The machete blade is infamous and awe-inspiring in equal measure. It’s the utility knife of choice in many South-American and African countries. For clearing brush, sugarcane and for general yard work it’s second to none.
A machete’s chopping and cleaving power also make it a weapon to be feared.
In this article, we’ll show you what makes the best machete for self defense and day-to-day work.
How Much is a Good Machete?
The great thing about Machetes is they’re surprisingly cheap! You can buy one for just $5 at Walmart. Here’s a tip though – don’t! Even if it’s for just cutting grass.
You can buy a really functional machete incredibly cheaply. High-quality machetes are also available for under $100 and there’s a lot in-between. When you consider pocket knives retail for 100s of dollars, machetes provide great value for money.
Let’s take a look at some of them and see which one can lay claim to the title of “Best Machete”.
The Best Machetes of 2020
|Condor El Salvador Machete||Total = 23-1/2" |
Blade = 18 inches
|1075 HIGH CARBON STEEL. 3mm thick||Read Our Review!|
|Ka-Bar Parangatang||Total = 19-5/8"|
Blade = 14-1/8"
|1095 CV Steel||Read Our Review!|
|Schrade Kukri Machete||Total=19-1/2"|
Blade=13 1/2 "
|3Cr13 Stainless Steel||Read Our Review!|
|Ontario 6145 Military Machete||Total=24"|
|1095 Carbon steel||Read Our Review!|
|Condor Parang Machete||Total = 24"|
Blade = 17.5"
|1075 HIGH CARBON STEEL||Read Our Review!|
|Tramontina Machete||Total = 23"|
Blade = 18"
|1070 CARBON STEEL||Read Our Review!|
|Martindale Crocodile Golok No. 2||Total = 18"|
Blade = 13"
|"Hot rolled" High Carbon Steel||Read Our Review!|
What Is the Best Steel For a Machete?
Machetes come in a variety of steels, but which is best? If you’d say the answer is “High Carbon Steel” – you’d be wrong.
A mild carbon steel is actually preferred as it both holds an edge well and is easy to sharpen in the field. Be warned, this kind of steel is prone to rust, but the best machetes will have some form of anti-corrosion coating.
If you are working close to the coast, a stainless steel machete might be more appropriate in that situation. You can find an interesting discussion on machete steel here.
Why Doesn’t My Machete Arrive Sharp?
Quite a few people complain that their machete is not “hair-shaving sharp” right out of the box. There’s a good reason for that.
A machete is an individualized tool. It’s common for them to arrive a bit blunt so users can put an edge on them exactly how they like it and for the task at hand. If this is currently beyond your capabilities, you can pay a little bit extra for a blade that will be razor sharp.
Types of Machetes
“Machete” is usually a pretty generic term these days. Different types have evolved in different geographical regions depending on their intended use. The dense rain-forest of Latin-America requires a different tool than the woodier vegetation of Nepal for example.
Here are some of the best machetes on the market today.
The Latin-American Machete
When somebody says the word “Machete”, we invariably think of the Latin-American version. The Latin-American Machete is long and straight. The blade is pretty thick and evenly weighted.
Its design makes extremely versatile as it can be used for clearing bush, digging, wood carving and preparing food. Durability with these types is a primary concern.
There’s many an online discussion as to which is the better blade, the Nepalese Kukri or the Machete?
The big difference is a kukri machete is has more of a curve than a regular machete. The length is also a few inches shorter so it’s easier to carry in a pack.
A regular machete is better for tall grass, but the kukri is better for thicker wood such as bamboo. Most “Kukri Machetes” tend to keep more of the Kukri’s characteristics IMHO.
The simple answer seems to just combine both designs and get the best of both worlds – literally!
“Parang” is a generic word for a blade in the Malay Archipelago. You can find the parang machete in Indonesia. The bush there tends to be denser than South-America, so that has influenced the blade design. The spine is slightly curved with a thicker belly to provide more chopping power.
Be sure to check out our page 5 of the Best Parang Machetes of 2021 for more info.
The Golok machete is also from the Malay Archepaelego. It can be found predominately in Indonesia but is also prevalent in the Philippines. Sometimes the terms “Golok” and “Parang” are interchangeable. However, the Golok is usually shorter, thicker with a square-cut edge.
The Golok can double as both an agricultural and a fighting blade. The British Army have carried a version of the Golok since the 1950s – and you can find our Martindale Golok Machete review here.
Be sure to check out our page; “5 of the Best Golok Machetes of 2021“.
“Bolo” is yet another generic term for “blade”, this time from the Philippines. Two of the more popular agricultural blades are the “Itak Tagalog” and the “Moro Barong”. The former is longer and straighter, whilst the latter is thick and leaf-shaped.
