Hack and Slash: The 6 Best Machetes

Aug 2, 2015

Category: Gear

When we think of machete’s in modern day we either envision jungle adventurers cutting through thick vines on their way to uncover ancient Mayan ruins where there is legendary amounts of gold or we picture Danny Trejo dispensing his special brand of grindhouse Mexican justice. The truth is that the machete is one of man’s oldest tools, used since before people could even work metal. These axe/knife hybrids are made for all kinds of chopping and can complete the kit of a zombie survivalist or hang from the travel backpack of the average mountaineer with equal facility.

There’s multiple kinds of machetes that range from Kukri-style with a reverse curve to the Bowie-style that is a true American grade and borrows its big knife appeal from its namesake. Both are exceptionally good for combat and multiple utility. Then there’s those made more for the woods than fighting like the Panga, the Parang, and the Bolo, all of which handle chopping through growth or cutting down coconuts as well as hacking away creeping vines. Lastly there is the common Latin machete, which is what most ‘Mericans are familiar with. To be truly ready for anything, you’ll probably want at least one of our 6 best machetes.

Imacasa Condor D-Guard Handle

Imacasa Condor with D Guard Handle

Pro: Very long cutting range
Con: Handle feels awkward

Best for Basics: First off, Imacasa comes with an unbeatable pedigree. They were founded in Germany where engineering is practically a religion. They then gained popularity in El Salvador where cutting through brush is just another day at the office. This is extremely long at 27 full inches with a 22 inch blade molded out of tempered steel that can handle just about anything you throw at it. Despite the length, it’s been stripped down to weigh just 19 oz. so anyone can swing it. Our one problem was with the polypropylene handle that just felt sort of tacky and is difficult to modify. If you can find one with a Micarta handle, grab it. If you ever need it for combat, the D-shaped guard will come in handy for keeping your digits protected, but is also helpful when slashing through brambles and spiny plants that can snag your skin. [Purchase: $17]

Condor Parang Machete

Condor Parang Machete

Pro: Doesn’t get caught in green wood
Con: Extremely narrow at major pressure point

Clean and Clear: Popular in Indonesia and Malaysia this Parang style machete is best for handling brush and branches. The curve of the blade allows it to strike without sticking, particularly in fresh, green growth which also allows it to double as a sort of camp axe that can clean and clear logs for a fire or hack up larger limbs to more usable lengths. Constructed with 1075 high carbon steel this is a full tang cutter that is easy to swing even though it is slightly larger at 26 inches with a weight of almost 2 lbs. It’s simple to sharpen thanks to the high carbon content so with a good whetstone you can easily keep it keen even on the move. On the blade is an epoxy coating that helps it slide more smoothly in and out of deep cuts so your chopping rhythm isn’t interrupted. The sole flaw comes right at the base pressure point where the blade is extremely narrow. While we had no problems with it even under duress, if it is going to snap, that is where it will happen. [Purchase: $47]

The Baryonyx

The Baryonyx

Pro: Two blade options to choose from
Con: Back hook can get caught in dense forest

Home and Away: This qualifies as a Bowie-style machete with parang features, though it is a hard one to directly define. With an overall length of nearly two feet, this is exceptional at path clearing as it chops through brush and brambles, vines, branches, and small trees with ease. On the back side is a special hooked blade similar to some tactical knives which makes it ideal not only for chopping, but also for collecting berries and other edibles for wilderness survival. Those who do serious groundskeeping or have a lush but overgrown garden, this works as a powerful trimmer to help keep your estate clear and looking its best. The hook makes clearing underbrush particularly easy since you can hack it clear with the scimitar-shaped front and then scoop with the hook to move it away. No marring of your manicure necessary. It can be ordered with either a thin blade better for light work that requires razor precision or a sturdier jungle-clearing blade that doesn’t take damage as easily. [Purchase: $70]

United Cutlery Gil Hibben IV

United Cutlery Gil Hibben IV

Pro: Gorgeous and highly corrosion resistant
Con: Short

Cutting It Close: There’s no other way to say it: this is a piece of badass art that you can carry on your hip anywhere and begs to be used. A true jungle-cutter combat Golok machete this is made for working in tight spaces through rough brush that needs a sturdy blade and a steady hand. Odds are good that unless you plan on bushwhacking along to take out Viet Cong, this is more than you need, but certainly not more than you want. It’s only 16.5 inches with a blade that is less than a foot, but that shorter range gives you more control for using it as a camp or utility knife, or replacing your tactical tomahawk with something that has a littler more range of usefulness. It’s bulky at 2.8 pounds because it leverages that weight with your swing so while it takes more grit to pull it back, once it falls, it falls like an executioners blade, leaving nothing to chance. The 440 steel is tough as nails and holds an edge for ages. Works very well for long excursions in wet environments. [Purchase: $72]

Cold Steel Gurkha Kukri Plus

Cold Steel Gurkha Kukri Plus

Pro: Exceptional fighting knife
Con: Requires practice to use properly

Fight or Flight: The Kukri Plus doesn’t do much to improve on the standard Kukri survival knife that Cold Steel makes, because why mess with perfection? The foot-long carbon steel blade is easier to use for cutting because of the extremely thick tip which allows the weight to do much of the work on the downswing which helps reduce fatigue. Made of SK-5 high quality carbon steel, it can be sharpened to a deadly edge, but won’t hold it quite as long as some of its competitors. The length is slightly abbreviated for a machete making it less useful for clearing low branches or bushes as it is for dealing with hanging encumbrances such as vines. It is very useful around the camp as a general purpose blade or self-defense knife due to the tapered point, highly textured grip, cutthroat blade, and ability to be used at extremely close range. A reinforced handle can double as a striking point either for cracking nuts or non-lethal attacking. For a cheaper option,the Ka-Bar kukri makes a great choice as well. [Purchase: $162]

Bark River Knives KSF Machete

Bark River Knives KSF Machete

Pro: Very versatile
Con: Expensive

The Cadillac: Before your heart skips a beat at the price, know that this is a custom designed Ontario machete that may just be the finest chopping, cutting, or clearing tool that you will ever hold in your hand. The entire blade is convex ground so that every millimeter of the 14 inch, 1095 steel blade is ready for action, has greater strength, and won’t jam up as you use it. The handles are contoured to fit your hand and reduce strain for less fatigue on longer adventures. You can get these with any number of handles from wood to Micarta or G-10. We liked the more expensive carbon fiber because we like to go big and found it had the most fitting palm swell and overall comfort after a long day of work. Can be used for everything from clearing brush to crop cutting or coconut harvesting if you find yourself halfway up a palm tree. Overall, a high-performance blade at a well-deserved high price. [Purchase: $293]

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