mention the skeletonized handle, which can be lashed to a stick as a spear in dire situations. It’s small enough to fit in a pocket, or anywhere on a pack, and made with the quality and craftsmanship guaranteed by ESEE for only $50.
These were the best blades we could find on a budget. We know we couldn’t list everything out there, and we know you’ll disagree with some of our finds, so tell us: what’s your sharp deal? What knife is your EDC? Let us know what you think down in the comments!