Both have been used as weapons in uprisings. Most notably, the Colt 1911 was developed to stop Moro’s armed with Barongs killing American servicemen.
Also called a “Cutlass Machete” or a “Viking Machete”, the Panga is predominately used in Africa and the Caribbean. It’s used for moderately thick and woody vegetation, and sugar cane.
The Panga has a curved, upswept design and a deep belly for powerful chopping and slicing. The upturned-tip gives it tremendous piercing power, too/
Condor El Salvador Machete Review
Best Latin-American Machete
When it comes to a Latin-American Machete, it’s hard to beat the Condor El Salvador.
If you’ve worked a machete, you’ll know that your arm is likely to give out way before the blade. (Providing you don’t buy some Walmart $5 piece-of-crap). It’s a great workout but expect to sweat a lot. This is where a machete’s handle really becomes important. You don’t want to lose your grip when tired and lose control of the blade.
This condor machete has a durable micarta handle which absorbs sweat extremely well. The handle also does a great job of absorbing impact shocks. This will make the work a lot easier on your hand and wrist. These two features alone are worth the extra bucks.
The Condor El Salvador has a full-tang and 3mm, 1075 high carbon steel blade. You will need to oil it every now and then, but for a machete, carbon steel is much better than stainless IMHO.To seal the deal, Condor has included a really nice leather sheath and belt loop.
In conclusion, the Condor El Salvador is a high quality machete, and you can find the latest price on Amazon here.
- Great for heavy vegetation & light brush
- Heavy duty and built to last
- Micarta Handle
- 1075 High Carbon Steel
- Leather sheath included free
- Relatively heavy
Ka-Bar Parangatang Review
Best Survival Machete
The Ka Bar Parangtang could well be the best survival machete on the market. Whether you’re trekking, camping or depending on the blade for self defense, it won’t let you down!
With a blade length of around 14”, the Ka-Bar Parangatang is shorter than the standard 18” machete. This does provide some great advantages, though.
Its size makes it ideal to put on a shoulder sling and go backpacking with. And with Ka Bar’s 1095 CV steel it can take a real beating and go as long as you can!
The Parangatang is 3/16 of an inch thick so it’s thick enough to baton with. It will also handle most camp chores with ease. You can use it on the trail to process firewood and build a shelter without any problems.
The parang design means it has a sweet spot where the blade becomes thickest. It will cut through thick bamboo with just two well-executed strokes.
The parang-style handle gives it good versatility, too. The large finger notch and choil of the blade allow you to change grips. You can grip it higher up for finer work or closer to the bottom for increased chopping power.
A free sheath is included, but many find it a bit too flimsy and go for an upgrade.
Like all Ka-Bar knives, the Parangatang is made in the USA. It’s worth checking the price on Amazon.
- Full-tang Blade
- Arrives sharp out-of-the-box
- Handle Design allows for different grips
- Thick enough to baton
- Perfect size to shoulder carry
- Made in the USA
- Included sheath is pretty mediocre
Schrade Kukri Machete Review
If you’re looking for the best machete for the money, the Schrade Kukri machete will take some beating!
This model has a full-tang, Cr13 stainless-steel blade. It arrives sharp right out-of-the-box and comes with a sharpening stone and Ferro rod.
The Kukri-influenced design allows you to cut through thicker and woodier brush. You can expect to chop 1” branches in one go. Slightly larger 2″ – 3” dead branches will drop after 4 – 5 good, clean hits.
It’s also good for fine detail work like shaving bark and processing feather sticks. You can even bore holes with the thick tip.
Another great feature of the Schrade Kukri Machete is Schrade’s signature “Safe-T” grip. It’s an ergonomic grip which is designed to fit any size of hand. It’s also easier to choke up for fine slicing and lower down for chopping.
The only downside is it’s produced in China. This is in keeping with most of Schrade’s product line. You do get a lot of extras with this blade and apart from the sharpening rod they’re not so hot. The sheath is mediocre, but it lacks a belt loop. You’re really paying for the blade and that is the important thing.
At this price point, the Schrade Kukri is an excellent machete for the money.
- “Safe-T-Grip” handle
- Comes with Diamond Sharpening Ferro Rod
- Sturdy and robust
- Sharp out of the box
- Sheath lacks a belt loop
- Made in China
Ontario 6145 Military Machete Review
Best Tactical Machete
The Ontario 6145 is a full-tang military-grade machete at a great price. Ontario has been supplying the military with machetes since WW-II.
So as you’d expect, it is a heavy-duty machete with 1095 carbon steel heat treated to 50- 55 HRC. That makes it perfect for more heavy-duty brush clearing such as vines, brush, and saplings. It’s also great for chopping firewood and you can baton with it, too.
