I basically gave up on machetes. After some unimpressive chopping at camp, they found themselves confined to the bottom of the camp container not to see the light of day. In theory a machete sounded like an excellent tool. In practice they were totally disappointing.
Then we started watching Forged in Fire, and I was tuned into the reality that the quality of steel was paramount to an effective working blade. So we took a chance and bought three high quality machetes to compare to our current ones - Svord Golok, Condor Kukri, and Condor Primitive Bush Knife. A big ticket difference than the first couple, Colghan and Gerber Gator (the higher quality ones were all over $100 compared to around $20 for the other two). The challenge was either going to be a huge waste of money, or we would finally have some tools that would get the job done.
I took a trip hiking through a remote area in the UP before Owen and I had a chance to make an official comparison, and grabbed the Svord to chop through branches while mounting trail cameras. Driving along the two-track after a storm, a full grown Aspen tree blocked my progress. Way too big to move (although I tried), the only option was to chop through it. The tree broke from it's base, with the skinniest part much larger than my calf. I figured I'd be there around 20-30 minutes sweating my way through. Had I known what was going to happen I would have set up a camera to record it for proof. Huge chunks flew around and I was through in what seemed like a minute. It could have been more, I didn't time it, but I definitely did not break a sweat. If I had the Gerber I'm not sure I would have even gone through it. Just as impressive, upon inspection of the blade, you couldn't see a mark anywhere and the edge was a sharp as ever.
Of the three quality machetes in our test the Svord is my favorite. I love the looks and the function is just as impressive. The micarta handle feels great in the hand and allows for a solid grip. Condor's Primitive Bush Knife (machete length) is totally functional, but it's designed for more of a survival tool. The taper in the front of the blade doesn't make it as good of a chopper, but the steel is sharp and will hold an edge. The Condor Kukri is definitely a chopper, but the round wooden handle tends to roll in the hand. Owen and I are tempted to try and grind it flatter on the sides for a more secure grip.
We were so impressed with the results of the quality machetes that I went and bought a Gransfors Small Forest Axe as I've been equally disappointed with camp hatchets.
One thing is certain from this, I will NEVER buy a inferior quality steel tool to do important jobs. It's much better to spend a few extra bucks and buy quality. It will save you time, and I'm not talking a minute here or there, I'm talking hours! It will also be much safer. You use very little effort chopping with a quality tool. Compare that to my older machetes and hatchets, we'd hammer away at things with brute force to compensate for the poor edge quality. In fact, one deer camp after late night chopping session the head of the hatchet went flying off the handle and we never found it. That could have been a problem to say the least.
So for your sanity and safety, take our advice and spend a few extra bucks for something good. It's worth it.