In a hurry? Our top pick for the best machete for clearing brush is the Woodsmans Pal 284 machete.
The forest is a playground for the experienced survivalist, offering plenty of resources that can be used in a variety of ways. However, once you enter the untamed wilderness, it becomes harder to move through the thick layer of brush, saplings, and other vegetation.
There’s nothing like a good machete to give you the hacking power you need to push through the heavy brush. If you can find something that works well for more detailed cutting too, even better. Below, you’ll find some of our top picks for the best machetes for clearing brush, to help you in your bushcraft endeavors.
In this article, we’ll be reviewing the following best machetes for clearing brush:
- CRKT Halfachance Fixed Blade Parang Machete
- Schrade SCHKM1 Kukri Machete – Best Kukri
- Woodsmans Pal 284 Machete – Best Overall
- Barebones Japanese Nata Machete
- Gerber Gear Gator Bolo Machete – Best Chopper
- Snake Eye Tactical Machete – Cheapest Machete
What is a Machete?
A machete is a long-bladed instrument, often used as a tool to clear away brush. The blade itself usually falls between 12-18 inches long and 1/8 of an inch thick, making it longer than most knives, but shorter than most swords.
While machetes have primarily been used as agricultural tools throughout the centuries, there have been times when they’ve been used as weapons. Various places in the Caribbean and West Africa have been fond of wielding these blades in warfare, but nowadays, you mostly see them used by survivalists and campers hoping to clear away some space.
What Makes a Good Machete?
So what makes a good machete? Well, there are a few different points that you’ll want to keep an eye on:
- Blade material – you want something durable that will retain an edge.
- Handle material – it should feel good in your hand as you swing.
- Type of vegetation – what you need to clear away will determine what machete you should buy.
- Type of machete – different machete styles are better for different vegetations.
- Tang – full tangs are the best for durability and maneuverability.
Let’s dive into each of these in a little more detail.
Your blade is what will be chopping through everything, so it’s important that it’s made out of a good material. Really, your two choices come down to stainless steel and carbon steel.
Stainless steel is ideal for wet, humid environment because of its resistance to corrosion. However, it isn’t as hard as carbon steel, and it does tend to cost more as well.
Carbon steel, on the other hand, is prone to corrosion, but the material itself is harder and holds an edge better. If you’re sticking to relatively dry climates, and plan to take care of your blade, this is typically the option that I would go with.
Your handle should offer a good balance of comfort and security. Machetes aren’t the lightest tools out there, so you’ll want something that feels good in your hand, even after you’ve been swinging it around for several minutes.
It’s important to find something that won’t slide out of your hand while you’re swinging it either. Slippery material is a big no-no, so look for a contoured grip, or something that has grooves and ridges in it for added texture. Materials, like rubber, as also easier to hold onto, even after your hand has gotten sweaty from the exertion.
Type of Vegetation
As you’ll find out in the next section, various machetes work best when paired with certain types of vegetation. Lightweight blades work great on thin vegetation, while heavier ones are better for thick, woody brush.
Generally speaking, try not to use a light blade on thick vegetation, or a heavy blade on thin vegetation. The thin machete might get damaged if you start hacking at tough wood, and the heavy machete is overkill for tall grass, tiring you out a lot faster than needed. So when you’re looking for the best machete for clearing brush, keep in mind the type of vegetation that you plan on cutting through most often.
Type of Machete
The knife in the image above isn’t a machete, but it still demonstrates a style of machete that we’ll talk about shortly – the kukri. There are several variations of machete that you have to choose from, and each have pros and cons depending on a variety of factors. Mostly, though, the type of vegetation you need to cut through will determine the style of machete that you should get.
The kukri is a blade that has a distinct recurve. It’s famed for its use in the Indian and Nepali armies, but it’s often used as a utility knife as well. Overall, it’s best for chopping jobs and for clearing away thin vegetation
Barongs aren’t too common among the machete community, but the leaf-shaped blade does show up from time to time. With roots in the Philippines, this is a single edged blade that’s great for cutting through thin vegetation, like the kukri.
The parang was developed in southeast Asia, where the vegetation is woodier and harder to cut through. As such, the blade is heavier and has a “sweet spot” farther up from the handle, along with three different edges for versatility. The front of the blade is sharp and used for skinning, the middle is thick for chopping, and the edge close to the handle is fine for detail work and carving.
Similar to the parang, the bolo is a blade that’s designed for cutting through tough vegetation. Thick and heavy at the end, this displaced center of gravity gives it more momentum to carve through durable objects, while the full tang makes it more durable itself.
Ideal for chopping thick and woody vegetation, the panga is a force to be reckoned with. It’s a deep bellied blade that’s capable of felling small trees and thick brush with relative ease, making it the ideal machete for tough jobs in a more untamed space.
