What Makes a Good Machete?

What Makes a Good Machete?

If you are in the market for a machete, you are probably wondering what makes a good machete? While there are some basics specifications that ensure the tool is good quality, which machete that works best for you will depend on how you plan to use it.

Whether you are using a machete to clear brush, to help you harvest crops, or as a multi-tool for camping, there is a machete perfect for your task. I have put together a quick reference guide to help you find the right tool, that will detail what makes a good machete for you.

What Classifies a “Good Machete”?

A machete is a large fixed blade, typically between 10 and 28 inches long, that is commonly used to clear brush and harvest vegetation. The shape, length, and thickness vary based on the intended use of the machete. What makes a good machete is, therefore, very subjective.

The blade and tang should be made of sturdy metal, usually stainless or carbon steel. A good machete has a full tang, the part of the blade that sets into the handle, for strength and stability. The handle is tailored for a specific use and is made from wood, plastic, or some kind of composite material.

Which Machete Is Best For You?

When shopping around for a machete you must decide what it will be used for. Are you clearing vegetation? Are you an outdoorsman looking to have a multi-use tool at your campsite? Or are you planning to skin wild game? Each requires a different style of a machete.

Hunting Game, Skinning, Camping with a Machete
A campsite by a Highland Loch in remote Scotland

A shorter blade will be easier to carry around, which is better for camping, hiking, or for cutting down smaller vegetation. Longer blades have a wider reach, which is more useful for farming or clearing wider areas.

You should also consider if you need to have a pointed blade, and how sharp you need the machete to be. For skinning game or filleting fish, you will need a sharper and finer blade. When chopping wood, you need a thick and strong blade that can handle the job.

What Are the Different Types Of Machetes?

There are many variations on the machete blade, each being useful for a specific purpose. The machete has been developed over thousands of years by many cultures into seven main types. I will go into detail about each type to help you find what is the best machete for you.

1. Latin

The Latin machete is what we commonly think of as the western bush machete. It has a straight back blade that is evenly weighted across the entire length.

This machete is the best overall machete, due to its common length of around 18 inches, and its versatile shape.

2. Kukri

Easily the best combat machete used by the Nepalese army, the Royal Gurka Rifles, and the regiments of Gurka around the globe.

There are three parts to its blade, pointed tip for stabbing, a wide midsection great for chopping, and a narrow spot by the handle that is great for widdling.

How does a Kukri Machete Look?

3. Bowie

With its origins in the USA, this machete was made famous by the famous frontiersman, Jim Bowie. It is known as the large Bowie knife or survival machete. This is the best machete for survival because it has a clip point or skinnier tip that is great for skinning wild game.

What is a Bowie used for?

4. Panga

Also known as the tapanga machete, it is common in East and Southern Africa. This short machete broadens on the backside and has an inclined sharpened tip. This machete is great for chopping since its size and shape allows power to be concentrated in a small area.

Panga Machete

5. Bolo

A machete that is similar to the panga, the bolo is even more efficient for chopping. This blade is commonly found in Filipino households and is mainly used for clearing vegetation or chopping fruit. It is also very useful for harvesting soybean or peanut crops.

What is a Bolo Machete?

6. Parang

Another very similar machete, this shorter, thicker blade with a primary grind. This tool is very effective on woody vegetation and can be commonly found in Malaysia and Indonesia. The primary grind keeps this machete from getting stuck in wood, making it even more useful!

Parang Curbed Handle Machete

7. Golok

This is another very similar machete, originally from Southeast Asia that is a great agricultural tool. The golok’s short length makes it useless as a weapon, but very portable. It’s the best machete for chopping wood, cutting vegetation, and clearing branches.

Golok Thailand Machete

How Do You to Choose the Best Machete?

Now that you know the differences between the different types of machetes, how will you determine what is the best one for you? Even within the specific style of a machete that you choose, you still have to decide on the exact size, material, blade, and handle that is best.

Blade Length

As I mentioned before, the length of the blade itself is an important decision. Do you prefer reach over portability or vice-versa? This will mostly be determined by the style of machete you chose, but you will want to make sure the blade is well balanced for your body as well.

Blade Material

Typically a machete is made out of stainless steel, carbon steel, or a high carbon stainless steel. Stainless steel will not corrode but is not very strong. Carbon steel is cheaper but rusts easily. High carbon stainless steel is the best steel for a machete, as it is durable and rust resistant.

Handle Material

While the handle look is decided on personal preference, you must consider the pros and cons of the material used. Wooden handles offer solid grip but warp when wet. Plastic is slippery when wet but hold their shape.

The best handle on the market is the Micarta handle, which is a heat treated composite made of layers of canvas, linen, paper, fiberglass, and plastic. It offers excellent grip, is extremely comfortable, and durable.

Handle Style

Lastly, the style of the handle should also be considered when picking out the best machete for you. Comfort is the most important factor to consider since you must be able to hold the blade when using it. It’s best to try out a few machetes, if possible, to see which works best for you.

Which machete type fits your personality?


With so many survival blades and bush-swords, it is important to know what each of them does. As we have seen, machetes have been adopted in various places around the world to suit the particular needs in those locations.

You have your choppers and cutters, combat knives, thin blades for path clearing, and heavy splitting machetes that are as powerful as hatchets. Based on your needs, you can choose which type you need to buy, and I hope we made that choice easier.

What makes a good machete? First of all, it needs to be well-suited for whichever task you are working on. Secondly, make sure it is made of high-quality steel. Finally, ergonomics will be the last determining factor, in my opinion. So, which machete type fits your personality?

Many thanks to the artists and photographs for sharing their work:

  1. Photo “Panga Machete – 21 November 2005“, by KoS.
  2. Photo “Machete Martindale – 26 October 2005” by McLeod.
  3. Image “Machete Panga” by Tutto Giardinaggio.
  4. Image “Knife (Parang) with Sheath” by  Metropolitan Museum of Art.
  5. Photo “Golok Martindale – 31 January 2007″ by Trewornan.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Really insightful and well-written article. Again thanks for your reviews and will definitely be back for some tips and tricks.

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