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If you find yourself in a survival situation, there are probably a lot of things that you’ll wish you had, but some of those things are less practical than others. What survival tool that’s easy to make sure you have while also being incredibly useful is a machete.
A machete is a versatile tool that’s great for chopping wood, cutting vines, digging, clearing underbrush, harvesting edible plants, and even hunting and self-defense.
Our machete of choice is the KA-BAR Kukri Machete. This is a particularly versatile machete, thanks to having an edge on both sides of the blade. It also has a comfortable, ergonomic handle to make using the machete as easy as possible.
In fact, I’ve used this machete and many others myself while bushcrafting, so I can vouch for the quality of all of the machetes that I recommend below.
Now let’s get started with some more detail on the KA-BAR Kukris Machete.
Best Survival Machetes in 2022
KA-BAR Kukri Machete – Best Overall
KA-BAR is known for its high-quality bladed tools, and its Kukri Machete is an excellent example of why they’ve earned that reputation. It’s a great option for chopping through brush or processing wood, but it may not be the best if you’re used to a straight blade.
It has an 11.5” carbon steel blade, which is relatively easy to maintain and sharpen, though it is more prone to rust than stainless steel.
To combat this, the blade is coated in a black tough-wear finish to prevent rusting and corrosion; just be careful to oil any scratches that may develop.
The blade is sized to be a good option for skinning and butchering games, as well as a great choice for processing wood for camp tasks like fire starting and bushcraft projects. It also stores well and doesn’t feel too long on the hip like some other machetes.
Finally, the KA-BAR Kukri also comes with a custom leather and Cordura sheath that holds the blade firmly in place with two snap closures. The sheath also has a loop at the handle end for securing it to a pack or belt.
- Kukri-style blade is a great multi-purpose shape.
- Carbon steel blade is well-finished and easy to maintain.
- Blade length is ideal for most camp tasks while still being easy to store and transport.
- Sheathe is not as high-quality as some other offerings.
- Carbon steel blade can be prone to rust if the finish were to be scratched off.
The KA-BAR Kukri Machete is our overall top pick. It’s great for dealing with the game or chopping wood, and many other survival uses. At the same time, the shorter blade makes it compact, so it’s super easy to carry around.
Ontario Knife Company 1-18in Military Machete – Best Mil-Spec
The Ontario Knife Company 1-18in Military Machete has been the machete of choice for the US military for more than six decades, and it’s easy to see why. It boasts a simple design that’s easy to use, though it’s not as versatile as some other options.
It has an 18-inch carbon steel blade. This long length gives you a good range compared to a lot of other machetes without making the machete so long that the tool is unwieldy. This machete is 24 inches long overall.
The Latin-style blade is very simple but also very intuitive to use, so you shouldn’t have to deal with a learning curve while you figure it out. It’s great for clearing brush, chopping, digging, and splitting wood.
It’s also incredibly easy to sharpen and maintain, and the zinc phosphate finish protects it from rust.
The 6-inch handle is molded plastic, so it’s very durable. It isn’t aggressively textured, but it does have a hand stop to make sure that the machete stays in your hand, even if the blade gets caught.
Ontario Knife Company does make a sheath for this machete. However, it’s sold separately from the machete itself, so you’ll want to be sure to buy it too.
- Latin blade is easy to use and easy to care for
- Zinc phosphate finish protects from rust
- 18-inch blade provides a good reach
- Carbon steel can be prone to rust
- Length is less convenient to carry than some other options, especially without an included sheath
If you’re new to machetes or specifically want a mil-spec one, the Ontario Knife Company 1-18in Military Machete is a great general-purpose option that’s very easy to use.
SOG SOGfari Machete 18 Inch – Best with Serrations
Like the Ontario Knife Company machete we just discussed, the SOG SOGfari Machete 18-inch is a Latin-style machete with an 18-inch blade. However, it also has some other features that add some extra utility without a complicated blade.
Kicking things off is the saw on the back of the blade, which makes clearing brush and processing wood much easier. The blade is made of stainless steel but also has a black powder-coated finish for even more rust resistance.
