Top 5 cheapest & BEST for the $ SURVIVAL blades

Discussion in 'Wilderness & Survival Skills' started by psy-ops, Dec 12, 2002.

  1. Hoodoo


    Aug 18, 1999

    Sounds like you need a Swiss Army Knife.:)
  2. bensano


    May 30, 2001
    I find weight more important the number, at least as long as nothing is longer then about 15".

    So a small hatchet, light knife and SAK come in at about 18 oz.

    What knife do you have that beats that?

    A machete and a SAK are maybe a bit more, but for a different place, what have you got that beats that.

    Oh, I looked at the Buckshot's Camp site. They mostly seem to be taking about Frost's #1's #2 1/2 and the SAK Midnight Manager.

    Didn't see the CS mentioned. Must be less important.

  3. Jerry Hossom

    Jerry Hossom

    Aug 1, 1999
    My personal machete (18" blade) weighs in at 17 oz. total, and I've made several at 15" that weigh well under a pound. Sheathed with a sling for shoulder carry, it's a light burden. An Ontario weighs about 22 oz. A Swiss Army knife of almost any complexity weighs very few oz., and hardly matters since it's in your pocket. I've taken down some sizeable trees, ~10" hardwoods, with that machete and I can't imagine a spot on earth where it's not a very useful tool or any wood I might need bigger than 8". A properly edged Ontario will perform almost as well. In Jungle School we took down some very sizeable tropical hardwoods with improperly edged Ontarios. A pine would be a piece of cake.

    A 15-18" blade with a good handle can deliver a lot of cutting power without the skill level required for using a hatchet with comparable cutting capacity. Certainly skill helps you do better with anything, but a machete is pretty forgiving.

    Still, this is all just opinions. What matters is what works best for you personally.
  4. firkin


    Jan 26, 2002
    I try not to get stuff I don't plan on using, or knowing how to use, but I'm poor and cheap.

    But it seems that many do just that...How else to explain the large number of 4WD "off-road" equipped vehicles on metropolitan streets that find their most demanding use to be encountering a pot-hole enroute to the "detailers" for another hot-wax??

    A small thin slicer takes up hardly any space and can weigh next to nothing. Don't see any reason not to have one and a larger tool optimized for chopping the type of vegetation encountered. I wouldn't want to clean small or tiny game with the chopper, and the slicer could be as small as 2" blade and still do it's job. Maybe some places the vegetation permits the chopper to also be a good slicer, but I still would rather carry the extra two or three ounces a decent-handled small slicer adds than try to gut sparrows or small fish with a machete. Or remove a splinter. Or have to try and keep the larger knife/axe sharp enough to perform delicate tasks.
  5. frank k

    frank k

    May 8, 2001
    I agree very much with the points made by bensano and Jerry Hossom about the total weight being important not the number of knives. If someone chooses a big bowie as their only survival knife, that is fine – but for about the same weight I would rather have a SAK, a small fixed blade knife and a folding saw (or for a little more weight, a machete for a tropical environment).

    - Frank
  6. Rifter


    Dec 15, 2001
    It all comes down to what you know how to use and like to use. You know what works best for you. Personally i carry a 11" Bowie, 4" Clip point FB, they weigh together total with Kydex sheath's 32oz. And if its not that long of a hike in or i will be doing alot of chopping/trail clearing, i will take a BK&T Patrol machete. I find a bowie to be a good all around camp/survival design, some may disagree but it suits my needs fine.

    Edited to add: length in this post was blade length not overall.
  7. mark0


    Nov 26, 2002
    This is a good post indeed.
    It is true that some cultures of the world
    use thicker blades, especially in Asia; Java Golok
    and Borneo Parang being a few examples.
    This is due to the vegetation they encounter.

    As stated in this post weight is sometimes important.
    Our guides during the Amazon trip prefered lighter
    machetes than those used around the lodge.
    90+ temperatures and 90+ humidity make sure of this.
    We did not take this trip option but when the guides head into the forest with a westerner for a real "survival" marches of 7 days plus in the jungle they take:
    mosquito nets; clothes on their back,some fishing line and hooks and a machete
    each guide and that is it. They do not want the westeners to take a machete unless you can show them you can use one. They eat the fish if they catch some, fruits and grubs, snakes, etc. They drink water from streams.We were told that most westerners, even athletic ones have a hard time and hardly ever last more that 4-5 days.

    I will restate my opinion about North American forests: if one would want to do a survival trip just for the heck of it (and I know some (very rare) people that do not take food on canoe trips)the minimum would be.
    - fishing line and hooks
    - some thin wire for snares
    - a large model Swiss Army Knife with saw
    - a willingness to eat worms, grubs and roots.
    - in real wilderness there is so much wood lying
    on the ground that a heavier blade is just a bonus.
    - a medium/small light tarp and a bit of thin rope
    Now, to find real wilderness is not easy, one has to go in the northern part of one of the Canadian provinces or Alaska.
    I read somewhere that in the US it is not possible to be further away than 16?? miles from a road of some kind or another. I do not remember the exact mile figure, maybe somebody can confirm.

    My point is that it is very rare that anybody goes
    in the bush in North America without food and at least a tarp. So then what does one need to survive?

