The best survival hatchets are incredibly versatile, durable, and designed to handle some pretty tough jobs out in the backcountry, and they should be at the top of your survival gear list. These are the tools that you’ll find yourself relying on the most since they can be used for a wide range of applications including processing game, setting up a tent, felling small trees, and preparing firewood. These lightweight compact tools should be part of any survivalist’s arsenal and because they’re so versatile you will often find yourself relying on this type of tool several times a day whether you’re hiking on an underdeveloped trail, camping, hunting, or exploring the backcountry.
Of course, you’ll need to search for a model that comes equipped with a blade that can hold an edge, and a handle that offers improved gripability. These days there are several models to choose from which can make it difficult to find the perfect one but that’s where I come in.
I’ve reviewed several models and narrowed it down to the top six hatchets on the market. Below, you’ll find a comparison chart that lists some of the similarities and differences between each model, to help you choose one that will work for you based on whether you need a hatchet for camping, hiking, or hunting, or a model that can easily fit in your go bag.
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Survival Hatchets Comparison Chart
Best Overall-Fiskars 378501-1002 X7 Hatchet
This model by Fiskars is a perfect choice for handling small to medium-sized logs of preparing kindling. The well-balanced design will allow you to chop wood deeper with every swing, making short work of any woodpile. It features an excellent power to weight ratio that’s designed to multiply power and increase swing speed. The low-friction blade coating will allow the blade to easily slice through wood, while preventing the head from getting stuck.
Best Grip Handle-Gerber Bear Grylls Survival Hatchet
This is a compact, lightweight model by Gerber that weighs in at just under one and a half pounds. It’s equipped with a three and a half-inch blade that’s perfect for felling small trees and clearing brush. The handle features a thick rubber coating to improve grip, even when the handle is wet. It also comes with finger notches located below the head that will allow you to securely choke up on the hatchet for excellent control.
Most Durable Head Design-Gransfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet
The Gransfors Bruks wildlife hatchet weighs a little over a pound and is categorized as a traditional camping, hunting and scouting hatchet. It’s the perfect choice if you’re searching for the best animals to hunt on your latest adventure in the backcountry. Its long handle will add more power to each swing. Lightweight, made out of durable materials and equipped with an annealed, honed, and tempered head, this model’s blade is basically indestructible.
Multifunction-Off Grid Tools Survival Axe Ultimate Outdoor Multitool-Hatchet Hammer Saw
This Off Grid model is a multifunctional tool that comes with a hammer and saw back head. The innovative design also includes a pry bar, nail claw, bottle opener, multiple hex wrenches, and a nail puller. The saw blade is six inches in length. As you can see, this multitool is perfect for a long camping trip in the backcountry.
Full Tang Design-Gerber Pack Hatchet
This model’s full tang construction results in improved durability and power. The handle is wrapped in a thick layer of rubber for improved comfort and grip. This handle is also equipped with finger grooves for improved control and handling. This model is perfect for survivalists, hikers, hunters, campers, and small to medium-sized jobs around the yard.
Most Versatile-IUNIO Camping Axe Multi-Tool Hatchet Survival Kit
This is another leading multitool in my top six lineup and it features secret storage in the hollow tube handle. This is the perfect model for any bug out bag, thanks to its compact, lightweight design. It also comes with a variety of attachments including a bottle opener, whistle, fish scaler tool, compass, flint/magnesium rod, and hammer. Versatile, lightweight, and made out of durable metal, this is a must-have for the serious survivalist.
The best survival hatchet will be one of the most versatile tools you have in your Arsenal. Unlike an axe, this tool is more compact and it’s been used for hundreds of years for a wide range of applications including chopping down wood for fires and clearing brush. However, it has a very simple design even though it’s incredibly versatile.
Its compact design makes it very maneuverable, so it’s a great choice if you’re looking for a highly portable cutting tool. You can use it as a defense weapon, a replacement for a hammer, or you can even use it to start a fire. This type of versatility makes it a favorite amongst many survivalists and campers. However, if you’re looking for the very best then you’ll need to be prepared to sort through several lower-quality models to find one that’s designed to last.
When you’re shopping around, there are many characteristics to look for and a lot of factors that will go into choosing the right model.
Fortunately, unlike axes, a good hatchet isn’t very expensive. Typically, you can find a top-of-the-line model for around $100 or less. But in order to find a good quality model and one that’s designed to last, you’ll need to pay close attention to its design and what it’s made out of. Look for a model that’s made from quality materials and produced by a reputable company.