For easier pounding and scraping, the SOGfari Machete has an extended spike tang. That means the tang extends down all the way through the handle, where it has a spiked texture that’s great for hammering, crushing, and more.
As for the handle itself, it’s made of Kraton rubber, making it resistant to heat, chemicals, and weathering. It’s textured and ergonomic, with a hand stop for a secure grip, and it features holes for adding a lanyard for easy carrying.
Also, for carrying, the SOGfari Machete comes with a nylon sheath with a belt loop. It has a hook and loop closure to keep the machete in place.
Finally, if you want a machete with serrations but what we’ve described doesn’t sound quite right, it’s also available in a few other versions. There’s a 13-inch version, which is great if you want something a bit more compact, as well as a 12-inch kukri and a 10-inch tonto if you want a different blade shape.
- Saw on the back of the blade
- Extended spike tang
- Stainless steel blade
- 15.7 ounces, so it’s quite lightweight, especially for the length
- Length is less convenient to carry than some other options
Latin-style machetes are sometimes considered basic, but the SOG SOGfarie Machete bucks that stereotype with a saw and extended spike tang. It’s also incredibly durable, thanks to the stainless steel blade and Kraton rubber handle.
Woodman’s Pal – Best with Hook
Like the SOG SOGfari Machete, the Woodman’s Pal has some extra features to add more utility but does so with a much more unusual shape.
The Woodman’s Pal machete is almost like a tapanga but with a cane hook at the end, stretching back towards the rear of the blade. This hook is great for cutting through vines and saplings, especially in tight spaces where you can’t build up a lot of momentum for extra cutting force.
Speaking of which, at 17-inches in length overall, including both the blade and handle, and 21 ounces, the Woodman’s Pal is very maneuverable and easy to carry in general.
The blade is made of 1074/1075 spring steel and features a solar matte powder coat finish for corrosion protection.
The Woodman’s Pal comes in two different handle options. The first is a leather-wrapped handle with a knuckle guard, while the second is wooden with finger grooves. Both can be good options, but I prefer having the knuckle guard.
Whichever handle style you opt for, the Woodman’s Pal comes with a handmade, handstitched leather sheath. It features a brass snap to secure to the machete and a belt loop to secure to you.
It also comes with a sharpening stone (with a burlap carry bag), reprints of the original owner’s manuals from when the Woodman’s Pal was first introduced in the 1940s, and a gift box.
- Cane hook for cutting vines, saplings, and more
- Compact and lightweight
- Two handle options to choose from
- Comes with a few extra goodies
- The hook on the end requires extra care for safe use
- Having some extra weight would make chopping easier
If you want a machete perfect for dense forests with lots of underbrush, the Woodman’s Pal is perfect for you. The hook helps cut through vines and similar without a lot of momentum, while the compact size makes the machete easy to use even in close quarters.
Fiskars Machete Axe – Best with Ax
The Fiskars Machete Axe is another option with an unusual shape, this time a cross between a machete and—you guessed it—an ax.
The Fiskars Machete Axe features an 18-inch long cutting blade that widens into an axe head towards the end, allowing you to slice or chop with ease.
The end of the axe is also sharpened, making it perfect for stripping bark, removing small branches, or chiseling. You can even use it as a small shovel. The gentle curve into the axe head is great for pull cutting, functioning kind of like the hook on the Woodman’s Pal.
At 1.8 pounds, the Fiskars Machete Axe is hefty enough for effective chopping, but the flip side is that it’s not as portable as some other options. At 28-inches long, it gives you a great range but, again, that makes it harder to carry around.
Because of this, I’d say this machete is best for camping and hobby bushcrafting rather than true survival situations.
The blade is made of hardened steel and features a rust-resistant, low-friction coating. This ensures that the blade stays sharp and glides through whatever it is you’re cutting.
The handle is another major strong point for the Machete Ax. It’s contoured for an ergonomic grip and soft to help keep it secure in your hands. The extended length allows you to choke up on the handle and the finger guard keeps you safe while you do.
