By John Campbell
This is the first of three articles in this series. This kicks off the Arizona Bushman’s Top Pick of the year for 2013. I have been a huge fan of TOPS knives for quite sometime and knowing their high quality blades they are deserving of this position. Over the last few years, I have had the honor using many TOPS knives. To this day, there has not been one blade that I did not like; or one that I found uncomfortable while in use. With that, it was very difficult for me to make the decision on what blades I wanted to write about to represent such a great company that sticks to their core values. If you have ever had the pleasure of meeting anyone from TOPS Knives you understand where I am coming from, they are all very good people.
Right off the bat, I knew this machete was going to be great. Right out of the box, it was razor sharp and seemed to almost be made for my hand. The grip was so comfortable I had no worries of this blade slipping out of my hand while in use. Just for added safety, TOPS added a bit of shock cord to use to prevent slippage. This is placed over the knuckles to hold the tool in your hand. I was very happy with the sheath it came in too. Two six-inch pockets will hold many emergency items; I like to carry a multi tool as well as some fire starting tools. The belt loop will fit a variety of belts sizes; however, I do not personally carry machetes on my belt. My favorite way to carry a tool like this is to shoulder it. I find that I can keep the tool out of the brush, drop it very quickly if I had to, and even reach for it in a hurry as well.
I used the Machete .230 to clear some brush from my yard to get a better feel of how the tool would perform while in the field. 500 square feet of chest high weeds gone in a flash and the edge had not shown any signs of wear. Over a weekend camping trip I decided to build a frame from willow branches to support my tarp. This I find is a very cozy way to spend any time outdoors, tarp and hammock. I started out cutting only two branches to use to give some rigidity to the sides of the tarp; I ended up cutting a lot so I could actually frame the tarp out. The wind picked up for a while and this set up gave a lot of rigidity to the structure and allowed the tarp to have a firm base that was very strong. In high winds the way the frame was lashed together and then anchored, it allowed the frame to move enough but not break.
Above is the shelter I put together. Many times during summer camping trips I find that the heat likes to stay under tarp making a sweltering environment. By framing the tarp and raising the sides not only did I gain more ceiling area, I was able to allow the shelter to breath more efficiently. I did not care about the poles being straight or crooked. I was going on the premise that I could kick them out of the way to lower the sides should a storm move in.
This is not the only work this tool saw over the weekend. I allowed my 16-year-old son and his friend to use it as well. They decided to build a shelter and sleep in it over night. I advised them on the type of shelter and they took it from there. Over the course of several hours, they chopped wood from nearby logjams and cut a few branches from several trees. From time to time, I would check in and see how the machete was doing. I was honestly astounded that the entire trip, hours of chopping, and even after two teenagers used it, I have not had to work the edge. In fact, when we got home I simply washed the blade with a sponge and it cleaned up like new.
This is my son and his friend’s shelter. This was actually their very first shelter they had ever built. When I asked them about the job, they undertook they told me they do not think it would have been possible without the machete. I don’t know but I can say with certainty that the job would have been a lot harder. Joe Flowers and Leo Espinosa did a knockout job building this very practical tool. It is a no nonsense design that is not going to let you down.
I have been a huge fan of the idea of the one tool option for many years. I see a machete as being one of the most valuable tools to carry especially for the one tool option. There are tribes and indigenous people all over the world that rely on their machetes. In most cases, this is the only tool they can afford so every task they do is with that blade. I strongly believe that if you have the right skill set you would not only survive but also thrive using this one tool.
O/A Length: 22 1/2″
Handle Length: 6 3/4″
Blade Length: 15 3/4″
Steel: 1095 High Carbon Steel
Handle:Black Linen Micarta
Blade Color:Ash Gray
Sheath: Ballistic Nylon with 2 Bellows Pockets 6″ Long
This is a photo of the Machete .230. Be sure to watch the video below to learn more about this blade and the experience I had in the field with it. If you are into the idea of a one-tool option this is my top pick. If interested in this blade please check out TOPS Knives!