    Today in North America, I am not sure that people even use axes much for cutting (they are still used for wood splitting)
    This is too bad, since we are losing traditional physical skills.
    I also find that it is difficult to find places that sell machetes at all.

    So is it good to see that there are still people with "blade" interest.
    I am somewhat afraid though, that this will become a hobby only, more and more and we will not have where to use our "blades" thin or thick.
  8. Rifter


    Dec 15, 2001

    I would love to see a swiss army knife that could do the same task as a 11" Blade bowie. That must be one big ass swiss army knife if it can chop a tree down, split firewood, clear a trail through thick brush etc.
  9. Hoodoo


    Aug 18, 1999
    Except for splitting firewood and only in an extremely wet environment, the other activites would be about as counterproductive in a survival situation as you could get. But the image of slashing my way through a northwoods forest is certainly an exciting one. :rolleyes:
  10. Jerry Hossom

    Jerry Hossom

    Aug 1, 1999
    From the above post on SA, I think those natives might have been giving you the Gringo treatment just a bit. Most I encountered would prefer to take an old shotgun or some other firearm, much preferring iguana, monkey. snake, birds, etc. to fish and grubs as a steady diet. I've not eaten grubs, but I've eaten monkey, and grubs just couldn't be worse! A lot of the problem for Westerners in the tropics is that it takes a full month to aclimitize to that environment. I didn't realize just how much it meant until I came back to the States for a month. When I got back to Panama, I couldn't walk up a flight of stairs without breaking sweat.

    If you're constantly on the move, a very light machete is fine for clearing trail where most of what you're cutting is vines and very light brush. If you want to build something or chop wood, an Ontario is about the right weight (0.110" thick as I recall). I've never had to clear a trail through northern forests, just finding it easier to walk around the occassional obstructions. That said, I've not been in a lot of different settings. It might be that the coastal forests of the Northwest are as dense as jungles; I just don't know. I do know this, if you have to cut your way on a trail, the less weight and arm motion you need the better. With a machete, you use your wrist more and arm less and allow the blade to do the cutting. You get more speed and cutting power with less energy. Hacking through thick brush can drain you in a hurry, and the very first rule of survival is to budget energy. You can't burn more calories than you consume for very many days running.

    As for splitting firewood, I've never done that when the game was survival. I just took what was available (and dry) in the sizes I wanted and burned it as best I could. There's a big difference between camping and survival.

    As for that SAK, it's a great little tool. I don't think anyone suggested it be your only blade, but it's awfully handy for digging splinters or black palm needles out of your hand, while you're thinking about that food you don't have to eat... :)
  11. mark0


    Nov 26, 2002
    Ha, ha, you make a good point Jerry.
    The locals would definitely take a shotgun, but they do not, when hired by Gringos who want to do "real" survival(and love punishment).
    They do what I described because they are paid.
    They do not enjoy eating grubs at all.

    You are absolotely right about aclimatizing, we had a torrid time at the beginning.
    As a trivia point, they told us that the one of the toughest Gringos was this 5'2" woman from
    Missouri who kept up for a 7 day march through the jungle with no food and equipment as I described, and this without getting sick from the untreated water and all the rest.

    The Ontario machete is ~ 1/8" thick.
    I find this a bit thick but as you say this is so that it can do a wider range of activities.
    My personal preference is a 1/16" Gavilan (I hope to have a 18" machete, .080" at handle to .060" at the tip made from CPM3V at 58C some day) + a saw
    or light thin blade axe.

    I believe that, as the tradesmen in house construction do, specialized tools are better than universal ones that compromise all around so that they can do more tasks.
  12. Hoodoo


    Aug 18, 1999
    I rarely ever split wood for a fire either while camping but one of the cardinal rules of canoeing in the late fall in the north country is to carry something big enough to split out some dry wood from dead standing wood. Take a spill in the fall in a cold northern lake or river and you could be looking at hypothermia city. And if it's been raining for a few days (like it often does in october and november), getting a good roaring fire going qickly could be the difference between living and dying. This is something I learned as a kid in scouts after hiking for three days in the rain. Without my ol plumb hatchet, I doubt we would have been able to get a good fire going but it's a LOT easier if you have very dry wood to work with and the more the merrier. The Gransfors Small Forest axe is an ideal tool for this kind of work.

    Usually in the winter where you are more likely to go through the ice, splitting out dry wood is not really a concern because you can usually find some dry standing wood that you can push over to break off and lots of dry twigs. If you are a crazy ice fisherman like me and you find yourself hiking a few miles back in the toolies of the UP just to get some good rainbows, be sure to take good firemaking materials. Just because it's colder than hell doesn't mean you can't go through some spring fed creek, pond, or lake. BTDT too many times.

    BTW, I've spent some time out in the Olympic Peninsula rainforest backpacking back in the mid 70s. The trails weren't bad and I never had to draw my SAK Craftsman once to carve my way through them.:) The blacktail deer sure are pretty there though and the coastline is awesome. And I don't know what the fishing situation is there now but back then, I hitched a ride on a fishing boat for a few days and the salmon fishing was incredible!
  13. Jerry Hossom

    Jerry Hossom

    Aug 1, 1999
    One of the highest scores ever recorded at the Army's Jungle School in Panama (former Jungle School that is) was by an Innuit from Alaska. He was amazing and the heat didn't seem to bother him at all. The climate may favor a smaller frame, therefore the small size of the indigenous peoples.

