Better for chopping: kukri, ax or large knife?


I wanted to knwo which would be better when I go camping?

should I buy a cold steel kukri, or a import kukri, or a gerber ax, or a tomahawk, or a big knife like a battle mistrses or atak?

The type of knife you should get is dependent on what you plan to do with it.

Some people mainly use their camping knives for light food prep., cutting slight rope and similar. If this is the extent of your cutting chores you would be easily served by a small, thin knife.

However if what you are going to be doing is along the lines of digging, prying, or heavy chopping and splitting wood get a khukuri.

See : <a href="">Ang Khola Review</a>


[This message has been edited by Cliff Stamp (edited 30 November 1998).]

The fact that you don't seem to own any of these implements ("should i buy...") implies that maybe you haven't actually gone camping yet. Is that true?

For many places in this country, you won't be doing much if any chopping/splitting/whatever. In some places, there's plenty of kindling-size wood on the ground much of the time. These things all determine how much chopping you'll be doing, and you'll need to know the local conditions to get the "best" item.

For example, you know what I carry? A $10 machete. The machete definitely won't chop or split like a kukri or an axe. On the other hand, it's much lighter, much cheaper, is better for brush clearing (hey, maybe that's what you'll be doing most of, right?), and does a hell of a chopping job on limbs under 2".

On the other hand, if for some reason you're doing a lot of ultra-high-impact camping, or you're also using the item to chop wood around your yard and to split firewood, then something bigger would be more advised.

I agree 100% with Cliff's first 3 sentences. Actually, I agree with all he said, but want to especially emphasize the 1st 3 sentences. Your first camping priority should be a light small high-performance knife, in my opinion. And if you haven't done so, go camping once to see what kind of chopping you do (or more likely, don't do
) before committing a lot of money to a big chopper.

If I'm wrong and you have camped extensively, please tell us what kind of chopping you forsee ahead, and I'll change my answer!

I don't camp much but I can say with authority DO NOT GET A IMPORT KUKRI IF IT COSTS LESS THAN $20! These are absolute POS's and you could not cut your way out of a wet paper bag!

I would get the Cold Steel Kukri for general chopping and for heavy chopping I have used the Ontario Spec Plus Model 8 Machette. It is thick, short and very comfortable to swing hard. Made from 1095, like the Cold Steel, the Spec Plus is easy to resharpen and is coated with an epoxy. The Cold Steel I am referring to is the LTC version.

Should you have the money howerver, get the Battle Mistress or any huge Mad DOG.

Best Regards,
Mike Turber
BladeForums Site Owner and Administrator
Lead - Follow or get out of the way!

I would get the Himalaya Import's 15" Ang Khola over Cold Steel any day
Joe as usual is right on.

If you are unsure and want something to experiment with, a $10 Ontario machete is a great buy and is very functional. Get a cheap thin blade next (also easily found for $10) and you are all set. These two knives cover a very wide range of uses and can do almost everything except for the heaviest of tasks.

If you find that they are not exactly what you need, what have you wasted? $20. Its worth that just to find out what kind of knife you need.

One thing though Joe, a machete will not brush cut better than the right khukuri. HI makes a 20" model (Sirupati) that is only 1.5 lbs and will out cut any machete. Plus since its differentially tempered it will hold an edge much longer and of course be much tougher so it can be used on much heavier tasks. That model has a totally different feel than the heavy (4 3/4 lbs) 20" Ang Khola which is a splitter / heavy chopper.

I'll have a review of that one shortly.

Mike there is no way a Busse or Mad Dog will out chop/split a well made khukuri. They simply do not have the right geometry.

I have a TUSK and its a fine knife, easily worth what I payed for it. But it does not compare in the chopping/splitting department to my khukuri (but I didn't buy it for that anyway). The Busse Mattle Mistress is much more blade heavy and should be a much better chopper / splitter that the Mad Dog models but I have heard complaints about the handle under heavy use.

In any case the tests that Mike and Spark plan to conduct should make for very interesting reading.


[This message has been edited by Cliff Stamp (edited 22 November 1998).]
Well, there you go. The option of the Sirupati is attractive, also. The only thing a machete may have on the Sirupati is weight (machete is lighter, a positive only if you're doing lighter work) and price. But it looks like a great option. I checked out the pic, it looks like another winner.

The Himalayan Imports stuff is impressive, even though I've never handled one. But, what's impressive is the incredible loyalty and reverence H.I. customers have once they field-test their H.I. kukri. It reminds me of the zeal of Mad Dog or Sebenza fans towards their fave products also.

