Readers of our monthly survival column, Against All Odds, know that Jeff Randall believes a machete is an indispensable piece of equipment.
Jeff is probably best known as a survival instructor through his company Randall’s Adventure & Training (RAT). However, Jeff is also a first-class knifemaker. ESEE Knives is a division of RAT.
Several months ago, I received two machetes from Jeff: the ESEE Junglas (pronounced “hoonglas”) and the ESEE Lite Machete.
The Junglas is short for a machete, with an overall length of 16.5 inches, but heavier than many, weighing 22.5 ounces. Made from 1095 steel, the blade has a high saber grind, is finished in a black textured powder coat and has canvas Micarta handles. The Kydex sheath with Cordura backing (11 ounces) can be worn in many ways, including attaching it to MOLLE gear. The Junglas is entirely made in the USA.
The ESEE Lite Machete is more what people envision when talking about a machete, with an overall length of 23.5 inches and a weight of 17 ounces. Made of 1075 steel, the machete features a convex edge and natural Micarta handles. The handles are removable to clean rust caused by moisture from under the handles. The blade is made in El Salvador. The handle and handle components are made and assembled in the USA. A simple Cordura sheath is available for the Lite Machete.
Over the summer, I went on several family camping trips to the forested areas of northern Arizona. I took both machetes to give them a serious evaluation.
The Lite was used on materials that machetes are generally useful on, such as small branches and saplings. I also employed it as a baton for splitting larger pieces of wood. While it definitely is of higher quality than the run-of-the-mill surplus machete, outside of the quality, it is generally unremarkable. However, if quality is as important to you as it is to me, it beats the “bargain” machete hands down.
The Junglas is like no other machete I have ever seen, and could probably also be described as a heavy-duty camp knife. While most machetes relyon their light weight and speed to get the job done, the Junglas relies more on the weight from (as compared to other machetes) its massive blade. The Lite is a slicer, while the Junglas is a chopper. Pieces of downed oak up to eight inches in diameter were cut into suitable lengths for campfires by the Junglas. Its powder-coat blade still looks almost untouched after a lot of use. It has also kept its edge surprisingly well and resharpened easily.
On the downside, there are distinct edges on the flats of the Junglas’ handle before it contours at the top and bottom, where the handles match up with the full-length tang. After chopping a lot of firewood on the first camping trip, I developed blisters on my palm and fingers from these edges. Once back home, I sanded the edges down until they flowed into the top and bottom of the handles—no more blisters on subsequent trips.
ESEE Knives has a no-questions asked lifetime guarantee against blade and handle breakage. Suggested retail for the Junglas is $201.23 for just the knife and $286.60 with the sheath. Suggested retail for the Lite is $85.22 for the knife only and $103.45 with the Cordura sheath,
Both the Junglas and the Lite live in the toolbox of my truck, ready to perform any task—within reason, of course—that is asked of them.