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Best Camping Hatchets for Your Outdoors Adventure

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Your camping tools will make or break how well you do in the wilderness.

It’s about you, but it’s also about having top-quality equipment that gets the job done better and in less time.

We’ve spent over 13 hours researching the best hatchets that stand the test of time and double as self-defense weapons should the situation arise.

Best Camping Hatchets on The Market

With that in mind, let’s now take a closer look at our top picks.

1. Winner: Gransfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet

Gransfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet
560 Reviews
Gransfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet
  • Length with handle: 13.50 inch, Item-ID: 415
  • Weight: 1.3 lbs
  • Sheath in vegetable-tanned leather

For lovers of old-school aesthetics and no-nonsense, frill-free efficiency, look no further than the Gransfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet.

This classy-looking hatchet is a model that doesn’t mess around with too many of the fancy bells and whistles found in many more modern hatchet styles, but it still has a heck of a lot going for it in terms of performance.

This hatchet meets all the necessary requirements with its 13.5-inch hickory handle, 1-pound head, and 3-inch blade. It is lightweight, portable, and equipped with high-quality materials, making it unlikely that you will ever need to utilize the manufacturer’s 20-year guarantee.

The only real downside to this hatchet, beyond the price, is that it can occasionally come with the odd minor flaw as a result of each ax being entirely handmade.

For the most part, these slight irregularities are purely aesthetic in nature and shouldn’t put any prospective buyers off purchasing.

Those in the market for a high-quality, old-school-style hatchet that’s truly built to last won’t find many (if any) better options than this.

Pros

  • Handmade
  • 2-year guarantee
  • Very durable
  • It works just as well for nimbler tasks as it does for cutting small logs or large branches.
  • This review focuses on the best hatchet for splitting wood.

Cons

  • Pricey
  • Because handmade comes with the occasional minor flaw or irregularity (most of these, we should add, are purely aesthetic),

Product Information

  • Dimensions: 13.5”
  • Weight: 1.3lbs
  • Forge Material: Stainless Steel
  • Handle material: Hickory

2. Best Tactical: Schrade SCAXE5 Hatchet

On first impressions, the Schrade Tactical Hatchet couldn’t look more different than the Gransfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet featured above, but in terms of quality, effectiveness, and all-around performance, the two are all but inseparable.

With its carbon steel blade, nylon fiber handle, and sleek, black-steel finish, the Schrade offers a far more modernistic take on the camping hatchet than many of its traditionally styled peers.

But owing to its light weight and a handful of useful features—a pry bar, a molded nylon-fiber grip, and a spike pommel in the head—it is an absolute pleasure to use and even offers something of an upgrade in terms of functionality.

It may lack the striking power of longer or heavier axes, but the attention to detail in the Schrade is such that it feels more like a finely tuned tool than something built purely for swinging at chunks of wood.

All told, this is a well-balanced and very well-made hatchet that will do everything you need it to do, short of processing very large quantities of wood.

If you’re in the market for a hatchet that will serve as a wood-processing chopper alone, this probably won’t be the product for you.

If, however, you’re looking for a multi-purpose tool that’s more than capable of light wood processing and ideal for more nimble tasks around the campsite, this one more than merits a place on your shortlist.

Pros

  • Good grip
  • Very sharp blade
  • Ideal for smaller tasks
  • Tough and durable materials
  • Multiple uses—not just chopping

Cons

  • Not the most practical sheath
  • Shaft a touch on the short side.

Product Information

  • Dimensions: 12”
  • Weight: 1.5 lbs.
  • Forge Material: Hand-polished steel (1055 carbon).
  • Handle material: steel (with leather grip)
  • The hatchet is drop-forged in one piece to enhance durability.

3. Best on Budget: Estwing Camping Hatchet

Estwing Camping Hatchet
4,332 Reviews
Estwing Camping Hatchet
  • OUTDOOR VERSATILITY - Designed for chopping logs, small...
  • GENUINE LEATHER GRIP – Hand sanded and lacquered for a...
  • FORGED IN ONE PIECE - Forged using one solid piece of...

