Though they are many types of machetes, few have had the effect on human history as the Panga Machete.
The Panga is sometimes called a “Rozador”, “Carribean” or African machete. In Swahili, “Panga” translates to “Big Knife”. It has a distinctive, upswept curved shape with an upturned tip.
Its deep belly provides it with immense chopping power. This makes it suitable for slightly thicker and woodier vegetation than say the “Latin American” type. The design also features three grooves “Tres Canales” which are said to help the blade flex and not snap under impact.
When colonial powers took slaves for harvesting sugar, it spread throughout the Caribbean. In Haiti, it was used in the only successful slave uprising the western hemisphere has seen since Spartacus.
Pangas are also the type of machetes used in Machete Fighting, and namely the Haitian art of “Tire Machét”. The distinctive point allows the blade to make powerful stabs as well as deep cuts and slices. Perfect for making holes in coconuts (as well as people) and shelling crabs.
Surprisingly, Pangas are not as popular as other types. Our list of the best panga machetes can help you hold a piece of history.
The Best 5 Panga Machetes of 2017
|Condor Viking||20" Blade|
1075 HC Steel
|$75.88||Read Our Review!|
|Cold Steel Panga||16" Blade|
1055 HC Steel
|$28.42||Read Our Review!|
|Caribbean Panga||15.5" Blade|
|$14.99||Read Our Review!|
|Marbles Swamp Master||18" Blade|
|$18.75||Read Our Review!|
|Okapi Panga||14" Blade|
1055 HC Steel
Made in South Africa
|$22.01||Read Our Review!|
Panga Machete Reviews
Condor Viking Machete Review
Despite the name “Viking”, you can see that this is indeed a Panga design. Usually, machetes will be made from cheap, spring steel. The thinking is they have a lot of flex in case they hit a heavy blunt object, and they can be easily sharpened. The blades are often not rust resistant as they’re cheap and you can just buy a new one. Well, Condor do things slightly differently.
The Condor Viking comes in their staple 1075 steel. This is a really decent steel that has the best features of low-carbon and high carbon steel. It’s tough, durable and easy to sharpen.
The blade itself is 20″ and it is tip heavy to really add muscle to your chopping power. The longer blade also gives you a great deal of range for additional safety, too. At 2.2lbs, it’s relatively lightweight for its length so it’s still fun to swing.
The length of the machete should really match your height (and not where you cut). If you hold in in your hand with your arm straight down, will it touch the ground? If your especially tall, the Viking machete will make your work quicker and easier. You won’t need to stoop over or crouch to make cuts at ground level.
Another key design feature to the Viking is that it’s partially sharpened on the reverse side, too. This means it will make cuts and slices on your backswings. It will really reduce the time taken for trail clearing and briars.
Usually, there’s a lot to be desired about the sheaths that come with cheap machetes. However, the one included is a durable stitched leather sheath. It snaps shut with three buttons to hold the blade securely. There’s also a belt loop for easy carry, too.
The main drawback with the Condor Viking is the price. It costs several times the other functional designs on this list. If you value a superior steel and are tired of having to pay extra for a decent sheath, it could work for you.
Cold Steel make a lot of great blades at great prices. What makes their Panga special is that it’s actually made by Lasher tools of South Africa. You’d expect them to be well skilled in making this particular blade design.
The steel used in 1055 medium carbon. This is relatively soft, but still durable and easy to sharpen. Like we discussed on our main machete page, this does not come factory sharpened. Instead, there is a rough hollow grind which you the end user need to sharpen with something like a Flapper Wheel. And there’s no sheath.
Still – what do you really expect for just $13.59. If these things matter to you, you might be better off with the Condor. However, the Cold Steel Parang has a lot going for it. It’s well constructed, easy to sharpen in the field with just a file and has an injection molded handle.
This last point might escape notice. Handle rivets loosening are a common problem in other machete types. So the Cold Steel Panga’s handle stays firm and fixed even after a lot of battoning.
One of the downsides is it’s hard to grip the handle when it’s wet. And you can expect to sweat quite a bit working a machete for long periods.
The blade length is 16″ long so it’s shorter than the Condor Viking, but you can still powerful full-force swings with it. Just click the thumbnail to see Cold Steel’s cutting video:
Impressive stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree. If you’re not put off by having to sharpen the blade, the Cold Steel Panga is an absolute bargain.
Marbles is a Michigan company and has been in business for over 100 years. Their “Swamp Master” panga machete is manufactured by Imacasa in El Salvador, the parent company of Condor. So they know a lot about making machetes.
The Swamp Master has a thinner profile than the other Pangas on our list. It measures 3 1/4 inches at the widest point and just 1 lb 2 oz – almost half the weight off the slightly longer Condor Viking. This doesn’t make it a less effective chopper as is tip-heavy and well balanced for it’s 24″ total length.
You can see a cutting test here:
The handle is 6″ of hardwood held in by three rivets. There is a large, brass lanyard hole. As you can see, the blade and handle is painted bright orange, and this is to help you find it in long grass and in the bush. Some people do take exception to the color and scrape it off without undue effort.
Another advantage is that the Swamp Master comes with a workable edge. Sure, it’s not hair-shaving sharp but it’s a lot sharper than other El Salvador machetes.
A downside to this panga is the handle. There’s quite a few reports of it not sitting flush to the full-tang of the blade. It is still a workable tool, but you might need to do soem work with some epoxy and a belt sander to stop seeing daylight through the pins.
Marbles have definitely got the panga design down (no doubt due to their African connections) at just $18.75 – it’s a great price. Just bear in mind that sadly doesn’t include the sheath, nor sharpening stone…