- Axe and machete in one
- Large enough to provide some heft and a good range
- Ergonomic extended grip
- Not especially portable, even with the included sheath
- May need sharpening upon initial purchase
The Fiskars Machete Axe is packed full of great features that make it great for camping or bushcrafting. However, because of its large size, I would recommend choosing a different machete to throw in your emergency survival kit.
Despite being our first bolo recommendation, the Gator Bolo Machete isn’t all that different from our first two recommendations. It has a simple design without a bunch of extra bells and whistles.
This bolo machete features a 15.5-inch blade that starts out straight before curving back in the last few inches of the blade. It’s made from 1050 steel, which is corrosion resistant, and has a full tang, which adds strength and durability.
The Gerber Gator Bolo Machete measures 22.5 inches overall, so while not as compact as some other options, it’s still short enough for easy carrying. At the same time, it weighs 20.8 ounces, so it has a decent amount of heft for chopping.
The Gator Bolo Machete features an ergonomic, slip-proof handle that stays securely in your hand. It also has a lanyard for additional security.
It comes with a durable nylon sheath to protect both you and the blade when it’s not in use. The sheath features both D-ring and belt loop attachments to give you multiple carry options.
This is a very high-quality machete, and you shouldn’t have any serious problems with it. However, if there is any sort of manufacturing defect, Gerber provides a limited lifetime warranty, and it should be easy to get the problem resolved.
- Balances portability and heft
- Ergonomic, slip-proof handle
- Multiple attachment options on the sheath
- Some users report blade chipping
The Gerber Gator Bolo Machete is a great option for those looking for a simple, moderately sized bolo-style machete. It’s easy to carry around while still being large enough for effective use.
I love Kershaw, and, in fact, my favorite EDC knife is a Kershaw. For that reason, it wasn’t surprising to me when I found that I loved their machetes, too, specifically the Kershaw Camp 10. It’s a compact machete, so it doesn’t have a particularly long reach, but it’s great for machete minimalists.
The 10-inch blade is on the shorter end, so I don’t recommend it to people looking for a machete for chopping wood. It is otherwise great for wood processing, though, and is perfectly suited for clearing underbrush and the like.
The recurve blade is made from 65Mn carbon steel, so it’s wear-resistant. It has a black powder coat for rust resistance and easier maintenance. The full tang further improves durability.
This machete has a great rubberized handle, too. It’s Sure-Grip over-molded, so it’s very comfortable and stays securely in place in your hand.
Overall, the machete is lightweight and compact, measuring 16 inches long and weighing 1 pound, 2.3 ounces. It’s great for the trail or keeping in your car.
Finally, the Camp 10 comes with one of the better sheaths on the market, made from glass-filled nylon. It also has both gear straps and a belt loop for easier carry.
- Compact and lightweight
- Very durable construction
- Comes with a great sheath
- Not heavy enough for serious chopping
The Kershaw Camp 10 is a great machete for those looking for a more compact option. Its small size makes it very portable, but it’s not well suited for serious wood chopping. Instead, use it for things like breaking down kindling and clearing brush.
CRKT, or Columbia River Knife and Tool, designed this machete in collaboration with Ken Onion, who has famously worked on designs with other greats in the industry, like Kershaw and Spyderco. You can see that influence in the excellent quality of the Chanceinhell fixed blade machete.
This machete has a wide, 12-inch 65Mn Carbon Steel blade that’s easy to sharpen and great for brute force tasks like chopping and clearing brush, as well as more precision tasks like carving.
The blade is easy to sharpen and covered in a black corrosion-resistant finish that will protect it from damage.
The ergonomic handle has a rubber overlay with a football texture to improve your grip. It’s made of double injection, glass-reinforced nylon for durability and has several holes for adding a lanyard.
The CRKT Chanceinhell comes with a reinforced nylon sheath that has a velcro belt loop system that can leave the machete loose or held against your belt. It comes with an additional paracord fob for attaching to a pack.
The Changeinhell measures 17.88 inches long overall and weighs 1.25 pounds, putting it pretty firmly in the middle of the road for size.
