best machete buying guide

More Uses Than You Know – Best Survival Machete

A few years ago, I spent two months in the jungles of Peru.  That experience gave me a new appreciation for all the uses of a survival machete. 

It would have been literally impossible to get through some of the thick overgrowth if we didn’t have a good machete with us to hack the vines!  

Even now in the states, I’m constantly finding new uses for a machete.

machete jungle survival

Couldn't survive the jungle without a machete!

Dive straight into our top picks and reviews below.  Or jump to our buyers guide here.

Best Machete Top Picks


#1: Ka-Kar Kukri
Best for experienced machete users who want a tough, intimidating, and well-made machete.


#2: SOGfari Saw Back Machete
Best for campers who want an affordable, entry-level machete for light tasks.  

Top Survival Machetes Reviewed

Ka-Bar Kukri Machete

Our Rating

4.8

By far one of the most popular survival machetes, Ka-Bar has really delivered a gorgeous product. It is made from 1085 carbon steel with a black epoxy powder coating.  The rubberized Kraton handle fits well in your hand. Just be warned that the Kraton can cause blisters, so wear gloves when doing heavy-duty tasks.

The only mild complaint I can have about the Ka-bar Kukri is that its sheath is a bit awkward to carry.  The sheath does have a belt loop and end loops, but it still doesn’t sit well.  Considering the low price though, I can’t complain too much.

Kukris aren’t as strong as a bolo, but they do a good job of chopping and cleaning small branches.  At 17” total length with handle, the Ka-Bar Kukri is a great campsite companion.

  • 1085 carbon steel
  • Non-slip Kraton handle
  • Leather and cordura sheath
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    Edge holds up great
  • Sheath sits a bit awkwardly
  • Rubber handle can cause blisters

SOG SOGfari 18” Machete with Saw Back

Our Rating

4.1

I honestly didn’t expect much out of such a cheap machete.  However, saw back SOGfari delivers well on quality.  The blade is a classic Latin/Bush style.  The long, uniform blade is great for efficiency – and especially great if you aren’t used to swinging a machete.

The SOGfari comes in two sizes: 13” and 18”.  I personally would only go with the 18”.  It has more swinging power and doesn’t feel bulky carrying.

The saw back has offset teeth like a hand saw.  As with any saw back machete, sawing through branches can be a bit awkward because of the handle shape.  However, you can get through 5” branches relatively easily.

Note that this is a low budget machete.  For the price, it’s great.  Just don’t expect too much from the 420 steel (which has almost no carbon in it).  Thus, I’d recommend the SOGfari for newbies wanting to get a feel for machetes.

  • Aggressive saw back
  • Serrated edge on handle for breaking glass
  • Low price
  • Chips easily on rocks
  • Heavy at 1.8lbs
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    Belt loop a bit flimsy
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    420 stainless steel not very tough

Condor Parang Machete 17.5 inch

Our Rating

4.6

The Parang machete by Condor is a great blade for thinning out thick brush or even saplings.  

At 17.5 inches, the blade might seem like it would be too long.  However, it is very well balanced.  The only issue is that the parang blade is fairly thick, making it heavy for its style.  

If you aren’t experienced with using machetes or don’t have much thick brush to clear, you might want to choose a lighter machete.

  • Gorgeous design
  • Hardwood handle
  • 1075 high carbon steel
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    Holds edge very well
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    Leather sheath included
  • A bit pricey
  • Two-snap sheath is annoying to use
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    Better for slicing and pounding than chopping
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    Fairly heavy (1.92lbs)

Schrade SCHBOLO Bolo Machete

Our Rating

4.5

While they aren’t as popular as brands like Gerber and SOG, Schrade makes great quality blades at very good prices. They’ve got quite a few survival machetes and I had a hard time choosing a best.

I love their Bolo machete because it has the perfect curve.  Remember, the bulging shape of a Bolo blade allows for better distribution of force and more cutting surface. Though relatively short at 14 inches, the blade whacks right through branches.  You could easily chop up a big log with this machete.

At 4mm, the blade is really thick.  Surprisingly, it still cuts through thin grass.  I don’t think it would hold up well in jungle situations because of all those vines, but it is great for forests.

  • Insane chopping power
  • Good weight (1.69 pounds)
  • Heavy-duty sheath holds up well
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    Sturdy 4mm blade
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    Comes with sharpening stone and Ferro rod
  • Gets dull quickly
  • 3CR13 stainless steel
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    Sheath has no belt loops
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    7.3 inch handle not great for small hands

United Cutlery Colombian Panga Machete

Our Rating

4.0

Considering the low cost of this machete, it is a great blade.  The AUS-6 stainless steel isn’t nearly as tough as carbon steel, but still great quality considering the price.  You’ll also love the design of the panga as it is very well balanced.

I’d recommend this panga machete for beginners who have light brush to clear.  The curvature of the blade mean that you can use it for various tasks.  The molded handle with guard over it helps ensure you won’t lose your grip and hurt yourself.

  • Blade is well-balanced
  • AUS-6 stainless steel
  • Guarded, molded handle for better grip
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    Great price
  • Sheath breaks down quickly
  • Made in China
  • minus-circle
    Cheap plastic handle

Uses for a Machete

Big and strong, the machete is a very versatile type of blade. It is something between a sword, cutlass, and survival knife. Some go as far as calling machetes “the only multi-tool you’ll ever need.” 

