The 10 Best Machetes

Mar 13, 2020

Category: Gear

It’s easy to lump all bladed tools into a single category, so long as you’re an industry outsider. However, those who trade in everyday carry, bushcrafting, outdoor exploration, etc. know that there’s a world of difference between the sub-categories. For instance, a wood axe is great for chopping wood but not so good at slicing up pieces of a well-grilled steak. Similarly, a sheepsfoot or wharncliffe folding knife is well-suited to whittling but might not do very well where puncturing tasks are concerned. And those are just two examples amongst a vast gallery of similar scenarios.

Perhaps one of the most misunderstood bladed tools is the machete. At a glance, these hefty, intimidating, sword-like devices look like something you’d see a bad guy wielding in a big-budget action-adventure movie. And that makes sense since popular media tends to portray them as such. However, if you look at history and modern usage, machetes aren’t weapons at all. Rather, they’re tools most often used in agricultural practices, the act of exploration, and the like. And if you find yourself in need of such a tool, we’ve gone to the trouble of rounding up the ten best machetes available on the market today.

Do You Need A Machete?

Formidable Blades

As mentioned and despite common misconceptions, machetes are not actually weapons. Rather, they are purpose-driven tools that are most often used for clearing foliage in the unexplored outdoors, harvesting crops, campsite management, and various other related duties.

This is proven further through their construction. Machetes, typically speaking, have long and thin blades made for repetitive hacking and slashing attached to a relatively small handle. And while they are meant to be swung, the intention is for the blade to pass through relatively soft tree branches, bushes, and the like. They lack the breadth and heft of sword blades, as well as battle-focused additions like crossguards and extended handle for two-handed grips — meaning they’re not meant to slash through enemy combatants, including armor and even bone.

If you’re interested in machetes as weapons of war, you’ve come to the right place. Sure, they can be used for battle in the same sense that a brick can be used in battle. It might get the job done, but that was never the original purpose. However, if you need a large-bladed tool to make your exploratory or agricultural endeavors a bit more manageable, you just might be in the market for one of these machetes.

Fiskars Machete Axe

At first glance, the Fiskars Machete Axe looks like something out of a dystopian fantasy flick, but there’s actually a good reason for its unique shape. You see, by enlarging the head of the machete, the brand has increased its overall strength, durability, and even increased its usefulness in a few ways. Had it been just a standard 18″ machete blade, it would be well-suited to slicing through brush and vines. However, with its expanded axe-like head, it can also be used to chop roots (which are typically stronger and thicker) and can even be used for light wood splitting. Mate that to its ergonomic handle, nylon sheath, and a lifetime warranty and you’ve got yourself a formidable and reliable machete you can trust for years and years to come. This might be more of a gardening tool than a backcountry blade, but that’s what it was designed for anyhow.

Blade Length: 18″
Blade Material: Hardened Steel
Handle Material: Composite

Purchase: $38+

CRKT Chanceinhell Machete

Ken Onion is one of the most prolific and important knife designers of all time, living or dead. As it turns out, his expertise extends far beyond everyday carry folding blades, as evidenced by his CRKT Chanceinhell Machete. Somewhat on the shorter end of the spectrum, measuring up at 18″ in total (with a 12″ blade), this particular machete is much more well-suited to outdoor adventure, as it’s easier to haul along with the rest of your backpacking and/or camping gear. It boasts an ultra-tough 65Mn Carbon Steel blade that has a corrosion-resistant black finish, as well as an ergonomic handle perfect for one-handed hacking and slashing. It also comes with a handy nylon sheath, it can be equipped with a tether to keep it attached to your wrist, and it has an included lifetime warranty against defects. Ideal for hunting, survival, and general outdoor use, this beefy fixed blade won’t let you down.

Blade Length: 12″
Blade Material: 65Mn Carbon Steel
Handle Material: PP Core & TPR Overmold

Purchase: $42

Estwing Machete

In case you’re not familiar, Estwing is a tool-making company headquartered in Rockford, Illinois. And they’ve been making their gear in the United States since their founding in 1923. And while they specialize more in tools you might find in a workshop or garage, they also offer a wide variety of axes and, as it turns out, one of the best machetes around right now. Don’t be fooled by its appearance; though it looks a bit like an oversized knife you might see a horror villain hauling around, it’s a hard-working outdoor tool through-and-through. With a total length of 19.25 inches, it features a 12-inch American forged steel blade made to take on the toughest tasks you can throw at it. Furthermore, while its main edge is perfect for slicing and chopping, it also has a toothed spine ideal for sawing through small branches you can’t hack through and a patented shock-reducing grip to ensure you don’t injure yourself during use. This USA-made machete also comes with a ballistic nylon sheath for easy hauling anywhere.

Blade Length: 12″
Blade Material: American Forged Steel
Handle Material: Patented Shock Reduction Grip

Purchase: $47

Barebones Living Japanese Nata Tool

One of the more unique machetes on our list in regards to its appearance, the Barebones Living Japanese Nata Tool was, as the name suggests, inspired by traditional Japanese design. Of course, its 12″ chisel-tipped blade shape and unique handle aren’t enough for it to stand apart. Thankfully, it has a lot else going for it, as well — including 3CR13 stainless steel for the blade material, a walnut hardwood used in the handle, and a water-resistant waxed canvas sheath with copper rivets and leather straps. Truly, this device exemplifies many of the things that make traditional Japanese design so good: a beautiful minimalist silhouette, a utility-focused construction, and a uniqueness you just won’t find elsewhere. For the price, we surmise you’ll have an exceedingly difficult time finding another machete that so perfectly blends style and substance.