- Wide carbon steel blade
- Double injection, glass-reinforced nylon handle
- Balanced size and weight
- Reach could be better
- The handle is a weak point
The CRKT Changeinhell is a rugged, balance machete. The wide blade helps with all kinds of tasks, and the 12-inch blade length is functional without adding too much length. Overall, the Chanceinhell is strong enough to take a beating and keep on going, and it looks good while doing it.
The Condor Tool & Knife Engineer Bolo is another great bolo option that’s a little bit different from the Gerber that we already discussed. It has a simple but gorgeous design that you’ll appreciate.
The Engineer Bolo has a 15-inch blade with a convex grind. It’s made of 5mm-1075 high carbon steel alloy and a unique hammered finish. Since it’s carbon steel, not stainless, and doesn’t have a protective coating, you’ll need to be a bit more careful with maintenance to avoid rusting.
The full tang extends into the walnut handle for extra strength. The handle looks great, but it’s not as ergonomic as some other machetes. It also doesn’t have a finger guard, so you’ll need to be especially careful during use. However, it does have a lanyard hole.
The Engineer Bolo measures 20.1 inches in overall length, so it’s relatively compact. At the same time, it weighs 40.3 ounces, so it’s on the heavier end, making it great for chopping.
Finally, it comes with a brown leather sheath with a belt loop.
- Looks great, especially with the unique hammered finish
- Good range without a lot of bulk
- Heavy enough for chopping while still remaining relatively compact
- The wooden handle isn’t particularly ergonomic and should have a finger guard
- No coating on the carbon steel blade
The Condor Tool & Knife Engineer Bolo is a gorgeous machete that’s great for those who want a tool that’s both beautiful and functional. The hammered finish on the high-quality blade is a very unique touch. I just wish the handle were more ergonomic.
Finally, we’re finishing up our list of recommendations with one last bolo, the Schrade Bolo Machete. One of several great survival machetes made by Schrade, this machete more resembles the Gerber Gator than the Condor Engineer Bolo but is still unique.
To start, the Schrade Bolo has a 14-inch blade forged from 3Cr13 stainless steel. This already provides a lot in terms of corrosion resistance, but Schrade also added on a titanium finish to provide some extra corrosion resistance to the stainless steel.
That titanium finish also provides extra strength and resistance to chipping compared to plain stainless steel and helps the blade keep its edge. Combine that with the full tang, and the Shrade Bolo Machete is quite a durable knife.
As for the handle, Schrade equipped this machete with an ergonomic Safe-T-Grip handle. The handle has a lanyard hole.
Along with the machete, you also get a polyester shoulder carry sheath that has a removable storage pouch. You can use that pouch to store a couple of accessories that also come with this machete: an extra large ferro rod and a sharpening stone.
- Titanium finish
- Comfortable, ergonomic grip
- Comes with a unique shoulder carry sheath and a couple of extra bonus items
- A little lightweight for chopping
- Not sturdy enough for more serious bushcrafters
The Schrade Bolo Machete is a simple, straightforward yet high-quality bolo-style machete. The titanium coating is a unique feature that allows for excellent corrosion resistance while still providing a strong blade that shouldn’t chip or dull easily.
Survival machetes come in a ton of different blade shapes, with different shapes being better suited for different things. Think about what you want to be able to use your machete for, and choose a shape that works well for those purposes.
Kukris, Latins, and bolos are probably the most common blade shapes due to their versatility. Both are great for slashing but also have a pointed tip that’s useful for self-defense. Other common shapes include the parang, barong, bush, and panga.
On a related note, you’ll also want to look at the edge itself. Smooth blades are good for smooth cuts and chops, but serrations are useful for sawing. You don’t have to choose one or the other, though: some machetes have blades that are partially serrated and partially smooth or have serrated sections on the back of the blade. In addition, some survival machetes have ax blades on the rear that can open up your options.
Again, you’ll want to have a good idea of what you want to be able to do with your machete before you buy, then choose a machete that has an edge that fits those needs.
Like blade shapes and edge types, there are machetes available in a huge range of blade lengths, anywhere from about 10 to 25 inches long.
