Think of any jungle scenario and the machete will be at the forefront, slashing dense cane and rough brush to make a path for the safari. While that’s not the way most people in the tropics travel today, there’s still plenty of country you can’t cross without one. Sometimes called the agricultural cutlass, the machete bears a strong resemblance to the short, heavy fighting sword that was a favorite among pirates and common seamen. Long thick forward-weighted blades made this style of working knife instantly appropriate for battle.
Today the machete is built more for bushcraft than fighting, although many are still special issue military gear. The Brazilian Army provides soldiers a machete with a ten inch clip point blade, along with a whetstone and a fixed blade Bowie knife, as part of the standard jungle kit. For civilians similar shorter versions of the machete efficiently clear campsites and trails and make quick work of camp chores, performing like a camp axe but without the weight. Often ground with a short thick bevel, the blades hold up to heavy work without turning an edge. That same thick steel doesn’t serve well for tasks that require razor sharp thin blades. Use the machete for heavy chopping, but keep a hunting or skinning knife on hand for the fine work.
The Bark River Golog Machete has the simple machete design but with the refinements of a good hunting knife.
Ontario Knife Company’s SP8 Spec Machete shows what happens when a corporation cares about getting it right.
Our choice for the best machete is Cold Steel’s Kukri Machete. It takes the Gurkha knife to new levels.