How do you choose which machete you want? A breakdown of the features mentioned above would be a good start. You want to choose a combination that would suit your purposes.
The blade length is a simple but important consideration. Which is your priority: portability or reach? Obviously, a longer blade has longer reach. However, it would be harder to transport. A shorter blade would be more portable at the cost of shorter reach. If you don’t really do heavy duty work, then a shorter blade would be practical. Otherwise, you might want to sacrifice convenience for more efficiency. If you want to get a little of both, go for an average blade length.
Blade material has different properties. A carbon steel blade is harder and retains edge sharpness longer compared to stainless steel. It is also cheaper. However, it is prone to rust if not maintained regularly. Sharpening is also more difficult.
Stainless steel resists stain so it requires less maintenance than carbon steel. It is easier to re-sharpen as well. However, it is pretty soft, easy to dull, and more expensive.
High carbon stainless steel combines carbon steel durability and stainless steel rust resistance. But it is even more expensive than the previous two materials. It also has low heat tolerance.
If you want a machete for functional purposes, such as agriculture or survival, carbon steel is more ideal. Stainless steel is better for display purposes. If you are prepared to spend the extra cash, then get a high carbon stainless steel blade to serve both purposes.
If you will be using the machete for heavy-duty work, like chopping hard wood or slicing large game meat, you want one with a full tang. A full tang extends to the handle’s end with rivets keeping it in place.
For choosing the blade style/shape, your intended use for the machete plays a big part. But as discussed earlier, machetes are generally versatile so you can base your decision on the look.
The bush and bolo machetes are general-purpose tools. The bolo gets a heavier weight distribution towards the top of the blade which aids in stronger chopping blows.
Double-edged machetes, like the Colima and Hawkbill styles, are good for clearing vegetation since you slice on both the forehand and backhand stroke.
Handle material also has advantages and disadvantages over each other.
Wooden handles are lightweight, provide good grip, and feel warm on the hands. However, they are more expensive. They also require more attention since they are prone to bacteria buildup and cracking due to water exposure.
Molded plastic handles are easy to maintain and low-priced. They can get slippery though. They may also turn brittle and discolored with time.
Stainless steel handles look nice and only harbor few bacteria. But they are also slippery and expensive.
Rubber handles feels comfortable because of good grip and softness. They can get worn easily though.
Leather handles also provide firm grip. Maintenance is quite tedious though and may get slippery with time.
Micarta handles have good grip and it is really durable and comfortable. But these qualities come with a high price.
Handle styles also have different properties.
Quillon handles prevent your hand from slipping towards the blade. But it offers little knuckle or hand protection.
D-ring/Knuckle guard handles give a high level of hand protection and also prevents slipping. The usual problem, though, is that they don’t fit all hand sizes and adds weight to the machete. The same is true for crossguard handles.