The Gerber Parang had the potential to be a truly remarkable and well-loved production knife, but its launch was marred by reports of catastrophic failure in terms of shoddy quality control. I happen to think that’s a damn shame because this knife is currently one of my favourite hard use knives. For the record, I’ve never personally experienced any poor quality control with my own parang.
Most machetes are produced as cheap farm tools with no real care taken in regards to fit and finish. Basic elements like sheaths are normally completely disregarded. This is where Gerber’s Bear Grylls Parang Machete comes in as quite different from the norm. The design of this knife was certainly derived for low cost local production, and while it is definitely fit for farmers who might seek something a bit more akin to the stereotypical Western camp knife, it’s also got a very nice finish, and a cheap but acceptable sheath.
The knife has great balance for light chopping and vegetation. The blade is anaemic – so thin – at just 1/8th of an inch wide, with a total length of 13.5 inches of blade. The handle is reasonable in the ergonomics department, with a nice palm swell. I did wrap the handle in tacky nylon tape, however, just for a bit of traction and so that the ridges won’t bite into my skin.
Again, the sheath is surprisingly decent and will stand up to the rigours of hard use in uncertain environments.
Although I can’t say I would ever carry it on my belt, it’s nice to know I have the option. My advise is to make a sling for it in case you’re thinking of carrying it, or just keep it strapped to your backpack. An emergency signals data sheet is stitched into the reverse of the sheath. A nice detail, I think.
The machete has great blade shape for general bushcraft activities: it debarks like a pro.
There’s no good way to choke up for detail tasks, so I would suggest using your free hand to control the pressure on the blade. That produces decent enough precision for a blade this size. The sub 20 oz weight helps in that regard. Also, since the default edge angle is pretty obtuse, the blade can be pretty versatile.
The handle features integrated guards. I’m not convinced that this feature is at all needed, but it would definitely help appeal to those who gravitate toward the tactical in all knives.
The machete acts as an excellent chopper, and can completely decimate 2 inch wide branches in one fell swoop with no difficulty.
The Grylls Parang wouldn’t be my first choice to do serious chopping with, especially if I was chopping hardwood, as the handle doesn’t seem designed to handle vibrations of that nature. Nonetheless, when push comes to shove, it does perform very well as a chopping knife, and takes extremely large bites out of the wood with each act of contact.
One downside of such a thin stock is that the blade will bind up in thicker pieces of wood. To help prevent this as much as possible, use sharp motions with clean angles when striking the wood.
Below, you can see the thickness of the blade when compared to the Ontario Marine Raider Bowie. Needless to say, the contrast is dramatic!
Ontario SP10 Marine Raider Bowie – Amazon
Batoning with the parang is not completely ideal due to the super thin stock. If the wood your batoning is soft, it will go through the wood like butter, but with hardwood expect the blade to bind up. On the flip side, its length makes striking the spine when batoning really easy.
One of my favourite things about the aesthetics of this knife is the gorgeous blade profile. Those Indonesians hit a home run when conceiving such a beautifully utilitarian design.
For all intents and purposes, the Gerber Bear Grylls Parang is what happens when a Western camp knife is crossed with a South East Asian blade profile, and damn does it look good!
The lightness of the blade makes chopping light vegetation very enjoyable, and while some individuals have reported failure in the quality control department, I personally never experienced any issues.
I’ve been wielding it for 15 months and it’s done nothing but impress me.