I just picked up a Himalyan Imports 15" Ang Khola and it is awesome. I not only tossed out my well abused el cheapo Assam Rifles kukri I got years ago from Atlanta Cutlery, I'm beginning to believe that this beautifully made Nepal khukuri will easily replace my Trailmaster on camping, hunting and field trips. Mine is hair popping sharp, beautifully blade forward balanced for powerful chopping and cutting. The steel is zone hardened from 5160 steel harvested from old Mercedes car springs. I opted for the buffalo horn handle which is extremely comfortable. I haven't fully worked it out but believe me, handling a "real" khukuri is a treat! Touching a cheap India made khuri by comparison is like picking up a plastic toy...pure garbage. The choice for me was between the HI made blade and a Cold Steel Gurka Khuri.....a few bando proponents simply stated that the vibration felt in the handle, hand and arm was significant whereas the HI was miniscule. I don't need a vibro-massage from any big knife! And it DOES chop sweet with no shock transmitted to the hand to speak of. Get a piece of history from the small caste of craftsman left...their art is dying out.

Joe how thick and heavy is your Ontario Machete?

In any case you are correct, any given geometry will have some area that it will out perform all other styles in, no matter how extreem the geometry is.

Bald is right on about the shock absorption. It allows a full strengh grip even during impact. I actually cut my hand open and was still able to use the Ang Khola the next day without reopening the cut. Fairly impressive I thought.

In any case there are a few changes that could be made to "improve" the HI Khukuris.

For example if you took the Sirupati (or any model) and put a full flat grind on it you would have a much lighter knife. This would obviously be faster, have better penetration and would make say brush cutting much easier. It would also still be easily strong enough for combat.

However you would be losing a fair amount of strength, weight and splitting power. So there is a choice that has to be made and the tradition choice in Nepal has always been to favor strength.

And as for the reaction of the HI consumers, that's easy to understand, just handle one or otherwise have any dealings with Bill and get an understanding of how much your satisfaction means to him.

I dunno how heavy the machetes are. I use a 12" beavertail, and 18" G.I. The beavertail has a "positive included angle", so does the G.I. but not as pronounced; in any case, this helps chopping of course.

Not owning a kukri myself, the other thing I wonder about is how easy a kukri is to control if you use it for smaller jobs. This is more a theoretical question for me than a real one, as I always have a "small job" knife on me anyway. But you'll see guys doing everything from preparing coconuts to other food prep with the machete. Just in theory, the strongly curved blade of the kukri would seem to be harder to control for lighter control work. What have you found in this regard?

Interesting about the Cold Steel Gurkha vs. the H.I. I just recently got to play with a friend's CS Gurkha, and dang if it wasn't impressive. Shaving sharp, feels great in the hand, overall great feel. But even at discount I think they cost as much if not more than the 15" Ang Khola, and if it handle vibrates on the C.S., then I'd go towards the Ang for sure.

Makwakee,check out my review here on the EDMF Trench Bowie it may shed a little light on your question. I was actually suprised at the results myself. FWIW the HI kukris should chop circles around my big bowie so they`re definetly worth a look if that`s your thing. OTOH many other big knives are lighter and more suited to other purposes. Marcus

Don't know if this fully answers your query about controlability of the 15" Ang Khola, but after I got it I tested it by, among other things, swinging it to slice a free hanging sheet of typewriter paper...worked great...clean slice all the way across parting the paper. I've also used it to open my mail yesterday....just happened to be handy. Sliced the top of the envelopes every bit as good as my small knives do.

I would think with use and familiarity the khukuri would be as manageable as any machette including for opening coconuts. Bill and others have posted interesting stories about some of the uses the native Nepaliese (SIC?) use theirs for....definately reflects blade control. Some of Bill's customers have used the chakma burnishing tool as a small wedge and have driven it with the spline on their khukuris. If they can swing it like a hammer, blade edge up, to drive the relatively small head of the chakma's handle, without boogering themselves, I'd say they can control it pretty well.

I've seen the big CS Gurka Khuri discounted to as low as $150. The 15" Ang Khola goes $175 ppd and I consider it a steal at that price.

I know you and I both believe in the utility of small-mid length blades and even those with narrower splines. When you look at big blades as we have here, the khukuri takes top honors as a chopper. Folks have alluded to what the machettes and big bowies can also do. But each of those tasks can also be handled by a smaller blade that one would undoubtedly also pack. What the khukuri can also do better than the others is to serve as an entrenching tool, a huge prybar (I think you've seen the pictures of a Ang Khola being used to pry apart a heavy duty padlock), and as a maul to hammer the included chakma.

