SURVIVAL

Best Survival Machete: Ultimate Weapon and Tool for Your Wilderness Excursions

Dennis Owens
Written by Dennis Owens

When it comes to a survival situation, you have to rely as much on the tools you have brought with you as you do on your own instincts – and a machete is one useful tool. You may have tried, but you will agree with us when we say that picking the best survival machete might not be as easy as it seems.

A machete is one such tool. Most machetes serve multi-purpose functions; that is, they are just as capable of building a shelter as they are of protecting you from bodily harm. However, if you’re looking to get the best out of both worlds, it might take you a while.

That’s why we’ve gone over the basic characteristics of a good-quality machete – we hope that you’ll get to learn more by reading them. On top of that, we did the reviews of seven different machetes that are highlighted as great products on the market. Keep reading on to find out more!

Product NameWeightDimensionsPrimary UsePrice
Gerber Gator Nylon Sheath1.1 pounds28 x 5.1 x 1.9 inchesMultipurposeCheck price on Amazon
Cold Steel 97KMS Kukri1 pounds18 x 6 x 1 inchesChoppingCheck price on Amazon
Ka-Bar Black Cutlass1.1 pounds18.2 x 4.6 x 2.6 inchesSurvivalCheck price on Amazon
Gerber Bear Grylls Parang1.9 pounds25.5 x 6 x 1.5 inchesMultipurpose, survivalCheck price on Amazon
Ka-Bar 2-1249-9 Kukri1.3 pounds17.4 x 4.6 x 2.4 inchesChopping, militaryCheck price on Amazon
Condor Tool and Knife 14-Inch Golok2.4 pounds20.5 x 3.2 x 3.2 inchesChoppingCheck price on Amazon
Cold Steel Jungle1.5 pounds22 x 0.4 x 0.4 inchesMultipurpose, survivalCheck price on Amazon

Features to Consider Before Buying

Because a survival machete can mean the difference between life and death when you’re in the wilderness, backcountry, or other survival situation, it’s essential to take some time to choose the one that best fits your needs.

The first step, then, in choosing a survival machete is learning more about the basic features and assessing your intentions and needs. Follow up to find out what matters most.

Performance

Think what you’ll need the machete to do for you. Most of the time, the tasks you perform with a machete boils down to three basic actions – chopping, piercing, and slicing.

When you choose a survival machete for its chopping power, you will be choosing a machete with a thick, heavy blade, capable of chopping down wood for fires and shelters or cutting through thick swaths of vegetation. A thick blade ensures successfully repeated chopping, as it won’t give out or break down with use.

survival-Machete-Chopping

The piercing ability of a survival machete allows you not only to do such jobs as killing game or puncturing an object but also to perform less savory but essential survival tasks like draining a wound in the event of a backcountry medical emergency.

Finally, a survival machete should be able to perform slicing tasks, such as a skinning game or cutting a frayed rope, with relative ease. In order to achieve this, the blade needs to have a fairly thin, long cutting edge with a generous curve.

The narrow shape of a slicing blade minimizes friction between the blade and the object being sliced, too. Tasks performed with this type of blade should be limited to true slicings, like skinning or filleting; cutting larger portions of meat, for example, is a task better suited to a chopping blade, as this activity can wear a thin blade over time.

Blade

In general, you should choose a machete with a blade that’s weighted and balanced for the kind of tasks you want to do, whether that’s chopping, piercing, slicing, or all three. Keep in mind, too, that the heavier the blade, the more fatigued you’ll become using it, which may impact your own performance in a survival situation.

survival-Machete-High-carbon-stainless-steel

The shape of the blade also affects the type of tasks a machete can perform. For example, a deep belly blade has both the curvature for slicing tasks and the weight for chopping tasks, while a sharp tip blade is ideal for piercing and slicing.

However, the tip shouldn’t be only sharp but also aligned with the handle of the machete; this allows the wielder to thrust, pierce, and stab in a straight line, making it easier to pierce a variety of objects.

Ideally, the blade should have a moderate thickness and weight, thick enough to withstand repeated use, but light enough to not fatigue the wielder too quickly.

Weight

Many chopping machetes on the market today have heavier, thicker blades than normal, allowing them to hold up under heavy use; however, for a survival machete, a blade with a moderate weight and thickness is best, as the mid-range weight will allow you to continue using the blade without fatiguing too quickly.

survival-Machete-Piercing

However, before buying too light of a machete, keep in mind that the weight of the blade helps build momentum and provide enough force behind each blow to ensure clean, complete chops.

