Whether you’re chopping wood in your own backyard, clearing branches on a trail or hammering pegs to pitch a tent, a hatchet is a great multi-use tool. A hatchet is different from a traditional axe because of its smaller size, which makes it more portable. Hatchets can also be used with only one hand. Because of their compact design, hatchets are easier to swing in small spaces compared to axes. This makes hatchets ideal for camping trips and survivalist excursions when users don’t want to be weighed down by heavy gear.
A hatchet head is typically forged out of a single piece of steel and attached to a handle that can be made from steel, plastic or wood. Hatchets usually have a pointed, sharp edge for cutting wood and kindling and a flat hammerhead back. The second side adds versatility to the hatchet, which can double as a hammer. The best hatchets may even be forged from a single piece of steel, resulting in an especially durable outdoor tool.
Hatchets are typically used to chop wood, clear branches, help start fires by splitting kindling or, in an extreme case, used against a rock as a fire starter. They can also hammer tent poles and help to build a shelter in a pinch. Hatchets are an excellent multi-use tool that should be at the top of your list for your next outdoor adventure.
1. Fiskars 14″ Hatchet
Make quick work out of big jobs with the Fiskars 14″ Hatchet. The Fiskars is designed with a proprietary grinding technique that results in a sharper edge and cleaner cuts. Thanks to a low-friction coating, the Fiskars’ blade stays sharper longer. Designed with power-to-weight ratio in mind, the hatchet has an ideal weight distribution that is akin to swinging a baseball bat, increasing swing speed to multiply power and cut through wood faster. Designed for small- to medium-sized logs, the 14” Fiskars comes with a safety cover.
Pros: The Fiskars hatchet is designed with FiberComp handles and inseparable insert-molded heads, which are stronger than steel and virtually impossible to break, making this a tool that will last years.
Cons: The Fiskars requires frequent sharpening and does offer a sharpening rock-hatchet combo, but for an additional price. The backside of the blade cannot be used as a hammer, lessening the usability of the hatchet. This is a durable, modern hatchet, but it lacks that classic woodsman axe aesthetic.
2. Estwing Sportsman’s Axe
For a durable hatchet that is designed and made in the USA, try the Estwing Sportsman’s Axe. Forged out of a single piece of steel, the Estwing is a strong and durable hatchet that will last for years. Designed as a Camper’s Axe, the Estwing is tempered for strength and ideal for cutting small logs and kindling for firewood. The hatchet comes with a strong ballistic nylon sheath for safe storage and includes a belt loop, making it easy to keep the hatchet on hand.
Pros: The Estwing features a genuine leather grip that is both comfortable and long-lasting. This well-designed hatchet is forged from a single piece of American steel.
Cons: The coating on the leather handle can be slippery and tape for added grip may need to be applied if you aren’t using gloves.
3. Gerber Bear Grylls Survival Hatchet
When it’s time to buy a hatchet, trust the survivalist who has been keeping very rich (and very well-insured) celebrities alive for years. The Gerber Bear Grylls Survival Hatchet is a special edition hatchet from two trusted names in the outdoors world. Survivalist Bear Grylls has lent his name to the field-tested hatchet, which features a 3.5” full tang, high carbon steel blade that delivers swift and precise cuts. The ergonomic, non-slip rubber grip gives users a firm handle in both wet and dry conditions. We also like that the compact hatchet features a crosshatched striking surface opposite the blade to hammer everything from tent stakes to meat that needs to be tenderized.
Pros: The hatchet comes with a mildew-resistant nylon sheath that includes belt loops for added convenience.
Cons: The hatchet is lightweight, which is good for carrying purposes, but makes it difficult to cut medium pieces of wood.
4. Schrade Full Tang Hatchet
For a compact and durable hatchet that can handle small logs and kindling, try the Schrade Full Tang Hatchet. Measuring only 11.1”, the Schrade has an impressive 3.6″ blade length made from sturdy stainless steel. The ergonomic black rubber grip makes the hatchet comfortable to use for extended periods and helps to absorb the impact. The back half of the blade features a hammer pommel that adds versatility to the tool. A small rope attached to the bottom of the handle can be wrapped around the user’s wrist or attached to a bag.
Pros: The Schrade weighs only 1.6 lbs, which is ideal for campers who don’t want to add weight to their gear or are looking for a hatchet that younger campers, including scouts, can carry.
Cons: The Schrade comes with a sheath, but it’s made from thermoplastic and can easily break down.
5. Gransfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet
For a traditional, high-quality hatchet that is strong, durable and will last for years, we recommend the Gransfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet. The Swedish-made hatchet has a carbon steel blade that stays sharp and doubles as a knife. The 13.5” handle allows the Gransfors to double as a small axe, with the hatchet boasting enough strength and weight distribution to cut large branches and split small logs. A genuine vegetable-tanned leather sheath protects both the user and the blade. The handle fits through a standard belt loop for easy carrying.
Pros: Every purchase of the Gransfors hatchet comes with a copy of the Axe Book. This hatchet features a classic woodsman axe design.
Cons: The Gransfors comes with a steep price tag.