On first impressions, the Estwing Sportsman’s Ax looks about as good as any ax or hatchet that costs twice as much.

After a few swings, chops, and cuts, we continued to question how a well-made hatchet could be so reasonably priced in comparison to its competitors.

This neat, tidy, superbly functional little ax has little in common with far pricier hatchet models in terms of construction and materials.

The only obvious flaw we’ve been able to find is the slight shortness of the shaft, which makes performing larger tasks such as chopping logs and branches more of an effort.

However, the Estwing’s performance elsewhere more than makes up for this small shortcoming.

What we particularly admire about this ax are its user-friendly ergonomics, sleek design, classy looks, the stability offered by its one-piece construction, a nice head-to-shaft balance, and a wide hammer end that makes splitting a cinch.

The bottom line? If this isn’t the best budget hatchet available, then we still need to find one!

Pros

  • Cheap
  • Single-piece construction
  • Head-to-shaft weight balance is good.
  • Made in the USA
  • Possibly the best budget hatchet out there

Cons

  • The sheath is poorly made.
  • Relatively short shaft

Product Information

  • Dimensions: 12”
  • Weight: 1.5 lbs.
  • Forge Material: Hand-polished steel (1055 carbon).
  • Handle material: steel (with leather grip)
  • The hatchet is drop-forged in one piece to enhance durability.

4. Best for Emergency: SOG Throwing Hatchet

Sale
SOG Throwing Hatchet
  • SOG AXE WITH BITE: At 15.75 inches, these hatchets and hawks...
  • 24 OUNCE AXE: Light yet heavy-duty, hatchet is a superb...
  • EMERGENCY AXE WITH SOG TOMAHAWK SHEATH: This...

There are few more versatile backcountry tools or gear items than the Tomahawk.

They have a variety of uses around the campsite, including chopping, splitting, digging, prying, cutting rope, and, of course, throwing!

At 15.75” in length, the SOG Tomahawk will appeal to anyone who’s not overly concerned with portability and is looking for a multi-purpose, versatile backcountry tool that comes into its own as an instrument of self-defense.

Perhaps more importantly, it offers the perfect foil to campsite boredom—set up a few (preferably inanimate!) targets around camp, and you’ll be in for hours of entertainment trying to take them out as you work on your throwing skills!

The SOG Tomahawk’s sole drawbacks are common to all tomahawks, particularly its lack of consideration for high-volume wood processing.

However, most buyers looking for a tomahawk will most likely place their priorities elsewhere—self-defense, versatility, and the ability to multi-purpose around camp for a number of tasks.

Although they don’t have the same chopping and cutting power as regular hatchets or axes, tomahawks make excellent multi-purpose backcountry tools thanks to their crucial “throwability” feature!

Pros

  • Great for throwing
  • A long shaft allows for powerful strikes.
  • Excellent self-defense tool
  • Versatile
  • Possibly the best budget hatchet out there
  • High-quality materials

Con

  • This method is not ideal for processing large quantities of wood.

Product Information

  • Dimensions: 15.75”
  • Weight: 1 lb. 8 oz.
  • Forge Material: 420 stainless steel
  • Handle material: fiberglass-reinforced nylon
  • Includes a ballistic nylon sheath
  • Lifetime warranty

5. Best for Survival: Gerber Full Tang Hatchet

Sale
Gerber Full Tang Hatchet
  • QUALITY CRAFTED: Features a 3.5" corrosion-resistant steel...
  • SURVIVAL GEAR AND EQUIPMENT: Made with a steel head and...
  • INNOVATIVE DESIGN: Portable, compact hatchet with tall grind...

For those short on pack space, the Bear Grylls Survival Hatchet by Gerber offers a solution that’s well worth looking into.

