In a couple of previous posts I talked a little about what makes an ideal survival knife. I had actually planned a future post to treat the topic in a little further detail. However I recently ran into a good example of an almost perfect survival machete that I thought warranted a little post.
And I say *almost* perfect because, while it ostensibly meets the requirements of what I consider ideal in a large survival blade in a multi blade set, it falls short in one single area, a small failing, that by my estimates, rendered it almost 50% less effective than if it had been properly designed. Yeah. Small flaw, big problems. This is the tool in question:
This is the Ultimate Survival Machete. I may have mentioned in a previous post that in my opinion the ideal survival kit would actually include multiple blades, with a minimum of two, not one survival knife, which is a misconception that many people seem to have. The singe blade solution is a compromise for if you have absolutely have to carry only one blade.
However in my opinion the ideal solution includes at least two knives. One small blade for fine work, skinning, whittling, carving and what not, and one large, heavy blade, like a bowie, axe or a machete, for heavy work, such as chopping, log splitting, cutting down trees, and other heavy camp work. But I digress.
This so called “Ultimate Survival Machete” actually does do it’s name some justice, though possesses a basic flaw, which we will get into shortly. But besides that, I find the basic design concept of this machete would actually make for an ideal large camp knife. On the front edge, like most other machetes, you have a large, strong heavy, full tang blade that would make short work of heavy chopping chores. But unlike most other machetes, this one also has a rather effective looking saw tooth spine.
Now this is something I have not talked a whole lot about, but it bears mentioning. A properly designed sawtooth spine is extremely useful on a single, multipurpose survival knife. The saw simply makes it much easier to cut through medium to heavy pieces of wood, with surprisingly little effort, especially compared to the energy required to chop the same saplings and branches down with a medium camp axe. This is important in a survival setting. Granted, when it comes to chopping down large trees and such, the axe is a better bet, however a heavy machete is a pretty close second.
So in my mind, this design, a machete with a saw toothed spine, assuming the saw teeth are properly designed, is a near perfect combination of features that could easily replace an axe. And as an added bonus on this machete, you actually have a somewhat decent point, perhaps not an ideal design for thrusting, but one which would allow it to be used as a defensive weapon whose full length could be used to keep large animals and whatnot at bay. Add to that the full finger guard, and the lanyard, and you have a near perfect survival machete design.
BUT now we come to the fly (or in this case the dung beetle) in the proverbial ointment. In their great zeal to create the ultimate survival machete, the designers of the tool forgot one little thing. Kudos to anyone who can guess what I’m about to demerit this survival machete on… Go on. Give it a shot. I’ll wait…
No clue? OK, I’ll give you a hint: Full finger guards rarely work as well backwards. 🙂
Bingo! That’s it. There is a full finger guard. And then there is a saw tooth spine. And try as you might, nary the twain shall work! 😀 As you can see from the pic, that full finger guard would work great when the machete was being used for chopping. However what happens when you want to use the spine for sawing? You have to flip the machete upside down don’t you?! And then what happens to the guard…? DOH!!
Yeah… I bet you can just feel the calluses forming as you picture it in your mind. Sawing holding onto the grip upside down, with that full finger guard running over the back of your hand, or across your thumb, would be awkward, and get very, very, uncomfortable, because you would be hard pressed to actually get the blade into a 90 degree angle with whatever it is you are trying to saw into.
You could grip the guard instead, but then you’d be holding a very small grip, above the centerline of the saw blade, which wouldn’t be any better. Basically, by adding that full sized finger guard, they have rendered the saw toothed spine almost unusable. BUMMER!!!
Now to be honest, there’s an easy fix. Grab a hacksaw, and lop off the guard flush with the top and bottom of the grip, maybe leave a small, unobtrusive stubby guard instead, and sand it down to match the contoured grip. Voila! This would get you the perfect survival machete advertised.
However I did want to illustrate how important little things can become when they are not fully checked for correct ergonomics across the entire range of possible uses the tool is designed for. Clearly, in this case, either the saw tooth spine was added as an after thought, or the ergonomics of this feature was never really thought about during the design stage.
I already have a small camp hatchet in my camp kit. But this machete would still definitely make it into that, or my bug out bag. After making the aforementioned modification, of course. And I’d probably ditch the hatchet if I had to choose between them. But then again I grew up using machetes for everything from field work, to camping, to a few other out-of-left-field things, so I might be a little biased… 😀