Just about everyone has had the fantasy of hacking and slashing their way through the jungle like Arnold Schwarzenegger in Predator. Machete in hand, you power through the overgrown thicket, hearing the crack of bamboo and watching the path clear ahead of you from the sheer force of your blade. And sure, you might not get air-dropped into the wilderness to face enemies unknown, but the value of a machete is still pretty substantial in hand-to-hand combat. It gives you the benefit of reach and agility and is one of the weapons that, no matter where you land a blow, will make a mark. Plus, with such a sharp blade and often serrated features, in a pinch, you can use your machete as everything from an axe to a saw.
Of course, if you want to live up to the jungle scenes of your favorite action flicks, then you need a machete that even Arnold would be proud to wield. To assist, we’ve crafted a list of the best machetes on the market, along with a breakdown on making the right pick.
If you are looking for a compact machete that gives you all the advantages of warfighters from times past, the Estwing Forged Steel Machete is a powerful solution. It features a 12-inch blade that is crafted entirely out of high-grade steel. The blade comes coated with a durable black powder which not only prevents rust but also keeps the machete sharp for longer. Meeting a relatively compact handle, the blade integrates into the end seamlessly, reducing vibrations in your hand. When you slam the machete into a hard surface that doesn’t fall after one whack, it helps to mitigate the pressure in your hands. One side of the blade incorporates a serrated edge to work as a saw when needed. Both sides are sharp and meant to work together to give you the full benefits of the classic machete design. [Buy]
Z & G Billhook Machete
Want a cutting edge option that is going to give you a powerful edge over the competition? Consider the Z & G Billhook Sickle Machete for its unique design that incorporates powerful, curved steel to give you extra force in a fight. The 14-inch blade is curved towards the tip, coming to a sharp and fine point. The inner side of the blade is incredibly sharp, largely due to the high-quality carbon steel construction. The part of the blade which connects most closely to the handle is straight, letting you hack away at plant matter. At the front, the blade angles inwards in a sickle style, letting you use this machete to grip, tear, and slice, depending on the situation. Powerful and versatile, this blade is both affordable and effective. [Buy]
Fiskars Axe Machete
Focused on the practical aspects of adding a machete to your knife collection? If that’s the case, then take a look at the Fiskars Machete Axe for its heavy-duty construction and effective design. The total length of this machete is 29 inches with the blade itself measuring a full 18 inches. This blade presents as a standard machete where it connects to the handle, curving outwards in the classic design. However, when you get to the end of the metal edge, this blade turns to a sharp, angular axe with a serrated back. Because of the weight distribution, you can easily use this component as an axe. Since it doesn’t take up much space, you can still use the machete for classic purposes. Taken together, the three blade components of this weapon help you stay prepared for anything. [Buy]
Looking for something that is both lightweight and properly balanced? Consider the Tramontina Machete for its tough design and quality materials. Though the handle is constructed using polymers, it still holds tightly to the end of the steel component. The carbon-heavy blade material makes use and sharpening easy, largely due to the carefully balanced weight of the unit. In fact, it rings in at little over a pound, letting you chop and slice almost effortlessly. At over 29 inches total length, this machete is useful given the substantial ratio of the blade to handle. This machete is crafted to handle wilderness conditions with utter ease, thanks to the thin metal construct and the user-friendly angle of the knife. [Buy]
Gerber Gator Machete
Need something that can withstand a lot of impact without losing structural integrity? Check out the Gerber Gator Bolo Machete for its powerful design backed up with high-grade materials. The compact structure of the machete sets it apart, ringing in at a total 22.5 inches including the handle. The blade itself is a little over 15 inches, letting you stay agile and posing no issue with retracting the machete after it makes combat. For added ease of use, it comes with a lanyard attached to the handle, stopping you from losing it to the rainforest brush (or your backyard forest). Coming equipped with a high-grade nylon sheath for storage, this steel blade is highly resilient and easy to use. Angled smoothly in keeping with the classic machete design you know and love, this weapon is both durable and powerful. [Buy]
Types of machetes
- Bolo machete: Perhaps the most common type of machete, this sort remains prevalent due to its classic design and high versatility. From southeast Asia, this weapon was originally developed as an agricultural tool used for harvesting. It features a compact design, with a relatively small handle and long blade. Coming out of the handle, the blade has a moderate width, gaining size and a more prominent curve as it meets the tip. Lightweight and easy to handle, these machetes offer substantial agility as a tactical advantage.
- Heavy machete: When powering through the brush, nothing beats the sheer force of the heavy machete. The namesake results from the design of the top-heavy blade. Originally, the blade was fairly straightforward and often featured a flat tip. Modern adaptations add innovation, often incorporating serrated edges and sharp tips. Regardless of the tweaks to the classic presentation, you can always spot this type of machete by identifying the overly large end of the blade.
- Kukri machete: Featuring an extremely sharp blade, a kukri-style machete blade has three main components. The first is the minimal-width blade nearest the handle. This works for finer tasks like whittling wood or sharpening arrowheads. At the center of the blade, the width grows, giving you the force and leverage needed to chop through the brush. Finally, the tip comes to a sharp point used for stabbing from a reasonable distance. Many modern machetes are inspired by this Nepalese blade style, identifiable by the trio of components.
Key features of machetes
- Handle: This is an essential feature of any type of machete since, without it, you’d be holding onto the blade itself. The handle must be well-crafted, designed to optimize your grip and give you proper leverage over the blade. A good handle will neither be too short or too long relative to the blade length. It also must incorporate a slip-resistant grip that makes handling the weapon easier. Many also include a lanyard to attach the weapon to your wrist and prevent dropping it.
- Blade: Perhaps the most important feature of any machete is the blade itself. Machetes have reasonably long blades, narrow close to the handle and gaining width as they approach the tip. The blade curves, sometimes angling towards a point, to consistently provide you a cutting edge that makes good contact and retracts easily. Often, the blade will include a serrated component on the reverse side. All machetes feature a smooth surface that, when sharp, can slice through bamboo thickets like butter.
- Sheath: All knives, machetes included, require a sheath for both storage and safety. While the vast majority of traditional sheaths were constructed out of leather, modern textiles have since taken over. Now, the most common sheath material is nylon for water-resistance and reasonable toughness. The sheath needs to be ready to use, accepting the blade smoothly and making it easy to quickly draw the machete whenever you need its services.
Benefits of machetes
Machetes are ideal for wilderness settings. Originally designed for agricultural use, largely for harvesting crops, modern machetes are primarily used to cut through thick brush and plant matter. The unique blade of a machete lets you slice ahead with ease, clearing away plants and pests without requiring too much energy from the handler. Unlike another smaller or more compact blade, you don’t have to get too close to your target in order to make contact with the machete. The long blade gives you a reach advantage, letting you keep your distance whether that be from thorns or an enemy.
Machetes come in all shapes and forms, with different models being better-suited to specific tasks. Sickle designs are ideal for grabbing, heavy machetes are meant to double as axes, and classic machetes work for managing brush. Functional for camping, fighting, and everything in between, machetes are a truly versatile blade for the enterprising outdoorsman.
Most machetes are relatively inexpensive and fall in the $20 to $40 price range. You can find most types of machetes for this price, just be sure to closely examine the blade and handle material and check for quality. If you’re looking for something with a more involved design, you can find a high-grade machete on the lower end of the over-$40 price range. With powerful blades and well-crafted handles, most heavy-duty machetes are priced this way.
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