    Ontario may have changed their machete - UNFORTUNATELY! The older ones were unground, except for the sharpened edge, and I don't know how thick they were. The one I have here, is 1/8" steel, but the blade is flat ground to the spine, making it thinner as you move out (0.110" most of the way), still with a unground edge bevel though. It's really more thinned than beveled. The newest ones I've seen are the same, but have a ground edge bevel about 3/8" wide. These last suck for heavy wood chopping, since they bind more easily.

    I've attached a pic of the edge I like to put on older Ontario's. It is about 3/8" wide and fully convex. It will cut for a very long time without dulling, since it's a very robust geometry. This particular machete parted 3 bundled 1" hemp ropes without too much trouble. Not bad for Rc50, 1095 steel. I lose about 5 Ontario machetes a year as a result of showing them to people, who then tend to leave with them... :)

    If I could get Crucible steel to roll CPM-3V thinner, I'd make a few of what you describe, but would prefer to keep it in the 0.100-0.110" thickness range to allow for the convex edge. The benefits of this edge geometry when chopping dense material is substantial. The thickness you're speaking of would be OK for lighter brush, but might get whippy on heavy chopping. Fullers, like you see on some machetes would help that, but I would still prefer the more generally useful blade/edge geometry for the reasons given, even at the expense of a couple ounces in weight. My trail breaking days are long past...

    The advantage of an Ontario over a high tech marvel though is that it can be reasily sharpened on a flat stone or with a file. I'm sure that's why they're the hardness they are because most of the world sharpens blades that way.

    Attached Files:

  14. Jerry Hossom

    Jerry Hossom

    Aug 1, 1999
    I was just reminded by Hoodoo's post of what we did in the jungle with wet wood. It rained there pretty much everyday for 9 months. We always carried Army-issued insect repellent. Not because it did anything to repel mosquitos (it didn't), but it was a great fire starter, especially with wet wood. The oil base would burn a pretty long time, drying first the small twigs, then burning some small branches, which would then dry the larger branches. I'm sure some lamp oil could be a handy component in a kit for that very purpose.

    I'm using memory cells that haven't been touched in a long time here... :)
  15. Hoodoo


    Aug 18, 1999
    That's a kick-butt sweet edge on that machete. I've been doing all my machetes in convex ever since I got my Grizzly grinder. I do my lawn mower blades that way too but I use a file to dull them a little bit after convexing. I thought I might as well do it first before the stones in my yard tossed there by the snow plow from last winter do it. :)
  16. MelancholyMutt

    MelancholyMutt Doggy Style

    Apr 13, 2002
    As a city boy, even the basics that most tenderfoots know as inate and instinct must be learned...

    So, in learning, I ask... what kind of wood does one use to build a fire? wood off a tree? do you just pull the branches off and chop up some of the larger branches... Do you chop up a fallen tree? do you chop down a small tree? What kind of tree bark yields serviceable tinder?
  17. Josh Feltman

    Josh Feltman

    Feb 12, 2001
    MelancholyMutt-- dry wood is the easiest to use for building a fire. During dry weather, wood can be gathered from the ground, but after prolonged precipitation, the wood on the ground becomes soaked, and it's better to find dead wood still attached to trees-- dead limbs and such. I don't build fires outdoors too often, as I live in Northern California, and forest conditions are often too dry to permit a safe campfire. Most of my campfires are built when I head over to the coast. There is usually so much driftwood on the beach that it's simply a matter of collecting enough to start a fire. I usually try to chop as little as possible. Even large logs can gradually be fed into a fire, eliminating the need to chop them up.

    Also, as a general rule, softer woods like pine burn fast and hot, while hardwoods like oak or almond provide long-lasting coals. I am sure that others here will be able to add more.
  18. Ravenn


    Jan 19, 2001
    Jerry,we used the bug juice to get the small tins of peanut butter to burn. Then use a c-rat can full of holes as a stove. C.4 worked pretty well to cook with too.

  19. ajrand


    Aug 30, 2001
    Survival being rather important, and staying warm a factor in it, and this being 2002, I like to bring something flameable with me when I go camping. This applies to camping out of my car, my canoe, and when I carry my stuff somewhere (which isn't often anymore). A few ounces of K-1 or white gas makes even the most stubborn fuel burn like heck. Once I was having a problem on a miserable day at the NE end of Isle Royale, but a chunk of styrofoam sloshing around on the rocks saved the day. Better living through petrochemistry!
  20. Jason Burns

    Jason Burns

    Jan 20, 2001
    Not to mention having been kind enough to do mine! I cannot tell you how well that machete does now! It cuts like mad and the edge is REMARKABLY durable! I touch mine up now and then and try to prevent rust on the convex surface as you suggested and that thing will FLY through anything! HUUUUUUGE blessing! (Thanks again Jerry!):D :D

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