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How To Choose The Right Machete: Your Machete Style & Function Guide

Notice the title of this post. It is not “Should you own a Survival Machete” or “Is a Machete right for you?”. The title is HOW TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT MACHETE. I am assuming you are already aware that a machete is a SPOG (Stock Piece of Gear) for any outdoor and survival enthusiast. Are machetes necessary to survival? No. However…

A Machete REDUCES FATIGUE and INCREASES EFFICIENCY.

Second to a good knife, a machete can be your new best friend.  Machetes are built for work and abuse.  They can make quick work of a variety of survival tasks such as clearing brush, chopping wood, building shelters, gathering cordage, processing large game and the list goes on and on.  They are a staple tool in basically every indigenous culture on the planet – and for good reason –  they are very inexpensive, extremely functional and incredibly easy to maintain.

Besides the obvious uses, machetes make excellent self defense weapons as well.  Whether pursued by beast or man, the machete is a force to be reckoned with.  It is a crude but efficient last line of defense against any attack.

Below are a series of  questions to ask yourself before you dig into the different survival machete styles.  Answering these will help you choose which machete is right for you.

  1. How do you plan on using the machete?  In the woods? For urban survival? As a Bug Out Bag tool?
  2. Will you also be carrying a knife?
  3. Do you carry an axe or hatchet?
  4. What kind of environment do you adventure in? Desert? Thick forest? Swamp? Jungle?
  5. Is this intended mainly for wilderness related chores or solely as a survival self defense weapon or BOTH?

Below are 5 very popular machete styles.  I have described what I consider the main functions and influences of each one as well as the advantages and disadvantages.  Based upon your answers to the questions above, these descriptions should help you narrow down which machete is best suited for you.

 

Survival Machete Style # 1:  The Kukri  

Kukri Style Survival Machete
Kukri Style Survival Machete

The design of the Kukri Machete makes it an excellent “all-around” machete choice.  The large heavy end provides weight for endless chopping power.  This machete makes an excellent hatchet substitute.  The narrow blade near the handle can be used for more detailed carving work as well.  The spear point tip is a good feature for self defense.  From experience, the Kukri is not best suited for clearing brush.  It’s best feature is chopping wood – making quick work of small saplings and limbs for shelter building.  Overall, this machete would be a good choice for someone who doesn’t want to depend on a hatchet or a knife to get things done.  They plan on doing some heavy chopping either with building projects or for fire wood.  And, they also would like the option to have an excellent spear point self defense weapon.

Advantages:

  • Heavy Chopper
  • Can also use as more detailed carver
  • Spear Point
  • Full Tang
  • Excellent Self Defense Rating

Disadvantages:

  • Does not excel at any one task, but gets good grades in all

 

Survival Machete Style # 2: The Bolo

Survival Style Bolo Machete

Survival Style Bolo Machete

 No detail work with the Bolo Machete.  It’s designed for brute chopping and slashing power.  Clearing paths, chopping dense vegetation and crashing through thick underbrush is where this beast performs best.  Originating in Asia and the Pacific Rim, the spear tip design lends itself well to cracking coconuts but is just as capable of cutting down the whole tree, building a shelter out of it and then chopping up the scraps for fire wood.  If it’s a workhorse you are looking for, the Bolo is for you.  Don’t expect to do any light camp chores with it though – definitely pack a good camp knife.  You can leave the axe and saw at home.

Advantages:

  • Chopping and Slashing power
  • Brush Clearing
  • Full Tang
  • True Spear Point for Thrusting
  • Excellent Self Defense Rating

Disadvantages:

  • Built mainly for big workhorse jobs
  • Can get a little bulky

 

Survival Machete Style # 3: The Panga

Panga Style Survival Machete
Panga Style Survival Machete

 The Panga originates in Africa and is basically the standard machete for the entire African continent.  Like the Bolo, it’s specialty is heavy brute force work.  It excels in chopping trees, wood and brush.  The weighted end allows for intense striking power.  Because there is not a direct spear-point, this is probably not the 1st pick for self defense.  It makes sense to have both an effective thrusting weapon and slashing weapon for self defense and this tool lacks in thrusting efficiency.  However, the threat it lacks in thrusting is made up for by it’s beastly weight.  Panga style machetes are typically pretty hefty and can take quite a beating.  So if you plan on abusing your machete, you might consider the Panga.