Blade Length: 12″
Blade Material: 3CR13 Stainless Steel
Handle Material: Walnut

Purchase: $65

Kershaw Camp Machete

Kershaw is one of the most well-known everyday carry knifemaking brands around — and they offer up some exceptional folding knives that are also quite affordable. But they’re not limited simply to the kinds of tools that fit in your pocket, as evidenced by their hulking 18″ Kershaw Camp Machete. The longest bladed tool in the brand’s Camp Series of offerings, this machete packs a 65Mn high-carbon steel blade with a corrosion-resistant black finish mated to a polymer handle with a rubber overmold that’s both durable and grippy in just about any conditions. Better still, once you’re done hacking away at all the overgrown brush in your path, you can stash this bad boy away in the included molded sheath — which comes with lash points and nylon straps to ensure you’ve got it securely attached to your belt, tactical backpack, overlander roof rack, or whatever else.

Blade Length: 18″
Blade Material: 65Mn Carbon Steel
Handle Material: Polymer With A Rubber Overmold

Purchase: $66

Ontario Knife Company 6520 Bushcraft Machete

If you’re familiar with Ontario Knife Company, you might know that they make everything in the USA. You might also know that their aesthetic tends toward the realm of “all black everything” — including a number of their famed mil-spec fixed blade fighting knives and plenty of their outdoor-focused cutting tools. This one, however, has a more vintage appearance and a heritage-level construction. A part of Dan Maragni’s award-winning Bushcraft series, the OKC 6520 features a 5160 carbon steel blade that measures up at 16 inches; a laminated walnut handle that’s ergonomic, looks great, and can stand up to plenty of punishment; and it comes with a custom DeSantis sheath with an included firestarter. If you want to make sure that your machete is both handsome and effective at just about any hacking and/or slashing task, this one might be your best bet.

Blade Length: 16″
Blade Material: 5160 Carbon Steel
Handle Material: Walnut

Purchase: $101

Gerber Doubledown Folding Machete

As far as blade lengths are concerned, Gerber’s Doubledown is by far the shortest — with its recurve 420HC steel blade measuring up at just 6.75″ in total. But that more-compact size also exists because this particular machete is also exceedingly innovative, in that it’s the only one on our list that folds. However, this unique large-scale cutting tool doesn’t just fold in half, rather it opens and closes in a manner similar to that of a butterfly knife (AKA a balisong) — meaning the handle splits down the middle and swings around to expand the blade. That means a few different things. For starters, it has a longer handle that’s comfortable to use with a two-handed grip. Second, it means there’s no need for a sheath as, when it is closed, it’s perfectly safe to stash into a MOLLE grid or into your bag of choice. Finally, it features a QuadLock locking system that ensures your safety and security whether you’re stashing the Doubledown away or trying to make use of it.

Blade Length: 6.75″
Blade Material: 420HC Steel
Handle Material: GRN

Purchase: $130

Condor Tool & Knife Discord Machete

If you think the Condor Tool & Knife Discord looks a little bit more like a sword than a machete, you might be on the right track. After all, it does have an extended handle with more than enough room for a two-handed grip and its massive 18″ 1075 high carbon steel blade is something to behold. But don’t let the intimidation factor fool you, this is a purpose-driven utilitarian tool through and through. In fact, that hefty handle is made from high-quality Micarta, which is lightweight, exceedingly durable, and grippy even when there’s some rainfall and/or snow in the forecast. Furthermore, the substantial blade also boasts an epoxy black powder coating — meaning it’s not just strong, but also exceedingly resistant to corrosion. If you want your machete to be a bit closer to, say, a samurai sword, go no further.

Blade Length: 18″
Blade Material: 1075 High Carbon Steel
Handle Material: Micarta

Purchase: $153

Case M-1 Astronaut Knife

Handcrafted in the USA and complete with a lifetime warranty, the Case M-1 Astronaut Knife is a very special one. And that’s because, as the name suggests, it was actually created for and used by NASA — put into survival packs aboard Apollo and Gemini spacecraft a total of nine times as these ships traversed space and traveled to the moon and back. This particular version is not actually one of the ones that made it to the lunar surface, but rather a loving recreation made to exacting standards to be as close a replica as possible. On top of that historical pedigree, it also boasts an exceptional 11.75″ Tru-Sharp high carbon blade (complete with a toothed spine for light sawing work), a white synthetic handle, and a commemorative presentation case. There’s even a lanyard attachment point on the end of the handle in case you want to tie on some 550 paracord for even more survival-friendly usage. This historically-significant machete is a bit expensive, to the point that you might not actually want to use it in the wilds, but it’s definitely fully-functional.

Blade Length: 11.75″
Blade Material: Tru-Sharp Steel
Handle Material: Synthetic

Purchase: $182

TOPS Knives El Chete Machete

You can always count on the folks at TOPS to craft some of the toughest, most durable bladed tools around. And their stout and robust take on the machete — called simply ‘El Chete’ — is absolutely no exception to that rule. This machete’s substantial hatchet-like blade is crafted from 1095 steel and measures up at 12 inches in length. The full-tang cutting tool also features a Micarta handle with a unique ergonomic shape. And while its superb construction would definitely make it deserving of a spot on this list, it certainly doesn’t hurt that it was also made in the USA and is the first TOPS knife to feature the Acid Rain finish. Of all the machetes on this list, this one might be the one that looks most like it would appear in a Mad Max film. And, as it turns out, it’s actually tough enough to survive the apocalypse, if things come to that.

Blade Length: 12″
Blade Material: 1095 High Carbon Steel
Handle Material: Micarta

Purchase: $188

The 12 Best Survival Schools

If you’re interested in further acquainting yourself with survival-related gear and activities, you might want to actually attend a bushcrafting seminar or weekend getaway at one of the best survival schools.

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