According to the BlogSavy.com website, the word hatchet “comes from the French word Hachette or hache meaning axe.” But long before the French language existed, early versions of these essentials were being handcrafted as long ago as 6000 BC when cavemen were using sinew to lash sticks to rocks to make primitive tools.
Originally fashioned of wood and stone, hatchets evolved in response to new materials like copper, iron, and steel, and few hatchets come with as much lore and history as those crafted by Vikings. These days designs often harken back to Scandinavian design. Hardwood handles cut and polished to perfection hosting blades of steel and iron.
Acquire one for your next camping trip from our nine recommendations for the best backpacking hatchet, and you’ll quickly discover how versatile this tool can be.
Gransfors Bruks Hand Hatchet – Our Pick!
If everything about Swedish artistry and engineering impresses you and you want a hatchet that will be with you for decades down the road, this authentically tooled and manufactured product is worthy of your consideration. Gransfors Bruks hatchets do not come cheap, yet demand is so heavy, this hatchet and its brand cousins sell out fast. The list of tasks you can undertake if you add this tool to your gear inventory is endless. Forge a trail. Cut kindling. Gransfors Bruks insists that this hatchet can fell small trees and who are we to doubt them?
At just 1 pound and offering you a 9.5-inch handle for a beefy grip, this extremely practical item can live in your rucksack safely because this hatchet comes with a full-grain, vegetable-tanned leather sheath that safeguards the blade from getting into trouble. One fan of this hatchet uses his to shape woodworking projects, tasks that requires precision, control, and a solid grip. The English version of the Gransfors Bruks “The Axe Book” is included with your purchase, and you also get a 20-year manufacturer’s warranty.
Hults Bruk Jonaker Hatchet – Also Great!
This comparably-sized hatchet is the love child of a Swedish steel head and solid American hickory handle. It runs around $10 less than the all-Scandinavian Gransfors profiled above, but there is one commonality shared with its 100-percent Swedish brother: this Hults Bruk Jonaker hatchet also sells out fast, so you could have to search far and wide to track one down. Weighing 1.5 pounds (the head accounts for 1 pound) and measuring 9.5 inches, this hatchet won’t let you down.
Hand-ground by craftsmen skilled at artfully striking steelhead in ways that increase density, Hults Bruk produces a tool with a tempered zone that forms the cutting blade area, holding a sharp edge even after years of repeated use and sharpening. The hickory handle is treated with linseed oil to bring up the grain and seal the wood, and you get a traditional leather sheath embellished with unique Swedish decorative elements for a touch of authenticity. Shipped in a customized storage box, you get a valuable user’s manual, too.
Fancy yourself a Ninja? This sleek black hatchet is just ½-inch shorter than the two hatchets profiled above, but this Gerber can be just as lethal during your camping trip if you happen upon a snake or need to trim down stakes that anchor your tent. The black PTFE-coated blade reduces friction, chops clean, and the forged steelhead won’t disappoint now or into the future. Even the composite handle offers unique perks: it absorbs shocks so efficiently, even after a full day of cutting things down, your hand won’t ache or feel strained.
Get a slim sheath that protects the blade from doing damage to your nice backpack when you transport it from place to place, and as if a hatchet can’t get better, this Gerber 9-incher costs just 1/3rd the amount you’ll pay for either the Gransfors Bruks or the Hults Bruk Jonaker. Weighing in at just 1.21 pounds, this Gerber product features an ultra-sharp blade prized for edge retention, and because the head is fabricated of hardened forged steel, this hatchet “slices through wood at a depth that is three times greater than average, allowing for faster chopping and maximum overall performance efficiency.” Speedy. Inexpensive. And no Swedish required to enjoy owning this hatchet because it is made in Finland!
The first thing you notice about this relatively inexpensive hatchet is the “Made in America” sticker on the blade, so if you take pride in your commitment to buy only products made in the U.S.A., you’re going to come up with very few reasons to take a pass on this forged steel axe. Notice we use the word axe and not hatchet here. Part of the reason that’s done is because the blade is 14-inches long, and length is one of the ways axes and hatchets are differentiated. The handle is fabricated of genuine leather to enhance a solid grip, and this ultra-popular camping tool is regularly proclaimed a best seller by folks who love this axe’s brand and performance.
