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July 9, 2012 Comments (0) Blades & Tools

Condor Eco-Survivor Machete Review

I like machetes for the outdoors because they are lightweight, easy to sharpen, and affordable. Weight is important when you are trying to pack all the necessary gear for a trip. A few ounces shaved here and there allow you to carry additional items, or less weight on your shoulders and back. Compared to most hatchets and large knives, machetes are lighter.

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Ease of sharpening is important when I’m outdoors away from fancy sharpening tools. Super steels with super edge-holding do me no good if I can’t sharpen them in the field. A basic stone and a diamond hone, or file, are all I need to maintain the edge on my machete. Compared to hatchets and large knives, machetes are less expensive. This lower cost means I’m not afraid to use it hard since it is a lot easier on the wallet to replace if I break it. Well the Eco-Survivor El-Salvador Machete by Condor has all of the above features, and a highly visible orange handle.

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Condor offers the Eco-Survivor El-Salvador Machete in two blade lengths – 14 inches and 18 inches. I will be writing about the 14 inch version. While the blade is 14 inches long, two inches in front of the handle are unsharpened, giving you an actual cutting edge of 12 inches. Steel used is 1075 high carbon, though thinner than Condor’s standard machetes at 5/64ths of an inch thick. Weight is listed at 1.1 pounds. The handle is made from high impact polypropylene and is a bright orange in color. I’m a bit obsessive on handle ergonomics so I made some additional measurements. Handle length was 5 ¼ inches long, with roughly 3 ¾ inches between the front and rear quillons. The handle is oval-shaped in cross section and 7/8ths of an inch at its thickest. The sheath that came with it is a simple pouch-style of cordura nylon with a belt loop.

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John’s Mountain Wildlife Management Area covers 24,849 acres within the Chattahoochee National Forest in Georgia. It’s also roughly 15 minutes from my house. So I grabbed my daypack, the Condor Eco-Survivor El-Salvador Machete, enlisted the help of my oldest son, and headed out. The area we were headed for is a heavily wooded valley with a small stream nearby. Trees are mostly Pine, Oak, Dogwood, Sweet Gum, and some Beech. My boys and I have used the same location to practice outdoors skills for Scouting. Arriving at the trailhead, I just secured the Condor Eco-Survivor El-Salvador Machete to my pack with a D-ring. Due to its light weight and compact size, I hardly noticed it upon putting on my daypack. Short hike and we were at our spot.

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After unloading our packs, I set about improving our campsite using the Condor Eco-Survivor El-Salvador Machete. Behind the site and up a hill, is a spur that is along the Pinhoti Trail. In between was a lot of brush, undergrowth, and small trees. Machete in-hand, I set about clearing a path. Around an hour and a half later I had a path about 2-3 yards wide and 40 yards long. Everything had been cleared down to no higher than my ankle. I’d even chopped through a 3½ inch limb on a fallen Dogwood that was sticking up. Dogwood is hard stuff, but the Condor Eco-Survivor El-Salvador Machete worked fine once I found the sweet spot. Unfortunately before finding the sweet spot I dinged up the tip with a bad hit on the limb. Nothing major, a small chip and a rolled edge that could easily be fixed with a file later on. It definitely lets you know when you hit wrong. The vibration jars your hand and the rear quillon smacked into my little finger.

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Before moving on to my next task, I decided to take a break and touch up the edge on the Condor Eco-Survivor El-Salvadoran Machete. My usual field sharpening tools are a coarse DMT pocket diamond whetstone, and a Spyderco Doublestuff (medium/fine) ceramic sharpener. Starting with the DMT diamond whetstone I began alternating strokes along the edge. As I’d dinged the tip I paid a little extra attention to it working out the rolled edge and chip. Once I’d gotten a toothy edge, I started in with the medium grit side of the Spyderco Doublestuff. After a few swipes of the medium grit, followed by a few with the fine grit, I’d managed to restore a workable edge. While not hair-shaving sharp, it cut a nice straight line opening a pack of sunflower seeds for the boy and me.

While resting I gave the boy a chance to take a few swipes with the machete. The shorter length and lighter weight made it easier for him to swing. The handle was slightly too thick for his hands, but that could easily be remedied by sanding it down.

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Rest break over, and edge restored, it was time to build a shelter of some sort. Normally I’d just sling up an old military issue rain poncho with bungee cords or paracord. Looking around at the material on hand, I decided to build a lean-to with the Condor Eco-Survivor El-Salvador Machete. First I had the boy start gathering leafy limbs from among the debris of the cleared path. While he was busy with this task, I set about finding some suitable limbs or trees to form the support. Out of material the boy gathered, and what had scrounged up, we had plenty of smaller limbs but nothing suitable for the crossbeam. Picking out a tall, wrist-thick Sweet Gum tree, I proceeded to chop it down. The softer green wood was easy to chop through now that I had a feel for the machete. Once down, the Condor Eco-Survivor El-Salvador Machete easily limbed the smaller branches off the tree. Measuring out what I needed, I chopped the tree into 3 sections. Two quick chopping sessions later I had my crossbeam and 2 side supports. Picking out two good trees, I had the boy hold the crossbeam while I grabbed some paracord out of my pack. Tying a half-hitch around one end of the crossbeam, I then used a square lash to secure it to the tree. I then cut the paracord and switched places with the boy so he could practice his knots on the other end. Crossbeam secure, we added the side beams and filled it in to support the leafy branches. Layering the leafy branches on, we had a useable lean-to in short order.

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Path cleared, and lean-to complete, it was time for a snack. Holding the Condor Eco-Survivor El-Salvador Machete like an Ulu, the summer sausage did not stand a chance.

The phrase “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” is a pretty apt description of the Condor Eco-Survivor El-Salvadoran Machete. The lighter weight is good when you are trying to watch how much you are carrying on your pack. The trade-off is less mass behind your swings. You’ll need a bit more power behind your swings when chopping the thicker stuff. The shorter length is less cumbersome and obtrusive, making it less likely to snag on things. In return you sacrifice reach and a smaller sweet spot when chopping. The machete you have with you is always better than the one you left at home. Looking at Condor’s website, the MSRP for the 14 inch Eco-Survivor El-Salvadoran Machete is $34.98. Perusing some different vendors online, you can find it for around $23 to $26. Putting it all together, you have a good, lightweight, packable machete, that won’t break the bank.

www.condortk.com

 

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