OUT OF THE AMAZON
THE TOPS KNIVES YACARE BRINGS JUNGLE INSPIRED DESIGN TO NORTH AMERICAN WOODS
Inspired by a trip to Colombia, the Yacare 10.0 draws its influence from two strong jungle designs. BY JONATHAN KILBURN
Inspiration can be found anywhere if you’re paying attention. When it comes to machetes, there’s a simple standard: It’s generally thought of as a long, curved blade for underbrush. Throughout history and within many cultures—most notably the jungles of South America—the machete has a standard design and intended use, and while there is no specification for size, they generally tend to be on the longer side.
Enter TOPS Knives, which is turning the preconceived idea of a machete on its head. TOPS has a history of pushing the limits of design to produce superior products. This time, the company seems to have hit the proverbial nail on the head again with its new Yacare 10.0.
The Yacare 10.0
TOPS Knives calls its Yacare 10.0 a medium–heavy machete. Medium for the size of the blade and heavy for the type of performance it can handle. With an overall length of 15.5 inches, and weighing 17.7 ounces, it’s just small enough to fit comfortably in a bag.
The shape pulls heavily from a typical machete and barong design. A broadening blade height extends from the handle and brings in a gentle curve to the tip while keeping a straight spine. The handle is narrower than a typical machete but fits well into the overall design and weight of the Yacare. The blade length looks as if it would be too compact to do much as a machete, but that’s deceptive because it performs easily.
Branches, small trees and underbrush present no issues, while the edge design slices through fibrous vines in the American Northeast with no effort, even making short work of young trees. Although no one is going to chop down a 50-year-old maple with the Yacare, it will handily clear out a campsite or trail along the way.
The 0.190-inch-thick blade features a high grind that is more than half the overall height of the blade and sweeps the entire length. The thin stock and high grind of the Yacare is meant to reduce weight while providing enough material for years of sharpening and support. Straight from TOPS the edge needs no regrinding or sharpening to be an essential and useful tool, which is uncommon in a standard machete. The spine’s shortest spot stands at .25 inch, which may not be able to withstand the abuse a large machete or hatchet would be better suited for.
Into the Wild
I took a trip out to the wilds of the Delaware Water Gap, on the border of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, with the Yacare in its black nylon sheath in tow.
The Appalachian Trail runs right through the national park and is thought to be one of the wildest parts, due to the common underbrush found in this region. While forests grow easily around
this area, the soil is best suited for small trees and thick bushes along the Delaware Water Gap. Combine that with an abundance of slate hills, berries that attract local wildlife and a brisk river, and the landscape is constantly changing and growing. This seems like the type of growth the Yacare was designed to tackle. While hiking up a steep grade I noticed a gathering of small trees, about 2 to 3 inches in diameter and approximately 10 feet tall. With three quick swings, I brought down one of these trees easily. Where the Yacare shines is in its quick chopping/slicing action, due in large part to the blade shape. There is no bush, vine or branch that can’t be easily tamed by the
“WHERE THE YACARE SHINES IS IN ITS QUICK CHOPPING/SLICING ACTION, DUE IN LARGE PART TO THE BLADE SHAPE.”
10.25 inches of high carbon goodness. Chopping through a hard vine may take a few well-placed swings, but overall it will handle nearly everything you’d expect a machete to do.
In the jungle, the machete is a tool to complete large jobs like clearing a field, as well as the smaller functions like carving. The Yacare is no different in that regard. The significant height of the blade lends itself to being gripped comfortably for precise movements. While it wouldn’t be advisable to make a small diameter try stick with it, the Yacare will perform the task if necessary.
While attempting to grip the back of the blade on the spine, I found that my hands fatigued too quickly and constantly slid. A curved barong would have been more comfortable
“TOPS KNIVES CALLS ITS YACARE 10.0 A MEDIUM–HEAVY MACHETE.”
in the hand when held in this manner. But adjusting my grip on the handle of the Yacare was enough to make the precise cuts needed.
My hands are smaller than I’d care to admit, so when I gripped the handle tightly, the grip shape tended to force my fingers to separate. I might have preferred a little less belly and shorter scale waves in the grip, so my fingers would come together more naturally. But for someone with a larger hand, this might not be an issue.
My time in the Delaware Water Gap was spent walking and carving every nook and notch possible. As I came upon a trail, I also happened across a small piece of scrap wood that someone had dropped. Putting the try stick aside, I set the Yacare to task on a notch spring snare.
As I was cutting into the wood, I found it was a noticeably dryer, harder and more brittle wood than the recently hewn try stick. Moving from one type of wood work to the next was of little concern with the Yacare. It cut smoothly and flaked the pieces away without hesitation, showing it wasn’t limited to chopping and try sticks. A few weeks of use in the Delaware Water Gap and hand fatigue had not set in. After heading back to familiar territory, the temperature dropped quickly. Fire became essential, and I cut a small round of wood to make tinder and firewood.
Despite the controversy surrounding batoning, any durable blade can be used for this purpose if done properly. The Yacare might not have been designed for batoning originally, but its medium size makes it a perfect option. To its benefit and convenience, a conventional spine and curved edge allows this blade to move seamlessly through the wood. With the curve, there is an edge making contact, and a flat spot to strike, no matter where you place the Yacare. This straight spine and curved blade is what transforms the Yacare into half machete, half barong.
Resistance to the Elements
After three weeks of considerable on-and-off use, I left the Yacare in its sheath unoiled and in the woods for about a month. When I retrieved it, the edge and engravings had developed some rust, but the 1095 high carbon blade was free of
TOPS' Yacare easily splits a piece of wood for a small fire, stove length or in preparation for a project.
Below: This is the Yacare 10.0 immediately following a month of being kept unoiled in the woods. Notice the minimal surface rust on the edge and engravings.—photo by Reuben Bolieu.
Left: Even with some rust, the author was able to quickly cut through a large, soft vine with three swings.—photo by Reuben Bolieu.
Above: With an overall length of 15.50 inches, the Yacare is a midsize large chopper.
Right: The Yacare 10.0 is at home in any environment. The jungle isn't holding this blade back, and it would be equally useful in a woodsman's pack.
The author demonstrates how the Yacare can easily slice through a mixture of wood types. Soft wood is easily peeled and harder wood chips away.
Green growth can be taken down easily. The author demonstrates how a relatively young tree can be chopped down.
With the blade held at a chest-level grip, a 90-degree latch cut is made into the fresh wood with the Yacare.