Parang and Golok: Differences and Similarities
When it comes to knives from Southeast Asia, two types that often come to mind are the Parang and the Golok. We picked up a pretty solid and bombproof version of each for our season 2 blades that we’ve named the Bushcraft Parang and the Hunter’s Golok. Given where they come from and their design intent, they’re both great options for outdoors, camping, and bushcraft trips and every day tasks. Both blades are used for chopping and cutting tasks, make quick work of greenwood and brush, and are portable easy-to-carry blades for the bush that pack a hell of a punch. Overall, most users will find them equally as practical and useful, but there are a few use cases when it may be preferable to have one over the other.
First, the Parang. This is typically a larger blade, with a wider body and a more pronounced curve. The handle is often made of wood or other natural materials, though more industrial version made for farms and plantations often opt for water and rot immune HDPE plastics and polymers (that’s all of our blades). The Parang is well-suited for heavy-duty tasks such as clearing brush or chopping wood and highly recommended if you’re just out back clearing swaths of brambles, tall weeds, and woody scrub brush. The Golok is more akin to bowie knife, with a narrower blade and a less pronounced curve. Our hunter’s golok has a bit narrower grind than our parangs, making it feel “sharper” and really bite into whatever it’s cutting or chopping. Just like the parang the handle can be wood, other natural materials, or (again in our case) a water and rot proof HDPE plastic. The Golok is often used for more precise tasks, such as carving and whittling, and we’ve spent hours out around the fire pit just practicing notches and toying around with fatwood and other kindling. It’s a fun knife!
Historically, and in terms of traditional origin, both Parang and Golok knives are from Southeast Asia, the name "Parang" is of Malay origin, and is commonly used in Malaysia and Indonesia, while the Golok knife is also commonly used in Indonesia, as well as in countries such as Thailand, the Philippines, and Vietnam. These knives have a long history of use in these countries for various tasks such as agriculture, hunting and general outdoor activities.
When it comes to the steel used to make these knives, traditionally, they were made from carbon steel, which is a type of steel that contains carbon as the primary alloying element. However, modern versions of these knives are made of different type of steels, such as high carbon steel, stainless steel, and Damascus steel, each has its own set of properties and advantages.
Overall, if you’re going into the woods to practice a bit of bushcraft or clear a few hiking trails, the Parang may be the best choice. Conversely, if you’re just looking for a larger camp knife that can make quick work of any task around the firepit, practicing notches, or even processing meats, a more traditional Golok style blade might be up your alley. The Parang is a heavy-duty knife with a wider, more curved blade, while the Golok is a smaller, more precise knife with a narrower, less curved blade. Both are designed for chopping and cutting tasks, and both can have handles of natural materials or more modern plastic polymers. Whether you're looking for a knife to clear brush or carve a wooden spoon, one of these Southeast Asian knives is sure to suit your needs and add some fun flare to your trips in the woods!