Best hatchet

Cutting Tools

Some “survival” or camp hatchets contain a number of useful tools, such as a fire striker, inside their handles.

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Which hatchets are best?

While every tool brought to a campsite serves a purpose, few are as versatile as the hatchet. A quality hatchet is light enough to carry in a backpack but strong enough to convert branches into kindling and small trees into emergency housing. A sharp hatchet can also help field-dress wild game, and some models even store other survival gear, such as fire starters, in their handles.

If you are in the market for a quality hatchet, read our helpful shopping guide. At the top of our list is the Gransfors Bruk 13.5-Inch Wildlife Hatchet, a handcrafted survival hatchet from Sweden that keeps a good edge and is an ideal weight for multiple uses.

What to know before you buy a hatchet

Construction materials

  • Head. While all hatchet heads are promoted as “made of steel,” there are still varying degrees of quality to consider. A hatchet head made from stainless steel may be rust-resistant, but it is not necessarily the best choice for chopping wood. Total carbon content by percentage is an important consideration (the higher the better), and hand-forged blades are generally more durable.
  • Handle. When it comes to handle construction, there are a number of materials to choose from. Single-piece hatchets tend to have solid rubber or wrapped leather handles. Two-piece hatchets may be made from traditional hardwoods, fiberglass, or carbon fiber composites.

Handle length

The length of a hatchet’s handle is one of its most defining features. By design, a hatchet handle will be shorter than that of a standard ax. However, the relative length of the handle can determine how much force is transmitted to the head and blade during use. A longer handle means more leverage and overall power, but a shorter handle provides more control and improved portability.

Weight

The overall weight of a hatchet can be a trade-off between power and portability. If a hatchet is too light, it will not be able to cut through heavier branches or fell a small tree. If it is too heavy, fatigue can set in quickly.

What to look for in a quality hatchet

Sheath

The head and blade need to be protected from the elements between uses, and you need to be protected from the head and blade. A good leather or plastic sheath addresses both of these issues. Not all hatchet manufacturers include a sheath as part of the original package.

Belt loops

Some hatchets fit securely in special belt loops around the user’s waist. Much like a contractor’s toolbelt, a number of important survival tools can be carried close to the body for easy access instead of being stored away in a backpack or storage box.

How much you can expect to spend on a hatchet

An entry-level tool-grade hatchet can generally be purchased at a hardware or sporting goods store for $30 or less, but high-quality models with hand-forged heads and durable handles can cost $150 or more. Anything in the mid-range should be suitable for most amateur campers who do not require survival tools.

Hatchet FAQ

Q. Is there a difference between a hatchet and an ax?

A. A hatchet is generally smaller and lighter than a standard ax, but some people refer to a hatchet as a “camp ax.” A hatchet can be used with one hand, while a wood-chopping ax requires two hands.

Q. I’ve tested out several different hatchets, and there seems to be a noticeable weight difference. What is an ideal weight for a hatchet?

A. Hatchets are supposed to be light enough to use with one hand, but heavy enough to chop wood efficiently. Camping experts suggest an ideal hatchet should weigh around 1.5 pounds for general purposes.

What are the best hatchets to buy?

Top hatchet

Gransfors Bruk’s 13.5-Inch Wildlife Hatchet

Gransfors Bruk’s 13.5-Inch Wildlife Hatchet

Our take: For those seeking an all-around hatchet for handling multiple tasks, this hand-crafted model from Sweden is an excellent choice.

What we like: Blade is easy to sharpen, holds an edge for a long time. The handle is well-crafted and made of solid wood. In the ideal weight range at 1.3 pounds.

What we dislike: Some handmade hatchets can have off-center heads. Expensive price point.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top hatchet for money

Fiskars’ 378501-1002 X7 Hatchet

Fiskars’ 378501-1002 X7 Hatchet

Our take: Affordably priced for weekend campers who need to create kindling and trim small logs for a campfire or brush clearing.

What we like: Includes a lifetime warranty. Lightweight, good for less experienced users. Well-balanced in hand.

What we dislike: Handle constructed from plastic, not as durable as wood or metal. Blade can lose edge quickly.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Schrade’s SCAXE2 11.8-Inch Stainless Steel Small Ax

Schrade’s SCAXE2 11.8-Inch Stainless Steel Small Ax

Our take: We recommend the Schrade SCAXE2 for its compact size and the inclusion of basic survival tools, such as a fire starter and hammer.

What we like: Maintains a good edge for light-duty uses. Compact design, easy to carry in a backpack or store in a vehicle. Includes a fire striker and a hammer grommet for survival.

What we dislike: Hollow handle can break under pressure. Not recommended for use in cold weather.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

 

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Michael Pollick writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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