Advantages:

  • Intense Chopping Power
  • Hefty Weight Built For Abuse
  • Full Tang

Disadvantages:

  • Lacks thrusting spear point
  • Bulky

 

Survival Machete Style # 4: The Latin

Latin Style Survival Machete

Latin Style Survival Machete

This is the styles used by the US Military and for good reason.  It performs excellent in nearly every environment.  It does not have the brute force chopping power of the Bolo and the Panga, but this style can hack through most anything without trouble.  Saplings up to 3-4″ don’t have a chance.  This is a great machete style for deciduous forest areas and make quick work of almost any kind of underbrush, briars and debris.  Latin style machetes are known for a great combination of reach and leverage.  They are very well balanced and are not as bulky as other styles – which increases fatigue.  It also has a very traditional look.  Like the Panga, though, the Latin Style Machete lacks an effective Spear Point.

Advantages:

  • Excellent Hacker for anything 3″ or under
  • Great balance of leverage and reach
  • Full Tang

Disadvantages:

  • Lacks True Spear Point
  • Not ideal for heavy chopping

 

Survial Machete Style # 5: (BONUS LISTING) The Woodman’s Pal

 

Woodman's Pal Survival Machete

Woodman's Pal Survival Machete

While not an internationally recognized Machete Style, the Woodman’s Pal is a very unique and functional design.  Made in the USA (Pennsylvania), this Machete style is designed with the outdoors man in mind.  It’s heavy ended design lends well to powerful chopping.  Don’t even think about bringing your axe. The unique sickle hook slices through stubborn vines and briars and removes unwanted sprout growth at ground level.  Hacking at ground level can be really frustrating and this feature helps with that.  It is more compact than traditional machete styles.  I would call it the PIT BULL of machetes.  It is well balanced and feels more like an extension of your arm – like any good tool should.

Advantages:

  • Compact & Very Well Balanced
  • 1/8″ Thick carbon steel blade
  • Full Tang
  • Sickle hook for vines and scrub brush
  • Heavy Chopper

Disadvantages:

  • Doesn’t just slide right in and out of the sheath
  • No thrusting spear point for self defense

 

For me, the Machete SHEATH is also very important.  I prefer hard plastic molded options but ultimately it is a matter of personal preference.  I also prefer Carbon Steel blades over Stainless Steel.  Machetes get a lot of tough use and Carbon Steel tends to hold it’s edge better than Stainless.  And, it tends to be more flexible – which is a good feature in a Machete.  

There are more Machete Styles on the market, but this covers some of the most well known.  Hopefully this information has been helpful.

Cheers~

Creek

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2 Comments

  • Reply
    Machete Guide
    October 11, 2020 at 8:28 am

    Thank you so much i just read your article and it touches my heart and it was deeply required that how can i get this but now i got every thing about Best Kukri Machete again thank you.

    One more thing dear, I just used two knives mentioned in your post but they also annoy me. But you can still suggest a great tool from your post. Thanks

  • Reply
    Daciana Tools
    July 25, 2020 at 10:38 am

    Hello Dear, I just read your article because I’m looking for a great tool to help me cut down ugly bushes from my garden. Believe me, I am fed up with the dilapidated condition of my garden and I have used many machetes after reading an article from this website . But all these machetes soon leave their edges and I just keep sharpening them. So, I would like to ask you if you can suggest me a tool that will not dull too soon.

    One more thing dear, I just used two knives mentioned in your post but they also annoy me. But you can still suggest a great tool from your post. Thanks

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