This tidy little hatchet lacks the striking power of many competitors owing to its short, 9.5-inch shaft length, but the flipside of this compromise is that you get a very portable, lightweight, functional, multi-purpose tool that’s very easy to wield and use for a variety of smaller campsite tasks.

By far the most lovable feature of this hatchet is its confidence-inspiring rubber grip and the sharpness of the blade. Both make the performance of more delicate tasks far easier, even when the weather’s doing its worst to make them difficult.

With some hatchets, the possibility of our grip slipping in wet conditions or when working up a sweat—and losing a finger or two in the process!—is never far from the forefront of our thoughts.

With the Bear Grylls Survival Hatchet, we have no such worries—the rubberized, articulated handle and handy finger notches closer to the ax head mean we stay in control and finish our cutting and chopping with fewer fingers than we started it with!

The bottom line? This is a superbly portable, functional little tool that defies its diminutive proportions with impressive performance.

If you envision having to do larger campsite tasks like constructing a camp with large branches, chopping, and splitting wood, this hatchet’s small dimensions make it less suitable than models with a longer shaft.

Pros

  • Under $40 makes it affordable for every camper.
  • You can conveniently carry it with you on road trips for unexpected bathroom emergencies.
  • After use, you can easily sanitize the plastic exterior.
  • It comes with a 5-year manufacturer warranty.

Con

  • It only includes a single disposable bag.

Product Information

  • Dimensions: 9.5”
  • Weight: 1.4 lbs.
  • Forge Material: Stainless Steel
  • Handle material: steel with rubber grip
  • The package includes a copy of Bear Grylls’ “Priorities of Survival” pocket guide.
  • There is a hole at the base of the handle to attach the lanyard.

Things To Consider Before Buying

As with any outdoor gear item, how you plan on using your hatchet will largely determine the type of hatchet you should be buying and the specific design features you should be looking for.

To keep things simple, we can break these potential uses down to campsite camping, backcountry camping, and self-defense:

Campsite Camping

hatchet for camping

If you’re pitching your tent close to where you park your car, then you have a little more leeway as regards the amount of weight you can carry.

In such a scenario, carrying a heavier and bulkier hatchet or ax becomes more feasible. This will allow you to perform heavier-duty tasks, such as chopping large logs for firewood and driving stakes when pitching (larger) tents.

Backcountry Camping

In most cases, the priority for backcountry campers—that is, those who have to hike significant distances before pitching their tent—is on keeping things lightweight and portable.

As such, backcountry campers will probably give preference to hatchets that offer as much as possible in terms of performance while maintaining a low pack weight and easily packable dimensions.

In most cases, this will mean compromising on wood-processing capacity but leave plenty of options that are ideal for driving in tent stakes, chopping kindling, splitting smaller logs, shaving tinder, and trimming branches for firewood.

General Self-Defense

Many campers buy a hatchet with at least one eye on saving their own skin in survival situations.

While almost any hatchet will do the job in this respect, certain designs lend themselves to self-defense more than others, namely those with a longer shaft that lets you maintain more distance between yourself and the aggressor, those that can be thrown with accuracy, and also those that can be worn where they can be easily accessed.

As you might have guessed, the hatchet type that ticks these boxes most emphatically is, in most cases, the tomahawk.

Size

using hatchet on wood

The size of your camping hatchet is crucial for two reasons: firstly, portability; secondly, its cutting or chopping capacity.

Shorter, lighter models of hatchet will provide you with the dexterity required to perform more delicate campsite tasks without wearing your arms out in the process and allow you to do so with more precision and speed.

Larger models will make heavier tasks like chopping wood and splitting logs far easier, but also have a tendency to snag on undergrowth or thick foliage when bushwhacking, can tire out your arms when used for repeated small tasks, have less dexterity, and, of course, weight a lot more in your pack.

Material

Anyone who has ever seen the movie 127 Hours will understand why it’s a very good idea to buy backcountry gear that’s well-made and fit for task.

