Best Survival Machetes

Updated October 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

21 Models Considered
7 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
298 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best survival machetes

Last Updated October 2019

When packing for a camping trip, your list probably includes a tent, a grill, coolers full of food, and various sleeping supplies. An important addition to that list is a machete to use in survival instances. Whether you end up camping on a sandbar on the river or in a quaint remote campground, you’re equally susceptible to Mother Nature.

Survival machetes are useful when camping for practical reasons as well as self-defense. Bringing a machete with you doesn’t mean you necessarily have to use it. Rather, you can bring it on your camping trip for peace of mind. Clip it on your belt, or keep it under wraps in the tent. Either way you’ll be glad to have it when the unexpected occurs.

Shopping for a survival machete can be challenging. They all look similar, and if you’re a first-time user, you might not know what to look for. Our buying guide covers everything you need to consider when buying a survival machete. For our five favorite products, see the matrix above.

When using a survival machete, you only need one hand. The design of the grip and the blade means the machete is best wielded with one’s dominant hand. Using two hands will only make the machete feel awkward and bulky.

Key considerations

Style

The style of a survival machete corresponds with its use. Each style has its pros and cons, and each has a different blade shape, depending on its intended use.

  • Kukri machetes: Kukri machetes have a large heavy blade that adds chopping power. The blade narrows near the handle, so it can be used for more delicate work as well. These survival machetes are best for chopping.
  • Bolo machetes: Bolo machetes are designed for slashing. They clear paths through brush and vegetation with several quick swings. These machetes come to a tapered point that’s excellent in self-defense situations. Ultimately, this blade is used for slashing power.
  • Panga machetes: Panga machetes are hefty and bulky and best used for chopping. The point doesn’t taper to a spearhead, so they’re not ideal in self-defense situations. But the rugged blade can take a lot of abuse.
  • Latin machetes: Latin machetes are used by the U.S. military for their combination of reach and leverage. The Latin machete is a hacker. One of these machetes can hack through a three-inch sapling in one swing. Latin machetes have balanced blades without bulky weighted ends.

Blade material

Most survival machetes have blades made from either carbon steel or stainless steel. Carbon steel is stronger than stainless steel. It’s strength depends on the amount of carbon present. The greater the percentage of carbon, the stronger the blade. But stronger blades are not as durable, meaning they are more susceptible to chipping. Carbon steel blades are also more prone to rust and corrosion than stainless steel blades.

Stainless steel is easier to maintain than carbon steel. Stainless steel doesn’t rust or corrode. Along with resisting corrosion, stainless steel also isn’t affected by submersion in water, which often happens during outdoor excursions.

Handle material

Wood handles on survival machetes are lightweight and offer a good grip. But they can crack if exposed to water or the elements.

Molded plastic handles are common on survival machetes and inexpensive. They are the go-to for beginning machete users. However, be careful because plastic can cause a slippery grip.

Leather handles have one of the best grips because of the roughness of the leather. The leather wears to fit your hand, which increases the comfort of the grip as well. But leather handles will need to be replaced more often because of the nature of the material.

Rubber handles are a versatile option for survival machetes. They are usually textured and feel soft in the hand while still maintaining a good grip. However, they also can become worn quickly, and after a lot of wear and tear, the rubber can start to rip.

Usage

A survival machete can be useful to have around camp. It can hack through underbrush or small trees to clear an area for setting up your tent. A survival machete can also be used to chop wood for a fire.

The slicing action of a machete is used when cleaning game or fish. A survival machete can easily filet or slice fur from the skin of an animal.

Some lovers of the great outdoors carry axes or knives with them for self-defense. But axes are large and unwieldy and require significant arm strength to swing. Knives have a short range and short blades, which may not puncture a dangerous animal. Machetes are the best of both worlds. They are light enough to wield with average arm strength, and their blades are long enough to put some distance between you and the threat. The blade itself can also be embedded easier than a knife because of its length.

EXPERT TIP

Survival machetes are preferable over knives or axes because they reduce fatigue while increasing efficiency.


Staff  | BestReviews

Features

Sheath

A sheath for the survival machete may or may not be included with your purchase. A sheath is recommended for safety reasons and to protect the integrity of the blade. Most sheaths are made from canvas or nylon. Canvas is a durable material that the machete won’t cut through. Nylon is less expensive but more prone to wearing out. Less common materials for sheaths are plastic and leather.

Double-edged blade

Some survival machete blades have one edge that’s sharpened and one edge that’s serrated. The sharp edge is used for chopping and slashing, while the serrated edge is used for sawing through denser materials. In instances of self-defense, the serrated edge will cause a more deadly wound.

Lanyard

Some machetes come with lanyards. A lanyard is attached through a hole in the machete’s handle and is worn around the wrist. Some lanyards cinch to fit the wrist tightly, while you have to hold other lanyards in place with your grip. Lanyards are often made from paracord or leather.

Most survival machetes measure 12 to 36 inches in length from grip to tip, including the handle. The average survival machete is 18 inches long.

Survival machete prices

Basic survival machetes cost $15 to $25. They are simple in design with single-edged blades.

For $30 to $50, you’ll find more versatile machetes with durable handles or specifically styled blades. Most of these survival machetes will come with a sheath for the blade.

The most expensive survival machetes are $60 or more, and they have higher-quality blades and handles. These machetes include a durable sheath, and they should last for years.

Tips

  • Before entering the wilderness with a brand-new machete, take a few practice swings in your backyard. That way you will be familiar with the swing of the blade and how much force is needed for chopping or slashing.
  • Keep a small sharpening stone in your hiking backpack. If the blade of your survival machete dulls, you can sharpen it quickly for instant use.
  • When cutting brush with a machete, never grab a handful of brush with one hand and swing with the other. It’s too easy to misjudge the swing of the blade and cut yourself.
  • If you’re afraid of the machete slipping from your grip, wear gloves while using it. You can also attach a lanyard to a survival machete to wear around your wrist.
EXPERT TIP

When sharpening a survival machete, the angle at which the blade is sharpened is important. Sharpen to an angle of 20 to 25 degrees for cutting grass or vegetation. Increase the angle to 25 to 35 degrees for cutting wood and branches.


Staff  | BestReviews

Other products we considered

With all the styles of survival machetes available, there were bound to be a few honorable mentions that didn’t make our matrix. The Kershaw Camp 18 Camp Series Machete has a handle wrapped in textured rubber and an 18-inch blade. It’s useful in all camping scenarios, but it is expensive for its style. The Grand Way Kukri Large Gardening Machete for Clearing Brush is good for exactly that: clearing brush. The blade is angled to best slash through brush, but due to this survival machete’s harsh angle, its other uses are limited.

The tang of a blade is located inside the handle. Most survival machetes are full tang, meaning the tang and the blade were forged from one piece of metal. The handle is then attached over the tang.

FAQ

Q. How do I know which style of survival machete I need?
A.
The first step is to think about what you’ll be using the survival machete for. There isn’t a wrong style to buy, but there are styles that work better for specific needs. If you want an all-around survival machete, go for a versatile, balanced blade like a Latin machete.

Q. If I bring a survival machete camping, do I still need a knife or an axe?
A.
You won’t necessarily need them, but you may want to bring a knife and an axe just in case. It’s always better to be safe than sorry. A survival machete can be used for most camping needs, but there are times when a knife or an axe may be more appropriate.

Q. Do I need to regularly sharpen my survival machete?
A.
Yes, survival machetes need to be sharpened. You can sharpen machetes with belt sanders, grinding wheels, mill files, or honing steels.

The team that worked on this review
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