Small sword or large knife, the machete fascinates most people who love travel and adventure.
It is the iconic tool for enthusiasts of outdoor activities and walks in forests, ideally tropical to complete the image of Épinal!
This tool accompanies some survivalists, ecological gardeners, fishermen and especially bushcraft enthusiasts.
A machete is very useful during trips in the forest (or in the jungle), to clear a path through the massifs, brambles and nettles… but also for splitting or batonnage.
Come on, we tell you everything!
What is a machete and what is its origin?
The machete is recognizable by its short handle (usually made of wood) and its thick and long blade (approximately 40-50cm), which gives it multiple functions.
Practical and ultra-light, the machete can be easily handled with one hand.
It is above all an agricultural and forestry tool, but other uses have been found over time:
- to clear / clear,
- make their way through dense vegetation,
- cut branches or small trunks (but we prefer the saw and the axe)
- open nuts (we think of coconut, of course),
- harvest (cane, but also various cereals),
- carve wood (bushcraft),
- serve as a camp knife, XXL model,
The origin of the word “machete” comes indirectly from the Latin “mattea”, which means club.
It is also called cut cut, cutlass, bolo, saber d’abattis, saber d’abattis or cane sabre… according to places and times.
There are all types and all forms, as can be seen on specialized sites, such as TA Defense.
Because the least we can say is that it is an extremely popular tool in many parts of the world: Africa, Asia, and South America…
Moreover, the African machete is found on the flag of the Republic of Angola. It is mainly used there for hunting, fishing, preparing meals and breaking hard fruits.
How has the machete evolved over time?
Originally, and as I was able to present it to you, the machete was a classic agricultural work tool, widely used in countries with a hot and humid climates.
Above all, it makes it possible to clear a path through dense vegetation, and harvest sugar cane or open cocoa pods and coconuts.
But its function has obviously been diverted over time, as during the Vietnam War, where American GIs also used it as a knife.
We have also regularly seen this tool used during revolts and civil wars because it is very widespread in the countryside and cities.
One thinks, for example, of the massacres perpetrated in certain African countries, including Rwanda.
Moreover, the machete has not always had a good reputation and was nicknamed “the weapon of cowards” by Rwandans.
Today, it is also very present in popular culture, both in series (The Walking Dead, Z Nation, ) and in cinema (Friday the 13th, Blood Diamond, Bests of No Nation, Lord of War, etc.).
The machete is also highlighted in video games like Fallout, Resident Evil, Left 4 Dead 2, Wasteland or Far Cry, to name a few.
What are the different types of machetes?
Because yes, there are different types of machetes!
Their design and shape vary according to their uses, and we have therefore been able to see different variants appear from various regions of the world, and from various periods.
Each people thus made the tool which corresponds to it, according to the nature which surrounds it and the use which it had to make of it.
In other words, each machete has a specific use: So choose your machete according to your expectations!
Here are the main types of machetes:
The sugar cane machete
Also nicknamed “Panga” or “Tapanga”, the sugar cane machete is above all a tool used to cut cane, wood, vines or nuts.
It is found in South America, in the French overseas departments and territories, in Africa and in the Caribbean.
The particularity of its blade is that it has no point and ends at a right angle.
The Latin machete
It is the machete as we often imagine it, with its classic design close to the sabre (by the way, it is called Saber in Cannes in Reunion).
The Latin machete is particularly light, with a very flexible blade. Easy to sharpen.
Ideal for clearing work, for example.
A well-known and appreciated brand: La Tramontina.
The bolo machete
Although its design is somewhat similar to that of Latin, the bolo machete stands out for its weight: it is significantly heavier.
Indeed, the material is added to the end of the blade to gain inertia and power.
An essential feature when you have to start major work.
There are several types of machetes under this name.
First of all, there are machetes whose blade resembles the Nepalese kukri. I am thinking in particular of the nep, enep or etoh.
