Outside of the spectrum of just testing knives, wherein I whittle down a pile of quality blades to a select handful, I keep an eye out for other knives that I think have their place in the outdoor world – either in your pocket or pack – without breaking the bank. Sometimes these knives end up in our top picks, and sometimes they aren’t even on the radar, but that doesn’t mean they’re not worth your consideration. On the contrary, the way things are going in the knife industry today, you could easily set yourself up with a blade that excels in durability, ease of use, and edge retention for just at or under $100.
Note: If you think it was easy spotting these suckers in the crowd, think again; affordable knives are all the rage right now and I could have easily turned this into a Top 20 list. That said, the following five knives come with Gear Institute’s seal of approval and could be considered the “rest of the best” in the under $100 category.
In no particular order:
Ruger Knives Hollow Point +P – $79.99
The Ruger Hollow Point +P is a classically designed, full-sized, clip-point folder. Designed by Ken Onion, it features hollow ground 8Cr13MoV blade steel, an ergonomic stainless steel handle, and textured inserts for improved grip. Additionally, the Hollow Point +P has a premium feature that, just a few years ago, wouldn’t have been found on a blade under a hundo: The IKBS pivot system. This pivot point, fully named the Ikoma Korth Bearing System, is a ball bearing pivot option that was made for quick and easy blade deployment. There’s nothing else as well designed and executed in the market today, and because more knifemakers are adopting it, the price has come down.
I would recommend this knife to users of all experience levels as their go-to blade for backpacking, a reliable every-day carry (EDC) knife, or even for a hunter looking for a quick and easy knife to dress game on the go.
Overall Length: 8.5”
Blade Length: 3.61”
Weight: 6 oz
Gerber US-Assist 420HC – $99.99
A quality, assisted opening knife that’s made in the United States for under $100 is a treasure to behold. But when that knife is the Gerber US-Assist 420HC, which excels in quality, functionality, and edge retention – all for under $100 – well, my friends; it’s the stuff that dreams are made of.
Utilizing Gerber’s B.O.S.S. Tech stainless steel ball bearing system, the drop point 420HC blade on the US-Assist pops open and locks in place with a simple flick of the ambidextrous thumb studs. The action is quite impressive if not intimidating and you’ll find it ranks up there with knives that cost 2-3x as much as this one. It also features a plunger lock with a cross-bolt safety feature built-in. This means that the knife won’t close unless you command it to by pushing the plunger button, and it won’t open if the cross-bolt safety feature is engaged. This is a highly functional, feature packed, ultra-safe, assisted opening knife made in the USA for under $100. There is no other knife on the planet like this.
I would recommend the US-Assist to the EDC user who needs a reliable knife on their side, all the time.
Overall Length: 7.2”
Blade Length: 3”
Weight: 4 oz
CRKT Homefront EDC – $99.99
The standard, aluminum handled, version of CRKT’s Homefront just made it on to our Best Folding Knives of 2017 list, so there’s no surprise that this value conscious version earned a spot here. This knife features glass-reinforced nylon handles and all of the other superior features and functions of the Homefront, all for under $100.
Tagged the “Homefront EDC”, this version of CRKT’s modular knife, uses 1.4116 Stainless Steel, which is in the same category of the original Homefront’s AUS-8 steel, and comes in a smidge smaller in overall length. Otherwise, besides the handles, you won’t be able to tell the difference between the two as it still features Ken Onion’s revolutionary “Field Strip” technology.
Anyone looking to use and abuse their knives while out in the elements should pick up the Homefront EDC. It’s a steal at this price and is bound to give you years of reliable service.
Overall Length: 8.25”
Blade Length: 3.5”
Weight: 4.3 oz
Kershaw Dividend, Gray – $69.99
If I had to pick one company who has broken the mold and proven that you can make not just one or two knives but a whole line of blades here in the U.S. for under a hundo, it would be Kershaw. Their Dividend flipper is a great example of how to pack in as much value as possible in terms of materials, build quality, and functionality, and then blow people’s minds with the price.
Featuring anodized aluminum handles, Kershaw’s SpeedSafe assisted opening, and a 3” stonewashed 420HC blade, the Dividend is one of those knives that only comes around once in a blue moon and becomes the blade your carry with you every day until you pass it on to your next of kin.
I would recommend the Kershaw Dividend to anyone looking for a reliable knife they can carry on the job, out on the town, out on an adventure, and tuck under their pillow at night. It’s your sharp little best friend. Don’t even ask me how it manages to be under 3 oz of weight. I can’t explain that without science and a lot more than a Bachelor’s Degree.
Overall Length: 7.25”
Blade Length: 3”
Weight: 2.8 oz
Leatherman Crater C33 – $19.95
For about ten years now Leatherman – known for the top-notch multitools – has also been making affordable knives as part of its Crater Series. There’s nothing wild about these knives, they don’t have any outlandish features or groundbreaking technology. But they are an example of how a great company can provide you an even better product at an affordable price. There’s a message in that – and I hope the other “big dogs” are listening.
When I got married in 2006, all of my groomsmen were given the Crater C33. Simple, and lightweight – the C33 features 420HC steel, glass filled nylon handles and a carabiner that stores in the pommel for easy access. Though I haven’t reviewed this knife, or even own one myself, I can tell you that out of my five groomsmen – four of them still use this knife today (the fifth was confiscated by the TSA). Best of all, they’re all still in great condition after ten years of use and abuse.
I would recommend the Leatherman Crater C33 to any poor college student getting married to one of the hottest and sweetest people they know, who wants to give a great groomsman or bridesmaid gift. Or to a person just looking for an affordable, reliable knife for work and play.
Overall Length: 6.5”
Blade Length: 1.6”
Weight: 2.6 oz
For the past couple of years, I’ve kept my eyes out for knives like this – knives that can stand up to use and abuse, and not break your bank. No, they don’t feature any crazy type of high-end, boutique blade steel – but think to yourself; do I really need something that intense for an everyday carry knife? John Rambo’s iconic knife from “First Blood” was made from sandblasted, non-descript stainless surgical steel and he managed to take over a whole town with it. I do believe there is a time, place, and particular user who will benefit from premium steel, and I recommend those types of knives all the time. But sometimes you need to sit back and consider what you’re going to be doing with that particular knife and let someone like me open your mind a little.
Now, I can already hear some of you saying “Nick, buddy, some of these knives are just a penny under $100, ummm? Really, bro?” And yeah, based on the prices I’m showing you – you’re right. Kind of looks a little silly when it’s only a penny – and we haven’t considered shipping costs yet. But, folks – these are the suggested retail prices. I’m sure if you hit up Amazon or even your local outfitter you could land a better deal. But if not, hey – I’ll stand by that penny – they’re still under $100 and everything on this list is worth way more than that, in my book.
Take a chance on me, I do this for a living. I take pride in making sure you get what you need out of knives, gear, clothing, and beer.