Like most machetes, don’t expect it to arrive hair-shaving sharp. However, the beauty of 1095 steel is it’s easy to sharpen and will hold an edge well.
The 1/4” thick blade is on the heavy side and doesn’t flex much. When you swing it you won’t get any shaking or wobbling of the blade.
The handle is riveted into the blade’s full-tang. This fixes it perfectly in place with no side-to-side wobble when chopping. Still, it isn’t the most ergonomic handle and is quite smooth.
It does have a lanyard eyelet to prevent your hand from sliding off. You can also add a paracord wrist lanyard for greater security and sports tape to make it more grippy.
It’s a shame that it does not come with a sheath. You need to factor the cost of buying something like this one into the price.
In conclusion, the Ontario 6145 is perfect if you’re looking for a tactical machete that can also do utility work, too.
- Made in the USA
- Perfect for vines, saplings, and chopping wood
- Sharpens easily and holds an edge well
- No sheath Included
- Slippy handle
Condor Parang Machete Review
Professional Use Machete
If you’re looking for a thick machete that can clear 5″ hardwood trunks in the jungle, the Condor Parang is it. It’s a heavy duty, full-tang workhorse which has the thickness to minimize the shock to your hand when chopping.
Due to the design, the blade is very forward-weighted. The Condor Parang has a 0.25″ thick blade, but it’s very long and narrow. As it weighs 1.92lbs and the design is away from the “regular” machete shape, it’s not for bush-clearing beginners.
As you’d expect from a Condor product, this parang is incredibly well made. The 1095 HC steel set it head and shoulders above the steel used in many cheaper blades. It will take down smaller foliage such as small shrubs and thorns with very little fatigue and effort at all.
Some users also find the hardwood handle to be a bit smoother. Like similar work blades, you may need to do some customization by way of tape or cord to get it how you like it.
The Condor Parang comes with a leather sheath, which for the price makes it a great deal.
- 1095 HC Steel
- Durable hardwood handle
- Leather Sheath
- Might be too long for some
Tramontina 18″ Machete Review
Best Machete for the Money!
When choosing a machete you should look around and see what the locals use. The Tramontina is from Brazil, and locals use them every day as a survival tool. Quite frankly to get such a machete for the cost of a movie ticket…well. It’s simply amazing!
Te Tramontina has a full tang, but some users say it doesn’t fit the handle well and needs to be modded slightly. The handle might come slightly lose after several years of hard abuse. Again, for the price 4 – 5 years hard use is an excellent return. And when all else fails, there’s duct tape!
Like most similar blades, you need to be prepared to do a bit of work when the Tramontina arrives. It won’t be that sharp so you’ll need to put an edge on it. It’s made from mild carbon steel, so it’s relatively easy to sharpen and hold an edge.
If you look after them, these blades will last a lifetime. You should be aware that the blade doesn’t come with a sheath. You can pick a good machete sheath up for around $10 though.
Also, there is no corrosion coating on the blade. For the price, what do you expect, though? As long as you don’t get it wet, it should be golden. Any rust spots that appear can be taken care of with sandpaper or a belt-grinder.
- Great price
- Made in Brazil
- Used & trusted in the jungle
- Easy to sharpen and keep an edge
- Great balance and feel
- No Sheath
- Needs Work
Martindale Machete Review
Best Small Machete You Can Buy
The Martindale Crocodile Golok 2 is probably the best small machete you can buy.
Military Issue, it’s made in Britain and has been used by the British Army, Australian Army and Special Forces for over 40 years. It’s also used around the world for farming and agricultural uses.
There was a time where the demand for British Steel (and Sheffield Steel in particular) was incredibly high. Unfortunately, most of the steel mills shut down and moved to Asia (sound familiar?).
The Martindale Crocodile’s has hot-rolled carbon steel, hardened to Rockwell 45 – 50. So it’s incredibly durable. In an unlikely alliance, the beech wood hand (which btw is excellent for absorbing sweat) is made in Germany. There’s also a lanyard hole to easily attach a safety loop.
For its overall length (18″) it packs a lot of weight. At 1.3lbs, it almost weighs the same as the Condor Parang – and that blade is 5″ longer. This makes this Martindale Golok 2 excellent for chopping more denser, wooded vegetation (like bamboo for example). It also makes it easy to carry on a pack or in a “Bug Out Bag”.
The standard version does not come with a sheath. You can buy it here. As you can see, it’s almost the same price as the blade itself!
Ralph Martindale Knives have over 125 years experience so if you’re looking for a great small machete that will last, get this one. Find the latest price here.
- Great Steel and heat treatment
- Military Spec
- Heavy duty for thicker chopping
- Easier to go backpacking with
- Doesn’t come with sheath
- Comes rough so you need to make it ready.