Goloks are often confused with parangs because of the similar design style. Despite the similarities, goloks tend to be thicker and shorter, making them perfect for the toughest cutting and chopping jobs. On the other hand, the even weight and balance means you can still use them to cut through tall grass and brush with ease.
And finally, we have the all-American bowie machete. Popular among outdoorsmen and survivalists, bowie blades feature a skinner tip that can be used to skin wild game. It’s a fairly lightweight machete with a thin edge, so chopping through thick, woody brush isn’t going to be great on the blade. However, it will slash through tall grass and other thin vegetation without any trouble.
The tang is the part of the blade that’s covered by the handle. In particular, a full tang runs the entire length of the handle, while a partial tang stops partway down. If you’re looking for the best machete for clearing brush, there’s really only one option you should be considering – a full tang.
Full tangs provide more support and durability, which is exactly what you need in a machete. Hacking through dense brush is a chore, and the last thing you want is to have your blade break free from your handle!
It’s worth noting that full tangs are also heavier, simply because you have metal running down the entire length of the handle. Though it will make you tired more quickly, I don’t really see this as a bad thing. The extra weight gives you more driving power, to really help you cut through whatever you’re trying to clear away.
Best Machete for Clearing Brush – Reviewed
CRKT Halfachance Fixed Blade Parang Machete
- Weight: 1.28 Ounces
- Blade Length: 19.5 Inches
- Metal: 65 Mn Carbon Steel
- Tang: Full
By nature, parangs were meant to be used in thick, woody environments. As such, they need to be durable, retain an edge, and have a bit more weight in the blade for the sake of momentum. The CRKT Halfachance meets all these requirements and more, giving you a solid combo of features for a very reasonable price.
The best machete for clearing brush should also have an ergonomic handle that is comfortable to hold, even after you’ve been swinging it around for a few hours. Normally hand fatigue is going to be one of your biggest enemies, but it will be a good long while before you reach that stage with the Halfachance. However, it’s good to keep in mind that the blade is a decent weight, making it more of a chopper than a slicer. It’s exactly what you want to see in one of the best machetes for clearing woody, dense brush.
I do wish the blade itself was a bit thicker, as I’m somewhat concerned about long term durability. But even so, the comfort, heft, and sharpness of the blade all make it a winner for anyone who wants a survival weapon or tool to help them forge through thick foliage.
|Sharp blade||The blade is a little thin|
|Comfortable, ergonomic handle|
Schrade SCHKM1 Kukri Machete
- Weight: 1.4 Pounds
- Blade Length: 13.3 Inches
- Metal: 3Cr13 Stainless Steel
- Tang: Full
I have a soft spot for kukris. It’s the first style of machete that I ever bought (straight from a Nepali vendor when I was in Kathmandu), and still use today many years later.
Looking at the Schrade kukri, the blade length comes in at just over a foot, which is a little short for a machete. The handle is about 6 inches, providing a comfortable fit for most hand sizes. While it’s a small blade overall, I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. The shorter length makes it easier to shove in a backpack or sack, especially if you don’t feel like carrying it directly on your person. It only comes with leg straps, so you would need to make a few adjustments to make it suitable for hip carry.
As a bonus, you get a ferro rod and striker with the machete, both of which are high quality. The blade has a full tang, and the steel is hard enough where it won’t bend easily but soft enough where it won’t shatter either. With a spine measuring 1/8 inch thick, you can feel confident about its durability, especially when you consider the tough powder coating on it as well.
The kukri has a large belly and curved shape that makes it ideal for hacking. And on top of that, the ergonomic handle fits almost any hand size comfortably. There’s enough space for you to choke up on the handle for precision work, or slide down when you need a tighter grip for heavy chopping.
|Durable powder coating||The sheath is somewhat low quality|
|Very comfortable handle|
|Comes with ferro rod and striker|
|Perfect for chopping|
Woodsmans Pal 284 Machete
- Weight: 2.84 Pounds
- Blade Length: 17 Inches
- Metal: 1074/1075 Spring Steel
- Tang: Full
The Woodsman Pal machete may be a little pricey, but it’s a classic case of “you get what you pay for.” With the blade of a machete on one side, and a sickle on the other, it’s a multifunctional tool that can be used in a variety of environments.
Made from 1074/1075 spring steel and laser cut to get its trademark shape, this is a very durable machete that can hack through just about anything. Specially, young saplings about 1.5 inches in diameter and smaller can be cleaved in one stroke. Large trees and objects can easily be felled using a notching approach.
