5 Best Camping Hatchets
Do you pack axes, hatchets, or other similar tools when you go camping? Having such tools around when you’re setting up camp can be quite helpful. Although they are primarily used for wood chopping, you can use them for a myriad of tasks such as clearing the campground or putting up a tent. Since not all camping hatchets are made equal, these tools can vary greatly in terms of price, quality, and purpose. Hence, you have to know what you’re looking for when you’re shopping for one.
It goes without saying that the right hatchet is one that suits your particular camping needs. There are different types of hatchets on the market for splitting wood, felling trees, and other wilderness survival tasks. The question is: how do you choose the right one?
In this buying guide, you can find out more about the different types of hatchets. You can explore all of the factors that you need to consider before making a purchase. Here, you can also discover five of the best camping hatchets available.
What You Must Know
Types of Hatchets
As its name suggests, a splitting hatchet is meant for splitting logs into kindling for a campfire. Its axe head has a concave blade, which enables it to split logs across the grain instead of cut into it. Splitting hatchets are crafted with a long wooden handle, a hand-forged head, and a grain that follows the handle’s curve.
Ideal for felling trees and chopping large logs, this type of hatchet has a head that’s angled more aggressively than a splitting hatchet. It has a longer head, designed to deliver a more powerful swing. A felling hatchet is usually made of a hickory wood handle. Like the splitting hatchet, it’s important for the grain to follow the handle curve. On the other hand, there are more budget-friendly options aside from hand-crafted wooden felling hatchets. Some of these affordable options are made with plastic polymer and metal handles.
Inspired by the Native American tomahawk, this type of hatchet is characterized by its short blade and its long handle. It has a straight shaft, and it’s generally lighter and more compact compared to other hatchet types. Tomahawks either have a hammer or a spike on the opposite side of the head. A traditional design will have a wooden handle while a modern one is made with stronger, steel alternatives. Brands like Cold Steel offer tomahawks in both modern and traditional designs.
Designed to be compact and lightweight, survival hatchets are quite easy to carry. However, due to their smaller frame, they aren’t usually ideal for wood chopping or wood splitting. A good survival hatchet isn’t made with a hickory wood handle or any kind of wood for that matter. Such hatchets are composed of forged steel which makes them ideal for crafting or other detailed tasks.
How to Choose the Best Hatchet for Camping
Quality of Craftsmanship
There’s no point in packing an extra pound or two of camping gear if it’s easily going to break and disappoint you. Look for hatchets made with high-quality materials using premium craftsmanship. A hatchet with a stainless steel shaft, for instance, won’t be too expensive. However, it’s going to be durable and long-lasting. Not to mention, it should be able to deliver a stronger wood chopping power without the hand strain.
Portability and Weight
Weigh the convenience of having a camping hatchet on your outdoor adventure against the inconvenience of having to carry it with you towards your destination. This decision is ultimately up to you. So, ask yourself: are you willing to sacrifice chopping power for a more lightweight and compact hatchet? Are you ready to carry around a heavier model that’s better suited for wood chopping?
Certainly, a blade’s cutting efficiency depends mainly on the materials used. However, its width is also important. If the bit, which is the sharper edge of the blade, is too wide, it’s going to be more challenging to trim branches. Conversely, if the bit is too slim, the hatchet is more likely to get wedged into larger logs.
Hatchets nowadays are either made with traditional wooden handle, plastic, or steel. Since wood handles are handcrafted, they are highly laborious. Thus, they often come with a hefty price tag. Commercial axe companies who use heavy machinery to forge hatchets in bulk can offer them at a more reasonable price. However, just because they are cheaper, it doesn’t mean that they are less durable and strong than their hand-forged alternatives.
Aside from the material of the handle, you have to ensure that it comes with a comfortable grip. Make sure that the hatchet won’t slip through your fingers while you’re in the middle of chopping some wood. It will save you some toes. Some hatchets today offer water-resistant grips, so you can carry out tasks even in wet conditions.
The Gransfors Bruks Wildlife hatchet is a traditional camping and scouting axe, designed for felling branches and splitting wood for a campfire. Hand-forged to perfection, the hatchet’s wood handle is made with American hickory while its head is made with Swedish high-carbon steel. Compared to a standard felling axe, its head is weighed and shaped meticulously with a thick curved edge. It has a 3-inch sharp cutting edge which delivers clean cuts with minimal resistance. The head has a flat, square surface on one side which makes it ideal for hammering as well.
The ears on the steel head are designed to keep the blade and hickory handle in place after years of use. Meanwhile, the handle’s beeswax and linseed oil coating prevents it from rotting. At the bottom part of the hickory handle, you will find an eyelet for hanging the hatchet when not in use.
Measuring 13.5 inches and weighing a total of 1.3 pounds, the Wildlife hatchet is one of the thinnest on the market. Although it is designed to be durable and long-lasting, it still has a 20-year guarantee.
Designed for convenient belt-carry, the sheath covers the blade and protects the wood protruding from the eye. Every purchase of this axe comes with a guide containing maintenance tips, the Gransfors Bruks history, and photos of the craftsmen at work.
- Handmade using high-quality materials.
- Sturdy vegetable-tanned leather sheath.
- Ideal for wood chopping and wood splitting.
- 20-year guarantee.
- Hefty price tag.
- Often comes with minor flaws.
For the Sportsman Axe, Estwing crafted a sleek, classy camping axe with a single-piece forged steel design. Aside from safety reasons, its one-piece construction eliminates the need for making handle replacements. Measuring a total of 14 inches, the hand axe is crafted in Rockford, Illinois using high-quality tool-grade American steel. The blade has a 3.25-inch cutting edge, ideal for chopping logs, branches, and small trees. One side of its head is flat and squared off which can be used for splitting wood and hammering stakes into the ground.
