In Costa Rica, I use machetes on a near-daily basis. I use them for cutting brush, chopping off tree limbs, killing snakes, extra security while walking about, cutting rope, and even digging small holes for new plant starts. In jungly areas, you’d be silly not to have one. Well, I got a wild hare awhile back and decided that I needed a new one. While I was searching the internet for my next hack n’ slash tool, I found Gerber’s Gator machete. It looked really sleek and came with a nice holster. It had all sorts of “survival” tough-guy speak on its packaging. It even said “Fend For Yourself” on the outside. I couldn’t wait to get it and try it out. I guess I’m a sucker for good marketing.
However, I take my machetes seriously. In Central America, using a machete is a way of life for many locals. They’re used for jungle clearing, grass cutting, shrubbery trimming and even chopping branches off of trees. I’ve watched skilled Costa Rican gardeners put weed eaters to shame and clear an entire lot within hours. I never realized until I spent time down here just how useful they are. I’m still learning the art of clearing and building up good wrist strength. If you change your hands up, it’s pretty a good workout.
Both my wife and I have spent considerable time in war zones on behalf of the United States. We’ve used and relied on many of Gerber’s products (multi-tools, folders, LMF-1) and had respect for the brand. I received the Gerber machete in the mail after paying an extra 25$ in customs and mail forwarding fees. Shipping to Costa Rica almost doubled the cost, but I thought it would be worth it. Unfortunately, this Gerber product turned out to be worthless in jungle environments. It lasted less than 10 minutes in brush before getting large dings in the blade. I was crushed. My shiny new toy trashed in minutes? Was it made of pot steel? I can’t believe Gerber put their name on it.
The irony is, with my $6 local ferreteria (hardware store) machete, I can cut down small trees. In addition, the ferreteria machetes last for years. I didn’t even get a chance to attempt any wood cutting with the Gerber machete. I’m sure the first few good whacks at a branch, it would end its life. Of course, you couldn’t do this without a silica dust control plan otherwise the dust would be too unbearable.
Gerber Machete Pros
I loved the feel of the rubberized handle. The the Gerber machete design looked cool and the tree saw on the back is a useful addition that many machetes don’t have.
I suppose it’s a good buy………..if you’re 14 and want to look like ninja or add to your zombie readiness kit. You can also wear it on your back in between ‘World of Warcraft’ sessions and tater tots.
Gerber Machete Cons
The Gerber steel was far too soft and the blade was too thin. It’s not a good machete for anything beyond grasses and small plants. The Gerber machete is also a rust magnet. If you’re using it is tropical areas, you’ll need to oil it everyday. Regardless of the spiffy ‘tough guy’ marketing, this is not a good survival tool!
My Contact with Gerber
Is Gerber aware that this blade does not hold up when “fending for yourself” in thick jungle? Do they even care? I emailed sales and customer service with my complaint and told them that I’d be happy to field test an update if they develop one. They offered me a replacement, however, I don’t want an additional crappy gerber machete in my garage. We didn’t reach any solution and they didn’t seem concerned that their machete so poorly manufactured.
I’m curious if they put a little more time into developing their “Bear Grylls” survival machete line. They also look great and have a survival marketing gimmick, but I’m not going to risk any loot on another on of their machetes…….unless Danny Trejos gives it a blessing.
If you’re looking for a good machete, check out Cold Steel’s line. They’re inexpensive and use good tough steel. They’ve also got a lot of cool designs so you can look like a ninja if you’d like. The blade below is a based on a Nepalese khukuri design. I have one and find it useful as a defense weapon. It’s heavier end makes it able to do a bit more damage. You know how we like dual purpose items around here!