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Survival Knife or Machete? | Which Should I Choose?

Whether to carry a knife or machete is a common question that I get. While they’re both viable choices, they generally have completely different functions. You wouldn’t want to get stuck with a survival knife when you need a machete and vice versa. In other words, the blade should fit the environment you are in.

Machetes are good for hacking tree limbs and other uses similar to an axe. They’re also used in combat occasionally. Survival knives are good for skinning, trapping, woodcutting, and more. They can both be used to hunt, as well. The knife is generally the more versatile of the two.

Throughout this article, we’ll review the differences of survival knives and machetes by using two of the best examples on the market;

You’ll also learn the following information about both tools:

  • Which one is best for you?
  • Are there laws about owning machetes or survival knives?
  • How do you sharpen each?

Should You Buy a Machete or a Survival Knife?

There are advantages and disadvantages to both types of blades. For instance, machetes are much bulkier than survival knives, and they’re illegal in many parts of the world. On the other hand, you won’t get the same slicing power from a survival knife because it doesn’t have as much range.

You should consider what you’re going to be using it for before you choose either blade. If you’re camping and you want something for hunting or wood carving for fun, then a survival knife is a much better choice. On the other hand, if you want to chop through dense bush or thick branches, then a machete is ideal.

In truth, both blades can be used for most tasks, so it’s more a matter of convenience. Research local laws, figure out why you want to use a blade, and make the best decision with your newfound information.

Before you make your choice, let’s dive into the details of each of them. They’re both perfect for specific purposes, so you should write down a list of what you’ll use it for prior to making your final decision.

Recommended Machete

My favorite machete is made by one of the world’s most well-known brands in the knife industry. Their Machetes breaks out of their normal area of expertise, but it has the same level of durability and precision when it comes to cutting. The blade on their machetes generally range from 14 to 24 inches long, depending on your personal preference. Keep in mind models change over time, so make sure you check Amazon for the current offerings.

Good machetes are typically made out of tough carbon steel with a black powder-coated exterior to prevent it from being scrapped when you’re using it. It also protects against rust and corrosion, which tends to be a common problem for machetes and other large blades. Thanks to the textured hilt, you’ll be able to maintain a firm grip while you’re using it.

When you’re all done with the machete, it stores away in a sheath that usually comes with the purchase. The molded sleeve is designed to hold the machete without dulling the blade when it’s not in use. All in all, it’s one of the best machetes available in its price range. You may want to upgrade your sheathe for heavier-than-normal use.


  • Comes with a powder-coated exterior
  • Includes a gripped handle and a sheathe
  • A variety of sizes
  • Made by one of the most trusted brands around

Recommended Survival Knife

My favorite survival knife has a carbon steel blade that has top-notch cutting power. It’s designed to slice right through when you’re hunting, fishing, skinning, or to cut through wood and twigs. The knife is what I feel to be the perfect length. If you’re concerned about local laws, refer to the FAQ section.

If you choose to purchase this survival knife, it may come in a variety of unique color combinations, depending on what they offer at the current time. My most popular combo of all time is Green & Black, but it often also comes in Black & Brown, and several other choices. Either way, you’ll also receive a high-quality sheathe to carry it in.

The molded black handle on this survival knife is made with a textured pattern to provide optimal grip. Although it’s not rubberized, it still has excellent staying power through heavy usage. Perhaps a unique trait of this knife is that, although it’s a fixed blade, it comes with a removable handle that can be switched out to another one of your choice.


  • Comes in a wide variety of color combinations
  • Includes a removable textured laminated fiberglass handle
  • Sharpened carbon steel blade
  • Includes a molded plastic sheathe

Frequently Asked Questions About Survival Knives and Machetes

There are plenty of differences between survival knives and machetes. You couldn’t expect to use one for the purpose of both, so it’s important that you pick out the correct kind of blade. There’s no doubt that the two products above are some of the best in their categories, but you might still have a few questions.

Here are some of the most FAQs about survival knives and machetes:

Are There Any Laws or Restrictions for Either Type of Blade?

Blades of certain lengths are banned in many countries, states, counties in cities. Before you make a purchase, you should always contact local authorities or refer to online sources to figure out what the restrictions are in your area.

For example, machetes are banned in New York completely, but California doesn’t have such a law. On the other hand, survival knives are limited based on their length in almost all areas. If you exceed the limit, you may need to get a license or dispose of the knife.

How Do You Sharpen Survival Knives and Machetes?

Once you’ve used the blade enough, it’ll start to become dull. This might be a bit frustrating, but you can quickly sharpen it back to its original condition when you get the correct tools. Whetstones and ceramic blade sharpeners are undoubtedly the most efficient choices for those who are out in the woods.

Bench grinders provide excellent sharpening precision, but they’re not as portable as the other two tools. You can sharpen your knife in a matter of minutes if you don’t let it get too dull. Here’s a quick rundown:

  1. Use mineral oil to lubricate the stone to prevent it from chipping, wearing out, or heating up.
  2. Hold the blade at a 25 to 30-degree angle before you start sharpening.
  3. Brush the blade up to the top of the stone, then back down to the bottom. Make this motion on both sides until you notice that it’s sharp enough.

Note: You’ll see metal bits and debris from the sharpening process. These are just the dull pieces that are being shaved off. If they build up too much, remove them from the stone to prevent them from slowing your sharpening.

Just keep in mind that you don’t always need to use a stone to sharpen your blades. In fact, you don’t want to grind on them too much because you will necessarily wear shorten the life of the blade. For general maintenance, it’s better to just keep the blade sharp over time by using a strop or some other type of knife hone, like this one.

Bottom Line

Machetes and survival knives are both very useful tools for camping, hunting, survival, and more. There’s no doubt that they both offer excellent uses when they’re found in the right hands.

Here’s a quick rundown of what you should’ve learned from the post:

  • Machetes are better for dense wood and bushes.
  • Survival knives are good for skinning, woodcutting, and trapping.
  • There are numerous laws and regulations for both blades around the world.

If you are still unsure which to pick, I recommend just going with a knife. For the vast majority of survival situations, it is much more flexible and will handle a wider variety of tasks. Let me put it another way. A knife can do a lot of things a machete can do. A machete can do very few of the intricate things a knife can. So, unless you are planning to be traveling long distances through thick jungle or brush, go with the knife. Also, don’t forget to consider a hatchet or ax, they might fit your needs better.

For more, check out Cheap vs. Expensive Pocket Knives: Is There a Difference?