Because this Estwing Axe is forged as a one-piece tool, no need to worry about the head detaching from the handle when you can least afford to have that happen, and that extra 4.5-inch length adds to the scope of the items you can chop down if you select this product over others. Your hands, pockets, and rucksack are all protected from the hand-sharpened cutting edge by the ballistic nylon sheath that comes with this affordable choice. This Estwing product delivers on power, longevity, and tenacity, so don’t let anyone tell you that affordability and quality are mutually exclusive.
You couldn’t mistake your hatchet for anyone else’s if you tried – unless you’re not the only member of your camping party packing a survival hatchet with a green phosphorescent handle. You’ll pay around twice the amount you would have spent on the Gerber listed above, but it could be a wise purchase if you’re tired of poor-quality hatchets that have let you down in the past. Materials don’t lie. This Schrade hatchet has a tough-as-nails titanium-coated 3Cr13 stainless steel head featuring a hammer pommel, and the black glass fiber-filled PA handle delivers more than a distinguishing color; it gives you a powerhouse grip, too.
The dimensions of this hatchet are impressive at 11.8-inches so it literally straddles axe/hatchet length differentials, and at 1.37 pounds, this tool is heavy enough to deliver a powerful blow. The handle does more than stand out from the crowd: you can tuck the extra-large ferro rod with lanyard inside the handle and then stow the hatchet in its thermoplastic belt sheath. As long as you’re not averse to buying products made in China, this survival hatchet could prove the most essential item in your camping gear and at a price that won’t destroy your gear budget.
If you can find one of these popular products after a relatively short search, consider yourself lucky because this hatchet does it all at a very affordable price, says manufacturer SOG: Chopping, breaking, cutting, hammering, piercing, digging, prying, pounding, shaving, notching, opening and throwing. Whew. And all you wanted was a way to tackle ordinary tasks in the wilderness. Marketed as “faster, lighter, more agile and easier to carry” than its brand mate, the Tactical Tomahawk, this hatchet’s polished, 420 stainless steel head features a hard-cased black coating mounted to the ballistic polymer (glass-reinforced nylon) handle via heavy-duty bolts.
Swing your hatchet with confidence since side hammer checkering ensures precision placement and follow-through. Despite the extremely low selling price, a nylon sheath that can be mounted to your belt, backpack, or gear is included with this hatchet, and since it’s covered by the manufacturer’s lifetime warranty, if you find yourself with a defective product, SOG is happy to compensate you. At 12-inches and weighing just over 1 pound, try eBay if you can’t find this product at your favorite retailer, but be prepared for price differentials since this hatchet sells out faster than retailers can get more.
If the brand name seems familiar, that’s because the corporation that makes the Fiskars X7 hatchet is one of the leading names in scissors manufacture, and the orange color is also associated with this family of cutting tools. As the least expensive hatchet on our list, you get benefits and features that you would expect from a pricier product. While it’s unlikely that this hatchet would have been George Washington’s choice for chopping cherry trees, this Fiskars hatchet is an ideal pick for those engaged in cutting kindling and small- to medium-size longs for firewood.
Manufactured to perfectly balance power-to-weight ratio increases that can impact swing action (Fiskars compares this hatchet to an aluminum baseball bat), expect cleaner cuts and sharper edges thanks to the company’s proprietary blade-grinding system. Further, a blade coating is added to this hatchet that is meant to reduce your chances of having your hatchet get stuck in a log when you can least afford to have that happen.
Fiskars offers shoppers a lifetime warranty on this hatchet. When last did the least affordable tool on your shopping list come with this kind of guarantee?
While availability may be iffy, there’s no denying that this hatchet is the longest one in this review at 15-inches (which technically makes it an axe), and that’s not the only unusual thing about this CAMAQUI hatchet. The styling is closer to Scandinavian products but the roots of this company are more exotic: “Our products are sourced from the same blacksmith of luxury Damascus steel axes, but at a fraction of the cost,” according to this product’s marketing materials, making this hatchet a true outlier on our list.
Origins? CAMAQUI is a South Korean brand yet these hatchets are hand-forged in Pakistan under the control of the South Korean home office. In terms of construction, the head of this hatchet is hand-made of high carbon steel, and the hickory wood handle is designed to ergonomic standards.
A heavy-duty cow leather sheath is included when you buy this product, and you also get a 100-percent satisfaction guarantee. That stated, finding one of these hatchets is going to be a challenge. We even visited a website in Kuwait that sells survival gear, but they have no idea when they will be restocked by CAMAQUI either!
