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While nothing beats an axe at chopping wood, it’s tough to pack a full-size axe when you’re camping, backpacking, or surviving in the wild. Hatchets are a great compact alternative, but they’re pretty much limited to chopping wood and hammering in tent stakes around the campsite. Machetes are much more versatile, with the ability to chop wood, clear brush, and bushwhack your way through whatever the wild throws at you.
That said, not all machetes are designed to chop wood. To cut through anything larger than twigs, you’ll need a heavier machete with greater swing power. You’ll also need a solid steel blade that can withstand the wear and sharpens easily for a cleaner cut.
Following is a list of the top 5 machetes for chopping wood based on field tests, reviews, and a bit of personal experience. These machetes deliver the heft you need to cut through thick wood, along with a comfortable grip that’ll keep the tool from slipping while you’re chopping away.
The bolo knife has been the blade of choice in the Philippines for generations. Its stout, burly blade features a distinctive bulge near the tip for extra swing power that’s helpful when chopping wood and clearing brush. Gerber takes this classic design and delivers a modern upgrade with the Gator Bolo Machete, with smart upgrades like an ergonomic handle, a slip-proof grip, and a hefty full tang construction. As Gerber puts it, this blade is “part axe, part trimmer, all business.”
The Gerber Gator Bolo Machete delivers heft and reach with a 15.5-inch corrosion-resistant steel blade. The ergonomic handle is comfortable to hold and easy to maneuver with a secure, tactile grip. Gerber provides a wrist lanyard as a backup measure, though the grip is solid enough you shouldn’t have to worry about this machete flying through the air.
The Gator Bolo Machete comes with a rugged nylon sheath for safety and portability. You can strap it to your belt with the belt loop, or lash it to your pack with the D-ring attachments.
The Ontario Knife Company has been manufacturing quality American-made blades for over 125 years. They’ve designed countless blades over the years, but none are as storied as the 1-18 Military Machete. Originally produced for American soldiers during WWII, today’s iteration of the historic 1-18 Military Machete reflects the same quality and rugged reliability that the company has been supplying to the US government for over 70 years.
The 1-18 Military Machete is a massive, two-foot weapon with an 18-inch carbon steel blade. The rugged blade features a zinc-phosphate finish and a classic molded-plastic handle. The 1-18 Military Machete doesn’t come with a standard sheath, though you can purchase a matching nylon sheath separately for better protection and portability.
Designed by award-winning custom knife-maker Ken Onion, the Chanceinhell from Columbia River Knife and Tool is built to perform in the harshest environments. Whether you’re chopping firewood, clearing underbrush, or constructing a survival shelter, you can count on this reliable workhorse to pull its weight.
The Chanceinhell features a 0.1” thick carbon steel blade with a black powder coat. It’s durable enough to thrive in extreme conditions, corrosion-resistant, and easy to sharpen. The double injection-molded handle is ergonomically designed to reduce hand fatigue, and features a football-texture grip with multiple lanyard holes for varied grip options.
As an optional upgrade, you can purchase a package that includes the knife and a nylon sheath. The sheath’s unique velcro belt loop system allows it to be worn dangling or snug against your belt, or you can use the extra paracord fob to lash it to your pack.
The Camp 18 is the biggest, baddest blade in the Kershaw arsenal. The 18-inch blade makes campsite chores a piece of cake, chopping kindling and stripping bark with ease. Should an unlikely turn of events lead any zombies to your camp, the gargantuan Camp 18 should be able to handle those pretty well, too.
The Camp 18 features a full-tang construction with a 65Mn carbon steel blade. Kershaw applies a basic black powder coat for protection against corrosion and wear, keeping maintenance nice and simple. The handle offers a secure, contoured grip that’s comfortable in your hand, and a built-in hand guard to stop your hand from slipping in wet weather.
The machete comes with a glass-filled nylon sheath, with gear straps and a belt loop to keep the blade close at hand when you need it. The handle also has dual lanyard holes you can use to attach a lanyard for even more carrying versatility.
Condor Tool & Knife traces its history back to 1787, when the Gebr Weyersberg Company began crafting blades in Solingen, Germany. Gebr Weyersberg grew to become the largest manufacturer of swords and knives in the world, making Solingen the cutlery capital of the world. The company expanded production to the Americas in the 1960s with a plant in El Salvador, then sold the Central American operations to local investors in the 1980s. In 2004, the new owners of the Central American plant leveraged their expertise to launch Condor Knives and Tools for outdoor enthusiasts.
The Golok Machete features a full tang design with a 1075 high carbon steel blade. The 14-inch blade has an epoxy black powder coating to enhance its durability and resilience. The hardwood handle is constructed with walnut, highlighting the manufacturer’s rich heritage. It comes with a handcrafted welted leather sheath, a major upgrade from the standard nylon sheaths that typically accompany commercial machetes.