I made a post awhile back that generated a lot interest – about creating your own Bug Out Bag, or “Go-To-Hell Bag” as we called it when I first got interested in wilderness survival years ago. Anyway, I get a lot of requests for “What type of this do you recommend?” or “What’s the better version of this particular item?” Well, I can’t answer or pretend to be an expert on things I’ve never used, but I CAN put my word behind the stuff I DO use. So, this is my first in a series of product reviews related to survival tools and materials. If you’d like to back track a little, check out the post on building your own bug-out-bag.
Selecting a Machete
A machete is a great tool to have, and it is very multipurpose, but not as multipurpose as novices think they are. People think of a machete and they envision everything from whacking down bamboo in a jungle to clearing weeds to splitting firewood. After all, they do all that on television, right? The answer is – not really. It’s like assuming all knives are good for everything. Well, we already know that’s not true, but the same holds for a machete. Different strokes for different folks. (Ha, a machete pun. Who knew?)
What is your use?
Determine what use you have for a machete. Are you clearing tall grasses or whacking tiny limbs from trees to clear your path camping? If so, a long-bladed machete (18-24 inches of blade) will be great for you. Lightweight and a long blade make it easy to reach both low and high. You’re using more strength than blade however because the blades are thin, flexible, and not designed for heavy chopping. If, on the other hand, you want a tool that will whack down 1 inch tree branches and then split six inch logs at your campfire, you’ll quickly determine those wont do the job. (I know. I’ve tried them.)
This review is for the latter of the aforementioned uses – a tool that is more survival than hiker-oriented.
The Ontario SP8 Machete
If you’re interested, you can buy this particular machete online at Amazon for a good price. It’s available for Prime members as well so you can avoid those pesky shipping fees altogether. It’s also in our Bug Out Bag Supplies section of our Amazon list, along with lots of other supplies we feel are pretty necessary for your go bag.
The first thing you’ll notice is that this isn’t your Walmart grass chopper. Right out of the box, it’s wickedly heavy in the point and the sheath is good quality. There are four snaps that hold this blade in place, rather than a drop-in style kydex sheath. The leather is good quality and thick enough to do the job, not flimsy like a lot of others. IT’s got a belt loop and tie-wrap for wearing against the thigh, or great for strapping to your pack (which is where mine rests most of the time). The handle is made of Kraton, which has all the benefits of hard-core rubber but added resistance to chemicals, heat, and won’t breakdown after being exposed to the elements long term. It’s also great for non-slip gripping, which you’ll definitely want because it’s heavy – and it would have a good amount of momentum if it slipped from your grasp mid-swing.
This second photo shows it sheathed and ready to wear, lying beside a cheap $8 grass cutter blade you can pick up at Wally World.
Overall dimensions of the SP8 are exactly as advertised. It’s got a 10″ blade with a 15″ overall length and weighs in at 1.5 pounds, fairly heavy for such a short weapon. You’ll also notice the chisel tip, rather than the sweeping blade you’re used to seeing in machetes. This is because Ontario knife company made this with military and rescue use in mind, rather than playing samurai in the tall grass. The chisel tip isn’t razor sharp, but it doesn’t need to be. Considering the machete is full tang (one solid piece of carbon 1095 steel from end to end) it would make a mean splitting wedge, or chisel if needed.
The span across the spine is a full 1/4″ thick, much thicker than most of it’s counterparts. This adds to both the weight and the strength of the weapon for heavy cutting and splitting.
The saw runs most of the length of the blade and it takes advantage of the blade’s full width. This isn’t for cutting pretty lines or whittling. It’s for serious notching and cutting on larger pieces of wood.
The big thing that separates this machete from others I’ve owned is the weight. The first time you pick it up you can easily tell they intended this thing to be heavy in the tip. The heavy sharp tip means you’re using the weight of the machete, rather than the strength in your arm, to cut through large brush or trees. It weighs twice what my other ones do, so it’s more exertion to lift and swing. The trade-off is that it has a better edge, holds it’s edge well, and the added weight means you do more work with each swing.
Overall, I’m very much in love with this blade. It’s long enough to do the job I need it for, and it’s short enough not to stick up over the top of my pack and get caught on everything. It’s also not too long to wear on my body, since the overall length doesn’t exceed the distance between my belt and my knees.
If you like it, and decide you want one yourself, do me a favor and use the link below to get it. You won’t pay any more for it, but Amazon will toss me a few cents for sending you to them.