Material

The material of the survival machete directly impacts many aspects of it: longevity, durability, flexibility, resistance to corrosion, resistance to wear, and retention of edge, strength, and hardness.

To achieve the best results in each of these categories, most survival machetes are constructed from either carbon steel, stainless steel or high carbon stainless steel.

Machetes made from carbon steel tend to be stronger, harder, and less expensive than those made from stainless steel. Carbon steel blades are also easier to sharpen and retain their sharpness longer than stainless steel.

survival-Machete-Stainless-steel

The drawback of carbon steel is that it rusts more easily than stainless, although oxidation can be removed and prevented by occasionally oiling the blade. Although stainless steel machetes tend to be softer, more expensive, and less sharp than carbon steel machetes, they generally withstand corrosion and wear better than carbon machetes.

The chromium nickel coating protects the blade from rust and corrosion, making stainless steel an ideal material for wet or adverse environments. The downside of stainless steel is that the softer material requires more sharpening than carbon.

Combining the best of both worlds, high carbon stainless steel has the edge retention, hardness, and strength of carbon steel with the resistance to corrosion of stainless steel. This is perhaps the most useful material for a survival machete, though it is significantly more expensive than the other two options.

Ergonomics of the Handle

The handle is an often overlooked aspect—but one that should influence your choice—of the survival machete is its handle. Although you use the blade to perform tasks, the handle allows you to make the motions that actually execute those tasks! A weak or uncomfortable handle impacts your ability to use your machete to its fullest potential.

machete handle

When looking for a survival machete, test the handle for its comfort level. It should have a comfortable grip and an ergonomic design that will allow you to use the tool repeatedly without discomfort.

Be sure, too, that the handle is made from durable, high-quality material that won’t break, crack, or fall apart with repeated use and exposure to the elements. Hopefully, you’ve understood some of the more basic features that matter when buying a machete. Let’s move on to the actual product reviews now!

Top Products on the Market

Here’s a short overview of some of the best products available on the market!

Gerber Gator Nylon Sheath MacheteGerber Gator Nylon Sheath Machete

Price: Approximately $20

Weight: 1.1 lb.

Dimensions: 28 x 5.1 x 1.9 in

Specific features: High carbon stainless steel blade, fine edge and saw edge blade, gator grip rubberized handle

Best use: Sawing, light to medium weight chopping

The Gerber Gator Nylon Sheath Machete is an excellent multi purpose machete and regarding its price, it may as well be the perfect choice for survivalists on a budget.

The machete is lightweight – weighing only a pound, making it convenient for beginner survivalist. However, its 15-inch razor edge blade delivers enough sharp, tough chopping power to clear a swath of vegetation in a single cut.

Its ergonomic, tactile rubber grip handle allows the wielder to exercise maximum control while performing repetitive tasks with no discomfort.

Perhaps the most exciting feature of this blade is that it doubles as a saw: the 18-inch, high performance, serrated edge opposite the blade edge is ideal for sawing through wood, rope, and other materials.

The saw edge also makes up for the fact that this relatively thin, light blade works best for light- to medium-weight: chopping tasks. The machete comes with a protective sheath and has a lanyard hole. All in all, it should be a decent purchase.

PROS:

  • Ideal for beginner survivalist
  • Light but sharp
  • Excellent price
  • Blade doubles as a saw – two products in one

CONS:

  • Experienced survivalist may be looking to get something more professional
  • Not intended for heavy-duty use

Related: The Smith’s Axe and Machete Sharpener should work amazingly not only for machetes but for axes, saws, and hatchets. Even though its head is plastic, it’s durable enough and should last you for years – do note that the blades are replaceable. Another great part about it is the oversized handle – you’ll be able to easily hold it while wearing gloves!

Check the price on Amazon

Cold Steel 97KMS Kukri MacheteCold Steel 97KMS Kukri Machete

Price: Approximately $30

Weight: 1 lb.

Dimensions: 18 x 6 x 1 in

Specific features: Carbon steel blade, polypropylene handle, Cor-Ex sheath, limited warranty

Best use: Heavy chopping

The Cold Steel 97KMS Kukri Machete is the perfect pick for those looking to combine quality with affordability. Ideal for anyone on a budget, this machete performs workhorse tasks at a reasonable price.

