survival knife

10 Best Survival Knives for Under $100

The single most important piece of survival gear  is arguably your survival knife.  Aside from the obvious uses of a survival knife like self-defense, there are countless ways you can use it for your survival: batoning wood, making cordage, digging holes, skinning animals…

While a dinky $20 knife made in China is better than nothing, the quality of your survival knife really matters.  Those cheap knives will dull easy.  Their poor-quality metal will break when put to the test, potentially injuring you in the process.

There is no reason to spend a fortune on a survival knife though.  Here is what you need to know in order to get a good survival knife for under $100.

What to Look for in a Cheap Survival Knife

If your budget only allows you to buy one survival knife right now, then you want to make sure that it is a very versatile knife.

A machete is NOT a versatile knife!  Nor are any of those other big, intimidating Rambo knives that you see on bad TV shows.

The most versatile survival knives are…

  • Fixed Blade: Folding knives have their place, but they are bad choices for your primary survival knife. The fact that they fold means that their blades are weaker and prone to snapping off.
  • Full Tang: Full tang means that the blade goes all the way through the handle. Some really cheap knives just glue the blade to the handle, which obviously isn’t going to be very strong.
  • Blade Shape: A drop point blade is usually the best choice for blade shape. The shape makes the tip very strong but is easy to control for detailed use.  A good second choice would be the clip point shape.
  • High Carbon: Standard stainless steel will dull very easily. Look for high-carbon steel.
  • Size: Bigger is NOT better! The blade part of a versatile survival knife should be between 4 to 7 inches. Any larger than this and your survival knife will probably be difficult to use for detailed tasks.
  • Blade Thickness: I find that the perfect blade thickness falls between 0.17 to 0.25 inches.
  • Handle: Avoid any gimmicky knives which have compasses or hollow storage compartments in the handle. These will shatter and break easily.   You should also look for a knife with a flat pommel (the back end of the handle) so it can be used for hammering.
  • Grind: A flat grind is best because it can be sharpened easily and has many versatile uses such as splitting wood and chopping.

Note that you probably aren’t going to find all of these features in a cheap survival knife.  After all, it takes a lot of resources to produce a good quality knife.  Just buy the best quality survival knife that you can afford.

To learn more about how to choose a knife, read this complete guide to survival knives.


Best Survival Knives Under $100


KA-BAR 1258 Short Fighting/Utility Knife

ka-bar 1258 survival knife

  • Full tang
  • 9 ¼ inch overall length
  • 5 ¼ inch blade length
  • Fixed blade
  • Clip point
  • High carbon steel
  • Kraton handle
  • Made in the USA

Condor Bushlore Camp Knife

condor survival knife

  • Full tang
  • 9 5/16 inch overall length
  • 4 5/16 blade length
  • 1075 high carbon steel
  • Hardwood handle
  • Made in El Salvador

Morakniv Mora of Sweden Black Bushcraft Knife

mora survival knife

  • Partial tang
  • 15 inch overall length
  • 3 inch blade length
  • 59-60HRC high carbon steel
  • Rubber handle
  • Made in Sweden

Ontario Knife Company RAT-3

ontario rat 3 survival knife

  • Full tang
  • 9 inch overall length
  • 9 inch blade length
  • 1095 carbon steel
  • Full flat taper grind
  • Micarta handle
  • Made in USA

SOG Tangle

sog tangle survival knife

  • Full tang
  • 75 inch overall length
  • 9 inch blade length
  • Drop point
  • Straight edge
  • 9Cr18MoV steel
  • Paracord wrapped handle
  • Made in China

KA-BAR Becker Campanion BK2

becker bk2 survival knife

  • Full tang
  • 10 ¾ inch overall length
  • 5 inch blade length
  • 1095 Cro-Van carbon steel
  • Drop point blade
  • Zytel handle
  • Made in the USA

Knives of Alaska Bush Camp Fixed Blade

knives of alaska survival knife

  • Full tang
  • 10 ½ inch overall length
  • 6 inch blade length
  • Drop point
  • D2 steel
  • Made in USA

Shadow Tech Knives 032 Wolf

shadow tech survival knife

  • Full tang
  • 8 inch overall length
  • 4 ½ inch blade length
  • 1095 high carbon steel
  • Drop point
  • Micarta handle
  • Made in the USA

Ontario Gen II SP-46 5160

ontario survival knife

  • Full tang
  • Drop point
  • 11 inch overall length
  • 5 inch blade length
  • 5160 high carbon steel
  • Kraton handle
  • Made in the USA

Cold Steel 39LSF Leatherneck-SF

cold steel

  • Full tang
  • Clip point
  • 11 ¾ inch overall length
  • 6 ¾ inch blade length
  • D2 steel
  • Kray-Ex handles
  • Made in Taiwan

Tips for Buying Survival Knives on a Budget

Firstly, resist the urge to buy a bunch of cheap survival knives just because they look cool.  Having five 20-dollar knives isn’t going to do you any good when they all break or become dull after a few cuts.  Spend your money to buy ONE really good survival knife!

A good survival knife will last throughout the years.  So, there is no reason that you need to buy it new.  Look for a secondhand knife!  You’ll be able to get a really good quality survival knife for cheap.  Once you sharpen it and maybe change the handle, it will be as good as new!

What was your first survival knife? What do you use now?

Image credit: “Carving Project – Cooking Crane” (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) by  teejaybee 

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About the Author Jacob Hunter

I'm Jacob Hunter, founder and chief editor of Primal Survivor. I believe in empowering people with the knowledge to prepare and survive in the modern world.

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime

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