Given this, it would seem that the best combination is a big "real" khurki and a small hunter-skinner-utility-kitchen blade. They in combination should be able to better handle tasks than any other 2 blade setup. I'm reminded of the Alaskan hunting cleaver - bird-skinner knife combination. The khukuri + small hunter-utility-kitchen blade should top that package too.

[This message has been edited by bald1 (edited 22 November 1998).]
OK, the last few times i went camping I can count on 1 hand how many times i used, or even needed a "chopper" of any kind.

ON THE OTHER HAND, i did use a 3.5" Jim Crowell "hunter" that is shaped like a pairing knife on steriods. It was very usefull in preparing food, whittling sticks for hot dogs and marshmellow sticks for the kids. You will use a small knife, like a paring knife, much more than any of the choppers be it axe, machete,kukri, or large bowie.

If i am hunting, however, i do carry a nice bowie becuase we cant carry a pistol when hunting in Mississippi and there are a few nasty critters in the woods (2 and 4 legged).

On the other hand, if you are looking for a reason to buy a new knife,buy what you like.
Joe your question is of course very dependent on who you ask it to. For example take a look in the HI forum and you will see a variety of answers on which khukuri each owner feels is "best". Depending on which model you favor your answer will be very different.

For me personally I don't have any trouble using my Ang Khola on a variety of lighter tasks. You can use different grips besides the normal one to shift the balance of the blade away from being so point forward.

Anyway, because I can keep the edge fairly sharp it can do lighter brush work that a heavy chopper usually has trouble with. Its heavily recurved edge also gives it tremendous slicing power much like a big serration which Bob commented on.

The only thing that takes getting used to is that on light work you actually have to do work against the chopping power of the Ang Khola. This of course would not be the case if I was using say the Sirupati. This would give me much more control on lighter tasks at the cost of having to do much more work on chopping / splitting.

As for Cold Steel vs HI, does Cold Steel give any information about their temper, RC specs and such? And the last time I checked their guarantee was not unlimited lifetime. The latter is a selling point in and of itself.

I'll tell you what Joe, if you have not handled a HI khukuri by next feburary I'll send you one of mine so you can get a feel for it. I don't want to mess around with the mail at around x-mas time.

As I recall, one use of a Kukuri was to grab the spine at the blade's fattest part and do draw-scrapes with the blade across (as one example) the inside of a hide needing prep.

The HI pieces also come with a minimum of two small utility tools, one used as a blade sharpener and one something like a small scalpel. And per posts on the HI forum, they actually work. Some pieces in their catalog have as many as six small accessory blades so clearly they realized the need for something extra for very small jobs.

Jim March

Just be sure you have some disposable coin available when Cliff ships his khuhuri for you to experience because you'll find yourself ordering one from Bill Martino of HI!!!!

No problem Joe. Which would you prefer to have a look at; the really thick and heavy Ang Khola, or the light and thin Sirupati?

Just drop me an email about late feb or early march as I will definately forget.

Hi guys! Just found this site. I camp and hunt exstensivly and I can tell you with complete sincerity, If I didnt bring a good axe( not a hatchet) to camp with me I would have froze a long time ago.
Makwakee, I think the tool you need all depends on what kind of terrain you'll be camping in and what time of the year you'll be camping. If you hit the hills in the summer, you may be able to get away with a good machete or a good quality Kukri, but if you need to build a real good fire, get a decent axe to split with. I usually have a Colt Bowie, reasonably priced and its held together so far after 3 yrs, a 4" folder made by Buck, and an axe. I've been thinking of getting a better axe, possibly a Gerber, but I'm not sure. This is a great forum, guys, take care.
01paw, have you ever handled a HI khukuri?

I am betting you have not becuase if you did you would never refer to it as something you could "get away with using".

The chopping/splitting power of a decent machete cannot be compared to the HI Ang Khola models. The two quite simply are not in the same league at all.

The Ang Khola's do not chop in the same performance range as most large survival/camping knives. The geometry is totally different, optimizing it for chopping.

The Ang Khola khukuris chop well enough to actually out chop a regular axe. The only way to better their performance is to use a thin bladed wide woodsman axe. Keeping in mind those axes are useless for splitting and I have never seen anyone take one camping for very good reason.

However, while the HI khukuris cannot split as well as a decent wedged axe, you need to be working on some fairly large fresh wood to see the difference. You are talking about something that can split 4x4's under its own weight.

It would really surprise me if you are burning wood large enough to go beyond what the Ang Khola can handle.

As a bonus, once you get a khukuri your bowie becomes redundant.