Pay close attention to the head design, blade style, and the material it’s made out of. Most survivalists can agree that carbon steel is the best material for the head. A hatchet should be made out of hard steel that is designed to hold an edge. You’ll drive yourself crazy if you end up with a model that has to be sharpened several times a day, and this can happen if you purchase one that’s made from soft steel.
In terms of style, it will all boil down to design and type. Axe head styles and tomahawks both work well. However, the tomahawk will usually have a striking point on the rear such as a spike, while a traditional hatchet head has a small blade and may or may not come equipped with a hammer on the back.
Wider hatchets are often much heavier and can cut through thicker wood with every strike. Yet, they’re not the best choice for jobs such as carving.
The handle on most models is made out of the one of the three following materials:
The wood handle is by far the most common. This type of handle is not only attractive but it’s incredibly durable and designed to last. However, the grain pattern is important and should run parallel with the bed. With this design, you’ll get maximum strength with each strike. Survivalists, hunters, and hikers prefer a model equipped with a wooden handle simply because this material can absorb impact and vibration better in addition to its natural resistance to damage from hacking away. This type of material also allows you to repair the hatchet should the head come loose with excessive use.
Metal is also a great choice, but it does come with some drawbacks. Weight is the most obvious one. Models equipped with a metal handle will be much heavier compared to fiberglass or wooden handles. Additionally, corrosion is another concern.
Fiberglass is incredibly strong and lightweight and can resist all types of corrosion. Plus models that come equipped with a fiberglass handle will have a rubber grip overlay. Without the rubber grip overlay, the tool would be difficult to grasp since fiberglass is notoriously slick.
Weight and Feel
When shopping around, balance is a common oversight. Ideally, you don’t want a model to have the center of gravity located where the handle meets the head. A model that’s not well-balanced will be difficult to swing and will cause user fatigue quickly.
Most models are considered multifunctional tools. These days, there are Innovative designs that truly maximize this tool’s versatility, turning it into the type of multitool that every survivalist can rely on. Some models will contain extras like hammers, compasses, and even saws. While you still won’t get quite as many tools as you would with a multi-folding knife, the additional tools that do come with these multifunctional models often come in handy and you’ll find yourself relying on all of these extra tools regularly.
Strength and Quality
The strength and durability of this tool will all boil down to the type of materials it’s made out of and the head and handle design. If you buy a model that comes equipped with a carbon steel head then you know you’ll have yourself a hatchet that’s designed for years of use. However, it’s important to keep in mind that this tool is not an axe and should not be used for the same duties. If you need a tool for heavy wood work for serious chopping you’re better off with an axe as these tasks can quickly wear out a hatchet.
Basically, a hatchet is a mini axe. These smaller cutting tools have sizes that range between 10 and 16 in., so if you’re looking for anything bigger you’re better off buying an axe.
The hatchet’s weight should also be much lighter compared to an axe. You’ll want to look for a model that’s around one pound, however, one and a half pounds is also pretty common. The lightweight design will make it much easier for you to use with one hand and will allow you to use it for a longer period of time compared to an axe.
Using a sheath to protect and cover the blade is important. A sheath is designed to cover the blade when the tool is not in use, which will help to protect both your belongings and you from any type of accidental damage. Most models will come with their own sheath which can be made from nylon, plastic, or leather.
This tool can be used for clearing brush, cutting and gathering edible forest plants, setting up camp, preparing kindling, felling trees, and so much more. Considering their lightweight, and compact design they should be used in a kneeling position, one-handed. This position will give you total control over each stroke you make and will prevent you from using too much power per swing.
Hatchets are the best when it comes to chopping wood. In fact, they’re a perfect choice if you need to fell a small tree, clear brush, or get rid of any other type of obstacles and debris from your campsite or when you’re on a trail. The compact one-handed design will give you more accuracy and total control over your swings, leaving your other hand totally free and allowing you to move things out of the way as you take each swing.
They’re the perfect choice for splitting kindling and small logs. To do, you’ll want to begin by kneeling and placing a small piece of wood on another chunk of wood or an old stump. Doing so will prevent you from hitting your leg or the ground. Why you can’t exactly split a large log with a hatchet you’ll find that they can make short work of smaller pieces of wood and they’re a great tool to use for prepping firewood.