While we seriously hope that none of our readers will ever have to chop off any of their limbs à la Aron Ralston, it would still be a great shame and huge disappointment to discover your hatchet can’t do what you need it to do when called upon.

When buying your camping hatchet, the main things to look out for are the materials used in the shaft and the hatchet head.

Shaft: The only way to gauge the true quality of a hatchet shaft when buying online is to do a little detective work and read user reviews to find out how the shaft performed when put to use.

An important point for those buying hatchets with a wooden shaft is to take note of the wood’s grain direction.

The grain of the wood should run towards the blade because this orientation makes the wood more capable of withstanding extreme force than a horizontal grain.

Head: The highest-quality axes, for the most part, are those made with forged steel with a high carbon cutting edge, which enhances both durability and resistance to dings and nicks in the blade.

Weight

With most outdoor gear, there’s a trade-off between weight and some other desirable feature or characteristic.

With a camping hatchet that trade-off is with cutting power, with shorter axes offering far less “oomph” than their larger competitors.

For any kind of serious chopping and wood processing you should be looking for a shaft length of at least 13”, but also bear in mind that this is likely to add significantly to the ax’s pack weight if headed far from the roadside to do your camping.

Ideally, the weight of your hatchet should be well-balanced, with the head carrying at least two-thirds of the overall weight to give you more control and avoid stinging your hands when striking—a frequent occurrence with blades that are too light.

Durability

The durability of your hatchet will be determined by a number of factors, none of which are more important than the materials used in both the handle and the head.

Two points are well worth noting with regard to durability, particularly with hatchets that use a wooden shaft.

Firstly, wood can be susceptible to rot, splintering, and contorting over time, making it a less reliable option in the long-term than fiberglass, steel, or other shaft materials.

Secondly, single-piece, full-tang hatches usually excel in terms of durability by dispensing with that one point of potential weakness where the head joins with the shaft and thereby eliminating the problem of the head loosening over time.

FAQs

What type of hatchet is best for camping?

For car-camping trips, a hatchet that’s closer to an ax in size might be your best bet, given that portability is not a big concern and the added length and weight of a larger ax will give you more chopping power. For trips into the backcountry, a bona fide hatchet or tomahawk will most likely serve your needs better.

What is the difference between a hatchet and an ax?

Hatchets are smaller and used with one hand only, whereas axes are typically longer and designed for two hands. Commonly, people use axes for larger tasks like felling trees or chopping logs, while hatchets excel at more delicate and intricate tasks like clearing brush, trimming branches for firewood, chopping kindling, or even food prep.

How long should my hatchet handle be?

With longer handles, there’s usually an accompanying increase in weight, which can result in arm fatigue and be overkill if you’re using your hatchet for smaller jobs at camp. Longer handles are also more difficult to maneuver, making more delicate tasks trickier.

What size camping ax should you buy?

Smaller axes like the Gerber Survival Hatchet will probably be ideal, allowing you to work with greater speed and accuracy; for “meatier” tasks and heavy wood processing, weightier models like the Gransfors Bruks Hatchet will serve your purposes better.

How do I sharpen a camping hatchet?

Sharpening your hatchet is very similar to sharpening the blade on your knife. You can sharpen your hatchet with a variety of tools, but the most time-efficient method is to start with a file and then move on to a whetting stone to complete the job and remove any bur from the blade.

Final Word

Camping hatchets offer far more than just a means of making yourself feel like some modern-day Chuck Norris about the campsite or on your trips into the backcountry.

More than any other outdoor accessory we know of, this small addition to your kit can make life a whole lot easier when it comes to carrying out dozens of the most important campsite tasks—so much so that most long-term users will agree that a good hatchet can quickly become any camper’s best friend.

Whether you’re in the market for an awesome means of self-defense, an old-school, no-nonsense wood processor, or a multi-purpose, highly functional backcountry tool, there’s a hatchet out there that’s perfectly suited to your needs.