“I am easily satisfied with the very best” (Winston Churchill)


Because junglecraft is so reliant on the parang, it is not surprising that people want the very best parang they can buy to take into the jungle.  But the truth is that the ‘best’ parang depends on what it is you’re trying to do with it.  For example, a sledge hammer is a very tiring tool to use if all you’re trying to do is bang in a few thumb tacks, similarly a heavy parang is tiring to use if you’re just going to use it for light trail clearing.

In this video I review some of the parangs that I’ve found myself using most in the last 12 months and what it is I like about them.

Below is a checklist of some of the things to consider when choosing a parang.

Handle

I like a simple, curved handle that allows some rotational movement in the hand – you may need to reshape a handle to fit your hand because, if it doesn’t, you’ll quickly get blisters.

I would avoid an over-shaped (or square) handle with finger grooves (e.g. Gerber’s Bear Grylls parang) as this will make your parang technique stiff and awkward (and give you blisters).  There is a reason axe handles don’t have finger grooves carved into them and the same applies to a parang handle…you want to allow some (controlled) movement of the parang handle within your hand as you swipe.

I would also avoid parangs with lanyards (or remove the lanyard from ones that do) – some people advocate using a lanyard to secure the parang to your wrist in the event that it slips out of your hand.  This seems a bit risky to me – if I let go of the parang mid-strike I want it to go away from me and not have a large, sharp blade swing back around on me like something on a colliding orbit around my wrist.  Whenever you use a parang you should have a safe follow through so that, should the parang slip out of your grip, it safely flies away from you anyway.  And traveling companions should also stand well clear and make sure they are not in line with the parang.

Blade Length

This depends on what you are using the parang for, generally speaking, the long bladed parangs are used for slashing through dense undergrowth that you find in secondary jungles. I try to avoid secondary jungles as they are not nice to travel through and, in primary jungle, there is much less need to slash your way forward (and therefore less need for a long blade length).

If you are starting out, a 10 inch blade is a good way to go and the length I prefer for general use.

Tang

Most Malaysian parangs have a rat-tail tang.  I suspect this is because parangs were traditionally banged into the wood block used to form the handle and a sharp point was therefore necessary.  However, I am not sure why the rat-tail tang is also used with the plastic moulded handles and I would rather they used a heftier (or full) tang with stronger securing pins.  Some people say that a full tang has a negative effect on the forward balance of the parang…maybe this is true, but I still think the plastic handled parangs would benefit from a slightly beefed up tang.

Securing pins

If the parang you buy is a wooden ‘authentic’ type it probably won’t have a securing pin to hold the tang in the handle.  If it doesn’t, put one in… better still put in two as this stops the tang rotating (which it can around a single pin) and working itself loose within the handle.

Edge retention

I can’t tell you the Rockwell hardness of the parangs I use here but my observation is that the blades are not that hard and are easily ‘dinged’ if you hit a stone or with heavy use.  The thing is, this isn’t a problem – because the blade is ‘soft’ it is extremely easy and quick to sharpen and reprofile and you quickly get into the routine of frequently restoring the edge on your parang.

I have an ex-army parang with a stainless steel, very hard blade that takes forever to sharpen and, as a result, I never use it (except as a trowel!)

Weight

Heavier parangs chop better than light ones but are more tiring to use for light clearing on the trail.

The ‘look’ and feel.

It’s nice to have a parang that looks good, and there’s nothing wrong with that.  But using a plastic sheath instead of wooden one is going to reduce weight so it depends on how weight conscious you are.  On day trips I like to take along the Duku Chandong because weight isn’t a major factor, but on longer trips I use a more lightweight option.

Companion knife

With the bigger parangs I find a second, small blade well worth the extra weight.  My favourite is the ridiculously good value Mora 511.

So…. is there a ‘best’ parang ever?  The simple answer is that there may be a best parang for a given task but, the more tasks a parang is designed for (e.g. slashing and chopping and clearing and whittling etc) the more compromised it’ll be and the less good it’ll become at any one of those individual tasks.