Longer blades have a greater reach, which is ideal for clearing areas quickly or for extending your range for self-defense. They’re also easier to use for chopping than short-bladed machetes. On the other hand, long blades tend to be heavier, and the extra length makes them less portable.
Short blades reduce weight and tend to be thicker, which also makes them more durable.
A blade length of about 15 to 18 inches, which is also pretty typical for machetes, gets you the best of both.
With any bladed weapon or tool, the material from which the blade is made is incredibly important.
Most machetes are made from carbon steel or stainless steel. Both of these are good options, but they’re also all a little bit different.
Stainless steel is rust-resistant, so it’s great for wet environments, but it can be prone to chipping. Carbon steel is less prone to chipping and holds a sharp edge better. It’s also a good bit cheaper.
I generally recommend going for carbon steel with a corrosion-resistant coating to get the best of both worlds.
While often dismissed in favor of the blade, the handle of a machete is still incredibly important. It plays a massive role in not just how comfortable it is to manage but also how easy it is to use.
A good grip should have a nice ergonomic shape, of course, but the material also matters.
Wood is great because it’s not sensitive to temperature, so it won’t be cold in your hand. However, it’s easily damaged by water.
Plastic is incredibly durable and won’t be phased by water, but it can be slippery when wet. Opting for textured plastic can help avoid slipperiness. Like wood, plastic isn’t very thermo-reactive, so it won’t feel cold in your hand.
Generally, I recommend plastic handles.
You’ll want to make sure that your survival machete has a full tang as well, as opposed to a partial tang. A full tang means that the same piece of metal that makes up the blade also extends down into the full length of the handle.
This makes the knife stronger and more durable. However, it also tends to make the knife heavier and more expensive. A skeletonized tang can help with that somewhat, but a partial tang is still going to be cheaper and more lightweight.
However, since you’re looking for a survival machete, it’s definitely worth the extra cost and weight to get a more durable, functional machete.
And speaking of weight, there are pros and cons to both a heavy and lightweight machete. A lightweight machete is more portable, but it’s not as good for chopping as a heavy machete. In my opinion, the primary factor for choosing a machete should be how much you plan on having actually to carry it around.
If you’re going backpacking, you’ll want a lightweight option (but make sure that it’s not lightweight due to cheap, weak materials), but if you plan on staying put, you’ll appreciate the utility of a heavier machete.
Finally, don’t forget the sheath. A sheath is a valuable tool for protecting both you and your machete. Obviously, a sheath makes sure you don’t accidentally cut yourself (or something or someone else) while the machete isn’t being used. However, it also protects your machete from damage from moisture or hitting against hard objects.
Nylon is probably the most popular sheath material these days, but leather is also a good choice. Whatever material you go with, make sure it has some sort of strap to make sure it stays securely on your machete.
A machete is a great general-purpose survival tool! It can be used for all kinds of things, like chopping and carving wood, clearing vegetation, harvesting edible plants, opening hard shells on fruits and nuts, digging, and even hunting and self-defense if you’re suitably skilled.
You can absolutely use a machete for self-defense against animal or human attackers, and longer machetes, like Latin or bolo machetes, are generally best for this purpose. However, suppose you’re looking for a tool specifically for self-defense. In that case, I’d generally recommend just going with a firearm if you can since they let you do serious damage with plenty of space between you and your attacker.
The US military uses the NSN 5110-00-813-1286 machete manufactured by the Ontario Knife Company. This machete features an 18-inch blade made from 1095 carbon steel and a high-impact polymer handle.
A machete is certainly better than no weapon at all in a combat situation, and some, like the bolo, were designed specifically for combat. However, I generally prefer to carry a firearm for combat and consider my machete to be a general survival tool first and a weapon second.
And that brings us to a close on the best survival machetes. By now, you should have all the necessary information to pick the best survival machete for your needs.
Our overall favorite survival machete is the KA-BAR Kukri Machete because of its high-quality design. The blade is versatile, with an edge on both the front and part of the back of the carbon steel blade. The thermoplastic elastomer handle is durable yet grippy. Plus, it’s compact and relatively lightweight.
However, you can’t go wrong with any of these survival machetes, so just pick the one that fits your needs best.