Test: $20 Gerber Machete

By T.C. WORLEY

Few outdoor tools are as gratifying to use as a machete. When wielded right, its big swinging blade can clear a path through brush, create piles of kindling, and even put a little snarl in your image all at the same time. But I have found some machetes fall short when the job requires cutting items larger than twigs and small branches. That’s one reason why Gerber gave its Gator Machete Jr. model a serrated saw along the top of its carbon-steel blade.

On multiple outings this winter, I used the $20 Gerber Gator and its 11-inch blade to hack small limbs and thick swamp reeds to make wood for a fire. I then employed its serrated blade to saw larger limbs for making a shelter in the woods and for cutting the more sizable firewood and small logs needed to build the blaze.

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Gerber’s $20 Gator Jr. Machete

The Gerber’s rubber-coated plastic handle has a hole for a tethering cord. It is ergonomic and comfortable, though the shape is better suited to chopping than sawing. Following heavy bouts of bushwhacking and chopping in my tests, the metal blade resharpened quickly and easily. But don’t expect it to sharpen to pocketknife-level.

For the $20 you pay, Gerber also gives a plastic-lined, nylon sheath. It looks cheapy but actually works great, although wearing it is a bit cumbersome.

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Gerber Gator Jr. sheath

For $20, this machete is a great bargain. I don’t expect the plastic handle to last the way my grandfather’s wooden-handled machete has. This Gerber is no heirloom. Knife lovers will wish the blade tang reached to the end of the handle. But for now, owning the Gerber Machete Jr. has allowed me to carry fewer tools, lighten my load a little, and feel just a touch more Indiana Jones on my outings in the woods this year.

—T.C. Worley

Posted by Mep - 03/25/2011 11:02 AM

Looks like a great product. For $20, you could afford to wear these things out. Wish there was a video of it in use though…

About how long did you use it before you noticed dulling?

Posted by Jack - 03/25/2011 11:35 AM

That little baby machete could work great for fending off hippies at Bonnaroo or FloydFest. More gear for the festival

Posted by Extreme Tolerance - 03/25/2011 11:42 AM

It has teeth on the back. My SOG machete has that, and I hate it. That some sort of fad going around the machete world?

Posted by T.C. Worley - 03/25/2011 11:44 AM

I used it on and off for a few weeks before I ever sharpened it. It comes a wee bit dull, but given the way it is used, knife-like sharpness is not really essential. I used honing stones and my wife’s (Shhh.)“diamond” kitchen sharpener.

Posted by Griff Collier - 03/25/2011 11:58 AM

Where can I buy one of these right now ?

Posted by Jef Price - 03/25/2011 12:42 PM

I’ve had one of these for 4 years, it’s been backpacking, camping, helped take down 60 ft trees, used and abuse, when cleaned up it’s looks almost new, abd the handle has no damage. It’s a great buy. You can pick these up ay places like Dicks along with the Jr’s big brother the Gator. Which is a longer version the same thing. Also, your teeth are flat against, fit in line, which means they don’t cut as well but don’t snag in heavy brush. I’ve spent a lot more on a machete I don’t use of like have as well. A great buy is a understatement. It’s a great tool. And very lightweight.

Posted by Beau - 03/26/2011 08:41 AM

Are machetes typically heirlooms? When I was really, really young, my Dad got me a machete on one of his trips to Puerto Rico. Though I was too young (probably about as big as the machete), I now have that machete…

Posted by Jon m - 03/17/2013 04:53 PM

For $20 dollars it is a good machete but after a little bit of chopping small tree limbs and branches the blade warped a little.

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