We review a lot of machetes here at Tech Writer. That’s because we LOVE machetes! Small ones, big ones, two handed ones, cheap ones, expensive ones, you name it.
Where else can you get such a practical, wicked-looking (and typically inexpensive) mini sword that can do so much? There is just something about a machete. Maybe it’s all the movies I watched growing up of people hacking their way through a jungle or all the Soldier of Fortune magazines I read as a kid.
Wherever it stems from, I’m into machetes and they are my go-to tool for lots of different activities. I use them around the yard for everything, I won’t go camping or backpacking without one, and I really enjoy writing about them.
Today, I am talking about the Barebones Japanese Nata Tool and my in-depth review of the tool. I used and abused it and it still stands, but before we get into the details I want to tell you how I found it. Like the ultimate watch I am searching for, I am always looking for that one ultimate woodsman’s tool.
The question will be, “Is this guy all looks, or does that funky square tip actually do something useful?” We are about to find out.
While digging around on the internet for something unrelated, I ended up coming across this Japanese Nata Tool from Barebones. Originally, I saw the Barebones Nata on Amazon. Its cool wood handle and unique shape grabbed my attention, but honestly, I thought it was another goofy “ultimate survival” machete by some fake company.
Amazon is riddled with fake survivalists, knock offs, and other overly promoted brands. I passed, but you know how Amazon works. I kept seeing the Nata for several days, it was just following me around. So I Googled “Barebones Japanese Nata Tool” and then found the Barebones website.
Their story about the Nata and the modification they made to it intrigued me and if you look around the site it’s a totally legit company. In fact, read through their ABOUT page and you will find a bunch of guys passionate about the outdoors. Immediately my confidence went up and I bought one on Amazon for review.
Fancy Packaging & A Nice Sheath
You know you are dealing with a higher caliber of tool from the get-go. The Barebones Nata is packed in a nice, open-face, cardboard box, closer to something you would find at William Sonoma than your typical machete. It also comes in a well thought out nylon sheath that is riveted together with a belt clip. I would have liked to see a regular belt loop or a “dangle” attachment, but the clip works. My issue is where the clip is placed, it makes the machete ride higher up on the hip and it’s very easy to pull the whole thing off your belt, sheath and all, when extracting the machete.
There is another perspective with the belt clip; it does make it easy to throw on and head out into the field. I can see this hanging by the door or behind the seat of your truck and it’s easy to grab and get on your person without having to fuss with belt loops, etc. Perhaps that was their intent.
The Barebones Nata arrived at the perfect time, we were doing a major cleaning of the yard and had a lot of brush, weeds, and vegetation to clear out. I live in the suburbs, but we are on almost an acre of land that we left mostly treed. Over the years we have cleared out the undergrowth and limbed up all the pines and oaks. It looks great but creates another sort of yard maintenance situation and two to three times a year a major cleaning is required to keep everything from growing back. We also tested out several other machetes, so look for those to be posted soon.
Barebones Nata Construction & Blade
The Barebones blade is 3CR13 stainless steel, not a super fancy steel, but one that offers awesome corrosion resistance and is very easy to sharpen. Since a traditional Nata tool is used in landscaping and gardening situations, the corrosion resistance will come in handy. 3CR13 stainless steel is also a relatively hard steel, which is good for a chopping blade like this.
The Nata is definitely a robust tool, you can tell that from the moment you unsheath the blade. But heavy and stout doesn’t always mean it will be fun to use. In fact, just swinging it in the garage a little I thought it was going to be a bear to use. It’s not extremely well balanced, but has more of a heavier front end. In some cases, this can put more strain on the wrist causing early fatigue. The upside to the heavier front is that blades like these tend to make for good choppers, as we’ll see.
The full tang blade is finished off with a nice set of walnut scales. Barebones did a nice job overall with the Nata and there are a lot of small details that make this machete a good buy. The upper portion of the blade has a dark matte finish which will help with blade maintenance. The top of the blade is squared off and it’s able to strike a fire rod if need be. This does scrape off some of the finish, but at least in an emergency you know you could use it.
The blade has a straight back and the blade edge itself has a slight recurve to it. Then it has a squared-off point and a 90 degree edge to it that is also sharpened. This makes a great scraper or leverage tool. Because of the blade curve, this is definitely more of a hefty tool, rather than a backwoods knife, and you are not going to do fine food prep or detail work. Not a negative, because that curve also helps it to be a wicked chopper.
Rather than a traditional straight handle, Barebones Nata has a carved finger groove. The actual full tang handle portion of the knife is contoured and the walnut scales mimic the shape. The scales are attached with stainless steel screws and there is a copper lanyard tube at the end. This contoured handle gives you the ability to choke up for finer work or hold it loosely at the back for bigger swings.
Performance in the Field
Not only did I swing this guy for several hours, my two teenagers used it quite a bit also. The Barebones Nata looks cool, so they were inclined to grab it first from the pile of blades we were trying out. We had to cut back several overgrown shrubs, clear out the bank along the lagoon that runs behind our property, cut down saplings and rampant vines climbing up into the trees, and generally tidy up the woods. This gave us the chance to use the Nata on several different types of vegetation and situations.
I mentioned above about it being on the heavy side. It’s not a heavy tool compared to others in this category, but it’s heavy in the hand to use. After swinging it for an extended period of time I can say that it’s a workhorse, but it will also work out your wrist and arm. Be prepared, this is not a thin-bladed Latin machete, but a beast.
The Barebones Nata is a great chopper and it excelled at cutting down small trees and branches. The first bite of the swing made a deep cut in all but the hardest wood and if you know how to use a chopping tool like this you will be impressed.
We went the whole day without touching up the blade and it was cutting just as well at the end of the day as when we started in the morning. It shows that the 3CR13 stainless steel really does have some good edge retention. We never babied the Nata, and we were chopping a lot of roots and suckers right at the ground level and slightly below.
Both of my boys loved it and actually used the sharpened flat tip in multiple ways, such as cutting out roots and scraping away vines. I was impressed with the overall usability and how it performed. We chopped, sliced, hacked, and even batoned a few pieces of firewood and it never complained or showed any weakness. Under heavy use there is some slight blade flex, but nothing out of the ordinary. What surprised me the most is that the walnut scales never loosened up after all that chopping.
Should You Buy The Barebones Nata?
Should you buy this? That’s the question all of our reviews focus on and today the answer is yes.
I was impressed with the overall build quality, attention to detail, extra effort that went into the packaging, as well as the extra time Barebones took with their website. Normally, a company will sell an imported item and want to gloss over the country of origin or omit it entirely. I appreciate that Barebones clearly states that Nata is “proudly made in China” and they don’t try to hide the fact. I also like that they spent some extra effort on good product pictures. It makes making a buying decision so much easier when you can see real world images.
If you are looking for a small machete or outdoor chopping tool that has finer details and better looks, then the Nata is for you. If you spend a lot of time in the yard, garden, or have a larger piece of property that you tend, then you will be pleased with the Nata on your hip. It has a very useful appeal with a bushcraft/outdoorsman look. For around $70 you get more than a fair deal. You can buy the Barebones Nata on Amazon or here on the Barebones Website.
Blair Witkowski is an avid watch nut, loves pocket knives and flashlights and when he is not trying to be a good dad to his nine kids, you will find him running or posting pics on Instagram. Besides writing articles for Tech Writer EDC he is also the founder of Lowcountry Style & Living. In addition to writing, he is focused on improving his clients websites for his other passion, Search Engine Optimization. His wife Jennifer and he live in coastal South Carolina.