Would anybody be surprised to find that included among the products profiled in this review is a sleek Bear Grylls hatchet? Probably not. Grylls has an endorsement deal with Gerber, and the collaboration drives sales, especially for this clever dude’s many fans. Featuring the signature BG logo on the handle, this full tang, hard carbon steel blade is ready to make swift, precise cuts with each blow you strike, and because the handle is ergonomically designed, you can feel confident that you won’t lose your grip even if things get wet or sweaty.
The nylon sheath accompanying this hatchet is crafted of mildew-resistant nylon, and the belt loop allows you to keep it close at hand but safe while it’s not in use. Gerber reminds shoppers that this tool is “Wild tested, Bear Grylls approved,” but sadly, they may not be able to tell you where you can find one because, like other popular hatchets described in this review, this Gerber/Grylls model also sells out fast.
That stated, if you find one, the good news is that you won’t pay a fortune for it. There’s just a dollar or two difference between the price tag on this Gerber and those made by SOG FastHawk and Estwing Sportsman. Good luck with your search!
Hatchet vs Axe – What’s the difference?
You’ve probably already noticed that amid the 9 recommendations covered in this review, most refer to this tool as a hatchet while only one refers to itself as an axe (the Estwing Sportsman), so you may be wondering why it was included. We’ve got your answer courtesy of MensGear.net. While the terms tend to be interchangeable, the differences can be found in the size of each tool.
Hatchets tend to be smaller than axes because they’re engineered to be used with one hand only. An axe, say experts, is designed to be gripped by two hands which is why you’ll find axe handles that can measure up to 36-inches long.
Hatchets are primarily manufactured to tackle smaller jobs like kindling rather than felling trees that require two hands to get the job done. Further, the bigger the job, the more power and brute force you’ll be required to exert, and longer backswings are necessary, which is why you’ll find axes weighing up to 7 pounds. Imagine trying to stuff one of these babies into your rucksack!
Size. Weight. One hand or two? These are the three factors separating hatchets from axes, but if you’re still confused, keep in mind the words of the guys at MensGear when they attempted to differentiate the two: “Hand axes are designed to fend off zombies!” they say. Hatchets are for mundane tasks that do not involve the undead. Got it?
Types of hatchets
Having come to the realization that size and power are the only factors that separate hatchets from axes, we went in search a list of hatchet types, thinking the task would be a no brainer. Alas, its seems that axes dominate this niche while hatchets tend to earn little more than a mere mention in passing when discussing axes.
For example, Matt Suwak’s post on Primal Surviver.net titled “23 Different Types of Axes – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly“, barely gives the humble hatchet a 78-word write-up while axes dominate the space. Apparently, there are no hatchet types; just axe types.
Weights and sizes of hatchets
When searching for information related to hatchet sizes and weights, we were again forced to troll an axe site for these numbers, using as our guide the fact that hatchets will always be categorized as shorter, lighter gear. The Awesome Axes website introduces readers to the fact that “A lot of people, especially guys, are eager to buy heavy axes”. But once you get up into the rarified 6- to a 7-pound category, you are definitely in axe territory.
Your best bet is to err on the light side by investing in a hatchet that weighs around one pound, and as you can see by the hatchets reviewed in this article, the longest of the bunch measures just 15-inches, though the most highly-rated tend to fall within the 9-inch range. Remember, you’re not felling trees. You’re looking for a small, comfortable tool that gets all the little tasks done with aplomb. Light and compact. Portable. Got the message?
Just in case you believe that the only hatchet accessory worth owning is a proper sheath to make sure your tool is secured safely while you undertake campground tasks, you haven’t visited Etsy lately. Once introduced to the world as the place to find original crafts, fashion, and furnishings, there is currently a creative gathering of hatchet accessories featured on Etsy’s dedicated page ( HERE ).
From toy hatchets and one-of-a-kind, hand-made adult hatchets to protective sleeves and jewelry charms shaped like hatchets, this is the place to go for items and gifts that showcase the humble hatchet.
What’s your budget?
Hatchet fans need not worry if their checkbook balances are low because they can find plenty of quality products in this category. Our picks run between $25 and $160, but there are plenty of hatchets sporing price tags that are even lower than $25. At the extreme, do check out this $4,999.00 hatchet featured on the Etsy website.
If you’re the ultimate hatchet fan and price is no object, be advised that on the day we visited the page, there was only one left. On the other hand, if you just seek years of performance without the drama, products on our list should suffice, especially if you can come up with limitless ways to spend the $4,900 you’d save by taking a pass on this Etsy exclusive.
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