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Test: $20 Gerber Machete

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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.

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.

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

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