The steel handle of the Sportsman Axe has a genuine leather grip, which is hand-sanded and lacquered for a longer-lasting yet comfortable finish. Since the handle is narrow and quite too close to the head, it is not the most ideal tool for carving and other detailed work.
Every purchase of an Estwing Sportsman Axe comes with a heavy-duty ballistic nylon sheath that protects the hand-sharpened steel blade. The sheath has a belt loop for those who want to keep their tool close at all times. The Sportsman Axe might be a little bit heavier than some of its competitors, weighing around 1.91 pounds. Yet, it comes with an excellent head-to-handle balance.
- Single-piece forged steel construction.
- Sturdy and durable build.
- Hand-sharpened cutting-edge.
- Has a durable ballistic nylon sheath.
- Affordable price.
- Has a heavier build.
- Not ideal for carving and other detailed work.
Thoughtfully designed and meticulously crafted, the Fiskars X7 hatchet’s sleek, modern look is coupled with an ultra-sharp, nearly unbreakable design. This is a versatile camping hatchet that can be used for carving, whittling, and wood chopping, preferably small to medium-sized branches and logs.
All of Fiskars hatchets are crafted using a proprietary grinding technique which gives their tools a sharper edge. Made with a FiberComp handle, the camping hatchet is stronger than the average steel handle. It is also made with an inseparable insert-molded axe head which prevents overstrike damage. Even though the X7 only has a 2.7-inch cutting edge, its blade can deliver clean cuts.
As it’s also treated with a low-friction coating, the blade can bite deeper when chopping and cut cleanly through wood without getting wedged into the log. Since it’s made with a forged steel head, the blade can stay sharp longer than the standard hatchet.
It measures 13.75 inches in length, and it weighs a total of 1.38 pounds. This makes it slightly heavier than previous iterations of Fiskars’ hatchets. Still, it’s relatively lightweight. The X7 hatchet has great weight distribution, giving it an exceptional power-to-weight ratio. Simply put, it lets you chop wood in less time, minus the hand strain.
- Durable shock-absorbing handle.
- Sturdy and lightweight build.
- Good, comfortable grip.
- Affordable price.
- Lifetime warranty.
- Has less chopping power than similar-sized and weighted camp axes.
- Lower quality steel compared to more expensive counterparts.
The Gerber Bear Grylls survival hatchet might look more like a futuristic tomahawk than a tool you would use to cut wood with, but it’s quite a portable and convenient tool for camping. It measures only 9.5 inches and weighs 1.4 pounds. Measuring 3.5 inches, the blade is made with high-carbon steel, which can stand up to tasks such as wood splitting. On the opposite side of the blade is a crosshatched striking surface which can be used for hammering tent stakes or tenderizing meat.
Due to its short shaft length, the hatchet lacks the striking power that many of its competitors boast. Still, it’s ultra-portable, lightweight, and functional.
The Bear Grylls survival hatchet comes with a rubberized grip which makes it comfortable and safe to use even in wet conditions. Not only that, its rain-resistant grip has convenient finger notches close to the base of the head, giving users better control over the tool. There’s an eyelet at the base of the handle which you can use to attach the tool to a lanyard.
Extra safety features include a military-grade sheath that comes with belt loops. Also included in your purchase will be one copy of the “Priorities of Survival” guide by Bear Grylls which teaches you the best way to respond to an emergency in the wild.
- Light and portable.
- Sturdy, rain-resistant handle.
- Has a military-grade sheath.
- Affordable price.
- Too short handle length.
- Not ideal for chopping kindling.
One of the best budget-friendly camping axes you can find is the Gerber Gator Combo Axe II. It is ideal for trimming branches and sawing smaller pieces of wood. This multi-tool set consists of a compact axe and a hideaway coarse-bladed handsaw, both of which can help you complete camping tasks with ease. Their ergonomic design fits comfortably in your hand, allowing safer wood chopping.
Compared to the original Gerber Gator, the camp axe has a longer handle which gives its stainless-steel head greater striking power. The handle itself is composed of glass-filled nylon and coated in Gerber’s well-known Gator texture. This makes the grip more comfortable and safer to use, especially in wet conditions. As for the head, it measures 2.7 inches and weighs only 1.6 pounds, making it compact and portable. Not to mention, it features an injection-molded design which prevents the axe head from coming loose.
Tucked within the nylon handle, you will find a 10.24-inch saw that is held in place magnetically. Its axe head is made with forged steel while its handle is coated with the same Gator grip texture as the axe. It measures 6.1 inches and weighs only 0.15 pounds.
It comes with a durable ballistic nylon sheath which protects the cutting edge of the axe.
- Multi-tool set (comes with a free saw).
- Durable nylon sheath with belt loop.
- Affordable price.
- Handle is prone to breaking.
- Weak magnet.
If you’re looking to invest in a durable camping hatchet which you can use for years to come, the Gransfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet makes an excellent choice. Indeed, this handcrafted hatchet is quite more expensive than others, but it’s worth every penny, especially if you love exploring the great outdoors.
The Wildlife Hatchet is a meticulously crafted tool that can last for years. Best of all, Gransfors Bruks offers a 20-year guarantee for this hatchet.
Why we like it better than the others:
- Handforged using premium materials
- Durable vegetable-tanned leather sheath
- Versatile; for multiple camping tasks such as wood chopping and wood splitting
- Has a 20-year guarantee
Currently, you have a wealth of hatchet options on the market, all of which are suited for different camping activities and needs. To get the best bang for your buck, you should choose the right hatchet based on what you need it for, the quality of its craftsmanship, and the quality of its materials. When you’re shopping for a camping hatchet, you shouldn’t just look into the best-rated models on the market. You should select one that actually caters to your camping needs.