If you’re a woodworker or a carver then there’s no doubt that you’ll put this tool to work. In terms of carving, the real trick here is to hold the tool by the head and allow it to slide along each piece of wood. Doing so will allow you to remove long strips of the wood with improved control and accuracy. You can also use this trick when you’re preparing kindling for a fire.
What’s the Difference Between an Axe and A Hatchet?
Some people will use the terms axe and hatchet interchangeably, but there are some subtle differences between each of these tools. To start, most axes often consist of heads that attach to the handle via a shaft system. This means that the top of the axe will have a distinct eye. With a hatchet, it’s often made from just a single piece of metal. This will give the hatchet more of a solid feel in your hand.
An axe is not as refined as a hatchet. The hatchet can be used to shave off wood splinters that are very thin. They’re also much lighter and smaller and definitely more maneuverable, which will allow the user to perform more complex swings using less effort.
Additionally, you’ll notice that the hatchet will often have a hammerhead on the back which is what makes it the go-to tool when you’re camping in the backcountry or on a long cross-country hike. Axes are mainly used for chopping, so they do not often come with a hammer head back which makes them less versatile compared to the hatchet. Because of this, if you’re planning a long hunting trip or camping trip the hatchet is a much better tool and one that you’ll find yourself relying on more often than you would an axe.
Obviously, there is a significant difference in size between these two tools. And axe will have a much larger blade. The hatchet has a smaller plate size which means it will take much longer to cut through a branch than if you were using an axe. However, if you only need to cut off small branches then the hatchet is a better choice.
Care and Maintenance
In terms of care and maintenance, if you know how to sharpen an axe with a stone, then you should easily be able to maintain the hatchet’s blade. You can use a grinder in order to re-profile a blade or to remove large nick’s or chips from the blade head.
However, you must do this carefully considering metal can easily become overheated. Beginners should use a hand file instead. While using a file may take a little longer it will significantly reduce the risk of damaging the head. When using a file to resharpen the blade, make sure that you keep the entire face of the edge in constant contact with the file.
You can also use a basic axe sharpening stone to maintain the edge of the blade. These stones come with two different sides, coarse and fine. To sharpen, you can wet the blade using a small amount of oil, rubbing with circular motions along both sides of the blade for an even amount of time. In the end, you’ll achieve a clean, good, sharp edge.
If you want to go a step further and refine the edge you can try stroking it on a leather belt. Fortunately, most types of hatches come equipped with strong handles that are made out of hickory wood, which is flexible. To clean the handle, you can use linseed oil to wipe them down. However, you also need to be careful of applying too much oil which can make the handle slippery. Keep in mind that the leather sheaths will also need to be oiled periodically. The sheaths are made out of a variety of different types of leathers and can easily dry and crack if left to the elements.
What to Avoid
If you normally rely on your hatchet for most jobs when you’re out camping then over time, the odds are that the head of the hatchet will become loose. Whatever you do please avoid soaking it in water. This will cause the handle to dry out if it’s made out of wood which will make matters worse. To fix a loose head, you’ll need to re-wedge the handle.
If your hatchet already has a wedge remove it and measure it and then use a slightly bigger one. If the hatchet doesn’t already have a wedge you can install one. To find a wedge, head out to your local hardware store and speak with staff who can help you choose the right size wedge for the job.
Felling Small Trees
If you’re using this tool to fell a small tree there’s a pretty easy technique to follow. Typically trees tend to lean in one direction. When you’re chopping down the tree make sure you get underneath the lean and chop into the tree from a downward and upward angle in order to make a wedge through it. Once you’re about halfway through the tree then you can switch to the opposite side and quickly take it down with a couple of swings.
If you’re setting up camp you can use the hammer back of the tool to pound in the tent stakes. However, before you begin, make sure you keep the blade sheath on, in order to prevent an injury during the upswing.
If you’re lucky enough to kill a pig, deer, or elk on your next camping trip then you can also utilize the hatchet to separate its quarters and Joints much more easily compared to using a skinning knife.
As you can see, in order to find the best survival hatchet you’ll need to do a little research. I hope my buyer’s guide and my in-depth reviews of the top six models on the market have helped you to narrow down your choices so you can find a tool that’s durable, perfectly balanced, and designed to last. Remember, the model that you choose should best suit the intended applications whether you need one for felling small trees, kindling, processing game, or helping to set up camp. I’m confident that you’ll find the perfect match in my top six lineup and end up with a hatchet that will last you season after season.