Its 13-inch carbon steel blade provides maximum chopping power to clear the thickest brush with its weight-forward balance – you should be able to tackle even hardcore tree trunks with it!

Meanwhile, the handle allows for a great grip – apart from being extremely durable, it’s made out of polypropylene, ensuring you can carry out tough tasks in comfort.

The machete should be primarily used for heavy chopping and might not work great if you’re looking for more precise work.

However, their three-part blades also feature a pointed piercing tip and a narrow area near the handle that can sometimes be used for more delicate tasks, such as whittling or carving. On top of that, you’ll also receive a limited lifetime warranty from the manufacturer and a protective sheath.

PROS:

  • Does wonders for heavy-duty chopping
  • Uses own weight to give you stronger strokes
  • Great comfort

CONS:

  • Not that good for precise work
  • Beginners might struggle with a blade like that

Related: If you’re looking for a survivalist kit you can wear on you at all times, check the A2S K2-Peak Paracord Bracelet – they might save your life! Equipped with five different survival tools, the bracelet is sturdy enough as to not break even in the most dangerous situations. The size is adjustable and you get a pack of two bracelets.

Check the price on Amazon

Ka-Bar Black Cutlass MacheteKa-Bar Black Cutlass Machete

Price: Approximately $50

Weight: 1.1 lb.

Dimensions: 18.2 x 4.6 x 2.6 in

Specific features: High carbon steel blade, thermoplastic elastomer handle, hollow grind, 20-degree angle edge, leather sheath

Best use: Slicing, survival, self-defense, cutting small limbs and branches, clearing camp

As the name suggests, the cutlass-style Ka-Bar Black Cutlass Machete handles light- to medium-weight chopping tasks with ease – clearing a camping spot would never be easier! At the same time, it gives the user enough power to perform piercing and slicing tasks, making it an excellent mid-range survival machete.

Its 11-inch carbon steel blade works well not only for clearing campsites but also for chopping down light vegetation, and cutting smaller branches and tree limbs – you could easily use it to clear out your backyard. It also features an ergonomic, non-slip grip handle designed to maximize comfort and use.

This machete is a lighter, less-curved version of the kukri machete, making it an ideal choice for those who don’t like the deep curve of the kukri, or who are looking for a machete that impresses both in terms of performance and aesthetics.

The machete comes with a protective sheath that has a belt clip, allowing you to have your hands free while wearing it. All in all, it should be a decent purchase no matter whether you’re a beginner or a more advanced survivalist.

PROS:

  • Allows versatile use – piercing, slicing, and chopping
  • Great grip
  • Excellent aesthetics of the blade

CONS:

  • Sheath might wear off and fall apart after a while
  • Not meant for performing any heavy-duty tasks

Related: The Smith’s PP1 Multifunction Sharpener can fit right in your pocket – it might quickly become an irreplaceable part of your survival gear. Being extremely small and light, the sharpener features a tapered diamond rod for sharpening. To get the most out of it, use the lanyard hole and simply attach it to your survival kit or backpack.

Check the price on Amazon

Gerber Bear Grylls Parang MacheteGerber Bear Grylls Parang Machete

Price: $30 – $40

Weight: 1.9 lb.

Dimensions: 25.5 x 6 x 1.5 in

Specific features: High carbon steel blade, ergonomic textured rubber grip, lanyard, nylon sheath, search-and-rescue and SOS instructions

Best use: Survival, clearing vegetation, search and rescue

A traditional jungle machete in a modern design, the Gerber Bear Grylls Parang Machete combines multi purpose performance and durability – given you take proper care of it, it should last for years! On top of that, it comes with more than an affordable price.

The 13.5-inch blade clears thick vegetation with ease – use it to clear a camp spot or your backyard. At the same time, the machete can be used to aid in survival and search-and-rescue situations. The blade is made out of high carbon steel that ensures longevity, durability, and resistance to corrosion and wear, even after years of heavy use.

A textured, ergonomic rubber grip handle boosts comfort and keeps you safe at the same time – the chances of slipping should be minimal. For increased security, you also receive a protective sheath.

Survivalists should know that this particular model also includes Priorities of Survival, Bear Grylls’s pocket guide to survival and SOS essentials. This makes it the perfect choice for those who want a machete specifically designed with the survivalist in mind.