But we also spoke of a Thai machete for a traditional machete with a long handle (ideal if you want to take it with both hands).
The machete billhook (or billhook)
As its name suggests, this machete is distinguished by its sickle-shaped design (also called “bird’s head”), and by a rigid and very thick blade.
It is a machete with a well-balanced weight and which is therefore not ideal for clearing brush over time, at the risk of getting tired.
On the other hand, it is simple and pleasant to use, ideal for cutting on the fly and can even be used for sticking or be used as a camp knife.
The parang machete
It comes to us from Malaysia and can be used as a camp knife, or a hunting knife.
The particularity of its blade is that it is divided into three parts:
- the tip of the blade and the first 10 centimetres are very sharp and are used for butchering.
- the middle part of the blade, much less sharp, is used for cutting kindling and all common uses of a hatchet.
- finally, the part that goes back to the handle, is used for precision cutting: carving wood or bone, etc.
This machete, also known as the “Gurkha knife”, is easily recognizable by the design of its curved blade.
It is generally between 500 and 950 grams and does not exceed 40-45 centimetres (sleeve included).
It is a Nepalese tool, also used as a weapon or as a ceremonial object. It is also part of the basic equipment of Gurkha soldiers, regiments of Nepalese fighters recruited into the British and Indian armies.
The Golok machete
This one comes from Indonesia!
It consists of a thick steel blade, a straight, and a curved pommel.
It is this model that is used by the British army.
The other guys?
There are many others, such as Barong, Bowie, Heavy, Colombian, Tactics, etc.
Once again, each model allows you to perform certain tasks (and only certain tasks!), so it’s up to you to define YOUR use.
What are the uses of the machete?
As I just said, it depends on the type of machete: some are light and flexible, others deliberately heavier and more robust.
If you are unsure about the need, choose a machete that has been designed to be as versatile as possible:
- clear a path in the green (we call that “layonner”!)
- cut kindling,
- prune young branches,
- clear an area to set up your camp,
- serve as a camp knife (if short),
- lever (if rigid blade),
- dig (depending on the models),
- cut cables,
- sculpt hedgehogs (feather sticks) for the campfire,
- clear your garden or vegetable patch (corn, cereals, green manures, etc.),
- prune branches to make a shelter of wood and foliage,
- cooking: cutting meat or vegetables,
- defend yourself (in case of extreme emergency, against a wild animal for example),
Either way, when choosing your machete, ask yourself these questions:
- Which length? There are different sizes, whether for the blade or the handle. A 25 or even 33 cm long blade has a more limited range than a 55 cm long blade, which offers a large amplitude and cutting force. However, they are more bulky and difficult to transport.
- What material? Again, we are talking about the blade and the handle. For the blade, it will be necessary to favour solid steel with high carbon content, for greater resistance and durability. On the handle side, it will generally be wood or modern materials (TPR, micarta, etc.).
- What visual? When you walk in the forest with a machete and meet other people, the “low profile” look is important. Particularly if, during your hike, you pass through villages or towns.
Anyway, and if possible, I advise you to do tests with several machetes, to see if their manoeuvrability suits you for use if the handle is comfortable, does not slip, etc.
How much does a machete cost and where can I buy one?
To get a machete, it is necessary to provide at least ten euros: I am thinking among others of the Tramontina, which can be found everywhere in the supermarkets in Guyana, Reunion, Guadeloupe, etc.
For a more technical machete, heavier or of better quality (steel), it is necessary to count a minimum of fifty euros.
The price of a high-end model, meanwhile, is around 150 euros.
If you are not in the DOM-TOM but in metropolitan France, you will rather have to turn to specialized sites, or to military surpluses.
There, you will have choices of shapes, materials and styles to make your head spin… but think utility before look and design.
Finally, know that this is a category D weapon (Laws differ depending on your location) and that it is systematically necessary to provide an identity document as part of its purchase. The sale of this type of tool is prohibited to persons under 18 years of age.