I still like my small EDC multi-tools, but I definitely have a machete in with my survival gear for tasks like these:

  • Clearing a campsite
  • Opening nuts
  • Stripping bark and shoots from branches
  • Lawn mowing
  • Pruning trees and bushes
  • Splitting wood
  • Making a shelter
  • arrow-right
    Killing snakes as they are about to strike
  • Self-defense
  • Making a snow cave
  • Chopping compost
  • Carving notches into wood
  • Butchering large game
  • Driving nails
  • Opening beer bottles
butchering with machete

Machetes are great for butchering large game.

machete tree chopping

They chop through trees too.

machete stripping branches

Use a machete to strip branches for a shelter or bow.

machete peeling fruit

Machetes can be used for detailed work too.

machete opening coconut

I swear, the only thing that can open a coconut is a machete!

Types of Machetes (Blade Shapes)

When you start looking into machetes, you’ll see that they come in all sorts of shapes and sizes.  These styles make them suited for different purposes.  To figure out what style of machete is right for you, consider the:

  • Blade thickness: Thin machetes are made to slash through lighter bush without straining your arm (think clearing a grassy campsite). Thicker blades can hack through huge branches – but the weight will give your arms a major workout!
  • Blade curve: Some machetes (such as the kukri) have very drastic curves. The curve increases the contact area of the blade, making it ideal for chopping.  Curved blades are also ideal for slashing, making them a formidable weapon. By contrast, a straight machete blade is better for thrusting.
  • Blade Tip: Pointed machete tips are great for tasks like skinning game. However, pointed tips aren’t as strong.  Rounded blades are better for clearing thick bush or chopping through wood.

Most Popular Types of Machetes:

Kukri Machete:

kukri machete type

A beautiful old kukri machete

My personal favorite type of machete, the kukri has three parts. 

The first part is the pointed tip, which makes it a good self-defense weapon.  

The second part is the curved mid-area, which is ideal for cutting through thick bush.  

Finally the area near the handle is good for detailed work.  

The only issue is that these are really heavy machetes, so your arm will be killing you after a day of clearing.

Latin/Bush Machete:

Latin or bush machete

The long, thin shape of the Latin machete helps it stay balanced.  Thus, it is fairly easy to perform tasks with the Latin machete.  It serves as a good multi-tool.  

Just don’t expect it to do tough tasks efficiently – it’s too thin and pointed.

Bolo Machete:

Bolo machete

The bolo is an excellent all-around machete.  The rounded shape adds strength for tough tasks but the blade is still thin enough for lighter work.

Bowie Machete:

Bowie machete

The main feature of the Bowie machete is its clip-point blade.  This blade makes it ideal for skinning game.  The point makes the blade weaker though, so don’t expect to do much chopping with a bowie.

Panga Machete:

panga machete

I consider the panga to be the fiercest-looking of all machetes.  It is commonly used in Southern Africa as a weapon. 

Some are made so both sides can be sharpened, meaning it will slice through game (or disembowel someone) fairly quickly. The curvature makes it good for slicing as well as light chopping.

Parang or Golok Machete:

Golok machete

Parang and golok machetes are two types with very similar features.  They have beautiful, sleek curves to them but the entire blade is narrow.  Because these blades are thick, they are still very strong and great for cutting through thick brush.

Spetsnaz Machete:

Spetsnaz machete

These were made by the Soviets during WWII and still used by Russian Special Forces today.  

The machete was designed to be a heavy-duty chopping tool, which is why the blade is so thick and heavy.

  A Spetsnaz machete is really hard to sharpen and not balanced.  However, a lot of people love them as collector’s items.

Other Machete Features

Once you’ve learned about the types of machete (blade styles), the other features are the same as when choosing a knife:

  • Tang: The tang is the part of the blade that extends into the handle. Cheap machetes will have thin tangs which are glued into the handle.  The best machetes have full tangs attached with bolts and are much sturdier.
  • Blade Material: Natives will make their own machetes out of scrap metal. When buying a machete though, you’ll want to look for a high-quality, strong steel or carbon-steel.  Here’s a good guide to blade steel quality.
  • Length: In general, machete blades are very long. Some are longer than others, which make them more efficient at clearing bush and effective as weapons – but are much heavier to carry.  
  • Handle Material: While wood handles are often considered best, this is really a matter of personal preference. I personally like rubberized handles for their non-slip grip but they wear out quickly.
  • Pommel: The pommel is the end of the blade. Flat pommels are great if you want to use the pommel for hammering.
  • Extras: Depending on your needs, you might want a machete with a saw-back or gut hook.

Machete Sheaths

Some cheap survival machetes come without a sheath.  While locals living in the jungles of South American and Asia might be able to get by without a sheath, you are probably going to want one!

unsheathed machetes

They should probably sheath these machetes!

If the machete you want doesn’t come with a sheath (or a sheath in the material you want), make sure you can easily find one.  Machetes are very specifically shaped, so you can have a hard time finding a sheath to fit your machete – and it costs a lot to special order one!

As far as materials go, leather sheaths are preferred.  However, nylon sheaths are also good options for a fraction of the cost.  Also pay attention to whether there are belt loops for carrying or not.


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