PROS:

  • Blade is angled and allows better control
  • Comes with survival instructions
  • Extremely durable, should last for years

CONS:

  • It’s more of a survivalist machete, use might be somewhat limited
  • Some users might take some time to get used to the angle of the blade

Related: If you’re on the lookout for another tool for your survival kit, check out the Gerber Bear Grylls Survival Hatchet – another tool from Bear Grylls Survival line! The blade should allow you to make swift, precise cuts no matter whether you’re an amateur or a professional. The hatchet features a non-slip handle and is suitable to be used both in dry and wet conditions.

Check the price on Amazon

Ka-Bar 2-1249-9 Kukri MacheteKa-Bar 2-1249-9 Kukri Machete

Price: $40 – $60

Weight: 1.3 lb.

Dimensions: 17.4 x 4.6 x 2.4 in

Specific features: Carbon steel blade, hollow grind, Kraton G handle, 20-degree angle edge

Best use: Light- to mediumweight chopping, basic field tasks (clearing campsites and chopping wood)

The Ka-Bar 2-1249-9 Kukri Machete is a good-quality machete in the low-to-mid price range, allowing you to experience decent quality while not spending a fortune at the same time. Most of the manufacturer’s attention is put on the military- and survival-focused products so keep that in mind if you decide to go for this product.

It features an 11.5-inch carbon steel blade that makes short work of a variety of chopping, piercing, and slicing tasks – it allows for a versatile use and saves you the trouble from carrying multiple tools on your trip. However, the machete excels primarily at light- to medium-weight chopping and basic field tasks like clearing campsites.

Its ergonomic non-slip grip handle ensures maximum comfort for all-day use. As far as you take proper care of it, it should last you for a while.

This machete is used by members of the United States military, outdoorsmen, and survivalists alike, making it one of the most popular models on the market today. However, the model is lacking some basic accessories, such as a protective sheath or a clip belt – regarding the price, at least a sheath should be included.

PROS:

  • Great for medium chopping tasks
  • Budget-friendly price
  • Suitable for more experienced survivalists

CONS:

  • No protective sheath nor belt clip included
  • It’s mostly aimed towards military personnel

Related: The Lansky Puck Multi-Purpose Sharpener is a solid option for those looking to go back to basics – it’s a sharpener that shouldn’t fail you at difficult times! The puck is small and light enough to be carried around and can be used both home and in the field. It should prove to work well not only with machetes but with other blades as well, allowing you to get the most out of a single product.

Check the price on Amazon

Condor Tool and Knife 14-Inch Golok MacheteCondor Tool and Knife 14-Inch Golok Machete

Price: $75 – $85

Weight: 2.4 lb.

Dimensions: 20.5 x 3.2 x 3.2 in

Specific features: High carbon steel blade with epoxy black powder coating, leather handle, 107 sculpted vents, replaceable soft pads

Best use: Heavy chopping tasks

The Condor Tool and Knife 14-Inch Golok Machete features a high carbon steel blade that’s tough enough to split bullets, and chop down trees. Similar to a parang-style machete, a golok machete is designed and weighted with heavy chopping tasks in mind.

However, if you’re looking for a machete to help you cut down some lighter vegetation, some other models might be more appropriate. The blade is made out of high carbon steel blade and is coated with some epoxy black powder, making it extremely resistant to rusting and corrosion.

The handle is made 100% out of leather and includes replicable soft pads. Even though it looks smooth and elegant, the handle has been roughened to ensure a non-slip yet comfortable grip. The sheath included for the machete is also 100% leather.

While this machete may not be the best choice for piercing, slicing, or more delicate tasks, this is an excellent machete for those who spend a lot of time in the wilderness performing heavy tasks and need a strong, durable tool.

PROS:

  • Performs extremely well at heavy-duty chopping tasks
  • Comfortable grip
  • Should prove to be pretty durable

CONS:

  • Not that good at performing more delicate tasks
  • Beginners may find it too heavy

Related: If you prefer sharpening your blades with a sharpening stone, then you might need Norton Sharpening Stone Oil – it’s aimed to correct viscosity and allow you to get smoother sharpening. It’s suitable for use no matter whether you’re going to be sharpening your machete or another blade. The oil comes with an excellent price regarding its size.

Check the price on Amazon

Cold Steel Jungle MacheteCold Steel Jungle Machete

Price: $30 – $35

Weight: 1.5 lb.