The handle is made from ash wood, and carved to ergonomically fit most hand sizes. Not only is the wood stained an attractive color, but it’s also coated with beeswax to provide a grippy surface area. If you go with the leather handle, you’ll miss out on the stunning wood design, but you do get more comfortable gripping surface. With 32 leather washers lining the length of the handle, it’s a semi-rough texture that’s easy to grip and comfortable to hold on to.
Given the unique design, you can use it for whatever the situation calls for. Machete, axe, knife, shovel…you name it, the Woodsman Pal is all you’ll need, making it perfect for survivalists who like to travel light.
|Large, multifunctional blade||Price|
|Sharpe, durable edge|
|Can second as an axe, knife, and shovel|
Barebones Japanese NATA Machete
- Weight: 1.89 Pounds
- Blade Length: 12 Inches
- Metal: 3Cr13 Stainless Steel
- Tang: Full
Inspired by traditional Japanese blades, the Barebones NATA is more than just a machete – it’s a versatile tool with a historic and artistic design. Though it’s somewhat thick, the weight hovers just under 2 pounds so it’s still easy to swing around for longer periods of time. The thickness also contributes to its durability, and the fact that it’s able to retain an edge surprisingly well. The sturdiness of the blade really contributes to it being one of the best machetes for clearing brush.
With a 12 inch blade, it’s not a long machete by any means, but I tend to prefer choppers that are on the shorter side. They’re easier to manage and can be swung more freely in densely packed areas. This style of blade was historically sharpened on the right side only, emphasizing its use as a utilitarian tool that was designed for pruning and chopping. Barebones went ahead and added a perpendicular edge to the end of the blade as well, which isn’t part of the historical design.
The handle is carved hardwood with a walnut finish. There’s a distinct notch for the index finger to wrap around the handle, giving you a little more security when you’re swinging the machete around for long periods of time. My only gripe is that the handle itself is a bit small (about 3 inches in circumference), so those of us with bigger hands will have a hard time gripping it properly.
|Thick, durable blade||Small handle circumference|
|One sided blade with a perpendicular edge|
|Heavy enough to get momentum without tiring your arms|
Gerber Gear Gator Bolo Machete
- Weight: 1.3 Pounds
- Blade Length: 15.5 Inches
- Metal: 1050 Steel
- Tang: Full
The Gerber Gator is a heavy bolo machete that really packs a punch. With a 15 inch blade, the Gator gives you the reach that you need to slice through quite a few branches in one swing. Whether you need to use it as a machete or as a hatchet, the Gator is up for the job.
Of course, the weight is helpful for cleaving through thick vegetation, but that also means it will be harder to swing for long periods of time. It’s not as refined as many of the other machetes in our list either, behaving more like a two-handed broadsword than a maneuverable saber. If you can get used to the somewhat awkward, heavy strokes though, I guarantee that you’ll fall in love with the sheer amount of power you can generate with it.
That being said, you’ll want to take some time to sharpen it as soon as you get it out of the box. The edge is a little dull at first, so you’ll have a little more difficulty hacking through obstacles before you give it some love and affection.
|Long, thick blade||The blade is a little dull out of the box|
|A power cutter|
|Comfortable to use|
|Great for chopping and hacking|
Snake Eye Tactical Machete
- Weight: 1.8 Pounds
- Blade Length: 18 Inches
- Metal: 440 Steel
- Tang: Full
The most inexpensive product in our lineup, the Snake Eye tactical machete is a nice option for folks on a tight budget. But don’t be fooled – despite the economic price tag, you’re getting anything but poor-quality materials and craftsmanship. It’s not the best steel that you can find in a blade, but it still holds up to abuse a lot better than you’d expect it to. In general, I would say you could chop down 2 inch saplings without too much trouble. Anything thicker than that will require a few more strokes to cut through.
The backside of the blade features a sawtooth edge, which also works surprisingly well. It’s not something that I would use too often for myself, but if any of you like to have a saw on hand, this will get the job done in a pinch.
I’m not a huge fan of the plastic handle, though, as it’s the sort of material that will give you blisters with enough use. However, for moderate amounts of use (or if you’re wearing gloves), it’s a great machete that slices like no one’s business. And when you factor in the price, it’s truly difficult to complain about the flaws.
|Sharp blade||The handle is a bit uncomfortable|
A machete is a versatile tool that should find its way into any survivalist’s arsenal. Great for clearing vegetation, splitting firewood, or pruning branches, certain machetes can also be used as shovels, sickles, or axes. But really, what you want to look for is something made from high-quality steel with an edge that retains its sharpness, a comfortable handle, and a heavier blade to plow through thick vegetation.
And when it comes to the best machete for clearing brush, we have a preference for the Woodsmans Pal machete. It’s incredibly versatile, well-made, and easy to swing for long periods of time. The sharp edge can slice through items of a reasonable thickness, and the grip is comfortable to hold onto as well.