Dimensions: 22 x 0.4 x 0.4 in

Specific features: High carbon steel blade with black baked-on anti-rust matte finish, polypropylene handle

Best use: Chopping heavy vegetation, clearing camp, skinning, self-defense

The Cold Steel Jungle Machete delivers the multi purpose performance you’d expect from a blade that looks like a bush, parang, and kukri machete all rolled into one— it should enable you to get the best out of every tool! On top of that, the price is more than reasonable considering everything that you’d get.

From chopping woody vegetation to slashing through vines; from hunting and skinning prey to defending against predators, the 16-inch carbon steel blade of the Jungle machete excels in multiple areas of use. Considering it’s coated with an anti-rust finish, the machete should prove to be pretty durable, as long as it’s properly taken care of.

Though its weight is balanced slightly forward, the blade was designed to do a variety of tasks with a survival focus. However, if you’re new when it comes to machetes, be careful, as the machete is slightly on the heavier side.

This survival machete is an excellent choice for those looking for a machete with a balance of capability, durability, and affordability.

PROS:

  • It excels at different activities
  • The blade is coated and it should resist corrosion for years
  • Aimed for survivalists mostly

CONS:

  • Users may find it to be a bit heavy
  • The sheath included is not of top-notch quality

Related: If your camping trips are too much in the dark, grab one of the Supernova 300 Lumens Lantern – it’s so bright, it can light up even the darkest night! The LED lights are so powerful, they can be used for up to 100,000 hours of light though you’d have to get the batteries yourself. On top of that, the lantern has some plastic molding and a sturdy rubber that should act as a water barrier.

Check the price on Amazon

Wrap Up

When it comes to choosing a survival machete, many factors—use, construction, handle, and price—come together to influence your final decision. However, we hope that we’ve managed to highlight some of the most popular, useful, and affordable survival machetes on the market today.

Don’t forget – ultimately, the machete you choose depends a lot on you and your survival needs. Are there any great products we’ve accidentally missed? If that’s the case, please feel free to share with us in our comment section and let us know!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dennis Owens
Dennis Owens

Dennis Owens is a graduate of National Camping School and REI Outdoor School. He knows everything about what gear to take with you, how to plan your trip to stay safe and what to do if you get lost in the mountains. We are lucky to have Dennis with us as he is a ‘walking encyclopedia’ when it comes to the wilderness.

  • Jenny Simpson Smith

    As someone who spends a great deal of time in the bush and jungle, a solid machete is a crucial tool for ensuring safe passage through the unknown, warding off any unwanted company and from time to time, assisting with food preparation.

    Though I’ve owned a few machetes listed here over the years, all of which have performed well, most recently, I have been using the Cold Steel Kukri Machete and I have to say, it trumps them all.

    It has been used to chop down countless saplings and hack through miles of undergrowth, it has been knocked on rocks, dropped on the ground and even had a truck back over it and it still looks as good as it did, the day I got it.

    The blade holds a nice edge, though if I recall, out of the box it did need a little attention (an hour or so with a file, and a few stones). It is lightweight enough to use for extended periods of time, I have personally used it for 3-4 hours and more at a time, without developing any blisters.

    I really cannot say enough good things about it, a must have for any hiker, backpacker, camper or worldly wanderer.

    • Dennis Owens

      The Cold Steel brand is a fool-proof brand and has been around for quite a long time already, and is one of the most established brands in the market when it comes to knives and machetes. While some models are quite expensive, investing in a Cold Steel Machete is definitely worth saving up.

  • Tom Grainger

    When Gerber first released the Bear Grylls range of products, I did roll my eyes a little, thinking they’re probably nothing more than corny name-dropping products, with very little real world application. I was, however, proven wrong when I received the Gerber Bear Grylls Parang Machete as a Christmas gift in 2015.

    Right out of the box, you’ll notice just how high the quality of this product is. The blade is heavyweight, the sharpest I’ve ever seen on a newly delivered blade and it holds a better edge than any other machete I’ve ever used.

    The grip comfortable and it has great balance, so cutting through dense brush or thick branches is almost child’s play.

    For the price, you’ll struggle to do much better than this.

    • Dennis Owens

      While I would have to agree with you that co-branded products are often not as effective as marketed (not to mention they are often more expensive than regular ones), there are various co-branded outdoor items worth checking out. The Bear Grylls range is one of them, and whether or not you are a Bear Grylls fan, its line are some of the products in the market that are worth checking out.

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